Only 26 letters in the alphabet, yet so many words to choose from as I write this book. I’m not talking “damp” vs “moist.” ** I’m talking about the pressure of potentially stringing together words that inadvertently take my novel in a whole new direction. Words wield so much power.
But words are also a writer’s playground, and it can be very cool to play with them. Sometimes, though, writing a first draft reminds me what it was like to get off one of these old merry-go-rounds.
I’d be disoriented and slightly fearful about what I was about to crash into. I’m having that same feeling today.
** (Sorry, moist-haters, couldn’t resist)
We find delight in the beauty and happiness of children
that makes the heart too big for the body.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Just now, I sat down at my computer and went to pexels.com in search of a Lamb’s Ear photo. My plan for this blog post was to publicly declare my new-found hostility toward that invasive plant, and to describe how I’d ripped out AT LEAST SEVENTY GAZILLION of them from my garden today.
But when I got to pexels.com, my search results from several weeks ago were still there; I’d been looking for images for the characters in my work-in-progress.
And this guy was the very first photo:
I’ve decided to drop my rant and, instead, dedicate today’s post to this delightful child.
I asked Zippy if he could locate some old photos from 2003, and he (quickly!) found them on a CD. And even though I wasn’t looking for this particular photo of the young Wildebeest and Zebu strutting their stuff in San Francisco, I couldn’t resist sharing it.
Because this picture made me smile. And smiles are always, always welcome around here.
When I was in Florida visiting my mother last October, we took many walks around her community. On one of those walks, I spotted the familiar orange-and-black-and-white markings of a Monarch Butterfly. It was completely intact but no longer of this world. I gently cupped it in one hand for the rest of the walk and, when back at my mom’s, carefully wrapped the body in a tissue and tucked it inside an empty medication bottle.
I forgot about my little treasure until today.
While we have lovely butterflies in Colorado (lots and lots of Swallowtails), I have never seen a Monarch here. I know they’re struggling as a species, and that hurts my heart. It’s strange to have lived a childhood filled with these beauties feeding on milkweed plants, and then exist without them.
I was very happy to find this one on our walk, even if was no longer in flight. Nothing else looks like a Monarch.
Leon Russell went to the big piano bench in the sky last night. When Zippy told me the news, I felt deflated. But I didn’t realize how hard his death had hit me until I put on “A Song for You.” I couldn’t finish listening because the grief was too intense.
Leon Russell was a singer-songwriter who created music I was ALWAYS thrilled to hear whether it came on the radio, popped up on an iPod shuffle, or was background music in a shopping mall. I never wanted to tune him out. Leon Russell’s music made me smile, made me feel, and inspired me to sing along. His voice was unusual, his phrasing could trip me up, and his piano playing made me want to dance.
These two albums reside in my record cabinet. I don’t remember when I bought the Best Of, but have a very clear memory of buying Looking Back. I’d spent the day at the beach and was in the neighborhood supermarket in West Los Angeles when I passed a bin of deeply discounted albums. (I remembered this being a cut-out, but when I pulled it out of my cabinet just now, I was surprised to see there are no notches in the cardboard). This particular Leon Russell record was being sold for about $2, and I snatched it up. Any Leon Russell is great Leon Russell, right? He could sing the phone book and I’d listen.
Well, I got home and discovered that Looking Back was purely instrumental. Leon didn’t even sing! Not only that, Leon didn’t play the piano! On Looking Back, Leon played the harpsichord!
I have to admit I didn’t listen to that album a whole lot over the years (and I doubt any radio stations ever played cuts from it), but I’m still glad I bought it. That record represents an enduring memory from my time in LA. Also? It’s fun to think of Leon now playing in that super-band in the sky, shredding on his harpsichord while Leonard Cohen plays piano.
Thank you for all the music, Leon.
Rest in peace.
As has been documented here over the years, I’m a long-time Dylan fan, so wasn’t completely surprised when it was announced today that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. (Although, as I said in an email to a friend, I do wonder whether Bob should’ve been disqualified from consideration due to his Victoria’s Secret commercial years ago.)
Bob Dylan in November 1963 (Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Nonetheless, this year the committee chose to honor Bob Dylan’s work which, on a personal note, feels very fitting because Zebu is studying in Sweden right now. The award also feels fitting because of one Dylan song in particular that tragically never, ever goes out of style. For “Masters of War” alone, I’m good with Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Masters of War
Written by Bob Dylan
Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks
You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly
Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain
You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people’s blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud
You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins
How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I’m young
You might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do
Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul
And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
’Til I’m sure that you’re dead
© 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music
This morning I took my exercise and yoga routine to the basement in order to escape the cacophonous roofers. As I did a quad stretch next to the support post, something caught my eye:
My first thought was that those initials were etched by Alex E., one of Zebu’s best friends throughout childhood. But then it hit me: Amelia Earhart!
Because look what else I found just inches from those inititals:
That’s clearly either a flight route or maybe even a rough sketch of Howland Island where Amelia was headed on that fateful flight. Do you know what this means? I’ve uncovered a clue that could help solve the mystery of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance!
Wow! Who knew what was in store when I woke up this morning?!
(Okay, okay. Cut me some slack. I’m suffering the effects of WAY too much loud noise. The hammers are echoing in my head.)
Just finished a Skype session with Zebu who is in Sweden. He’s been there about ten days now and feeling more settled, especially after getting this issue resolved. I carried the laptop around the house so he could see the dogs and cats in their various poses of slumber and he told us of his many adventures.
The son who demanded I hold him for the first year of his life now eats breakfast paste from a tube and purposely gets lost in an unfamiliar city.
Marcel curled up next to my weight bench that’s covered with the T-shirt Zebu designed for his 6th birthday.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
~ T. S. Eliot
Zebu has completed two years of college and is getting ready to study abroad for the next year. He just finished sorting through an accumulation of notebooks, folders, and binders filled with paper from high school and the last two years.
He came across personal notes that made him cringe, Calculus test scores he’d rather forget, and class notes from his all-time favorite class so far, a Latin American history course.
Here’s something I rescued from the recycle pile:
He believes it’s from a high school English class and as he held it out for me to see he said:
“This may or may not be evidence of me cheating on a vocab test.
I honestly don’t remember.”
I honestly don’t care.
Gaining perspective is a beautiful thing.