Tag Archives: autumn

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!

Quilting (and other) Ironies

Yesterday might have been the last of the warm days.  It probably was, but let’s hedge it in a more ambiguous manner.  It might have been the last of the warm days.

Summer in much of California lasts nearly forever.  Winter is a blip, autumn and spring slightly longer.  I grew up without summer rain, so I assumed it never rained anywhere in June and July, August and September….  Living for a few years in Colorado was a pleasant surprise, for summer rain was abundant, as were summer hailstorms.  Then there was England and….  And now I’m back to where it doesn’t rain but every once in a while it pours.  Ironic that for eleven years I ached to see blue skies.  Now I’m itching for precipitation.

For a few months I’ve been hand-quilting the Big Bright Quilt.  But over the last two weeks, as cooler temperatures descended, I got busy with it, and last night, on an evening in no need of any sort of comforter, I sewed the final stitches of proper quilting.  Much remains, like fashioning the binding, like even cutting the strips for said binding.  I’m in the process of hand-sewing the perimeter, as the thought of running the edges in my machine makes me a tad dizzy.  I’ll attach the binding that way, but this is a big quilt and the less I have to maneuver it through my Janome the better.

As I made those final stitches, then inspected the quilt, confirming that yes, I’ve done all the necessary quilting, memories of making this piece were rife.  They intersect with the last sections of The Hawk, which is still a day-to-day process in itself, although not this day.  Today I’m trying to complete the quilt top that isn’t a Christmas Quilt but a Christmas Gift.  Too many irons in the fire perhaps, in a place where fires are everywhere and still we pray for rain.

One of the reasons hand-quilting took so long was that I used different colours of thread.  But I like how it looks.

One of the reasons hand-quilting took so long was that I used different colours of thread. But I like how it looks.

But irony isn’t bad, it’s just a different perspective.  Ironic that for three years while I have worked on The Hawk, the words have flown (ha ha) from my fingers with alarming speed, and now that I’m on the last part, it’s like pulling teeth.  Ironic that having lived in a place where weather permeates not only the landscape but conscious thought now I’m back where there is scant alterations in seasons.  Ironic that quilting has come into my life now that I’m a grandmother.  No, wait, that’s typical, except that I’m not making the sorts of quilts typically associated with abuelas.

As a writer, I straddle the line between plot and characters that think out of the box alongside cliches; stereotypes are such simply because in this life, they happen to often be what we see.  But it’s ironic that for how vibrant is the front of this quilt, the back is fairly staid.  And accepting, embracing even, these varying parts of the spectrum is acknowledging that sometimes the familiar reigns.  But sometimes it doesn’t.

Like rain; allegedly we’re supposed to receive some this weekend.  If we do, maybe I’ll feel inclined to sit under a quilt, either finished or in progress.  I’ll be very pleased for rain, but if none falls, that’s all right too.  It’s like how words emerge (or they don’t), how rows fall into line, how every day holds promise and mystery.  I don’t mind a bit of irony, reminding myself it takes all aspects to keep this planet on its axis.  Although I’ll tell you, if damp weather finds its way to Silicon Valley, I’ll be wondering if Earth’s axis took a left turn at Albuquerque….

Under Wide Blue Skies

Not from today, mind you.  From July 2009, but California looks about the same today (although no hot air balloons decorating this morning's skies).

Not from today, mind you. From July 2009, but California looks about the same today (although no hot air balloons were decorating this morning’s skies).

Just returned from the first road trip of autumn; Dad is feeling better, watering the garden where before Mom did the duties.  His voice is still somewhat raspy, his legs weak.  However he’s eating like a horse, although ice cream remains off the menu.  Mom’s chocolate pie however suffices, with enough whipped topping to make one question if he has the pie simply to imbibe in said whipped topping.

The day my father gives up Cool Whip is the day I shall worry.

