Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Walk in the Sun

I have been in the doldrums. I don't know where that is, so finding my way in and out is always a bit tricky. I am homesick but otherwise quite OK except that too many people around me are struggling with troubles and travail and I feel helpless.

It has not helped that the weather has been even by our standards just desperate---cold and grey or wet and grey or grey and sulky. Now I like grey. It is one of my favourite colours actually, but enough is enough.

So today when the sun came out and looked as if it might stay awhile, I took my camera for a walk up the hill. I had thought really that I would go down to the moss and try to get a shot of a favourite little purple flower I saw the other day, but my feet had other ideas. When in the doldrums, I let my feet do the navigating.

And I'll let my camera do the talking for now.
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book People

Dotted among the other activities for the past couple weeks have been some lovely discoveries as a result of conversations with Book People. By the bedside I have the book that was at the heart of a favourite film, Venus Peter (book title is Twelvemonth and a Day).

In the living room is an American poet from the beat generation whose work I had never heard of before. I get as excited about new books/authors as an archaeologist finding a fossil.

In the kitchen are two books by authors known to me but not these books--Ursula Leguin and Nathaniel West.

Now back in the US I had a conversation with my visiting friend about books and virtual books. She first introduced me to Diana Gabaldon books. I wish we had had time to show her some standing rocks, but we ran out of--you'll forgive the near-pun since Diana Gabladon has time-travelling characters--time.

My friends and I are all level headed people and know the difference between what is real--the beans and toast I just made for lunch, for example, and the stories we read and sometimes write. However, there is a particular pleasure that comes from populating the world of beans and toast with friends and acquaintances we have met in books.

It is a rainy day here. My real friends are probably all curled up with a book someplace, so I may just take advantage of the weather to play with some of my new found imaginary acquaintances.

Monday, September 20, 2010

To Helmsdale for the 9:47

We headed for Helmsdale to catch the 9:47 to Inverness because we had a friend that we were reluctant to see go. It was raining and probably the things we managed to see en route were of no special consequence, but it was a good run. A quick glance at the Camster Cairns, a nod at trees growing slowly, and long swathes of heather and gorse punctuated with sheep.

I realize when I look at it with friends for whom it is new how beautiful it is to me. Autumn is still my favourite season even though it bears little resemblance to Autumn as I have known it.

Only when she waved from the train did I realize I had no photo of her. Feeling just a bit sad and homesick, we went around the corner to Timespan, a local heritage centre with a great cafe and an herb garden and fond memories. I visited there as a tourist myself and then again in the early days as I was feeling my way in this new world.

As I sat overlooking the garden I almost felt as if I could collect those avatars and join them up and be wiser and more content. Instead, I felt a restlessness, a sweet melancholy. I know the antidote for this feeling is to get busy. It is the edge of homesickness and nostalgia that can trump even a lovely heathered landscape.

I strolled through the garden with my camera and looked at the new exhibit upstairs, which I found I liked much more than I had expected to. I collected permission to photograph and details about the artist and such like and began framing an article for the paper. The purposefulness of it made me feel less distracted.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Too Many Blowy Days

It hit me as I was trying to put order into the house before my guest arrives--a Herculean task at the best of times--and I was collecting things for an upcoming workshop on felting and so writing in my head what I would say/do. As the phrase "discipline of laying out fibres in tile wise fashion" came into my head, I realised that the only way to make peace with the struggle in my own mind between discipline and imagination was to sit down and write. (I have been chided as well by folks reminding me I have not written for some time.)

When the wind blows up here with its diffident, petulant huffing and puffing, I find it harder to think. If Camus could blame his existential woes on the sun with the classic "c'est au cause du soleil", then I need have no qualms about charging the wind with multiple grievances, including my own distractedness.

My daughter is struggling with her own balance between disciplined head down and write so many words per day and seemingly frivoulous antidotes for writer's block. For me, in the middle of the writing the workshop script in my head, what I really wanted to be doing was walking the Greenland moss with my friend.

My friend is not here yet, the wind is blowing not terribly but uninvitingly, and the house and several other projects are calling to me to be disciplined. So I'm writing. My own compromise between walking the moors and vacuuming the floor. Last night I watched The Tango Lesson, a mediocre movie with fabulous music and dance scenes about a woman with writer's block who runs away to learn tango. I don't know if it cured her writer's block, but it was certainly a great deal of fun.

I was in Elizabeth's buying some notions to finish off some of my craft projects. The clerk said, "You have a lot of imagination." I replied, "I used to get in trouble for that." The wry smile on the woman next to me who had not been formally part of the conversation spoke volumes to me. No matter how old we are or where our imaginations take us, we are always struggling to get that balance.

We are all a bit like Lawrence Ferlinghetti's poet in "Constantly Risking Absurdity":

the poet like an acrobat
climbs on rime
to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
above a sea of faces
paces his way
to the other side of day
Ok, now, fortified with a poem, I am ready to vacuum.