From the mouths of teachers and bibliophiles alike…
Any of you who like to read will know that feeling of nearly complete absorption in a story. A good book will transport you from your environment, to another place in your head of which the book and words are merely vehicles. You will also know that you are not fully gone, not gone in body but also not in mind as you are semi-aware of what is happening around you. Now you also understand the world of the writer who is very focused on the task of writing, creating a world within their heads to be communicated on paper or screen. Even when they’re not writing though, it’s still going on, the imagination working, characters practicing dialogue, changing images of place and circumstance. I feel like I’m hardly living these days, or rather the living is going on somewhere else. People say things to me and I have no memory, the dishes pile up and reach Alp height before I see. I’ve come out long enough to say hello and tell you that I’m almost at the end of Chapter 8 with the book, by the end of the day, about a third of the way there.
BEYOND THE SECRET DOOR
If you could look into the life of a writer at work, beyond the door to their studio or office and into their heads, what do think you would see? I don’t really know but I wonder. If you could look into my mind today, you’d see some very happy, fast racing thoughts; thoughts of success and pride, imagination running away with itself, of opportunity and hope of making connections. Today after a poor week I sat down and wrote, and wrote and wrote. My fingers on the keyboard had wings, the words flowed out to the noisy clack of my old keyboard and I smiled within. Allow me to share some numbers I’m fond of just now, number 3, for three chapters completed, and 10,300 for words written. That sounds like a lot but it’s only just over 1/8 of the total. Numbers don’t really matter but they’re my breadcrumbs on the trail, leading me home. Where is home? Home is when I can stop, the story well told and earn a little rest.
Today in a bid for freedom from responsibility and circumstance, I detoured to the charity store. I really love the charity store; not because proceeds made go to worthy causes (that’s good of course), nor because things are relatively inexpensive (also good) but primarily because of the quirky, bizarre, wonderful variety of goods one can find there. You think I’m going to tell you about just such a purchase and I’m sorry to disappoint you. I did find two very good books that promise to be interesting reads - one is called, “Mockingbird, A Portrait of Harper Lee,” and the other is titled, “Sway, The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behaviour.” Of the second book, I was drawn to it for these words on the back, “A fascinating journey into the hidden psychological forces that cause us to act irrationally in our personal and professional lives.” Being one who has acted at times in a way others find irrational, I am gratified to discover there may be answers. Actually, I like being irrational now and again, it keeps others on their toes and certainly makes life interesting. As for the first book, I am intrigued by the life of the reclusive Harper Lee, famous for her novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” As with all first novels, it’s heavily biographical and her Father was said to be a considerable influence in her formation of the Atticus character. Lee’s Father was an editor, lawyer and also a senator and she studied law likewise, abandoning her studies just six months before qualifiying. Instead she went to New York to pursue a writing career, working with Truman Capote as a research assistant on his notorious book, “In Cold Blood.” A friend offered to support her with her writing and she created the first draft of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” to be her only book. She did get part way through another book, “The Long Goodbye,” but never finished it. Asked much later in life why she didn’t write any more, she gave the following response, “Two reasons: one, I wouldn’t go through the pressure and publicity I went through with “To Kill a Mockingbird” for any amount of money. Second, I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again.” Now I’ve said what I’ve wanted to say too.
(Additional information from Wikipedia and “Mockingbird,” by Charles J Shields)
Everyone says two is a fabulous number (one being the lonliest) and for me, tonight it’s true. Is my dear husband being particularly romantic? Have I just won two million dollars? Well no, if that happened I wouldn’t be here at all, I’d be on a plane on my way back to Blighty. By the way, and I know I digress, but did you know where the term Blighty came from? Blighty is a British slang term for Britain, you knew that but did you realise it came from the Hindustani word vilāyatī (विलायती) (pronounced bilati in India), from the Persian, “vilayet” and ultimately from Arabic, “wilayah, originally meaning something like province. Back to the story of two, why this two is better (almost) even than winning two million dollars, better even than my husband displaying uncharacteristic romance. I have finished chapter two of my book!!!!!!! Yes, this will get very boring by the end but humour me for now. I am so happy, I am walking around feeling like the Queen of all I survey, like nothing can stop me, like Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare rolled into one….like I better go and make dinner before I get too carried away. Two is a fabulous number.