I spent an extra day away, only in that when I was going to leave, the hour had grown late, it was hot out, and I was already weary.  Better to drive home on a decent night’s sleep, or the best night’s rest I could manage away from my husband.  It was good enough, buffered by a well-savored cup of java, the real stuff even.  Sometimes I need a cup of coffee, not like a hole in the head, only as a treat.  Starts off a road trip in the best way.

As I drove south, I considered who else I saw there; my BFF from high school, who always makes me smile, who is as big of a sports fan as I am, although our teams of choice differ.  She’s A’s, I’m Giants.  She’s Steelers, I’m…  Um, well, I’m a Packers fan this year, but we shan’t speak any more of football for a few days, although my hubby is the TRUE Packer Backer, and last night’s game, well…  Yeah.  Moving right along…  So I was thinking of my bestie as I drove under wide blue skies, an endless Californian blue, hazy at the edges, cloudless and vast and bright.  Bright light blue that speaks of (relatively) early mornings, lorries on the motorway, coffee in the cup holder.  Miles collecting as I steer in fairly straight lines, with a strap on my left arm, to ward off the silliest bout of tendinitis I have ever encountered.  I’ve weathered it with cross stitching and crocheting, but never road trips.

But then, I’m not getting any younger.

I realized that, speaking with my bestie yesterday at lunch, chatting about varsity football players from our high school days; I wanted to know if they still wore shirts and ties on game day, while the JV players donned their jerseys.  Indeed they do, she noted, her youngest a senior at our alma mater.  Then we spoke about the chaps we recalled from those days, and how dapper they appeared so well dressed.  To my shock, I learned that one of those no-longer-young-men had died of brain cancer five years ago.  That brought our chat down a level, but then we’d already discussed my dad’s neighbor, who is about five years my senior, and in the early stages of ALS.  Yes, time marches on, and not everyone stays in step, a sobering consideration.

But I wasn’t thinking about that while I zoomed far under those bright blue skies.  I was thinking how blessed I am for that woman’s friendship, for my husband, who I will see in a few hours, after he visits the dentist, to have a crown reattached.  (Hopefully the dentist can simply reattach it.)  And how tremendous are these beautiful autumnal days, where the sunshine covers this state like a permanent blanket.  Yes, it’s a little boring, I’ll admit.  But it is amazing for the continuity, for how blue are those skies, and how precious are all who dwell underneath them.

I’m fortunate that driving only causes a little tendinitis, well, long-haul driving.  Maybe I’m too aged to pull off a late-nighter, but so what?  Now I’m home, where words and quilts await.  I was thinking about The Hawk as the tunes ricocheted inside my vehicle, pondering Jane’s first birthday and Stanford’s visit with his psychiatrist.  Not sure if I will get to that tomorrow, we’ll see what that day brings.

Not sure when I’ll return to the sewing machine either; I’d planned to do that today, assuming I woke this morning in my own bed.  But sometimes assuming, well, it’s not always the best path to take.

But occasionally a break is necessary; absence does make the heart grow fonder.  It makes one appreciative of what is often taken for granted, home and hearth, also those with whom visits are sporadic.  I love chatting with my dad; on Wednesday afternoon we were rooting hard for the Washington Nationals to overtake the LA Dodgers.  I said my goodbyes in the eighth inning, just as the Nats had gone ahead 3-2.  Six innings later….  Good grief, but at least LA lost, keeping SF within two games.  My father is as vociferous of a fan as I am, where I got my enthusiasm for sport.  However his voice was subdued, so I cheered for him.  And I’ll see him again soon enough, a bone scan upcoming, as well as another visit with his doc concerning those results and the post-chemo treatment.  I’m very thankful to be somewhat close to home, just a few hours in the car.  It’s not like I live in England anymore, several hours away by plane.

Merely a little trek under wide blue skies, with music and musings to pass the time.

