The Arbor Vitae 2013

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Writing My Way Through the Year

April 9, 2015

Tags: winter, spring, novel, trees

Awaited Pleasures

Spring is hiding, but I am in no mood for a game of hide-and-seek. I need the real thing after the winter we have had this year. I am rigorously proceeding with all the spring requirements: spring cleaning, sorting and tidying, Passover etc., but the touch of spring sunshine on my face is missing. I dare not put my plants out on our small terrace, although they suddenly feel claustrophobic in the living room. The inhospitable cold wind still breathes an ominous chill into every day. The sight of buds bursting into bloom and trees leafing into delicate spring exuberance is yet to come. Winter is refusing to let go, hanging on with a relentless grip, and it seems that spring is not powerful enough to insist that it's time is now.
Nonetheless, life moves on. I wrestle my way forward into my novel and find that new directions emerge and new connections are made between characters in a larger more metaphoric sense. It is such hard work to move with the characters as they swerve from the path I planned for them and create enticing new opportunities. Letting go of a lovingly crafted episode that no longer advances the direction the story is taking is truly painful, but I will wait until I have completed a full draft and have had some "beta" readers react to it, before making the decision, even though I sort of know now that the painful excision will have to be made.
I am having so much fun with the process and the fulfillment of my life's dream to write a novel. Who knows if it will ever see the light of day, but meanwhile, I forge ahead, loving the work, loving the opportunity to try


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THE WRITING LIFE

December 29, 2014

Tags: writing, azalea, imagination, winter


Winter at Stony Creek House: Firewood, Sunlight and Snow


Strange December weather.
Two azalea plants are flourishing on our city living-room window-sill, encouraged to spectacular bloom by the subtle wafting of warm air from the radiator nearby and the delicate winter sunlight sifting through the glass of the window pane. They bloom year after year, sometimes twice a year. Every new array of strong little buds comes as a charming surprise as the years go by.
Spring-like days offer gentle air and blue skies, but hidden in our cautious, almost disbelieving delight there lurks a sense of foreboding. Will we have to pay for this unseasonal gift with harsh and cruel winter months to come, as a new year moves in?
I am drifting slowly toward the moment when I will be able to sink into working on my novel without guilt. January begins next week. My year of transition is over.
I have not succeeded in staving off some of the words that have begun to crowd my subconscious. 15,000 of them now sit enticingly in my computer. Every time I dare to open the file, I am sucked deep into the lives of my characters, who are filling out in unexpected ways, gaining strong voices, past lives, and a destiny.
I feel that this forage into the realms of the imagination is what I was always meant to do. Time disappears. There are no hungers but the hungers of the individuals I have invited to live in my mind. I am merely a conduit and like a Jinn billowing from a bottle, I can offer them a future that only I can conjure into reality.
There is research to be done, and I am reading into the period when the novel is set, and into some of the background. I am so excited to be embarking on a new challenge, a new project that will push beyond what I know and enlarge my interior world. I so hope it will all come together to produce the shape and resolution of a fully realized work of fiction. I am stepping with optimism and energy into my writing life.
Onward, 2015! And a happy new year to one and all.



