Art amid the flames….

Binding is attached, now to hand sew it to the back of the quilt.

A delicate balance exists in my heart right now; the devastation from the Sonoma, Napa, and Solano County fires is hard to wrap my head around, although every time I step outside I’m reminded by the smoggy sky and smoky aroma.  I’m feeling blessed to be out of the danger zone, but helpless when considering all that has been lost by so many.  I’ve written about this sensation recently,yet here are those emotions again.  In a matter of minutes homes were destroyed, whole neighborhoods wiped away.  The awesome power exhibited by these fires is chilling, and I struggle to find words strong enough to convey my thoughts.

My hubby came home early, and assisted in this photo shoot.

The last few nights I’ve been completing a quilt started months ago, but set aside for other projects in need of my attention.  Amid baseball playoffs, my husband would switch to the local news as I attended to a comforter meant for dear friends who before the end of the month will become first time grandparents.  This quilt was made for that coming nieta, but abuelos require a blanket too, for future days of cuddles and fortbuilding.  I’ll send it off once the good news arrives, so when they return home after meeting their newest family member, a quilt will remind them of love far away.

I had worried about over-quilting it, but I’m pleased with how it looks upon being washed.

And therein lies the basis for these reflections, how life continues even when so much seems impossible to believe.  I have to admit that once I had attached the binding on this quilt, joy overwhelmed me, for how long it’s taken this project to come to fruition and the bliss attached to it.  Yet to go outside to photograph it immediately hearkened to tragedy and ruin.  I tackle these themes in my writing, how much good can come from what seems so bleak.  But reality is a sledgehammer compared to fiction.  It’s a lot for this grandma to ponder.

The back is probably one of my best efforts. A nice contrast to the blues….

One thing I can do is use my time and talents to lessen the pain of others.  The second set of plus blocks still waiting to be sewn together will be donated, along with a few other of my creations, once I turn those blocks into a finished comforter.  There is of course prayer, which I have offered fervently on behalf of those who are now homeless, as well as all those working above and beyond the call to contain these fires.  Then there is a focused appreciation for my quiet little neck of the proverbial woods; daily irritations slip away when the massive scope of such desolation is considered.  And finally a post written to somehow take stock, even if just a few scattered words trying to make sense of what seems so senseless.

Special thanks to my better half for making these shots possible.

What comes back to me is how brief are our lives, and how vital it is to do good, to love, and to hope for the best.  Sometimes that is all we can do.

Advertisements

Different Rhythms

Photos from The Hook in Capitola, California, October 2013…

So I guess a post with this title shall appear.  My cold has abated, and the laundry is done, five loads yesterday that usurped the writing which I had planned.  Initially I felt a little guilty, but assuaged myself that unless I felt so called to create, best to get the washing done instead.  And today I was rewarded for my patience by managing an entire chapter, albeit on the concise side.  However, a chapter is a chapter, and at this point, I’ll take whatever words emerge.

Big splash!

Ten years ago I couldn’t have halted the words with a steamroller, but that isn’t what I want to address today.  Today I’m fifty-one and grateful for whatever prose I can muster.  And lately I’ve been wondering if once I complete The Hawk, will I even embark upon another fictional project?  Right now I’m feeling rather drained, not sure if it’s the dregs of my head cold, or just age.  It’s also due to other concerns, not of a bothersome nature, but of sheer joy; grandkids are a hoot, and I’m so pleased to be as involved in their little lives as I am blessed to be.  And there’s the sewing, coming out of left field like a shot off of Babe Ruth’s bat.  Years ago between novels I checked out the ocean, but I haven’t been to Capitola in….  A very long time.  These photos are from four years ago, my goodness, as if the Pacific disappeared or I forgot my way there.  Instead of traipsing off to photograph the waves, I stay home and fashion quilts, or spend my time with wee ones.

Yes indeed, different rhythms have overtaken me.

So, how to write a book when my time is so splintered?  Others do it, lots of others, but my technique has previously been that of a horse with blinders, only the story in my view.  That was fine when my kids weren’t parents, lol.  I could accommodate their solo needs, but now all bets are off.  Not even my father’s battle with cancer impeded upon my word count; I wrote to maintain a modicum of sanity.  But this new generation is another kettle of fish entirely, and I suppose I’m glad to have released The Hawk in installments, providing impetus to finish it.  For the first time in a long time, the urge to write is diminished, although thankfully not absent.  But has that waning desire set a precedent for future stories?  Only time will tell.

