The prompt for your writers’ group for September 8th is to write a piece that anthropomorphizes Time. Give Time a persona and let Time tell a tale. Time can write a poem. Time can narrate a piece of memoir. Time can tell on itself in an essay or reveal a story. It can be forward-looking or explore the past. Is it always truth-telling or can Time deceive? Is Time witty or severe? The novel, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is written from the point of view of Death, an omniscient observer of events. Time can do the same.
Sally, Jackie, and I will write to this prompt also and post next week. I will post my take on Monday, Sally on Wednesday, and Jackie on Friday. Part of the fun of a writers’ group is to see the different directions in which a single prompt can lead. I hope you enjoy this creative nudge.
In our book, Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets, we have an index of prompts that inspired and challenged us through the years.
We three gals had written side by side for a solid and lively ten years before Jackie and her husband moved from Tucson to the north of Denver in 2009. Our narratives throughout Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets weave in and out and then grab hold of this departure that ended up being one of the stronger forces to bring this book back together. At Jackie’s departure, we had felt like stagehands, sweeping up after a fabulous run-on Broadway and nowhere to go.
The first year was quiet in figuring out how to continue with our book project. We roughly met via email, Facetime, and bounced long-distance ideas back and forth and continued ‘other’ writing as our writers’ group. When Jackie arrived on the scene in person, we gritted down for hours daily, a large oval table crammed with plans, layouts, choosing of stories, and by end of the day, exhaustion, yet high on fulfillment.
We also required diversions after such deep digging into long tunnels and channels of our writing. We saved a day, or long evening, to do something silly, fun, and restorative to reward ourselves.
On this trip, we chose Tubac, an artsy little village in the Santa Cruz River Valley south of Tucson. We think of Tubac more as a ‘woman’s jaunt,’ (only because some of our husbands considered the best part of Tubac was in the rearview mirror.) We string through the adobe and ivy-covered brick shops like a band of gooselings, our silly chatter permeating the cooler interior rooms. Everything entertains us, and if not, we entertain one another. We loosen our strings and become ourselves together, enjoying one another’s presence as we survey a piece of handmade mesquite furniture, a glass cabinet filled with polished stones set in hand-crafted silver, and oil paintings. We laugh out loud in a stationary shop and pass comical cards back and forth, jutting a chin over each other’s shoulders to read along guffawing without reservation; point and ‘ooooh’ and ‘ahhh’, quip positive critiques about a piece of pottery or metal artwork, and roll our eyes at some of the price tags. We pull on bright-colored hats, wrap fringed scarves around our necks, dance to the high-spirited music drifting through an intercom, hide behind a rack and say “boo” and relentlessly tease one another. We meander together or apart and drift back as one body. Same as our writing.
Late afternoon arrived on that sunny Thursday far too soon. Our legs had given out and we stuffed our packages, sacks, hats, and water bottles in the car. We were full of saucy enchiladas and delicious Tamarindo margaritas from Wisdoms. We drove to Green Valley which is a retirement community between Tubac and Tucson to drop Jackie off at her sister-in-law’s who would take her to the airport early the next morning.
Once unloaded from the car, Jackie’s sister-in-law came out of the shade of her house and joined us on the driveway. Oh, those stupid goodbyes! With tight hugs and tear-rimmed eyes, this was proof and disbelief that Jackie was not an everyday fixture of our lives as before. But being the women we are and the attention we can draw, we had a quick bonus. A large shiny fire truck drove by nice and slowly, loaded with good-looking young men. We immediately stood at attention. They all waved and turned the truck around at the end of the cul-de-sac, came back by, and tooted horns with big handsome smiles. We gals giggled, jiggled our shoulders, and waved back. Jackie says, “Man, they think we are hot mamas!” The truth of it, the nice guys in the glossy red fire truck probably said, “Let’s give these old broads a thrill.”
As noted at the bottom of the page ‘Praise for Our Book’ on our website, this clearly defines who we are.
I have good health, a comfortable life, great memories, and positive people around me. I would be an absolute fool to not be grateful and feel blessed for all I have been given. Reviewing my journals, in an attempt to organize them, and talking with friends who called with warm birthday wishes set me to thinking of my life – as a quilt. Every person I’ve known through time is a patch on my quilt; small patches for brief acquaintances, larger ones for enduring relationships, and others somewhere in between.
The idea of a quilt came to me as I thought of my friend, Mary, who is a premier quilter and teacher. She helped me begin a quilt many years ago that today resides in a plastic box at the top of my closet, still in pieces. I don’t have the patience to sew but I loved the idea of making a quilt. Mary offered to finish it for me, but I’d rather do it myself. Maybe. Someday. I will begin again. In the meantime, my imaginary quilt is easy to piece together using the threads of memory.
