Adventures with Words, April 2023

Adventures with Words, April 2023

Hello from sunny, now breezy with cloud cover, wait now it’s raining, no now it’s hail, back to sunny… Olympia Washington. Mol and I have set up our seed starting area in the garage and popped in 50 tomato seeds (5 varieties), cabbage and a mix of seeds we’re gonna harvest as microgreens. Update: Because I started writing this newsletter a couple of days ago but haven’t sent it, I can report that on Wednesday, 4/1, only 3 days after sowing the mixed greens and cabbage, the greens are up along with two cabbage seedlings. Tomatoes went in a day earlier and two of them are up. No, this isn’t an April Fool’s joke. Happy spring!

Writing Retreat a Success, Didn’t Want to Leave

Taking two weeks away from the job to write is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. Being able to fully load the story world and characters into my head enabled me to write more and stay on track. I did not want to return to ‘real life’. I want that to be my real life. 

Luckily, I can still work and find inspiration in the moments between the job and parenting and the other stuff we do to survive late stage capitalism. During one of my ‘brainstorming sessions’ – staring into space on pause from some mundane task, I came up with an idea for how to deepen the connection to place in the story. I thought to myself, what if I treat the location like a character? A place can have a mood, communicate emotion, impact the emotions and actions of other characters. That’s what I decided to play with. The main setting in my novel is an amusement park. It’s not hard to imagine how the park would feel when filled with happy patrons,and  the sounds, smells and flavors of that setting. In contrast, how would the park feel when it was closed, empty and silent? And how might those different moods impact a character who was intimately familiar with the park? Could the park be supportive of their efforts? Could it mirror their grief, longing, anxiety?  We’re going to find out because I’m making the attempt within this novel.

This is what writing does to your brain. Don’t let your babies grow up to be writers, folks.

What’s Going on in the Field?

During the second week of my writing retreat, Mol and I stayed in Chewelah with Mom. I got to hole up in Mom’s library for hours of writing and pondering. Mol had time to help mom with projects and relax. We met two couples who live on land adjacent to ours and found them to be kindred spirits in many ways. Thanks for arranging those introductions, Mom! We did a fence walk around most of the property one day, through some patches of snow, though most of the field was bare. We took note of the way water from rain and snow melt travels across the field. A vernal pool forms in the southeast corner and we observed red winged blackbirds, even though the water doesn’t stay very far into the warm season. We were considering trying to make the pond permanent, but Mol did some research and found that vernal pools are protected ecologies. The more you know… What we can do is create a series of swales and potentially a pond higher up the slope with the goal of getting more of that free water to stay. We took frequent breaks and during one, we had the inaugural meeting of the Chewelah Sunbathing Club, lying down to soak up the sun on one of the south facing slopes. Mol made sure there wasn’t any cow poop first, but I figured it all washes off. We also got to do an early Easter egg hunt, recovering two handfuls of neighbor Bill’s golf balls.

My favorite activity on the land during that trip was to mark the footprint of our future home. This wasn’t as simple as we’d envisioned. First, Mol and I dug around behind Mom’s shop until we had 7 metal fence posts. We strapped them to the quad with a post pounder and packed some snacks and water. We thought we could drop down behind the shop and then to a gate between the properties. That was a bust, however, because there wasn’t a clear path. Instead, we headed down the gravel road that passes other neighbors and entered the field through another gate. I got partway up a slope between the gate and our homesite and heard a clanging behind me. Stopping, I looked back and saw that our fence posts were trying to liberate themselves. Mol caught up with me, we secured them again and I promised not to ride so fast over the bumpy parts. Which is most of the field, actually. Once at the homesite, we measured from the back fence to where our driveway would be, and then the space between it and our back door and from there we staked the corners. Our positioning was based on the view from our south facing door and deck. And damn, it’s good. I had no problem imagining looking out the kitchen and living room windows at the land sloping down away from the house, to the neighbors farms and the hills surrounding the valley. It’s going to be amazing.

After sitting in one of the future bedrooms to have a snack, we packed up and started the quad. Well, we tried to start the quad. It chugged, tried to start and gave up. The same neighbor Bill, was out working on a burn pile along our path back to the gate. We hiked up and told him what the situation was. He got on his quad and brought a gas can. We filled the tank but the problem was the battery. The next task was to get the quad out of the field and back to Mom’s garage. Bill hooked a tow rope up to the winch of the dead quad and I rode it across the field, up the road and back to Mom’s. 

That story illustrates what we’ve come to know about the folks living in the vicinity of the land we’ll live on someday. They take care of each other. I can’t wait to be a part of that community.

