Sometimes weekends away are relaxing. Some are more along the lines of work. Other times they are a hybrid of the two and you come away exhausted but content. But, definitely exhausted:)
Two weekends ago I went on a "retreat" that I had no business going on because life was rather ramped up at the moment with four kids back to school and sports exploding all over the calendar in addition to those not-so-savory things a person has to do--like clean the house, do the laundry, break into the fall wardrobe while still floating the summer shorts.
Don't even get me started on the socks!
Socks. On the floor. A basket of matchless singles growing and growing. Smelly socks stuffed in shoes. Inside out socks in the middle of the stairs. Even socks OUTSIDE! Enough about the socks. On this retreat there wasn't a sock in sight. :)
There I was, on a writer's retreat to Squam Lake. What a beautiful location! So beautiful that it was a challenge to not spend the whole time walking around exploring or jumping in the lake. I was there to focus on my writing, so I soaked all the nature in from a comfortable and semi-productive distance.
What was so exhausting about that?
Well, it was a bit like a mini-conference and anybody who has ever been to a conference knows there's a lot of talking, meeting people, introducing yourself, figuring out what it is you might tell them, wondering more about them, and sharing a room with a stranger. Sure, she'll feel like a friend by the end of the weekend, but there's a process and so sharing a room can add to the lethargy. Throw in a wonderful old cabin that doesn't muffle anything and only amplifies every footstep and shift of weight. A toilet flushing? Sounds like Niagra Falls has just dumped down the walls and onto the floor.
It's all part of the charm, but also the process of allowing yourself to be uncomfortable, a little awkward, and eventually feel a bit like family when it's all said and done. It was a great experience and it felt so good to meet so many wonderful, creative, nerdy minds like myself. People who wrote, researched, animated, edited, agented, revised, read, made dolls and were all interested in each other. It's a great feeling to be surrounded by people committed to creativity!
The weather was perfect. Everything was photogenic, as you'll see below, and the whole experience helped me to grow a little bit more as a writer, a reader, and a member of the big wide creative community I love being a part of.
Delete. It's magic and it's a curse that's available at the touch of a finger.
No wand required.
This (here) text block had previously waxed poetic about Due Dates.
Yes, I went on about it for about the same length I will consequently go on about Dew Points, but with one important difference: I deleted the block about Due Dates.
Did I mean to? No. I had inserted an image and then something went kaflooey, as things tend to do in the tech world, and as I thought, "Maybe I should copy the text in case something goes wrong." Another thought pushed that first thought out of the way insisting, "Just keep going--fast. Do it. Press that little 'x' and only the image will disappear, not all of the text too."
So, I went with option number two and "Delete" happened. And, worse? I did not see an "Undo" for the life of me.
Come on! No "undo" to hit?
I'm not rewriting it. I'm writing this rant instead and since this is a blog and not a term paper, or a novel, I can do that.
Thank the good Lord for blogs and journals.
Now, onto Dew Points . . .
Wow--how did I go most of my life without caring or even knowing what these were?
It's not the heat, it's the humidity. No--it's the dew point! Dang that number that either means I'm going to have a refreshing breeze dance by or that I'm going to feel beads of sweat gather and drip down my back or from the inside crease of my elbow at some point. Ugh and ew!
Does that change anything? No. But today started out with a dew point in the 70s, which is nasty, and it ends somewhere in the 50s, which is Shangri-La.
After a summer that has been moist in all the worst ways and yet somehow extremely dry also in all the worst ways, I am running towards September and its promise of low dew points and long sweaters with absolute adoration in my eyes.
I have a few wonderful events coming up that will mark the transition from summer--when I let my brain go into detox and veg mode--to fall--when I fire up my pens and all things start to buzz and bubble with energy. Next weekend (not to be confused with this weekend:) I am off to a Writers' Retreat at Squam Lake. Boy, could I use anything with the word "retreat" in the title just about now. Then the following week is the Commonwealth Pen Show in Somerville, MA where I can go and luxuriate in all things pen and ink and paper. If there is a better two-weekend lineup that inspires the written word, I can't imagine it right now.
So, go. Retreat. Write. Then, pen. Write some more.
I'll put the pen show flier below for those who would like to attend and need more concrete details than my general gushing above offers.
Here's to extended deadlines and falling dew points!
This has been a hot summer to say the least. My kids have been in the pool a lot and so have plenty of frogs! Wow, who knew there were that many frogs in the area? It seems unnatural--there are that many! I just took two out of the skimmer.
They were among the lucky ones, still kicking and when I put them down they hopped off. How long before they are back in the pool?
Yesterday there were baby turkeys. I didn't see those but my family and my neighbor did. Last week a skunk waddled out from the bushes mid-morning as if it was the most ordinary thing to do.