Meanwhile back to a pre-autumnal, post-Taxotere world…

For many days I’ve been feeling autumn’s pull, even if the temps are warm.  It was like this in England, around the beginning of August, when the long summer days began that fall-like shift.  But fall there is autumn, a term which has followed me back to America, still clinging tightly.  Summer is the same, trying to reaffirm its grip, but autumn hovers in the manner of how shadows fall, in the cooling of the evenings, in kids going back to school.

For all intents and purposes, summer is over.

However, being this is California, warm days will linger until November.  Still, I started out this day in jeans; I haven’t worn jeans first thing since, oh my goodness, May?  It’s been so dang hot in Silicon Valley this summer that even typing the word autumn feels ominous, like it won’t appear, rain won’t fall…  Well, rain might not fall, but that’s a defeatist attitude, and since Dad’s chemo has ended, I’m trying to keep an optimistic mindset.  Dad’s pretty darn upbeat, I should be too.

When I tell someone my dad just went through nine rounds of chemo, automatically they give me a worried gaze, which is probably normal.  But having weathered that storm all spring and much of summer, now it feels strange, for chemo is done, Dad’s already thinking about the next weapon in the battle.  Radium treatments are the most likely armament, and he was mulling those over well before chemo ended.  The strange part is that none of this is going to cure him; prostate cancer has moved into his bones, and in a month, we’ll know just how much further that illness has invaded.  Dad’s getting another bone scan, for his PSA went up to 16 after a low of 6.2.  I realize these are small numbers, PSA-wise, but it was disappointing that as soon as chemo ended, the PSA shot right back up.  We’d all been hoping for a reprieve, maybe a few months’ worth even.

Uh, no.

Of course, this is much harder on my dad and mum than on any of us kids and grand-kids.  But as a family we share in their trials, also in Dad’s triumphs.  His willingness to dive back into the world of cancer treatments amazes me, for how all-out lousy he felt with chemo’s eight and nine.  He’s not even back to feeling 100% yet, although his appetite has returned.  Sometimes after a meal he feels sick, his legs are still weak.  It hasn’t even been two months since his last dose of Taxotere, but here he is, investigating the next option.  Life is short, I can hear him saying; you gotta git ‘er done.

Life is a season of many taskings, from novels and quilts to treatments and road trips.  Sports come and go; football is right at the door, waiting for summer to wind its way into the past, autumn entrenched by falling leaves and dropping temperatures, and in some parts of this nation, an odd wetness that falls from these rather strange-looking gray blobs in the sky.  Oh rain, yes, I remember it well, eleven years of English weather that couldn’t find its way out of a Californian paper bag.  As this autumn knocks on the door, I’m thankful the words continue to tumble like sodden British days that made me pine for sunny American days that now make me ache for soggy English days and….  And on it goes, cycles of this and that and the next available cancer treatment.  But I’m thankful for those treatments, for they mean my dad has something to anticipate, they mean he’s still around.

One of these pre-autumnal days, he won’t be.

But then, neither will I, isn’t that a mouthful?  No one lives forever, which is even more reason to get the words down, sew the quilts, write a blog post.  Okay well, perhaps not that last one, or maybe.  Maybe you get what I’m saying here, which is more than weather and PSA numbers, but the fragility of the whole kit’n’kaboodle.  It’s a precarious thing, life, for what we accomplish, for what remains undone.  I have a quilt staring at me right now, with an unattached binding wondering when in the heck I’m gonna get off this darn computer and get my fanny perpendicular back to the sewing table.

It’s a colourful thing, so maybe the binding blends into it, but I can see it, out of the corner of my right eye.  And more fabric beckons, as does tomorrow’s chapter of The Hawk, in which this writer finally moves the cast into 1963.  But now 1963 is fifty-one years ago, fifty-one years!  How does time move that quickly, how are we supposed to get sorted all that needs to be accomplished?

