Amongst the Rare

51st Trial: The first 30 minutes of the writing process. The sitting down, the picking of the pencil, and the blank and sometimes uninviting white paper.

Weekly Hours Spent Writing or in the Pursuit of Plot:  8hr

Weekly Choice of Tea: Earl Grey

Biggest Success: Successfully snowboarding down the mountainside in Northstar, near Lake Tahoe. I fell, I landed hard, and I conquered.

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Jane Austen claims that one who can write a letter with ease, cannot write ill. Yesterday as I struggled with the chapter’s momentum (I have started chapter eight, happily enough) those words wrapped me in an innocent bubble, because I can write letters easily. In this bubble I do not feel the weight of my own expectations or of those brilliant writers that any novel will be compared to. But instead I fell alone, and my writing and my story are what they are. My technique compares to mine alone, and my voice echoes from my own mind. It does not give me confidence that I do in fact write well, but at least I cannot write ill. I find, like with most letter writing, beginning it is the toughest, whether you are starting a new chapter or picking up where you left off. About 30 minutes into my writing do I then become involved and pick up speed, but those 30 minutes are dreadful.  Must look beyond dreadful – mental note!

I wished I had seen Austen during the book fair I went to during my Valentine’s day treat! It was in Oakland, and it was the largest rare book collectors fair in the world. Jamie took me there as a surprise, little knowing that any book there ranged from $400 – $100K. I looked through the rows of vendors, pining over the Dickens, the Brontes, the Wordsworth, and the Shakespeare. I held tightly to Arabian Nights only to have to put it down again. The series of Tennyson sat nobly overlooking my puppy set eyes. Austen though, evaded me. I felt her, along with my favorite stories by the Bronte sisters, in the booths of particularly dusty, well-used, and sometimes stained books. There were large world Atlases that reminded me of the young Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility, and there were thick books of anatomy, horticulture, and beetles that took me into Mr. Rochester’s library. Rarity comes with a price, but it was worth it to hold and flip through the pages of History and Time itself.

Happily I found a first edition of Harry Potter, which came home with me later that night!

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A Quick Comparison

16th Trial: Connecting with my generation. I wonder what aspects of it will be displayed, as I feel so separated from it sometimes, mainly in the technology aspect of it. I did mention an iphone in Chapter three though.

Weekly hours spent writing or in the pursuit of plot:  1 Hour. I am getting dangerously close to doing nothing with my life

Weekly Choice of Tea: Pear and Caramel Black tea

Biggest Success:  Began Chapter Four

Lately I have found it hard to do not only my writing, but my workouts or my dedicated tea times with books. I did not even post a blog last week! For the first time in my life, I felt the weight of stress and exhaustion of my job, finances, and scheduling. Truth be told, I am very good at balancing my sanity with my interests and my outlets, and with my failure of that these past couple weeks makes me wonder if this is a normal thing people feel. Especially those with greater responsibilities–owning a practice, having children, working 4 jobs. That being said, I needed time to slow down, which entailed laying on my couch and sleeping. So nothing really got done!!!

On a similar note, I am overwhelmed with the stimulation that we go through on a daily basis. I cannot help but compare my situation to that of William Wordsworth’s. There was a man, whose study was outdoors, and had the views, the gentle creatures and insects, and the calm pace of lifestyle that had him write of only the beauty around him. I too can observe and write of the beauty that surrounds me, however how often are my thoughts on just one thing, or one view, or even one thought? I was laying in a park on the outskirts of the city, my feet in the grass and Jamie’s head on my lap. It was peaceful. I had my book beside me, but instead I wanted to channel Wordsworth and just rest my eyes on the moment. To view the trees before me and the dancing squirrels. Jamie was asleep, and Boo Radley (my dog, if you don’t remember) snoring with equal fervor. But the reality soon came upon me that my world is not conducive for peaceful observation, as William’s was. Between two trees I saw the light of an intersection turn from yellow to red. Music drifted over top from a nearby restaurant, along with the smell of food. At intervals I would hear tires screech and car horns scream their impatience. My own bag beeped from a text message that was sent to my phone.