(I’m writing this while the neighbor’s dog has barked incessantly for an hour and the idea of listening to the distant sounds of cows, ravens and other country folk getting ready for night is very appealing)

Lifting Up a Fellow Writer

Let’s take a moment to celebrate someone else, one of my writing partners, Burl Battersby, aka B. Eugene B. Burl applied for and won a grant fromTacoma Artists Initiative Program to help fund a project called ‘Voices of Tacoma: a Gathering of Poets’. This project will bring poets together to create an anthology of work celebrating Tacoma. Our neighbor to the north is a hotbed of poetic talent and I have no doubt this will be a stand-out collection. For more information on this project, including how to become involved, please visit his page Voices of Tacoma.

Burl is also celebrating the release of his second poetry collection in two years, ‘Wild Rose and Other Songs Sung by the Window’, which celebrates and eulogizes his mother. To say that Burl is busy is an understatement. For more about this collection and the myriad of other irons he’s got in the fire, please visit his website.

Congratulations, Burl!

Recent Reading

I’ve tallied 26 books read already this year and each of them has given me something to use in my life, or my work or to provide food for my voracious thought factory. I recently ordered a stack of books from the library written by trans and nonbinary authors. March 31 is Trans Day of Visibility and I am focusing some love and time on the work of my non-cis siblings.

Here’s a book I recommend to my fellow dystopia-but-cozy-with-a-romance fans, A World Running Down by Al Hess.  This is a story about a trans man who can’t get gender affirming healthcare because he lives outside the closed city where you have to scramble for survival. Becoming a citizen of the city is cost prohibitive and the gatekeepers don’t care how down and out you are. That’s not anything like current reality at all. Aren’t writers creative?

The story is also about an AI who is nonconsensually forced into an Android body. The two characters meet, find they have something in common as people who don’t match their current bodies and then, then.. Well, you’ll have to read it to find out. 

The Terraformers is a brilliant novel by nonbinary author Analee Newitz. It is truly epic. If you like a long – like centuries long – story with lots of character depth, amazing world building (that’s an inside joke) and moments to grimace, curse and cheer – read this book. The characters and questions posed by this book are still working my brain muscle a couple of weeks after I finished it. It’s got that classic sci fi mix of super futuristic technology and situations that are also really relatable from this time in history.

Though my reading diet is dominated by fiction, I do ingest a healthy amount of nonfiction roughage. Most of those are centered on gardening and homesteading topics. If you can’t move to the country and live there, might as well read about it, right?  I don’t know how many books on those topics I’ve read or browsed but Mol has gone through at least three times that many, possibly more. We are having some great conversations about how we want to live on the land and are getting our goals and plans on paper. It’s good to have time for planning and learning, and also, sometimes it makes the longing that much stronger. As one of our greatest poets said ‘The waiting is the hardest part’. 

Our Newest Family Member

Have I told you about Nico yet?  Nico is a seal brown-almost-black kitten-dirvish with a purr that sounds like a small outboard motor. He enjoys shredding paper, carrying his toys from one place to another, and hiding under furniture (also napping under furniture). He and his big brother, Tyson, play a lot, which delights and entertains the humans in the family. Tyson is a very good big brother, very patient with Nico, who does the typical annoying little brother antics like picking fights, forcing his way into the food dish when Tyson is eating and following his big brother around everywhere. 

He’s sweet and snuggly and endlessly entertaining. His high speed runs and active play style result in lots of naps. Right now, Tyson is curled up and sleeping next to me and Nico is … somewhere. Probably also sleeping. Which means he’ll be active in about an hour, just in time for this old human to get ready for bed. 

Story Snack from If Elephant Ears Could Talk

Erika Temple closed their eyes and coasted down a small slope, enjoying the warm, early-summer air rushing over their bare arms and legs. They were heading to the town’s library, following a route so familiar they could probably ride the whole way with their eyes closed.

Erika sat up, and released their grip on the handlebars. They felt themself open up, expanding into the future of their dreams. The future they’d make for themself far from parents and the stifling sameness of their hometown. Erika would find their community and create amazing art and be in charge of their life for once.

The wind whistling in their ears made it difficult but not impossible to hear the small sound of tires pressing gravel into pavement. The meaning of those sounds almost didn’t register in their mind.  When their awareness did abruptly shift back to the present, it was nearly too late. 

Eyes flying open, hands lunging for the brakes, Erika stopped inches from the door panel of the car that had backed onto the street in front of them. 

Making Contact

Here’s where you can find me online:

Leave a Reply