Saturday, August 15th, 2015
I listened to the rain last night before I fell asleep and I woke this morning before the
birds began their soft chitter. There's a time in the early hours when the day holds its
breath and lucky me, I hit it. Silence.
I lay pillowed in my bed next to the open window and gave my attention to the quiet. I
enjoyed the breeze over my shoulders, and in that moment a small bird sitting in the
dense tree – so close I could touch it - yawned. I spotted her with the help of the dawn
seeping between the leaves.
And I was aware of time because I realized the brevity of the silence.
Yesterday I read a post in an email from Creative Non-Fiction
. The topic of which was
"waiting" – and boy, was it timely for me! My foot surgery was four weeks ago and I'm
tired of waiting for this big boot to come off my foot. My foot is mending and it feels
pretty good. I don't need to wear the boot inside now, but it's velcroed to my stride
whenever I'm out and about. It's heavy. Yesterday the podiatrist said, "Two more weeks
and you can wear matching shoes again."
As I write this, the sun is now up and shining through the branches and I can see many
shades of green that I couldn't see an hour ago. This quick and brilliant palette happened
so fast I almost missed it. I'm reminded that waiting is something I manufacture from my
and time doesn't stop. I can deal with the boot - so much will happen between
now and then and each day is a day I only live once.
Twenty-one days ago I started an online retreat – I saw it in a blog (sorry, I don't
remember which one.) Anyway, it's Retreat For The Writer's Soul with Melanie Steele
and I emailed her. The retreat started immediately – and I began a pleasant journey of
time well spent. Thirty minutes a day, any time of the day - or night, has given me a
deeper sense of purpose, inspired me, and reminded me who I am. Go for it.
I can't thank her enough, but I'll try . . .Thank you, Melanie, for every amazing moment. I grew in many
directions with your assistance!
More later . . .
I woke to another rejection email. That happens. I reminded myself of last year and another rejection; a piece that had been rejected a few times. I printed it and read it again, found threads I didn't knot and tangled string stranded in paragraphs. I rewrote it. You know how that goes. Eventually I submitted it again.
It was published last month in the Lindenwood University literary journal, The Lindenwood Review. Issue 15. Page Ten. The Dog-Eared Page.
I crushed my elbow and broke my arm in five places in 2002. I woke that morning thinking I had a fun day ahead of me, no idea I'd be in emergency surgery that night.
I started the physical therapy a week later, unaware the finish line was eight months away. I'm leaving out a lot of parts, but the point here is this: innocence makes what's to come easier to manage.
I'd like to be innocent right about now. I've got a left foot that needs surgery, and afterward, I won't be able to put my foot on the floor for three months. Three months. The "knowing" this time has covered me with acrylic anticipation. The pain in my foot though, drives a nail in any possibility of rescheduling surgery (one more time).
I don't have the innocence factor that I did when I messed my arm up in 2002. This time I know.
I've decided to see myself as a reader in the middle of a book I can't put down. That way, I won't notice the days the weeks and the months. I'll look forward to the end of the story instead.
A sense of timing is everything.
My long suit is curiosity, which leads to discovery, and now that I think about it, wonder is likely to be at the bottom of everything I experience.
I am a gypsy, I refer to my Camry as Vagabond, and we have two destinations: St. Petersburg, Florida (when I leave Illinois) and Chicago (when I leave St. Petersburg.) I go off the map often. (That’s Kavanaugh’s Law #2.)
I use GPS on my smartphone, I like to look at the little map thing – it comes up with nice ideas: use this route, here’s the construction zone, your arrival time is 4:09, total miles 468, etc. I do use the GPS, but mostly for back up. Because I have a compass thing, too, and that’s in my rear view mirror. Me, I’m either pointed north or south. And then I take the scenic route. Interstates are in good shape these days and whipping along with everybody else is okay, but I’ve discovered empty highways that are in great shape and they take me to forests and mountain vistas and old-time hardware stores, all of them discoveries where I can feel the wonder . . . breathing in and out.
I left Chicago in the early morning dark when the temperature was 28 degrees and everybody else was still in bed. That was last week. I took my sweet time - six days – heading south into warmer weather. Each time I looked at the weather map, I refer to it a lot; I noticed that the cold front was right behind me. Each time I smiled at my uncanny wisdom on leaving town at just the right time.
I “wrote” while I drove.
Well, that’s a stretch. I made up dialogue - and I’ve learned mulling a conversation in my head doesn’t work. What worked for me is speaking it out loud! I find I need another character, and then I need to build him or her. I drove, imaginary people showed up, I wandered the back roads and took in the dilapidated porches and dead cotton plants and the tired folks pumping gas. I listened to the simple words spoken with kindness wherever I stopped.
