Tag Archives: healing

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.

Another sabbatical looms….

Healing is moving right along; one of the hardest parts is not being able to pick up my grandchildren.  The other is….  While my mind is fairly sharp, I’m not in any rush to get much done beyond cooking, minor cleaning, and some game-playing be it on my phone or slightly good old-fashioned Solitaire on my computer.  I am doing some minor edits on The Hawk, about two chapters being reread per day.  But when I’ll get back into writing is unknown.

These are from squares cut for a quilt I was going to make my eldest.  Definitely a project for 2017....

These are from squares cut for a quilt I was going to make this year for my eldest daughter. Definitely a project for 2017….

So with that, I’m taking a break from the blog.  Can’t even say I have much to share with sewing, although yesterday I pulled out some scraps to make a couple of Christmas placemats.  (Or maybe coasters, if sewn together the pieces aren’t big enough.)  This surgery took more from me than I imagined, and I don’t wish to rush my recovery physically or mentally, especially as Advent approaches.

Hopefully by mid-January I’ll be back to my usual self, aching to write fiction as well as blog entries.  In the meantime, enjoy your post-Thanksgiving weekend and may great peace and joy wrap around you in December.  Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all!

Lately it’s been all about healing….

Two weeks ago I had major abdominal surgery; a pesky prolapsed uterus needed to vacate its location along with some other repairs.  I’ve been wanting to get this done for a while now, and my doc had an unexpected cancellation in her busy schedule.  I had about nine days’ notice, and now three weeks on from that, I’m feeling pretty darn well.

Having attached the front of the binding, it was time to complete said task.  And great to snuggle under it as I did so.

Having attached the front of the binding, it was time to complete said task. And great to snuggle under it as I did so.

However, it’s taken a lot from me; no posts since before I went into hospital, as I was too busy getting ready, and afterwards….  Ha ha ha!  That first week I was some other person; debilitated, fuzzy-headed, sore, and wondering what the hell had happened to me.  Now, let me say I chose the abdominal route, but it’s one thing to mentally consider a five-inch incision in one’s gut.  Another thing entirely to experience it.

A nicely mitered corner....

A nicely mitered corner….

However, I am so glad to have had that procedure, especially now that it’s been a fortnight and I’m much improved.  I still can’t lift/carry more than ten pounds, have only drove to the store as of yesterday, and am taking my own sweet time on my daily walks.  But today I was moving around the house at nearly my usual cruising speed, no Tylenol needed.  I even felt like writing, which has fallen way off the charts, not only with this blog.  I haven’t done more on The Hawk than a few minor edits on Part Eight.  I had no idea how healing would impact my mind as well as my body.  It’s been quite a learning curve.

Enjoying it as I sewed....

Enjoying it as I sewed….  The afghan in the top right is one I made for my youngest before she was born!

It’s like stepping into an alternate universe where one’s typical pastimes hold no appeal.  Either I was spent physically or unable to muster the necessary brain cells to do more than play games on my computer or phone.  I did manage some sewing; right before the surgery I attached the binding to the Big Bright Quilt.  I finished that, as well as hand-quilted a December birthday gift project.  It was great to have my huge quilt to snuggle under, I was in dire need of sofa-time.  Also great to have such vivid colours to distract me from the odd sense of not feeling like myself.  For a week, I wasn’t sure who I was….

The final stitch to finish this project, ahhh....

The final stitch to finish this project, ahhh….

It didn’t have to do with a missing internal organ, oddly enough.  That uterus served its purpose well, and am glad to have parted ways with it now while major surgery is still relatively easy to recover from.  What threw me most for a loop was the basic recovery element; managing a thousand steps a day was rough.  Naps were fantastic; usually I wake from them feeling groggy, but when I first got home, I so needed that extra rest.  Taking my first walk, I wondered how I’d ever get back to my average two-mile outing.  I had plenty of in-house help, lots of support from family and friends, and my husband has been an absolute star.  But ultimately, recovery starts and ends with me.  And my goodness, what a couple of weeks it has been.

From last Sunday; coming home from my walk just as the sun was setting.

From last Sunday; coming home from my walk just as the sun was setting.

I’m so blessed to be feeling as well as am, relieved the surgery was a success, and there are still a few weeks until Thanksgiving, not to mention Advent and Christmas.  By mid-December, I’ll have seen my doc for the six-week follow-up, and will hopefully be given the all-clear to pick up a grandchild.  As for writing, we’ll see how that progresses.  I’d had hopes of finishing The Hawk by the end of this year, but I’m so not bothered if that goal slides into 2017.  These past two weeks have taught me a grand lesson in patience with one’s self and gratefulness of good health in general.  I’m not as spry as I used to be, but young enough to return to my usual pace without a prolonged wait.  Healing takes its own road, and I’m glad to be on it, one step at a time….

