Category Archives: equilibrium

Words, Fabrics, and Weeding

Eastern side of our house before I got busy….

We’ve been enjoying a lovely spate of precipitation here in Silicon Valley, and boy I’m thankful for it.  My front and back gardens are full of weeds, and I was hoping not to have to pull them from the hard ground.  Rain earlier this week allowed me to get some thinned, and this weekend will provide additional time to cull even more.  If I can finish the job by the middle of next week, I’ll consider myself blessed.  Temps are due to rise, and the storms we’ve had recently might be our last big ones of the winter.

And how it looks after some rain and a little hard work.

I never truly appreciated rain until we moved to England, which might sound strange, having grown up in California.  When there is no rain, you don’t think much about it; droughts are bad, but expected.  Yet where it rains all the time and the landscape is usually green, rain becomes magical.  It means no need to water, it means weather, ha ha!  It became the barometer of our lives, in that skies held great drama, grey-white clouds obscuring the sun as though another galaxy hung right over our heads.

Fabrics for placemats; Kona solids with a southwest vibe.

I did appreciate sunny vistas when we moved back, but quickly I ached for wet days, humidity, and bright green grass.  Now the brevity of winter feels unduly wrong, like the cosmos is off kilter.  Funny how one’s perceptions alter, sort of like how today I was exceedingly grateful to write 833 words, completing a chapter I started days ago.  My present output is comparable to the rain which falls sporadically, but I’ll take every sentence.  Like the weather, writing isn’t static, and I’m happy just to complete a scene.

The only prints for this project will be the backs; I enjoy culling my scrap buckets as well as the garden.

I was thrilled to clear weeds from both sides of our house, let me also say.  There’s more to my life than books and sewing, yet those pastimes weren’t a part of my Yorkshire life, which is an intriguing observation.  Our existences are enhanced by change, just like my garden requires water.  Weeds are culled, allowing other plants to flourish, or just to clear space for the eye to rest, like mixing prints and solids within a quilt, lol.

2.5″ squares sewn together to be inserted amid the 4.5″ squares….

I’ve been working on placemats for my eldest, who ran out during Miss Em’s baptismal weekend.  No prints in this project, but I did mix up the patchwork with little squares.  Now my quilt wall is chock full of these southwestern-themed fabrics, which I’ll get around to finishing up in the coming days as the writing continues.

One of twelve placemats in the can!

Seasonal weeding is here, then gone.  The words and fabrics endure….

Stirring the writer within me….

This morning I sat under my scrappy quilt, pondering how those gathered fabrics now held distinct meanings, from those included in my dad’s chemo quilt, to the ones in my youngest daughter’s whale comforter to batiks bought especially for my eldest’s Mijos quilt.  I especially appreciated the simple straight lines sewn through long ivory strips separating the scraps, for those lines reminded me of a tale spun over ages of time.  Which led me to thinking about The Hawk.

I haven’t said squat about that novel lately, but it’s never far from my mind.

Lately my brain has been chock-full of medical hoo-haa, some of it unpleasant, much of it thrilling.  One grandchild is due in a matter of weeks, the other in May.  A grandson will arrive first, followed by a granddaughter, and if I’m not sewing baby quilts, I’m crocheting baby blankets.  Writing feels like an ancient pastime that has long passed me by.

But in the quiet of this morning, after prayers were said, while I snuggled under that scrappy quilt, I ached for a moment where my ill father and those blessed babies didn’t intrude.  I needed a minute, or three, where I could escape, and where better than to poke my nose back into a book that hollers to be completed.  Quilts and baby blankets are easy to finish, or they require a finite amount of attention.  A novel is wholly different, and the comfort it gives this writer is just as complex.  It’s like that long straight stitch, going from one end of the quilt to the other.  Follow that seam, and you’ll find a story intact.

