an excerpt from the novel
"The Truth About Rocks"
Ive had my hands in concrete so much this week, the grit has buffed my fingertips to a shine. I cant hold on to anything and no longer have fingerprints, which would come in handy if I was a criminal, but Im not a criminal, no matter what they say.
Guess I should fill you in:
continue "THE TRUTH..."
an excerpt from the novel
One Nation Under Dog
On days we didnt have school, Peppy and I were free. Actually, Peppy was always free cause he didnt have school responsibilities. He didnt have to learn to spell dog frontwards, during class, and backwards, at recess, like I did.
Actually, I never figured out what Peppy did with all his free time. Not counting that one clue, which had to be an expection, cause it was a side Id never seen before -- and almost missed when I did see it, cause the long skinny tail coming out his mouth was black like his lips. If you call whats around a dogs mouth, lips. That dead mouse could have dropped into his dog dish out of nowhere. Probably the three-legged Tom Cat or a chicken hawk did it, and Peppy just gobbled and swallowed without looking or chewing. Some things you cant explain. Im thankful he didnt choke, which can happen if a dog takes too big a bite of a chicken bone, for example. Usually the drumsticks the problem with that sharp needlestick poking up right beside. All I know is, when Peppy and I were together, we made fun out of nothing and we didnt hurt anything to do it.
Saturdays, we didnt get freedom till after Catechism.
Catechism was down a long dark hall and into a sunlight classroom in the basement of St. Victors church. Catechism is where I heard it first: About God making the world out of nothing.
Sister Anne was the one who told us, the few of us sitting there all folded hand quiet. She wore a long black robe with white at the neck and a black veil with a white headband cross her forehead and lots of heavenly material hanging around. I couldnt see how old she was or what color hair she had or if she had hair at all. Her face glowed like the Mary on Moms dresser at home.
"Who can tell me what create means?" Sister Anne said.
I raised my hand partway. "Thats when you make pictures with paint or chalk," I said. Teacher at my country school made chalk pictures -- the butcher, the baker, the candystick maker, red-winged blackbirds flying out of pie, and little boy blue blasting his horn, the sheep in the meadow, the cows in the corn
Sister's eyes crinkled like wax paper. "Not quite what I was thinking," she said. "Create means to make something out of nothing. Thats what God did when he created the world," she said. She made a moon circle with her hands.
The silver cross Mom wore as a kid, the one I bore on Saturdays -- that cross left a green chain ring around my neck.
"Only God has the power to create," Sister said. She raised her eyebrows and smiled like she caught me redhanded.
My eyes had nowhere to hide. Mom chopped my bangs that morning three inches above my eyebrows. Created more forehead than I ever had before.
For more on "One Nation Under Dog", email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A decade ago, Dad sent me hand-drawn instructions for the rustic bench I had admired on his farm. Ron built and customized one for our city yard, and over the next several years we adapted the design into imaginative wood-burned and painted benches for our local school auction. Each bench took on a life of its own.
Seasons passed. In fall, pre-auction, I'd keep Dad posted on our theme for the year, and in spring, post-auction, make him guess what it brought. Though we lived 2,000 miles apart, this annual bench-building act bridged the continent, our relationship and generations.
Dad died last year , and not long after, a mom surfing the web sent an e-mail requesting the bench pattern. I passed it on and she made two benches on behalf of her children's school auction. And now I pass Dad's original sketch on to you. If you build a bench, send us a line and a photo for inclusion in our growing gallery.
Welcome. Don't think of this as a blog. Think of it as an 'unclog. ' Take a moment to sample my novels at left: "THE TRUTH ABOUT ROCKS" and "ONE NATION UNDER DOG." Ask and I'll tell you more.
Plus check out my recent stories on "A Prairie Home Companion"
A Little Feedbag
Fried Corn Meal Mush
I can't stop writing because when I'm not concentrating on words and ideas, my mind wanders to subjects unworthy of my attention. Things like stray socks.
Instead of writing, I calculate the hours I spend each year sorting socks, multiplied by the number of years I've been doing laundry, magnified by the number of my offspring, adding a bonus for the fussy ones tween-aged and older plus a few for the boomerang adult and his friends.
The hay-sock-stacks on my laundry counter become props in my memory game, "Life Socks!" It's similar to the picture game my once five-year-old whomped me at every time: three or four matches and my brain is mush. The rules of "Life Socks!" are: leftover stacks get swept into a wastebasket every six months; occasionally you snag back a loner to match a clinger found inside a shirt; and sometimes stray stacks linger longer. The other day, I said good-bye to toddler anklets with a daisy on one cuff and a butterfly on another. That was the day my once-toddling-memory-whiz- kid turned 10.