Git ‘er done indeed, as my dad would say.  Because one of these days, believe it or not, 2014 will be fifty-one years in the past.  I’ll be…  Oh good grief, let’s not go there.  Instead, let’s return to the mountain from the top of the post, a peak my husband sometimes climbs, a peak recently made even more accessible by a car park just opened for all from eight in the morning until an hour past sunset.  A few nights ago my hubby drove us up there, and I purposely didn’t look past the front windscreen as he did so.

Yet, the view is stunning, all of Silicon Valley spread out like a vast English rain cloud.  It’s 2014, my dad is seventy years old.  I’m forty-eight, with words to write, comforters to sew, love to give.  Cancer to address, a family to support, and rain to hope for, amid other things…

The last days of November

It really looks like autumn now; my husband’s grapevine is a spindly vine crawling along our white back fence, a few golden leaves still clinging.  The apricot trees are mostly branches, bright yellow leaves in clumps on the green grass.  Sky is gray, air is heavy, but because this is California, oranges on our trees are nearly ripe.  It’s a strange combination as my seventh NaNoWriMo chugs into the station, a month-long experiment winds down; just how many words can fall onto a document (or two) amid birthdays, Thanksgiving, and the tightening National Football League picture.

Yes, November is a busy month, and has been since 1988; my husband had been celebrating his birthday long before that year, but our eldest was just days old on Thanksgiving ’88, and I didn’t have to lift a finger, other than to hoist her in my arms.  Eighteen years later, she mentioned a writing competition.  In 2006, another activity was thrown into the November maelstrom, and my life was never the same.

It was far cooler, and definitely more blustery, in Yorkshire for my first NaNo.  But today looks similar to those past moments, also to the day we took our firstborn home from hospital.  We were living in California at the time, where I grew up, where summers are scorching, winters colder than Silicon Valley, but not frigid like Britain.  At twenty-two, I was diving into motherhood with youth’s enthusiasm and energy.  At forty, when I was tackling my first NaNo, I was still flush with heady excitement; here I was, writing a novel, no way dude!

Six years, and six NaNo’s later, I’m a little weary.  I didn’t sleep so well last night, and woke to my youngest sick.  She’s twenty, but might as well be six, something she ate last night not settling well.  I’ve had two wordy days with the novel, wasn’t sure what today would bring.  I will finish it tomorrow, come heck or high water.  But instead of jumping right into it first thing this morning, I was pouring apple juice (don’t forget the bendy straw), making sure my little girl wasn’t dehydrated.  I think she’s asleep, no retching coming from her room, or texts asking for more juice.  (The magic of technology; she doesn’t even need to holler, just send an electronic message to mum.)  Things have changed drastically from 1988 to 2006 to 2012, but some haven’t altered one iota; I’m still someone’s mother.  Back in 1988, I probably wasn’t thinking about writing books, but I did want to write.  In 2006, with teenagers, my time was slowly becoming more my own, and novels started falling like English rain.  Now I’m in a funny place, California in autumn, where precipitation seems like a gift.  Where novels continue to percolate, but their purpose has moved into another gear.  I spent my twenties having kids, my thirties raising them.  My forties have been about books, motherhood a transitory job that gets dusted off for the big moments like weddings and puke-fests.  This morning, handing my sick child her juice, I was again Mommy, as if today wasn’t 2012, not quite 1988 either; maybe 1993, 1996, 1999.  Or maybe it is today, 29 November  2012, what the calendar on my monitor says, as well as the one hanging in the kitchen.  Some things change, some never do.

How many more Novembers will heave with birthdays, football, holidays, and National Novel Writing Month?  All of them, God willing.

A great Series and some fantastic stories

Sweep sweep sweep; four games to none, historic, magical, done.  The San Francisco Giants won the 2012 World Series.

I’m not going to regale with facts and figures; if you care, you already know.  If this matters not, I won’t bore you, other than to say if you’re sport inclined and your team has kicked some arse, you understand.  If you’re not sport-crazy, then think about any moment when everything that mattered was on the line.  Either you or someone you love realized what was at stake, then went out and got it done.  Git’er done, as my dad likes to say.  The Giants did just that over the last four games.  Now, bring on 2013!

