Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Flashing Cursor and Poised Hands

     I recently ordered a book I remembered reading as a teenager. Lionors: King Arthur's Uncrowned Queen by Barbara Ferry Johnson, tells the tale of King Arthur's truest love. There is a poem at the end of the book which I remembered. It came within two days, thanks to Amazon Prime. I have not reread it yet, but I recall a pond and an island on it where they played as children.

       We have a lovely pond on the Abbey Farm. I've spent some time there the last two afternoons; the weather sunny with a crisp chill in the breeze. It really is some of my favorite weather. I told Marie, who accompanied me one day, that we go on vacations to experience this. Though we only had an hour, I decided to make it a memorable one. I tried to be as fully present as I could. So I didn't have a week--couldn't I gain some benefit from an idyllic 60 minutes? I have decided that the answer is yes. I am convinced that living fully in the present, and having a grateful attitude are key to aging happily.

Marie, pencil in hand, I am sure

       I move furniture when I don't want to do dishes and laundry. I changed around the small room where I have my desk and a sofa. I put things up on the walls that have been put away for years. I even hung my saddle, and it smells so very good in there now. I look up at my meager-yet-meaningful ribbons, my bits, my polo mallets, a picture of me foxhunting...I can't do any of those things anymore. But instead of sadness, I have intensely beautiful memories and gratitude. I call it the sitting room now. Maybe I've watched and re-watched too many Downton Abbey episodes!



       Once again, trading the paper and pencil for the laptop--opened in the above photo--I will "peck" a few more pages of Renata:

...Momentary coughing did not stop the children from trying to bowl Ernesto over. He laughed hard, making false-protestations. When they were satisfied, all walked up the path to the front door of the house, the children like jumpy puppy dogs surrounding Ernesto. Passing under the large maple tree, Ernesto tousled one boy's hair as he gazed up. He played in those branches when he was younger. Perhaps he got used to heights that way.

       The door swung open and his mother appeared. Strikingly blond and tan, the fifty-year-old looked a decade younger than her age.
        "Hey, Sweetie, you're home!" She gave him a hug and allowed the troops to pass. "Good day?"
        "Yeah, Mom. But these little ones almost knocked me down!"
          She laughed, "They are getting bigger. James will be by later to pick them up."
          A little strawberry-blond girl ran into the hall where Linda and Ernesto were,
        "Uncle Ernie! Grammy's making tooky-dough--Come on!"
         Ernesto ran after her into the kitchen, animatedly. "Tooky-Dough!!"

       Claire's apartment door swung open and she almost trotted in. She threw her keys down onto a table in the hall and walked past her packed suitcase and skis. A short distance to the kitchen, she opened the door of the refrigerator and pulled out a can of pop. Tilting back, she drank down half of the Diet Dr. Pepper, wiped her mouth and put it down. Her shoulders relaxed. Vacation time.

       She tapped the button on the answering machine; she kept her landline. No messages. Sighing peacefully she picked up her boarding pass.

       Ernesto was on the road. An hour before, chocolate chip tooky in hand, he'd jumped into his El Camino. Karl talked him into going to the Lake of the Ozarks. Ernesto wasn't big on four-wheeling, but his buddies from high school got together every year. Sometimes a poker weekend, sometimes the coast. This time it was to Cameron's family's place on the lake. A bunch of the guys were trailering ATVs.

       Cam was just married last year. Karl had taken Broadway by storm and was taking time off for med school, and for this weekend to be with buds. Jeb was in a famous contemporary Christian band, and Joe was a decorated war hero: Congressional medal of honor for leading a whole town to safety in the night under enemy fire. Whenever they got together it was like old times. 

       Despite a dislike for four-wheeling, Ernesto felt he had to go. Two SUVs were full of food, guitars and drums, their trailers loaded with four ATVs and Karl's "new" Odyssey 350 four-wheeler.

