Saturday, October 21, 2006

Nano Wondering

It is again close to that time of year, and I am considering whether I want to participate in NaNoWriMo. I have attempted to twice before. The first time I wrote a grand total of a few thousand words. The next time I came up with a viable outline and plot for a gothic mystery and a few chapters (much of which needs to be cleaned up or even just plain tossed out). My intention has always been to finish both projects.

That is really the problem. My intention and lack of discipline are at odds. I've talked about it before that I have difficulty actually finishing writing projects, even when I am loving them. This is in part due to the lack of any pressure. In grad school, almost all of my projects were finished under pressure of deadline. I did my research, I started writing, but it really wasn't until there was some duress that I would really hit my stride. I wrote the talk that would later become the basis for my Master's thesis in a night. Necessity forced the relinquishing worry that the end product might not be good enough, because lack of time inspires willingness to take risks. Writing that takes risks without being self-conscious is somehow better.

This is all my verbose way of proclaiming that I work well under pressure. Without it, I succumb too easily to "I can always finish tomorrow" syndrome. In that regard, the idea of writing a novel in 30 days (knowing it will require major cutting and revision, but trying not to care) is a good concept for me. On the other hand, it conflicts with my greatest fear as a writer, which is that I may just be awful.

Despite having been told plenty of times that I write well, this insecurity kicks the ass of memory and experience every time. On my worst days, my head wonders if I am not kidding myself about needing to write. Other days it thinks, "Well, the writing is technically okay, but the ideas suck like an industrial grade hoover. Who would want to read them?" On yet other days, when I'm feeling particularly inspired, and have reached that giddy, adrenaline filled zone where I find myself more conduit than creator, I know it's something I need to pursue. At those times, ideas come faster than I can record them, and I am able to tell my inner critic to zip it. These moments also coincides with the time when I begin to amuse myself with the cleverness of my own jokes or find myself feeling admiration for my own turns of phrase.

As an aside, that very last bit above was difficult to admit, because it makes me feel a dissertation away from a vainglorious professor from my college German Department who insisted upon quoting himself in his lectures. He also wore sweaters jauntily tied around his shoulders and was fond of regaling anyone he could corner with the story of how he had once made the deconstructionist linguistic joke to Jacques Derrida at a cocktail party that his name sounded like the German articles "der, die, das", but that really is another story for another day.) Back to writing!

Having given it a lot of thought, I've come to the conclusion that my subconscious reluctance to finishing things is that with an unfinished creation, one always has the out that it still needs work. One doesn't have to face up to the possibility that it might just be bad. I suppose that's why keeping this blog is relatively comfortable for me - I don't put enough effort into it to worry much that people will think it's bad. My whole concept has been that it doesn't matter, because it's mostly just off the top of my head. It has been good for me. If people can read my unedited words without feeling driven to mock or send hate mail, then perhaps there is hope for those other words too.

So, will I participate in NaNo this year? After writing this, I think I will at least try. I may twist the rules of the project to fit my own needs (i.e. finishing a preliminary draft something I've already started rather than embarking on yet another new project), but I think that participating in some way will be good for me. So, in the process of writing this, I have gone from considering to being fairly sure that I actually will participate. Last week another small group participant in a class I am taking, made the comment that "the truth is always at the end of a pen". I suppose he was right...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

An Autumn Day

This past Sunday afternoon, inspired by the harvest festival we visited on Saturday, my mom and I took a family field trip to Sauvie Island to visit the pumpkin patch and purchase some local produce. While the island is lovely year round, autumn is my favorite time there. The fields are sprinkled with pumpkins. Though the sunflowers are still blooming, the trees are beginning to look crisp and crackly, painted golden shades of amber, rust and orange. This time of year the farms are always crowded with people who have descended onto the island to buy pumpkins, visit the corn maze (a maze of maize), and embark on tractor pulled hay rides.

But that is mostly just near Sauvie Island Farms and the bigger pumpkin patches. If you venture deeper onto the island, the crowds thin and there is plenty of opportunity to visit nurseries, the beach, and smaller farms without the cramped, claustrophobic feeling. Our route did take us past Sauvie Island Farms, but upon seeing the crowded parking lot, we took one look at each other and agreed to go back later.

