Wednesday, June 24, 2009

‘Before We Get Started’ by Brett Lott is a book that is part personal essays and part ‘how to’ book. On a personal note he talks about his struggles to write when he had a young family and a teaching position. Lott starts the ’how to’ section by stating the importance of word choice. ‘Trench warfare words’ are words that are used day in and day out. He says,”…words matter so chose them carefully.”
His chapter titled ‘Why write, Anyway?’ he answers, “…for the joy of it.” He also writes because he cares about the characters in his head. He “…wants to follow them to their true ending. He deals with the writing and importance of time in the chapter ‘Handling Time.’
Lott has a chapter titled ‘Work’. He mentions the importance of giving your characters something to do. He likes the combination of love and work in story.
He talks about writers who have been influential to him. He also mentions his favorite writer and friend Charles Baxter.
Lott ends his book once again talking about how little we know and about the not knowing of writing, but the need to keep writing. “You have everything to learn,” he writes as he ends this book.
June 24, 2009 Daily Log

8:30am- class started with another gorgeous sunrise over The Citadel Beach House on IOP.
Journal exercise by Lynda Biel used art to release the literary muse.
We used crayons to color & draw images inside a mandala circle.
Our guided imagery was to answer the questions:
How do our 'masks' help us with our writing?
When do our 'masks' hinder our writing?

A visitor to the beach club provided Amy with a potential opportunity to do some future interviewing of a WWII veteran. This could lead to an oral history project for the Lowcountry Writing Project.

Amy led us in a mini-lessons on seeing objects in a new way. This produced a writing assignment that we shared with each other.

We had a time to share our current writing project. Many meaningful remarks were exchanged.

Delicious snacks were enjoyed throughout class.

We talked about future assignments: the Brett Lott review and meta-text, in letter form.

