The Earth Without the Moon

I am a writer.

I am also a mother.

Sometimes these two soulful, vast and difficult trades I have chosen for myself seem to be symbiotic; one job perfectly complements the other, lending strength and metaphorical beauty to each experience.

Other times, not so much.

The constant struggle for time, the slow, painful growing of patience, monotony’s strain on creativity, the constant fight to finish tasks and reach goals (i.e. finding self realization) seems to pit one purpose against the other almost indefinitely, and I am left wondering why on Earth any human would ever choose to be both.

And then one night, having driven myself crazy, and (literally….. I drove myself literally) far away from both of these trades, I figured out why.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.

No, never mind, I don’t have time to go back to the beginning, I’m a mother. Let me summarize.

As a mother, there are certain days when it seems everything points to the fact that you just aren’t enough. You’re falling short. Not stacking up. You can’t be what anyone needs. Between your children’s constantly growing, changing list of needs and your own exhausted, (though well-intended) inability to possibly meet them all, sometimes a mother asks herself, inevitably:

“What is the point?”

This phenomenon is not unlike being a writer in many ways, but I’m going to leave it to you to draw your own parallels there. Let’s just say for all intents and purposes, I was having one of those days, in both regards. Whenever I have a day like that, whether it’s parenting-related, crazy-writer self-talk or both, I tend to naturally want to give myself some distance from the situation; an instinctive need for Perspective.

So I got in my car and I just drove. I passed the outlying farms and suburban communities, I passed the adjacent towns. I kept driving. I passed the further towns and suburbs and cities. I nearly took an exit, but I still didn’t really have answers or peace of mind, so I kept driving. Eventually I ended up nearly 50 miles from home, in the city. I took an exit and simply followed the path of least resistance, which led me up to a mountainside community of quaint, historic homes. It seemed to me like I had driven a thousand miles; the quiet neighborhoods a different realm.

I was beckoned to exist inside of it. I wanted to live there, if only for a couple hours. I pulled into a church parking lot and took out walking.

The annoying voice in my head was confused.

Why? You should be home tucking your kids into bed or folding laundry. You should be cranking out that new scene, or finishing up that review, or submitting that article. What do you think you’re doing, walking around in the city at night, so far away from your chosen responsibilities? 

I kept walking. The luminescent yellow glow of kitchen lights and living room lamps cast a lovely peach-colored light out onto the sidewalk, and a bone-colored Gibbous moon hung like a rounded spotlight in the early evening sky.

The moon.

I sat down on a patch of grass in a common area to consider it.

A hummingbird buzzed across my peripheral, pausing in mid-air to consider me.

hummingbirdA few weeks ago my daughters and I, faced with the long weeks of summer vacation ahead, decided to pick four subjects to learn about, every other week over the course of June and July. It gave us something to do together, some things to gather and plan, and a few activities and outings to look forward to. For our first subject, we chose to learn about the moon. In the days leading up to my strange excursion, we had learned together about the moon’s surface, how it was (theoretically) formed, its phases, and how it affects the ocean tides.

As I sat there gazing at it through a clearing in the tall trees lining the street, somewhere in the confines of my writerly, motherly heart, a strange connection was made.

I was the moon.

Mothers, everywhere are the moon.

We are quiet, radiating forces orbiting around these strange and precious spheres of life, we are transformations of other forces from long ago, held there by a strange gravitational pull. (Did you know scientists recently discovered both ice and evidence of volcanic activity on the moon? Yes, we did in fact exist as other forces before we were mothers.)

We have our influences over these strange slightly off-spinning entities. We illuminate their darkest nights. We bring forth life onto their shores and then quietly recede. We are a powerful, glowing force for our strange, beautiful, violent and perfect little globes.

The moon brings to Earth a quiet, powerful presence that the sun simply cannot.

And yet, we are limited in our affects on that which we orbit. Other things come into their atmospheres over which we have no control. For certain events, we can only hang stationary in their peripheral and offer our light when the darkness comes.

We are often frustrated because we can simply not meet all of our children’s needs.

But you see, sometimes, we simply aren’t meant to.

Thanks once again to my weirdly innate metaphorical thinking, I began to feel slightly better about my mothering ability. And then I thought about my other job. Why was I given (cursed with?) the strange, gravitational pull to write?

Earlier that week, before my feeling inadequate, before my literal drive for perspective, I knew there was something I wanted us to learn: What would the Earth be like without the moon?

Here’s what I found:

The moon helps keep the Earth balanced in a stable rotation. Without it, our axis would vary tremendously, sometimes wobbling in instability.

