Not entirely sure that this link is going to work this way, but I wanted to save this article somewhere I could find it again. And also recommend it to everyone I know. It’s a really good quick explanation of something I’ve spent, oh, twenty years or so trying to learn.
This morning’s sunrise was un-photographable facing east. Or rather, the photograph was dull — black ground, then a line of bright yellow and gold, then blue above. It didn’t convey at all how pure and clear and bright the morning was. The above photograph was facing to the west, with the sun directly behind me. At, I believe, 6:09 AM.
At least my phone thinks it was 6:09. Maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t. Arizona is in a very confusing time zone that I think translates to “whatever time we want it to be and probably not the time you think it is.” (They claim it’s Mountain Time without Daylight Savings, but are we saving the daylight when we spring forward or when we fall back? I know I should be able to figure this out but it feels too much like rocket science. Maybe after some more caffeine.)
I wanted to write more about the Grand Canyon yesterday and I just did not feel well enough. I spent most of the day in that state of recovery from stomach misery where I was hungry but not hungry enough to risk eating and then when I finally did risk eating regretted it.
I also have had a sequence of refrigerator screw-ups that make me really sad: first, I accidentally shoved the fridge up to 7, its coldest level. I’ve done that before — it’s easy to do when stuffing the fridge too full — and it’s so annoying. Everything on the top shelf freezes solid, everything in the middle comes close. Sometimes some of the produce survives but not the most delicate things. Cucumbers and salad greens really don’t like being frozen.
But then, just to really screw up my food supply, when following the instructions to get my generator going again, I turned the fridge off. Not a big deal. If I had just remembered to turn it back on again. Gah. I was miserably sick if that counts as a stupidity defense. But everything in the fridge has first frozen and now defrosted. I’m trying to save what can be saved and acknowledge reality on what can’t, but it means my food choices are more limited than usual. Fortunately, I’ve got plenty of rice, which is probably the only thing I ought to be eating right now anyway.
But back to the Grand Canyon! On Friday morning, I went and found propane, and then took the dogs on a scenic drive. It was a beautiful winding road and a beautiful day. I looked at the Grand Canyon and was awed. And then I moved on to the next spot and looked at it again and was… well, a little less awed. And then I moved on to the next spot and looked again and thought, yep, canyon. Big hole in the ground. And then I moved on to the next spot and started looking at the people around me and wondering what their stories were and making up stories for them and glanced at the canyon. Yep, beautiful. By the time I finished the scenic drive, I was over the canyon. It is quite spectacular and you have to admire it, but once you’ve seen it, it’s seen. It was what I expected it to be.
I was feeling sort of sad about that as I returned to the campground. Here is this amazing, incredible spot — truly, one of the wonders of the world — and I’m already jaded about it. I’ve seen it in so many pictures, read about it in books, viewed it on television — there is no mystery. No wonder.
And then, when I was waiting for the ranger so I could check back in (I’d had to move campsites), I saw this squirrel. Weirdest squirrel ever. It was the second time I’d seen it (or its cousin). The first time had been from a distance and I hadn’t even been sure it was a squirrel. I thought maybe it was a tiny skunk. It was black, with a pure white fluffy tail. And from up close, it had the funniest ears. Not quite rabbit ears, not even close to the rabbit ears on some of the jackrabbits I’ve seen out here, but big ears, much too big for a squirrel. What the heck? I couldn’t get a picture of it, because Zelda was with me and the squirrel was not dumb enough to stand still to let Zelda investigate, but I asked the ranger.
Me: “That squirrel with the white tail, is it some kind of genetic fluke? Part albino? Or do you have special squirrels here?”
He didn’t laugh at me, but he did smile. Yep, they have special squirrels. It’s the Kaibab squirrel, found only at the North Rim. (The Wikipedia pictures are not as cute as the real thing: if you’re really interested, try a google image search for much better shots.)
That brought back every bit of the sense of wonder that I had when I first saw the canyon in the morning light. R was animal-obsessed when he was little. We watched vast quantities of Animal Planet, plus Zoboomafoo every day — I actually got a TiVo, one of the first DVRs, because not making it home in time for Zoboomafoo stressed us both out so much. And yet here was an animal that I’d never heard of, never seen, in my own country. In a major tourist destination in my own country. It was so satisfying. It felt magical.
