Monday, September 21, 2020
Friday, September 18, 2020
Thursday, September 10, 2020
|The Giant Russians alongside the chicken coop|
|Dwayne's sunflowers are visible from a half a kilometre away.|
Friday, September 04, 2020
It took me all summer, but I finally finished the signs inspired by my niece, Mimi, who made the same ones that her father nailed to a tree in the front yard of their Atlanta, Georgia, home.
Only I can't bring myself to nail them to the pine tree by our driveway because our winter weather will be hard on the signs, even if they're lacquered, and I just don't want to drive nails into my tree. I'll have to work out how to wire them together then hang them from one or two nails.
For now, my easel works perfectly as a display since these signs inspired this week's church message: In This House. They're in my kitchen right now but on Sunday morning, those signs and that easel will travel into town to the sanctuary where I get to say, "In THIS house, we believe..."
You better believe it. I'm getting a little radical but you know what I say: I'm too old for this shit. We don't have much time left to fix this world and start living like decent human beings. We know how we are supposed to live; we simply choose not to do it.
Please: Love your neighbour. Take care of each other. Don't be an asshole.
That last one is from the Gospel According to Sara.
Thursday, September 03, 2020
Tuesday, September 01, 2020
Thursday, August 20, 2020
|Our August holiday on PEI, 2019|
Honestly, the morning flung some serious words at me, so thank goodness it was the day for washing windows. That offered me the time doing mindless physical activity to process the words and their meanings, and how they make me feel.
I follow a writer and painter -- a creator -- named Morgan Harper Nichols. Her words of inspiration and encouragement (in her newly published book) got me through my "season of angst" last fall. But she posts every day on social media and this morning, I read this:
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
|My father with "Bob the Bull", Pugwash Point, August 1991|
It took a few minutes to land on the right title for this post, but each one I chose made me laugh, because the photo put a whole different spin on them. The photo really has nothing to do with what I'm writing, but I didn't see the point in another sunset over the field. Instead, here's a nice memory from our summer holidays in Nova Scotia.
I had a lovely, long catch-up phone conversation with my friend Jennifer, who lives in Toronto. (She's mentioned in Field Notes in my essay about the chickens, because she's the friend who was with me when I bought my fancy red boots in the Bloor West Village.)
We both turned 50 this year, and have been friends since university. Jennifer's life is different from mine -- she's a mother of two, lives in the city, has a good job -- but like me, she's feeling like she's still searching for what she really wants to do. In her case, it's feeling stagnant in a job she's done, and done well and enjoyed, for 20 years. For me, it's trying to get around the obstacles that are keeping me from publishing more books.
I told her about the branding/platform/ten-thousand followers that risk-adverse publishers are looking for. She told me the story of a Toronto novelist whose first book was rejected not because it wasn't a good story, but because "no one wants to read a story set in Edwardian times", the publisher said. Then the TV show, "Downtown Abbey" hit -- and suddenly, the publishers were panting for her novel! Jennifer said so much of publishing about timing, and I agree; there's a lot of "right place, right time, right story" -- pure luck -- involved, and that's what I'm up against.
Afterwards, as I thought about our 2-hour conversation and all the things we discussed, I realized I'm a columnist and an essayist; it's my job to be interested in a lot of different things. And now so much of my writing is interconnected; even if I'm not doing the city girl-country girl persona as much, my rural life in Nova Scotia is always a through line, whether I'm writing about food, death, or faith.
(Ha! Right there -- three of the major themes of life!)
As I progressed through my chores after supper -- washing dishes, watering plants, cleaning kitty litter, having a bath -- all those quiet, physical activities that promote contemplation -- I realized I'm okay. My work is okay. If I'm truly committed to this work, and I am because I love it, as discouraging and disheartening as it can be, then I must persist
After all, 2020 is the year when some of my persistence paid off. Two articles that I've been pitching for several years are finally being published. Both come out in October issues (one was bumped from the June issue because of the impact of the pandemic). It seems like whenever I think it's time to give up -- and I started out this year believing that and planning for that -- something happens that tells me to hang in there.
Jennifer really believes that my memoir, The Funeral Director's Daughter, will get picked up because "everyone's talking about funerals now" and that's all the encouragement I need to keep doing what I'm doing, and doing it my way.
I'm still out standing in my field -- and not letting other people's bullshit chase me over the fence.
Sunday, August 16, 2020
|Sunset over the field|
I'm on another three-week vacation from church work, which allows me to focus on other writing projects. The "secret" summer book project is coming along nicely, and I might be able to reveal what it is in September. A friend wants to give it as Christmas gifts so it's good to have a deadline.
My other not-a-secret book project is getting The Alphabet of Faith (TAOF) -- as a collection of 26 essays -- ready to pitch to a publisher. I decided to spend Friday working on the book proposal and expected to have a lot to show for the effort.
I hit a wall almost immediately, and it flattened me. Even the emergency ice cream cone at two in the afternoon couldn't pull me out the downward spiral. The kind of spiral that has me almost frantic about what I'm going to do if I can't be a writer.
For some reason, I starting working on the book proposal for TAOF ass-backwards. Perhaps because the book feels ready to go -- there's a title and the essays only need to be edited -- I thought I could just skip the whole "What is the book about?" and start in with "Who is the target audience/market for this book?"
Thinking it would give me good guidance, I looked up the guru of non-fiction book proposals and her suggestions for statistics about my intended audience and analysis of what the market is looking for ended up overwhelmed and discouraged, to the point of despair.
