Out at Night

I was at the Powell’s Authorfest last night, along with a host of other fantastic authors. There were a lot of people, and quite a few of them told me they liked Cormorant Run. Which was great to hear–it’s one of the books I like best, but it seems reviews have been mixed.

Not that I look at reviews often. You know how I feel about that.

Anyway, driving home in the dark, my brain in that strange liminal place of juggling time, speed, distance, and the current stories I’m working on, I felt my life loop over and catch on another peg. I’ve done a lot of driving or wandering at night with my head full of stories, trying to shake out pieces or fit them together. I got out of the habit when the kids were younger–you can’t leave your house empty except for sleeping children, not unless it’s an emergency. I realized how much I missed being out at night.

I suppose I could go out walking with my camera after dark again now, since the kids are well into their teens. Miss B, of course, would ache and pine to go along. At the same time…I love being out at night, it’s my preferred time, but I’ve just arrived at the point where I can sleep reliably. A small but significant proportion of my used-to-be-usual insomnia is the fact that I am a night owl; my internal rhythm is set to rise and resurrect about noon, get to work around 2pm, go until 11pm-midnight, wind down, and go to bed about 2am. Given my druthers, that’s how my entire life would be arranged.

But it’s a daywalker’s world, especially if you have children who are Day People. School means getting up when daywalkers do, consequently I’ve been doing it for years. Now the kids are largely capable of getting up on their own, but shifting the dogs’ schedule would entail a lot of moaning and groaning. And I am on call while the kids are out of the house–just because they’re not home doesn’t mean I’m allowed to sign off.

So, obeying the schedule my body wants would require shifting the dogs’ schedule, possibly being out of commission during a Grown(ish) Child’s emergency, and moving my meds schedule. That last is the least worrisome of the three. I can’t accept the thought of being out of commission while one of my spawn needs me, no matter if one of them is technically old enough to smoke and go to war. (Not that she’ll do either, she reminds me, thank you very much Mum.)

I guess I’ll impersonate a daywalker for a little while longer. Maybe until the Little Prince is out of school and settled on his trajectory. At least I can consciously decide to do so, instead of feeling trapped by circumstance.

Driving at night and feeling that internal catch, the sense of a life decision being reached or coming back to a particular angle on the spiral of one’s current incarnation, is precious. So is arriving home, pulling into the garage, and having Grown(ish) Children and dogs clustering at the door because they missed you and they’re glad you’re home. Hugs and the high-speed downloading of what happened at work or while I was gone, cold damp noses pressed against my knee and wiggling hind ends, grins and “I put the stuff for your dinner right next to the stove, Mum” all add up to another soft, beautiful realization.

Sometimes, I think, I long to go out at night just to come home, now that I have a safe warm nest to return to.

Beetles In Braids

Peekaboo.
November is upon us. I just looked up and realized as much.

I also realized that the novel I chose for NaNo has a process that is slightly uncongenial to the whole NaNo goal. *sigh* Of course, I’ve hit around 20k, so it’s time for retrenchment–going back and reading the first bit so I can see the shape of the rest lying under a blanket. Feeling around for the story’s contours is vaguely unsettling–you can’t tell what’s going to move under the sheet, or when a tentacle or cold fingers will suddenly clasp your wrist–but necessary.

So most of the wordcount today has been filling in the hills and valleys I can see from my vantage point in the story. There’s some moving bits I haven’t accounted for yet, and I want to make it more complex than this world perhaps needs to be. On the other hand, it’s the YA my agent wants, so she’ll get teenage-protagonists-dealing-with-adult-bullshit. At least it won’t be sent out on submission.

Small mercies.

Other things that happened today: I washed a dead beetle out of my hair and Miss B tried to kill me. Apparently running on windy days will fill my mane with all sorts of crap, even when it’s braided. I may have shrieked in a less-than-dignified fashion as soon as I realized what the holy hell that knot near the ends actually was. Fir needles I can live with, dead leaves or grass, rain, that’s all fine. But I draw the line at beetles, Mother Nature.

I suppose I should be grateful it wasn’t a bee. I’d feel awful is a bee died in my hair, instead of just hitching a ride for a short while.