So, Grand Canyon, two thumbs up. Worth the drive.
Homolovi Ruins State Park, also two thumbs up. I haven’t seen the ruins yet, because I have not been up for much in the way of long walks. Z and I headed in that direction this morning, but I cut it short when I started feeling tired. Total walk was a mile and a half, so not nothing, but I’m really not interested in pushing myself. I will, however, have a second chance and maybe a third, because… well, because I’m not interested in pushing myself. This is a nice, peaceful, quiet campground — big sites, reasonable showers, excellent internet signals, electricity — and so my big plan for the day has turned into “drive back to the ranger station and pay for another couple of nights.” The weather has been lovely, daytime temps in the 70s, nighttime temps in the 30s, and at night, the stars go on forever. I know this because both of the dogs seem to be as confused about what time zone they’re in as I am and have decided that 4AM is the appropriate time to go out. I’m not terribly happy about that, but at least it’s meant seeing some beautiful nighttime skies.
The Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area is an odd place. And odd is a really vague adjective, but honestly, I’ve got no other. I don’t want to weigh it down with negative connotations, like weird or strange, and it’s not so different that it deserves to be called unusual. It’s just… odd.
I suspect it’s because where once there was a river, now there is dirt. There’s a sign that I should probably go take a picture of, because I have no scenic pictures to go with this post, that reads something like “Danger, Steep slope leads to deep water with strong current.” Um, no, it doesn’t. Yes, there’s a steep slope, but it leads to a ditch, with plants growing in it. The boat ramp is closed and there’s not even any evidence that it should or would have led to water. Not even puddles.
Meanwhile the campground is basically a deserted parking lot. A nice parking lot, though, with even paved sites, picnic tables, electric and water hook-ups, and plenty of trees. It was hot yesterday, but there was a cool breeze for most of the day, and I only ran the air conditioner for a little while in the afternoon.
Still, the emptiness and the pavement combine to give it a vaguely unsettling air. I could see it being a good setting for a horror movie. And, in fact, when I was walking the dog this morning I was headed down a path that seemed like an old road, asphalt cracked and broken, when I started telling myself stories about serial killers and deranged clowns, and wound up scaring myself into cutting my walk short. Note to self: scary stories are more fun behind locked doors.
I was thinking about being homesick this morning, though — homesick for a home I don’t have — when I realized that my feelings of homesickness have completely dissipated already, and it’s because of my nice campsite. When I’m in a campground, I tend to extend into the outside space. The plastic box containing my sewer hose gets stored outside, under the van, instead of on the bathroom floor. My chair gets set up by the door. Kitchen stuff, some of it, moves onto the picnic table.
Those few feet of outside space, probably especially in the bathroom, make Serenity feel more livable, more like home. It was a good realization. Of course, I still love camping in driveways, because it’s nice to visit people, but on my next extended driveway visit, wherever it is, I’m going to make more of an effort to feel less squashed in my lovely tiny house on wheels. And meanwhile, she’s feeling very cozy and homey today and I’m feeling pretty content with her. Just in time to pack up and move on!
Yesterday, I organized S’s pins (the sewing type, not jewelry) by color, in a rainbow of blue, yellow, green, red, white, silver, black. By this, I knew that I was feeling just a wee bit anxious. It was interesting to feel my tension drop as I did it — it was almost like meditating in the sense of peace that came over me as the pins found their proper places.
Of course, Logical Me knows that pins do not have to be organized by color and that the proper place for a pin is anywhere it can be found again, and where it’s not going to inadvertently wind up impaling a hand or a foot or a paw. But at the same time, it was soothing to impose order on the pins. Especially in a world where I can’t impose order on the weather.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the weather where I am. It’s actually been really nice — grey and foggy and cool, with invigorating breezes, just the temperature where a jacket and socks are cozy. But I’ve been worrying about Irma.
Or more to the point, I’m worrying about R. And the rest of my family and friends in Florida, but mostly R. He didn’t evacuate, which is… fine? He’s an adult, making the best choices he can, and I can understand why staying put seemed like the sensible decision. It’s not like he’s living in the Florida Keys or even in Miami, where staying put would have been crazy.
But he is on the coast.
And as of Friday night, Irma appears to be swinging in the direction of his coast.