Maybe it was--for him. Later he hung a right around the back of the shed and then faced off with a bunny. The skunk rolled on its back and the bunny hopped perhaps to appear more threatening than he really was. It was like nothing I've ever seen.
The week before that my children were running a wild petting zoo with four baby bunnies having been born after the mother made a den (nest?) in my raised vegetable garden. I went out to water one morning to hear thumping every so often. Finally after some investigating I realized it was a baby bunny running from the water and into the sides of my raised bed. The next day there were two little sets of ears huddled together hiding beneath the cucumber vine and among the marigolds. In the evening there were three bunnies where there had been two. Within a day there were four bunnies total. I couldn't believe my eyes.
(Side note: My vegetable garden beds are raised to keep bunnies out. Now they serve as a maternity ward for them.) Later I came out to see my girls and a neighborhood girl each holding a baby bunny lovingly, patting them and telling me their names: Squirmy, Gucci, Chubs and Lily.
Two evenings ago, I found what looked like another bunny nest in the same place and we all watched as the mother bunny circled and finally jumped in to feed her babies. We watched goldfinches visit our feeder and what we think is a wren flying and perching on my vegetable gardens, then swooping under our deck to where we think she may have a nest of her own. This afternoon one of my daughters came across three baby birds in the pool.
Two died. One sat in the grass at her mercy while she sat patting it wondering what to do. Four more kids gathered around the bird wanting to help. Finally, I scooped it up with my shirt and put it into my raised vegetable bed so nothing could get at it. While my son bent over to see the baby bird, he spied a Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar that must have been feeding on the dill growing in abundance. Perhaps the baby bird or its mother will be feeding on that catepillar before long or it will be left to grow into a beautiful butterfly.
Who knew my raised beds would serve as a functioning animal hospital for animals of every sort?
The walls I thought would be a barrier for my vegetables has become those of a sanctuary of sorts.
Gardens are definitely sanctuaries--for animals and humans alike:)
I can't help but feel like a slacker. The trouble is there's still only the original 24 hours in a day and that just doesn't seem to be enough for me to get the things I need done, followed by the things I want to do done, followed by the things I should do done: you know that resting, relaxing, recovering, and rejuvenating thing we hear is necessary for a healthy and happy life.
Some writers and artists seem to create when the mood strikes them or when they feel something come over them and that used to be my method too, but with life so busy I'm going to have to come up with some other way that forces me to make more time for my personal writing projects, not just the writing I need to do for work or various other commitments, but the novels and poetry and blog posts (ahem!) I really want to be able to do.
Some writers and artists claim that the morning hours are best and I'm sure they are, but I'm not a morning person. Can I try to become one? Sure. Do I want to try to become one? No. I don't want to try, anyway. If I woke up one morning and was suddenly a morning person--sure, I'd love that. But, I don't have the energy to try to become one.
So, what's a gal to do? Well, it's almost summer. Ok--technically it's summer on the calendar and meteorologically it's summer, but according to my children's school summer is has not started yet. Yes, it's nearly July and "summer vacation" is still hours away.
What does summer have to do with anything, you may be wondering?
More time? Hopefully. But, based on historical precedent there seems to be no more time in the summer months than there are in the other nine and anything extra should be devoted to a good amount of resting and relaxing that every body needs in order to carry on for those other hectic, hurry-up-and-go months. One thing July has going for it is sunnier mornings which may be a help toward earlier mornings which may be a help toward writing in the mornings.
Throw in a good, old fashioned one-month challenge! Don't forget to include public accountability so others can see if you are holding to your commitment and have every right to heckle you if you slack off.
So, here goes. I am going to try to challenge myself to produce something creative for one month's time. I suppose I have to figure out what that is first, but I have a week to come up with something and report back.
That's just what I'll do.
Stay tuned. :)
If only people realized that a lack of telling is not necessarily indicative of a lack of living. In fact, sometimes the lack of our ability to tell is the lack of time to tell due to all the living going on. That is the case here. I have a lovely moment to write about, but I will not do it justice to write about it now while I am so tired and there are so few hours in my days--these days. Let me just wait and write about it when I have a full belly of sleep for fuel. In the meantime, here is a photo to hold you over. Those are real flowers in fake shoes. The image looks hopeless and filled with hope all at once reminding me of a quote by Lady Bird Johnson that I am fond of. I will quote it in its entirety, "Where flowers bloom, so does hope – and hope is the precious, indispensable ingredient without which the war on poverty can never be won." If you ever feel yourself losing hope--get out into a garden. Any garden. Even just some random patch of dirt in the woods. Plant something and it just might grow:)
The "to do" list.