Have a creative evening,

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sullivans IslandI eased my ancient rust infested blue Volvo station wagon into a parking spot at the head of the beach path. My car fit nicely between a golf cart and two cans of beach trash. I peeled my hot, sweaty body from the black leather seat and rolled out of the car. I stood in the shadow of a giant black and white structure, the Sullivan’s Island lighthouse. It didn’t look like the pretty postcard pictures of northeastern lighthouses that I was used to seeing in bookshops or on tourist kiosks. It looked more like a grain elevator. I was drawn to this ugliness, this starkness, and solitary presence on the light grey rolling dunes. Like a queen this light sat on her throne surrounded by orange and black coreopsis, dainty yellow dune flowers and large blooming yucca. The sound of waves invited me to stroll down the beach path. Cardinals and wrens darted back and forth eating juicy, wild blackberries. A snake slithered into the underbrush. A horn-headed lizard paused, turned his scaly head my way, blinked his black eyes and took a look. What did he see? Another northerner invading his territory for a day at the beach.The temperature was in the nineties when I approached the crest of the dune. The air was thick, damp and smelled like mollusks and sea salt. In front of me laid a panoramic view of an almost deserted rustic beach. Green-grey waves caressed the shoreline depositing bits of decaying seaweed on the shore. This spectacular place took my breath away. Time stood still as a primordial knowing touched every cell in my body. “Someday I’m going to live here. I don’t know how I’m going to do it but I will. I have to live here someday.”Some people have these intuitive feelings about their significant other. At first sight they knew they were meant for each other. A mother takes one look at her newborn, hears one cry and she could pick her baby out of a hundred other newborns in the nursery. A puppy runs into your arms at the pound, you put her down and walk away but she follows, nips at your heels, she’s meant for you. At first nip you knew you would take her home. We’ve all had that experiences when we knew we were ‘goners.’ For me it was a place, Sullivan’s Island. For me it was love at first sight.It took me sixteen years, a move to England, Hawaii and countless other moves up and down the eastern seaboard as a Navy wife before I returned to Sullivan’s Island.When my husband retired from the Navy I headed straight for South Carolina and my barrier island. I studied the real estate market on Sullivan’s Island trying to find something we could afford in our retirement. I found a beach cottage, more shack than cottage but the price was right. Our ‘cottage’ had two bedrooms and a miniscule grey pink tiled bath. The enamel bath tub had sundry chips. There was a wonderful brick fireplace in the living room that kept our toes toasty when the cottage turned drafty and cold in the winter. The windows were original, old, cracked and difficult to open. Our living room/dining room combination accommodated our mismatched furniture from twenty-one years of marriage and our world travels. A small kitchen was fine. I had learned to feed the multitudes from small spaces when we lived overseas. We didn’t have a garage but there was a space under the house where we parked one car. This space flooded during high tides, heavy rains and sometimes when my surfer son and his buddies left the outdoor shower running too long. This flooded area was the main entrance to our home. It took a few inches of water before we would circumvent our garage entrance and go to the front yard. Here access was granted by climbing an eight step ladder onto a porch that dropped you back into the living room. We had a grand total of approximately 1,000 square feet of island living.
After I bought my island shack I invited my parents to dinner. My only stipulation was that they wouldn’t make a negative comment about my house. They taught me, “if you can’t say something nice don’t say it at all.” I didn’t feel bad repeating their words back to them. It was very quiet for the first hour of their visit.
My parents thought I had lost my mind. They wanted me in a nice brick house with hardwood floors and white pillars lining a porch. They never could understand why I wanted to live on a piece of floating sand.
I’ve lived on Sullivan’s Island with the pelicans, seagulls, island eccentrics, and my husband for sixteen years. During those years, my son, who spent his teenage years on the island, returns often to visit his favorite surfing spot. My parents died, my dad of a heart attack and my mom to pancreatic cancer.
In 1999, days after Christmas, my cottage was donated and moved to Mt. Pleasant. It sits off Highway 17 on Hamlin Road. The current residents love the cottage as much as I did. I drive by often. My cottage looks lovely with year-round Christmas lights. An unusual island snowstorm blanketed my lot the day it was cleared. My father loved a snowstorm. Maybe this was his way of sending a blessing before construction started on my new home. Our new home was finished in time for the family to move back to the island and into our new home to celebrate Christmas.
My new home is large, at least by cottage standards. I designed it to look like an old island home. Visitors think my home has been on the island for years. It has white pillars lining screened porches. It has antique pine floors. I wish my parents were here to enjoy my island home. I would ask them not to comment if they couldn’t say something nice. I don’t think there would be a silence this time.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I remember my response to the loud, jarring ringing of that midnight call. Half asleep after spending most of the day at the hospital I was awake by the time the phone reached my ear. An official sounding woman identified herself as Isabella, the ICU nurse on night duty at the Medical University. No chatter only instructions followed. I was to gather my family and meet my father’s doctor at the coronary care unit.
My feet touched the cold hardwood floor. I ran to my closet. I threw on mismatched clothes, squeezed tooth paste in my mouth and grabbed keys and cell phone. I ran to my car. Once on the road I called my brothers and asked them to pick up Mom and meet me at the hospital. The thing I remember about my drive to Charleston was the adrenaline rush and crystal clear perceptions as I hyperventilated from my pounding heart. An hour later I couldn’t remember where I parked the car.
I remember running down vacant midnight hallways and pounding on elevator buttons trying to get to the ICU while praying all the time, “Don’t let him die until I get there.” After what seemed like hours I reached the 4th floor ICU only to be confronted by large steel doors and a warning that only medical personnel could proceed. All the years of following instructions were gone as I pushed a large circular red button on the wall. The steel doors opened onto a surreal world as I saw my father’s doctor walking toward me. Everyone and everything moved in slow motion. Muffled voices and sounds intensified the high pitched steady beeps from monitors in distant rooms, too distant to be my father’s room. The air on the unit took on a hazy grey-green color as the doctor took my arm making it difficult for me to breathe or speak. I wanted to run to my father’s room but my cold body was zombie-like as the doctor led me to a conference room off the ICU unit. The room was a kaleidoscope of blues, browns, mahogany and overstuffed chairs, chairs that caught people as they heard the news that their loved ones had died.
This is the room where my brothers found me with the doctor. This was the room where the doctor paused for me to put my arms around my mother, and tell her that her husband of 51 years was gone.
Once again I pushed the forbidden red button opening the large steel doors that now separated the living from the dead. The family proceeded to Room 8. The beeper had stopped. Doctors, nurses and technicians departed. Dad’s body was in the bed but I could tell he was gone too. His body looked deserted somewhat like a shell washed up on the shore, empty of its owner. His body was still warm but his vibrant Norwegian skin was starting to pale. His eyes were closed and his mouth open, almost in a perfect O like death had caught him by surprise. This surprised me. I had always pictured my Dad would die with a smile on his face. In old age, he had talked about how great the day would be when he went to meet his Lord. Maybe I missed the smile as I jogged down vacant hospital hallways.
Prayers and perfunctory paper work followed. I can’t remember any of it.
What I do remember is standing in my driveway a few hours later dazed and sleep deprived in my navy blue and green checkered L.L.Bean pajamas. The night’s full moon still lighted the dark November morning. I could see my breath, a white hazy cloud that punctuated my words as I instructed Magic, my Labrador to drop the morning paper. I wasn’t ready to bring death into the house. I took a deep breath and exhaled, fascinated by the clouds my breath created in the cold morning air. That morning I did not take breath for granted. I stood there like a frozen flannelled statue trying to decide whether to pick up the newspaper and bring it into the house. Every cell in my fifty year old body knew my father had died the night before last but reading his obituary in the Post and Courier would make his death public. My hours of grieving alone would be gone. I stood there looked at the moon and remembered the rafts and underground forts he built for my brothers and me. I remembered the winters he flooded our backyard so the neighborhood kids would have a place to ice skate. I wanted to remember the summer trips to Coney Island. I could almost smell and taste the pancake breakfasts he’d prepared for me and my friends when I had a sleep-over. I wanted to remember the tennis racket he bought me with his poker money and the little 10K gold ring with a cultured pearl that appeared on my 10th birthday. There were many things I wanted to know about him. I wanted him to know many things about me. Those were thing we could no longer share.
Minutes pasted as I stood in the driveway lost in memories. My tear stained swollen face went numb in the cold. I was thankful that we were having an unusually cold November in Charleston. “It would give me a reason to wrap my body in coats, slacks and boots, less of my grieving self to expose to the world.” I said to Magic puffing icy clouds her way.
Magic sat at my feet waiting for our next move, her vigilance a result of my sobs from the night before. She knew our morning routine was different. How would I tell her that her favorite visitor, my Dad, was gone? No longer would a grey 1985 Buick pull into the driveway, honk the horn, pop the trunk, and have Dad jump out of the car, and present her with a large Milkbone. When would she notice he was gone? What would she think? How do dogs mourn I wondered?
How would I mourn I wondered?
A next door neighbor’s hello retrieved me from my mental wanderings. I quickly raised the heavy news paper to my heart, nodded to my neighbor and shuffled up my driveway, a fatherless daughter, a new identity.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

When I hear the word Blog I think I’m a dinosaur. I’m not exactly sure what it is but I want to learn about it.
I think it’s a way of communicating with other Internet users.
Is it a way to share writing with others and get ‘feedback’?
Is it a place on the Internet for like-minded people to meet and share ideas?