These lines, from weather.com — “Recent trends in computer models and resulting forecast from the National Hurricane Center suggest Irma will now track a bit farther west. This does not reduce the threat to eastern Florida, but it could drastically increase the threat to the west coast of Florida if this trend continues.” — are not the kind of thing that gladdens a maternal heart.
Logical Me knows that there’s nothing I can do and really no point in hitting refresh on weather.com over and over again. The storm is going to hit when it hits and where it hits. Illogical Me is… anxious. And wishing for more pins to sort.
Instead, I shall go to sleep. And in the morning, I’ll visit the farmer’s market, buy some vegetables, cook something delicious, enjoy the company of my friends, and take a lot of deep breaths.
But to all of my Florida friends and readers — stay safe, stay dry, and may all your Irma stories be really, really boring!
I wrote this story back in February when I was trying to do something (anything!) to break my writer’s block on Grace and find my writing motivation again. I liked it enough to post it in the Scribbles section of my website and I think maybe a couple people read it. A few days ago, I sent it to a reader who’d written me a lovely email. She wrote back another lovely email.
As is probably obvious, my perfectionism has been seriously getting in the way of my writing these days. When I first published Ghosts, I was totally relaxed about it. I knew no one would read it, except for my fellow fanfiction writers and readers and maybe a few friends and family. How would anyone find it, after all? In an ocean of books — literally millions of them — Ghosts would be an invisible pebble, dropped into the sea.
That is not exactly what happened.
Which is good news, of course. Great news! Every writer’s dream.
But I’m an editor at heart.
Over the past three years, my perfectionism and my creativity have been at war, with my perfectionism always managing to kick my creativity in the teeth and stomp on her face on the way to triumphant (unproductive) victory.
36 Questions is not a perfect story. In particular, there’s one sentence (it includes the phrase “reading was good”) that makes the editor in me go pale and feel faint with dismay.
I don’t care.
My friend Tim said, “This is perfectly and wholly charming and human. I love it!”
My friend Lynda said, “Holy crap…that was a fun little story!! I mean, seriously fun. My cheeks hurt from smiling while reading it. You can quote me on that. ;)”
The reader who wrote me a lovely letter said, “I just finished Thirty-Six Questions with a smile on my face. What a feel good story! I’d love to know how they answer the rest of their questions!”
Another reader who’d had trouble with my mailing list story this week (and who I sent this one to) said, “Enjoyed this short story as well! Truly inspirational romance – I love it!”
It hasn’t been professionally edited (by anyone but me); I designed the cover myself; and I did the production, too, of course. So yeah, I’m breaking all the rules of modern self-publishing. But I think it’s a nice little story. It may or may not be worth .99, depending on the value of ninety-nine cents to you, but I put it in KDP so I’ll have a chance to make it free for a few days later this month.
And meanwhile my creative self is sticking out her tongue, thumbs in her ears, saying “nyah, nyah,” to my editor self. Let’s hope she can keep up the attitude long enough to finish writing Grace and get it published, too.
PS That image up top is a link to Amazon, but here’s another one: 36 Questions
I have so very many things I want to blog about. So very many!
Highway rest stops must be like art galleries for dogs: so many interesting smells, such fascinating traces of other dogs and people, so rich with the canine version of color. And possibly over-stimulating? B has to stop every two inches for the first ten feet and then he’s all, “No more, no more, I must take a nap. Immediately.” And Z wants to smell ALL the smells, every last inch of grass. It does not make for fun walks.
Illinois has a seriously annoying toll system. Every ten miles or so, you have to pay another $1.50 or $2 or even $3. I’m sure it’s fine for the people who live there and whizz through on their e-passes, but at 5AM, only one cash booth was open at every stop and it always had a line of five or six cars in it. It was actually sort of stressful to be hunting for money in that line, knowing that the people behind me just wanted to get going.
Wisconsin has gorgeous wildflowers happening right now. Lovely and colorful, deep yellows, light blues, waves of lavender. Not literal lavender, I don’t think, but that color of light purple. I, of course, can’t tell you what any of them are, but I think some of the deep yellows were brown-eyed Susans.