Building My Winter Burrow

October 1, 2014

Tags: Winter Burrow, High Holidays, fall, squirrels, hibernating, winter

A Hibernated World

The months of early Fall whirl into focus amidst the beauty and turbulence of a rising wind dancing the leaves, and the pressures and pleasures of the High Holidays. These months also bring echoes of my losses. My two beloved maternal grandparents died during the High Holidays many years ago. My father died on the second night of Rosh Hashana in 1971, my mother last October. It is difficult not to view this time of year without a creeping apprehension that goes beyond a fear of the ice and cold to follow, the possibility of a winter as long and hard as the last one.
But as we come to terms with grey skies and the sudden assault of a day of wind and chill reminding us that summer is past, along with the squirrels, the woodchucks, the chipmunks, and the bears, we, too, set about building our winter burrows. Only our burrows are built of schedules and commitments, school routines for the young and their parents, shorter days, more demands, and a pace to match.
I have always known that I am a hibernating animal at heart, longing to curl up in warmth and sleep the winter away while others ski the slopes and run in marathons. This year I plan to let that hibernating creature take over.
To that end, I am now busy gathering my acorns and nuts, renovating my environment, whittling down my commitments and possessions to an organized clarity, preparing to use the winter to focus on my new book from the comfort of my home. I have tucked away as many distractions as possible, and have filled the shelves of my writing room with books relevant to the period and location I plan to explore in my novel. I am warning all my near and dear that my transitional year will end when January begins.
Small flares of the energy building in my subconscious are already bursting to the surface, and when they do, I write their messages down. But in my hibernation to come, I will open myself to doing the nothing that leads to something when it contemplates a blank computer monitor day after day after day, while nature rages outside the window.
Maybe the winter will bring cabin fever and nothing more. Maybe the pages I hope to write will never reach out into the world, but no matter how it goes, I am resolute.
If not now, when...?


SNOW AND ICE

January 8, 2014

Tags: winter, snow, experience, last times

Sarah and the snow maiden


Winter barely sneaked onto the calendar and suddenly we vied with Antarctica for whose cold was more intense. Before the barometer started its plunge into unimaginable freeze, fat white flakes fell silently, sprinkling trees with glittering white blooms, and Sarah built a snow-woman outside the kitchen window in the country.
Because I have been confronting endings lately, I found myself wondering, as I watched her, about the ephemeral nature of her snow sculpture, and it led me to reflecting on last times. There is no warning label to alert us that we are entering a last-time zone, exhorting us to pay particular attention, to experience the full impact of every second, to be aware, to realize that whatever we are experiencing will never happen again. Never.
Only later, looking back, do we fervently wish we had been aware that we were in a last time then. The poignancy of every moment slips us by, because we so confidently anticipate a next time. Because, as the last time quietly slides into the past, it seems perhaps no different from the time before, except that now, there will be no next time.
As we move more deeply into the future, we gradually become aware that the world has changed around us and that this particular moment will never repeat itself, this wonderful experience will never return.
Sarah's snow woman will gradually melt into different shapes and disappear altogether. Life does that, too, and with a sinking heart we understand that we should have appreciated the last time more, recorded it differently, been more profoundly in the experience itself. If only we had somehow known that it would never come again.
So what I am moving towards here is that I have entered a sharper awareness. I am realizing that I need to appreciate every experience as if it might be the last time. That is how, without defining it, I addressed every moment of the last two years of my mother's life. I balanced on the edge of time. Every visit might be the last. I never knew if she would have a tomorrow.
I am saddened that in earlier years, as she faded before our eyes, I had not understood about the need to capture each moment forever. I never believed that it would never come again. And now, I cannot remember the last time she walked on her own, she showed me a glorious new painting she had just finished, or played her Chopin piece on the piano, or sang, or laughed, or remembered my name.
But for the last two years I did give every visit the respect of a last time. And when it truly was the last time, I knew it was the right time for her and I knew that I had saved and stored every possible good moment that preceded it.


Reflections on a brave new year

December 30, 2012

Tags: winter, time, grace, clarity

Winter again. Below freezing and mighty winds but a crisp blue sky that belies the knife-like slashes at any visible skin.
This demanding year is winding down and hope lurks hidden in the dawning of a new year. My life has been moving ahead at warp speed for years, while behind me trails a twisting stream of unfinished things, damaged minutiae in need of repair, repainting, refinishing; mountains of photos in need of order; books cascading unopened through the interstices of past years. This is the year for me to grasp time with both hands and pull in the slipstream so that I can evaluate it and discard or complete. I hear the rumble of the winged chariot. I hear it as a call to order. I hear it as the opportunity to examine stray filaments escaped from so many past years, and to consolidate the roving elements of this design I live.
Closure calls and time slips past its bounds and beckons from the unknown. I pray for health and clarity. I pray for strength and joy. I pray that the coming year will give direction to me and mine and grace to the architecture that together we create.
2013, here we come.

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