The Writer's Kaleidoscope
Reflections on writing, life's changing patterns and universal truths in the human experience.
Adventurous is one word to describe periods during the two-plus months that have passed since the Muskoka Novel Marathon 2012, and my last blog post. A few other descriptions include: challenging, unexpectedly wild, oddly calm, heart-wrenching and deeply inspiring--a little overwhelming to say the least.
It all began with the loss of my beloved Uncle Spencer who had suffered with ALS. At the moment I learned he was gone, I was talking with the veterinarian about whether or not to put down one of my dogs during a surgery she was about to undergo. The following evening my husband was hospitalized with what we later learned was West Nile Virus. The day after this, I ended up in the emergency department with slivers in my hand that had become seriously infected, requiring three surgical procedure to remove.
Another Muskoka Novel Marathon has come and gone, but the memories are carved into my heart. And now, a week later, I'm actually able to recall them. Writer and friend, Lena Coakley, and I were chauffered by Trusty Husband all the way from Toronto to Huntsville Friday, July 13th in plenty of time to settle in to our temporary, three-day 'homes' and socialize before the event began. It was a delight to see familiar faces and to meet several first-timers, aka Marathon Virgins. As Lena was a first-timer, I felt both protective and excited for her.
As eight o'clock neared, the energy in the room shifted. Even we old-timers get nervous! Then we were off. Keys clickety-clacked! The pace was crazy this year. I posted a ten-page ribbon in short order and soon was followed by others hot on my trail.
The following is the Twitter Tale I composed while participating in this year’s Muskoka Novel Marathon, a 72-hour writing event raising money to support literacy programs provided by the YMCA—Simcoe/Muskoka. At the time I wrote this story, it made perfect sense to me. Then I discovered I had forgotten to add the photos...
CONGRATULATIONS AGAIN to the organizers and participants for an overwhelmingly successful MNM2012!
A Tale in Twenty-One Tweets
1. Nell awoke, her head pressed against glass.
2. Several others crowded her in the tight quarters.
3. The enclosure wobbled. Light shone behind tall blades of green. Nell felt lost.
4. The roof lifted off, letting in blinding light. A shadow appeared. Nell blinked.
I must begin this post with an apology. To all those within view of the CN Tower, and maybe a few even as far as the GTA border, I am deeply sorry for the horrendous sounds you heard coming from a rooftop in the Yonge and Davisville area last Monday.
Now, I don't have many vices. Well, okay, that statement sounds rather sweeping. Allow me to clarify. When it comes to taking care of my body, I usually make good and healthy choices, but the bright sun last week cried out my name. Writing-wise, it was not going to be a creative or productive day. I just had to get out and catch some rays!
I know. I know. Sun exposure is not great for the skin, causes damage and potentially nasty health issues. But it makes me feel so good! I also happen to look healthier with a bit of a glow. SO, I packed up my water bottle, towel, yoga mat and iPod to indulge myself. Then came the next challenge--stealthily getting into the neighbouring building to get to the roof.
Okay, here it is. Deep down inside I'm not quite as confident as I sounded in my last post about the upcoming Muskoka Novel Marathon. At least not a hundred percent. The reason for this has more to do with feeling somewhat disconnected from the project I hope to write. In the past, my approach was to be completely immersed in my fictional world by the time I arrived at the venue. My shift in plan this year is uncomfortable, but--when I stop and think about it--that's the point. How will I ever discover new and wonderful ways to express my stories if I'm not willing to face the challenge of growing pains?
Supportive Husband suggested I accompany him to Black Creek Pioneer Village. (Great website, BTW!) The idea of emersing myself into a historical period close to the one I'm hoping to capture seemed like a great idea, so yesterday we packed a backpack and headed for an adventure into the past.
To the left of where I spend nearly all my time these days--my desk--is a wooden box. It's a ship's compass that once belonged to Husband's grandfather. It's been there for nearly a year, collecting dust and holding up the barometer, also a treasure from Granpie (Thomas). Both pieces fit the space and looked nice. I haven't given either much thought beyond this.
The insanity of the workouts for this year's Muskoka Novel Marathon had taken over my brain, and my time and every waking thought. I am blessed with an incredibly supportive husband and two dogs who are fantastic writing companions, but this had gotten ridiculous. Obsessive.
It's also been brought to my attention that some folks feel there is no such thing as 'multitasking', only 'task-shifting', a topic well worth exploring for those who believe they can do more than one task at a time. Check out The Myth of Multitasking or one of the many articles available online...
Not long ago a dear family member was diagnosed with ALS—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or as is also known as ‘Lou Gehrig's disease’. Uncle Spencer is an amazing person in so many ways. Most recently, he has shown my husband and me just what it is to face one’s own mortality with dignity, integrity and humour. We find this humbling given that thus far we have been the members of our respective families as ‘the ones showing courage in the face of chronic illness and health issues’. Uncle Spencer has taught—and continues to teach me—about love, compassion and human nature. What more could a writer who hopes to understand and express the human experience ask for?
In the process of finding ways to be supportive, Henry and I are part of a circle of care—a group of those who visit, cook; drive to appointments or whatever else is required to show that support for Uncle Spencer and his partner for thirty-aught years, Uncle Larry.
I had an intriguing conversation on the phone with my brother, Craig, this weekend. After the strong connection we've had all these years--and we've grown even closer as adults--I learned two things I didn't know about him, which are tickling my writer's senses. First, and not surprisingly, he has a talent with words. Please check out Craig's Story. As I read it again this morning, I couldn't have been prouder.
The second thing he shared was how he perceives the physical world around him. You see, Craig is colour blind. In the past, his description of this seemed vague to me. His concept of colour was 'off', but explanations still left me not understanding just what he meant. Being the Big Sister and always on the lookout for ways to be supportive, I was excited to tell him about an app for people in his position.
When the weather cooperates, Mother's Day weekend is the time I usually plant our garden. As can be seen in the attached photos, Husband and I are not wealthy landowners with acres to spare. But we do take pride in our outdoor space, a tiny balcony that becomes an extra room during the warmer months. It never ceases to amaze me as I buy dirt--a concept that seems odd to a born and raised rural girl--that it took me coming to the big city to find a green thumb.
This year's 'plan' went out the window when my garden centre didn't have some of the plants I wanted to grow. I made do with some good old impatiens, wild grasses and hostas. These are familiar species in our garden.
Something drew me to a new type of flower, an osteospermum or Cape Daisy, one of the smaller tribes of the sunflower. This was an odd choice for me, as was the colour of the impatiens. Pink is my least favourite colour. At least for a very long time that's what I thought. I also grew up thinking that I didn't like to garden...
The arrival of spring has brought predictably warmer weather and fresh growth and with it other elements most are not fans of—humidity, allergies and bugs.
Ah, glorious spring!
Now, I am not one to want to kill any living creature. Trusty Husband will attest to the fact that I will go to great lengths to take a creature from our home to a safe place outdoors. Most creatures, that is. There are exceptions. A couple of nights ago I was reminded of this.
There is nothing like the sound of a wasp in the dark of night as it comes close enough to land or bite before it zooms just out of reach and you can’t find it. I flicked on the light on my bedside table.
Wasps like light. Hee-hee! I was on the hunt. That bug was not going to keep me up for long.