Still learning what this book (and my life) is about….

Orchards in bloom, spring 2015.

Orchards in bloom, spring 2015; I think back on those days, often wondering just how I made it through some of them….

On the second leg of my recent holiday, friends asked the subject of my WIP.  It’s slightly difficult to describe without giving away the initial plot line, but past that, I noted it’s about love, PTSD, war, faith….  It’s a big book, plenty of room for various themes, but it would be nice to settle upon a main idea to easily sum up The Hawk.

A couple of days ago I flipped to the next quote in my page-a-day calendar, finding the essence of my novel encapsulated in a single sentence: To love a person is to learn the song that is in their heart and to sing it to them when they have forgotten.  I meditated upon those words as I finished dressing for the day, but no one was attributed to such a statement.  Fortunately, the internet provided me with the sage, one Arne Garborg, a Norwegian writer and linguist.  According to Wikipedia, Garborg championed the use of Nynorsk (New Norwegian), in addition to tackling the issues of his day.  I had left up the tabs for Garborg, as well as not moved my calendar ahead, just so I’d remember to write this post.  For this quote truly sums up the last three years of my writing life, as well as chunks of my personal existence.

But let’s first talk about The Hawk; initially I had in mind a short story.  Then within weeks, I found a much larger project had developed.  I wasn’t scared off, for I’ve written another series, and it felt good to sink my teeth into something so different than anything I’d previously created.  Magical realism has been a thrill to incorporate into the story, but this novel is grounded by factual events of the era, which is the early 1960s.  I’ve learned plenty about the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK’s assassination, and how The Beatles were first introduced to America.  But the novel’s main focus is human relationships, my stock in trade.  Several love stories are being told, not all of them romantic.  Finally there is war and how that colours the soul.  Early on I came upon a quote by GK Chesterson, which for a good while highlighted my work: The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.  Perhaps the first half of The Hawk is based upon Chesterson’s words.  The second half required different guidance.

I can’t actually say how much I’d written before my father died in April 2015, certainly a decent amount.  When I came home from caring for him and my youngest and her new baby, writing was far from my brain.  I sewed quilts, experimenting with the improv style that now forms the basis of my crafting.  By August of that year, I felt able to sit at my computer, and since then I’ve been steadily churning out chunk after chunk, interspersed with family, fabrics, and finding my way post-Dad.  Recently my friend Laura Bruno Lilly noted that this novel’s length might subconsciously be related to how long it takes to grieve, and I would agree.  How much I have grown as a person during the last three years is directly related to my father’s illness and death, becoming a grandmother, and still eking out chapters of a tale that has evolved from a mystical historical yarn into….  It truly is a love song learned from my beloveds, kept in a safe place to return to them wherever they might be.  Where I am within the story, it’s as if Arne Garborg was waiting for me to reach 25 August 2016, even if he’s been dead for nearly one hundred years.  I have one final part to complete and his quote is a beacon illuminating the safe shore.

When writing any kind of story, be it a saga or flash fiction, I am firmly led by my faith not merely as an internal compass, but for how the words are placed upon the document.  A combination planner and pantster, I don’t try to overthink the plot, although I’m not adverse to taking down necessary notes.  Is it a coincidence that Garborg is Norwegian and Klaudia lives in Norway?  Ha ha, perhaps.  Or maybe just how threads of my work interconnect in unexpected manners, richly flavouring a tale with very humble beginnings.  My biggest goal as an author is twofold; to entertain and uplift.  But behind those notions is how this work pertains to my personal enrichment, often surprising me, as well as delighting.  I love to sing, in addition to writing, so it was with a sly smile I read Garborg’s quote, also with a profound sense of gratitude, both for the insights and how blessed am I to perform this task.  It’s been a while in the making, but good things do come to those with patient hearts, both the reader and the writer.  And the lover; to learn another’s heartsong doesn’t happen overnight.  Yet, once that that intimate knowledge is accrued, miracles are possible.  I knew it many of the days I spent with my dad, I feel it daily with my husband, children, grandchildren, and other relatives.  I can’t escape it as this story winds down, but in that case, often I am the one being sung to.  And good thing, for many loose ends remain in need of resolution.  As I await this novel’s conclusion, I am aware of copious grace wrapped in a blessed melody.  When I forget this or that point, I simply close my eyes, permitting an otherworldly guidance to set me aright.  Music has long been an inspiration, but not always are the tunes of a corporeal strain.

Lo and Behold….