Well, for baseball.  In three days NaNo starts (and I’m so glad to have these last few days with no baseball distractions, as I have a lot of time-lining left to do).  There’s a book I’ll publish in two days, An Innate Sense of Recognition, which will be dedicated to one special group of guys who got it done.  There’s my other fave team playing tonight, the 49ers in Arizona against the Cardinals.  And there are plugs for other authors; in the midst of baseball insanity, I’ve been blessed with a trio of tales.  Two are shorts, one is a novella, all are amazing.  I’ll start with Dianne Gray’s The Eleventh Question, a contemporary fantasy I could not put down.  Arista’s life is thrown askew, and she wonders what it’s all about.  Those queries strike deeper than the usual musings; Gray precisely captures a teen’s fears from Facebook to animals while stirring others to attention.  Precise visuals put me right in Arista’s realm, and in other places too; a great read!

Amanda Anschau’s short story “Meet me at the Gates” grabbed my heart and didn’t let go.  “Blood Moon” by Elizabeth Rowan Keith is an atmospheric autumnal tale with a gripping finish.  Lately I’ve needed some small moments away from sport, and these three filled that bill perfectly.  So, as I say goodbye to baseball for 2012, I welcome NaNo, November just days away.  I’ll get off this post and back to work; there is formatting to do, plotting to sort, tea to drink, a team to thank.  Those SF Giants played their hearts and souls out and this fan just wants to say ta cheers thanks loves!

I really love my life

Sundays in autumn are some of my favorite days, due to sport.  I’ve been watching American football since I was fifteen years old, a life-long San Francisco 49ers fan.  They haven’t always been the best team in the league, but I will root for them until I die.

Other teams wax and wane, although since 1987, I’ve been a de facto Green Bay Packers lover, due to my husband.  Some very lean years for the Pack when I first met my spouse, but lately fortunes have turned.

But football isn’t all I love about my life (although on Sundays from September-early February, it’s a major contributor); I adore my husband, who is sitting beside me, changing the channels between two footie games and one baseball, SF Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks.  Yesterday I took a road trip, keeping an eye on my young nephew.  I love him too, but even being away from my house for a day and night made me realize what a creature of habit I am, especially when my butt isn’t parked in my computer chair, but resting on the sofa, the TV just feet away, the laptop underneath my fingers.

And that’s not even bringing the chocolate covered raisins into it.

My writing is fairly drama-packed, and at times dark.  Bad things happen to my characters, although love usually trumps at the end.  But a lot of tears are spilled in the interim, because sometimes life is hard.  I’ve lived my share of bone-crushing tackles, but the last fourteen years have been pretty joyous.  And in those years, I’ve learned that even the soul-sucking events won’t kill me.  My heart’s been scattered across the length of a football field, but it’s a better muscle for the injury.  I bet football players would say the same; no pain, no gain.  It sounds trite, but from experience, it’s the solid truth.

Why I can sit here, appreciating my existence.  I write and publish, which are precious, stunning gifts.  I also am incredibly blessed with a terrific husband, a vastly improved 49ers team, a playoff-bound baseball team, chocolate covered raisins in the chocolate drawer (also where dip mixes are kept), kids who cook.  My son bakes a mean homemade pizza, eldest daughter whips up fantastic Alfredo pasta with red peppers, and youngest daughter is making carne asada tacos this very evening.  And, as I requested, she’ll clean up the kitchen afterwards.  My football team plays tonight, and other than to use the loo, I am not moving from this sofa until it is time for bed.

And if my team loses the Handshake Bowl, no biggie!  Many teams I dislike lost today, and life is the sum, not the parts.  Some pieces might feel crippling at times, but I have so many blessings.  And as long as the chocolate covered raisins hold out, how can I complain?