I got the blues

Title pageI have a sad case of postpartum blues. No, I haven’t given birth to a squalling, pooping little bundle of joy, but I did send my manuscript — supposedly the final edit — off to my professional editor. Now I wait till she goes through it and (hopefully) tells me it’s good to go.

I thought I’d be bouncing around today with a big weight off my shoulders. Last night I couldn’t sleep for going through all the things I’d be free to do today now that I wasn’t shackled to my manuscript. My house looks like a crash pad. And why not? That’s basically what I’ve been doing for the past few months while I focused on this book.

Envelopes are piled up on my desk. I shudder to think what might be in them that I’ve been ignoring. Dirty clothes are spilling out of the laundry baskets. When was the last time I changed the bed sheets? Stacks of books I’ve used as references, or read in the evenings and never reshelved, or borrowed and never returned are on top of my sewing table. One the rare days when I felt like I had to swamp out the house but didn’t want to take the time, I just put things in empty Amazon boxes. Who knows what might lurk in them.

Ick, the cat boxes need emptying. No point in scooping. They’re beyond that – gotta just dump the contents and replace with fresh… um… I do have more kitty litter somewhere, don’t I? I did do dishes almost every day, but the clean ones are piled high in the dish drain.  Why bother putting them away? I just kept using the same ones over and over.  Other than baking a few loaves of bread, I haven’t cooked much of anything since Christmas. I can go a long time on peanut butter sandwiches, salads, and wine.
Fabric
I look around the house and there is stuff everywhere! Not only stuff that needs to be put away, but projects that need to be completed. Fabric that I’ve purchased but not stored for the wall hangings I’ve started but abandoned. Houseplants that need repotting sit on windowsills and on the kitchen counter and on the floor. Tools that I’ve used to band-aide things that broke that I had no time to fix while I’ve been living in the dream world of writing need to be put away. And of course, the interior walls of my tiny little straw bale house still have not been plastered.

I have so much to do and now I’m free to do it.

But no. I’m sitting here feeling no motivation at all. I’ve got postpartum depression. I’ve had my creative baby, so to speak. The creation process took all my psychic energy and now I’ve hit the post-creation let-down.

Or maybe not.

Maybe it’s just the massive amount of work that I need to do to get my house back in order that is off-putting.

Maybe I should write about it instead of doing it.

Hey – I feel better already!

Great Expectations. Not.

Today was the winter solstice, that is, the first day of winter.  Here in my part of New Mexico it was all gale force winds and, well, wintery.  I was chilly all day long.  So naturally my thoughts turned to warmth:  Warm layers, cozy fire, and a nice hot toddy.

Accordingly, on the way home from town I stopped in Western Drug and General Store, which really is an amazing place that sells just about anything a human being could want.  My pretense was that I needed to pick up a birthday card (and I did do that, got a nice one) but I also wanted to get some whiskey because it seemed to me whiskey would make a proper hot toddy.

Now here’s the thing:  While I don’t like the stuff, I feel like I should.  Every damn mystery and science fiction book these days seems to have characters who drink single malt and double malt and hey — I love chocolate malts so shouldn’t I like whiskey?

So far, I never have.  It tastes like paint thinner.  Nasty, nasty stuff, no matter how aged it is and how many malts it is.  Whatever that means anyway.  But I had noticed a while back that Western had whiskey in little metal flasks (375 ml to be precise, but as a die-hard non-metricentric, it is little to me) and it was labeled Apple Crisp Whiskey.

Oh wow!  I like apples!  I like apple crisp (that is a dessert, isn’t it?).  How bad could whiskey be if it was Apple Crisp Whiskey?  And on top of that, the label also said America’s Finest.  And a cute, candy-apple red metal flask!

Well, I had to have it.  I had visions of an incredible hot toddy after the evening’s chores were done, the cozy fire blazing in the wood stove, me bundled up in my jammies and bathrobe. But no.

You knew that, right?

