On death

I just learned that a neighbor died. Alone. In their home. I don’t know any details beyond that. In trying to process all this, I went in search of a quotation that might speak to me and help make sense of the situation. This, from Kurt Vonnegut, caught my eye: There is love enough in this world for everybody, if people will just look. That sentiment felt applicable because of how the neighbor had alienated others to the extent that no one could pinpoint for the police when the neighbor had last been seen. In my mind, the aloneness had been needlessly self-inflicted over the years, destroying relationships that had once thrived. Then I happened upon this quotation from Orson Welles: We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone. Who was I to pity the neighbor when every one of us will make that final trip alone? Our neighbor was fiercely independent and very proud of that fact.

I recently read Smoke Gets In Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory which was quite helpful, not only because it put death in perspective, but also for leading me to human composting. For years, I’d been telling Zippy that when I die I wanted him to toss my body in the forest so that the crows and whatever else could feast on my remains. He patiently and repeatedly pointed out how he’d probably get in serious trouble for disposing of his wife’s body in the woods. But now I have a plan that’s legal and suits my wishes. It’s incredibly freeing to know that when I die, my body will not only return to the soil but also enrich the earth. I hope my neighbor experienced a similar peace by having a death plan in place. I also hope their death was swift and painless, and that they maintained their sense of indomitability to the very end. When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home. ~ Tecumseh

This flower from my garden is a stand-in for the photos I took years ago of my neighbor’s iris. They were out of state that spring and sad to miss their garden in bloom, so I documented the display and sent it along. Remembering that connection eases some of today’s shock.

May 13, 2020

Death forces us to think more about life and how we’re spending our finite time here. Zippy and I are grateful to have our sons visiting now and we’ve shared even more hugs than usual today. If you’ve read this far, thank you for sharing in these musings with me. I’m grateful for our connection.

Martin Luther King, Jr: all life is interrelated

Here’s yet another prescient reminder from MLK, this from his  1965 Oberlin Commencement address (“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”):

“All I’m saying is simply this: that all mankind is tied together; all life is interrelated, and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of identity. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what I ought to be until I am what I ought to be – this is the interrelated structure of reality.” 

Every single issue you can think of — global pandemic, ecological collapse, mass incarceration, wealth inequality, etc. — is addressed in that statement. ALL life is interrelated. And yet, here we are, still madly dancing to capitalism-a-go-go.

Mixed messages from March

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.  ~ Charles Dickens

Exactly so, Mr. Dickens. Which is why I’m sitting in a patch of sunshine next to this geranium that’s reaching for the warm light.

March 29, 2021

The wind can’t touch us here.

Speak peace

Common Grackle. Grand Island, NE. June 2, 2020

As an artist I come to sing,
but as a citizen, I will always speak for peace,
and no one can silence me in this.
~ Paul Robeson

Infinite storm of beauty

Uncompahgre National Forest, July 30, 2019.

When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.  ~ John Muir

Bee wisdom

Bee and Fern Bush, August 4, 2020

The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them. ~ Saint Francis de Sales

Today I embrace procrastination

It’s 2:30 of the p.m. in Colorado and while I have opened my Scrivener document, I haven’t done any writing. But hey, I didn’t even get that far yesterday. I’ve been in recovery and thinking mode as I sort through the wreckage of my incomplete first draft, and guilt-feelings sent me to BrainyQuote in search of insights regarding procrastination. I thought I’d find some tsk-tsk kind of quote that would be like a slap upside the head, something to “shame” me into getting back to work.

Instead, I found these two quotes from psychologist and author, Adam Grant:

Procrastinating is a vice when it comes to productivity, but it can be a virtue for creativity.

Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas, to think in nonlinear ways, to make unexpected leaps.

Image by mohamed ramzee from Pixabay

And while this may sound self-serving, I have experienced a couple out-of-left-field realizations about my story. Which is all to say, I’m gonna let go of the guilt and shame, post this, and then explore those realizations more thoroughly.

Missteps

I’d written just under 40,000 words of my latest middle-grade novel when it hit me: it’s not working. As in, not working as written. The story’s premise is solid (I believe), but the way I was telling the story was not working.

Yesterday I went all the way back to chapter two and tried again. The good news is that approach  feels stronger. More sustainable. The bad news? Adopting that approach will mean scrapping a whole lot of those 40k words. Yikes. How could I get it so wrong?

Welp, as author Thomas Mann noted: A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

I’m feeling a bit discouraged. But like this House Finch outside my window today, I need to accept that I bobbled the initial landing.

