If Trees Could Talk

2011 – The last time I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and the only year out of  5 that I  crossed the finish line.

Yes, I wrote over 50,000 words in 30 days and did so as a single mom working full-time while raising two kids AND blogged regularly! I even wrote guest posts for other blogs, including the Pep-Talk variety for other WriMos! WHEW.

No sooner had I accomplished my goal, though, when something really weird happened:  I lost all motivation to write and stopped almost completely.  No more novel writing, no more blogging.  In fact, I stopped writing anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary, specifically, journaling and whatever was needed to fulfill my professional obligations.

REALLY weird.  And the burn-out or whatever it was lasted for years.

I learned a lot about myself from 5 years of NaNoWriMo-ing, though.  I learned the early morning hours are my most creative, and that it’s HUGELY frustrating to need to stop in the middle of The Flow because Duty Calls.  I experienced how elusive, magical and fickle The Muse can be.  And, perhaps most importantly, I discovered  writing fiction isn’t really my thing.  My natural inclination leans towards storytelling based upon my own experiences.   Real Life Stuff.

But I think that is about to change.

A couple months ago, while on a lunch and shopping date with a girlfriend, I had the most amazing encounter .  WE had the most amazing encounter, I should say.  And Thank The Writing Gods I had a witness to all that happened.  It all started with a unplanned stop at an antique store in the Old Towne district of Tustin.  We weren’t sure if the shop was still opened since the sign in the window said “Open”, the sign on the door said “Closed”,  but a bunch of framed art was still outside on the sidewalk.  So Girlfriend went to see if we could get in, and after she waved an “OK”, I got out of the car and went immediately to the art on the sidewalk.  One piece in particular caught my eye: Framed in old Walnut, it’s a large  3 x 4 oil painting…of trees.

Here’s a close up of it….

 

Those who know me know I am a Tree Person.  Our home is surrounded by them and we love camping in the middle of them.  A Tree Hugger for decades, I’ve hiked miles to embrace the oldest living ones on Earth (in the Ancient Bristle Cone Pine Forest).  I’ve blogged about them (Like HERE and HERE), painted them, planted them and every room in our home has some sort of homage to The Tree.

So this old painting really spoke to me on several levels.  After a day of fruitless shopping, I thought I had finally found something worthy of taking home – until I saw the price tag.

Anyway, we went inside to look around.  It was your typical antique shop in that it was  so PACKED with all manner of collectible, vintage, and antique goodies, we could barely squeeze through the displays.  But we did, making our way eventually to the back of the shop  and THAT is where it all happened.

I’m not going to tell the story here (sorry), but I am going to tell the story and I’m going to use NaNoWriMo2017 as my kick-in-the-literary-ass to write it.  Yes, I’ll still work on the cookbook.  Or not.  But I have to do this.  I mean, I have to.  The first thing my friend and I did when we got into the car to leave that day was to turn to each other, wide eyed with amazement, and simultaneously say, “WHAT JUST HAPPENED?”  In fact, it was Deb who first told me, “You HAVE to write that down!”  And her encouragement hasn’t stopped.  So, I’m going to.  I feel like if I don’t, I will regret it for the rest of my life.

And the old painting?  Well, it’s hanging right here over my desk while I’m typing this.  How THAT came to be is part of the story as well, and another reason I know I have to do this.  Why?

Because Trees Talk, don’t ‘cha know?

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November 1st is fast approaching.  If YOU are participating in NaNoWriMo this year, please let me know!  I would love to be part of your posse and lend you my support!  You’ll find me over there under the pen name JaneBond.

Serendipity Sunday

Life is full of magical moments and little synchronicities.

Several happened to me last week and many of them related to my cookbook project.  This might have been the coolest.

It’s been a long standing habit of mine to check two pages of any devotional book before buying it.  Well, I bought one this week based solely on serendipity.

This first photo is from a chapter I wrote back in the Spring entitled, “The Well Stocked Kitchen”.

A Well Stocked Pantry

Now this one:  A page from a little devotional book I picked up last week at the Good Will entitled, “A Grand New Day”.   It’s the page from my birthday, March 30th.

I’m still grinning ear to ear.

Happy Serendipity Sunday to you.

Falling

Early Fall days are some of my favorites.

The change in light, the change in colors…..the change in me.

The vapid summer days here in So Cal drain me, both physically and energetically.  Yes, I love the sunshine and – occasionally – the longer days. But we’ve had a helluva hot, humid summer this year and I couldn’t be happier that darker cooler mornings are here with the promise of nights sleeping with open windows vs. A/C dronings.

Suddenly, I feel like cooking again. Hearty, earthy dishes like pot roasts and soups and fruit pies.  The gem-like ambers, oranges and browns of nature have inspired me to decorate for Halloween. I’ve been feng-shuing, decluttering and re-organizing and

I feel like writing again.