Ending the random thoughts:
I spent the weekend at Caesar Creek State Park in Wilmington, OH. It is not a park that I will be returning to. It contains the dubious distinction of having the worst showers of any that I actually used within my first year of van life. Apart from that, I think it’s probably a really nice place to stay if you have big water toys to play with — motor boats, wave runners, that kind of thing. For me, it was just a vaguely pleasant, grassy parking lot near a place where my friend E was visiting for work. But the trails were too muddy to appreciate; the weather was either sweltering hot or raining; and the sites didn’t have water hook-ups, which was inconvenient — especially because the showers were not cool. Literally, in the case of one of them, which was jammed on a temp of “fill the entire bathroom with steam.”
Due to circumstances beyond our control, our time together was cut a little short and E was without a car, so instead of most of a weekend with easy and flexible transportation, we had 24 hours in Serenity. It was much fun nonetheless, but mostly revolved around food. And washing dishes. And then more food. And more washing dishes. The effort of washing dishes is much more noticeable when you’re carrying the water from a faucet several campsites away.
Anyway, Saturday night was grilled asparagus with lime, and sous vide steak, followed by spice cake with pecans. Sunday: blueberries, bananas, and chocolate granola; spicy sweet potato hash with poached eggs; arugula and mixed greens salad with cold shrimp, pea pods, radishes, cucumbers, avocado, and a spicy chili-garlic salad dressing.
The sous vide steak was good, but maybe not as good as I expected it to be — perhaps a fault of the cook, I will definitely try again. The asparagus was great; the hash was yum; and the spicy salad dressing was delicious. I’m going to make an appetizer of a radish slice, topped with a thin slice of avocado, a cold shrimp, and a drizzle of chili garlic sauce, because those bites of salad were so very, very good. And I do wonder why the world doesn’t contain more spicy salad dressings? It really worked so well with all the cold crunchy things, i.e. the pea pods and radishes and shrimp.
Anyway, due to said circumstances, I wound up giving E a ride to her hotel around 6 Sunday evening. Of course, moving Serenity means packing up and because the rain had been on and off, but it was temporarily dry, I decided to pack everything up rather than risk it getting wet again. But then on the drive I realized that I was headed 35 minutes west of the campground. Did it really make sense to go east again, to spend the night at Caesar Creek? My plan had been to leave early this morning, starting at 8 or so, and drive as long as I could last. Destination, the Badlands of South Dakota, 18 hours away.
I worried at the thought for most of the drive, then while E went into Target to pick up some stuff she needed, I consulted my map. And after I dropped her off at her hotel, I started driving.
Last night — the second-to-last night of Year One in Serenity, I slept at a Flying J gas station in Indiana, adding one more state to my total — 19 states, 74 places, and 3 parking lots.
Tonight — the very last night of Year One in Serenity, I will either be sleeping in Minnesota or South Dakota, adding another state to the total. I suspect it’s going to be in Minnesota, because instead of driving, I’m sitting in a highway rest stop on the Wisconsin – Minnesota border, writing a blog post. It would take me 4.5 hours or so to get across Minnesota, I think, and given that I started driving at 5, I think I’m probably not going to make it that far. My goal, though, is to get the total driving time to Mount Rushmore to be under 6 hours. And I’m not quite sure, but I think it might be perfectly do-able. Which would mean tomorrow, on the actual anniversary of the day I closed on my house and started driving north, I’ll finally be at one of the destinations I was aiming for. And it only took a year!
Still at the garden house, still writing, still frustrated with Noah. I pulled out all the chapters from his point-of-view and read them in order, trying to decide whether his characterization works to lead him to the actions that he simply will not take in the chapter I’m trying to write. They don’t, not quite, and I found lots of things to change, so I’m working on some revisions. But it feels like progress, so that’s good, even if it’s still not finalizing a first draft.
I had an enormously complicated dream last night, the kind with lots of characters, lots of confusing activity, and all the feels. Mostly it felt stressful and worrying, not quite a nightmare, but closing in on one. Toward the end of the dream, I had to choose the right pair of shoes from a pile of them, all impractical. I knew I had to find a pair that fit right, that would be comfortable for lots of walking as we escaped from whatever disaster we were escaping from, but I had to hurry. So I grabbed a pair, hoping for the best, and headed toward the place where I was meeting the people I would try to escape with. On the way, I passed through a ballroom, crowded with boxes and bags and piles of luggage. There was a guy there, dressed like a workman. He had a Jamaican accent and gold teeth and he said to me, with a bright smile, “Those shoes are made for dancing.” I said, “Is that an invitation?” He said, “Of course,” and held out his arms, so I stepped into them and danced with him. For the first moment, I was stiff and tense, and then I relaxed and let him whirl me around the room, closing my eyes and trusting that he wouldn’t let me stumble or trip. He didn’t. It felt like floating.