I’m not sure I’ll manage any writing today; perhaps it was just enough to read most of a chapter, tweaking sentences here and there.  But my authorial heart has been stirred, what I require for myself not as someone’s mother, daughter, or grandmother.  I love to quilt, and to crochet.  Yet my mind aches for the creative force that writing provides, and after several months of sitting silently in my computer and resting on flash drives and in email accounts, maybe the start of 2015 also means The Hawk will take flight.

These characters are as much a part of me as my dad, my daughters, and those impending grandkids.  Actually, Sam, Renee, Marek, and the rest are even closer, because I know them like the back of my hand.  And I cannot wait to continue telling their tale.  I have no control over what happens to my father, or how my descendants will turn out.  But to those within The Hawk, I am in charge.  In very few situations do I get to boldly make such a claim.  Going to enjoy it while I can.

Where has December gone?

I know that’s an often-heard phrase at the end of the year, but seriously, where has this month disappeared to?

Oh, the tasks I could list, ones accomplished, others screaming for attention.  I have sewing to do, shopping to sort, baking to begin…. Advent is a blessed season; it’s also very busy.

I was going to title this post: It’s Only A Tall Tale.  But that was hours ago, when I was thinking about writing, or the lack of it.  Since this morning I have shopped, not all for Christmas, for we still need to eat.  I’ve finished that Christmas lap quilt top, but also decided I have to set it aside.  The place mats are more important to complete, and prioritizing is the key for this Advent season.

Awaiting backing fabric, then I can baste them.

Only so much time exists; I need to make the most of mine.

Never has December felt so squeezed.  I’ve written books in December, for goodness sake!  Not this year, although The Hawk teases.  January, I muse, because writing still means much to me, even if in our Christmas letter to friends and family quilting made the most noise.  But I continue to consider that novel, and what I most pondered this morning was that no matter how big it has become, at the end of the day, it’s merely a story.  Characters weave in and out, plot lines twist and turn, nuances niggle, but it’s simply a tale borne of a dream.  Yes, it’s meaningful, yes I love it.  But it’s not going to fall apart if I forget to write something here or there in the first dang draft!

Whew!  That frees up some of my creative juices.  That also lets me breathe easier, in that come January, when I have a modicum of free time, I can sit at this very computer, pull up that document, and once again add to that novel.  Never has one book taken so much of my time, but sometimes projects linger far longer than we wish.

Like my eldest daughter’s tree skirt; she bought this fabric in 2013, started sewing it in summer of 2014, and will “finish” it in 2015.  Those quotation marks are in regards to the quilted aspect of the skirt.  Right now it’s fully functional, just ask Buttercup.  She thinks it’s groovy.

Well, she likes the tree too.  She likes Christmas, because her people are home more, plus guests.  I want to complete the place mats to take to Buttercup’s house for Christmas Eve next week.  Not that Buttercup will get a place mat, but she’ll wag her tail, ever so pleased that folks are at her domain, to lavish all their affections upon her.

Buttercup could care less about Advent, my WIP, or place mats.  To her, it’s the people who matter, people speaking to her in a sweet voice, or rubbing her belly.  Christmas can get hectic, frantic even.  But I don’t wish to be overwhelmed by hustle and bustle and lists.  I want to revel in what this season means to me, faith-and-family-wise.  Sometimes that’s difficult, I won’t lie.  But it just takes a little cognitive prowess to place items in the right order.  A lap quilt falls to the bottom of the list, just above a novel.  Place mats are high on the list, along with gifts for my husband.  I can shop with him for other things, like ice cream and ham and perhaps even trekking to the mall.  But it’s all about getting done what truly needs to be accomplished.  And letting the rest fall away.

Even in December, not everything manages to reach finality.  Actually, December is the first month of the church year, the beginning of something so new and beautiful, that to think we can get it all done in one month is silly.  The Hawk will move along as its supposed to, that quilt will find completion one of these days.  Christmas is about new and precious moments.  I want to enjoy each as they are presented, not worrying about too much else at all.

Instead of writing, first some reading…

First, I have to congratulate my beloved San Francisco Giants, who are once again in the NLCS.  It was another nail-biter, but the guys managed to beat the Washington Nationals three games to one in the five-game series.  No baseball for a couple of days, while the Giants and Cardinals, Orioles and Royals sort out their championship league series line-ups, but that gives the husband and me a breather; after the last two days, we need a small break from sport.

