Sunday, July 29, 2007

This week I'm focused on taking my library down. I think there are about 3,000 books here, with concentrations in Latin American lit, African lit, the humanities, art, and history. Plus a giant pile of books I haven't read yet, everything from The Secret Life of Bees to The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. Right now I'm reading Sheri Tepper's Singer from the Sea, whose intrepid heroine somehow seems much more accessible than that in David Guterson's Our Lady of the Forest, but I haven't given up, being 2/3rd's of the way through.
Some books go into storage, some on the road, some to Rachel and Nick (and friends), some to the library for their book sale, and some reserved for the garage sale. All the process of letting go. I started with books first as I thought that would be harder than dishes.

Anyway, some have requested I post a schedule for our first trips . . . so here are the "fall" trips:

SEPTEMBER 2007. We start about Sept 3 in Spokane, going to Waterton (Canada) and Glacier National Park (Montana), then down to Yellowstone and the Tetons (Wyoming), Craters of the Moon National Monument (Idaho), Hell's Canyon (Oregon) all in a grand loop of camping back to Spokane by Sept 30, Rachel's birthday. This gives us a dry run on all the camping gear.

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2007 begins the Southwest tour, starting about October 2-3, Great Basin National Park (Nevada), then to Utah for the rest of the month of October. We'll explore five national parks -- Bryce, Zion, Capitol Reef, Arches and Canyonlands. We cross the border into Colorado to visit Mesa Verde National Park and then head south to New Mexico where we visit Aztec Ruins National Monument and possibly Chaco Culture National Park. Then we hit Four Corners and jump into Arizona for the month of November. Highlights will include visiting the Navajo National Monument and Park, the Grand Canyon, Walnut Canyon, and Wupatki (the petrified forest). We'll continue on to the Petrified Forest National Park, the Hubbel Trading Post, Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Phoenix, then to Casa Grande Ruins and finally Tucson for Thanksgiving with my sister, Wynn, Alfred and family. Visiting the Amerind Museum in Tucson will be a highlight as will Tombstone and Kartchner Caverns. Whew!

In December, we head north and east to Philadelphia by Dec. 15th with a few stops in Mexico and Texas, including, hopefully, a stop in our favorite restaurant in San Antonio, the fabled Biga on the Banks, my first five-start dining experience.

Somehow writing will fit in all this traveling and hiking and taking photos. At this point I'm excited about continuing the mermaid stories (5 stories more or less finished and 4 on the research/notes level). Every culture seems to have a mermaid story, and every time I find another link, another image, I'm intrigued by the connections, but wonder if I will find mermaids in the desert. Hi from Beth

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Mermaid bridges or gates are found in seaports all over the world, marking a half way point between this world and the next, the world of the sea and myth. I found this mermaid "gate" at Paris, Paris in Las Vegas at a friend's wedding; it made me think of the old neighborhoods in Paris, with small, crooked, winding streets where a turn opens up to a small square with a fountain or a bakery or a mermaid gate.
Efforts to track down the inspiration for these two mermen led me to a bridge built in 1846, now torn down in St. Petersburg, and then to Karen Valentine's blog and her just published novel, The Old Mermaid's Inn, which looks like a fascinating read well grounded in Gloucester's seafaring history, Breton myth, and solid writing -- and self-published through her own press.

One comment that keeps surfacing over and over again in my readings about writers is how we must persevere. The workday begins with some sort of writing, some sort of commitment to time and focus, even if the writer has no real direction. The casting about, the writing itself is its own reward. And most writers confront doubt. Maybe not every day, but real doubt entertwined with a sense of accomplishment.
I just finished my first real draft of "Rusalka," a short story set in the pale of Russia, drawing from the myth of Rusalka and the pogroms of the late 19th Century. Rachel read it and said, "Mother, why are your stories so sad? Think about audience." So I've been pondering the reality of mermaids -- that they symbolize generally both destructive and seductive forces. For me, though, mermaids suggest sheer freedom, the luxury of "life" in the sea, its storms and its vastness. And I find the connection between mermaids and humans fascinating -- even in story form. Perhaps her request for a "happy" story leads me to confront this wall of starting the next story. I have no easy resolution. But finding a mermaid bridge in an old French quarter may be a beginning. Beth