Staring Down a Busy Week

We all know the feeling:

It’s Monday morning. You wake up, crawl out of bed, find the caffeine, open your laptop, and there it is – the list. Or maybe that’s just me. I make a weekly to-do list in Excel. It’s color-coded. At any rate, you look at your list and think, “Oh man, there just aren’t enough hours…”

And that’s me, this week.

My color-coded list is full of time-consuming tasks, and I don’t know how I’m going to manage. But I will. I’ve done it before. And I’m excited about the work I’m doing (including my short story for June!), so I’m grateful. But man, I wish I had more hands and more time.

Don’t we all?

Weeks like this remind me to be thankful for the quieter times, and to really soak in those still, carefree moments. I’ll get back there eventually.

But for now, to work! Happy creating, y’all!

A Weekend Break

Graham and I will be spending time with family this weekend. We’ve not seen some of these folks in ages, and we’re so excited. 🙂 So, in light of that, I’ll be taking a short break from posting. I’ll be back on Wednesday, June 22nd, though, hopefully with some good stories to share and good memories to keep.

Be sure to check back next week, and in the meantime, happy creating, y’all!

Reflections on an Accidental Week of Writing Poetry

I mentioned in Friday’s post that last week’s all-poetry theme wasn’t intentional.  The fact of it is, even though I pretty regularly post poems here, I’m always sort of amazed that I’m writing them at all.

I’ve never considered myself to be much of a poet. In high school, I hated the lessons that involved writing poetry – not as much as anything to do with math, but a lot. In college, I stayed very (very) far away from any class that would have had me writing poems, a policy that kept me from getting a concentration in creative writing. And even as I started this blog, and my current creative writing journey, I remember thinking to myself: “Well, I can write anything but poetry.”

It’s all very strange, because I love poetry.

I love reading it, performing it, pondering it, memorizing my favorite poems and quoting them, usually in full and often at inopportune moments. And so I asked myself, over the weekend, why I’ve always had such a hard time with the idea of writing it. And I think the answer is really simple: I don’t feel like I’m good at it.

Rest assured, I don’t need validation or compliments here, though kind words are always appreciated. What I’m getting at is, I think, a larger issue in our culture, whereby we seem to be operating under the incredibly damaging and entirely false belief that if you’re not really good at something, there’s no reason for you to do it.

Not a great singer? No karaoke for you. Go sit in a corner and be embarrassed at your wobbly warble.

Not a good runner? Find another form of exercise. No running groups for you! You’ll slow everyone down.

Can’t draw? Get out of here, false Picasso. No room for your stick figures on this canvas.

And I’m sad to say that for the longest time, this is how I felt about poetry. It doesn’t come naturally to me, and I’ve read so much good stuff (hats off to you, poets of WordPress!), and so I fell into the trap. Why even spend my energy on it? No future for me in it, so it’s a waste of my time. I’ll never be great, so why do it at all?

Except, I was wrong. Of course I was wrong. And these last couple of years have been a journey of discovering just how wrong I was. Because the why has nothing to do with greatness, or compliments, or money. The why is so simple: I enjoy it.

I’ve found, as much to my surprise as anyone’s, that I actually, truly, completely enjoy writing poetry. It makes me happy. I love the rhythm of sound and silence, and the way the words dance when you get them just right.

For me, there’s joy in writing poetry, even bad poetry, and that’s enough.

And frankly, that’s enough for anything – drawing, singing, running, writing… You don’t have to be an expert, or a natural, or even any good, to enjoy something. And enjoying it is reason enough to do it. Life is just too short to live it without joy.

So here I am, a not-very-good poet, clacking away on my keyboard, enjoying myself and appreciating that poems exist in this universe and I can write them (sometimes badly). It’s taken me years to get here, but I can say confidently, in this moment, I write poetry.  

Memorial Monday

It’s a holiday in the US today that both (informally) signals the beginning of summer and (more importantly) gives us time to remember those who’ve lost their lives fighting on behalf of our country. Graham and I will be spending today in – he’s got some work to do, and I’ve got a short story to write (which will be out tomorrow).

But, for those celebrating more formally, or for anyone enjoying this day, I wish you a good one, and time to reflect and remember.

May’s Short Story (and some other thoughts, too…)

I’m working on it! Or, I’m trying to. And it’ll be up on either Monday or Tuesday of next week.

I’m writing this on Thursday, May 26th. It’s cloudy outside, and a little breezy, and I’m watching cardinals chase each other around in the birch tree by my back window. Sometimes, it strikes me how this planet just keeps turning. It has to. There is no other choice. It turns, and we keep going.

I’d planned for my story to be finished and posted by the end of this week, but honestly, I’m just having trouble writing much of anything at this moment. Nothing feels right. My words sound hollow and empty. My heart hurts for a tragedy that both is and isn’t mine, and I’m angry and frustrated that my country has to mourn losses like this over and over. I’m not trying to get political, and I’m not trying to claim grief that doesn’t belong to me, and I’m certainly not trying to dump my feelings in anyone else’s lap. We were never meant to carry the burdens of the whole world.

Anyway, I can’t seem to write anything else right now, so I wrote this. I’ll be back next week, with a (hopefully) good story, and some happier thoughts. Until then, if you feel this way, too, wherever you are, know that you’re not alone. We carry the burdens of our world whether we’re meant to or not, but at least we can carry them together.

Too Darn Hot

That’s what it was this weekend. Even for the most playful and spirited of puppies.

(This is Honey, and she belongs to our friend.)