One of the strangest yet very satisfying parts of writing is finding The End.  Now, let’s not get too far ahead of the tale; I haven’t completed The Hawk.  But just this morning, I finished Part 11.  Getting this section wrapped up wasn’t on my agenda, let me add.  In fact, while I had hoped to wrap it up, lovely interruptions drew my attention away from plot and characters.  We’re leaving on holiday next week, and I’d already decided to take along what I had managed, reading it over to refresh myself for our return.  However, that won’t be altogether necessary.  Part 11 is in the can!

All today's photos are from the summer solstice, which I had wanted to include in a post, but I don't think I did.

Today’s photos are from the summer solstice, which I had wanted to include in a post, but I don’t think I did.

I want to share this mostly to highlight the unpredictable nature of creativity.  Regardless of our best efforts to schedule this or that element of the process, often the process sits outside of our control.  Case in point; halfway through today’s chapter, I had the sneaky sense this was going to be the last chapter of this section.  It was the way Eric….  Well, I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but he was acting so, so, so….  So let’s wrap this up huh, because there’s laundry to do and lists to make and a Burrito arriving tomorrow and who needs to be slaving away, writing a novel?  I’m smart enough to listen to my characters, but as I ended that scene, only twelve hundred words accounted for, I asked Eric, “So where’s the rest of this chapter going huh?”

Eric Snyder smiled at me, then said, “Talk to my pastor.  Marek will fill you in.”

And this is how my books are written; being very sensitive to one’s writing impetus as well as the story being told.  Literally, I had no idea where the second half of Chapter 218 was going.  My eldest called, asking how my day was, and I told her straight out; “I think I’m ending this part today, but I have no idea how.”  She laughed, posing a similar query; Little Miss is transitioning from two naps a day to one, and how to plan one’s schedule when nap time is erratic?   After she closed the call, I sat back at my computer, reading over what had been written.  I still didn’t know what was coming, but after nearly three years with this saga, I realized it’s not about me.

My friend Laura Bruno Lilly noted recently how my journey with The Hawk has been parallel to my father’s ill health and subsequent death.  That perhaps the extreme length of this book is essential as I travel along a post-Dad landscape.  It’s applicable; I began this novel right before my father made the decision to begin chemotherapy.  That led to a fierce year-long battle which culminated in his death in the spring of 2015.  But even though I knew my father was heading to a better place, it’s a totally different experience living without him.  And just maybe a hawk was sent to guide me safely through that wilderness.

But now it’s August 2016; while I’m still pinning some hopes to complete this tale by the end of this year, if not, it won’t be too much into 2017.  By then The Burrito will be almost two years old, Little Miss well over eighteen months.  Grandmaster Z will already be an official toddler, and as for this abuela?  I’ll be very ready to start my next story, let me just say.  But I don’t want to get too far ahead of where I am at this moment, which is still happily aghast at how the last chapter of this section practically wrote itself and Laura’s astute observation of why this book has been written as it has.  Work from the heart cannot be shoehorned into a convenient time slot, although occasionally that’s how it occurs.  That’s where Grace steps in, and oh man, Grace can just do all it pleases.  Writing by Grace is just as important as living by Grace.

Acknowledging Grace matters too.  Now it’s time for a walk, a trip to the grocery store, and to take clothes off the line.  I’ll return to The Hawk in all due time….

Being Thankful

It’s early May and spring is in full flush; roses in our front yard emit a beautiful fragrance while honeysuckle in the back reminds me of my youth.  I’m training one bush along the chain link on the eastern side of the house, while a lone sunflower heads northward.  I planted more than one seed there, but at least one survived.

Nine more struggle on the west side of the house, snails are eating them, poor babies.  Grass is still green, although we won’t water it, just sparing enough agua for the fruit trees, roses, and flowering bushes.  Oh, and for the apple tree my husband planted in our front yard a couple of years ago.  It sports tiny apples, sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb, but it makes him happy, so who am I to complain?

Truly, I can’t gripe about anything, and that is made more profound by the spate of misfortunes suffered by those in our circle.  Two cases of cancer, the death of good friends’ adult child, lingering injuries to another from a car accident which occurred last year; these aren’t just coming in threes, but en masse, and I’ve been offering prayers of condolence and healing through the roof.  As I sat at my desk, staring at story notes, the simplicity felt like a slap; paper clips and flash drives, stationary and post-it notes clutter a somewhat organized work space.  But for those in turmoil, nothing appears normal.

I recall those days from last year, when Dad was sick and my youngest was a new mom and my eldest was awaiting her baby.  Little Miss is coming on a year old, while The Burrito is almost fifteen months.  I was graced to soothe the loss of my father with those wee ones, but no such luxuries exist for those who are now enduring hardship, which makes my prayers important.  Peace is often the most essential element required.

Two little ones for whom I am exceedingly thankful!

Two little ones for whom I am so thankful!