So, in the meantime…  Goodness, what haven’t I been up to?  Errands, crocheting, plotting, planning, sewing, reading…  Reading, um, yeah.  I had harbored *very very VERY good intentions* about getting back to writing.  Writing The Hawk, of course (what else is there these days?), but as life or fate or Bruce Bochy would have it, I started re-reading that novel-in-progress, and currently I’m up to page twenty-two.  Out of…  Oh, I truly don’t want to consider that number (in the four hundreds); it’s more than enough to start at the beginning, which now has been nearly a year from when I did initiate this rather long tale.

I considered that fact, about two chapters in; a year ago, give or take a few days, and an entire baseball season, I woke to a rather intriguing dream, mulled over the idea for barely a week, then started typing what I *assumed* would be a short story.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahah!  I can hear you laughing from, well, not this nation’s capital.  With the Nats out, and the drubbing the Redskins took on Monday, not much pleasure in D.C. for sports fan about now.  And while I *would* rather be writing, I accept that for this moment (and the next several) reading must commence.  Not all that sure why, because it’s only been five weeks or so since I last worked on this book, not like the six months that had flown in the previous break.  But I know better than to question the muse.  It would be like asking why Bochy let Hunter Strickland pitch to Bryce Harper, after what had happened a few days back in Washington D.C….

Yeah.  But, oddly enough, Strickland overcame those debacles, ended up as the winning pitcher last night, go figure?  Equally I have to let go and let God, when it comes to The Hawk, and anything else in my life.  I *could* get my knickers in a twist, wringing my hands agonizing whether or not I’ll ever complete this behemoth.  Sure, I mean, better to fret over that than say Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals, who as lead-off man for St Louis made the Dodgers’ brief (hehehe) tenure in this year’s post-season quite a headache for LA.  (Hahahahahaha, um, okay, enough Dodger-bashing…)  Our lead-off man, Gregor Blanco, is fantastic in center field, yes he surely is.  As the first man up for the offense, well….  He gets a walk now and again, yup.  And um….  Well, there’s nothing I can do about who the Giants put in the lead-off spot, just like my hands are tied when it comes to writing more than a blog entry or a grocery list.

When it comes to The Hawk, it’s all about reading.

In the noveling process, sometimes the process trumps the creative spark.  Revision isn’t the wildly imaginative fervor that writing it, but it is necessary, just like taking a walk instead of slamming one into McCovey Cove.  Yet these read-through excursions aren’t simply one more time that I fiddle with prose or excise poor grammar.  With a novel of this size, a writer needs to have a definite grasp on plot and character and to merely get back in touch with the basis from where all this sprang.  Every time I started another Alvin’s Farm story, I re-read the previous manuscript, otherwise I’d be fumbling about, unsure of my way.  The Hawk is longer, so it takes more time to become reacquainted, but the subtleties set down in early and middle chapters should remain throughout the novel.  Not harped upon, of course, but taken into account, like remembering how a relief pitcher gave up a big homer then perhaps not letting that same pitcher meet up again with that batter later in the series.

However, the Giants prevailed, Strickland and Harper aside, for a baseball team isn’t one or two players; it’s a fielded team of nine, a playoff squad of twenty-five.  And, thank goodness, the NLCS isn’t a five-game series, but seven outings, or at least four.  I wouldn’t mind if the Giants swept the Cardinals, however I’m sure the broadcasting network and most other baseball fans, especially those in St. Louis, would appreciate a more evenly balanced showdown.  While I’d love to dive head-first into writing more of my WIP, I have to face the baseball-like process that emerges much like the Giants’ winning run, when a wild pitch skips past the catcher, allowing a rookie to sprint to home plate.  You just never know how the game is going to end.