Not to whine, but it was way, way too much for me, and though we had fun – an art show, some live music, and time spent with friends and pups – I was exhausted, dried out, sweaty, and a little grumpy by Sunday evening. I am just not a hot weather person, y’all. And I hope (perhaps a fool’s hope) that the brief heatwave we had on Saturday and Sunday is not a sign of things to come for this summer. But I have a hunch it’s going to be exactly what we’re in for.

So, in the spirit of my last few posts, here’s a question: What are your favorite ways to stay cool and beat the heat? Because I’m certainly not very good at it, and I need all the help I can get.

What does community mean to you?

I know this is the second question I’ve posted this week, but it’s one I’ve been pondering lately.

Graham and I live in a tiny village. But that village is part of a county split between a busy, suburban east and a quiet, rural west. And that county is part of a state full of large metropolitan areas and even larger swaths of coastline, mountains, and small country towns.

By way of example, this is Virginia:

This is also Virginia:

And so is this:

In our village, we stay involved in civic and volunteer organizations, we support the businesses and the small school operating here, and we try to help our neighbors when they need it. We feel safe, and very happy. And in the next town over, we’ve got a whole second community – we play trivia every Thursday, we’re regulars at several businesses, and it’s pretty rare to walk down the sidewalk on any given day and not see someone we know. We feel connected here – to the people around us, to our local government, to the history that we’re becoming part of – and when we think about what community means to us, that’s it: connection.

Or perhaps it’s something a little deeper than that.

It’s feeling rooted, I think.

And I never thought I’d feel that way after I left my childhood home in southwest Virginia. I think many people worry about that, too, and I feel really lucky that I’ve found this place.

So, that’s community for me, then: people, place, connection, and roots. But I know that my world isn’t the world, and there are all kinds of ways to be part of a community.

Now, backing up.

I’ve been pondering all this of lately because I’ve been kicking around a new project idea, something that would explore where I came from, through the lens of where I am now, and with the wisdom and knowledge that I’ve gained as I’ve grown up (and continue to grow up…it’s a process, y’all). I’m not sure if I’m ready to write it at all, but I know that in order to write it well, I need more perspectives than just mine. I need to understand what people think of when they think of community. In order to really tell the story that I want to tell in a way that resonates, I think I need to know more about the people who will read it, where they come from and how they feel about community, and what their experiences have been in whatever places they’ve chosen to call home.

And so I put it to you, my wonderful readers, from so many different places, and with so many different passions and ideas:

What does community mean to you?

The Happiest Cat

Is there any happier creature in the world than a cat in his favorite sunny spot?

I really don’t think there is, y’all. And yes, this is an older picture, if you feel like you’ve seen it before. He is so very comfy and asleep right now that I just couldn’t bother him with the camera. But trust me, he looks almost exactly the same, just absolutely at peace, dozing in the sunshine.

At any rate, after several days of cool temperatures, clouds, and rain showers, the sun is out and shining today. It’s a nice change for all of us, but I think Gatsby’s enjoying it the most.

I hope it’s a sign of good things to come this week!

Erstwhile Horse Girl

When I was a little girl, I wanted a horse.

Wanted isn’t even really a strong enough word. I needed a horse. I needed a horse like I needed to breathe air, like I needed the blood circulating in my veins and the cells regenerating in my body. It was fundamental to me, a building block at the very core of my being. I would sit awake at night, imagining morning rides through dewy fields, just my horse and me. Wild, together, and utterly free.

My parents had no interest whatsoever in owning a horse, and it broke my almost-a-Horse-Girl heart. Money, to me, was no object when something so very important and vital to my happiness – nay, to my life – was on the line. Alas, these are lessons we learn with age. Money is always an object. And so as a consolation, my mom put me in riding lessons, where I learned the basics of care and maintenance, and the ins and outs of entry-level equestrianship.

This did not fill the void, though I enjoyed the lessons and learned a lot, most of which I have retained, I think, in some dusty, rarely used corner of my brain.

I never got a horse. And eventually, my interest in (read: obsession with) horses waned. I moved on to other hobbies, and for many, many years, I didn’t think much about horses at all.

Then, we moved to Hunt Country. Here, I am surrounded by horses.

Here, I live alongside hobby riders and polo players, foxhunters and trainers, jumpers, grooms, farriers, rescuers, and all manner of people who love their horses.  Here, I’ve met one of my very best friends, who is fierce, powerful, and astoundingly unbothered by the various injuries one can sustain when falling from a large, moving animal.

Her fearlessness inspires me on so many levels, but it doesn’t inspire me to own a horse. I find this curious, that I, who so desperately ached to be a Horse Girl all those years ago, should now be so unmoved by the prospect. That now, when it’s entirely accessible to me and imminently possible, I should think about it and decide, “Eh, no thanks.”

I guess we really do become our parents.

I can’t help but wonder, though, just where that little erstwhile Horse Girl went.

I do still love horses. I find them beautiful, strong, and smarter than some people would like to think. To my friends who care for them, they are devoted companions. When I see a horse galloping through the fields or resting under a tree on a warm day, I do still feel a little twinge, the smallest, tiniest tug on my heart. And so I know she’s still in there, somewhere, that almost Horse Girl. I carry her with me. I’m not that girl anymore, but I’m grateful to her, that spunky little wannabe daredevil. She taught me to be brave, patient, and kind, and to crave adventure, and to use my imagination.

She isn’t who I am today, but she helped me get here. And here – writing in my comfy chair on a rainy day, listening to the dog stir in the corner, making up stories from this lovely little corner of Virginia – is pretty darn good.