Archive for the ‘fiction’ Tag

Nanowrimo 2015   3 comments

bard-with-luteBard-twoYes — at it again. A rough draft of a novel in 30 days. 50,000 words. No, you don’t need a concept or a website like National Novel Writing Month — Nanowrimo for short — to write any time. But the sense of a community and a horde (300,000 people online qualifies as a horde in my book) of other writers madly hyped on caffeine or other stimulant of choice, all tapping and scribbling out uncensored, fervent prose, can help stir the synapses towards actually getting the words down. Think of it as one possible demonstration of Bardic arts.

nano15pic“Not a problem for you — after all, you maintain this blog, right?” you say. Try 1667 words a day of fiction for a month. Not such an impossibility– serious writers often set something like that as their daily word limit every day of their writing lives. Never done something like it? It can firm your resolve or leave you in the dust. I’ve been in both places. “So how ya doin’ so far?” you ask. Well, everybody starts small. That’s an hour’s work. Onto the rest of the month!

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Images: bard on left; bard on right.

Druid in a Box, Part 2   Leave a comment

When the phone call came, she was standing bent over the kitchen table, up to her elbows in pumpkin innards.  A crop of volunteers had sprung up in a poorly-turned compost pile.  She thanked Spirit for the gift, leaving wherever she harvested pumpkin a small bundle of dried thyme in exchange.

At the first ring, she looked down at her sticky hands, then out the window.  A brief scatter of rain still sparkled on grass and leaves outside the kitchen window.  Calls these days were almost always marketers.  If it was Jack, she could call him back.  They still needed to sort out a few things.  But she would not rush the day, nor her mood, over answering the damn phone.  She did pause at the third ring.  Your worst arguments are with yourself, she remembered hearing.  No, let the machine take it.  She’d had it since high school, the black plastic housing cracked and duct-taped together.  The sexless mechanical recording came on.  She turned back to pale orange pulp and slimy seeds, slipped a couple into her mouth to chew, imagined them baked and salted.  She waited, half expecting the caller to hang up.

The raspy voice on the machine straightened her back all by itself.  Cassie, her father’s baritone said.  And paused.  Cigarette cough, the same. I want …  I’d like to talk with you.  She didn’t know how she felt.  He’d kicked her out … eleven years ago, it was.  They’d talked just twice since then.  All that weekend’s worth of argument over a festival she’d been determined to attend.  She couldn’t even remember its name.

No more of that Pagan crap in this house, he said, finally.  I’m sick of it.  You go and you don’t come back.  They didn’t yell, at the end.   Plenty beforehand.  Fine with me, she said.  She left about twenty minutes later. Didn’t even slam a door.  And that was that. But you could have bottled the acid in the air and scoured steel with it.

I’m in Sacramento now.  Oh, my number, it’s …  She heard him stumble over it.  I hope you’ll call back.  Another long pause.  As if he could hear her thinking, waiting.  Not answering.  Not wanting to.  Cassie.  The tug of her name again. Then a click and brief dial tone.  She stared bleakly at the red digital 1 that appeared on the messages screen.  How much of life was playback.

Outdoors the sky had darkened again, and her mood with it.  She knew she needed to breathe and stand in the open air, to listen to something other than her own thoughts.  Once outside, she knelt and rested her palms flat on the grass, to give her anger to the earth, not to carry it. Earth, take what I need no longer, teach through weakness what makes stronger.  She  breathed through the words, said them again, then a third time.  She would call him back this evening.  At nine, six o’clock his time.  Sacramento.  What was he doing there?  Well, she could wait to find out.

Druid in a Box, Part 1   4 comments

She was Druid.  When she needed to know things, a way would open.  She was learning to trust it.  Sometimes an opening way asked for patience, and that took work, still.  Waiting rarely looked hard when others did it, but she’d done enough herself to know better. A song made it easier, and when she listened a certain way, now and again songs came, tinkling on the air, or roaring out of someplace she didn’t know she’d gone to till she returned with a start, the phone ringing, or her cat Halfpint curled in her lap and kneading one thigh with paws tipped with needle claws.  Often the words came later, the melody already running ahead of her, in and around her attention till she got a version down on paper or on her music program.

She was Druid, she knew.  It was a long time coming, that knowledge.  Sometimes she’d resisted, convinced she was done with paths, and seeking and god-stuff, anything like that.  But through it all the gifts kept arriving.  Hard ones, and easy ones too.  Often enough it meant whatever the land gave her at the moment.  For proof, all she had to do was look at her house, filled with stones, bird bones, animal skulls, pressed flowers, carved branches, vervain and basil and mint, garlic and St. John’s Wort and other herbs she was learning as she went.  After Jack left with his secretary, she got the little ramshackle two-bedroom house and the six acres of pasture they’d planned to farm, and slowly the once-empty rooms filled with links to the green world outside the door.  Inside, too.  Spiders in the corners, mice in the walls, squirrels skittering across the tin roof, crows caucusing in the back yard.

Jack.  One of the hard gifts.  He left, and for a while the emptiness threatened to eat her alive.  A big hole she had to stop looking into.  No bottom, but walls dark with bitterness.  So she stayed busy volunteering and running the food pantry and substituting at the local elementary school, until one day a boy complained about the smell of incense that seemed to follow her wherever she went. “Witch” was the real reason, she heard from a sympathetic colleague.  Parents complaining about “that teacher.”  Though when the principal called her in “for a little chat,” what he said was they just couldn’t rely on her to be on time.  All she knew then was that her morning ritual had just cost her one needed source of income.  Hard gift.

A month of therapy, and “you’re stuck in a box labelled ‘wife,'” until she knew she could give herself better advice, and cheaper. When the box is the whole world, then I’m Druid in a box, she thought.  And thinking inside the box is a great place to start.  Hardly anybody else is in here.  They’re all outside, because that’s where they’ve been told they should be.  That’s where the clever ones are, the ones who want to be ahead of the curve.  Mostly people do what they’re told.  But almost always something held her back from doing what everybody else did, shoved her or kicked her sideways.  A kind of resistance, a suspicion, a compass set in her belly and spinning her some other way.  Ahead of the curve?  It was more than enough to be the curve, bird’s wing in the air, crescent moon, arc of water coursing over a falls.  The backyard junipers and oaks and one old willow bowing at the sky.

Then it was October, her birth month, and in spite of turning 30 in a few more days, her mood lightened.  She could feel a shift coming, something new trying to find her, a little blind, and maybe needing help.  She could help it.  Listen, she reminded herself.  It was one thing she’d finally gotten good at.

To be continued …

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