Or, hehehe, when; it seems like the Giants and Nats did play five games, although SF took the series 3-1.  Game 2 was much like my novel, but after six long hours, Brandon Belt managed to break the tie, our pitching staff holding Washington in check, and there you go.  Not sure which equivalent inning I’m currently wading through in The Hawk, but like a baseball game, the end will occur.

I just have to be patient, and wait for the zone.  Once I find the zone, ahhh…  No telling how far I’ll hit that baby outta the park!

I Kind of Like Not Writing

Today's breakfast on the newly quilted place mat. (Cream of rice cereal with banana and almond milk...)

Today’s breakfast on the newly quilted place mat. (Cream of rice cereal with banana and almond milk…)

There is a time for everything, be it noveling, quilting, blogging even.  And while before I never stopped mid-first draft to read through what had been accumulated, The Hawk is a unique project.  The Hawk has broken the 300K barrier, and has arrived at that 40-60K marker where I read through those words, what I’ve been doing since the first 40,000 words were written.

Since those initial chapters, I’ve been doing something previously unthinkable; reading and revising the book as I go along.

But, The Hawk isn’t an ordinary novel; dude, it’s epic!  Um, well, at the very least it’s very large.  And oddly enough, it didn’t begin with such a grandiose vision; it was going to be a short story. (Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha…)  Ahem, well it was, but now it’s not, and I don’t even know if when I finish it, how I might publish it: as the grand tome it seems to be veering towards, or broken in more manageable parts.  However, that’s ages away; right now it’s in that lull stage, where once I complete this blog, and make another cuppa, I’ll dive into where I started back up last month, at Chapter 74, I think.  No, Chapter 75.  And when I pick back up the writing part of crafting this novel, Chapter 91 awaits.

Part of the quilt for a special little girl; I put this on the quilt wall just last night (as the Giants were losing to the Tigers, grrrr....).

Part of the quilt for a special little girl; I put this on the quilt wall just last night (as the Giants were losing to the Tigers, grrrr….).

Sometimes, this is just how a book gets written.

But that’s perfectly fine; no two books are alike, much like quilts.  And children, ahem.  Or anything else that falls under the same heading, but their manner of creation differs from project to project.  I’d like to base the future of this novel on something I’ve already completed, but even that falls way short; my Alvin’s Farm series also started out as a short story notion, but quickly blossomed into three novels, then another three.  However, each of those books was a separate story, cliffhangers aside.  I churned out those first drafts in a month apiece, my previous manner of producing books.  But never before have I written a novel where the story just flows as it will, no visible end in sight.  Nor have I revised a novel as I write it, but it sure makes writing this behemoth a whole lot easier.

The upper right hand corner of the same quilt; I adore the whales and the little animal print; baby quilts are quite a thrill to design!

The upper right hand corner of the same quilt; I adore the whales and the little animal print; baby quilts are quite a thrill to design!

And it allows this novelist time to catch my breath, sewing around the edges, while reveling in the start of football season.

It also permits early morning blog entries, which is fortuitous, as sometimes I like to spill my guts early in the day.  There is much to writing that cannot be shared with one’s partner, offspring, or besties.  It’s more fully appreciated by those who understand the process, even if my process is yards away from your process.  For, as no two books (or quilts or children) are the same, neither are the manners in which those books (and quilts and children) are created.  Still a common thread ties all writers (and quilters and parents) together, and the bliss in sharing with a like-minded soul one of the deepest joys of my life is, well, a pretty big thrill.  That’s why I blog about writing (and quilting, although I skip much about the children, substituting Buttercup the grand-basset instead).

Ahh, Buttercup.  She has little to do with writing, although I do suspect one day a very special beagle-basset hound will muscle her way into one of my stories.  I don’t see her nosing her way into The Hawk (Where would I put her?), but I’ve also learned to never say never when it comes to much of anything.  A new US Open men’s champion will be crowned today in Flushing Meadows, the big four nowhere to be seen.  Because I’m not writing this morning, I will have ample time this afternoon to watch Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic battle for that crown, while I hand-sew the big sister quilt’s binding.  And tonight, during two NFL games, I’ll start to sew together the dad quilt’s rows, which have been waiting patiently for their moment in the sun.  Or under the sewing machine, whatever.