I called on my GPS to get me out of the weeds of South Carolina and then again when night settled in and I learned that South Carolina doesn’t waste any of the taxpayers’ money on street lighting. That’s when I wondered why bother with the street signs if they can’t be seen in the dark?
I dallied southbound for six days, visited with family and friends along the way, sat in front of their fireplaces and swung on porch swings where the weather was warmer. I watched the full moon hanging in a black sky at 6a.m. as I drove through the Low Country marshes. A new scene for a story was the result.
I’m settled now on the south end of my world. I stuffed my parka in the corner of the trunk and put my thong shoes on after a getting a pedicure. I’m in the sunshine, the temperature is waffling around the mid-sixties, and next week I’ll attend the Writers In Paradise Conference at Eckerd College.
That cold front? I think it was chained to my bumper the whole time I was heading south.
January 10, 2015
Ever done a DIY writers retreat?
Two writer friends and I laughed our way into planning one when the first miserable polar vortex descended last January. It all began when Penny called and I was fantasizing my own escape from the bleak and frozen landscape that was framed in the window behind me. I had a road atlas spread dead center across my eight-foot desk.
I get the itch for a trip every so often and pull out The Maps. My own crummy tendency toward depression fuels the need to escape.
The polar vortex compounded it. Then Supie, another writer from my critique group, heard about the chance to bolt and said, “I’m in.”
That first phone conversation was mostly laughter as we contemplated the impossibility of digging a path in the knee-high snow to free the getaway car. The second conversation took a serious turn when we discussed a destination. Reality set in when we combined our calendars and admitted the first date we could leave was near the end of March.
We’d split expenses.
Twelve weeks – we weren’t escaping the weather after all! Still, we had a plan and the plan had the basics in place: A Florida beach during the last week of March, freedom from the confines of reality so we could write, rewrite, critique and maybe even finish a piece.
We’d travel light. We just needed “the basics.”
Supie was the driver and I was the navigator when we left Chicago at what was supposed to be daybreak on a Sunday. Only it wasn’t because of “whiteout conditions” on the Indiana Interstate. I counted 12 accidents in less than 30 minutes.
Personally, I was exuberant, but not because of cars in ditches, but because we were in motion; beginning our own DIY retreat to write!
I had a weathered two-pocket folder of articles to read aloud, Supie had drafts she’d read for our comments, Penny had her laptop open. Our retreat began immediately.
The readings changed when the drivers changed, usually every two hours. We hollered out when a pit stop was necessary, then bought fresh coffee and stood near strangers to eavesdrop for a bit. Eavesdrop for material.
We went a hundred miles out of our way on day two, and laughed.
At some point, I asked Penny, with a tinge of exasperation in my tone, if she was clicking a pen (I was going to tell her I couldn’t stand it anymore) and she said “No, I’m typing.”
I had no problem with that.
Supie busted me on my tone. “Kavanaugh, a clicking pen was driving you nuts, until you learned it was the click of a laptop keyboard? Then the annoying noise wasn’t annoying anymore? Hmmm.” Teasing was swift. Laughter ruled.
Penny left her Huggs in the hotel in Beaufort, SC. “Hey Guys, we have to go back. I forgot my boots!” We were an hour into our day.
She wore those boots every single damn day we were in Florida. At the beach, for Pete’s sake.
In her defense, the wind was strong and the temps were unseasonably low. We just didn’t have to shovel the sand.
We all wrote, and we wrote at our own pace. We ate when we were hungry. We wrote in bed, and in the dark, and with the TV on but muted. We stood at the window with the view of the beach road, in silence, thinking, and watched the rain. We said, “Listen to this.” And, “Wait a minute.” At 3a.m.
We critiqued and sighed and rewrote.
The sky was blue and the sun felt like summer the last day. I had work to submit, Supie was drained, but had written a great flash fiction, and Penny was on her cell taking her personal world off “hold.”
I drove them to the Tampa airport. Fresh snow was falling when their plane landed in Chicago.
Writers share their energy, and we shared a lot of it on our DIY writers retreat - and it was a wonderful getaway experience!
Do this if you can. Do it with like-minded writers. Keep the number small.
Don’t pack much, because really, you wear the same thing. And revel in the silence.
I joined the Wellness Center at the nearby hospital campus a couple weeks ago. What an eye-opener! The facility is first class, two pools, exercise classes every hour, state-of-the-art exercise machines that circle the basketball court, and personal trainers, too. But the beautiful facility was not the eye-opener I’m referring to; the eye-opener was my personal fitness assessment. Thank God the personal trainer doing the assessment was my age – we bonded over my crappy BMI and we laughed when I couldn’t get my butt up and onto the seat of the bicycle.
