Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tuesday Morning.

I read somewhere that a stand of aspens, those beautiful shimmering trees, are connected by a common root network, and so they are, in fact, just one organism. Even their leaves decay at the same rate. Their white bark glimmers in the sun, and sometimes to my untrained eye, even their trunks look similar.

This is not like their cousins, the paper birches. We hiked through a stand of paper birch trees last fall, just about a year ago, and I'm thinking of the peacefulness of that stand of trees now, this morning, for we are close to fall once more. I can feel it in the edge of cold that morning brings, that cold that's more than a respite from a hot summer day, but the cold that says your bones will know winter.

I found an interesting online writers' resource at The Muse Online Writing Conference, starting in October. The conference promises a series of handouts and chats, and so I registered.

This morning, Rachel and I will have breakfast at Frank's Diner (she menioned blueberry pancakes), and then she'll go on to teach her violin students. I'll return to begin seriously packing. Maybe today is the day I take down my office. Do we really have 40 books to return to the library?

Allen and I worked over the Peru itinerary last night -- so much to see in only six weeks. I think we'll be tired, as the timing brings us to Peru at the end of our six months in South America, BUT we will be able to visit some of our favorite sites we've only read about so far. I did knock those places off the list that indicated "treacherous roads", and there's one place during Semana Santa (Easter Week) that features locals throwing pebbles at tourists (somehow that doesn't sound fun), but I still want to fly in that little plane over the Nazca lines. And I started a planning web site for Allen's famous Bike-Across-America trip planned for 2010.

And can you tell, I couldn't write this morning! Maybe tomorrow. One writing muse (of conference fame) says write 500 words a day, every day. Why do I feel good if I only write 300?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

More tagging and meme-ing?

Vicki, a blogger with spirit from Sunday Scribblings has tagged me to list 6 unspectacular quirks of mine. Whoosh! Who in the world would be interested???? But I'll try. Six?

1. I have a library card for nearly every city we visit and would love for some organization to put forth a national library card. Some cities ask for $$$; others look at a postmark and call it good. My first date with Allen occurred when he took me to a branch of the San Francisco public library because that's where Richard Brautigan, the author of Williard and the Bowling Trophies wrote. We only saw a homeless man sitting in a wing chair. He looked pretty comfortable.

2. I straighten those labels that stick out of clothing, even for strangers and especially on elevators. How can we go forth untidy? Somehow I feel the universe is a little more orderly, and it's only a label. But when I'm far from home and family, tucking in a label makes me feel like I'm in a world where people can care about such silly things, even with all else.

3. I turn off the news when President Bush appears. I don't think I've heard the man complete a sentence for the last eight years. I rather wish this quirk were a more spectacular rebellion. I probably should have moved to Canada.

4. I hate paying more than $3.00 for a box of cereal. Sometimes I'll eat really dreadful stuff for breakfast or wind up buying four boxes of cereal, especially Kashi (when it's on sale). I've done comparison shopping after some supermarkets upped the price on Kashi to $5.00 a box to find the cheapest providers in town. That's probably really silly. Demand isn't that elastic for cereal, and raisins aren't that good for you.

5. My parking skills could be improved. I always turn slightly too soon and end up with my car razor-close to the line, making it sometimes difficult to get in and out on the passenger side. Of course, this quirk doesn't exactly bother ME!

6. Ah, the last quirk and perhaps the quirkiest: Bird calls. Due to a series of unfortunate childhood experiences (which I won't explain), I startle easily and squawk, like a bird. This quirk startles others, perhaps even more than my parking skills.

Well, I hope you enjoyed reading this AND laughed a little. Now I'm supposed to tag six others, and I can only draw on writers I've come to know from Sunday Scribblings and maybe one more. I'll tag Vicki, Gary Presley, and writers I've come to appreciate so much -- Goddess Diana, Nonizamboni, Bellamocha, Inland Empire Girl, and thank you! Here are the rules from Vicki:

1. Link the person who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.
4. Tag 6 following bloggers by linking them.
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

That's it! May your day go well.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

On Perseverance . . .

The outdoor grand finale of the Spokane Symphony at Sand Point was superb! We were seated outside in a natural ampitheater, the symphony under a large tent, as dusk faded to night, and the sounds of ospries perched atop their nests mingled with the all-Beethoven concert. The triple concerto was beautifully blended with piano, violin and cello, and the symphony sounded so harmonious and mellow. We listened with pure pleasure as the moon rose.

The second half featured the very moving "Pastorale", the composition turning again and again on itself, in grander circles of beautiful sounds. Young children danced in the dark, some turning cartwheels, but they never detracted from the swelling sounds of the symphony. And for an encore, fireworks filled the sky, perfectly in synch with the orchestra. We left, floating.

Now for the perseverance part. It was a summer night. Hot. The only lights were those under that white tent. Rachel said after the concert that she never would have supposed the focus required to create a perfect sound from her violin would have her ignoring the hundreds of bugs that swarmed under that tent. Flying, crawling, and biting bugs drawn to the lights, crawled under her glasses, down her blouse, up her sleeves. At those very moments the audience was appreciating the glorious music, the musicians were ignoring the bugs to concentrate entirely on creating a pure and beautiful sound. Bravo!