I am jumping for joy inside. Within me is a ridiculously happy version of myself dancing around, no thought of dignity or compusure, just dancing around singing, “I did it, I did it!” What have I done? After too many years of talking, thinking, dreaming, prodding, being encouraged, discouraged, procrastinating, being crushed and at times imagining it would not be possible - I have started my book. I have not just started, I’ve written the first chapter, just completed today. I’m jumping for joy as I’ve done for me, the hardest part, getting started. For all you dreaming and avoiding out there - please just do it! It’s so worth it and you have only regret to lose, and you don’t need that.
Now I will reward myself with more writing, this time for the blog. Take a look at “A View From Outside the Box,” on Tuesday for a mystery piece. (That’s Stephanie speak for I really haven’t a clue but will conjure it from somewhere.)
Hello to my new followers, thank you for joining “A View From Outside the Box.” As some of you don’t have an ask or fanmail option enabled, I shall thank you here.
I hope you find something to appeciate on this blog. I will give you fair warning, there will be posts like this from time to time. You can expect social commentary when I’m feeling serious, soppy sentimentality though I try not to let this seep out, some humour - often when I don’t intend it, and the occasional bit of fiction when my imagination runneth over. I post a piece of writing each Tuesday, so clear your calendar and put the kettle on. Finally, this blog is an occasional shrine to the Isle of Skye and there will be intermittent offerings at the alter of this shining isle. Now I’m going to make a cup of tea!
"One small action changed some things for her. It did not pay all her bills, magically transport her to ease…She felt her luck had changed and became more hopeful. That hope compelled her to consider her circumstances and to find the courage to change her life….Arthur Conan Doyle wove into his most famous character, the ability to discern the importance of the minute. He said, ‘It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important."
© S. Marian, May 22, 2012
An excerpt taken from “It’s the Small Things,” to be found on “A View From Outside the Box,” url: a dialogue
(Song with lyrics, Blink 182, “All the Small Things.”)
Adam lay there waiting for her, naked. Fresh from the shower, the dark line of hair down his long body was still slightly damp. Boudica rubbed against his leg purring, suddenly intent, eyes fixed on the tent pole under the covers. It twitched a little and just as she was about to pounce she found herself lifted abruptly, now sitting outside the bedroom door. Back in bed he couldn’t imagine how it could take so long for Eve to extract herself.
Staccato machine gun fire from the bedroom at the top of the stairs was reassuring; she knew this would buy her an hour or more. The sound of the PlayStation was all the aphrodisiac she needed these days. With the little one away on a playdate, it only remained to check on one more. Her daughter was doing what she did best, multi tasking as she liked to call it. “Oh my God - he did not! Lol, he didn’t, did he? Whatever! What did she say, no, no, but how did she say it?” Listening to this, it was hard to believe that years of loving perseverance with reading, playing story tapes and phonics practice had resulted in this Neanderthalic exchange. Eve left her with her computer open, ipod peeping alerts and the phone at one with her ear.
She felt the clock of opportunity ticking. It seemed ironic that their sex preoccupied teenagers, with the sleep cycle of bats had driven them to regressive teenage furtiveness. A quick check of her hair, a little No.5 where she knew it would be appreciated and a tic tac and she was ready. Boudica looked miffed stalking the hall, and she made a mental note to check when she was last wormed. With these sexy thoughts Eve entered the bedroom.
Adam noted the look of abstraction and hoped this would not be a repeat of last week. He liked to think he was responsive, up for anything within reason, but discussing his Mother in law’s persistent thrush was not his idea of foreplay. She slipped out of her trousers, and lifted the jumper over her head. Eve had all this sexy gear, lacy bras and knickers but he preferred her as she was now, natural in her everyday Marks and Sparks. She unhooked the bra and let it fall, stretching and driving him crazy, as she knew it would. He could feel the heat in his face, the smell of her that was a flash fire through his nose, into his head and up his spine. He pulled her toward him and murmured, “You’re driving me -” and then something not very sexy at all - the sound of four feet, one in pursuit of the other, now standing outside the bedroom door.
“Mum, he’s using up all the bandwidth and I’m watching, “The Life of an American Teenager, make him get off.” Then the sound of a scuffle, a hollow thud and, “Mum, he hit me – why is this door locked, and Boudica wants to come in.”