I'm not the kind of writer who things like a business person. Book proposals are hard enough -- self-promotion is hard enough! -- without adding in market analysis and statistical representation.
Part of the problem is something that has dogged me for years: The demand a writer have a brand, a platform, and now, since social media, tens of thousands of followers.
This is not me, never has been, never will be. I'm a writer, not a YouTuber; when I post on social media, I'm posting prose, not videos. It's my instincts, to write, not to pick up my phone and record myself talking.
I don't have a brand; I'm not one thing, and I don't have only one interest. Sure, the whole city girl/country girl is one angle I write from, but I also write about faith, and dying/death (funeral service). Here's the thing: when I pitched a second Field Notes book and the Field Notes cookbook, I mentioned my "Field Notes brand" and was told, "You don't have a brand."
It could be my great life flaw that I've never landed on one interest, one topic and made that my entire life's work; a lot of people do it, but it's not me. That's just the way I'm wired,
It's not unfortunate. It's just who I am. I'm trying to accept that instead of letting it discourage me and make me feel like a failure. A failure because I don't have a brand or a platform or ten thousand followers.
Be true to yourself. That phrase is a life raft I cling to. Sure, everybody needs a bit of tweaking, but if sharing my thoughts via video is not my instinctive activity, then doing it will look and sound awkward and fake.
What pulled me out of my funk was humility.
Rick Warren says, "Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It's thinking of yourself less."
I sat in the gazebo and thought about the publishers I was thinking of pitching, and the faith-based writers I read, and realized 1) I don't have the chops to play with those big girls of Christian publishing, and 2) there's nothing wrong with a small publisher who probably will recognize my name and snap this book right up. I won't gain ten thousand followers with this publisher, but I'll reach a lot of people, and a lot of people who know me and like my writing will support this book.
Humility. It took hitting that wall to make me put aside my ego and truly look at the situation I created. It's not wrong to aim high, but I was not being realistic, or sensible. I don't have a brand or a platform or a specific angle. That's not who I am. I've always believed the right book at the right time would open up a path for me. Field Notes was not that book; perhaps The Alphabet of Faith will be, perhaps The Funeral Director's Daughter will be.
Who knows? The point is to to pick myself up off the ground, put a Bandaid on that big scrape on my nose (and ego), and find a way around that wall. And find a way to live through the uncertainty.
Best-selling author Cheryl Strayed posted this quote by author James Baldwin on her Facebook page: "Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but above all, endurance."
Humility AND persistence. I can do both.
So how do I get around the wall? Simple: Start with editing the essays for a wider audience than my congregation/Facebook friends, and figure out what the book is about. It really is simple; why didn't I do that in the first place?
Ah, yes: Ego.
Thursday, August 13, 2020
This is Ethel's Echinacea. It's not an official name, but they're in my garden so I get to call them what I want.
These flowers are a gift from the garden of my friend Ethel, and they are thriving in this garden by the back deck, with the rudbekia transplanted last year, and the phlox transplanted this year -- saved, in fact, from being crushed by the effort to move the greenhouse. There's also honeysuckle clumping up in there.
On the right in the photo are the Stella daylilies planted in memory of my dog, Stella. I can't remember which Stella's they are but they are a darker red than I expected. That's how it goes with gardens; you never know what is going to pop up, what is going to thrive, what is going to bloom one year and never show up again.
Audrey Hepburn said, "To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow."
Here's a little announcement related to this two-level back deck: next year, Ethel's Echinacea will be overlooking my kitchen garden. This fall - or even as soon as the heat wave ends - we are going to tear off the lower deck and start the work to transform it into a space that will grow herbs and other kitchen gardeny things. My winter project will be figuring that out.
We're also going to create the space for a salsa garden where we will grow the tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and green & yellow peppers that go into Rose's Salsa (recipe from my friend Rose).
What would I do without my gardening friends??
"Friends are flowers in the garden of life."
A word about the lighting of that photo of Ethel's Echinacea. I was watering at sunset last night, the sun going down as it does over the far trees at the edge of the field. But the opposite sky was full of grey clouds -- teasing me about the possibility of rain -- and this combination turned the light pinky and orangey, depending on the moment.
When I saw the light on Ethel's Echinacea, I wanted to capture it. Every blossom coming out, thriving, offering its healing and its hope. Keeping me in the pink.
Wednesday, August 05, 2020
Tuesday, August 04, 2020
Thursday, July 30, 2020
|I made another sign|
|He's nicknamed "Flint" for his hard head, but he has a soft heart.|
Monday, July 27, 2020
Sunday, July 26, 2020
|Bee balm hinting at future redness in the tomatoes. |
Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Saturday, July 18, 2020
|Donn Mattinson in the 1950s|
|Dwayne and his dad, August 2013|
Friday, July 17, 2020
|This post is from a sermon I gave last June...|
but the photo is from this week. Prayer
(and good soil) works!
Thursday, July 16, 2020
Monday, July 13, 2020
|Swimming in the Northumberland Strait with my friend Alison.|
Friday, July 10, 2020
We did ponder starting a second flock, so we could raise our own Barred Rocks, and perhaps that will happen next year, but for now, we know Cheeps is adjusting to her new place across the river.
"I only put them in the cages when I'm at work," my friend explained. She, too, has a husband who isn't as watchful as she is. The animals are her thing (she has goats and a pony, too).
|Phyllis and Little Cheeps on their last morning together.|
Monday, July 06, 2020
Sunday, July 05, 2020
|The late-afternoon view from my reading chair in the gazebo.|
|You can pass an afternoon just watching the chickens...|