Monday, September 29, 2014

how does a broken heart still beat?

This was the week of our off-season vacation on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Eight of us were there along with three dogs. One was missing. Mine.


I asked my vet to put her down last week. I won't burden you with the details except to say that it involved a couple of episodes of unexpected and seemingly unprovoked aggression.
Poor Zara, with sixteen staples in her ear.
Who knows why? My vet explained that a hormone imbalance, or even a brain tumor can cause unexpected aggression in normally docile dogs. She told me that Famke might respond to "behavioral therapy" with a specialist at U. Penn, or to a hefty dose of Prozac. But, I knew I needed to put her down. We have a grandchild on the way.

People might think that I acted too quickly, that it was a hasty decision on my part, a knee jerk response in the heat of the moment, a flash of irrational anger, but it wasn't. It was fear. When a dog as strong as Famke attacks there is nothing you can do to pull her away. Not all the strength you can summon, not your most desperate cries, nothing. And when the attack is unprovoked and unexpected you can only wonder what prompted it and when it will happen again...because you know in your heart that it will and you simply cannot take the chance.

I loved this dog. I loved her droopy face, the weight and warmth of her, her constant companionship. I spent mesmerizing hours petting her just to soothe my own aching soul.

A broken heart is not something you want to drag to the beach with you, but you can't just leave it behind. seemed fitting that the first couple of days dawned gray and gloomy. The wind gusted and the rain fell...

The waves rose up and the ocean roared...

...before it surrendered to sorrow, just like me.

Empty. Lonely. Longing.



Proof that broken hearts still beat.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

decisions, decisions

It's that time of year again. Next week we leave for a week on the Outer Banks for our off-season vacation--when the beach is relatively deserted and the water is still warm...

...a perfect for time to read, write, and dream. This week, in addition to packing my bags and closing up the house, I have to assemble a collection of books to enjoy while we're away.
I started my search on Amazon with my favorite authors (Elizabeth Berg, Ann Patchett, and Anne Lamott), checking to see if they had any new releases I might have missed.
Next I scanned through Amazon's "frequently bought together" and "customers also bought" lists.
The best sellers list. The New York Times best sellers list.
A list of Pulitzer Prize winners.
And a list of books recommended by friends, none of whom appreciate literary fiction or creative non-fiction like I do, so what good are they?
Next I went through my own bookshelves looking for books I bought but haven't gotten to yet and books I've read before and should really read again. (On Writing by Stephen King or Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, for starters).

This gets complicated. All you have to go on is someone else's word, a brief overview, and luck. You have to decide ahead of time if you want something light and easy, something deep and meaningful, or funny, or scary, or exciting to read. Which is why I tend to haul so many books along with me on vacation, more than anyone could read in week--in a year, for that matter. Something for every mood.
Not only that, but vacation is the perfect time to write, during the long hours on the beach with only the sea gulls for distraction.


Will I make progress on my WIP, revise one of the manuscripts collecting dust in a file somewhere, or start something new? The possibilities are endless, exciting, intriguing.
Then, every day I have to decide whether to enjoy the water, walk in the sand, or nap.
Decisions, decisions! The only thing I am sure about is that vacation will be too short for any of this. Totally too short.
What do you like to read at the beach? Suggestions are welcomed.
"No man needs a vacation so much as
the man who has just had one."
~Elbert Hubbard~
Today it feels like fall. The wind has picked up, there's a chill in the air, and it's raining steadily. When we get back I'll be ready for the change of seasons, but not a moment sooner. And you?



Monday, September 8, 2014

tricks of the trade

If you write and sometimes get stuck you may need to try a few tricks to get going again. Hopefully, you have one or two that work for you. Perhaps it involves time for day dreaming or mindless puttering. Maybe you long for solitude, time to meditate, or a respite from the daily grind. Or perhaps you work better when you are surrounded by the hum of human activity, or music, or the lapping of the waves on the shore. You should find out what works for you so you have something to do or somewhere to go to free up your creative energy.

I have five things that help me:
  • A long walk, alone, with paper and pen in hand. Dialogue seems to appear from out of nowhere when I wander through a scene that needs work.

  • A long drive--I mean seven or eight hours long--alone, in silence except for my thoughts. I have been known to write full chapters in my head along the PA Turnpike, or better yet, en route to New England or to vacation on the OBX.

  • Music, depending on the scene. One story may need a little Motown, another might like drumming or chant, still another may open up to sacred or classical works.
  • Comfort food. Coffee. Wine. Depending on my mood or my character's mood, my need for energy or self-indulgence, and my sweet-salty-crunchy-gooey cravings.

  • And, even though I have no control over it, weather affects my writing. I especially like a dank, gloomy day, a stormy day, or a snowy day...when I'm stuck here at home with my dogs.
What about you? What motivates you to write, or draw, or compose? What boosts your creative energy?
"A year from now,
you will wish you started today."
~Karen Lamb~
This is how I spent my weekend...

...welcoming a wonderful son-in-law into our family! Hope you had a great weekend, too.