I did take B on my run, and she didn’t really try to kill me then. I should have known her halfhearted attempts meant only that she was saving herself up for a larger challenge. While the kettle was heating up for my second cuppa of the day, I did a little stretching–got to take care of your body, the old corpse needs flexibility, stretching’s good for you, right? Except I may have made a noise that led B to think I was dying, and she launched herself at me in an attempt to save her beloved owner.

And knocked me over. Onto the tiled floor. And stepped on me several times while trying to ascertain just what was wrong with me. I may have used some unbecoming language during that whole episode.

At least I didn’t hit my head on the oven. There’s that. And life is never boring with a hyper-charged herding canine around.

So now, sore, full of adrenaline, and with a fresh tankard of tea, I am all set for the afternoon’s games.

Wish me luck.

Looking for Love

Me: I can’t believe I’m doing this.
Louis: YOU’RE A REAL PAL. OKAY, SO IS THIS A GOOD POSE?
Me: I guess?
Louis: YOU’RE NOT HELPING.
Me: Look, the last time I saw you, you were shooting at everyone.
Louis: I SAID I WAS SORRY.

Louis: SO OKAY, IT SHOULD GO, SINGLE MALE LOOKING FOR FRIENDS.
Me: Friends?
Louis: YEAH, WELL, IT’S GOTTA START THERE, RIGHT? LIKES: LONG WALKS, NATURE, COLD BEER. SHOULD I PUT DISLIKES?
Me: I’m not sure there’s space.
Louis: GOOD POINT. ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE. DID YOU GET MY GOOD SIDE? DO I LOOK RELAXED?
Me: …you look fine.

Louis: OKAY, SO HOBBIES. LET’S SEE.
Me: Well, what do you like to do?
Louis: KILL ZOMBIES.
Me: …other than that.
Louis: DRINK BEER.
Me: How about reading? Do you like to read?
Louis: WEAPONS MANUALS.
Me: *trying to keep a straight face* Cooking? Do you like to cook?
Louis: I CAN ROAST A SQUIRREL.
Me:

Yeah, poor Louis is looking for love. I’m not sure online dating is for him, but he’s insistent, and since he’s going to be living in the backyard with the rest of the crew, I might as well try to be helpful.

Three Words Count

Some things need to be written by hand. Rattlesnake Wind was that way, and parts of Khir’s Honour are proving so as well. Then there’s nighttime, when I crawl into bed with a grateful sigh, rescue my zibaldone from the bedside table, and fish out a pen.

Sometimes I have plenty to record. Things I’ve thought about during the day, sometimes the weather, often I log reading and wordcount. Looking back over those entries, I see just how many days are obstacle courses. Just getting through can take all one’s finesse, skill, energy, courage, and restraint.

Conversely, I’m surprised by how often I note what’s turned out to be a pretty good day. Each time I haven’t been completely drained to transparency by the business of getting through daylight hours, it’s a gift. Maybe it’s bad that my bar for “good day” is so low, but I’ll take it.

Other things go into the zibaldone–dreams that don’t make it into the separate dream journal, memories, complaints, passages from books read during the day, words I want to look up, quotations I’m not sure of the provenance of, lists of things to remember, reminders to pick up this or that, political musings.

And yet, there come those days when I uncap the pen, stare at the page and the date, and finally write: Tired. No entry. I log the usual three-card tarot spread, think about it for a while, and close the journal. I rescue the bedside book from the pile I keep meaning to stack neatly, sigh, and read because I can’t sleep without doing so. Eventually the meds kick in, the light turns off, and I’m ready for night’s restorative journey.

Yes, handwriting is good. Wordcount is good. But even those three words–tired, no entry–count. They keep me in the habit of distilling each day into the journals, old ones ranged neatly on a shelf in my office because I no longer have to hide them.

Certain days might be a slog to get through. But even those three small words count, and keep me on the right track. Don’t ever discount small, incremental actions. They can keep you alive through the secret hollows of the night, when otherwise your grip might slip.

photo by:

Different Speeds

A dream of trying to get to a petrol station with a janky old minibus told me it was definitely time to get up this morning. I’m not allowed to run today–stressing my flu-ridden body with easy 5km jogs for the past couple days was just enough to scratch the itching under my skin, but not enough to tip me back into mucus, coughing, and wishing I could just crawl under a rock. The dogs turned their noses up at breakfast, since it didn’t have bacon grease smeared on the bottom of the bowl.