Surfers….

What I need to remember is exactly what saved my bacon yesterday; when it’s time, the words will come.  Trusting in that is essential, because it’s not merely about writing fiction.  It’s about any such project that needs my focus.  Age has affected my authorial drive, but I can’t just throw up my hands and whine that I can’t do it.  I can write, it’s a matter of accepting where writing now falls within my life.  And that for now, it’s okay to move other items up on the list.  Nietos won’t be toddlers forever, and perhaps as my forties was the decade to learn to write, my fifties will be more about reflection.  I have to evolve, even if it means a reduction in the output.  What I write now is certainly better than what I was spewing in 2007, ha ha.  Better to honor quality over quantity.

One day I’ll bring the nietos here and we’ll chat about nature’s awesome beauty….

And the best of all is to take this journey one step, or word, at a time.  Again it’s about trusting in a greater good, as well as not taking myself so seriously.  And to remember I will never write this story again (thank you Jesus!).  Each day with these characters is a gift all its own.  I’ll revel in that when feeling uninspired, then wait for my brains, heart, and soul to be equally engaged.  When that occurs, no steamroller around can stop me.

Small Acts of Faith

A head cold has plagued me all weekend, but this morning I did manage to look over the last chapter I’d written, although I don’t plan on adding to The Hawk today.  This last part of the story is taking its own sweet time, but I’m grateful to be writing anything these days.  What I’ve come to realize about this final section is not only is it the end of the novel, but a call to remain steadfast in accepting it’s not about my efforts.  Its conclusion is yet another path on my journey, and I’ll reach it in due time.

Completed wedding quilt already in the hands of its owners.

But isn’t that life in a nutshell?  While getting older has curtailed some of my writing abilities, it has enhanced my perspective, not that I wish to employ age as an excuse.  However I’ll be honest, I don’t write at the drop of a hat anymore.  Part of that is due to mental fatigue, as well as honoring a craft that demands more skill than when I started this fiction gig.  Thankfully sewing doesn’t require as much focus, so I did put my time to good use when not overly sneezy; I finished up the second set of blocks for another plus quilt, then arranged all the squares on the wall.  Depending on how I’m feeling later today, I’ll start sewing them together, or there’s fabric to cut for a baby quilt, or….

More fabric than brains? You decide….

Pulling out what I consider most of my fabric stash, I found I have as many planned quilt projects as I do novels, jeez Louise!  But I didn’t feel overwhelmed; those prints are like drafts tucked away in my computer, waiting for the right moment.  Or some of them might be passed on to others in need of a particular piece of cotton like stories just penned for the practice.  I’m grateful for this peace of mind, because I wasn’t always so patient.  Age has a way of making darn clear one’s priorities; I truly can only do what I can do.

From one quilt wall….

 

This post has been rumbling through my head lately, alternately titled Different Rhythms.  This past weekend a writing/(he)artist buddy inadvertently offered the actual title, closing her email with this phrase: In light of these dark times, remember that doing what you do best and sharing it with all who touch your life makes a difference.  Laura Bruno Lilly’s words brought into focus how important are my talents regardless of their scope, as well as giving my best effort in the process.  I can’t foresee how my work will affect the future, instead concentrating on making this day as peaceful and beautiful as I am able.

…To another quilt wall. I love the positive nature of this pattern, and am already pondering designing another.

Whether I manage that with words or quilts isn’t important, only that I follow my heart.  And if that heart is bogged down by sinus pressure, no worries; I’ll just watch a little more of the baseball playoffs, hehehe.  My efforts might seem irrelevant, but every sentence and each quilt block are all part and parcel of a greater good.  Maybe just acknowledging that grace is enough for this day.

All in many days work….

It’s like looking at a nearly completed novel, just a few more bits to include…..