The ocean tides would rise and fall less than half of what they currently do. Much of tidepool life would likely cease to exist.

Days would be shorter.

Nights would be longer.

The sky would be darker.

Technically, one could exist without the other. But at what cost?

I could stay in this strange neighborhood and begin living out another life entirely. My children would survive, evolve even, without me in their orbit. But who would hold them steady in their axis? Who would bring strange and beauty onto their shores? Who would cast a soft light into their darkest nights?

I could also abandon writing for motherhood.

But then, what strange symbiotic presence would lead me back home on my darkest nights?

What other outside force would make me stop to consider my purpose, To ask of me what I can bring into my children’s world, simply by being what I am?

What gravitational pull would keep their orbit (and mine) in balance?

 

Earth and MoonThe Earth without the Moon. A strange and fascinating premise.

But I think I’ll keep them both.

 

Till next time,

-C

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Eureka! My Story is an Infant…

I claim to be a writer of all things.

Sometimes, that feels like a lie.

It’s not as if I don’t have good reason to make this claim. In the past 15 years or so, I literally have written just about everything. From employee training manuals to web content, news articles to speeches. I covered events I had never been to and wrote multi-page news stories about them. I’ve cranked out literally hundreds of pages of web content about things so foreign to me I had to learn a new language to write it.

I don’t claim to be the best, I don’t even claim to be good. I just do what I am stirred to do. Writing is my bread and water. I breathe it in, it sustains me. I’ve done so much writing in so many different ways that none of it really intimidates me anymore. Except for one thing.

Which is why saying I’m a writer of all things sometimes feels like a farce.

I’ve been working on writing a fictional novel off and on for almost nine years. I’ve talked myself in and out of it a thousand times. I’ve (driven my writer’s group crazy) completely given up on it, and then the story comes lurking into my peripheral vision again, and I’m summoned to pull my butt out of bed at 3am to hammer out a new scene. The writer’s version of self-masochism.

Writing a novel is my biggest dream. It also scares the hell out of me.

Why? Because all that other writing, web content and news articles and speeches and such, that’s all small potatoes. If you ask me, fiction is the real McCoy. You’ve got to be a damn good writer to make a fictional story REAL.

This notion terrifies me.

You see, I have these wonderfully enchanting, beguiling stories in my head. (Trust me when I say that having an overzealous muse is both a blessing and a curse.) My characters are…beautiful. They are lovable and jaded and scarred and passionate and mysterious and utterly human. They have rich and complicated histories that bring them to perfectly fit into their place in the story. My book is full of intoxicating circumstances and exciting plot twists and turns that I know, if written well, will keep readers turning pages into the latest hours of the night.

Those are the things that I know, will sell my book. Those are also the things that keep me from writing it.

How will I do them justice?

How will I give my story the writing it deserves?

And so I start and stop and edit and rewrite and quit. I swear novel-writing off for good, go to work on other projects and am slowly drawn back into it. (Damn it.)

I go through it all again. And Again. And Again.It’s like that on-again, off-again boyfriend that you were both drawn to and repulsed by at the same time. (I now fully understand why all the literary greats were drinkers.)

Which brings me back to my book. Which I’m writing. For the hundred and seventy second time. Again.

This go-round has gone unexpectedly well. Last week I finished outlining the plot and chapter sequence and for a flash of a second, I felt like I might actually be able to kick this feeling of inadequacy and get this story written, once and for all.

Eureka!  I drove home from the coffee shop screaming out my car window: “I’m wriiiiiiting a noooveeeeell!” Several strange glances ensued. But I didn’t care. For the first time in maybe, EVER I actually felt like the real McCoy.

And then life happened. Work. Laundry. Kids. School. Tantrums. Grocery shopping. Sicknesses. Cleaning. Family dinners. I didn’t have an opportunity to write again for nearly a week.

And by then, of course I had over-thought the chapter sequence ten thousand times, to the point of convincing myself that all the holes in the story were going to be its downfall.

Aaaaaaaaaaghhhhh! Someone please make it stop!

But….

One night after the house was silent and all the family was long asleep, my muse awoke and beckoned me. I crept over to my desk and flipped open my laptop.

Go on, open it up love. Give it a read.

Read what?

Don’t be bloody ridiculous. You know what.

Since when are you British?

I have your attention, do I not?

Yes.

Ahhh, then no need for further discussion. So let’s have a look then shall we?

Go on love, read on.

I double-clicked the draft of my story on my desktop, and blindly started reading. The first chapter, along with some other passages, sections I had edited and rewritten half a dozen times, struck me as well-crafted. Others were not so hot, obviously slammed out in a twenty five minute increment between a laundry-folding marathon and pick up time at preschool. Some of the dialogue read like choking on cream cheese. And of course a whole hell of a lot of it what I had in my draft, I wanted to cut and paste into the recycle bin.