The news was so bad I had no choice but to return the next day. Face facts. I managed to clock 90 minutes with an assortment of machines and the walking track.
(Don’t start with 90 minutes, learn from my mistakes. You’re welcome.)
I ended up in the pools; first the warm water/arthritis pool where I lazily walked the perimeter. Next I tested the lap pool; floated on my back for one length and flipped over to dog paddle back. I crawled across the floor to the hot tub, feeling like I was auditioning for Goldilocks and the Three Bears, only, I was trying to find the “perfect fit” in a swimming pool instead of chairs and beds.
I rolled my tired self into the bubbles and wondered where I’d find the energy to crawl toward the showers and the steam room and the sauna.
# # # #
That was my first visit. I survived and I even returned because I was facing facts. I ache, I’m tired, and I eat and I sit too much.
I made a major move last year, across half this country, to return to the town of my roots and live near my kids and my grandkids. I made a very big decision a decision that brought me to my knees, emotionally, I went through a tough patch so I could enjoy my family while I still had quality of life.
It’s time to get my quality of life out of the wastebasket!
The timing was right (of course!) and I got that message when I visited my neighbor in the hospital yesterday. I walked the corridor, and naturally looked into each room I passed. The paradox of hospital/illness and wellness center/fitness came together and underlined the wisdom in taking better care of myself. When was the last time you saw a stranger aging in a hospital bed?
I was happy to see my neighbor doing well. She will be home soon. I definitely got the message. I needed the fitness assessment, the pool crawl, the walking track, and the realization of walking the hospital corridor and the visit with my neighbor to accept it. Everywhere I turned I could see . . . it’s about time.
Welcome, and thanks for stopping by. Pull up a chair and sit on the floor. Take a deep breath and rest awhile. What can I get you to drink?
Please, don't rush.
Do you say “I’ll be there in a minute” and “wait a sec,” or, “what’s taking you so long?" Do you look at the clock and yell "where did the time go?" I do... we're not so different. We're in a daily race with our clock.
"I’ll do it later" or, "the timing wasn’t right" - every word I’ve written speaks to the lifestyle we live...
I thought I'd slow down when I reached a certain age. I thought I'd read books and relax. But somebody sat me down at a laptop, and I found myself writing. Now, I'm writing and reading and looking for more time.
Timing is everything (that's my mantra); a lifetime of experience, a laptop, and a passion for examining our human-ness, has come together for me.
I've always been a writer. I write in bits and on scraps, and when they're put together a story about a relationship is in there.
I believe education is ongoing; I attend workshops for writers and am active in critique groups - by the way, I believe they are a must.
Seeing as I'm still finding myself; it's safe to say I'm a seeker. I seek best with music on. It teaches me and arouses my passionate heart. I come alive with music, my music.
I hear Percy Sledge, the Four Tops, Teddy Prendergast, If You Don’t Know Me By Now and John Mayer Daughters, Genesis That’s All and my cells sway and dance, and I feel younger, but it’s not a young that is “seen."
What is this young? Well, it's a young that I only know after living awhile. How odd.
I'm writing and Pandora music is my background. I realized a moment ago that I'd stopped mid-paragraph, lifted my arms and swayed with a great song. And I was in a man’s arms for that moment; I could feel his warmth, his smooth skin. Just for that moment...and then I went right back to my writing.
My body moved with the rhythm of the music.; Otis Redding, Etta James, Adele. My insides tightened with the sax or the drums, and the special way the Blues wail and cry and beg...How’s that for being under a spell? I go somewhere with the music...it has that much power.
Like everyone, I say there’s never enough. Time, that is. Say it too often, and then it morphs into where the heck did the time go. Do you say I’ll be there in a minute, and wait a sec, or how about what’s taking you so long? Every word I’ve written speaks to the lifestyle we live. It’s all about time.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING has been my guide when I’m stumped, when I can’t decide what’s next. (What’s next. That’s another moment when I hardly notice that time is the topic.) Life is all about timing.
I’m a procrastinator. I don’t like to admit it, but here’s why I do: maybe my truth will benefit you.
Don’t waste time; even better - don’t waste your time. Do this instead: Enjoy the present moment and you’ll get another one in a second. Enjoy that one and then the next one and … get it?
I’m right in the middle of the first day of 2014. It’s snowing here, heavy and steady. Yesterday was endings, today is beginnings, Reflections, like last night’s confetti, are also heavy and steady!
I’ve got more to say - just not now.
Moving. - I’ve got enough lessons on moving to write a book … or a blog! That’s next.