When I woke up, I was smiling. I am pretty sure the message from my subconscious is to stop worrying about getting the right shoes (i.e., making exactly the right choices) and to relax and dance. Good job, subconscious. It has definitely made for a lovelier Monday morning.
It’s not actually haunted. At least, I don’t think it is. I certainly haven’t heard any sepulchral clucking coming from its direction. But it definitely looks like it should be, doesn’t it? Especially on a gray day.
Slightly less spooky when you put Serenity right next to it. Those are raspberry vines in front of it. I’m more interested in the blueberries, because I like blueberries better than raspberries, but there are three rows of raspberries — red, yellow, and purple. All green now, of course, but I expect to be nibbling within a couple of weeks.
And there are the blueberries. I’m feeling too lazy to walk across the lawn and count — also, it is gray and wet and sort of chilly and I don’t want to put my shoes on — but I think there are 24 bushes. Four rows of six bushes each? Or maybe 32. Plenty of blueberries, which is good because the competition for them will get fierce. It’s partly the season, but the birds here are almost as noisy as they were in Alabama.
Grace hasn’t been going very well — I feel like the gears of story are starting to grind again, but they’re grinding very, very slowly. But I am thoroughly appreciating the cozy peacefulness of my surroundings.
I’m starting to feel permanently parked in my friend C’s driveway. Let’s see, it’s been five nights here already, and I think I’m going to be here another two. That makes it pretty close to my longest stay anywhere. Fortunately, C is tolerant: I think I would feel seriously awkward about imposing on anyone else this long, but C is delightfully nonchalant about the whole thing. And the actual physical layouts of the driveway and house make it easy to believe I’m not getting in anyone’s way, even though I probably am.
I’m still waiting on the part for my sink. The service guy originally said by the end of last week, then said delivery on Tuesday. On Monday, he said that the part they needed was back-ordered and he had no idea when it would come in. I’m sitting here hoping that the answer is any minute now — today, tomorrow, Friday morning? — but one way or another, I’m leaving on Friday. If the sink isn’t fixed, it’s going to have to get fixed on my next swing back through central Florida.
The delays have seriously tested my zen. Zen in the urban dictionary meaning of the word, not the real definition. I want to be all peaceful and centered about the delay, living my life in a present that is actually quite comfortable, but instead it feels like an itch I can’t scratch. It makes me want to growl a lot and mutter bad words under my breath.
On the positive side, I’ve gotten to go to two yoga classes with C, and they’ve been great. I really do want to find a way to get real yoga back into my life. One of the classes was at 7AM and it was the first time I’ve felt clumsy while doing yoga for a while — the people who make it to the early morning class at the yoga studio are definitely the serious, graceful, very fit type. But instead of discouraging me, it made me wish for more practice. One of the best things about yoga is how easy it is to see improvement: at the beginning of a class, there are stretches that feel impossible, like sitting cross-legged and bending your head to the floor, and by the end of the same class, it’s so much easier to do the same thing. That said, I expect to be seriously sore tomorrow and suspect that I’ll be limping on Friday.
I’m also having lots of sociable time, and getting to see so many friends, some of them quite unexpectedly. It’s both really nice and a little much for introverted me. I suppose vast quantities of solitude punctuated by bursts of crazy sociability is simply part of the life of the nomad (except maybe for the really extroverted nomads meeting people wherever they go), but I wish I could even it out a little. On Friday, whether the sink is fixed or not, I’m headed off for two solitary weeks of sitting still. I’m sure by the end of it I’ll be feeling like I’ve been alone for too long, but at the moment it seems very appealing.
And of course I’m hoping to get lots of writing done while I do. I’ve been trying hard this week, but it’s been going nowhere fast. I’m in a part that feels boring to me and I don’t know whether it’s boring because I’ve been living with this plot line for more than two full years or whether it really is boring. I guess I’ll find out eventually, but only if I keep writing. Onward!
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