So while I’m technically back to writing, I haven’t written in days.  Between our trip to Humboldt County, quilting, and keeping an eye on grandkids, The Hawk has lain dormant in my computer.  Now this doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about, ha ha ha!  (Whoa, I about fell outta my chair with that one.)  I’m *ALWAYS* pondering writing, and I don’t think I can emphasize that  strongly enough.  I’m truly grateful that sewing doesn’t occupy a fraction of the gray matter that novels steal, or I’d never get a quilt finished.  However, a couple of quilts have been eating into my authorial moments, so as I wax lyrically about writing, I’m posting pics of the Wedding Quilt, which is done.

Early morning quilt tools on display, including mugs that depict the mainstays of my current existence; grandma on the left, John Steinbeck on the right…..

But that comforter is going to muscle its way into this post past photos and captions; so many elements go into a completed quilt, just as they do a book.  In this quiet writing time, contemplation of the story has emerged, and today it was about the hawk that was, is, and has yet to be scribbled into the manuscript.  Just as a quilt is made of layers, and I’m merely talking about the top, batting, and backing, a book is more than sentences and chapters.  It’s my soul being stretched, and I guess with this tale it’s taken a good four years to grasp those alterations.

I so love the slow hand-quilting process as a counterpoint to how quickly these blocks came together on my machine….

Within the writing, the characters aren’t the only ones maturing; this is so much about me as a human being, and while I don’t want this to come off as all about me, ahem, in a way it is.  Writing is such a personal endeavor, yet there is a public side to it that seems at times like a Mr. Hyde to my Dr. Jeckyll.  Or maybe it’s the other way around, hehehe.  Either way, on so many levels writing forges a split within me, be it in the guise of not writing and desperately wishing to, or during the writing translating how many varied personalities.  Or what about the myriad themes explored within the story, or the time frames or languages or….

Each stitch means a moment of my life conscious of one goal; to make this quilt as beautiful and lasting as possible. Every single word I write is equally focused….

Whoa, that’s a lot of issues, similar to how many sewing techniques I’ve employed within one quilt; making blocks with my machine, hand-sewing the quilt sandwich, machine and hand-sewing of the binding, dude….  And writing, or thinking about writing, is just as complex, but it’s all within my mind, then dashed onto a keyboard silently and intricately, weaving its own glorious sprawl of colour.  But I can’t count those kinds of stitches, and a word count carries little weight.  The weight rests upon my soul, nestled inside my heart, changing me as the chapters increase.

Just needs a run through the washer and dryer….

So what does all this ballyhooing have to do with a hawk?  In the beginning, it was just one hawk.  Now more than a few have graced the story’s pages, maybe a trinity, maybe not.  Marek has decided to tell Klaudia about Eric, and when I write that scene, I want the reader to truly understand that it was Marek’s decision, not mine.  But okay, I’ll play along, wondering how in the world that’s gonna happen, and the resulting upshot of that plot twist.  And what it will eventually mean within my life; I’ve written a lot in the last ten years, another post for a different day.  But I will say that in one way or another, each draft, regardless of what happened to it, altered me.  Some of those stories simply made me a better novelist.  But more than a few have led to increased wisdom, greater empathy, improved relations with others.  To me, this is a vital point in writing, creating art that speaks of joy, hope, love.  You can never get enough of these virtues.

Solids make up the back, also showing off the lovely pattern that emerged….

And perhaps that’s the main lesson I’m to take from my non-writing, quietly chipping away at the dross, permitting myself to be refined in the process so the paragraphs that follow are precisely what The Hawk requires.  Hey, that’s a pretty nice way to look at not getting much accomplished.  I can’t accurately say how much of this story is currently my lesson, but hopefully when it’s all said and done, I’ll look back at these years immensely grateful for the inner growth as well as what was written.  It’s like gazing at these photos and being reminded of the quilting process; early mornings and late evenings spent seated on the sofa, covered in a blanket celebrating love.  I don’t think it gets much better, and more meaningful, than that.

All in a day’s work….

The Pacific Ocean north of Trinidad, California; “New Young” by Josh Rouse.