They are spoiled little things. When they get hungry enough, they’ll eat.

Stories often follow the same principle. The surrealist book I’m attempting is a painful word-by-word slog, each one chipped out and deleted three or four times as its sentence is tweaked, honed, and settled like a jigsaw piece. On the other hand, I fall into Broken Profile for an hour or so, enjoying myself by just transcribing the movie in my head. And the nascent YA is somewhere between the two, a steady process of building. Each book is different, but when one reaches the point where they refuse, setting out the bowl of kibble and waiting is often the best (or only feasible) strategy.

You can’t bat if you’re not waiting at the plate. (There, that’s my one sports metaphor, now I can go for months without making another.)

In the meantime, I knit a few rows, tap a little on Abyssrium, think about the story, test words inside my head like testing a handhold while climbing. Fingertips first, the rest of my body clinging to the rock, then a decision–a slow transferring of weight, or a sudden lunge?

It’s the former more often than you’d think, though I prefer the latter.

Anyway, I’ve gotten my amnesiac narrator onto the city streets, and next comes the meeting with the bargain-basement psychopomp. Maybe I should write the bathtub scene, though–that’s what’s filling my head right now with a ripple of water and clumps of black-tar desperation.

It’s a sunny morning. Maybe, instead of fighting with this, I’ll walk Miss B around the block. By the time I get to the end of the street, the problem will be solved.

Over and out.

Verticals

Walking with Miss B, I am always looking for the missed, the passed-over. Trash, forgotten spaces, detritus. I have a fondness for discarded things. I also have a fondness for things we take for granted. Like the sound-catching grooves on walls near freeways.

Look underfoot. Look in the forgotten spaces. Look at the ruined, the bent, the passed-by. Stories hide there, too.

A Gentle Day

Lock, Rain Drop, After Rain, Drops
© | Dreamstime Stock Photos
I woke up with a scratchy throat, fever-sweat, a persistent cough, and the frustrating knowledge that going for a run would just tip my body over into full-blown Yes, Congrats, You Have A Cold.

I’m on Day 4 of an expressive writing cycle. In a nutshell:

  • Day 1: Write for twenty minutes about a traumatic incident.
  • Day 2: Write for another twenty minutes about it, since you’ve had time to process.
  • Day 3: Write about it from another viewpoint–not your attacker’s or abuser’s, natch, they don’t deserve it. But perhaps in third person, or as your younger self, or as an older self.
  • Day 4: Write the story you want to take forward about the incident.

Of course, that’s the idea I gained of the process listening (while knitting) an episode of the Like Mind, Like Body podcast. I am no doubt be missing some refinements, nuances, and/or key points. However, it being something about writing, I dove right in.

That may have been a mistake, since the #MeToo thing hit as well. Reminders are everywhere lately. I know it’s because harassment and abuse is endemic, and I do not choose to speak openly about many of my own experiences for a variety of reasons. This leaves me feeling somewhat voiceless–a strange and vanishing experience for a writer.

This evening I get to write the story I want to take forward. So far, though, my overwhelming feeling has been gladness that I went to therapy. The EMDR in a safe therapeutic environment, in particular, had a marked effect. I’m sure I would have had nightmares the past few nights if not for the (blessed) desensitization I gained from that.

So, body and mind have been under somewhat of a strain, between finishing the zero of Season 3, a couple professional setbacks, revisions on a stressful project, the murderous dumpster fire of the current administration, reminders of past trauma, and the pressure of not being able to share details of that trauma with certain people I could normally expect support from. Add the weather change and my running mileage increasing, and the auld corpus that carries me about (largely uncomplaining, it must be said) needs some care and cosseting. Hydration, rest, and some soothing things are all called for.

Be gentle with yourselves today, my friends. Especially if you, like me, are unable to speak openly about some things. It does not make your experience any less valid. If it helps, I am with you.

Over and out.