That list is absolutely necessary for me to function, to remember, to prioritize, to be productive. But--
It is in so many ways an enemy to my "artist" inside. Yes, I'm sure that is my fault. I should be making time for my art. I've read the books, heard the calls to artist arms, and agreed completely.
Here I am--with a blog explaining, complaining, --
I must break away from this barely started blog entry for a "case in point" moment. Not only does my "to do" list keep me from writing for pleasure because "more important 'dos' shove their way in front of others," but also the impromptu "to dos" pop up on a near-constant basis.
I typed the words above, "Here I am--with a blog explaining, complaining," when it hit me mid-sentence that I had just put an egg in the pot to soft boil--which is a five minute venture--sat down to write and completely forgot about the egg.
No sooner had I settled down to start my blog entry then I was up and out of my seat (one minute behind, but with yolk still pleasantly runny:). Well, it was breakfast now--not time to write after all. I don't always do breakfast, but today is a day when I was finally able to add "write" to my morning schedule and so breakfast seemed like a wonderful indulgence too.
But, that was not all.
I was just finishing my breakfast when a friend came by to drop off books that we had lent her kids.
My kids had been asking about them but, well--you see--the "short on time" situation has been a problem for me.
My friend is in the same, creaky, late boat as I am
But, she amazingly squeezed the errand in.
I grab the books, hand her something and she's off to work. Now I will write.
Not yet. Enter: The Cat!
I love the book Olivia by Ian Falconer. Not only is it adorable, but I always loved it when part of Olivia's day required that she "move the cat" a few times. It's true. Any cat owners or dog owners know that just when you are about to stop rushing around and put pen to paper, brush to canvas, or perhaps do something quiet and contemplative--the cat shows up and wants something from you, but it's not always clear what it is they want.
So you reason with them for a bit: go out? hungry? a quick pat or scratch behind the ear? What!!??
And so, here I am about to get back to the blog I promised I'd write only to be negotiating with a feline who clearly has all the time in the world . . .
Front door? Back? -- then she sits.
Waiting for a cat to determine my schedule. Finally, I take a few photos because all this truly is comedy gold in my head. Of course instead of writing, I am negotiating with a cat.
So far a delicious egg, a good friend doing me a favor and an indecisive cat have elbowed their way into my "to do" list and that's the way it goes. It's those unwritten "to dos" that really do me in.
So, what is a writer "to do"?
Write about it.
And take some photos.
I know that when I started I was going to launch into the "to do" list and all its merits and evils and now--who knows what I was going to say. As you can see there is often no planning even to my day and the course it takes, let alone my writing. I consider it a win if I am able to write anything.
Fortunately I have kept up with this blog at least on a monthly level, which is much more than I can say about my newsletters. Those fell tragically off a cliff somewhere in the twilight between winter and early spring.
But--in keeping with the saying "perfect is the enemy of the good" I will slap together a newsletter and hope to draw you to this blog where you will see what I have been up to or thinking about even when it wasn't delivered to your inbox.
Yes, in that photo above you see little seedlings.
That, truth be told, is the other love that keeps me away: Gardening!
It is my passion in the spring-time and so when I am able to steal an hour or so I have been transforming my garden out front (actually, more than transforming, I have created a brand new one which is a large undertaking). I will post about that in the coming weeks or months, but for now you can imagine those seedlings are just the tiny tip of an iceberg.
The world is opening up slowly but surely. Hopefully it follows spring's lead and petal by petal it stretches into a bloom so that we can enjoy life more fully. Imagine if flowers stayed buds forever?
What a tease.
The Massachusetts State Poetry Society had a meeting this past weekend. It was in-person at the Beverly Public Library, and it has been a while since I have attended any workshop or gathering in-person for the sake of being creative--even if only in bite-sized pieces. Poetry is sort of famous for being bite-sized, so this was a good start.
Poetry also has a habit of being famously impenetrable or snobbish. But, like so many things in life, if you can push past your own preconceived notions about poetry you'll see it's just words like everything else.
It's a magnifying glass for emotion and feeling.
It tries to get right to the point.
Its love for the heart of the matter can be seen as obstinate at times.
This is where this weekend's workshop on Acrostic Poetry comes in. Acrostic Poetry is quite possibly the perfect ambassador between people and poetry. It provides the suggestion of structure but does not slap you across the knuckles with its rules as some forms have a habit of doing. It simply provides a very entry-level chain link fence where you can see outside, but you are asked to play within its boundaries. What you play is up to you.
Some may see the fence and find it, well--offensive (pardon the wordplay:). It seems too elementary. In fact, you may remember writing an acrostic poem in elementary school. What an insult to your intelligence, because while you may not be up for the snobbery of a Shakespearean Sonnet, you will not be subjected to the ABCs of an Acrostic! Pfft!!
