C is for Contemplation

It all began before the apocalypse.

For the first time in a decade, my little family was going to go on a vacation. And unlike anything we had done before, this was going to be an epic holiday. Our oldest was slated to go to Paris (France, if you must ask) as part of a senior French class trip. The rest of us had booked a week in Hawaii at a resort, a first for us. We were going to be pampered and enjoy a break for the first time in a really long time. For some, that was the going to be the first time ever.

Then the world ended and we had to cancel our flights and hotels and stay home. I’m not bitter about that – we’re how many months in and still pandemic free, and that has a lot to do with limiting exposures.

The other side of that coin is that we had money budgeted and set aside for the vacation. Now, a prudent person might have simply socked it away again. And for a lot of it, we did, but we also let us ourselves have a little something. We ordered backyard furniture.

And so a new routine was born for me. I get up in the mornings (earlier these last few weeks, but that’s fodder for another post), make a cup of tea (because at some point in the last six months, morning coffee gives me heartburn but tea doesn’t – the graphic still stands, Chief), and I head out to the backyard. While the dog noses around until she settles in the shade, I journal. Or at least what I call journaling – it’s more like a diary than a journal, but the word diary conjures images of heart festooned covers and padlocked latches, and this is more me recording my thoughts and random recounts.

This routine has quickly become writ in stone, albeit soapstone. In true Pavlovian nature, as soon as the dog hears me stirring that cup of tea she comes running down to go outside. Unfortunately, she does it every time I stir a cup now, even if I’m not headed out, but we’re working on it.

I don’t spend a lot of time outside with that first cup of tea. Ten, maybe twenty minutes of being surrounded by the early morning sounds is all I need to start my day. Lately I’ve added reading the Washington Post to my routine, but that’s a bonus. The real joy is in being able to sit outside in the morning, sip my tea, pen in hand, and start my day.

This week, though, I learned what a fragile lie that is.

For the last month or more, we’ve had no rain. Every morning has been fairly similar – partly cloudy skies, bright blue patches, sun rising, birds singing and frolicking on the fence. But one day this week, it rained in the morning. My entire fragile schedule was devastated, and to be honest I never quite recovered that day. It made me realize just how amazing being able to go outside in the mornings and journal with a cup of tea is – and how short lived it is. This week it was a rainy day. But soon, the temperatures will also start dropping, and while Portland doesn’t get too cold, it can be uncomfortable to try and write outside first thing in the morning. I also know (because I am inane and track this sort of thing in my daily planner) that sunrise is being pushed a minute forward every day. I’ve been getting up by 6/6:30 and outside by no later than 7. But today sunrise wasn’t until 06:03. My mornings outside are running short whether I want them to or not.

And so I am now planning on how to adapt to the changing seasons. There truly has been something liberating about sitting outside in the morning that I don’t want to let go of. I have limited workspace inside, but what space I have is truly all mine (within reason). Now is the time to get it setup, I think, while I still have the luxury of working outside.

So how do you all start your mornings? Surely everyone else isn’t just rushing straight to the work desk. Let me know in the comments. And happy Saturday!

B is for Blog

I know, it’s been a while. First and foremost: we are healthy, and Portland is not on fire.

When I started my long silence, it was because I had started work on a book. In the past, I’ve been too quick to blog about my projects, leaving a sense of failure and disappointment in me when they fail to meet completion. So this time, I kept it close to my vest and just wrote. And wrote. When I was done, it felt great for almost a week. And then I looked at what I had written, an unmitigated mess in the first person, and felt no small sense of despair.

The book sucked.

For a while, I let that realization rule me. But in the last few weeks, I’ve taken the manuscript back up and begun to look at it, not so much as a first draft as a really detailed outline. And I’ve begun rewriting it, from scratch, and frankly, I like what I’m writing these days. I can see where I dropped the ball in the first draft (besides writing it in the first person), and I think I’m correcting for that in this pass.

H is for Hawk

But even that doesn’t explain the long silence, or my breaking it. For that, I think I owe a nod to H is for Hawk. I’m only a few chapters in, and although the writing is great (really, I see why it was so acclaimed), I’m struggling because it’s bringing up memories and feelings I thought I had control of. After a brief discussion of goshawks vs sparrowhawks, the author’s mother called to tell her her father died. And just like that, the pain of last year fell on me again this week.

Which strangely brings me back to here. After my parents passed away, blogging became less important to me. I had a few times where I tried to bring it back – NaNoWriMo, and again earlier this year. But there has been so much going on, from soft apocalyptic pandemics to George Floyd and all that came from that. Blogging just wasn’t on my billet.

But I found myself crying the other day at what is happening in my own backyard. While I don’t live in the two to four square blocks where everything is happening (despite rumors, Portland is not burning), the idea that our own Government was using troops against its citizens is repugnant. What a dark day for the Republic. Last night, DHS finally started pulling out of Portland. If the media is to be trusted, it was also a peaceful night. What a sad statement.

And yet it somehow got me out of a rut, because here I am. Blogging. And remembering I do have a voice, and thoughts to share. Feel free to leave a comment below, its really the only way I know you’re out there. (Assuming I haven’t forgotten to re-enable comments).

Hello, it’s me.

Hello, it’s me. I know it’s been a while. It feels like years, even though it’s only been a few months. How the world has changed in the three months since my last post.

I should start by saying I didn’t stop blogging because of the soft apocalypse. To be honest, in a lot of ways nothing has changed much in my life because of the lockdown. I worked from home before, I work from home now. I didn’t have a significant out of the house social life before, and that has remained status quo. With only sporadic outings for undeliverables, what I miss most is the freedom to run out and get something. Not enough to risk a contagion, but that’s what I miss.

So why the silent treatment? Well, and if you follow me on twitter (and you probably should, it’s the one platform I’m active on still), this is not surprising news. A few weeks ago, I finished the first draft of The King’s Lament. There is a lot of work to do on it still, starting with rewriting the first six scenes for POV corrections, plus all of the revising and massaging I think the story needs, but I am fairly satisfied with the rough draft. I finished around 60k, which is a meaningless number for now. I know there are scenes and chapters I may yet add, and for every had and still and that I remove, there will be plenty of text stirred in.

I was silent on the blog because I have a bad track record of talking up a story when I’m working on it, then never finishing. I wanted to avoid that this time, so instead I wrote the story first. Novel, I know.

Long time readers – and this takes little effort given how sporadic my posts have been – may recognize the working title. This is actually a book I tried to start writing last Spring before my life was turned upside down. I’ve still not quite recovered if I’m honest. The coming week is the anniversary of my father passing, followed a few days later by my mom. I’m in my mid 40’s, and I won’t lie, I’m still shaken up when I say that. I guess you’re never too old to tremble at the realization your parents have passed.

So there we are. A blog post, to remind the spammers where I am, and an explanation of my absence, which is namely to say “writing.” And sure, I could have blogged about other things besides writing since February, but let’s face it, I can’t keep a secret for more than a few days. Ask my wife.

And since it was the song that came to mind when I started writing this blog post: