The Struggle to Concentrate on Sabbatical/Life

When I began this blog earlier this month, it was my intention to write something everyday. That has not happened. So when my friend, Mike Tait, arrived from England last night, he quite rightly demanded an explanation as to my wishy-washy habit of postings that seemed to follow no rhyme or reason.

So he’s got me back on track. And I’m glad.

But here is the fascinating litany of why I find it so hard to concentrate some days…

If only I have my coffee first…

If only I chase coffee with a cup of tea…

If only I answer necessary emails…

If only I just check Facebook one last time to possibly like or share a Dr. Seuss quote or the migration of birds or a friend’s new film…

If only I make the cat, Daisy, stay outside on the back porch as in her dotage she dislikes the litter box…

If only I try recall what I dreamed last night…

If only I light a candle…

If only I take a walk first…

If only I read Dear Abby or Dear Prudence…

If only I pay a bill…

If only I make an appointment…

If only I look up films about undocumented workers or Vulcan facts…

If only I look up facts about the Brontes…

If only I obsess too much about the latest rejection which basically said “unsurprising, too familiar, and the characters lacking much depth or definition” and try not wear those words like a gray shroud…

If only I wonder how my grown children are sleeping at night and if they’re warm enough…

If only I set the “self-control” button for four hours so I can’t go online…

If only I read/edit a student’s manuscript…

If only I put on the sound machine…

If only I find the right patch of sunshine for the wiener dog, Olive…

If only I place the right talisman to have near me as I write – old photograph, fresh flowers, brother-in-law’s tiny sealed Turkish vase of ashes…

If only I play Eric Whitacre or Philip Glass or Tibetan Monks on Pandora…

If only I seek out the right pictures for this blog…

* * *

These are ways I distract myself from the work at hand, and I don’t do it everyday – some days I can leap right into my novel, but other days – because of the years of rejection piled up one on top of the other, there is that horrible, jiggling voice that says –

“Why? Why bother?”

But today I will write for me and for these pictures and tell you a story about each one. And the good news is I have 80 solid pages of “Are You There Vulcan?” It’s actually working and has a real plot and a fantasy element too. Shocking. 🙂

At this rate I will have a draft of the book by the end of February – there I have said it. Then I will return to “Hop the Pond.”

* * *

 

First these…I went outside at dusk yesterday after a good day of writing, and I captured these pictures on Cerro Gordo Street in Echo Park. The chimes used to be at our home on Elevado Street hanging in the apple tree, and I used to look at them late at night/dawn waiting for a teenaged son to come home, and the chimes would whisper, “He’s not home yet, he’s not home yet, he’s not home yet” to torture me. But now these days they are just chimes without whispers and for that I’m grateful.

* * *

grandparents

These are my grandparents, Elizabeth and Jerry Baker, from Leavenworth, Kansas, but I’m imagining them in fiction now…and here is my grandmother’s character musing about faith and religion, thinking about her granddaughter living in England so far away from East Tennessee.

Sometimes when Maime looked at the sky or at the trees she forgot about being old. She hoped Shelly Grace wouldn’t lose her faith over there whooping it up with the Anglicans. It was hard enough maintaining a Catholic faith here in Tennessee with the Baptists smiling in your face. Butter wouldn’t melt in the mouth of a Baptist. What was it their next-door neighbor Tarzan George had said to her once? “Y’all are Catholics? That’s a right funny religion, ain’t it?” That kind of remark didn’t dignify a response. The Brontes weren’t Catholic. They were Anglicans, too, but they could hardly help it with a father for a parson. Catholics did not live in parsonages.

* * *

HA!

This is a page from one of my favorite Lorrie Moore short stories, “Real Estate.” I wish I could do what she does.

* * *

cat

Sometimes I think about the person who lives in this house who thought up the trouble of stringing Christmas lights in the design of a cat. Who is this person? How did this thought come to him or to her? Did they have help? Did they insist on doing it alone? Is the cat a yearly tradition or is it a new design every year?

* * *

Olive joshua tree - alert

A proud beast in Joshua Tree. This dog. Olive, gives me so much pleasure. It’s silly how a special needs wiener dog (her back legs are challenged and draggy) can give me so much joy. She is beside me whether I write or not. No judgment.

* * *

boo and bentley

And this is Bentley on his last walk before he died of cancer in 2009. He was part hound dog/part basset – we called him a “basset on steroids” because he could reach the countertop and eat chickens and cakes in a gulp. Once I chased him through the house with a baked chicken clenched IN HIS JAWS. He was not the least remorseful. He always howled when Flannery played the piano – a kind Baaaaroooooooooooo. His last night before he died he grew so agitated that nothing could calm him, but then Flannery burst in the door and held him – In a black leather jacket, Flannery, 20 then, reeked of cold and cigarettes, but he sat down and played the piano – Bowie, Stones, Red River Valley even…and Bentley immediately settled, listening to the piano serenade as he slowly slipped away on the couch in our arms.

* * *

Liz and JerryAnd here is one last picture of my grandparents, Elizabeth and Jerry. Aren’t they about the sweetest couple? They were married 63 years. They married April 27, 1927. He played the silent movies before the talkies put him out of business. On her wedding day, as described in the local Eudora, Kansas paper, the bride, Elizabeth Whelan, wore “a gown of gray georgette crepe, with hat to match. Her slippers were of patent leather with silver buckles. She wore a corsage of Russell roses and sweet peas.”

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