Keep going.

Why? Self torture?

Just do it.

So I read on. I read through the entire draft. Sure enough, I found more cheese and more garbage. But every so often, I’d uncover gem, glittering in the midst of telling-not-showing, cheesy dialogue and mindless narrative. In a few, fleeting passages I found pieces of the real, whole, perfect story. Characters, waiting for the story to morph and unfold them out of the confines of their pages, to come alive in the hearts and minds of readers. Waiting to be made real.

*Sigh*

I closed the document and sat quietly, my face illuminated by the glow of my laptop screen. I sunk my chin into the palm of my hand and stared into a picture of my two daughters, sitting on my desk.The voice appeared again, like a faint jingling of tiny bells  inside some quiet corner of my brain.

Your daughters. What lovely creatures they are.

They are a lot of time. And work. And patience. But they are lovely, aren’t they?

They are the very products of your life and your love.

Did you know how you were going to teach them things, when they were born?

No.

 When they were infants, did you ever fault them for not knowing how to smile?

Of course not. Watching a smile cross their faces for the first time was magic.

Did you ever give up teaching them how to talk? How to walk?

No. The little one had some trouble. I took her to physical therapy… after that she was off and running in no time.

Will you stop giving them any less love, knowing they still have so far to go?

Not a chance.

I have loved them, adored them at every stage. Watching them grow and evolve, supple spring leaves sprouting, unfolding, fading into a thousand brilliant shades, a new hue and texture and purpose for every season. That has been the greatest joy of my life.

This is what your writing needs, love. Love.

Yeah, but what about the—

You have to love your story for what it is, at any given time. All of it. At every stage.

It is no less loveable now, in its infancy, than your toddler was when she learned to walk. Your 8 year old learning to sing, or when she is a teenager and gives her heart away for the first time…

As you give your time and your love and effort to it, it will grow. It will get bigger and better and stronger and more beautiful with every stroke of the keys on your keyboard.

Slowly, it will become whole.

 And when it is ready, you will know. And then you will let go.

I took a breath. The voice fell silent and I sat for awhile in the dark, thinking about my story, about  what I had written from a new perspective. With the love and hope that every parent carries in her heart.

I realized that at nearly a decade old, my story was still in its infancy. Newborn and pliable and naive and lovable, drool and spit-up and wobbly legs and all. Cheesy and awkward, a little broken in parts, not understanding yet what it means to be whole.

My story is an infant. Wishing for me to love it, waiting for me to help it grow.

*Eureka.*

Back to the keyboard, then, love.

Till next time,

~CindyImage

Fruit Flies…and An Announcement

Yep. You read that right. This post is about fruit flies.

It does, after all, follow Lori’s tomato sandwich story. And what comes after fresh produce inevitably? Fruit flies.

Our group resides in Northern Utah and this time of year is known as harvest season. So many wonderful fruits and veggies for the taking! In early autumn I become kind of a fruit-stand spaz and try to hit every one of the local farmers stands within 20 miles of my house. I’m a serial produce buyer.

Needless to say over the past six weeks I’ve been collecting (and consuming) fresh peaches, apples, pears, onions and garlic from a variety of different micro climates in my area. Not to mention harvesting the tomatoes, peppers and raspberries from my own garden.

And with all the lovely, delectable foods come the fruit flies. Hundreds of them. Some are the usual, tiny gray variety, others are fat and darker in color. We found a sort of striped-looking brown one in the pantry the other day and I wondered if I had inadvertently discovered a new species.

The fruit flies at my house are ethnically diverse and rich in background and history, because they have hitchhiked on the journeys of produce from a hundred different farms. They have found refuge in the warmth and plentiful fruit of my kitchen.

I’m like Nelson Mandela for gnats.

For awhile I tried to be cool about it, shrugged and said that bugs are part of life. Had the live and let live philosophy, don’t sweat the small stuff, exist in my natural environment sort of mindset. Because I’m cool and green and open like that.

Except that I’m not.

Right around the time I found a fruit fly hovering around my toothbrush, just after flicking one off the rim of my coffee cup, the cool and green and open Cindy went far, far away. The anxiety-ridden, control-freakish germaphob manifested in her place and I went:

“Eeeeeeeew! THERE ARE A THOUSAND BUGS LIVING AROUND ME.“

That night my husband agreed that the ethnically diverse fruit flies had become like the 28 year old chain-smoking gaming-fanatic that won’t leave his parents’ basement.

