What is a Friend?

If you are lucky, your friends come in a variety of shapes, sizes and temperaments. If a person is truly your friend, he or she is honest with you, but never abrasive. To my way of thinking a true friend keeps in touch when they know you are feeling tearful or unsteady. But what makes a friend someone you call or contact when you are at your lowest?

I’ve lost several people who were really important to me during the past couple of months. And because the people I thought I was closest to were suffering their own losses I did not feel free to reach out to them. And one of my friends who suffered a tragic loss during this time hasn’t returned my calls. I have called her to share my concern for her loss, but always get her answering machine. Prior to this I thought we were close friends. I have reached out to her by email, and she has sent short responses to that, but in the last three months I have not actually seen or spoken with her. My emails have been that I was thinking about her, not questions about her loss. I wonder when it is best to quit contacting someone who has suffered a loss and wait for them to get in touch. I am wondering if some people disassociate with their closest friends after suffering a loss because they feel they have to talk about that loss and they don’t want to.

I have other good friends that I have been able to share with. It is not that I am feeling all alone at this time. It is just a time of searching for the real meaning of friendship, and realizing how fragile a friendship can be.

Three Word Wednesday:  abrasive; tearful; unsteady

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Sentence Structure, Observation and Detail

The concrete highway was edged with a mat of tangled, broken, dry grass and the grass heads were heavy with oat beards to catch on a dog’s coat, and foxtail to tangle in a horse’s fetlocks…..

From the Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

 

Lately I find that I analyze what I read in a different way than I used to.  I think that might be because I am doing more writing than I have in the past.  As I read a novel, I find that I am consciously looking for techniques and patterns that will improve my own writings.

A few weeks ago I reread the works of some well-known authors of the past, The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck and The Great Gatsby by Francis Scott Fitzgerald.  Both of these books forced me to think about sentence structure.  The authors both use complex and compound sentences extensively.    Using a combination of complex and compound sentences mixed with shorter simpler sentences gives each of these pieces a sense of rhythm.    This observation has forced me to look at the sentence structure and the rhythm of my own writings.

In both of these novels, compound and complex sentences are an effective means of providing the reader with descriptive detail.  To write this kind of detail, obviously requires the writer to be acutely aware of his environment and experiences.    It requires accurate observation as well as intimate memory of the details.

As I journal daily I am trying to be more aware of the intimate details of what I see, hear, smell and touch, as well as how the daily experiences make me feel.  I hope that by this increased awareness and attempting to write these experiences in better compound and complex sentences I will improve my writing.

A Side Note:  I was surprised to realize that these stories, (not the piece itself, but the basic story line) especially The Grapes of Wrath, could be applicable in todays economic climate.

My quote for today:

               Man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments.

–John Steinbeck

 

 

 

Get Out of the Way

Recently I discovered that writing a novel is like raising my children.  There came a point in time when I had to allow my children enough independence to be the people they were meant to be.  My novel is at that point.  Despite all of the planning and outlining I have done; despite all of the characters I have carefully developed; and despite the beautiful complex settings I have imagined, my novel has decided to take its own course.

No matter how hard I try not to hover like an anxious parent with a scrawny child, I find that I am still devoted to my original plan.  I try not to fight my muse.  But when I want my character to walk up the hill and he is determined to walk down it instead, I still fight at first.  But little by little I am learning to give in.  Page by page I am learning to let go.

I know that letting go is essential.  I know that when the first draft is completed I will have to start the rewriting process.  I know that there will be sections that I consider beautiful prose that will end up in the scrap pile.  I know that when the characters get done telling me who they are and what they are going to do, that there will be earlier sections that no longer fit.  It isn’t always easy.  But just like raising children, one must eventually let go.

So for now, I am trying to “get out of the way” and let my novel be the story it was meant to be.

 

Written for J.T. Weaver’s The 270  and Thom’s Three Word Wednesday.

J. T., I think I achieved the goal, exactly 270 words in the body of the post.

The three words this week are:  anxious devoted and scrawny.

 

 

A Good Weather Day…

One thing in life that you can usually rely on to surprise you, sometimes even shock you, is the weather.

Last year (2012) summer in the Pacific Northwest was gray and dreary, but our autumn weather was lovely.  I remember it well.  In October I was walking several times a week on the Discovery Trail.   I didn’t need an umbrella and I seldom wore a jacket.  In the middle of October the vine maples were still as colorful as a child’s coloring book.  Large leaves were just beginning to descend from branch to ground.  I photographed wild flowers and roses still in bloom.  By the end of October the mushrooms were just starting to appear in patches at the edge of Bagley Creek.  And occasionally a morning fog chilled the air.

In contrast, this year the summer was lovely.   I try to capture the memory of those days to help sustain me now that I know that summer is gone.  For some unknown reason summer left us in a hurry, hasty to shine its warmth on some other patch of the world.  In the Pacific Northwest this year our autumn weather has been dreadful.  Well maybe dreadful is a bit strong, but there have certainly been a lot of very wet days since the first day of fall.  Several mornings I have awaken to the rhythmic drumming of the rain on our skylight, not a simple pitter-patter but a turbulent composition that said wake up and check the drains and close the windows.  The leaves have been blasted to the ground and the rain and winds have already swept them aside.