There is a time for everything; it’s only a matter of acknowledging that truism, and not getting one’s knickers into a twist.  I’m sure Buttercup wholly agrees.

Chapter 75 and a quilt top….

Day # four of the retreat, and I’ve finally begun the writing.  Not a lot of writing, mind you, a short-ish chapter, but when one has painted oneself into a corner concerning the Cuban Missile Crisis, well…

And when this writer hasn’t written in nearly six months, today’s foray back into the world of words wasn’t going to be some 5K extravaganza.  But I think the 2K-plus I’ve added will be enough for one day, not only in getting the story back into gear, but myself returned onto a horse that I never actually forget how to ride.  It’s just a little bumpy, these first few outings sitting in the saddle.

I will say the last few days have been full of tasks related to writing, and to sewing; I fashioned the quilt top for a toddler, and my goodness, smaller quilts are a breeze to put together.  I sewed five rows on Monday night, the other seven on Tuesday evening, then attached them all last night.  And I am very pleased with it, the whale print a leftover from my daughter’s whale quilt.  The binding needs to be sewn; I’ll get to that this afternoon, once I’ve gone to the store for some groceries and sundries.  One thing about writing is that I am strictly a morning person.  A chapter once I’m fully awake, then the rest of the day is free for whatever else comes up.  I still need to get in a walk, before it gets too warm.  Reading all day for the last three days precluded much else, other than the little bit of sewing.  Now a different schedule rules.

But I would be amiss if I didn’t share this rather telling photo of Buttercup, who has her own way of living.  My youngest was keeping an eye on her last weekend, while my eldest and her hubby were away.  Buttercup needed a bath, and afterwards, wasn’t overly pleased.  I have never seen such animosity in any animal’s face, but you know what happens when a woman is scorned.  Or a Buttercup is bathed.  I’m feeling that quilts are going to pop up in future chapters of The Hawk, but I’m not sure about a rather peeved basset.  However, if one does, you’ll know exactly the inspiration for that hound’s inclusion.

The way her paw is curled into her body accentuates her anger; don't you come near me, she seems to be saying, or perhaps silently howling.

The way her paw is curled into her body accentuates her anger; don’t you come near me, she seems to be saying, or perhaps silently howling.  Although now her fur is so white and clean…

Before I start the revisions…

Last night I finished my Pre-Washed quilt top.  The final three rows were an after-dinner thought, in part that I wanted to have a relatively fresh slate for this morning to indeed begin revising The Hawk.  The clean slate is qualified, because I need to sew the binding, not to mention quilt the quilt, but this morning it’s all about writing.

Or it will be, as soon as I finish this post.

It’s funny, not ha-ha or strange, but more like stepping into a new world funny to compare writing and quilting.  Outwardly they are completely different animals, or pastimes, but inwardly…  Inwardly I place them equally within my soul, even if one has been around for ages, the other new on the scene.  Part of it is how much I mentally peruse those hobbies; I was dreaming about quilting last night, and I came up with the plot for The Hawk in a dream!  But aside from that, it’s like my invisible purpose is writing, and what is seen are quilt tops, flapping on the clothesline, getting in the way of a rather determined hummingbird feasting upon the honeysuckle last night as I was waiting to take these shots in the waning light.  But I couldn’t shoo him off, Verde I’ve called him, for a translucent green stripe down his tiny little back.  Verde was too dang adorable to pester, as the light faded, as my quilt top sat in my arms, as I wondered about just what this life is all about.

If you look very carefully, you can see Verde heading toward the clothesline.

Last night it was about a very warm evening (temps hit well over 100 F in our neck of Silicon Valley yesterday), a huge sewn together accumulation of pre-washed squares, one adorable hummingbird, and a novel sort of about another kind of bird.  This novel is also about change, war, love, sacrifice, and sanity.  It is not about quilting however.

That’s for my next book, one of these days…