Spent a few days last week in Humboldt County with my hubby, Little Miss, and her mum, and the weather was glorious!  Sunny days and cool, starry nights made that brief holiday quite spectacular, not to mention sharing that beautiful area with family.  It was good to get home, for I have projects in need of attention.  There’s The Hawk, some quilts, and just the business of life.  I saw my doc this morning for a physical, and now that I’m in my fifties, it’s time for lipid tests and various other blood work that will follow (but not dog) my steps for the next couple of decades until I’m too old to be bothered.

Recently I joked about this with my neighbor, who is about ten years my senior.  There’s this window from fifty to seventy-five where we undergo pokes and prods, then it truly won’t matter.  My doctor nodded at my observations with mild eye rolling; this is his profession after all.  But it’s the truth, and for most of it I’ll gladly acquiesce, starting tonight by fasting until morning.  There’s so much I want to accomplish, best to be as fit of a fiddle as can be.

Another quilt on the wall; “Dove sei” by Neffa.

There are future family vacations, watching the nietos enter school, attending graduations, perhaps even weddings, and possibly cuddling a great-grandbaby.  There are heaps of fabrics waiting to be sliced then sewed into myriad comforters.  And there is the notion of noveling, which is how I began this day, editing the first two chapters of The Hawk: Part Thirteen.  I’d mulled over actually writing, but I had to be at the doc at half past nine, so instead I pulled fabrics from the stash for another plus quilt.

When I returned home, I put on the tunes (Neffa, Josephine, Kate Bush, Cyndi Lauper, Josh Rouse, Hollie Cook, Belle & Sebastian, Jose Gonzalez, Luna, and Kurt Vile, whose song “All in a Daze Work” is the inspiration for today’s title) and began to inspect low volume and navy prints.  I didn’t get around to lunch until nearly one p.m., then went right back to sorting fabrics.  Fifteen blocks are now arranged on the little quilt wall, pluses set aside for another fifteen, with a stack of fabrics still to be cut into large and small squares.  I’ve finished the first plus quilt, just need to gift wrap it.  I so enjoyed this pattern and look forward to making it over and over as the years pass.

A post about this quilt is forthcoming; “Teardrop” by Jose Gonzalez.

In order to do that, I need to manage my health with as much attention as I give the crafts. Fortunately I have no problems, assuming blood tests come back clear.  My husband finds this process somewhat invasive, and while I agree that it’s more micromanaged than maybe it has to be, we still have our right to say NO to this or that procedure.  Sometimes I think if I can just finish The Hawk, I’ll die happy, hehehe.  But while listening to various tunes, I didn’t feel aged, rather youthful actually.  Music makes the years slip away; I’m not as young as the grandkids, but there’s no way I’m someone’s abuela.

My daughter, granddaughter and hubby along the North Coast in Humboldt County; “Moments of Pleasure” by Kate Bush.

Well, you get what I mean.  Or I hope the vigor of life rings through this post, in that age is merely a number.  I may not be so sprightly when Little Miss and The Burrito collect their high school diplomas, but I sure better be able to applaud their efforts.  And if that’s not the case, at least I’ll have done all I can to make each day count, be it through book chapters, quilt blocks, blog posts, doctor appointments, and the most meaningful manner of sharing love with all whom I encounter.  I heartily encourage you to check out the tunes associated with each of the photos; I’ve included those by Kate Bush, Neffa, as well as “Last Minute” by Josephine.  These are the joys that make up my life; time has no bearing when love (and melodies) is involved.

 

Back to the beginning of the end….

Autumn in England, from October 2003. We’d spent the day in Lincoln, touring the cathedral.  And yes, that’s a film camera I’m holding.

Been writing since last Friday, and I can’t tell you how good it feels, not merely for sitting in the chair and managing some novelistic work.  There’s a familiar rhythm to this last section of The Hawk, due in part to something that emerged on Saturday morning as I wrote the last half of a chapter; a hawk appeared in Lynne’s backyard, not that I’d planned it to touch down.  Again it graced today’s prose, and I’m taking this as a sign that for the most plotted ideas, a surprise can emerge like a blessing.

When I started Part Twelve, so many plotlines needed resolution, notes piling up at the end of the manuscript, and mentally I was overwhelmed in how to wrap all of them up!  That feeling doesn’t exist now, not sure if it’s a hawk’s doing, ha ha, or just that I was putting too much pressure on myself.  I should know better; a post-it note sits at the bottom of my monitor, which reads: It is wrong to force work. Rest until Eternal Life, flowing through veins, hearts and minds, bids you bestir and glad work will follow.

