There's an old song that sings about 'carrying moonbeams home in a jar'. I've always loved that song because it was one my mother used to sing when she was happy. I'm going to put it on my request list for the next sing along which we just do around our house all the time. Which is not the truth. Most of our singing is done in our hearts. We love music and have had some rather talented, musical players in the family but Mom and I don't count ourselves along their company. The funny thing is - I like to hear Mom sing. I don't think she would say the same for me except for one night we were camped around the kitchen table playing rummy and I broke into, King of the Road and she had a surprised look on her face said -
You could sing. I mean you don't sound horrible. You can actually sing that song.
Let's just say the bar is set incredibly low when it comes to my singing abilities. And apparently King of the Road by Roger Miller is the beginning and end of my repertoire but at least I have one go to favorite. I am much more Cameron Diaz character in My Best Friends Wedding singing Karoke at horrible warbler levels. I have had some bad singing experiences (like my 6th grade teacher trying to get me to harmonize with the other girls for a performance and going DON'T YOU GET IT???? WHY DON'T YOU GET IT???? I think she ended up telling me to mouth the words and not sing.) and those kind of things kinda shut down your performance schedule for the next fifty years.
Thankfully if people try to shut me up from telling stories I don't pay attention to them and won't shut up if they ask me to. And I do this thing called RADIO where I talk some, interview others, and play great music. I do not sing along.
I could not sleep. Could. Not. I tried Valerian root, warm milk, reading, no blue screens, more blanket, less blanket, fresh air, not air. Just as I was falling asleep I'd think of something that would startle me awake. I thought I heard Mom calling me in a desperate way. I startled awake, got up to go downstairs to check on her. Nope. Just my imagination. I almost went to sleep again. Startled awake. Wondered if I had forgotten to pour water on the fire I had started outside earlier. Mom was in the swing and me in the chair and we were in catch up mode as she pointed out which flowers needed more water. (watering flowers is Mom's thing and she has the greenest thumb I've ever known. I have figured out I can grow plants that don't have flowers. Ferns and ivy's. And, really, who can ever have enough fern and ivy?) Soooo I said - we should have a fire. And I got the lighter fluid and kept tossing it on the wood and relighting it to the whoosh sound. Mama said - you are gonna set yourself on fire. And I said - no, I'm not. I just like the instant heat. And, by the time we were ready to come in the wood actually caught fire.
Startle awake because suddenly I swear I can smell smoke and if the fire restarted it could blow embers onto my car which would blow up and that would catch the house on fire . . . I put on my garden boots and stomp downstairs and out the door. There is no fire. There is mist hanging on the trees so there is that dripping sound that is just the wet of the night air. But the sky is cloudless, the stars are out. It smells clean and good and I think to my surprise, This is August in the deep south and I could camp tonight by a fire. Camping. Something I haven't done in a while that I miss. (I have a new mastermind camping plan that involves Vespa's, the Natchez Trace, and one great backpack. This is a new plan that was inspired by riding the greyhound bus for forty thousand hours and it's still in the making.) But right now I'm in the backyard and I'm amazed at the peace and the quiet and the light. I decide to go to the front porch to see the moon. So I go back in, lock up that door and go out the front door.
And there was the moon. Pushing to full. And I thought - OH, it's you. No wonder I'm not sleeping. Full moons have a waking effect on me. Even if I can't see them. Call it strange or wondrous or both but like an animal - I am aware. I looked at the moon and at the new lights compliments of Nashville electric that light up the driveway in the dark. The light spills gently through the leaves of the trees and It reminds me so much of Daddy's creek and the light doing the same. I am thankful for the comfort of them. And I stepped to the edge of the porch where it's open and looked up at the sky and there she was in all her glory. A moonbeam! At first I thought I was looking at the milky way but then I realized no, this is something different. This is light. It is - Moonlight. And, it is a moonlight moonbeam shooting over my house and into the sky. I have seen many thing but I have never seen anything exactly like this. It was worth not sleeping.
If I hadn't taken time to sit with Mom and visit a little late yesterday, I wouldn't have seen it. Because I wouldn't have started a fire. And I wouldn't have startled awake in the wee hours to stagger outside have asleep and be accosted by starlight and fresh air and that moon.
I am always amazed at the things in life that catch me unaware. The moments that seem wrapped in surprise. The ways that natural elements combine to create something I see for the very first time. Still. At this age. At any age.