It’s been nearly 6 months since my last post and about that same length of time since I’ve written anything for my book (and thank you to those that reached out to make sure all was well in the midst of my silence. It is and I am. Thank you, Jesus, for curing the incurable).

I recognize several things contributed to my stall out.  Life happens and priorities shift. For example, I’ve been working two full days a week since the end of May, and I’m also responsible for making sure our grandson gets to school by 7:50 every morning.  My morning routine – and typically my most creative time – has altered.

But in all honesty, it’s been more about motivation. I mean, even with a printer that didn’t work and a computer that barely did, I could’ve been writing.  I still journal most days.  But the book or the blog?  Well…I just haven’t been feeling it.

Thankfully, lack of inspiration isn’t a permanent condition.  Ask any artist.  Everyone goes through dry spells or blocks.  Muses can be fickle companions.  Then again, I tend to enter new projects with all pistons firing and my foot to the floor – which might be why I seem to excel at short term commitments and struggle a little with those that take a loooonnnnggggg time to complete.   I like to finish stuff.  Check it off my To Do List.

Or maybe, I just like Instant Gratification.  Ha!

But I’ve learned the importance of giving myself the grace to put something down and to feel my way through my creative endeavors.  Sometimes the best thing I can do to reboot is to walk away.  Like, literally, take a walk.  Hike in nature.  Socialize with friends.

Live life!

In years past, unfinished projects use to mock me…. half finished piles creating feelings of guilt and (depending on how much money spent on supplies) shame. But if Cancer  taught me anything, it is this: Life is short so focus on who and what is really important – and let the rest go (temporarily or permanently, depending).

So.  Here I am. Yesterday I cleaned and reorganized the office and the computer is fixed.  A new printer is being delivered on Tuesday along with a new mouse pad to replace the one I LOVE but was looking as grimy as our grandson after a day at school.

And I’m writing…..

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The house and yards look festive.  It’s a nipply 70 degrees, the windows are opened wide and the sun is just peeking over the hill.   I’ll be doing breakfast and a little shopping with girlfriends this morning, and then enjoying the rest of the day doing “whatever” since all my chores are done.  Maybe I’ll plant a few seasonal flowers or make that wreath I’ve been thinking about.  Or, maybe I’ll just enjoy the peace and quiet of an early Fall afternoon with the house to myself.

Fall. My favorite time of year.

 

Dance To The Muse-ick

The creative process is such a mystery to me.

Many creatives have rituals or props or specific locations they use in order to practice their art.  And I believe all of those things can be very beneficial.  I may or may not use a few myself.

That being said, there is this spiritual component to creating that’s a little more elusive and a lot more necessary.  Call it your Muse, divine inspiration or Being In The Flow, there’s an untouchable, uncontrollable “MYSTERY” that takes the ordinary and turns it into something special when it shows up. And when it’s not there?  Well, anyone who’s ever experienced writer’s block knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Bleck.

Being in that mysterious space seems a lot like what being in Heaven would feel like, as I picture it.  Time stops, the world disappears and everything vibrates with JOY.  And, like Heaven, no one who gets there ever wants to leave!

I’ve been spending a LOT of time in that Heaven in the last couple of weeks.   Even on those mornings when, at 2 a.m., I show up a little blurry eyed and unsure if anything worthwhile will make it’s way to the page, it does.  On some days, the first few sentences of a new chapter are already running through my mind before the coffee is even finished brewing.  Other days, I have to prime the pump a little bit before anything happens.  I might journal awhile, read something inspirational, pray a bit, let the dog in and out a bazillion times, drink more coffee.  And even then I might have just one word to go on when I sit down at the computer…a general “direction” to head.

But something magical begins happen when I sit down and, by faith, start typing just a few words.  Before long, an hour (or two) is gone and another chapter is complete, including whatever extras I’m adding to each chapter.

Being a crafty chick, I’ve made a lot of things over the years, and I’ve written a lot of things for both professional and personal use.  I know what it feels like to be inspired, and to love the finished product. But I have NEVER experienced anything like this before.  It’s as if I’ve been living my entire life preparing for this very moment, and now the appointed time has come for it all to come together.

Time stops.

The world disappears.

Joy fills my soul.

And I am so very very grateful.

“Take care of yourself, have a good time, and make the most of whatever job you have for as long as God gives you life.  And that’s about it!  That’s the human lot.  Yes, we should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work.  It’s God’s gift!  God deals out joy in the present, the now.”  –  Ecc. 5:18-20, The Message Translation

Uncovering The Gift

I’ve been staring at it for years.

I see it while sitting at the little table in our kitchen where I have my quiet time with God, writing and praying, crying and thinking…you know, doing Life.

