Tag Archives: walks

At Least the Geese Are Happy

Not my “lake,” but similar. From Wikimedia Commons

The old man upstairs is named Jack. He made a point of telling me this on my way back from writing on my favorite bench by the “lake.”

“Good morning, my name is Jack, and I hope all your dreams come true.”

He must have been watching me as he shuffled his way around the “lake,” stopping to peer at things, clucking at the geese. I know I was watching him.

“When do you think they’re going to finish this mess, eh?” He shook his head at the mud wallows, the rotted piles of bulkhead, the excavator quite content to sit there, not excavating. “My name is Jack, I am from New York, and I hate it here.”

A couple months ago, in the middle of another writing session on my bench, another man made it a point to interrupt me and tell me how disgusting my “lake” was.

“Excuse me, excuse me. We used to come here all the time, eight years ago. It used to be beautiful. Pardon my language, but what the hell happened?”

I’m so sorry, I wanted to tell him, that a lake you haven’t seen in eight years is bothering you so much. Come back in another eight years, maybe it’ll be done by then. But he seemed quite angry, so I didn’t think it wise to stir him up any more.

“You can’t let it get to you,” Jack told me. “Not even the traffic. Oy, the traffic! You have to figure out a way to make it good.”

The weather was so nice I wore a sweater, even in the full sun. I told him about riding Marta down to the High Museum of Art yesterday to see Girl With a Pearl Earring. It was much smaller than I thought it would be–both the painting and the exhibition. My husband, who’s from New Jersey, said Atlanta’s idea of public transportation is a joke.

I smiled at Jack, feeling somewhat proud of myself for having meaningful social interaction. “That’s why I sit on my bench, look out on this ruin and tell myself, well, at least the geese are happy with it.”

And the geese are happy. In fact, I think the geese are less bothered by excavators tearing up their home than we are.

(This is becoming an inspirational blog. Many apologies. I’ll try to work on it.)

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I wrote over 2000 words of my WIP today. A very, very good day for me, especially since I finally introduced my gaggle of supporting characters, one of my least-favorite writing chores. Now onto the fun stuff.

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Here is an article from The Rumpus that backs up my suspicions about fiction written to purport an “idea.” I prefer fiction that asks lots of questions, rather than trying to create definite answers. A lot of times, definite answers don’t leave much room for interpretation:

Fiction at its best is not often an argumentative form (the essay is a nice sturdy form if we have a persuasive argument to make). That’s not to say fiction can’t (and doesn’t) have ideas and arguments (though only the best can make this rise above propaganda), but fiction is largely a form of illustration and not explanation.

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Ancient Ruins and Conducting “Research”

This shoe:

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broke the law last week. But only a little one:

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Nevertheless, it is a criminal, a repeat offender even. This is not the first time it has gone places it’s not supposed to go in the name of “research.”

(Dinas Emrys, an Iron Age hillfort and Norman tower outside of Beddgelert, Wales and protected by the National Trust. Taken by me, 2006. Click for closer inspection.)

This time, “research” dictated a trip to Lanierland, a defunct music park in rural North Georgia that in its heyday hosted such acts as Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Waylon Jennings, and most infamously, Kris Kristofferson, whose band inspired a riot because of some unsavory language. It closed in 2006.

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While this was the shoe’s first visit, I had been there once before. In 2005, one year before the park’s demise, I accidentally attended what should have been my high school graduation.

Look me up in the local papers. They’ll tell you I graduated from South Forsyth High that year, but only because the photographer the school hired to take senior pictures delivered mine along with everyone else’s to the editor doing the graduation piece. My family bought a full set; how was he to know I never attended a day of my senior year? In actuality I graduated from a little correspondence school, for no reason other than I didn’t want to keep explaining myself to people asking about all that “college stuff” I hadn’t yet figured out. (As if I was the only teenager in the history of the world with no clue what she wanted to do with her life.)

Despite all this, the universe decided if I was going to pretend to get my diploma from South Forsyth High I had better be there for graduation–even if it was only just in passing. Because that very Saturday morning I really was passing by–creeping, actually, because of all the cars parked alongside the road and the people milling about them. Some I recognized, in blue caps and gowns, clutching shiny new diplomas, hundreds of kids who probably thought I’d either died or gotten pregnant if they even remembered me at all. I couldn’t get away fast enough.

But last week, it was empty.

Normally I don’t like breaking laws (neither does my shoe). However, as I mentioned recently, if I’m seeking greatness, I can’t always ask for permission.

(Though I don’t rule out asking forgiveness! Every two seconds I expected a police cruiser to pull in the driveway, because in my worst-case-scenario brain, they install alarm systems on derelict ruins. Surely they wouldn’t arrest a cute little girl with a camera and an Accelerated Reader t-shirt her baby brother gave her, would they?)