It was time for them to go. He went to the almighty Google for answers.

“Trick them with yogurt or apple cider vinegar in a cup,” it said. “Create a funnel with paper around the cup. They can crawl through the hole but they can’t find their way out. Collect the fruit flies and simply throw the cup away.”

He went to work on finding the ingredients and designing the funnel. He, being the mechanically minded perfectionist that he is spent so long designing and re-designing the funnel that I (watching Parenthood, drinking an apple ale and trying to forget that vagrant bugs were in every room) became annoyed and said,

“Seriously, they are fruit flies! How complicated does it need to be?”

Proving me both stupid and wrong.

BoromirWe set out the cups of yogurt and apple cider vinegar. The fruit flies did not climb into the funnel, the colonies did not disappear. Some flies did not even leave the refuge of tomatoes and peaches, ripening on the kitchen counter. They “simply” gathered around the rim, as to enjoy the wonderful new smell. They seemed more relaxed than ever before.

You don’t think fruit flies can get more relaxed? Well, I’m here to tell you they can.

So now not only is my home a safe haven from frost for refugee fruit flies from many lands, I’m providing them with aromatherapy. Hell, next I’ll probably open a fruit-fly gluten-free bakery and yoga studio.

Probably the colonies at the local fruit stands have created mythical stories about a ginormic bug saint who arrives with reusable, eco-friendly shopping bags and exalts the faithful to a land of warmth and manna.

I got to thinking about their hanging out around the veritable hot tub of aromas. The fruit flies didn’t know we were trying to trap them, and frankly I don’t think they cared. The cup smelled nice and rotten and yeasty and so they went there. They didn’t go: “Wait! What if this is the wrong choice? What if following these horrible, wonderful and enchanting smells will eventually lead to our demise?”

They just DID it. And for the fruit flies that landed at my house, it worked out pretty well.

Even if I had kept my mouth shut and my husband had designed the Ultimate Fruit Fly Snare of Death and they had ended up at death’s door, I’m pretty sure they would have been okay with that too, because even death is an inevitable part of the fruit fly version of Who Are We Supposed to Be and What We Are Supposed to Do.

At this point you might be asking yourself what fruit flies has to do with writing. (Or maybe you don’t care, either of which is okay. We accept all kinds here at WTF.) The answer is nothing, (other than the fact that I’ve swatted like seven of them away while writing this post.)

The answer is also everything.

After a year of getting in my own way and a summer spent deliberating what the point was to my life, I decided I was just going to stop taking everything so seriously, just be who I am and start writing the novel I’ve always wanted to write.

And yeah, it might not turn out in my favor. I may drive myself insane trying to figure out the three different timelines I’ve created. I may waste an enormous amount of time and then decide to move on to bigger and better things.I may die in utter euphoria, in a pool of warm yogurt.

But you know what? Maybe it will turn out in my favor.

And for that reason alone I have to try. To put all other unnecessary things aside and do the thing I was born to do. To write the #*$(&! book!

I’m at a point in my life I truly have no choice other than move forward purely on instinct. Kind of like the fruit flies. (There goes one now.)

*sigh*

Alright, fruit flies. I owe you for one epiphany. You can hang around until I find a better place to ripen my peaches. But if I see you giving one another massages, so help me I’m calling the exterminator.

Till next time,

~Cindy

Superstitious, crazy, or just plain magical?

The OfficeCr

Happy F-13 Firefans,

Last night I noticed a fellow writer’s Facebook Post:

“I’m on 13,000 words and I have to go to bed soon. What do I do? What do I DO?!”

And then in the comments he explained:

“You don’t seem to understand the severity of this situation. I am on 13,000 words, in less than 3 hours it will officially be Friday the 13th, and I have to be in bed soon if I wanna be up in time for work. I. Am. Going. To. DIE.”

Part of me wanted to reassure him that superstition has only as much power as a person allows it to have. The other part wanted to say:  “What are you insane? You KNOW you have to keep writing, right? And stop talking about it here, you’re going to jinx yourself!”

Superstitions. Jinxes. Talismans. Lucky charms.  Odd traditions and rituals we think can ward off bad luck. Society’s creative-minded are synonymous with believing in some kind of other-worldly magic that can influence the course of our daily lives. Why is that? What is it about creating art that makes us…well frankly, paranoid?

For me it isn’t the notions widely believed in by society. Nope. Too cliché.  I tend to shy away from any idea that the general population accepts as truth. Things like black cats being cursed, four-leaf clovers bringing luck to the finder, that the Twilight series is actually good. You know, that kind of thing.