Even though hidden by a tan cloth cover, I can see it anyway.  It was something I coveted and longed for, for years: A brand new black and chrome Artisan Kitchen Aid mixer. I bought it one birthday about 5 years ago.  Initially, I stored it on top of our maple hutch while waiting to move somewhere that had more than the postage stamp sized counter space the 800 sq. ft. Craftsman we were living in provided.

4 years ago this month, we moved into just that sort of space. The Kitchen Aid, however, has remained hidden under tan fabric on the top of the hutch where it’s served as a book end for my collection of vintage cookbooks.  A very expensive, guilt producing bookend.

That is, until yesterday.

Thinking back on it now, I am again filled with awe at how God works in my life.  Waking at 1:11 a.m., I made my way to the coffee maker and the table.  From years of experience I know when I’m not going to be able to get back to sleep, and I have no problem doing “whatever” comes to mind in those pre-dawn hours. My mother’s life has taught me many things.  One is, don’t push against the insomnia.  Don’t fight it and bitch about it.  Embrace it.  Make it work FOR you, not against you. There are reasons for getting up while other’s are sleeping, and many (if not most) of them are sacred.

They are Holy Hours.

You would think that after so many years of being the recipient of Just In Time answers to prayer, worry wouldn’t wake me in the middle of the night.  But it does, and it did, and so I knew a a Mind Dump was needed…. the writing out of my concerns into my journal that always brings relief (and often, answers).

I write a bit, sip coffee, stare at the tan lump on top of the hutch, at the vintage dishes stored inside it, at my cook books and cooking accoutrements.  I REALLY should bring The Lump down and uncover it.  I REALLY should use it or sell it. (a familiar refrain for months).

For whatever reason, yesterday was the day and at 2:30 a.m., after rearranging items on the counter top to create space, I climb onto a chair and surprise myself at being able to lift the damn thing from so high up because it’s weighty.  Brushing away cobwebs and snatching the cover off, my breath catches.

KAOh my God, it’s SO beautiful!  So shiny and perfect. How did I not do this before? Why did I wait so long?

Not only does it fit perfectly in it’s new home, the things on top of the hutch are arranged in a more pleasing way as well.  A domino effect of order and attractiveness ensued, and with it, a sense of relief mixed with import in the moment.

The word “Artisan” catches my eye….black lettering on stainless steel….tugging at my soul strings, trying to get my attention.

It’s symbolic, isn’t it,  this lovely, costly tool that’s been covered up, unused and forgotten?  It’s something about me.  My life.

My gift.

I sit back down to pray and write some more. 3 pages in, I find myself writing about writing.  Recalling a time when I was in an inspired and prolific flow, when words literally poured out of me, I relived the sense of satisfaction from being in my purpose felt as I heard from people who were touched after reading me.  They didn’t feel so alone, somehow.  They felt understood.  WE felt understood, my audience and I together.

And then I remembered when that wellspring of creativity stopped, why it stopped, and who stopped it.

Ugh.

In the decade since, I’ve never again been in that sort of inspired flow.   Did I decide I would be punished like before if I “went there”?  That I would be hurt? Scribbling furiously, I continued along this line of self questioning…

Did I subconsciously BLOCK the flow in order to protect myself from feeling pain and frustration?  Is there something in me that wants to be expressed?

IS THERE A BOOK INSIDE ME THAT WANTS TO BE WRITTEN? THAT PEOPLE WANT TO READ?  (all caps now)

…..Yes.

(ok, that wasn’t me….I keep writing….)

What’s it about?

.….Not giving up….

(huh.  yeah, well, I guess I do know something about that)

Is it fiction or non fiction?

….Nonfiction….

(whew.  I’m not so great at making things up.)

Who is my audience?

….Women Who Want More….

More what?

…. Hope, inspiration, understanding, fulfillment, guidance….

….. GRACE

And that’s when I am given the title.

I am stunned.  I think God just showed up.  For reals.

As I ponder all this, and the direction it was going – how this idea connects to that passion that connects with something else creative I started last year – I found myself grabbing a pencil and sketching in my journal.   It’s the Kitchen Aid mixer.  The sketching itself feels like a meditation as I sip coffee, adjust lines, and think about, well, what just happened.

It’s about 4:30 when I get it where I want it and write the title underneath it.

And just like that, I see it.  Literally.  Ideas start filling my head.   Excitement and inspiration course through me.  I run to the back office and pull out my project from last Winter.  I am amazed at how the disjointed pieces of half finished work and a dream left for dead start fitting together – like a puzzle. It was all right here, the whole time, just waiting to be uncovered. The Plan.  HIS plan.

I know what to do.

“I am the Lord Your God who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”  –  Isaiah 48:17