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February 2, 2015

It’s snowing here. More than a little. The view onto the deck suggests the snow is attempting to swallow the house, a sort of slow and steady boa constrictor approach. The question is whether it will succeed before spring weather arrives. I’m giving it fifty-fifty odds at the moment.

I’ve been on a writing tear, which means things like blogs move way down in life hierarchy. This is the time when my family has to ask me the same question repeatedly before it will sift down into my brain, when I have to remind myself of the date or the time of day, and feel startled to discover it is February, not high summer, like it is in The Lost. It’s when I check phone messages and have that little touch of disappointment that none of them have called, and I must remind myself that they don’t call because they exist only in my head.

In other words, pure magic.

So, I’m not here much. I’m on Twitter a bit because it provides the mental equivalent of getting up and walking around the room for a few minutes. I’m making one of two salads (roasted beet/arugula or kale/quinoa) and eating them while thinking of other places, other times. I’m working on yet another hat, this one for my daughter, dark brown to help her blend into the trees outdoors, and listening to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell read aloud by my husband while the kids and I knit. I’m walking up and down the road, thinking, thinking, thinking.

And the writing? Still a tremendous mess at this point. New pieces to write, old pieces to choose, tenses to rearrange. It’s not just the history of that world I’m rearranging, it’s my own as well. We all live in houses inside our heads, and much of mine has been gutted and rebuilt since I last worked on this story. For now, there are moments when it feels impossibly difficult, and others when it feels effortless. The only absolute is the need to keep going.

In Crossroads, I made a deliberate decision to avoid romance with a capital R. There were a handful of reasons for this, not the least of which was that Blue’s quest was about family, about art, about friendship, about the kinds of love that don’t turn up in Valentine’s cards. By comparison, The Lost is drenched in desire. It’s also part of a bigger arc, and every piece I place now requires thought about how it reverberates through the story as a whole. There are moments when I miss Blue’s open plains, her determination to continue forward, alone, until she’s reached her journey’s end.

That’s the thing, I suppose, about houses in our heads. New wings can be built, strangers become friends, the view from every window can be different. Open one door, I’m looking out from a freight train onto spring in Idaho. Open another, it’s summer in an old farmhouse, and everything is about to break, but for this moment it is quiet and home.

The snow is slowing a bit. My brain is not. Off to write again.

Tales of the moderately rural

There’s a cheerful little sign on the WordPress dashboard letting me know that I’m not using the most up to date version of Firefox. It suggests that I may want to update it. You know, just in case I’ve forgotten to do so.

I haven’t. I just haven’t had the six or so hours free to tie up the phone line while downloading it.

Yes, it’s true. I live twenty minutes from a large college town, an hour from multiple cities, ninety minutes from Boston, and I’m stuck with good old dial-up. I also don’t have cell phone service or television stations (since the change to digital). Add in rural phone lines with lots of static, frequent power outages, and a job sometimes requiring me to be reachable 24/7, and you have all the makings of either a comedy or an early heart attack.

It’s not a terrible thing, most of the time. It means I can start opening a website and go away and make tea and read something for a while and come back just in time to see the first text appear on the screen. It means I can cross youtube completely off my list of possible distractions. It means I have ample time to practice meditative calm while waiting for something as simple as saving a blog post.

It also means it can take a long time to email things. To send out a full novel manuscript, for example, leaves time enough to cycle endlessly through exhilaration–mild anxiety–complete and utter despair. Send something you’re unsure about? No worries, you can begin your regret in the long minutes it takes it to leave the outbox.

Today I finally signed up for a twitter account. It took roughly my entire life to wade through the process. I may well never have the patience to access it again. But I did it.

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