Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dancing to Ern's Waltz

I must start this entry by saying that the only thing I hate about snowshoeing on days like this,is stopping. I set out about an hour ago with a bit of heaviness in the pit of my stomach. If asked why, I could probably give about four or five reasons for feeling that way today. Luckily, I am clever enough or at least know from experience that the best way to combat those feelings is to get out and have a bit of a talk to myself. I zigzagged and trudged my way through some absolutely breathtaking openings in the woods behind my house, stopping often to gaze up at massive trees firmly rooted and stretching toward a vibrant deep blue sky. The snow creates a magical setting where creations every bit as captivating as any that grace the art galleries and museums of the world have been fashioned by the thick blanket of white falling on whatever lies beneath, giving the sculpture beauty and mystery. In that beautiful place my mind went to the funeral of the 98 year old father of a dear friend and former colleague of mine. She has been a woman of great influence in my life. Her gift of music was so freely and generously given as a teacher, a choir director, and a mother that shaped and encouraged her talented daughter, musician Stephanie Mainville. I learned more yesterday about where that amazing woman originated. Her father made choices in his 98 years that took him from a harsh and crippling beginning to a triumphant and inspiring end. The gratitude and admiration for the course one man took resounded in the testimony of his grandson and the strings of his granddaughter's violin.During the tribute to Ernest his grandson told a story of a Chinese holy man who after being given lodging and shown compassion by a peasant, gave the man a blessing before departing. His blessing was ; Grandfather die, Father die, Son die. The man upon receiving the blessing asked angrily what kind of a blessing that was. The holy man replied" Would you rather it in a different order? "I wept today when thinking upon those words. I know the sorrow of being given loss in a different order. I think too of a family today that six years ago was also given that loss out of order. We dance a dance in this life and it is seldom of our exact choosing. We must take the music that plays for us and dance the waltz as best we can. That is what Ernie did and all I can hope for is, that someday the same can be said of me.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Right Here ,Thank-you Very Much

I often hear the Proust Questionnaire on Shelagh Roger's CBC radio program, The Next Chapter and the question I always answer the quickest is 'Where would you most like to live?' I always answer" right here". I can honestly say I think that all of the time but I think it most strongly when I am on the woods road behind my house. Each day I go through the same ritual once I get a ways up into the woods. I start with petitions , or prayers you might say laying out what I am concerned about or most burdened by, asking for guidance in situations and making some special requests . I then move to listing my thankfuls for this day. This place and this walk always tops my list. I follow them with being thankful for my beating heart and the fact that I'm breathing and able to make the climb up this steep and winding road. This place tops the list and I truly would want to live nowhere else. Today the snowshoeing was perfect. The last few days going off trail was next to impossible but today after yesterday's milder temperatures , a bit of melting and then cold temperatures again, the top layer settled and could better support my weight and I was able to wander off trail. Nellie, my little grand dog enthusiastically comes with me everyday ploughing through the deep snow while Biscuit, our big (and somewhat lazy) dog usually stays behind. Today Nellie was able to run along without sinking too far in the snow.So maybe someday I will be asked the questions from the Proust Questionnaire or be a guest on The Next Chapter. But until then I at least know how I would answer one of the questions. Absolutely and without question, I would most like to live, right here , thank you very much.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Lakefield Elementary

Yesterday I visited Lakefield Elementary School. I spent the afternoon with two Grade Four classes. On many of my visits I attempt to learn the kids names but when it is more than one class and my time is limited I don't take the time to do that. I did meet Megan, Sarah, Quinn, Benjamin, Logan, Owen and Isaac and a room filled with eager and interested readers and writers. Thank you Ms. Millett for sharing my work with your students and for inviting me to come and meet them. One of the classes read The Year Mrs. Montague Cried. They had lots of questions and insights. Mostly I talked though and they listened and what great listeners they were. Their teacher remarked that I must have had their attention because no one asked to use the washroom. I know as a former teacher that is a good yardstick (or should I say metre stick)Here are some of their questions. Who is on the front cover? What day did you say Zac died? How did you publish your other books? How old were you when you started writing? Did your husband go to Afghanistan after 911?Is that Taylor on the cover? What day is the 4th book coming out? Where do I buy your book? Was Corey real? How many books a day do you write? Do you think you will write a story about your daughter's wedding? Do you have other awards? Can I keep the paper?(I had just read them the first two pages of The Memory Chair that I had printed off my computer)What advise can you give on editing? (teacher's question)When Ms. Millett read it to us why did she cry? Can you be an author and a publisher? What is an Epilogue? Do you write every day? Did you write this morning? I love those last two questions? They remind me of questions like did you eat your breakfast? , did you brush your teeth?, do you eat fruits and vegetables everyday? Questions about doing things that are good for you, things that keep you well, things that help you grow. For me writing is all that. I love how the boys that asked those two questions understood that. I love just how much they all, got it.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Just Put One Snowshoe in Front of the Other