As my faith moves along its own little road, I grasp more and more to it, for life’s storms don’t pay attention to weather forecasts, but rush in as they please, rocking foundations that might just be newly laid.  A good year past Dad’s death, I’m in a fairly productive groove, continuing with The Hawk, sewing here and there, even finding time to nurture some ragged looking sunflowers.  All of that seems a very long ways from this time in 2015 when I was trying to find my footing in a post-Dad world, the New Normal as my sister put it.  But as I wrote to the mom of the daughter still struggling to regain her physical health after being in a head-on collision, their lives haven’t merely hit a hurdle or detour.  A new roadway has been formed, and all of them are taking steps along that altered horizon.  Those sorts of paths are never anticipated, and the changes can be utterly disconcerting.

Which brings me back to being thankful, also peaceful, not easy tasks, I will admit.  But there is so much in this life to rattle our peace of mind, calamities notwithstanding, that peace of mind is vital to our own health, physical, mental, and emotional.  Having turned fifty, ahem, aches and pains seem to have increased as if my body knew that milestone had been reached.  Well fine, I say to myself, I’ll drink those eight glasses of water each day, lay off the donuts, increase the steps on the pedometer.  But just as important are the less tangible efforts to maintaining serenity, passing it along where I can, and lately I feel that occurs on a daily basis.  Yet that too is something for which to be thankful, that in the minor frets of my life, like snails chomping on hapless sunflower plants, I can stay grounded in the goodness that is 99% of the rest of my day, backaches aside.  For even in the darkest moments, good purposes remain.  The darkness reminds me how bright are the sunny days, and when they return, how blessed I am for them.

Which then enables me to rejoice with those who rejoice and more vitally, to mourn with and console those in dire need.  That ability is not of my own making, but grace freely given, and gladly accepted.  It’s a circle, which becomes stronger through the sorrows and the joys.  It’s being thankful for all things, regardless how they appear, even snails, ugg.  Yes, snails need their due.  Not sure why, but I won’t ponder that.  My hubby can sort them out, for which I am also exceedingly thankful.

A Peek at the Beach

All pics taken today at The Hook in Capitola.

All pics taken today at The Hook in Capitola.

Before I started sewing, I went to the beach.  I have more photos of the Pacific from The Hook in Capitola than is good for me.  And again I’ve added to that collection, a few more snapped on a pleasant sunny California day.  I brought along a friend, who is nearing the end of her visit.  We’ve had a lovely week together, capped off by this excursion to the ocean.

As I strolled, peering down at the changing waves, I considered the alterations since I last trekked about this stretch.  It was New Year’s Eve 2013 or New Year’s Day 2014; so much has occurred since that rather brisk end of year/beginning of another as the sun rose, signaling another day, but so much beyond that.  Dad was alive, no sewing going on, The Hawk in its infancy.  No grandkids either might I add, and fifty loomed in the distance.  Now that’s on the cusp as well as nearly a year since my father died; how funny are all the parts that converge as time passes.

But the ocean keeps ebbing and flowing, one of my favourite parts of observing it.  It never stops regardless of what is happening in our lives.  And even better is how it never looks the same.  If all my Capitola photos were compared, no two would be exactly alike.  A wave’s height and breadth can’t be repeated; each visit to Capitola is as unique as every dip and curl of the water.

I try to keep that in mind as these changes seem daunting, or still so odd; can it be that my father has been dead almost an entire year?  Well, it had been over two years since I’d stepped onto the sand; time does not stop.  But my perception of time has been wrenched from how I used to consider days and weeks….  Over the last few months, the minutes and hours have blurred as if I live in two worlds, that of right where I sit and a far less corporeal existence more like the rolling of waves.  Dad’s gone, or is he?  Maybe he’s behind my shoulder as I type or was he at The Hook, walking by my side.  Eternity doesn’t seem so fantastical of an idea as it used to be.

Not that I feel ill, although I do note more aches than previously; I am an abuela, after all.  I’m also keenly aware of how beautiful is this life, how expansive like the Pacific.  These past forty-nine years are but a drop in the bucket, like all the pictures I’ve taken at The Hook, all the words written, quilts sewn.  A vast horizon awaits, draped in mystery and joy.  Sometimes it will look like the ocean, a grandchild’s gorgeous smile, or the warmth of my husband’s strong arms.  But how much is tantalizingly just past my view, but as familiar as these photos as if all my days will be spent at the beach.

What a terrific notion, ha ha.  Maybe Dad is fishing along the Sacramento River, one of his fave spots.  Our time in this realm is mysterious, or maybe it’s as obvious as the earth revealed at low tide.  I love viewing the beach in this manner, like a blanket has been pulled back, proffering a peek at a usually hidden world.  Our lives could be deemed the same, the outer layers like high tide, but underneath, ahhh….

Bring on the continued mystery!  I can’t wait to see what happens next.