So, instead, we headed off to my favorite spot on the island, Blue Heron Herbary. The thing that I love about Blue Heron is everything! Seriously, there is much to love there. They have doves, a rabbit, frogs, two gorgeous pesticide free gardens (an Elizabethan knot garden and a witch's garden with little stakes with signs imparting herbal lore), the owner is delightful, and they sell just about every kind of herb one could want. So, I ask, what is there not to love? Before you respond, know that I am fully prepared to drive to wherever you are and beat you with a bundle of fragrant spanish lavender, if you say "nothing".

After the herbary, we drove around to the big farm on the other side of the island. The name escapes me (Kroeger? I may just be making that up), but it's the one not far west of the bridge back to the real world. At the farm that may or may not be Kroeger we bought eggplant and pumpkins - two orange, one white. I realize now that we need more and that Cinderella pumpkins may be need to be part of my not too distant future. On the way out, we noticed that they had a roaster set up and were selling roasted corn brushed with melted butter for $2 a cob. It was the best sweet corn I've had in a long while, so we went back into the barn. We bought eight ears to take home, so I am officially in sweet corn heaven.

Corn heaven makes me lament that I was never crowned corn queen during my years on the prairie, but I suppose that may have been hampered by my having never having actually attended either of the big area corn festivals (broom and sweet). So, I guess I'll have to settle for declaring myself HRH Sweet Corn Queen Martina of Powellhurst and Greater Lents. Don't worry. My rule will be a benevolent one until it is overthrown by a hostile rival monarchy from Montavilla or maybe even Sullivan's Gulch. They will likely eschew corn in favor of something more regional like smoked salmon or perhaps hazelnuts. You will know that you cannot trust them due to their infernal but unwavering insistence on referring to them as filberts instead of hazelnuts as God intended. Unfortunately, by the time you figure it out, it will be too late.

But I don't want to dwell on bleak foreshadowing of the future. I really just want to say that Sauvie Island is lovely. If you live in the area and haven't made a trip out there recently, perhaps you should. That's all I'm saying.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Whose eye is on the sparrows?

They are gone now. The boys were restless. Yesterday, after watching the two of them wildly fly around the bathroom, we decided it was time to open the window and allow them to live the outdoor sparrow life to which they were born. Sure they had the run of the bathroom. Their cage was never locked. We tried to bring the outdoors in by providing leafy branches for them to sit in and an opportunity to forage for a variety of foods, but it's not the same.

I had anticipated that they would take off immediately, emerging from the window to meet the outside world in glorious flight. That is not exactly how it happened. Frankly, they seemed suspicious of the outdoors once the screen that separated it from them was removed from the window. For a couple of hours, the two of them loitered in the bathroom, looking suspiciously at the opening out of their world. At first, they just skulked about on top of their cage. After a time, they ventured closer to the sink, then over to the window sill.

The next time I went to check on them, Nelson was gone. He always was the braver one. Jimbo took a little longer to go. Upon hearing a chirpy commotion in the bathroom, I went in to check on him and found only an empty cage. I like to think that the commotion was Nelson coming back to lure his brother out.

Whatever happend, it is strange to go into the bathroom now that they're gone. I know I said that I was looking forward to having it back, but it turns out that was not entirely true. It seems empty without them. Their cage still hangs from the wall, filled with half-eaten fruit and seeds. It's like an avian ghost town or a modern day Pompeii littered with seed husks instead of ash.

We've left the window open just in case they can't hack it on the outside (or just want to come home to visit). I know it was the right thing to set them free, but I almost hope that they will decide to make use of it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


According to my Victorian Grimoire, irises are the flower of hope and messages. This has been a week of comings from the blue lifting hopes I thought had been quelled. I'm not sure what to think. I hold my breath. I don't want to talk about these things for fear that it will jinx them, yet I feel like I will burst if I don't. So, have struck a compromise by adopting a write now, post later policy. This allows for the best of both worlds - Talk, yes! Kein ayin hara, no!

I love that expression, kein ayin hara. It appeals to the deep-seated superstition I harbor about sharing good fortune before its certain. That makes for bad mojo this laying of all cards on the table. I like to think that I am a reasonable, rational person (or at least that I have the capacity to be so), but deep down I have this completely irrational fear that if I talk too much about something good, the universe will take it away from me. No one likes a braggart. Being happy too soon only invites heartbreak. Things just seem to go better when kept to myself.