Each patch has its own texture to match the person it represents from cozy chenille to fluid silk or satin, smooth cotton to linen, sturdy denim to rough scratchy burlap. Each patch has a shape – round, square, animal, flower, star, or leaf. Each square or shape has a color – bright or dull, dark or light, some printed with polka-dots, flowers, stripes or plaids, even animal prints (you know who you are).
A bright yellow silk patch is for the woman I can call on at any hour of the day or night. I can tell her the most outrageous thoughts; she understands me and never takes offense. How blessed am I to have her in my life? One animal print square is for my amazing friend who has the grace of a jaguar, the energy of a box of kittens, and the bright smile of a Cheshire cat. She lights my day. Another friend gets a white canvas triangular piece because it reminds me of him and sailing. My imagination has fabricated a giant quilted panorama for the story of my life.
A blue denim horse shape is for an old boyfriend whose memory still makes me smile. A pink chenille star is for someone I always think of as a soft snuggly part of my life. A boldly patterned cotton chintz in cool green, shaped as a flower represents a woman who is sturdy, bright, and resilient. The center of my quilt is a deep blue wool piece shaped into a compass rose that always points due north. It is for the man who has shared my life for fifty-eight plus years.
There are patches for my parents (Mama’s is delicate purple polka dots, Daddy’s a deep cinnamon velvet) and grandparents, my brother, and cousins. There are patches for faith, love, and service. There is no thing in my life as important as the people in it and that includes many fur people throughout the years. Each of those furry friends has a shape or square that tells their part in my story too.
A scratchy grey burlap patch is for the boss who attempted to dismiss my contributions to the company we worked for. I told him I would not accept his summary of my annual work review. He balked so I told him I would take my case to his boss with my evidence of accomplishments. Grudgingly he changed the report to my satisfaction.
I know I have been the prickly burlap patch in a few quilts. I am content with that. Every one of us is the hero in our own story and every hero needs an adversary against whom to sharpen their character skills. I hope I’ve been the snuggly chenille or bright silk or smooth cotton for most. No matter – my quilt is bright and beautiful and makes me smile. Thank God!
Talk of irony! Or maybe familiarity? I just arrived home from a two-week vacation and have to be honest. I didn’t read Sally’s post this past Wednesday until yesterday and I’d already written mine for today. Well, she read my mind or maybe I read hers, we know each other that well. We both blogged about journals and journaling! I cross my heart, hope to die, we did NOT touch base on this. I decided to still post mine. It ties into this week’s prompt. Writing your own take. It’s a subject we wrote about in our Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets. The same subject. Different ideas. So, here’s mine.
What came first, the chicken or the egg? It’s an age-old saying we all have probably used at one time or another. I then wonder, what came first, the journal or the writer? Most likely the writer, followed by the journal’s beckoning. I know I have answered its call. I have purchased so many journals, displaying them would look like an art gallery. I love the cover designs, the different types of paper, lined and unlined, the size, the quotes. So, I buy one I can’t be without and write in it for a while, then my eye drifts to another and I pick it up, open the cover, and start writing. Different journals are a candy shop I delight in, lending me my own personal newsletter.
A few weeks ago, I decided to sort my journals into those I’d written in from those that were yet empty. I was on a mission to fill up the “used” ones and move on to those not yet touched. Over the years, I’d labeled journals by dates, travel, and a multitude of other subjects. I began to count how many I had and even surprised myself. There were lots. My first thought was wondering what I’d written so many years ago.
The second thought centered around my children. I knew the journals openly displayed on my bookshelf were nothing so personal they couldn’t be read by family. I had written so many thoughts and feelings. I wanted to share a part of myself and history they didn’t know. What legacy should be left for them? After all, I’m seventy-two and the years ahead are much smaller than those behind.
The third thought was wondering if there were some pages in my journals I wouldn’t want them to read? Our lives had traveled down many roads. Was there any written part that would unnecessarily hurt one of them? Maybe they shouldn’t readeverything? I decided to go back to my beginning journal and read each one, which I hadn’t done in years, some never. As I suspected, there were pages that would serve no purpose except to confuse or hurt one or all my children – the time I was unfairly angry at our son and wrote things I never dreamed I would, the time one of our teen-aged daughters threatened to leave home and my written desire to never see her again. I journaled the truth at that time, but it served no purpose now except to hurt. I just plain tore them out. I’ve had no regret. I’m glad the pages have drifted somewhere into the universe. The essence of who I am remains, all emotions included, in my journals.
I’m not done yet. There are more journals to read, page by page. By the way, did I mention how personally entertaining it is to read what you’ve written nearly forty years ago?