She got up and jumped into her clothes as only a catwalk model or a Mother can, and threw open the door booming, “Right you two, pack it in now. If you don’t stop fighting you can both say goodbye to PlayStations, computers, ipods or anything else causing dissent in the ranks.” There was a subdued silence. To the multi tasker she addressed this comment, “you may engage in one internet utilising activity at a time.” Her son smirked but not for long, “and as for you, if you wish to express your feelings through violence, then you’ll be helping your sister clean her room this weekend.” The quiet of their retreat was satisfying but she knew it would not last. A daring plan formed as she walked back to Adam, he now somewhat…crestfallen.
“Adam, why don’t we take the van and drive somewhere quiet, let’s park…it’ll be like old times.” Their children were too preoccupied to comment on the sudden errand that needed doing. She had imagined it would be easy to find somewhere where they were not likely to encounter anyone. They lived on a mountain after all, with nothing but woods and quiet logging roads above them.
He had been excited by Eve’s suggestion as it tapped into one of his own fantasies. Driving fast, he brought them to a logging road, a logging road with a locked gate barring access to vehicles, including, illicit lovemaking people carriers. He groaned as he turned around and then remembered another one, surely it wouldn’t be locked too. Surely it was. Several more were tried and found to be inaccessible. “Bloody hell Eve, why do they have to lock these, what is it they think we’re going to do?”
Eve smiled, all amorous thoughts having disappeared down holes in her mind. “Adam, they probably think we’re going to do exactly this.” Just then she remembered a house at the top of the hill, a derelict house awaiting demolition. In no time they were there, making their way down the steep, cracked asphalt driveway. The elderly woman working in her garden next door observed their descent but seemed unperturbed. They pulled into the carport and parked. Adam smiled, his interest piqued. Eve was reminded of the difference between men and women and their similarity to firewood – men being the hot, quick to burn birch and women, the slower to respond yew, eventually burning with a longer lasting and fierce heat.
She could not relax with the gardening lady next door though, almost within sight and the van’s uncovered windows. This was doing Adam’s nut in and he scrambled around searching for anything to lean against or tack up around the windows. He struggled to remember how they’d managed this when they were younger. Not for the first time he thought women were difficult to please. Eventually, he’d satisfied her idea of discretion and at last, the thing he’d waited for. By a miracle of tantric like control he slowed his pace. The advantages of being an old dog were now apparent – he needed no new tricks. As for the many seated people carrier – it only added to the novelty.
With very flushed cheeks and roguish dishevelment they were ready to leave. Adam backed the van out and then drove it up the very steep driveway, the lady in the garden now watching intently. The van showed promise at first but began wheel spinning half way up and had to be reversed down again. Eve was not worried, it was only a driveway. She smiled at the watchful gardener, now leaning on her hoe, all activity ceased. Again they tried, this time Adam took as much of a run at it as space would allow. Now they were facing the horrible possibility of being stuck, having to call help and explain what they were doing there. Eve’s nerves were climbing with each miserable failure, engine screaming, the van determined to descend rather than ascend.
Adam got out, kicked some light gravel off the trouble spot and climbed back in for another go. The ‘Gardener’ started making her way over, over for he didn’t want to think what. “Adam, if she asks us what we’re doing, tell her we’re property developers and we’re looking for properties to develop. Ask her if she knows who the owners are and you can pretend to be interested.” Everything in Adam rebelled against this, he even considered taking off on foot and leaving Eve to deal with the nosey woman. He knew this would be an excellent temporary solution but would not be worth the world of pain he would have to face later.
Eve watched as Adam dealt with the ‘neighbour,’ somehow managing to spin a satisfactory yarn without looking too stricken. She continued to smile with her flushed face but nothing was getting her out of the van. She was convinced it would be so apparent if she stepped out, she might as well roll down the window and tell her what they’d been doing. The helpful woman summoned her husband, another woman walking her dog offered her advice and Adam was overwhelmed with help. Eventually, after much cheering and encouragement, he beat that stubborn, underpowered horse up the hill. Tooting a cheery goodbye, they made their escape.
The recalcitrant old teenagers returned home from their adventure. Their son and daughter were waiting, she with hands on hips, “Where were you two all this time. The least you could have done is call and I thought you were going to pick up milk.” On the witness stand as they were, she said the first thing that came to mind, - “Whatever!”
© S. Marian, May 8, 2012
"Adam lay there waiting for her, naked. Fresh from the shower, the dark line of hair down his long body was still slightly damp."
© S. Marian, May 8, 2012
What do teenagers, gardening, and people carriers have to do with the Kama Sutra? Read, “Whatever!” to be posted tomorrow, Tuesday May 8th on “A View From Outside the Box,” url: adialogue. Go on, I dare you to!