Writer

Category: Nature

JANUARY, A MONTH TOO SHORT AND TOO LONG

January bears the burden of high expectations: A New Year! Resolutions! Winter projects! If last month I was tired, this month, the winter holidays behind me now, I felt ready to be productive—I will get so much done this month! And yet this month has flown by—is it really the 24th already?—and I have not gotten so much done. The too-long part of January isn’t an abundance of time for projects, but the endless dark and cold days. In Bellingham, we experienced negative temperatures for the first time in the twenty-six years we have lived here. I’m not a fan. Though comparatively it was interesting to experience twenty-three degrees as a comfortable temperature.

Work: In 2022, I set a goal to have my Armenian family manuscript completed and of publishable quality by my sixtieth birthday in February 2025. That goal felt reasonable and doable then. I set many intermediate goals. I moved those goalposts a few times. I have made progress but not as much as I’d hoped. Hence the high expectations for this January. And now I’m here, with only thirteen months left until I turn sixty. I’m not moving the goalposts this time, but I have altered the goal: a complete draft of decent quality, probably not ready for publication but ready for an editor, a fresh set of discerning eyes. To that end, I hope January, and February, continue to provide the perfect weather—dark, damp, and cold—to stay inside and write.

Do you set short- and long-term goals for your various projects? Any tips for helping to meet those goals? How do you feel about moving the goalposts or altering the goal itself?

Wonder: Last month I read Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. “Wintering” doesn’t just occur in the winter but any time when illness, a major life event, a failure, or a period of transition sidelines you from your regular routine. Wintering may arrive slowly or suddenly, and can be painful and lonely. Most assuredly wintering is inevitable. “life is, by nature, uncontrollable. . . . we should stop trying to finalise our comfort and security somehow, and instead find a radical acceptance of the endless, unpredictable change that is the very essence of this life.” Fighting this fundamental truth brings on only more suffering.

What do I do when winter finds me? Recognize it for what it is: a change of season, temporary. Treat myself kindly: walk outside or stay inside and watch the birds at the feeder. Sleep in, nap, and go to bed early. Try to honor what I need in this particular season.

What helps you get through a wintering and/or this literal cold dark season? In what ways, if any, do you change your daily routine? What books help sustain you this time of year?

Window: Single digit temperatures I can do without but it isn’t winter, to me, if we don’t get at least one snowfall to brighten the day and settle a hush over the world. My love of snow isn’t shared by all, and I understand the hardships snow poses to those who must go out into it or get stuck, against their wishes, at home. Still the snow possesses a touch of the magical, and transports me to a world seen anew, if only for a few days.

 

Windows, All The Way Around

September brought two local end-of-summer camping trips and while my writing work continued albeit at a much slower pace and there was much to wonder, this blog is all about what was outside the windows of the trailer, plus a welcome-home view.

Kayak Point: A new campground for us in a forest on a bluff overlooking the Salish Sea. Just down the road from the campground is a disc golf resort and we had two days of throwing fun. I highly recommend the putting course for all levels of disc golfers. Besides being free, the par-two course has water features which add ambience and an occasional disc bath. Back at camp, we hiked a short steep trail down to the beach, where the salmon were jumping, continuously. I laughed at the joyous sight of the frolicking fish, while a local fisherman lamented that he’d have better luck shoving an empty boat out amid all that jumping than he was having fishing from shore. I attributed the salmon jumping to all their energy surging them toward their spawning grounds, perhaps in the nearby Stillaguamish River. A quick internet search added two additional reasons. According to Tlingit culture, the jumping is to better see their surroundings, a geographical orientation. The jumping may also be to dislodge sea lice. Great, now I know that such a creature as sea lice exists.

Forest View

Water View

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Work, Wonder, and Windows

Welcome to my blog. First time here? Check out May’s blog for info on my intentions for this space.

Work: Last October while reading Judith Kitchen’s The Circus Train, a novella-length essay in fragments about, to name a few, mortality, Samuel Beckett, and memory, I came across this line: “I like the phrase ‘time on your hands’ when you can actively hold it and feel its weight.” In that moment I was transported back thirty years to an experience that altered my perception of time. I grabbed a pen and a notebook, and wrote the first draft of “Twenty Seconds,” an essay out in the current issue of Two Hawks Quarterly.

What does the phrase “time on your hands” make you think about?

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Work, Wonder, and Windows

June 2023

Welcome to my blog. First time here? Check out last month’s blog for info on my intentions for this space.

Work: I’ve started on the next draft of my book, my untitled Armenian family memoir. The last draft I refused to begin with page one—I was sick of page one. I was sick of the beginning that might not even be the beginning, in the end. I picked a pivotal section on page 43 and sailed forth from there. Last week I landed on page 191 with new insights for global revisions, my main goal for that draft. I’ve returned to the beginning, and those new insights are helping me see what belongs here and what decidedly does not, and the fate of the rest of the beginning is uncertain at this point. As a person, I prefer the familiar, the known, the certain. As a writer, I’ve found the only way forward, for me, is to make peace with losing sight of the shore and trust that new lands will appear, eventually, on the horizon.

A helpful resource to take along on the drafting journey: Seven Drafts by Allison K Williams.

How do you tackle your drafts? Always from the beginning? Or do you jump around?

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Work, Wonder, and Windows

May 2023

One of my motivations to write is connecting with others, and that connection can’t begin until the work goes out into the world. As I am currently writing a book, it’s a long slog before that engagement can begin. So I’ve decided to reboot, revive, and recommit to my blog.

This blog will be loosely organized in three categories: Work, Wonder, and Windows. What I am up to with my writing; wonderings inspired by books, podcasts, articles, essays, anything really; and what I’m seeing out my window on my borrowed piece of the planet between the Salish Sea and the Cascade Mountains.

Work: I’m expanding my MFA creative nonfiction thesis into a book-length work about my relationships with my Armenian grandmother and her two sisters, and the silence surrounding their life in Turkey and how they survived the Armenian Genocide. I’ve published two essays related to this work: “Geraniums” at Complete Sentence and “Tante Silvia’s Flinch Cards” at The Keepthings.

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SHOTPOUCH

A wash of pink spreads across the lavender sky. The apple orchard grays into view. Soon Shotpouch Creek will surface, rippled in white. But first something new: bits of darkness darting through the air. It’s too early for the robins that will dot the meadow feeling out worms or the kinglets that will flitter in the willows along the creek. The winged darkness flies at the floor-to-ceiling windows and disappears soundlessly. Bats. A dozen visible and then poof—gone. One flies toward me and then melts away. Another scrabbles against the glass for half a second before slipping under the flashing over the sliding glass door. They pour through the dim morning light and secure themselves for sleep.

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