“A red pony colt was looking at him out of the box stall. Its tense ears were forward and a light of disobedience was in its eyes. Jody’s throat collapsed in on itself, and cut his breath short.”
John Steinbeck published The Red Pony in 1937. Start with the last sentence of the paragraph above and tell us why Jody’s throat collapsed in on itself, as Steinbeck writes. Was Jody surprised, scared, shocked, excited? See where your imagination takes you.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was the one who set the stage for journaling, creating what was a new genre at that time. While at Harvard, Emerson began his lifelong practice of keeping a journal. He regarded them as his “savings bank,” where he could express and examine ideas without public exposure. He also wrote poetry in his journals and illustrated many of his pages professing his early “hunger and thirst to be a painter. “
Diary is considered more of a day-to-day quick referencing of what may have happened in a twenty-four-hour period. Depending upon the size of one’s diary, most only had room to be said in ten words or less. As an early teen, I began with tiny Hallmark pocketbook annual calendars. By late teens and into early twenties, I moved to a ‘pocket’ size datebook and learned to write smaller, cramping in more words, using made-up abbreviations I later couldn’t decipher even if I were highly trained in the world of espionage decoding.
As time pressed on, so did the way I needed to express my thoughts. I discovered journals, lovely, lively journals. I found out a journal is a journey. One moment in a day, one small experience can be taken to several pages and can make a thought dig a deep well into what is truly on a person’s mind. It invites space to ramble, scribble pictures, imagine, discover, and come back to as readable references, such as Emerson’s “savings bank”.
Recently I dug through my past diaries, tossed 1972-1978. The tiny colorful Hallmarks were long gone, not leaving much of a ‘hallmark’ in my life. I name my journals as to what I might or hope to discover, and mostly, be surprised as I write into this new journey, the smooth and untouched empty pages anxiously awaiting. My journal is an expansion, a self-reflection of me and things around me. It allows me to be comfortable in telling what I want to say, and oftentimes, just to visit with myself.
Back to dear old Emerson, I took note of that “savings bank” when I wrote the piece Love’s Transitions in Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets. This is not the first piece published from my exploration into my journals. Poetry has sprung to life, essays of family, and downright funny stories. This tool is a fascinating way to journey through ‘your’ trip with time.
If you have a journal, give time to it. If not, there is one waiting just for you.
I live in Oro Valley Arizona, the high Sonoran desert. When you hear the word desert you, of course, think sand, sun, and relentless heat. Maybe even camels. Let’s keep it that way. We of Oro Valley like to keep our secret. We live in a paradise. Oh, we have our share of prickly things like cactus and stingy things like Gila monsters. But we are also surrounded by the beauty of cactus flowers in a variety of delicate colors, Mexican bird of paradise, purple Texas rangers, hummingbirds by the thousands, and on and on – a never-ending panoply of nature’s color and texture. Our valley is bounded by the Tortolita Mountains to the north, the Catalinas to the east, and the Tucson Mountains to the west. Tucson lies south of us and has additional mountain ranges framing it.
My favorite season is the fifth season. We have the regulation winter, spring, summer, and fall as most in the world but we also have monsoon season which interrupts the hot summer with thrilling drama. You can see monsoon clouds gather to the east over the Catalinas like towers of whipped cream, bright and white. Then, when the mood strikes, they climb above us, turn dark grey and let loose a torrent from the sky. I didn’t really understand the word torrent until I experienced my first monsoon. I was driving through town on a sunny August day when bam! Suddenly I could not see the front end of my car. An opaque sheet of water enveloped me making it impossible to move. It was as if I had driven into a waterfall. Fortunately, the downpours only last seconds or a few minutes then rain continues to fall in a more civilized way – in drops. Monsoon rain is commonly ushered in by loud thunder and exciting lightning strikes but occasionally it creeps up and pounces like a bobcat without warning. In a recent downpour, we could not see the houses across the street. They disappeared behind a veil of water.
When we hear monsoon thunder begin, my husband and I open up the doors and sit either on the front patio or back covered-patio to watch the fireworks. The sound of angels bowling balls through the sky is accompanied by sheets of bright light illuminating the mountains with occasional zig-zag strikes. Monsoons are the greatest in the evening, at dusk or later when the light show can best be enjoyed. Then the rains begin. The fragrance of the desert unfolding to the rainfall is intoxicating.
As with any extreme of nature’s many facets, there is danger in monsoons. Flash floods occur regularly during these tremendous storms. Floods wash away cars and other property, even houses, and cause death. Too many times we read that people, unusually young men on a dare, go to the edge of the Santa Cruz river that runs through Tucson to challenge the waters. The Santa Cruz is dry most of the year and is a temptation when it flows. Flood waters descend from the mountains to claim property and lives in the foothills also. Nature is to be respected as well as admired.
