writing

I ended last week's blog post with a draft of a mission statement for my work. I've been trying to explain to myself for years what unites the varied passions that propel me through life.

One of the delights of buying an older house is discovering the surprises planted by previous owners. Like the daffodils, grape hyacinth (the purple flower clusters) and columbine leaves in the photo above, in a flower border now overtaken by lawn. 

I'd guess from the yard's unkempt and overgrown character that no one has done any actual gardening, or pruning, or tending anything except the lawn in this yard for a very long time. Perhaps many decades. And even the lawn isn't in great shape. 


I went for a run today, my first since I moved home to Cody two months and two days ago. I would say it felt great to be running again, but my relationship with running is much more complicated than that.


I need to run, something I know intellectually. But it takes a lot of emotional energy to talk myself into it, each time. I have an amazing ability to find excuses and wimp out. And then I feel bad because I didn't run. 



When I left Santa Fe last Wednesday at the end of my amazingly fruitful fellowship at the Women's International Study Center, I had written 13,400 words, a solid beginning of my new book, The Ditch & The Meadow. (The subtitle--also my elevator pitch--is still evolving, but right now it's How Native Plants and Passionate Plantswomen are Restoring Health to Humanity, Our Communities, and the Earth.)

One of the reasons writers crave time away to write is that so much of our daily lives isn't actually spent writing. We all have family, friends, community work, administration (answering inquiries about writing assignments, talks, workshops; publicity, paying the bills, reminding people to pay us, accounting, etc), and so on.

I'm back in Santa Fe and beginning a month-long fellowship at the Women's International Study Center. It's an honor--really a miracle--to have the gift of time and space to simply research, read and write for a month, with no obligation other than to give one program on my work, tentatively scheduled for mid-November at my favorite Santa Fe bookstore, Collected Works

Red and I left home almost a week ago, headed some 1,500 miles to our eventual destination, my brother and sister-in-law's house in Olympia, Washington. I gave myself four days for the trip, including two nights with friends Julie Weston and Garry Morrison in Hailey. 

liminal - adj. [technical]

1. of or relating to an initial or transitional stage of a process

2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a threshhold. 

origin: late 19th century; from Latin limen, limin 'threshhold' 

A little over two years ago when I finally got the Certificate of Occupancy for my little house and garage-studio, there were a few things undone still, details large and small I knew I'd want to finish at some point. But by then I'd been living with construction guys coming and going for nine months, and I just wanted peace and quiet to settle into the spaces I designed for myself and this new solo life. 


Last weekend at the time I would normally write a blog post, I was in Silver City, New Mexico, with my co-teacher Dawn Wink, preparing for the final days of an intense and incredible Write & Retreat workshop. We had reached that exhilarating point where everyone was on a creative high, and feeling so good about the writing, our discussions, and the new perspectives we had gain on our work that we didn't want it the workshop to end.



Since my word for 2016 is abundance, I decided to give myself the gift of taking the time to do some of the things I have never "had time for" (read: given myself time for). One of those pursuits is coloring. Perhaps because I grew up with a colorblind mother--Mom saw the world in black, white, and shades of gray--light and color have always fascinated me.


Normally, I reserve my weekends for work around the house, or for creek and landscape restoration projects. This weekend, writing called me instead.

(The photo above shows Ditch Creek, my restoration project, right below my house. The shrub with the scarlet stems in the foreground was a seedling when Richard and I planted it 18 years ago. Now it shades the creek, nurturing aquatic insects and providing food for songbirds.)

Last Thursday evening, I sat at my desk with the window open to the cool dusk air, answering a few last work emails without much enthusiasm before shutting down my computer for the night. A hummingbird chattered softly to herself as she sipped nectar from a scarlet Indian paintbrush just a few feet away.

I was sitting in the exam room with my family doctor, Mary Reeves, last Thursday morning, when she said, “You know I read your blog.”

“I do,” I looked away, a little embarrassed.

“I always chuckle when you write another post that says, ’I’m re-learning how to work less.’”

Mary, who has been my family physician and friend for the better part of 18 years, has a long memory and knows me too well. She’s also brilliant at pinpointing when I go off the track with my health.

First, the writing progress: On April 29th, I started on one more revision of Bless the Birds, my memoir-in-progress, giving it what my writer/editor/fiber-maven friend Deb Robson calls a “French polish.” I’ve been reading it aloud, listening to the story, and doing the kind of detail work that I hope makes the story leap off the page and into a publisher’s line-up.

At Kent Haruf's memorial service in Salida a few months ago, the Wyoming writer Mark Spragg told a story he had heard Kent tell that struck a chord with me. I recently found that story again in "The Making of a Writer," a memoir-essay Kent wrote for the magazine Granta.

If you've ever finished a big project of whatever sort, one that took months or years, and required a kind of intensity and focus that left you feeling hulled out at the end of each day, you know something of what I'm feeling after sending my new memoir, the story I call Bless the Birds off to my agent last Monday.

#amwriting: Yesterday at about four o'clock, I read the last sentence of what I think is the final draft of my memoir-in-progress, Bless the Birds. Okay, final except for the subtitle, and that I'm still tinkering with.

#amwriting, as the Twitter tag labels the act of creating story from a blank page. Yesterday, nearly eleven weeks after I began this deep revision of my memoir, Bless the Birds, I wrote an entirely new ending for the book. One that fittingly circles around to the place where the story begins.