I hope tonight I get some much needed rest. But if I startle awake, out come the boots. I'll make some tea and head to the porch, look up at the sky and sing Moonbeams softly into the night.
Wherever you are hope you are able to catch a sacred, magical moment of your own and carry it gently to bed and into your dreams.
Did you see all those recent photos on Instagram. Well, they are a lie. Ok, not a lie. Exactly. What you see are these vistas and landscapes. The sea. Dandelions. Feet on the ferry. New friends. Great faces. What you don't see is me in my dorm room thinking - this is a terrible idea. This is crazy. Why am I here? What was I thinking? I want off this Island!!!
For those of you who didn't catch the most recent blog I was off on a new adventure, a dream of a lifetime opportunity, and had been accepted at the MFA program that was my #1 choice for multiple reasons one being - the degree of difficulty. Yes, I am known for being that person that expects it to be hard. Who wants it to be worthy. Who believes climbing the mountain is the reason we get to look out at the view and wax wordy because we climbed the peak. So why was I crying?
I don't know. Because it was all those things. Because I'm an introvert. Because I was cold coming from a heat wave in Tennessee to a charming, foggy island wonderland. Because I twisted my ankle in a classic Chevy Chase fall that curtailed anymore rock climbing. Because it was actually what I was expecting back in application phase. Difficult. Challenging.
To start with the Art and Faith reading was Laurus, the Russian equivalent of The Name of the Rose. And, yes, it's a masterpiece. We were supposed to read it multiple times before residency. Along with a collection of poems I'll discuss later. We also had Chapel everyday at 8:30 (by choice) and Communion on Sunday. I'm down with those things. And that's good because it was Chapel that presented a poem/writing by some 18th century person that will now carry me through the rest of my year. If it hadn't been for chapel that day, and the car keys of a new friend that said - sure, just take my car and get away - that re-centered my entire life in a few hours, I'd still be crying. The lesson behind this is - go to chapel when you can and certainly when the spirit leads - and always take the free car keys.
When you are in a low-residency program as I am where you aren't on campus everyday it means your together time will be distilled down like fine bourbon. You will be shoved into a barrel and aged together. You will eat together, play together, read together, write together, workshop together, attend lectures together. For introverts, this is a LOT OF together. Did I mention I am an introvert? People think I'm not because I will follow you trying to tell you a story till the cows come home but it takes a lot of quiet, alone time to pull off all that extroverted storytelling. And, no, it really doesn't matter that you DON'T WANT TO HEAR the story. It's a compulsion that can't be controlled.
I was called and referred to and painted as - A HOLY Fool. This did not make me cry but laugh and feel downright holy fool proud. (Holy Fool's play a very, important part in Laurus)
So I'm home to a very happy Rescue Kevin who has stayed under my car depressed figuring if the she that mostly feeds me ever comes back this Beasty is one of the first places she will go. (yes she is my best little bff of a beasty on the road.)
That Greyhound bus trip that involved over three buses and ten hours of stories? OH, that is so rich it's going in the NEXT BOOK!
Peace to you all you beautiful wandering souls! I hope you are living your dreams out there and just bouncing off, climbing over, tunneling through all of the obstacles that stand in your way!
(More Pictures and words to follow.)
I drove off under blue skies, tired body, weary mind, full soul. There's a lot to be said about communion and communing with others. To being with your tribe. Too many to write about. Some of the photos grabbed off facebook will suffice.
Every year that attend PWQGGW I think - wheretofordoIgoethforsofarforwhateth
Then I get there I remember. Everything. Every time.
It is for the opportunity to laugh and break bread with writers I have now known for years upon years. Our relationships being built layer upon layer, hard times and good. When the book contracts roll like honey off the tongue and when there is a drought. Meeting new writers and discovering their books, exchanging numbers, connecting. And the readers. God bless and keep the readers. The ones that make writing the stories all worth the while. To be able to not only hang out and conversant with them but to party just a little bit. To get silly and serve them dinner dressed in costume. To dance in a wild, wonderful night full of bohemian delights.
I have many highlights in my heart and things I want to write about this journey. But they will have to filter, little by little, over time and find their way into this small space in my world that slides out into the univerise.