All within seconds of each other, my mind was pulled to the idea of food, to the anxiety of rushing traffic, to the wonder at who was trying to contact me via cell phone. I am aware that I can drive hours away to reach tall mountains and find a remote place that would cut me off from such distractions–but how often am I able to do that? How often is the average person able to do that? I am having trouble with this disconnection we have to nature and self. No wonder the majority of people are on mood control medications. Alone, the struggle I had to write and work out the past two weeks makes me feel a failure in a small sense. Doesn’t the world we live in buttress this easy fall into despair?

Thus, I propose a change for myself and for ALL. Support a balance within. You have incredible potential to connect with yourself at little expense to the world you live in.

Waterfall at Cloudland Canyon

Dancing with the Daffodils

8th Trial: Converting Vacation Mind back to Work Mind

Weekly hours spent writing or in the pursuit of plot: 0 – but if you please, I had just reason not too! I was too busy with the surrounding nature of England and Austria

Weekly Choice of Tea: English Breakfast Tea, of course!

Biggest Success: Finding Daffodils

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Will this be my last Wordsworth reference? Most likely not, however I am so surprised that my love for his Daffodil poem was apparently the one he is most loved for. An interesting fact I learned while in his home at Rydal Mount. Yes it is true, I have journeyed to the place of worship itself, to the Mecca of literature’s admirers! In the heart of the Lake District I walked the gravel and grassy carpeted lanes where Dorothy and William tread; I saw the squirrels that were ancestors to the creatures that inspired Beatrix’s vivid imagination; I drank at the pub that Charles Dickens frequented; I traveled further south to London and visited the home where Keats lived. All in all I was surrounded by the beauty that was so well documented by the talented observers, and that gave inspiration to their arts. DSC_0738   DSC_0418 While my time at Wordsworth’s home was short, I felt the refreshing pulse of the Lake District. In other words, the gardens and cottage is what makes the area thrive in my memory and in my heart. Everywhere I looked there were fields of sheep; the gardens were kept and in bloom; the cottages with the perfect bowed windows had ivy covered front archways. Wordsworth’s study was outdoors, as was Beatrix Potter’s. Her animation with the Lake District was through the stories of tiny creatures that had the most innocent and exciting adventures: to forbidden gardens; a washer porcupine of our imaginations; wicked wretched bunnies in high passion. Both authors fell in love with the Lakes because the quiet calm that fills the air will flow through any artery and vein, bringing life to every limb. DSC_0743  DSC_0482   DSC_0732   DSC_0705  

Simply, I intend to go back. This time with pencil in hand and no activities on book. Maybe when I finish my novel and need to revise it (badly), can I then take a hiatus to the wide countryside of rolling fells and deep, sincere vales. I was in Austria prior to the Lake District, where the Alps gave small glances into towns tucked dearly between each ascent. Austria truly surprised me with its unimaginable heights and classic styled homes. “The hills are alive, with the sound of music” is not just a tune of metaphorical reminiscence, as I always thought the song to be about. Sitting on any hillside I could hear the bells that adorned the surrounding cows that grazed fields around me. It was music, so peaceful and tranquil that I could stay on that hillside for years and never grow weary of its tune. Photos from Austria: DSC_0003   DSC_0015  DSC_1202

Everywhere I journeyed, I could feel the land. It healed me, and I believe it healed Jamie as well. It is ironic that the places we traveled brought so much peace and restfulness to my heart, brought with it an event that caused so much fear and anxiety. When Jamie fell off a cliff ledge in Austria (as most of you know by now), my soul could not rest with the image of her disappearing from sight, and me powerless to stop it. England then tried to calm us with promises of sunshine and scones with jam and cream, with sparkling lakes beside beds of reeds. But I could not be calm. She rests beside me now, as I sit in our apartment in America, and I am confident that an event like that anywhere else would have left me a nervous wreck still—yet it was only the beauty of the lands we left that healed our hearts and minds, and it was only there that I could have recovered from the shock so quickly. Jamie as well, as she is ready to go back even now! However I know that where we need to be now is here; I know this because I drove home from work yesterday, and noticed for the first time, that daffodils lined the highway exit to my home. In a way I see my world differently, though it probably has always been like this. I will write, I will love this precious survivor, and I will work hard to be able to find myself again in the fields so that I too may become devoured by its effects.

