Thursday, September 6, 2018

Ritual is Rooted in the Present

The things that anchor us rarely seem significant. To the casual observer, our most precious possessions look worn and ragged, something to be tossed in the bin or sent away to the thrift store or charity sale. Yet we cling to them, gather them in shrines around the house so that we are always encompassed by the heartbeat of our past, of those long gone, of memories that whisper, "That's right. You did it before. You can be strong again."

Ritual is the same. When one speaks of ritual the image conjured it one of grand cathedrals or temples in jungles surrounded by robed monks and silent nuns, incense clouds and bells of great gongs signifying the soul's ascent to heaven. For me, ritual is rooted in the present and smells of musty decorations pulled from the weird cubby-hole in our bedroom wall, cut into the stone above the make-shift closet and wound somehow in time with the plumbing.

September 01 gives me permission to put away the Summer things and I seek out the burnt persimmon and rich cabernets of fabric and pumpkins that have sat patiently since the day after last Thanksgiving when Christmas signified another changing of the guard.

I have a collection of towels, started simply because one needs towels and why have boring ones when each season plants charming designs in our line of sight whenever we walk into a shop? A long line of linen bearing woman precede me and I'm not about to break the cycle. There's probably a Lady of Shalott curse in that somewhere: Let fly the seasonal changing of the towels and be forever cursed to use stained bar rags and old holey t-shirts! Oh the Doubtful Mocker Beware!

The Summer towels get washed - as does a Spring towel that somehow hid and emerged in time for one last hurrah before being banished to the cubby for another year - then folded and put away.

It's bittersweet, this farewell to the arms of the warm season, and a bit strange as it's still blistering hot most days until after Halloween. The humidity will continue to gather thick like unseen clouds lying in wait for someone to walk - splat! - and face plant into that hard to breathe thickness that you can taste in the sweat on your upper lip.

I feel a catch in my stomach as I put away Summer things. Did I enjoy Summer as much as I should have? What did I miss out on? I should have had more get togethers. We should have made ice cream. We didn't once take the bocce ball set out to the beach. We only toasted the full moon once.

Then I whip the Autumn linens into shape, letting their hems snap before I smooth them on the bed and fold into lovely, straight squares to be laid into the kitchen drawer where they'll go on rotation, their ranks always needed on the front lines of baking and cat-caused spills. The knot inside loosens and I smile at the whimsical beauty of the coming days of longer nights, shorter days, foggy mornings and blustery walks on the beach that transforms from the bathing suit clad sun worshipers to the slowly dwindling numbers of those true beach lovers, the Winter troops who bundle and stroll against the biting winds and driving sand into shins turning blue because of just one more dip in the surf.

And I'm happy again, excited instead of melancholy, as the usual strains of Autumn fill my wistful head. There's treats to bake and stews to make, chili to simmer all day long and bread to spank into submission on a pizza stone where it will shroud itself in a crisp curtain of crunch, broken by knife and enormous pat of herbed butter.

I buy one of those bottles of pumpkin spiced creamer which always makes my husband the coffee purist blanch and laugh and makes me giggle every time I sully his perfect brew to a murk of cloudy artificial deliciousness. And I don't care one bit because it's Autumn and for once I actually do jump on a band wagon that's filled with hay and squashes and those silly little scarecrows that wouldn't scare even the Cowardly Lion out of a hay field in OZ.

This changing of the guard garners a bit of nostalgia, makes me bite back a few tears, then catapults me into full-on Fall and there's a little spark of wonder thrown in: as soon as I turn that calendar again, the ghosts and witch's hats will join the ranks of gnomes and ravens and I'll then add turkeys and probably a few more owls and foxes and mushrooms because, can you really ever have too much woodland magic in your home?

No, I didn't think so.

There will be other rituals, others cleanings, other leavings. The pots outside will need showering. The plants will need pruning. I already had to funeral the rosemary; I shall remember it well. The last of the first herbs I tried to grow in the measly sunlight in the Courtyard of the Shade Demons. Fingers crossed the basil doesn't succumb until I can turn the rest of it to pesto.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

IWSG - September

"I started writing because of a terrible feeling of powerlessness.
 I felt I was drifting and obscure and I rebelled against that.
 I didn't see what I could do to change my condition.
 I wanted to control rather than be controlled, 
to ordain rather than be ordained, 
to regulate rather than be regulated." 
~ Anita Brookner

My fingers itch this time of year.

I long to return to the glen of paper and pen. I begin to breathe easier and the air smells of old books and ink.

Perhaps I'm not as hopeless as I thought.

Perhaps the enduring flame of words, the desperate need to create that I try and try to shake from my shoulders is the catalyst I need, the encouragement that I do have something to say and it's worth saying.

Here's to Autumn and freshness and falling leaves.

Here's to standing up against paralysis that shouts, "Just give up! You aren't cut out for this!" The pen, so I've heard, is mightier than any sword. When powerless, start typing. When drifting, anchor to a shore of the spines of giants, their words ballasts against storms and rising tides. We can change the outcome of anything if we're brave enough to gather up courage and nouns and rage against the darkness that threatens to tear away from us the very breath of creativity that we all carry. The light still flickers, no matter how dim, and we can control the flux of oxygen with the simple scratch of word to screen, pencil to paper.

All healing begins with that most powerful phrase:

What if?