This drills down to three truths. Socks are a problem. I need to get out more. I can't stop writing.
First things first: simple white socks. No pair's the same. Crew tops, low tops, socks with gray heels, yellow heels, gray heels and gray tops, yellow heels with yellow toes. Varying degrees of white, mother of pearl and gray. Big swooshes and mini-swooshes with a black stripe. Or three black stripes. Little girl socks with teal or pink or yellow thread at top, others with a pompom on the back, others with the purple pompom cut off because pompoms are nerdy.
How I feel about socks on any given day is an indicator of where I'm at in my writing life. Some people get their undies twisted in a bundle over cluttered papers. Socks get me undone. (And mops with mismatching replacement sponges. Don't get me started there.)
This says a lot about focus and some days it does become about paper. The newspapers and reports and articles with sweet language to work into my novel or screenplay or essay or poem. Recently, I poured over a tower of things I'll read someday feeling proud to have reached the bottom of the pile on one surface in one room, when I came across an artist profile from a Taos gallery I visited recently. (I do get out sometimes.)
Peggy McGivern was the artist, and her wildly emotive painting redrew in my memory. Loose, sweeping strokes of color depicted a pensive, melancholy woman alongside a windswept clothesline of billowing sheets and animated garments. Distorted and dreamy, figurative and landscape at the same time and roughly mid-point on the clothesline a tiny article of clothing, hence the title: "Red Striped Sock."
I think there was just one.
Perhaps life wasn't meant to be all tidy and matching. Perhaps facing the page each day is precisely what I need to sort it all out. - gj
Why I'm a Sustainable Writer
The mail carrier, in brimmed hat with a shower-cap cover, slogs up our steps and shoves the bundle through our too small slot. He doesn't have a particularly sunny disposition, but who would, wearing a pack load of letters in weather like this.
Wonder if one's for me.
I grab the mail and stand by the picture window cradling a Smithsonian/New Yorker taco and let my fingers walk through mailers trumpeting amazing new products I don't want or need. Smart, simple solutions for problems I didn't know I had. What I want, I can't seem to buy, and if I read about another choice, I'm going to puke, wretch, vomit. There is no letter from the editor here. Just another solicitation, what's this? Sustainable. Now that makes sense.
continue "The Sustainable Writer"
My son Robert gave me the vase when he was seven. He made it at school out of clay -- a cylindrical vessel, about four inches high, with a curved handle up top. Gray green with scored lines criss-crossed all around.
This childhood art object has been a treasured object on my kitchen windowsill for 16 years. When we moved about a decade ago, it came with us and found its rightful home on my new window ledge. An altar of sorts.
My vase holds tiny flowers in spring, which never last because the depressed thumbprint of a seven-year-old forms a pool under the handle so miniscule it holds a scant half-thimble of water. So strawflowers are best. Purple ones go good with green. They last forever as long as I take care when I dust.
Last time I dusted, I pulverized the flowers by accident, and I was being careful. I have to be, otherwise Ill smear the details. Modeling clay isnt designed to be permanent.
And while Im coming clean, my vase isn't really a vase. I've known this for some time. Robert told me the cold, hard facts when he was 10:
"Its a hand grenade Mom. Why do you put flowers in a hand grenade?"
Perhaps I didnt want to hear it; maybe I don't care. He made it; he gave it to me. It is mine. It will rest on my windowsill as long as I am.
This June Robert turned 24. He gave me a CD of his original music because that's what he's doing now. Creating rap and hip hop beats. Loud, sometimes raucous expressions of his soul. I hear flowers. -gj
What I do when Im not writing
A couple decades ago, I attended a film conference where producer David Lynch was asked what hed been working on. He rambled on about his current film projects and concluded with, and I built a shed. Many in the audience didnt quite get the tagged-on clause, having forgotten the question that prompted it 10 minutes earlier, but I found the tidbit delightful.
I thought about Lynchs answer this past January. Even for puddle-savvy Oregon webfeet, the month was a tough one: a series of dank, drab days filled with more rain than any other month in local history. My success is that I survived not only intact, but in a bright frame of mind. How? By hiding out several hours each day in my full-spectrum basement studio engaged in the project shown here, hereafter referred to as The Bench.
continue "What I do when I'm not writing"
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