The sky at Crooked River State Park, Georgia

The sky at Crooked River State Park, Georgia

In winter, days last longer in the south. In my head, I’ve known that for a long time. Alaska & Scandinavia = dark all day in the winter = duh. But in the past few days, I’ve really noticed the difference.

But let’s start at the beginning: I was staying in PA to watch my niece play Piglet in her school production of Winnie-the-Pooh, but I had one eye on the weather report and I was getting increasingly nervous. It sounded like it might be bad, and definitely not driving weather. I didn’t want to miss the play, though, so I took my chances and stayed.

It was the right call. The play was fantastic, and kinda crazy. The story is that Kanga is coming to the forest and all the other animals are scared of her because she insists on baths and medicine. I can see that in some version of this story, it’s about not being afraid of the unknown and maybe even understanding that baths and medicine are good for you. But in this version of the play (dialogue unchanged, merely a matter of delivery), it’s about child abuse and kidnapping and revenge. At one point, Rabbit is offering Roo candy in order to kidnap him so they can blackmail Kanga into giving up Piglet who has already been kidnapped and is being tortured… who knew Winnie-the-Pooh was such a psychopathic story?! But it really was all about the delivery. M played Piglet, which I had assumed would be a minor part, but it was not, and she was terrific. Her expressions in the scene where Kanga is forcibly giving her a bath were hysterical. I laughed so hard I worried I was being disruptive. I’m so glad I stuck around to see it.

The next day I braved the rain and started to drive. My tentative plan was to make it to a campground around the Virginia/North Carolina border and stay there for a few days. The weather did not cooperate. Neither did the traffic. As is the way of traffic in the rain, a major accident closed the entire highway for a while and probably added a solid two hours to my journey. I managed to view it as an adventure, getting off the highway and roaming around side streets at 25MPH, and obviously, my day was a hell of a lot better than that of the people involved in the accident, but still…

After I made it through the traffic jam, I stopped at CostCo for gas and snacks and bought myself, among other things, an LL Bean winter coat for $40. It rolls up and fits into a small sack like a tiny sleeping bag. I suspect it makes me look like a plump eggplant, but that’s okay, I was a warm plump eggplant! And I’m going to need it again within a few months, I think.

Eventually I wound up at a noisy Walmart in Virginia, not sleeping, but at least not driving. The next morning, I considered simply driving to the campground I’d intended to reach on the first day, but it was cold and gray and it seemed pointless. Why would I want to camp in cold, gray misery? Instead, I resolved that I would keep driving until I reached 70 degree weather and sunshine.

It didn’t happen. Instead, I spent another night at a Walmart parking lot. It was a longer day, because I stopped when it got dark, but it got dark later, followed by another sleepless night. I’m not anxious about parking lots the way I used to be. I don’t lie awake worrying about every strange sound. But at the very best of times, I’m not a great sleeper, and strange noises wake me up. Parking lots are filled with strange noises.

By Sunday morning, I was feeling exhausted and unwell. I walked Z around the parking lot, made myself some coffee and breakfast, and considered the miles. Another six hours of driving would get me to a driveway in Florida, at which point what I would really want to do would be to crawl into bed and take a nap for a day or two. Or I could take a break, stop at a campground, have a day or two to rest, clean out the tanks, do some organizing, get the van ready for another couple weeks of driveway days. The campground won.

So this morning I am at Crooked River State Park, in Georgia. It’s a nice campground, huge sites, with plenty of space between them. The landscape reminds me very much of Florida, with lots of scrubs pines and palmettos. I’ve seen the river, but only from a distance, but Z and I had a nice stroll this morning around the campground, the mini-golf course and playground. My one real negative about this campground is that Georgia State Parks are comparatively expensive: I’m paying almost $40/night for a water-electric site and if I’d been willing to drive another hour (and possibly had made a reservation ahead of time), I could get an equivalently nice site, possibly even nicer, for $24 night. Florida State Parks are a much better deal. And since this park is so much like a Florida park… shrug. But it’s a convenient stop for me and just for a couple of nights, so it felt worth it.

Yesterday I dumped the tanks and rinsed them out, and one of today’s goals is to fill them again, so that they can have an almost clean flush when I leave tomorrow. Also on my agenda: washing lots of dishes, defrosting the freezer, showering, sweeping, and appreciating the sunshine. Lots of appreciating the sunshine and warmth, I hope. It’s supposed to go up to 80 today, which would have annoyed me a couple of months ago, but which is going to feel very pleasant today.

Also on the agenda, doing some real writing. I’m thinking about doing a NaNoWriMo project this year. I’ve never succeeded at NaNo — the pressure freezes me up immediately — but I feel like it might be really fun to spend a month writing something with no goals, no agenda, but just trying to let the words pour out. I haven’t decided yet, because obviously, I’m currently working on projects that are “real,” ie, intended for eventual publication, and from a life perspective, I need to start doing things that will earn me money eventually. On the other hand, from a life perspective, maybe I should be working on maximizing the fun I have from writing for a while?

At any rate, NaNo starts on Thursday and one of my ideas for how I might make it work for me is to have a list of questions that I can use every time I get stuck on my story. Like story prompts, but for within a story. Maybe even a numbered list to go with rolling dice. Get stuck, roll the dice, use the idea. So examples of ideas — #2: what can the POV character smell right now and what does it mean to her? No #1, because obviously, with two six-sided dice, you never roll 1. But maybe I should get a RPG die instead, because also with two six-sided dice, your odds of some numbers come up more than others. Two and twelve are a lot less likely than six and seven. And talk about getting lost in the weeds! I need to make my list first, and then I can worry about how I will use it.

But for my fellow writers who might be reading this, if you have ideas about questions, please share them!

Mine so far:
1) What does the POV character smell and what does it mean to her?
2) What is an unexpected sound that would change the scene?
3) How can the character say “yes, and…”?
4) How can the challenge facing the character be immediately made more difficult?
5) What would an Aha! moment look like for the character right now?
6) How is some detail of the character’s past important in how they’re perceiving the current situation?
7) How does the POV character read/understand what a non-POV sees, believes, or feels in the situation?

I don’t know whether this will work. Like I said, I’m lousy at NaNo. But it feels like it might be fun to try. I also have absolutely no idea where or what my story is. I feel like if I start a new Tassamara story or work on Fen, I’m already constraining myself to worlds and characters and rules already created. But maybe that story snippet I posted the other day would be a fun project to keep going with. At any rate, I should stop writing this blog post, and start some of the other things on my list. I can think more about it while I wash dishes!