October 24, 2013 — The cook toasted a purple chicken atop the flagpole until it became crinkled like the brown cellophane you crushed in your hand yesterday.
I am preparing a recipe for my Blue Deer Writers Workshops I intend offering in my home after the first of the year. Writing gets easier and improves when you don’t try to control it. Hell, you can even write upside down, Stephen King said. You can’t hold all the reins. If you do, you become so busy trying to control your team of words the reins entangle and you get writer’s block. So many potential writers tell me they want to write but they just can’t seem to get the story out. Everyone has a story to tell. My answer is, just write: write anything; just put the words on paper; write for 10 minutes without stopping; go back and edit and rearrange the words and phrases afterwards. If you don’t know what to say, begin with “I don’t know what to say,” and write that over and over if you must. Or talk about purple chickens. Combine seemingly unrelated words and see how they taste together. You may be pleasantly surprised. Unless you’re in a dark closet, be aware of your surroundings. Is your neighbor really cooking dog or does it just smell like that? Outside my window the vermillion dogwood leaves burnished by golden October sun, against a slate-gray wind cloud backdrop, quiver in the breeze surfeiting a corner of my mind with abundant beauty as I type filling the white page with black words in Times typeface.
Take a walk. Leave your cell phone home. With your face aglow in the light of the smart phone in which you’ve buried your nose, you miss your natural surroundings – the golds and reds and browns of the fallen maple leaves and the dry, smoky aroma rising from them as you shuffle through them; the venerable bald cypress incensing your hair and ears and shoulders with exotic fragrance as you walk in the cathedral of its graceful arms and hear the chittering and chirping of the many, busy little lives sheltered deep within.
In the Eastern High Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, the dry air smells of pinesap and granite dust. Hiking up the mountainside, at 9, 000 feet altitude and higher, I round a bend, unexpectedly to come upon a waterfall. I stand in awe, mesmerized, watching it shift and lift and change, sonorous, a white lacey veil played by the fingers of the wind. I move on, tripping the light fantastic along the banks of a glacier lake, taking care not to stumble over the plumbing, the pipes running from that lake down to the next and the next, ultimately to supply water for the town of Mammoth Lakes and other California places. The long arm of mankind reaches into the backcountry.
Sometimes I hiked with companions; sometimes I hiked alone. Always I listened, felt, watched, sensed, sniffed the air. High above, the sun glinted off an airplane, a silver sliver aloft in the blue, the singular sound of its jet engines in the high dry atmosphere, a sound that carries me back to the Sierra on the rare occasions the humidity is low here on the East Coast and I hear that sound again. Hiking in the Sierra, I didn’t take a cell phone, though always a camera, a bottle of water and a snack. The wildlife was different there from at home in Southern California; there were blue stellar jays, marmots and mule deer. The marmots resemble miniature bears; I steered clear of real bears, which at close encounter appear way bigger than portrayed in photographs.
Today a friend in the Seattle area mentioned buying delicious vegetable lasagna at Trader Joe’s. In Southern California I shopped regularly at Trader Joe’s. I bemoan the absence of Trader Joe’s in our local area. The nearest one is an hour away, and here in Delaware the law prohibits selling wine in a grocery store; TJ’s sells excellent wines at excellent prices. I really miss that store; and Whole Paycheck (oops, Whole Foods), too. A writer friend called it Whole Paycheck on her blog (http://lameadventures.com). I find the term accurate. Our family-owned Willey Farms, though, just up the road, is a combination of the two, everything locally grown or in winter trucked from their Florida farms, connected to the farm stand where I used to work. I smile when I walk in the door — it smells so good, of the season — in summer like melons and beans and tomatoes; in fall like squashes and cauliflower and broccoli; in winter, citrus; and onions in spring; a feast for the eyes in red, yellow, green, orange and purple. Of course, there are the homemade soups and the mac & cheese seemingly made from the recipe Thomas Jefferson brought back from Paris. Then there’s the candle department, perpetually illuminating my temptations.
This is my favorite time of the year. It is also the time of the year my sinuses get stuffed up and I develop a sinus infection. This has happened to me every fall, from October, before Halloween, through Christmas since I was a kid (on the East Coast, though not in Southern California). As a kid I suffered from terrible sinus pain and infections, having to be in bed and take this horrible green liquid medicine. I would have a mild fever and hallucinate. Big cinderblocks closed in on me in my bed as I dozed. Mother fed me orange Jell-O which I didn’t like, but found interesting to poke with my fingers and play in. Now every time I see that particular color green, I can taste that medicine and feel that sickening sinus pain. Every year Mother and I rode the trolley out towards West Chester, Pa., to the office of Dr. Tunnell, who washed out my ear. Interesting name for an ear, nose and throat specialist. The accent is on the second syllable.