       Claire descended into Denver and a few hours later pulled into Breckenridge in a rental car. She decided that the Colorado Rockies should be on everyone's bucket list. The hundred foot pines were deliciously iced with snow. There was no real wind, but the whispery silence of the slopes gave way to occasional hoots of skiers shushing through the snow. She got chills. Not from the cold, but from excitement.

       And then minutes later, she was shushing, herself. Bev met her at the lodge, they dropped off her bags quick enough to change and here she was, pony tail flying, skis pounding the moguls. Man, she thought, I need to hit the gym more, my knees and thighs are burning! But she was on a mental high. Despite exhaustion on difficult trails, she'd round a corner and the adrenaline would hit with the sight of another steep run.

       Claire had grown up with Bev on the East Coast. Bev was getting a PhD in Geology at Boulder and this was Claire's second time visiting. When they were teens they skied many small local mountains like White Tail and Wisp, and made occasional trips to Vermont or New Hampshire. All of Bev's family were near-expert skiers. In truth, Claire barely kept up with Bev. It was thrilling to follow her. 
       Somehow, she'd managed to pass Bev, who'd stopped earlier to help someone find a dropped ski. She came up to an opening that seemed to reach right out into the blue sky. An abrupt halt brought her in view of a sign: "Double Black Diamond: Black Hawk to Trinity." At that moment a blue streak whizzed past her and as it dropped down the slope with barely a pause, she realized it was Bev. 

       "Game on!" She yelled, a challenge to herself, because certainly Bev couldn't hear her now. Claire popped off the edge to about a ten foot drop, slicing neatly into the snow below. She was after Bev.

      Thank you for reading! Until next time--



Monday, September 7, 2015

A Single-Subject Spiral, and a Sharpened Pencil

       I mentioned my screenplay. Screenplay writing is formulaic. Even so, talent is a must and I claim none. When I was a little girl, my friend Bev and I wrote novellas. We'd exchange them and giggle. They were almost always love stories. A single-subject spiral notebook and sharpened pencil are still two of my favorite things. Other writers understand the hypnotic attraction.

       I still see my story as a movie. Novel writing is much harder. My daughter Marie has written a few and I urge her to publish. She's gifted.

       I decided to try and write my story. I'll start here. It is inspired by one of my favorite people and her gift of giving. The character in the novel is not the same, however, in that events are purely fictitious. A name here and there, a line, a setting--but the rest is from my imagination.

       It is the story of the people influenced by a woman named Renata. Renata means rebirth. Some say that for all women, their genius--their greatest gift--is life-giving. Whether we have children or not, we have the ability to inspire, to support, to love in a very unique and special way.

       This may change and evolve, but here are the first few pages:


Chapter One

       Ernesto walked onto the cold steel beam. balancing expertly as one does after a decade of building high-rise apartments. This was only a few floors high, and not a difficult build; however, it was unique. A parking garage for a national card company would be shared with the landowner—the Archdiocese of Kansas City. St. Mary’s church had been on this site for 150 years, and about 75 when the company purchased the adjoining lot and began to manufacture greeting cards.

       By 2016 parking was a nightmare, especially on Sundays. Ernesto was contracted to solve three problems—four, really. One, to provide adequate parking for St. Mary’s; two, parking for company employees; three, a beautiful, glassed top floor with the company's executive offices; and four--Ernesto’s Dad’s opinion--a way for the Sunday Mass-goers to keep from sinning as soon as they left church. His opinion was that the church parking lot was the greatest destroyer of Christian potential.

       Ernesto chuckled, thinking of his Dad. Like a tight-rope walker he gracefully traversed the beam to solid flooring. He strode over to the hulk-like back of a man. With a boyish grin he pounded Roy's huge shoulder. 

          “Hey, I’m outa here. You good?”

       Roy jerked and turned with an arm up, then looked down, smiling, “Yeah, I’m finished myself, Ernie. You still going away for the weekend?”