II headed north to Little Rock and then turned East, the sun setting in my rearview, the skies so gorgeous I struggled to keep looking forward. That's what Pulpwood Queens is like. The drive to, the journey down, like the brilliant bright of a noon day, hot to touch, unrelenting and demanding. But the drive away, me forever casting my eyes backward at that full horizon, that indigo sky opening up the clouds with rays that lifted me onward as if lit by those hundreds of hearts I'd left behind.
The flat fields along the road were growing dark but white patches held the light, maintained it. Being a southern girl only one word came to mind - Cotton. My tired mind struggled to comprehend cotton in January. Then I realized it was snow. Snow had fallen. Freeze had come. I was driving toward Tennessee, to Memphis and the cold had kept the white close to the earth.
One of my reasons for making it to Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend this Year was that I had contributed to a little anthology titled 2nd Blooming with a forward by Anne Lamont. As usual I had agreed to contribute easily enough but when the time came for the deadline I grumbled and mumbled and got downright flumoxed about it. The lovely editor, Susan Cushman gently reminded me over and over again that I HAD TO SEND HER WORDS. So I said fine! Words it will be! And I sat down and wrote an essay titled Root inspired by the strength of my grandmother and mother which realizes ultimately - this is the stuff I am made of. It is a strange piece in that it is free and original - a break away from other work I've created.
Susan was gentle in the editing. Said she was afraid to touch it because it was - unusual. A hard thing to edit indeed. A friend of mine (or I) said it might be a New Dystopian Shakespeare . Not technically sound but it seems strangely right. All thanks to Rachel Craddock for her early reads of the essay and being just as frustrated as Susan in trying to edit something that defies transition. Thank you, Susan for allowing me to in a fit of angered deadline crack open a space in me that dared to paint words so freely. I'm honored to be a part of this collection with some fine writers and exceptional women.
That same editor understanding that I'd had an eleven drive down to Texas where I walked in the room as my panel was being introduced (timing is everything) took mercy on me and opened her warm doors to her home in Memphis for the evening. I pulled into her neighborhood nestled in snow. A large tree still covered in Christmas lights adored the road. A glass of wine and a bowl of gumbo awaited at their neighborhood pub. Then I settled down into a cozy, soft bed with the glow of those colored lights softly beaming just outside the window.
Now, I'm nestled with coffee in a corner of the bedroom floor, blankets and pillows about me where I can peek out the shuttered window to the snow lined streets. More snow to come tonight they say so I have to head on up the road Nashville way. It's time to get back to Mama and Rescue dog Keven before flakes start to fall. The hill is not a place to traverse after dark and ice.
So off to coffee, muffins, conversation. And to appreciate Susan's eclectic collection of fine art that graces her walls. She's a Pete the Cat connoisseur.
There are more stories coming out of Texas later but for now, thank you ladies for allowing me once again to be part of your tribe and in so doing feel like I am standing fully in my world.
*(more photos to add when I am off the road)
It's been the kind of regular old life that gets away from you. All the details in the doing. So here's a few of my doings and runaway thoughts and wandering hearts consternations.
Last week I had the awesome honor of being with a group of women that have been a taproot in my life for two years. It was a fast and furious weekend as I was speaking at the Anglican Church event in Alexandria, VA. What a BEAUTIFUL PLACE. And how many photos do I have from the event? Not one. Not one of the gathering of women at their annual event. Not one of the beautiful neighborhoods. Not one of the country club where I spoke that was decorated for Christmas and the Holidays from top to bottom and beyond. Not one with my friends and most important of all - not one with the beautiful faces of the women there and with them as they were buying books! All my new friends! Where is my self-promotional selfie mode? I just don't have it. One of these days as Shellie Rushing Tomlinson and I joked on book tour we will have that brilliant kid from the genius bar somewhere that does a great job covering those things. You'll have to believe me when I say - the women were beautiful. I looked out on that crowd while speaking and thought what beautiful faces of all ages from all places. Next time I promise myself I'll do better. (I have promised myself this at the last five speaking engagements I've had.)
This semester I have had the great honor of teaching students from A Novel Idea program for their Pen and Paper Writing Clubs. I've grown attached to EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. How can young people be so smart now? Why wasn't this program a part of my growing up years? It would have changed my life back then to be so involved and encouraged as a writer. This has been one of the highlights of my 2017! How many photos do I have with these students? None. Just one shot from visiting them this Summer at A Novel Idea. I'm looking for that one.