I had a set of wooden design blocks that amused me while I was bed bound. Each side of the block had a different geometric design – adjoining triangles in complementary colors – or was a solid color, in red, blue, yellow or white. I could make several different designs with those blocks. I liked the red/blue combination because they are the colors of the University of Pennsylvania. The design examples were pictured on the inside of the lid. I wonder what happened to those blocks. I often wish I still had them. I read a lot, too – Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verse, classic short stories and novels – The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew – and biographies.
Last year my left ear was closed for a month. This year when I felt it coming on, I began taking colloidal silver. That normally stops the infection in its tracks and clears it up in three days. Colloidal silver kills the bacteria. It’s a liquid I administer by dropper — mouth, nose, ear.
I intend to begin the new year with a series I call “The Scheherazade Chronicles Afternoons of Authors Tea Readings.” I want to do these Sunday afternoons monthly until summer, in my home, each month featuring a different revered author, at $15 per person per session, beginning with a Jane Austen Tea Reading. At that time I will, of course, promote my books, Begins the Night Music, To What Green Altar, and hopefully by then I will have published my new one, The Phantom of My Blog. Moriarty’s been nudging me on that one.
I will also launch my writers workshops then. I’m planning to offer these workshops as 10 weeks of weekly hour and a half sessions for $300. If you are interested you can make a reservation via email at email@example.com; and you can pay through PayPal at the “Donate” button here on my site. I will keep writers groups small, no more than nine, and I want to invite local authors to come read their work and discuss writing. The only tools you will need for the writers workshops are a couple of good, easy writing pens and a spiral bound notebook. We will handwrite our work, we will take short walks, listen to music and otherwise immerse ourselves in sensory stimulation. We will read our work aloud.
My Blue Deer Writers Workshops: The blue deer rends the cloth of the common brown herd.
My goodness you have a lot of intensive comment throughout your blog pages. After your visit to my blog I wanted to check out what you do at your site. Impressive!
I too love the fall, but as you are well aware having lived in So. Cal. we don’t get much of what I would call the autumn experience like folks back east get. I do miss that, but we on the other hand get our own weather perks.
My phone is not all that smart or popular for that matter as I rarely get calls on it. I do carry it with me when I go out walking, not so much with any expectation that someone might call me, but just in case something would happen. I’d hate to start suffering a heart attack or some weird health event. I like to have the phone just in case cause you never know.
You have a very nice site here.
Arlee, what a happy surprise to hear from you. I apologize for taking so long to reply; I haven’t been on my site in a few days. Thank you so much for your complimentary comments. And, yes, SoCal does have its weather perks, despite the lack of discernible autumn. I do miss the place.
I’ve seen some reasonable offers on iPhone 4Gs lately — not the newest model, but worthy, and I’m thinking I really should get one — just for emergencies and in case I spot a scene that would make a good photo. Hopefully soon.
Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you come again.
too terrifically terrific Samantha! How I wish I was there! Maybe an online writers’ workshop? Hey? Hey hey!!!
I do’t have a smart phone – only a seriously old cell phone. Am thinking of getting with it ..
Hey, Susan. I definitely have considered online writers workshops. I might have more success with them than having 2 or 3 Delawareans come to my house. I have to put more thought into how I would do them, though.
For the ones in my home, I would start — first session — with participants sitting in a circle around a candle and orally telling very short stories. I also would like us to take short walks. So, I’m thinking about how I could virtually (online) do that. I’ll think on that. Shouldn’t be too much of a stretch. Also, I think I’m going to change the sessions from 10 hour and a half ones to 8 two-hour ones, so you get an extra hour for the same price. I have to think about how to work that online, too. The exercises would be much the same, except you couldn’t read your writing aloud, if you chose, to other participants — unless we all had Skype, and I don’t.
This is exciting. Let me work on it some more. Glad you suggested it.
Oh, and glad to have another member of the Seriously Old Cell Phone Club. 🙂
So much to love about this post, Samantha. Sorry it has taken me a day to get here.
First, I LOVE the purple chicken–fabulous image.
Second, I LOVE the sound of “shift and lift” in your waterfall description.
Third, LOVE that you are starting workshops.
Fourth, I LOVE to see my dear friend V here. You know she was one of two bloggers who were witnesses for Sara and me when we got married in April. Jackie Cangro was the other. She’s on my blogroll, as well. And damn, I need to update that thing. It’s been almost two years. Embarrassing.
Happy weekend, my friend.
Hugs from Ecuador,
Kathy, so good to hear from you. Always a pleasure.
Yes, waterfalls do actually make that shifting and lifting sound don’t they? Not only are the terms descriptive of appearance, they do make that sound. I hadn’t thought of that.
I knew V was one of your marriage witnesses; I didn’t know about Jackie Cangro, though. I’ve been a loyal Lame Adventures follower for some time; that’s how I got to you.
I should make a blogroll, rather than just having a list of blog links in the left sidebar. I’m going to change my whole landing page soon, anyway. But don’t worry about being late to my new posts. I still have one or two of yours to read. I will. Today would be a good day, but I’m going to watch a piano master class this afternoon and then to visit my stepmom — so, tomorrow? I hope. I look forward to reading your posts, so I’ll visit soon.