Greatness involves taking risks. Greatness involves putting yourself out there, setting yourself up for possible failure, all the while working toward possible success. I’ve been afraid of things my entire life. Stupid things. If I’m ever going to accomplish anything of worth, I need to start getting over myself.

(This is a promise: someday I’ll finish the Wales story, just as someday I’ll finish the Lanierland story. I can’t be risking my life like this for nothing!)

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Baby Squirrel Death

Sometimes I have dreams that are so realistic I think, “How weird this isn’t actually a dream.” Of course, the joke’s on me; I wake up, realize my mistake, and that’s that. Another strangely sublime moment produced by my subconscious and trapped there, like an exotic creature in some madwoman’s backyard menagerie. So what else is new.

But while I was out for my walk yesterday, the opposite happened. My subconscious reached its hand out into reality and gave it a good shake.

I had just left the part where they ripped up the covered bridge and bandaged the path in yellow caution tape. When we first leased our apartment facing the mud flats almost two years ago, they told us cheerfully: “It’ll be back to normal by spring.” Just enough time for me to move in and start nesting, which was fantastic. A lake without water–at least on our end–is no lake at all.

Well, two years on, and the dam is finished but the additional projects are nowhere near, and the October deadline isn’t looking too promising. To make it worse, they just removed integral sections of the covered bridge that lies smack dab in the middle of my daily walk. I can hike around it through a subdivision, but a subdivision is the last thing I want to look at. I’m renting a lake-front apartment and would like to look at a lake, thankyouverymuch.

So I just left that, it’s raining, and I’m trying to think about about nothing when something reaches out of my subconscious and shakes the dripping trees overhead. It’s a limb or a bomb or a giant load of pine cones–either way, I get out of there quick. It crashes to the ground just behind me, what looks like a beehive but isn’t because it’s squeaking.

Of course it’s squeaking. Already this shoots to a level seven on the zero-to-ten Uncanny Scale. 

I look up at the tree. A squirrel clings to the nearest branch, peering down at me, her little whiskers quivering. A couple steps closer, and there it is: a little shrimpy thing, two inches long, pink and naked, thrown from her nest and lying on the path in the rain. 

Mommy squirrel is nervously twitching. What knocked her nest down? It’s not really windy, just miserably damp, the long slow drizzle of a bad mood. Nothing malicious is at play, just awful chance. I don’t believe in luck but I’m not one to look for signs either. It was just creepy random chance that I almost got knocked in the head by a metaphor I wrote maybe five days ago:

People don’t change who they are just because someone’s walking by–especially if that someone’s a kid like me. I once saw a guy on a ladder waving a broom at a squirrel’s nest in his front yard. I was right there as it fell to the ground in chunks, dried leaves fluttering down like autumn in July, the pink and sightless babies still curling around each other as they smacked onto the driveway.

My character chalks it up to the darker parts of human nature. I don’t even have that. Just bad stuff raining down from the heavens, indiscriminately dropping on unsuspecting targets. How long before it stops squeaking? I had thought it wouldn’t have survived impact. Maybe they’re made of heartier stuff, I don’t know. I’m not in the habit of knowing. Just imagining.

So at this point I’m pretty much losing it. I’ve had an awful day as it is and baby squirrel death is too much to handle. People looking out their living room windows must be muttering to themselves, “See, I told you she wasn’t quite right. Look at her crying at that pile of sticks.”

It’s not sticks. It’s carefully woven leaves and strips of bark, surprisingly intact. If I could climb it back up there, set it on a branch and tie it down nice and tight, it’d be fine. Perfectly habitable. But I can’t do that. I can’t even touch the baby–Mommy might not want it after that. It’s way too little to nurse by hand. What do baby squirrels even eat? My cat would think it’s a toy. I can think of five cats within a block of here, and surely they’ve gotten the bulletin by now: fresh young squirrel meat. Come and get it.

Mommy squirrel’s still there. Suddenly my heart rages with hope. Maybe, just maybe, if I get out of the way. . . I scamper down the path, hide behind an excavator, because I can’t just leave it. I have to know what happens.

I don’t even have to wait. As soon as I’m out of sight, Mommy runs headfirst down the tree. Bounds across the path, stops before the nest. She picks up the baby and carefully shoves her into her mouth. Then back across the path, up the tree, and out of sight.

I have no idea what the next step is. Maybe there is no next step. Maybe another nice squirrel family will take them in. All I know is, somehow, Squirrel Metaphor will be a reoccurring one. It will climb back into my head from reality and then out onto the page, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing, it’s that sometimes, things happen for a reason. And no one else can tell you what that reason is: you have to make it yourself. You have to make it worthwhile, because otherwise, it’s just a bunch of baby squirrel death.

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