I added a smiley face at the end of that message, and should take heed of it more often.  Even as a long list of chores sits at my right hand, this post take shape.  Perhaps Part Twelve wasn’t the easiest of sections, but at least I’m in the correct frame of mind for Part Thirteen.

Which brings me to today’s title; maybe this novel’s conclusion is already halfway written, as if Part Twelve required an A and B.  If that’s the case, B hearkens to previous pieces in this saga in how a hawk’s appearance is leading me to where the end actually lies.  And that is a tremendously liberating notion!  Yes, notes are good, but for me, writing requires an element of mystery.  It’s no fun writing about what I know; the unknown is necessary to make me sit in the chair at all.  And thanks ever so much to God for that unclear vista; in each day’s work, I step through the mist, much like what hovered over my neck of the Silicon Valley woods this morning.  It felt cool, calming, and much like the beginning of this completion.  Recently I took an evening walk, so enjoying autumn’s slow arrival.  I pondered why this season feels so fresh, what with dead leaves piling under car wheels, dusty vehicles in need of washing, and it was that as a child, autumn meant a return to school, a new beginning.  Spring doesn’t rouse that sense in me, instead fall promises cleansing rain, an end to hot weather, the cessation of the church season of Pentecost.  I’m in no hurry for Advent, only wishing to revel in autumn’s pleasures.  It was in this season when I started The Hawk.  Boy, I sure hope it’s the one in which I write The End!

Creativity amid catastrophe

Medicine Lake where my youngest recently went camping with her family. Such serenity….

Quilting on the Wedding Comforter is going well; I’ve come up with a nice design that looks great on the back, and is easy for me to keep track of while sewing.  I like improv hand-quilting too, but that takes more forethought, and sometimes it’s nice to meander along with a firm plan in mind.

As for The Hawk, I have six chapters left to edit of Part 12, then writing awaits.  That’s thrilling, also a bit overwhelming, but even if I don’t finish it before the next nieta arrives, eventually this saga will find its completion.

However, contemplating such WIPs almost feels a little wrong; hurricanes and earthquakes have wreaked havoc in America, Mexico, and Guatemala, so where do my small accomplishments fit in?  I mentioned the idea for this post to my husband as we headed to church on Sunday, and our pastor’s sermon carried a similar notion.  He claimed that he’d happily watch the LA Dodgers in the World Series if calamities worldwide could be tamed.  I’m not sure I can be that altruistic, yet I was relieved by his words.  We chatted after the service about this idea; I wondered if Americans felt at all this way during World War II, so much devastation occurring in Europe but other than Pearl Harbor, the United States saw no destruction.  Sitting in my writing/sewing room, I have no worries about floods, high winds, or ruin. An earthquake could strike, this is California, but today all is fine in my neighborhood.

Maybe the answer to my musings lies in referencing a conflict that touched nearly all the Earth; the wreckage of WWII was vast not merely in the damage inflicted upon nations, but for the loss of lives, those of soldiers, The Holocaust, and civilians.  Yet to speak of that conflict sounds slightly antiquated, for it was over seventy-five years in the past.  However, one day 2017 will be seventy-five years ago; life doesn’t stop for any disaster, natural or man-made.

In the tangle of wreckage, beauty still exists, spots of quiet stillness a balm.

It’s important to recognize calamity in one’s midst, to offer help, to pray for restoration.  There will always be chaos somewhere on this planet, but healing occurs over time.  The small gifts I manage via prose and fabric shouldn’t be diminished due to greater losses, but celebrated for the joys they extend, for if joy is forgotten, then hope is extinguished and catastrophe emerges victorious.  I’m working out this notion as I type, which is one of the reasons I write; to better understand the world around me.  But another purpose for my creative endeavors is to translate the beauty that has been placed into my soul.  To hide that away would be like dousing a flame, and that’s not what I am directed to do.  Especially now, when life seems rather bleak, all the better to shine my light, small as it is.  It’s proof that hope endures, goodness triumphs.  I pray for those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the Chiapas earthquake.  My work today is dedicated to them.