Nah, I tend to put serendipitous stock in my own self-established little rituals and idiosyncrasies. Let me illustrate.

For many years, I thought that if I didn’t wear matching bra and underwear, I’d encounter all kinds of mishaps during the day. (I think it’s important to note that I had to give this notion up after having kids, and start wearing whatever the hell was clean and within my sleep-deprived grasp.) But since I was a teenager, and to this day I will still wear specific pieces of jewelry when I’m going to be with certain people. I have a random assortment of items I keep in my desk drawer—(A smoothed river stone. A seashell.  A picture of my Grandpa. An antique key. A green candle.)  I keep them near my working space because there is a small part of me that believes they hold some kind of magic that gives me the power to think, and write creatively.

I once discussed some of my weird little superstitions with a therapist. Yep, I said the “T” word. Truly, if you know me, you can’t be all that surprised. (But ahhhh, therapy. I highly recommend it, especially if you are a writer of any kind. For all the useless BS you come out with, you’ll double that in writing material.)

Anyway, she smiled and told me that this, assigning meaning to random objects and rituals is very common. She said it was something called “Magical Thinking.”

I sat there and thought about it for a few seconds, and then said: “Yeah, I always knew I was magical.”

The fear in her eyes, combined with an overall look of resigned defeat was a moment I won’t forget. It was superb. True story. But that’s beside the point.

The point is, writers, artists, actors, musicians…most of us are just a tad superstitious, whether we choose to acknowledge it as that or not. Some pretty famous creative minds have had what my therapist so condescendingly dubbed “Magical Thinking.” Truman Capote felt his writing wasn’t true to form unless he was lying down puffing a cigarette and drinking a sherry. When T.S. Eliot was writing, he insisted visitors address him as “The Captain” and smeared his face with green tinted powder.

I could go on and on with evidence of crazy writers and artists in history.  But the point is not WHY most of us believe in all kinds of weird rituals and superstitions. The point is that they seem to work.

For whatever reasons, believing in these things allows us to capture and transform our creative thoughts into things that others can enjoy. And whether it’s because there are truly supernatural forces at work, or whether it’s simply us manifesting our own success with the power of believing, doesn’t really matter. It just is.

So I was thinking about all of this, earlier today while I did some housecleaning. I was on my way upstairs with a handful of hangers and tripped, fell up the steps, poked myself in the eye with one of the hangers, and landed with my chin dangerously close to my preschooler’s pee-soaked pull-up. (Yes. I have a preschooler that wears pull-ups at night. Don’t judge, believe me, it’s the least of my worries.) While lying there pondering my fate, my mind reeled off into that very artist-like weirdness.

This happened. It’s because it’s Friday the 13th. And tonight I’m going to a poetry awards banquet, during which it is a slight possibility that I will win an award and get called onstage and….Wait, or worse! There is a slight possibility that I won’t win anything and get called onstage at all, because it’s Friday the Freakin 13th!. What a horrible, horrible day to be attending the first writing contest awards ceremony I’ve ever taken part in! Aaaaah!

Then I pulled my chin out of the pee, tossed the hanger aside and thought. Nah. I don’t believe in Friday the 13th, anyway. I make my own fate, and I’m going to enjoy having entered my first writing contest whether or not I win.

And then I went and changed into green underwear.

“I Apologize” and “You Have Some Wonderful Stuff Coming”

 

failure

Well, this isn’t uncommon for me. I start out with a goal and I fall flat on my face. Our first week of guest posts and I only posted two. (My fault, not the group or our guest writers.) But, as I say this type of failure is not uncommon for me and I know how to pick myself up, dust myself off and just keep going. I apologize for the hiccup.

That being said, we will have some amazing writing for you in the coming weeks.

The whole of next week is a story by Josh McCracken. In his words, “it is a bitter sweet tale of first love.”  You’re going to enjoy it! I was tempted to post it this weekend, but refrained. It’s like when you want to give your kids their Christmas presents early. I’m so excited to share this with you!

The following week will have some very special, personal posts. They are pieces which come from the heart. Although some of them are written by people who do not describe themselves as writers, the pieces themselves are full of love, warmth and tenderness…the fire part of Writing the Fire.

And so, with our first week done we are moving forward.

I’d like to personally thank those who have submitted their poems, stories, articles and ideas. The pieces which have been submitted are beautiful, imaginative, funny, heartwarming and provocative. This has been a humbling experience. Thank you to our writers and thank you to our readers!

We are still looking for other writers to join our month of guest posts. If you would like to join us, or you know of someone who does, please email lori.king322@gmail.com. We’d be happy to have you.

Lori