       Ernesto was leaving his decision until the last second. “I dunno…I think so. There’s always a lot I could get caught up with on the farm.”

“You should go. You’ll have fun. Where is it? Branson?”

“Near there. Lake of the Ozarks. Karl's family has some land. And a bunch of ATVs.”

“If there’s water, I’d say ‘absolutely.’ Just do it.”

Ernesto sighed, eyes surveying the horizon. “Ah, well, maybe.”

       Roy returned the hit on the shoulder—maybe a bit harder than Ernesto’s—and smiled a big grin. “See’ya, boss. Have a good weekend.”

       Picking up a roll of blueprints off a makeshift, plywood table, and with an almost imperceptible shrug of the hit shoulder, Ernesto smiled a thanks to Roy and retreated back across the beam.

It was a short walk to his car; after all, he was constructing a parking garage on a parking lot. The 1974 El Camino shined like new. The ragtop his grandfather had installed on it was down. He shut the papers into a steel box in the bed and jumped into the driver’s seat.

       The radio came on immediately. Country Western. Red Solo Cup. Ernesto smiled and joined in. 

       It was a sunny April day.

Chapter Two

        Inside the card company offices the sun shone in from the west. Claire Greene’s desk was positioned just out of the bright light flowing in from the large window overlooking Kansas City. The office was buzzing with Friday afternoon relief and talk of weekend plans. A tall, attractive, middle-aged redhead approached Claire’s desk.

        “Hey, I’ll miss you this weekend, Sweetie. Say hi to Bev for me, ok?”

        “I sure will, Jan." She sighed audibly, "I’m really looking forward to this trip. I need a break. And, Bev said they just got a foot of powder.  I’m taking my skis!”

        Jan’s eye’s momentarily widened. “Cool.” Then a motherly, cautioning look came over her face, “Be careful this time.”

       Claire, 25, smiled brightly. Cute and athletic, her dark blond hair tousled as she looked up. “Hah. My middle name. Colorado, here I come!”

       She packed up a few things into her briefcase and wound her way past desks, saying her byes but mentally carving around bumps and moguls.

       The elevator door closed before she realized someone was talking to her.

Claire!” She turned to see her friend Phil. “Where are you?”

      Sputtering a laugh, “Sorry, I was deep in thought. Deep in Breckenridge.” She smiled at Phil’s extremely handsome face.

“Oh, yeah--that’s this weekend. Say hi to Bev for me.”

       The elevator door opened onto the lobby, and as Phil turned a different direction he called after Claire:

“...And be careful this time!”

       Claire turned, perplexed, almost irritated, but he was gone.

“Phih... Humph. My MIDDLE name!”


       The April sun hit Claire in the face as she exited the building and she brought up her hand to shade her vision. Just then an old El Camino passed by and whizzed off. Wow, that’s a dinosaur. What a weird car.

       She walked past a few barriers directing the temporary traffic pattern of the parking lot and looked up at the new construction. Next week there’d be a meeting about her role with it. So far, human resources had not been involved but she found out she’d have a pretty significant task. It was a fantastic idea and she was glad to become a part of it.

She looked over at the historic church, and then to her little car. Red and cute and hybrid. She’d just bought it, after working for three years. Prior to that she drove an old clunker. She was proud of Baby and opened its door.

       A waft of warm air hit her and a once again she imagined Colorado, entering the lodge after exhausting runs, a fire in the huge hearth, the clunk of half-opened ski-boots on the carpet.

       She settled in and turned on the car. Josh Groban blasted a line in Italian and she shivered deliciously. Eyes screwed up, thinking, she tuned the station to her mood’s dictate: dubstep, violins lilting happily.

Chapter Three

       Ernesto pulled down a long lane off the gravel road. A cloud of dust billowed behind him, not from speed, but because it was a Kansas gravel road. He slowed. Children were playing in the yard out front of a large limestone block house. They looked up and sprinted toward him.

       As he got out they engulfed him, along with the 
dissipating dust cloud.