First hint:  I could have sworn on the way home I smelled whiskey in the cab of the truck.  And, well, yes, when I picked that flask up in the store, it did stick to the shelf it was on.  But such a cute, candy-apple red metal flask it was, I had to have it!  Probably some other flask had leaked, right?

The seal was still intact on the little tiny cap (so cute!).  And maybe there were some kind of sticky droplets on the side of the pretty candy-apple red side of the flask, but that could have come from anywhere.  At home I gave a moment’s thought to returning the flask unopened, since it seemed that maybe the flask wasn’t quite as full as it might have been but… no.  I was determined to have that damn toddy.  Tonight.  The fire was roaring, I was warming on the outside and I wanted that hot comforting drink to warm my innards.

I opened it.  I sniffed it.  Kind of.. ewww.  Paint thinner with a hint of rotten apple, overlaid with the tang of metal.  I poured some hot water into a cup, added a big tablespoon of honey, and a slug or two of Apple Crisp Whiskey.  Stirred well.  Tasted.

Have I said ewww yet?  I thought maybe I was mistaken.  I mean, I never have liked whiskey or any of its relatives.  So I took another sip to be fair.

But that metal taste.  Really.  Bad.  In the lingering aftertaste I was sure it was less apple and more compost that coated my tongue, compost liberally tainted with steel.  Was this the normal taste for something that claimed to be America’s Finest?

OK time to read the fine print.  Proprietary all-natural recipe.  Estate-grown corn.

Corn?  Where are the apples?

Traditional copper still.  I sipped a bit more.  No, definitely not pennies I was tasting, but steel.  Remarkably mellow flavor and smooth finish… wait, what about the apples?  I read the other side.  Aha!  Corn whiskey infused with apple crisp liqueur.  Whatever that is.

Maybe I’m too picky.  Or maybe I simply have an uneducated palate.  But I think that maybe somebody accidentally put some kind of solvent in that flask and it’s dissolving the welds.  Because I swear, I rinsed the outside off and dried it and there are sticky droplets along the seam again.

So… happy solstice.  Winter has come.  Meanwhile, I’m drinking Merlot, the fire is cozy, and after I recover from the toddy I’ll get my jammies on.

 

 

Do what you love and love what you do

“You’ll do what you have to do to be able to do what you want to do.”

This is what a friend of mine said to me in an email this morning. Not only is it catchy but it’s true.  Except that it’s kind of grim.  Happily, for me what I have to do to be able to do what I want to do is already what I want to do.

Too convoluted? Well, let me give an example.  This morning, for instance…

This morning my eyes opened before the sun popped over the horizon. I have no idea why so early, but it was OK.  The room was chilly but I was toasty under oh, five or six layers of flannel blankets and quilts.  If I didn’t go back to sleep I could just laze around and let my mind wander.  I very much enjoy that luxury, because I’m not a morning person.  Oh, I get up at what seems like the crack of dawn, but a real morning person would sneer at the thought.

So I let some writing and art issues bubble up through the murk of sleep, not trying to guide them or even capture them. What came up might or might not be useful, but the luxury part of what I was doing involved just letting my subconscious do whatever it wanted. Of course, because I was half asleep I forgot most of it, but I figure that if the ideas got that far they really want to come out. Eventually they’ll pop to the surface while I’m awake and and I will capture them.

It wasn’t all that long, though, before my bladder and the cats demanded that I roll out of bed.  First thing after that was to shuck my PJs and get dressed. Why no lounging around with a cup of coffee? Well, for one thing, this morning it was 38°. Inside the house.

Obviously my immediate concern was to get the fire going in the wood stove. That meant clearing out ashes, and that means an ash bucket had to be nearby, so that I don’t have to go outside to get one. It might have been cold inside, but outside it was in single digits. It’s December in the high country, after all.

Once the ashes were removed I piled up the glowing embers and stacked wood around them so they’d ignite. That means that there had to be wood available, mind you, and there was (see ash bucket, above).