OK here's the wisdom I procured on my snowshoe trek today. Last night I went to an author event in Fredericton with my friend Barb. Barb and I had supper at the Diplomat which is always life affirming as far as I'm concerned. I had a wonderful visit with Barb and her husband Tom . We chatted into the early morning hours while we knit on our respective projects. We talked reading and writing and much more. The event itself was held at the Fredericton Public Library and WFNB presented three of their authors Carla Gunn, Gerard Beirne and Chuck Bowie moderated by author Corey Redekop. It was well attended with lots of good discussion and writing talk. But somehow I come away from these things in a crisis of confidence. What is it about hearing other authors talk that sometimes makes us question ourselves. So in a bit of a slump I headed out on my snowshoe this afternoon and this is what I came up with as I put the effort of lifting each snowshoed foot through the deep snow in a breathtakingly beautiful forest glade. (too flowery? I don't think so) Why do we tell ourselves we're not good enough? Why is it that what someone else does always seems better. What is it we are striving for? When we make a cake do we need to believe it is the best cake ever made. When we build a house do we convince ourselves it is a house so much better than everyone else's? So when we write why are we so hard on ourselves? Why do we measure our accomplishments against the backdrop of someone else's? Don't get me wrong, we need a measuring stick. But I think the best measuring stick is our own informed and evolving standards. We need to honestly approach our craft and get our motivations in order. Tell the story that you need to tell and tell it the best you possibly can , knowing that hopefully you will look at it down the road and realize with what you have learned you probably could have told it better. Are we trying to write the best book ever? Are we trying to outsell or out review all the others? Of course not. What would be enough recognition to erase our self doubts? Nothing. So accept your self doubts and get on with it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I Have a Cover

I had four children and never had an ultra-sound to tell us before hand what we were having. Ultra-sounds were definitely not as common and not many people found out what they were having back when I was having children. I still like the surprise but I understand the excitement of finding out as well. Book # 4 is almost ready to be born. I have been talking about it but I finally (more my fussy fault than the publisher or designer )have the mock-up of the cover. So this morning I debated with myself as to whether I should share it. Hence the ultrasound analogy. Here is the reveal!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

More Than Just the Snow

Is there more to talk about than the snow? The snow is certainly on everyone's minds these days. When you look out the window and see it multiply every day it becomes a focus for sure. Every day we open our doors and shovel snow just to get out the door and walk around a bit. We pretty much have to snowshoe to get anywhere on our property. The woods have been a challenge that's for sure. Yesterday I chose a route and the ten minute walk became a half hour trudge through knee deep snow( on snowshoes).Snow covers our consciousness just as it covers our landscape. In my office however in the story I am working on it is June. Gardens are growing, days are hot and surprise , my character is swimming in the Walton Lake every day. So maybe this is why I write. I am working on the sequel to Ten Thousand Truths. It is about fifteen years later. Many changes and challenges have presented themselves. A bridge has been built at Gondola Point. If you live on the peninsula the ferry / bridge debate surfaces regularly. Just the other day I saw some discussion on FB and someone made the statement 'It is time for a bridge' This has always been a subject of serious opinion sure to get people riled up. The debate these days shares space with the condition of the roads, school closures and where to put the snow. We do get caught up in the concerns of the moment. So today I tell myself to look deeply at the real blessings that surround me. The snow will melt just as most of our worries will disperse. This morning I go to my office and write the season , the story and the characters that I conjure up and I take a swim in the lake I love knowing that it waits for me under a thick blanket of ice and snow.