    

And just keep on writing so that

I regain my footing in the story. It’s all I can do.

Sunday Confessional: saved by a sloth

I’ve got strong feelings about ALL SORTS OF STUFF right now and felt a rant rising inside me. But as I tried to pin down exactly what I wanted to convey, I paused and reconsidered. Maybe what I really wanted to do was post about the writing life: the process, my progress, the angst and insecurities, etc. I’ve written many such posts over the years and appreciate that documentation which reminds me I’ve been here before and survived. Breathe, Tracy.

Which is how I began searching through Douglas Adams quotes, knowing he wasn’t an angsty guy but would provide me with the tone needed today. And here’s what resonated with me:

My absolute favourite piece of information is the fact that young sloths are so inept that they frequently grab their own arms and legs instead of tree limbs, and fall out of trees.  ~ Douglas Adams

Image by Minke Wink from Pixabay

Why does this resonate? One: it cracked me up. Two: I can relate to those young sloths because Three: as I near the end of this first draft, I vacillate between an overwhelming sense of ineptness and glimmers of “hot damn, this might actually not suck too much!”

And at the risk of sounding like a sloth-shamer: I haven’t yet fallen out of the tree.

Too long

American Robin. January 21, 2020.

A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, I too, have known autumn too long.   ~ e.e. cummings

Tree songs

Bockman Campground, State Forest State Park. June 12, 2019

A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease.  ~ John Muir

#Caturday with Loki

As anyone who has ever been around a cat for any length of time well knows, cats have enormous patience with the limitations of the human kind.  ~ Cleveland Amory

Loki on November 20, 2020

And we’re really stretching their feline patience these days. Come on, human kind. We’ve got to do much, much better.

Creating a merrier world

American Goldfinch out my window, October 1, 2019.

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.  ~ J. R. R. Tolkien

This goldfinch seems to embrace that philosophy, as do I.

Solidarity with workers

Everything is produced by the workers, and the minute they try to get something by their unions they meet all the opposition that can be mustered by those who now get what they produce.               ~ Harry Bridges

 

The Senate is currently conducting a farcical SCOTUS confirmation hearing (during a pandemic, while several Senators are COVID-positive) for a woman who will do the bidding of the powerful elite: crush the working class. The Republicans are seeing the culmination of their decades-long plan to stack the courts with anti-worker judges who will forever change the face of this country. The Dem party pretends to resist but they are equally comfortable with this outcome because they aren’t either jobless or working 2-3 jobs to scrape by, nor are the Dem elites starving, facing eviction, saddled with astronomical medical debt, or living in frontline communities as the climate crisis worsens. This latest SCOTUS judge will consolidate their wealth and power. All’s well.

It’s way past time we rise up.

In it together

Mourning Dove. September 19, 2020

Mother Earth needs us to keep our covenant. We will [. . .] commit to our descendants to work hard to protect this land and water for them. Whether you have feet, wings, fins, or roots, we are all in it together. ~ Winona LaDuke

Never happen in the U.S.?

Before the military coup in Chile, we had the idea that military coups happen in Banana Republics, somewhere in Central America. It would never happen in Chile. Chile was such a solid democracy. And when it happened, it had brutal characteristics. ~ Isabel Allende

We’re so confused now, focused on “is he/isn’t he” which gives them time and room to maneuver. They wouldn’t even need the military because there’s an army of white supremacists on standby.

I realize this makes me sound like a conspiracy theorist, a paranoid crackpot. But this isn’t a solid democracy, not by a long shot.

Aspirational quotation

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

September 12, 2020

Maybe not the best day in the year, but I did turn things around today. Lost my patience this morning after vacuum became unplugged several times, screaming and swearing loudly enough for the neighbors to hear. Promptly put vacuum away and sat down to read a book and drink coffee. Then set my sights on other tasks.

Pleased to report I ended up accomplishing much and smiling often(ish).

This is a climate emergency

August 15, 2020

What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?     ~ Henry David Thoreau

Zippy took this photo last month and while today’s air quality isn’t nearly so orange, I’m not spending any time outside. The local air quality index reads “Unhealthy for sensitive groups.” I’ll go out on a limb and say I think this translates to “the air is unhealthy for everyone and everything.”

Exceptionalism?! All over the United States, people are hiding indoors to escape the ravages of the climate crisis. And our elected officials don’t care, so it’ll only get worse.

Just ducky

Mallards in Clearwater, FL. May 4, 2019.

If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.         ~ Douglas Adams

ETA: Used this quote a little over a year ago. Oops. Knew I liked it.