OK, fire going, coffee water heating on the kitchen stove while I fed the cats before they drove me crazy. By the time I was ready to enjoy my first sip of life-giving java, the wood stove had heated my little house to a reasonable temperature so that I could remove layers as I checked email.

Whoa! A patron signed up (the friend I quoted at the beginning of this post). Wow! Way to start the day!  (Reminder — support your friendly creator!  Thank you if you already have, and don’t be shy if you haven’t.  Any support is fantastic support.)




I feed the horses around 9 a.m. because generally it has warmed up some by that point. I’m not a fan of doing chores when it’s so cold my nostrils stick together when I breathe. In the summer I feed around 8 a.m. because it’s cooler. Due to Daylight Savings nonsense, from the horses’ point of view they’re being fed around the same time.  This is important because even though they’ve got grass hay available all the time, it’s not the same as those delectable flakes of alfalfa for breakfast.  My stallion, Koko, also gets pellets with probiotics in them, plus any fruit or veggie parts that are left over from my kitchen. He eats it all. You’d be amazed.

So as long as I’m outside, I’ve got other chores to do. First is breaking ice on the water troughs. Koko is always thirsty in the mornings, so I do his trough first. Then it’s time for some exercises — stuff left over from physical therapy for my hips that help keep me limber — and after that a short walk, about a half mile loop.

The walk lets me look out away from myself into the distance.  It reminds me I’m part of a much bigger system. It puts my own problems in perspective for a while. I stay on my own property and that walk also reminds me how wonderful it is that I get to live here, on this land. Each day there is something new to see. Coyote poop (full of barely-digested juniper berries right now), elk poop, horse poop, occasionally cow poop. Tracks of many kinds in the dust of the trail. If I’m lucky — and why I think it’s good luck I don’t know — I’ll see the resident roadrunner, who is a bold bird that is used to me by now. He will move away but not far.

Sometimes I’ll surprise an owl or hawk or a flock of larks or piñon jays.  Sometimes a raven will circle me, speaking to me in raven talk that I can’t quite understand.

This time of year the weeds are brittle and dry. Even though I stick to the trail I’ve made, it seems like every plant has burrs or needles or hooks on them so they can hitch a ride on a passing sock. Gaiters keep the nasty little things out of my shoes.  When it snows I’ll wear the gaiters to keep warm.

Some mornings after I’ve walked I’ll work with one of my young mares, Sonny, Koko’s daughter. She has had very little training even though she’s going to be seven years old next month. Now that I have new hips, working with her is fun.  I think we both enjoy it.

My training is hardly worth the word. Maybe ten minutes at a time. My method now that I’m not a young woman and am perhaps more breakable than I used to be, is to not use any restraints and to not pursue if she leaves me. No stress for her, no stress for me.  How I do this is a whole other story, but the end result is a horse that is a partner, not a slave. Given the kind of riding I do, I need that kind of a horse.

Back to the chores. Once a week I prepare the buckets with Koko’s pellets.  That would be today.  I stacked tonight’s hay in the wheelbarrow and stashed it under the tarp. I like to keep tools out of the sun as much as possible, because at this altitude the sun eats everything up. This particular wheelbarrow is only a year old and so far so good, but I have another that has broken apart to the point where it’s pretty useless now. I’m going to fix it one of these days.  It’s low on the To Do list, though.

A brief break to pet Tux, a stray tomcat that’s been living here for a couple years now. He knows my routines so well that he leads me rather than follows.

It being Sunday, it was time to pump water. I topped off the gas in the generator, then pulled the wagon the generator lives in down to the well. I’ll leave it running till this afternoon. After that, I hiked up to the water storage tanks to see how much had been used this week.

Then it was time to get a load of wood for tonight (see above). I need to order another cord soon, but that depends on my wood guy and my finances. I’m good for a month if it doesn’t get too cold. I’ll bring armfuls of wood in the house during the course of the day, when I’m coming in and out anyway. No point in taking the time this morning when I have other stuff to do.