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An obsession come to life: the Lake District, UK

7th Trial:  Maintaining descriptive tenses in the flow of events, so as to not seem choppy between thoughts/actions

Weekly hours spent writing or in pursuit of plot: 9 hours

Weekly choice of tea: Pineapple (that bloomed in my tea pot, see picture below!)

Greatest Success: Finished CHAPTER TWO!

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It is roughly that I say I finished chapter two. Yes, I placed the period mark at the end of the final sentence, however I realize there are places where more description is needed. When writing a scene, I don’t seem to write as fast as the scenes flash in my mind, and nearly never does my mind stop in time to document all that I want it to, but just moves on to the next event. So much is then lost, and no one could envision what I am seeing, and therefore what I am meaning to illustrate. Could any story live, where description is set aside? Can you not feel pain for the character, if you do not see the creases of his forehead, the sweat on his brow and above his lip, and the distant expression in his eyes? Or feel the relaxation of a person who wakes in the early morning, feeling the dew between her toes, the chill of morning air pulling the strands of hair across her face, as she watches the dim light brighten the greens of the trees? And yet it is easily passed, or in some circumstances not my own, depended on severely.

This chapter came by rather quickly, and I know that when I type it up I shall have to add quite a large amount of description to its fast pace. It is one thing I wish that there is more of in the novel I am reading, Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte:  this emphasis on description. She passes over scenes with summaries at an alarming rate! And so I sense the inevitable feeling growing deep in my heart, a certain need that brings forth the flowing muses of my writing. I need something more British (could anyone guess otherwise?), to fills the holes in chapter two—and now could not be a better time for such a need! Come Wednesday, I am flying to London, England, where I will be in Austria from there for 3 days. After that I go back to London and drive up to the Lake District–a place that I have wanted to go since I read Elizabeth Bennet traveling to the Lake District with her Aunt and Uncle.

My wonderful friend is getting married there, and amongst the adventures planned, there will be horseback riding through the open fields, where I will likely hold tight to the reigns and close my eyes, imagining Darcy riding through gorgeous landscapes. Yes! My obsession is obvious, and I cannot pass down a once in a lifetime chance to be influenced by Austen’s senses. Not only hers, but also those of William Wordsworth and his sister’s, Dorothy Wordsworth. I will traverse the gardens of Rydal Mount where he wrote about so dearly, and sense the happiness inspired when looking upon the hillsides, the waters, and the vales. I will see their home at Dove cottage, drink at pubs in Ambleside, and visit the farm of Beatrix Potter. I cannot wait to report back, and give you a month’s worth of material inspired by such an adventure!

Backpacking Cold Mountain

6th Trial: Once a you realize you are in a rut, how do you change the course you are on?

Weekly hours spent writing or in pursuit of plot: ZERO–though the inspiration gained filled more than a weeks worth of struggling motivation

Weekly choice of “tea”: Hot chocolate by the campfire

Greatest Success: Backpacking to the summit of Cold Mountain, a 16.4 mile hike and an elevation of 6,030 ft

This was a tribute to the book by Charles Frazier, and a challenge to say that I hiked up one of the tallest peaks of the eastern United States.

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Like any connection with nature, there is a residual feeling of loss when you leave it. That is not the case today–I close my eyes and I see Frazier’s description: “It stood apart from the sky only as the stroke of a poorly inked pen, a line thin and quick and gestural. But the shape slowly grew plain and unmistakable. It was Cold Mountain he looked. He had achieved a vista of what for him was homeland.” I feel its wild peace in my heart still, and its beauty is what steadies my mind.

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I think of Charlotte Bronte’s quote from Wuthering Heights, as these moments are essential to my existence today, a small light within the fleeting and ever changing jobs and stresses of my life.

“My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary.” -Wuthering Heights

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With these images in my inward eye, I can start a week dedicated to chapter two, and next week you shall hear my success in advancing out of this rut I am in with my writing! The view from the Summit of Cold Mountain:

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I guess the only way to get over the rut you are in, and start fresh, is to shake it off!

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The Inward Eye

4th Trail: finding TIME to write (which may turn into the 6th, 7th, 8th trial too!)