Hugs back to you in Ecuador. Hope you’re having a fun, adventurous weekend.
Fall is my preferred time of the year, too, until it segues into winter, a season that can be rather rough depending on the extent of the snowfall and how low temperatures drop. I just appreciate anytime of year when I am not sweating profusely or shivering uncontrollably. I don’t know if writing ever gets easier, but I do think that inspiration can strike at anytime and it has certainly behooved me to always be prepared. This is why I carry small notebooks with me if I ever need to jot down ideas. You suggest going out without a cellphone, but if I did that, I’d be bereft. This past summer, my cellphone carrier, Verizon, for a $30 upgrade fee, gave me an iPhone for free and the contract is only one cent more than what I was paying for my dumb phone ($60 vs. $59.99). This device has all kinds of apps. One I like a lot is called Notes. When I get ideas for stories and my notebooks are not handy I can quickly write them using that app and then email my notes to myself which is sweet. Much of my first draft of my recent blog post was composed in Notes over the course of a week while toiling at The Grind — one of the perks of having a job that only requires use of 3% brain capacity. The camera in the iPhone is also decent and convenient (D&C, if you prefer to give that a new meaning). I was out walking without my Canon point and shoot when I saw “the pumpkin” I needed to photograph to illustrate my Halloween blog post. I was very pleased to be able to take that shot with my iPhone. I prefer to embrace the latest technology. If not going totally gadfly with it, I don’t think technology needs to remove us from nature, but if used with restraint, it can enhance the experience.
V, not so long ago I thought, “Geez, everybody’s walking around at night carrying flashlights; their faces are all lit up.” Then I realized they were texting on their smart phones. I think you know that’s what I meant — the ones who walk right into you because they’re so busy with their noses in their phones.
I only have a dumb cell phone, but now you’ve sold me on an iPhone (the only smart phone I’d have), because the rate is not much higher than I already pay for my triple-play Comcast with phone. And so often they cut me off mid phone call. I pointed this out to them the other day — after they cut me off twice before I could get through to a rep — and it turns out their computers track this stuff, so they will give me a credit, but the repair tech has to come out and climb some ladders first. I do think it’s a great idea to carry — especially — a smart phone, and to have a camera always available. Also, I have heard and read about Notes (I always carry a little notebook and two pens in case one dries up) and think it’s an excellent app, which I have forgotten to download — I should note a reminder.
Many of my inspirational writing ideas come to me in the middle of the night, though, when I’d rather be sleeping.
Anyway, I’ll upgrade to an iPhone when my writing workshops draw standing room only crowds. Here in Delaware, a state with a population of three, we’ll see how all this works out for me.
What a pleasure to have you come by and comment. Thanks!
If you do upgrade to an iPhone, shoot for a promotional deal. I got lucky and Verizon came to me with the offer, but my friends, who all have the same phone as me, are paying $100 for theirs (before taxes and fees). Milton was flummoxed about that and he asked me why mine’s so cheap and his is so expensive. Naturally, I said, “Because I’m a white female and you’re a black male.” Fortunately, he has an excellent sense of humor. As I told him, I will tell you, ask your cellphone carrier for a better offer because once they have you hooked as Verizon has Milton and my other friends, they’re not going to just give it to them without their asking.
This is the game I just played with Comcast, V. You have to call every 6 or 12 mos., tell them you’re comparing various services and prices and then ask what they can offer. This time the guy gave me a special offer for only $10 more monthly than I had been paying, which was $20 more monthly than the previous year. So, I sighed and told him I would have to look elsewhere. That’s when he took the extra $10 off.
Were I to get an iPhone, I would not go with sneaky, ruthless AT&T, who are my dumb phone carriers, but probably Verizon, only slightly more affable to deal with; but, then, I’d tell them what I want to pay and would stay firm on that — well, I might bend a little for an offer including fresh-baked gingerbread topped with whipped cream. We’ll see. Right now there’s no rush.
Thanks for this guidance. We all need to stick together on these issues.
Samantha, this piece is fabulous as it truly is a treat to the senses. I applaud you for creating and naming your workshop. I hope you fill your living room! Excellante!!
Gwynn, my living room is big, so yours is a wonderfully big wish. Now, let’s work on my big dining room with the big table….
I must say that T.J. contributed at least an antler towards inspiring the Blue Deer name.
Thanks for reading and your kind compliment.
An amazing piece, Samantha. I especially love the last line…and the fact that you’ve named your new venture the Blue Deer Writers Workshop.
It had to Blue Deer, T.J.– the only way to break out of the box and to the truth of the inner you. The Blue Deer seemed to symbolize best my intentions, inspired by Natalie Goldberg.
Your compliment means a lot to me, in many ways, but especially since you know a lot more about writing and good writing than I.
Yes, delicacies of external stimuli.
Very, very agreeable.
I salute you.
Thank you, R. — y estoy de acuerdo. Salud. Warms the insides.