The video of the first movement comes from U-Tube.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday morning.

Today promises to be hot, 102 degrees. We're going to Sand Point, Idaho for the Spokane Symphony's outdoor concert. We'll sit outside in our lawn chairs and hear Rachel and Nick play under the pine trees, hoping for a cooling breeze.

Already, I'm starting to let go of Spokane. I won't miss its bumpety arterials and intense city driving. I will miss blue sky, hills, and a sense of peace that comes from living in a second floor South Hill apartment that seems to float above the city. Each night, lights dot the horizon, and I can hear the faint wail of police sirens. And I will miss Rachel and Nick, being able to see them so easily; at any time, they're just a phone call away.

What's calling us south to Vancouver WA? I'm no longer sure. We'll have a lovely apartment just ten minutes away from Portland, and an hour and a half from Corvallis, closer to friends all down the Willamette Valley and inland, Redmond and Salem. We can be driving along the Columbia Gorge within minutes, and, finally, we'll have access to a good library. Allen's busy with plans for Brazil and Argentina. The itinerary is shaping up nicely, and we'll be back on the road for real on December 31, the turn of the new year. The traveller in me wants to go. The mother in me wants to stay.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesday Meme-ing

I just learned about meme-ing. I've seen these lists on various blogs but Anno from Sunday Scribblings posted a list of questions, ending with "How is your Monday going?" Here's my response:

Tuesday Meme-ing: Feeling Optimistic

What I’m allegedly reading: I’m allegedly reading Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia’s Founding. Though I love the detail and vividness of his ability to bring history to life, the book sits on my current reading shelf, and I pass over it again and again. I’m also trying to read Lecturas Basicas as a way to review Spanish. I enjoy this once I get started. Lecturas Basicas is propped next to The Epic of Australia.

What I’m really reading: David Stone’s swashbuckling spy thriller, The Orpheus Deception and Gail Tsukiyama’s The Street of a Thousand Blossoms, both for fun and to think about style. Stone can write so vividly the blood jumps off the page as his characters (of course “with colorless eyes deep-set in a haggard face”) slash, hack and burn their way through international conspiracies. Tsukiyama’s story is a masterpiece of subtle style, each detail building on the inner life of a sumo wrestler.

What I’m eating: Pretty much the old 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day in an effort to stop the upward spiral, which means carefully choosing those grains, fruits and vegetables and remembering that portions of meat remain at card-pack size. Last night we split a heavenly seafood risotto, glazed with some French butter saffron sauce, at Scratch, a Spokane restaurant. Dessert: crème brulee, the burnt sugar topping lightly crisp and delicate.

What I’m drinking: Cold water after all that.

What I’m watching: The view out my temporary office window, mine for just another three weeks before we move to Vancouver, also here in Washington. Here I sit at my folding desk and see a line of what I call bottlebrush pines, interspersed with aspen, their leaves shiver in the slightest wind. The sky is beautifully blue and today only 84.

What I’m listening to: The drone of announcers for the Summer Olympics in Beijing that occasionally, when the crowds cheer, draws me away from my computer to appreciate anew the gifts and tenacity of these young people.

What I have scheduled in the week ahead: Writing that begins each day. Beginning to pack and re-ask what is essential, how many crates of books can I take this time? Lunch with my daughter on Friday at an Indian restaurant (think curry), another trip to the library, and a concerted attempt to read at least four more books on Scottish history this week. And maybe I’ll finish the Mermaid Quilt this week. Where’s my organizer? Ah yes, a Mexican birthday cake for my husband.

What I’m feeling: Probably ebullient. Missing dogs and cats, and a good Scrabble game.

What I want: What does anyone want? World peace. A new president.

And how is your Tuesday going?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

We're back in Spokane after spending three very intense days at the Willamette Writers' Conference in Portland, my first. Whew! Imagine some 300 writers gathered to pitch their work to agents and publishing houses, as well as much talk about craft over lunches, in hallways, and between workshops.

I felt like a sponge, most inspired by Elizabeth Lyon, gifted teacher and author of Manuscript Makeover, among other writerly works; Jessica Morrell, another compelling writer for writers; Stella Pope Duarte, pushed to write by a prophetic dream, and author of If I Die in Juarez, and Bharti Kirchener, author of Shiva Dancing and Darjeeling. Mark Schorr expanded my sense of the criminal personality, and Greg Kompes introduced new ways of working online.

Following echoes of "I already heard that pitch," I met Ellie Gunn, an Oregon writer who just happens to be working on a novel about the Scottish clearances (set in 1813 and along the southeastern coast of Scotland). We may be sisters-of-the-written-page, writing just a few hundred miles apart figuratively and literally.

And now we're home again, 90 degree weather this week. I have new books to read, mountains of ideas to think about, and lots of writing ahead. Yet, would I go again? Yes. For this once, the conference brought together writers, agents, publishers, practitioners of craft, film-makers, motivational speakers. All of this was a fine balance to working each morning alone.