To my amazement, summer is when the locals flee to cooler climes. They escape to summer homes in the north or to the nearby White Mountains. I would never choose this season to leave town. It is by far the most beautiful time of year and temperatures drop from the June 100s to the 90s during the day. At night, as soon as the sun retires over the western Tucson Mountains, temperatures fall twenty to thirty degrees. And during the spectacular storms, they fall into the low 70’s. The humidity climbs, however, and we no longer have dry heat. Our environment becomes tropical for ninety days or so. The desert blooms its finest colors. The mountains turn green. Glorious monsoons are nature’s gift to us.
I grew up in the northwest and skied in the Cascade Mountains east of Seattle. Now I live less than sixty miles from the southernmost ski resort in the continental U.S. In Washington, at Snoqualmie Pass, the altitude is around 3,000 feet at the base and rises to 5,600 feet. Oro Valley, itself, is at an altitude of 2,600 feet. In the Catalina Mountains, we have Mount Lemmon Ski Valley at 8,000 to nearly 9.000 feet. Granted you are only able to snow ski or snowboard during a short winter window, generally February and March. The rest of the year you can ride the ski lifts to see spectacular mountain and valley views.
Snow stays in the mountains where it belongs. No snow shovels required in Oro Valley. We can see it fall and enjoy a snowcapped mountain scene from our yard without having to drive on slippery icy roads or slush as it melts. We have actually had snow in our yard on a few occasions over the twenty-five years we lived here. Twice it fell on Easter morning (see photo above). Snow stays a few hours then becomes mere hydration for the plants. As soon as snow begins to fall, kids rush out to build snowmen in the yard or at the park. It is funny the next day to see a tall glob of snowman in the middle of a yard that is totally clear and dry. We look for hills with snow to slide down on makeshift sleds since no one owns a sled around here. It is brief fun – and no muss, no fuss, it’s gone. We don’t have earthquakes or tornados or hurricanes either. In short, we live in a five-season paradise. Shhh – but don’t tell anyone.
In our book Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets, we pay homage to nature in essay and poetry as our group explores various genres of writing.
Some authors can use very little dialogue in their stories or novels while still holding the reader’s interest. It’s a unique talent. However, I venture to guess many more writers intertwine dialogue within their stories. It gives the reader a knowledge of the character. Their likes, dislikes, happiness, sorrows and so forth. The dynamics are endless.
After the three of us attended many classes on writing, we heard more than once the dialogue must move the story forward. Added sentences without that purpose can cause the reader to lose interest or take away from the dimensions of a character.
Writers gather their stories by observing others in a multitude of situations. Countless times, they might be in a mall, at a restaurant, or at an athletic event. The list goes on. Two or more people discussing a subject is often interesting and if you are close enough to hear, may be the ember that ignites the story’s dialogue. In Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets, our prose includes dialogue. In Diana’s first version of Things Taken on pg. 76, she uses the prompt to write two full pages in dialogue only. It’s worth reading just to see how this technique gives the reader important information and truly does move the story forward.
I love sensory details: smell, sound, sight, touch, taste, and yes, a 6th, extrasensory perception/intuition. Use as many of these as you like to write a short story…one page or less.
You are walking on a beach and see this little girl. As you get closer, she looks up and asks you to write her name in the sand. What does her little voice sound like? What is her name, and what do you do? Do you have a conversation? What are the sounds and smells around you?
Now that we are in mid-August, in some locations, summer is noticeably dwindling. Kids are back in school, yellow buses lumbering through neighborhoods, football practice and schedules gearing up, State Fairs barely wrapped up, swimming pools either being drained or covered in preparation for cooler weather. Here in Tucson, we have had quenching summer monsoons which dropped the temperature comfortably but raised the humidity horribly. For residents in a climate of ‘dry heat’ as we call this, are not used to sweaty foreheads and armpits when leaving the house. To get, we give. For instance, the surrounding Catalina Mountain Range looks like green cliffs in Brazil, jagged rock with layers of greens, rich and luscious. It doesn’t take much if you have an imagination, but the colors and tones summer rains bring are well noted from any distance here in the Old Pueblo.
Seasonal change is accountable and reliable, and for me, that bridge—one leaving to allow for another—between each inspires me to sit and write about our desert region, or the mid-west where I was raised, our summers of fishing in the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, fresh mown lawns, sleepovers in tents strung up haphazardly in a back yard, picnics and cloud watching.
Scattered throughout our book, there are tidbits of these seasons from the past, current, and inspirations they bring to mind and to the page.