It should come as no surprise therefore, that I expected Sunday, October 6, 2013, to be more of the same.  But it was as if the weather had decided to surprise us all.  A wet and threatening fog greeted us in the morning, but as the day progressed the sun cleared the fog away.  Although it wasn’t a warm day it was a comfortable day.  The temperatures have dropped and our mornings are cooler now; but on Sunday Avon got to celebrate his 90th birthday with good friends, family and lots of sunshine.

Written for Soup Night and Three Word Wednesday.

The three words from Thom were:  hasty; sustain and dreadful.

Thom posts three word challenges every Wednesday.  Check out Thom’s site and see what others are writing:   http://www.threewordwednesday.com/

 

The Farm

I know I have not posted much lately…more on that later.

I thought I would share with you the short memoir that I wrote and that J T Weaver generously posted on his site last month…here goes.

The Farm

There is a large two-story farmhouse that sits across State Route 50 from the little town of Avon, South Dakota.  Over the years it has been substantially remodeled and although it sits on its original foundation there is little about the house or property to remind me of the farm I remember from the 1950’s. My grandparents lived and farmed at this location for many years.

 “Working from sunrise to sunset” was not a cliché for them it was their way of life, their livelihood.  I was raised in the city so as a child I did not realize how hard they worked.  There were no three-week vacations for them; no nights in fancy hotels, just days of chores repeated over and over.  Electric lights and running water were their luxuries.

Early in the morning, sometimes before the sun was up, and again each evening, Grandpa lead his cows into the barn, lined them up in a row and secured their heads in stanchions.  The cows were content to eat the hay or chew their cud while Grandpa went about the milking. If we entered the barn before the milking started the smell of freshly tossed hay would tickle our noses and make us sneeze.  The cows however never seemed to mind.  They just stood there, swishing their tails back and forth like a row of metronomes, and started their daily chorus with a low rumble increasing volume until they reached their peak.  Then the volume would decrease before their mooing surged again.

Grandpa would grab a bucket and balance himself on his three-legged stool.  Then with hands made strong by daily labor he would manually extract the milk.  After emptying the pail into the separator he would move down the line until all of the cows were milked. Sometimes he let us try.  He would wrap his weathered hands around ours and gently squeeze until the milk flowed freely into the bucket.  When the milking was done Grandpa ran the milk through the separator and filled freshly washed quart jars, readying the milk for the daily customers.

Normally Grandma gathered the eggs, but occasionally she would hand us the big brown basket, the one filled with straw to cradle the eggs, and send us to the hen-house.  There was no harmony in the hen-house.  When we opened the door there was a flurry of squeaking and squawking and of wings beating.  Straw and feathers filled the air.  It was a good thing Mother always went with us because there was sure to be one old hen not willing to relinquish her eggs.  Mother would prod her gently until she flapped her wings in defeat.

Late in the afternoon, when the summer sun still baked the fields, Grandma might hand us the bucket from the counter in the kitchen and send us out to the pump.  Although pipes for City water had been extended under the highway and connected to the house and then to the faucet in the kitchen, my Grandparents still pumped their drinking water from the cistern on their east porch.  We would stand outside and pump and pump.  Then we’d say, “But Grandma it doesn’t work.”

Grandma would say, “Keep pumping.”

And suddenly “Splat,” the first splash of water would hit the pail.  We’d stop pumping and the water would stop running, so we’d pump some more.  When the water started to fill the pail we would pump and squeal with excitement not realizing we needed to stop before the water reached the top.  When the water reached the rim it gushed over the sides and slithered along the wooden porch until it found the openings between the slats.  Then it ran freely on to the ground below.  It always took at least two of us to transfer the pail from the porch back to its spot in the house.  Nothing ever tasted as good as a long cold drink of water drawn from a pail we had filled ourselves.

By the end of the day my Grandparents fell asleep early, worn out by their daily chores.  We, too, fell asleep early, worn out by our daily adventures.  But early the next morning when the light came through the window we crawled out of bed and tiptoed to the window.  We listened for the melody from the birds that lived in the big old tree that sat in the corner of the yard.

It is different now.  The hen-house was dismantled years ago.  The barn too, has been torn down.  There is no longer a faded red porch or water pump on the east side of the house.  Even the tree where birds used to sing has been removed from the yard.  It saddens me when I look at that spot, where once was a farm, an adventurous plot, for today there stands only–a house on a lot.

Today’s daybook–

FAILURE

He wore his failure

 like a badge

It darkened

His demeanor

It was his liability

And made him

Even meaner

Written for Three Word Wednesday:  Badge; darken, liability

CHILDREN

I gave birth to a child

While I was a child

Three years later

To another

It didn’t matter that

I was a child

I was still their Mother