Blood Connections

I’ve been thinking about family lately. Both kinds. The ones forcibly tied to you by the accident of shared blood and DNA, and the ones you choose.

I have three sisters. One shares my DNA and two don’t. But all three are my greatly loved sisters. I also have a couple sisters-in-law that I’m kind of partial to (don’t let it go to your heads, girls). They are family, with no thought on my part as to whether DNA figures into it or not.

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Sisters

Vegas sisters

Las Vegas Sisters

I have uncles, aunts, and cousins that I’ve never met and wouldn’t recognize if they passed me on the street. I have some friends who are deeply ingrained in my heart that I can’t imagine life without.

And just recently I’ve found that there’s even more family out there I’ve never met. Adoption brings a whole new equation to that phrase ‘aunts, uncles, and cousins’. My mother was adopted at birth and I’ve just recently found some history on her biological mother, and some first cousins.

June Davis (mom young)

Mom with adopted great aunt and uncle. Oddly, mom and the great-aunt look alike.

Do those new relatives matter?

Not much in the grand scheme of things, personally. I’d like to find out medical history. You know, when your doctor says ‘does your family have a history of…’ and you have to sit there with a blank look on your face. It would be nice to be able to answer instead. But overall, the people who would have been dramatically impacted by this discovery are of past generations. My mother, who longed to find blood family all her life, died before so much of this was available online.

It obviously meant a lot to her. That connection of shared blood. I know it means a lot to some of my family.

But me? Shared blood is just shared chemicals. That DNA bit doesn’t mean someone is entitled to love, as everyone knows. It doesn’t mean I have an obligation to someone simply because we’re ‘family’. It doesn’t mean there’s any connection.

And yet…

I was in Scotland and Denmark in July. I’ve been to Scotland before and love the area of Caithness. In particular, the towns of Dunnet and Thurso where I have friends. It was so, so wonderful to be back there. Not just seeing my good friends, but being there. The northern and western coasts just simply fill my heart. I took more photos there than anywhere else on the trip. No, I’m not going to slide off into a tangent on inherited memories and ancestors and unexplainable connections to land. That’s not me.

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Dunnet Head

And yet…

I found all the information on my mother’s biological mother and those assorted new relatives because I did a DNA test. I put a great deal of thought and discussion into the pros and cons, and ultimately decided I wanted that medical history.

One of the things that came back was an almost 80% match to Scotland. No surprises there. All you have to do is look at my hair and freckles to know there’s either Scotland or Ireland in there somewhere. But this test was more specific than that. Not just Scotland, but the western coast of Scotland. Exactly where I was a couple months ago, madly taking almost five hundred pictures. Little did I know.

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There were no DNA results that tied any miniscule part of me to Denmark.

I took less than ten photos in Denmark.

Of course that could all be because I live in the mountains. High country will always be my spiritual home. Rain and fog and low clouds. Trees and, yes, okay, heather is kind of nice. I love the mystery of the mountains when their craggy tops are hidden and you can imagine anything you want walking up there, free of crowds and traffic.

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But who knows. Maybe there’s something to that DNA thing after all. Not enough for me to change how I value and choose my family.

But maybe enough to change how I look at a landscape.

Or how I move through the stories tied to the land.

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I Love My Subconscious

But my subconscious doesn’t trust me. It doesn’t seem to think I’m smart enough to figure things out on my own.

Sometime in the wee hours last night I dreamed about a hornet. And a couple carpenter ants. And some earwigs. In the dream I’d moved some books and they all came out. They were crawling on me trying to sting and bite and I was madly trying to get them off me.

You know how nightmares go. When you describe something in the daylight after the fact, the dream sounds silly and you wonder why you were so scared. But during the dream you’re terrified.

My subconscious, though, didn’t seem to care that I was in the throes of panic trying to get the hornet off my arm.

Get this. In the middle of the dream, a, calm voice intrudes and says ‘this is what your character needs to feel right now’.

Geez. Even in my dreams I’m thinking about writing.

So now the tea is cold and my fingertips are numb because I’ve been madly typing for the past three hours.

I’m so glad my subconscious is smarter than me.

Knocking on the Story’s Door

I’m using this blog post in order to work my way through a writing barrier. It always helps to problem-solve through putting things into words.

The current work in progress is a dark story in a lot of ways, and draws from myths. I can see where it came from, during health issues and radiation and the ‘monsters’ we fight in all walks of our lives. I’ve put a lot of work into it and am at almost 80,000 words. The characters are joining up and I think I’m building toward the end, but there are still scenes to go.

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I’ve been fighting discouragement over the story because I can’t see the individual pieces as a whole. I’ve never written something where I have multiple points of view and multiple storylines. It’s been challenging to write, but up until now has also been fun because of that challenge. I work with one group of characters and if things slow down I can simply set them aside and move on to the next group. In a way it’s like writing several stories at once, with the fun of seeing how the threads all eventually tie together in the pattern of the story as a whole.

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I know how the story will end, and how all the pieces will eventually fit. But right now, writing the individual threads has become hard. I’m tired of fighting those threads, and want the lace fully woven.

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Added to that, I can see that a lot of editing will be needed. I’ll have to format the manuscript first, to put all the pieces in one place. I’ll then have to read it as the whole cloth and revise where threads don’t match, or where they pull away or snag. Plus the normal editing of things I fear I’ve ignored. For example, this is a story set in rain and woods, and yet my characters seem to be moving through it under invisible umbrellas, for as dry as they stay. Another example is that they are all dealing with the inciting incident, but smaller conflicts aren’t built up enough. So once the first draft is done, there’s still going to be a lot of work to do.

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And as if that wasn’t enough, a new story is tapping on the door of my imagination, trying to pull me through into its world.

I need to reignite my passion for the mythical story. I need to focus on it and quit looking for excuses to stop working on it in order to open the door wider to the new one.

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I’ve thought about taking parts of the current work to my critique group for review. But at least one person was uncomfortable with the selection I took last time because they don’t like scary things. And I have to ask myself this question: am I taking a piece there to be critiqued, or to have them tell me it’s awful so I can quit?

The thing is, it’s not awful. It’s rough and not great at the moment, but I think it’s going to be okay. I owe it to the characters, and the story, to finish it.

Which means I need to ignore the new one tapping at my imagination and immerse myself back in this myth, walk with these characters as they make their way through the mountains. I’m just not sure how to do it. If I take a break from this story, I’ll never go back to it.

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Okay, so I guess that means the solution is as simple as the old adage to put my butt in the chair and work.

Thanks for listening.

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