My last chore of the morning was to add some water to the pans I have out for the birds and other small critters, and then I got to come back in the house and have another cup of coffee and think about getting something to eat and then… finally… writing. Or processing photos. Or sewing.

All those things were, as my friend suggested, what I have to do to be able to do what I want to do. My chores would be a drag, except that I want to do them. I like doing them.  Oh sure, I moan and groan.  But sometimes, weirdly, I find myself giggling while I’m wrestling with a tarp… right after I have screamed curses into the wind. Sometimes I snarl and want to feel sorry for myself when I realize I haven’t finished bringing in the wood and I’m exhausted and it’s already dark, but I shrug and I do it. Then there’s been a couple mornings when I was confronted with a fountain spouting from the frost-free hydrant because I forgot to close it the night before. It froze and cracked the pipe and there was nobody to blame but me. But I fixed it. And I was proud that I could do so.

This lifestyle, this responsibility for my own comfort and safety and for that of my critters, is what I have chosen, not what I am forced to. I could move to a house in town, with a regular job to pay for the easier lifestyle, but I would lose much, much more than I would gain in doing so.

There is a joy for me in living this way. Everything I do matters. Everything I do is fodder for my art — whether it’s writing, photography, quilting, or… whatever occurs to me. When, by 11 a.m., I finally come to the part of my day that others would consider (finally) the creative time,  I’ve already been experiencing hours of a world I want to share with others. I’ve been recording some of it with a camera, I’ve been testing out narrative in my head, I’ve been seeing patterns that would make beautiful art.

It’s all there.

It’s all one big creative act for me.

It’s all what I want to do.

Lori and Jimmy and sex, oh my

Author and journalist George Case has written an interesting blog post, Sick Again, which I felt I had to reply to.  I decided that because my thoughts are really way too long for a comment, I’d post them here.  Please read George’s article so you’ll have the context for what I’ve written below.

Jimmy Page & Lori Mattix

You ask: What would a fourteen-year-old and a twenty-eight-year old see in each other, and who around them could have imagined their liaison was a healthy one?

The answer: The two would see opportunity for friendship. Companionship. Excitement. Stimulation. Fun. Love. Sex. Great food and drink. Great drugs. Travel. New experiences. Interesting conversation. Comfort. Great parties.

The people around them would see two people who are attracted to each other, just like any other two people, give or take a bit of fame and fortune. Why would anyone think it was unhealthy?  If two people experience these things together, then they are lucky.  They might be envied, even.

But okay, maybe a few would see sexual exploitation in the relationship.  Um.  Which one would be the exploiter?

Remember, back then there was also this going on: The burning desire for freedom to think for oneself, to each forge our own way, to toss off the shackles of establishment that had only led the world to racism, war, and repression.

Back in the days of flower power, many of us believed strongly in a world vision of freedom and peace. It was a sexual, moral, and ethical revolution created by living it. We pushed the envelope, we lived that pushing.

Excess? That is a view from outside, not inside.

Back then we resented the establishment that tried to impose a morality on us that we didn’t believe in. Who cared what the law was when it was so clearly outdated and wrong.

I still feel that way. Many of us of a certain age still do.

All of the young women the establishment said back then (and are still saying now) were too young were in fact quite old enough, thank you very much. We knew what we were doing. We knew a lot more than many who were a decade or two older than us. Young women like Lori were not being exploited, they were taking advantage of the only avenues open to them at that age to climb the ladder to where they wanted to go. They were having an incredible time doing it, too.

They aren’t the ones who were wounded and scarred by sexual predators.

Young women are not children just because they are under some arbitrary legal age according to criminal law. Women who are 14 years old do not need protecting from using their bodies to get what they want in life. Women of all ages should have the unquestioned right to make decisions about their own bodies and their own lives.

Women of all ages should have the unquestioned right to say NO for themselves, not permission from others to say yes to what they want in life.

NaNoWriMo is coming

2017 NaNoWriMo

Yes, writing maniacs, it is that time of year again.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.”   About NaNoWriMo

So.  Why do that crazy thing?
If you’ve never completed writing a novel it could be because you become overwhelmed with the idea itself.  Or you figure it’s just too hard to find the time.  Or that you never could write that many words.  Or… well, there’s lots of reasons.