Capturing the Christmas Tree for Mom
We come from a big, live tree family. I was determined to get Mom a real, big live tree. One big enough to hold her thirty years of ornaments. I haggled and bagged the tree in subzero weather - ok - it felt like subzero - the wind was blowing. I drove home twenty miles an hour the long, slow way up River Road with it on top of the car. It was eight feet tall. The only problem is my ceilings are NOT eight feet tall. Somehow I was imagining our old ceilings at home in Panama City. We basically lived in - the Den which was an add-on with higher ceilings than the rest of the house and a big fireplace. I miss those ceilings. I miss that fireplace. Not an inch more than Mom though. Which is why I was trying to get the big tree. That is now smaller. It looked so perfect out in that big, wide open field. Now, if I can only find all those ornaments it will finally be finished. We will leave it up until it is a real fire hazard and has to go. (I have not taken any photos for social media of the work in progress. I am promising myself that soon and very soon I'll do this)
Oh, then this happened. Tom Hanks dropped by Parnassus Books in Nashville on the day I wasn't happily in the store helping customers purchase great gifts for the giving season. REALLY. He went shopping and signed a few copies of his new collection of short stories, Uncommon Type. I actually have cried, teared up, had a moment, about this because HE is one of my favorite famous people. He writes stories. He collects old typewriters. He's still married to his wife. He made a movie about baseball. What's not to love? I DO HAVE THIS PHOTO of me missing Tom Hanks. Who is not in the picture? ME, me, me.
In light of this and keeping it in perfect perspective - I've been reading the Facebook posts almost daily of my friend author Kaya McLaren who is battling and winning the war on Cancer. She writes honest, funny, heartbreaking, raw posts like long letters. She is so much braver than I am. I wrote her and told her this. That I have a diagnostic mamogram next week and I hate that. Kevin the rescue dog starts his official heartworm treatment the same day now that he has finished meds and is strong enough for treatment after his near death scare. We are going to the doctor the same day and then I am attending a Christmas party with my sister and then my son has tickets for me to see Star Wars with him later that night and I think this is a good way to reward myself for doing something I hate doing but must do. There are only two things I hate more than the mamagram. One involves a doctor. One involves a dentist.
I wrote my friend Kaya and told her how stupid it was for me to cry about missing Tom Hanks because her posts about losing her hair and fighting for her life put everything in perspective for me. She wrote back that she loved me. And that missing Tom Hanks is still missing Tom Hanks.
The reason I am able to love Kaya so much is because I know her. I know her because of this little thing called The Pulpwood Queens and their annual celebration known as GIRLFRIEND GETAWAY WEEKEND. There is nothing in the world like this experience. It happens again January 2018. I will be there. If it is not too late to get a package I encourage to try to do so although it may be sold out. It always is. I have made more lifetime friends - both writers and readers - at this event than any other event or happening in my life. The founder, Kathy Murphy is also a writer, a world changer, a ball of fire and energy and is officially this year known as The Comeback Kid. She went back to college when life tried to take her down and out of the game. Tomorrow she earns her degree in Art and the work she has been creating and posting on Facebook the last two years BLOWS MY MIND.
As a quick side-note - you can check out the teaching page on this site for more info on the writing class I've been teaching, The Mastermind Path: Following Your Muse and Finding Your Audience. What a sweet surprise to work with these writing creatives as they explore their voice, write their words, and walk the path of their writing journey. We've had great conversations with other writers including Bren McClain, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Michael Moore, and Joy Jordan-Lake and it's not over. We have a few weeks left in the course and a new one will begin in February.
That's my Wednesday Wild Card! Which didn't go out on time. And is now posted on Thursday. I have no pictures to prove it was actually written on Wednesday.
Sometimes you miss out on meeting famous people but the most important thing is to not miss out on loving the wonderful people in your everyday life.
Love and peace!
It's the then some that'll get you. That's the part that has you in St. Paul, MN where they love my accent and I say - What accent? - where I lost my Drivers License, Bank card 1 (the mortgage acct and all serious bill bank), bank card 2 (the lipstick account), my passport card, my insurance card, and my cosco card. All together in a nifty little pouch I wore around my neck to make certain I didn't LOSE these things. But at the time I was getting ready to speak and go on stage so I jerked it off my neck, wrapped the chain around it and threw it into a book bag. The book bag looked just like the other book bags that one thousand fourteen hundred women were carrying. I knew it was a bad decision when I did it - and I did it anyway.