Let it bolster you, let it carry you, let it squeeze from you the scream that needs to erupt so that you can clear the air of any uncertainty you may have that you, too, have a story to share.


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Last vestiges of the halls of Summer

I've always loved the newness of September. It heralds in change with memories of freshly sharpened pencils, new notebooks and shoes, and the big, old poplar that used to blaze the yard at my parents' house in orange and gold against a backdrop of clearest blue.

My current soundtrack is the cicadas outside. Their song isn't as strong as it was in early August, but still they rattle on, last vestiges of the halls of Summer.

I love Summer; I love the way it calls me outdoors, invites friends over for cookouts, bocce games, homemade ice cream and chilled, white wine. I long for a porch again, for a grassy space to plant my toes for these gatherings. We've not had a traditional Summer get together in years, not since we moved and gave up the porch and yard for a 20 minute ride to the beach. Even that hasn't gone according to plan. Work and rain encroach and we're left with sipping coffee indoors while the courtyard remains shadowed and refuses to dry out.

I wonder if we could get the lane designated as a mosquito habitat. Do they give out those little plaques for that, like that do for other forms of wildlife?

But Autumn brings with it new hope and I breathe a bit easier knowing soon the air will crisp and the bugs dwindle and at least we can sit in the courtyard with wine or coffee and listen for the hoot of the big, brown owl that returns each year, on the hunt for rodents in anticipation of the dimming days of Winter.


Monday, September 3, 2018


September came in with blue skies, a warm breeze, and a brief, unexpected shower that looked more to me like someone's grill gone awry than rain.

I sat in the bookstore, attempting to conjure creative words to my pen, the first since Spring I believe, and even then it was editing that consumed me, not the sheer bliss of creation.

I haven't felt much like writing these past few months. Come to think of it, writing hasn't really felt "right" in years. The funny thing is, when I try to get away from it, I think of all the stories I'll be able to tell when I return.

Sure fire sign I'm cursed with the writing gene.

There's a hint of Autumn in the air now. Not in the temperature. Oh no, that won't come for a month or more. This is, after all, South Georgia and the cicadas still serenade the morning and the humidity still drapes you in that strange woolen wet that reminds me of the sheep I fed in Ireland. They were damp, perpetual dew clouds, smelled of musty sweaters and felt a bit oily from the lanolin and dirt. That's humidity, Dear Non-Southerners: a shroud that clings and scratches, a cloak that suffocates yet hydrates. Southern women don't have better skin because of those old wives' tales of buttermilk; we simply cannot gather wrinkles because the humidity plumps up our skin until we're well into our 80's when suddenly the laugh lines appear and people start believing you're actually over 60 ;)

Unless, like my Great Aunt, you spent your youth in a layer of baby oil and iodine and sought the sun from a bed of aluminum foil. True story. She looked like one of those old, apple dolls, wrinkled and worn but with a crinkled smile in eyes and lips that always seemed to be harboring some secret joke that I desperately wanted in on. Her skin was leather and bronzed and I loved it though I'll never seek those same chiseled reminders of youth. I'm way too Irish and my skin doesn't tan like a well-cured hide. I turn lobster, screaming red, and with enough aloe I may get a smidgen of  a tan line that will stay with my arms and legs until a bit past Halloween when I emerge, ghostly once more, draped in sweaters and socks and perpetual mug of tea.

My soundtrack past cicadas is Loreena McKennitt and my mind is lost somewhere between the present of humming refrigerator and a past of wandering bards and tragic ladies who drift from towers in boats to the halls of Camelot. I'm pining for rain, just a little, to wash the dust away that's gathered in the crevices of my brain. A good cleansing, that'll do, and hopefully let the oddments out to play.


Friday, August 24, 2018

When you can't seem to write

"You shouldn't write if you can't write."
~ Ernest Hemingway

I know a lot of people who don't believe this. They believe you have to fight through the blocks and through the inarticulation of thoughts. Others have made me feel like if I can't plow through the walls that I'm not serious about my writing.

Quite frankly, I don't believe them.

There are people out there who can sit down every single day and pound out 100 words, 10 pages, whatever, and then move on with the rest of their day. There are others who can work for 8 hours at their computers or notebooks, putting in a full day's work for their stories and novels. There are others who write when inspiration strikes them. There are others who stare at the screen, at the blank page day after day, week after week, and who literally have nothing left inside them to give.

I'm curious: how do you feel about this? Do you believe that we should write even when every word we scribe is terrible, faulty, a shadow of the truth? Do you think that, no matter what, you need to put your butt in the chair and pound out words, even if they suck? Or do you, like Papa, think that if you simply cannot write, you shouldn't?

I agree with Papa. There's a lot to be said for stepping away. Writer's block does require a bit of chiseling, some dynamite, a good pair of glasses but not being able to write? That's something entirely different. It's less blockage and more dark forest. Instead of beating your head against a wall, you find yourself staring into an abyss with no pinpoint of light.

Hmmm...I wonder what lies ahead?

So tell me? Do you write even when you can't? Do you take a sledge hammer to your inability to put words on paper? Or do you take a break, do something else, wander around a bit and see what else life has to offer?

I've been thinking about that Hemingway quote for a while now. 

Just curious :)

PS: I know. Today was supposed to be my references and links, etc. post. To be honest, that's not working. I've had that idea for years and have tried if off and on for about as long. I figured I'd give it another go and it just fizzled. Sorry about that, but you can't know what works and what doesn't until you try! xo