The one thing that I found to be true for me was that it’s easy to start a novel but not so easy to finish one.  Somewhere not that far into the process I lose momentum.  It wasn’t until I started with NaNoWriMo, coming on 14 years ago, that I discovered the secret to writing a novel:  Write lots of words.

Hey, if you don’t believe me, believe Stephen King in his great book, On Writing (p 145), “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others:  read a lot and write a lot.”

I read a lot — no problem there for me.  And I thought I was writing a lot, but if that was true seems to me there’d be at least one novel completed.  Understand — I’ve been writing for a living for longer than I have been messing around with NaNoWriMo, but non-fiction writing is a whole ‘nother ball of wax.  It’s easy to write 50 page and longer documents for a client month after month.  Fiction?  I had to come up with my own stuff to write about – stuff that hadn’t happened anywhere but inside my own head!  And trust me, that was scary!

Do not be fooled by 50K!
Coming up with that many words is hard to do at first.  It seemed impossible that first year or so.  But it was worth it because it turns out that 50,000 words is enough to push me over the hump and onto the slide towards The End of a proper length novel (i.e. significantly more than 50K words).  But I didn’t know that when I started.  And I didn’t find out the first year, or the second.

I forget how many years till I did it for the first time – and let me tell you, that was quite the day, the day I got to submit my 50K.  And what came of it?  I mean, do you see a novel around Amazon with my name on it?  (Yes, I do have a book on Amazon, but it’s not a novel.  It did come about indirectly because of what NaNoWriMo taught me, though).

So what did NaNoWriMo do for me?  I learned I could make up enough stuff every day to seriously write.  I learned this by setting my butt on my chair and my fingers on the computer keyboard every single day for a month to churn out at least 2000 words a day.  Yeah, I know — if you do the math, you “only” need to write 1666.66 words a day to get your 50K by the end of November.  But there are days when Life Happens.  Thanksgiving, here in the USA, for one thing.  And other real obligations that mean missing a day of writing now and again.  So I learned to write more than the minimum each day.  If, somewhere before the 30th of November I reached 50k, well, so much the better.

Along the way to 50k (hey, that has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it), writing the required number of words every single day taught me to stop getting all caught up in writing the correct words, instead of  just writing words.  Because it’s writing words that gets the story out.

The need to churn out the 2000 words meant I dragged in all kinds of ideas that I might not have otherwise in order to make my daily quota.  Those ideas led to other ideas, and had my characters doing all sorts of interesting things that they might not have done if I had been wedded to writing correctly.

Because you can always come back and fix the writing.  But that takes precious time.  And besides, first you have to have something to fix.

A close corollary is that I learned that my words weren’t precious.   I had churned them out and when the time came to edit, well, hey.  I had proven to myself I could churn out more if I had to.  I don’t just delete, mind you.  Because my words are a teensy bit precious to me.  My darling words that get cut from my edits go into file folders for later use.  Not that I tend to ever bother looking at them, but I could if I wanted to.

It’s a comfort knowing they’re safely there.  It allows me to be more ruthless than I might be otherwise.  Believe me, ruthless is necessary, but not for NaNoWriMo.  For after November 30.

Counting down to November
So here I am, about to embark on my 14th NaNoWriMo.  I’ve reactivated my account for 2017.  Donated some money to the cause (not a requirement, but it’s a non-profit, and if/when I get my first novel out there, I’ll have gotten so much more out of NaNoWriMo than I have ever given them!)

I’ve given no thought whatsoever as to what I’ll write in a few weeks.  It doesn’t matter.  I’ll write.  For 30 days (well, 29 since Thanksgiving is happening no matter what) I’ll have the luxury of telling people, sorry.  I’m doing NaNoWriMo.  I can’t go anywhere.  I can’t do those things you’d like me to do.

I’m a writer.  I gotta write.