Weekly hours spent writing or in the pursuit of plot: 7.5 hours (coffee…)

Weekly choice of tea: Turmeric and Ginger with Pumpkin spice whipped honey (locally made!)

Greatest Success: Unraveling (at least in my mind) the writing of the over-shadowed and yet very talented authoress, Anne Bronte

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My mother and being a mother!

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Today was particularly wonderful. It is Mother’s day, and I had the incredible opportunity to share it with my mother, who still lives in Ohio. She was on her way to Myrtle Beach, taking a much deserved vacation. I love my mother dearly! I also displayed for you a picture of my dog, Boo Radley–who is a child to me, and I claim motherhood as anyone would who are crazy animal lovers. After my mother had left I dived more into a novel that I began last week by Anne Bronte, ‘Agnes Grey’, and in the first several chapters I go with her through the trials of a governess. I can feel so much sympathy for the main character, as she is tormented by disobedient children and idiotic parents, and can hardly find the time for leisure, for herself, and as she states, “for the bliss of solitude”.

I look at my own struggles of finding time to do everything I want while working six days a week; my mother’s own struggles with a stressful work load and finding time for a vacation; Anne’s display of such similar obstacles; and am that much more motivated to foster what Wordsworth describes as the “inward eye”: take all that calms you, that brings you peace and happiness, and allow their images to fill a dismal mood or circumstance, thereafter filling your heart with happiness and remembrance. In other words, for me, bring forth the feelings I experience when surrounded by nature, the feeling when riding a horse, the bliss of sitting by a window with a good book. Allow an inward eye to motivate you. With such love in your sight, who then could not find the energy to be who they want to be, and do what they are meant to do?

“For oft when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of Solitude,

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the Daffodils.” -Wordsworth, ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’

Share a comment on what fills your inward eye, and motivates you!

Words-Worthy:  my Tribute to Wordsworth

2nd Trial: Finding rhythm in the small stuff, finding Words-Worth the scene (see what I did there?)

Weekly hours spent writing or in the pursuit of plot:  9.5 (Jamie was out of town!)

Weekly choice of tea:  Minty black tea from Abisko, Sweden (can’t read the label)

Greatest Success:  FINISHING first draft of Chapter One

I have recently received an exemplary book on William Wordsworth, his life and the poetry that spanned it. I am amazed to have known so little about him, and come June this year, I will be visiting his house in England! But more on that later–I fear you all will be well plagued by my excitement the weeks prior to and following my adventure to the Lake District! And so I have acquainted myself with Wordsworth this past week, and am enjoying the rhythm of his poetry. I absolutely love it.

“I heard a Stockdove sing or say

His homely tale, this very day

His voice was buried among the trees,

Yet to be come at by the breeze:

He did not cease; but Cooed–and cooed;

And somewhat pensively he wooed:

He sang of love with quiet blending,

Slow to begin, and never ending;

Of serious faith, and inward glee;

That was the Song, the Song for me!”–from ‘O Nightingale! thou surely art’

Rhythm. I am typing up chapter one, newly finished (a sigh of relief, for though a first draft, a milestone accomplished!), and can tell areas that surely lost such a rhythm. My largest struggle I found this week was working through the movement of a character through a room or within a situation. I haven’t seemed to master when to be descriptive and when to just move on, and can tell after re-typing a scene when I was even bored while writing it. I laugh when I read Jane Austen sometimes, how she has the ability to skim certain circumstances, as if by now her readers are well versed in similar scenes she has already written about. For example, she bypasses several conversations by stating a general sentence along the lines of, and forgive me for not using language adequately comparable to her tongue:

“He entered the drawing room in such the cordiality of a gentleman’s station, and resumed in conversing on all the normal pleasantries deemed necessary by polite society.”

You already know what her character talked about:  the pleasing decor, the enjoyment of the dancing, the weather, and indulging in the perfect situation he found himself in! At least, you know all of that if you have read ANYTHING by Austen! And yet she herself is master at dragging description on to no end.

And so Chapter Two will begin this week, and I will focus on my identifying words worthy for the scenes at hand.

1st draft Ch.1

1st draft Ch.1