When I went on stage I started the conversation (as I consider any booked engagement keynote or no) by making a little annoucement to these women - Just in case, if you have seen, and so on. There was an audible groan of "Oh, no!" To which I replied, OH, DON'T WORRY - I do this type of thing ALL THE TIME. Because the fact is - I'm a Mess. Which became my impromptu title of my talk which was scheduled to be about Divine Meetings with Strangers (I think - more on title talks later).
I went on to tell the story for instance of me recently speaking in Phoenix, AZ for the organization that cares for, educated, trains, feeds, houses, the homeless. It was their annual fundraising breakfast and I had toured the facilities the day before, met some of their graduates from training programs and witnessed the amazing work they were doing opening up a restaurant. A great event. Then I went on to spend a few nights with friends in Scottsdale. Where I took it upon myself to pluck one grapefruit and one lemon from their trees. A spring of Jasmine, put it all in my carry on bag, sprayed myself with Chanel and went to the airport. It was one of the times I had the preferred security clearance. Short line. No shoes off. No laptop out of bag. No hassle. Except there was a little problem. When I walked through the scanner an alarm went off.
"No problem," the guard told me, "We just need to swipe your hands."
She swiped. I watched. She put the little swipey thing in a machine. It said - EXPLOSIVES DETECTED.
"We just need to reswipe you, just one minute."
She put it in the machine. It read "EXPLOSIVES DETECTED"
I had an sinking feeling that I was no longer in the no hassle line but had bumped into some trouble.
"Why does it say explosives on that machine?"
"Oh, it just does that sometime. Are you wearing perfume."
"Oh, Chanel for sure will do it."
She put the swipey thing in another machine. EXPOSIVES DETECTED.
" We are going to have to ask you to step aside."
The step aside led to a private room, two women guards. A shake down, frisk down, then they called in the bomb squad. Searched me and my bags again. Had a little conversation with me about why I was in town. "Here to help the homeless."
"All the way from Nashville?"
I would have gone on to explain I was the speaker but a man appeared at the door and whispered to the bomb expert that they had discovered "a residue of white powder".
"Goodie Powders," I tell him. It's just goodies. Headache powders they are. I can't deny it I have a habit. It's that kick of caffeine in them I think that has me hooked.
I was finally packed up cleared and made my flight just in time. It's the first time I've been early to a plane in my life. Thought I'd have a lovely few hours in the airport to work.
Flash forward, present day.
I tell the women I really need those cards to get on the plane so if they find them . . . . As women are in the book signing line they are all a tad concerned about me making that flight out. "Don't worry, I'll get through security somehow."
Then someone pointed out, "Yes, River but that was before. NOW they have you on the bomb list."
Tomi Wiley, Book Publicist extraudinare flew in with me to assist (and was invaluable in all things needed including procuring my drivers license number for me from secret sources just in time for me to get through security. But it wasn't without the frisk down.
That went a bit like this.
Mamn, I'm gonna have to pat pat and then pat pat, and some more (charlie brown mother voice) while you (more wahwahwah) . There are people walking all around me. As the guard begins to pat pat pat, HELLO THERE, that's personal, pat pat pat, shake shake shake. Hokey pokey leg out, leg in.
Are you ok, Mamn?
Oh, sure, closest thing to a massage I've had all year. Have you seen my assistant? I hope she's getting this for facebook.
"Yes, I think she is the blond over there. She keeps checking on you." Pat, Pat, pat pat.
Now I need you to put one leg out, are you ok? Do you need to get a room?
Um, nope, think I"m good right out here in front of a thousand people doing this? Do you need a room?
Needless to say - I'm not writing this from jail so I made it through. Tomi Wiley reported two things - That she was highly insulted that the TSA prison guard thought she was a blond when she was clearly a redhead. And that two - She told her husband only River Jordan would have a guard cracking up and laughing the whole time they are frisking her down.
I am in the process of replacing everything but so far have only managed to get a Cosco card. I'm carrying it around as my official id because it has that little picture thing on it. I went in just to ask them if they had any I-phone cases. "You know, the ones you can put all your id and bank cards in?"
I figure if I'm gonna lose stuff, I need to make certain it's the kitchen sink and then some.
How are things in your world today?
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.