Well, I must admit to you, my attitude was quite the same. It had been years--decades--since I'd laid eyes, let alone my own pen, onto an acrostic poem. And yet, I played along.
I was brought over to the fenced in area.
The rules were simple and clear--refreshingly so.
So, I played.
And . . .
I absolutely loved it. Simple enough for my overwhelmed mind to participate and yet once I allowed myself to forget about the world beyond the fence, I felt safe and had some fun with words. I didn't drone on as I tend to do with prose. I picked and plucked and tried to put together a bouquet. Rearranging, crossing out, rewriting. It has been so long since I'd allowed myself to work at a poem that wasn't simply "freestyle." The "rules" offered just enough challenge without making the exercise daunting or frustrating.
So, I encourage you. I implore you: write an Acrostic Poem. Here's a link to get you started: Acrostic Poem
Many thanks to Jeanette Maes, President of the Massachusetts State Poetry Society, who facilitated the workshop this past weekend. The poem I wrote is titled "Gardening" and it could do with some reworking, but I'll include it as it stands currently.
It felt good to take a snapshot of thought and force it onto paper. There is a satisfaction in creating that we cannot, as humans, dismiss or constantly defer. I'm glad I shook myself from default to get my hot mess of a self into the car and to that meeting so I could start to remember why I love poetry and words as a medium, so very much.
At long last, two years after I was originally supposed to sit down with the wonderful Joy Nelkin Wieder, author of The Passover Mouse, we finally got to chat mask-free in the WCAT Studios this past Monday. I got to follow Joy on her journey from spark of an idea back in 2002 all the way to this moment twenty years later to celebrate her picture book just before Passover begins April 15th.
The Passover Mouse came out two years ago, just before the pandemic, and so Joy has had to endure a two-pronged form of perseverance with not only a long wait for her story to become a book and reach the eyes of children, but also to connect with those children once the book was out there. So much was cancelled and so two years later she looks forward to reading it to kids in the classroom, at libraries and bookstores to see their reactions to a story about a mischievous but adorable mouse.
Joy said it best during her interview when she said, "Don't give up!"
(Side note: If you're confused--c.t. kavanagh is my pen/maiden name. I always promised myself I would write under my maiden name and so that's what I am doing here. I use my legal name for my non-profit work, but I am indeed the same person.:)
Sometimes you just need to make a good old mind map to think about how a character fits into your story--only to discover that perhaps that character is the very axle (or axis?) around which the story twines and climbs and blooms. That's an exciting feeling for a writer, but that's just a feeling. Now, there needs to be the writing derived from the feeling. Like a surfer catching a wave--you must swim out into an unpredictable ocean with all your strength, look for it, wait for something worth following, then go for it. Get yourself up on that board and enjoy the ride. :)
It's been a while. Since, the writing--in here.
With a blog titled, "Dear Diary" I wanted to write, "Dear Diary, my mother passed away less than a month ago and I'm finding it hard to write. Why does grief take up so much room in my head? Why does it feel like such a relief to write what I'm thinking in my paper journal with my pen, but when it comes to typing in this Diary---I just don't want to?"
And that's a problem, for a writer. "Writer's block" seems to take on a whole new, debilitating strength after the loss of a loved one. It makes me think of the children's book I used to read to my children called, Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball by Vicki Churchill & Charles Fuge. For some reason, when I'm sad or overwhelmed, I want to get as small as I can. And, in an effort to get as small as I can I pull in my arms and legs and tuck my chin down.
It's hard to write when you're in a ball.
Writing is an extension of who I am and I suppose stretching myself out so publicly on a page is simply unappealing. It's the last thing I want to do because, well--when you lose someone you love you really don't want to do much at all. But I'm still a mother, wife, sister, friend, neighbor, volunteer, citizen and, still, I am a daughter--with all that continues to come with such a role even without the mother to show for anymore.
Loss happens and then--weeks, months, years later the essence of it still lingers. In sentimental human ways and in demandingly impersonal, bureaucratic ways. It suddenly shows up when you least expect it and seems to have abated only to soon make it clear it has not.
And so this blog post is me putting the key in the ignition, turning with a sigh and knowing I need to turn the engine over every now and then to be sure the car will run in the future even if my heart just isn't in it today. But it will be. I have to believe that.
I need to try to not look too long into the void or it will swallow me. We humans have a habit of steering into what we're staring into. That's dangerous. So, I need to know the void is there in order not to fall into it and then avert my eyes, focus on the living, put one foot in front of the other and walk towards the light no matter how far off it appears at this moment.
Easier said than done. I know.
But, it's a start:)