Take Action

I got a scare a couple nights ago. I went into the hallway and saw a silhouette of someone standing outside the living room window. Before I had time to do much more than think ‘ART!!!!’, the front door opened.

And Art came in.

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He’d gone out to pet the cat.

He said later that he was lucky I hadn’t met him at the door with my rolling pin.

I was still hyperventilating.

He’s made me a beautiful French rolling pin from black walnut. It’s very heavy. The picture below doesn’t do it justice. The tapers are actually even on both ends and the color doesn’t come across as warm as it really is. And yes, that’s my bear, also made out of black walnut.

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Anyway, I was sharing the story with a good friend who is also a recently retired police officer. And he knows Art. So when he got done laughing, he told me this:

‘Action before reaction.’

It took me a minute because my brain immediately went to writing. But basically, don’t wait for something to happen so that your only option is reaction.

In other words, that rolling pin should have gone into action, should have been in my hand when the door opened. Instead of me standing there in my nightgown waiting to see what was coming through the opening door.

Thinking about those words today, I realized the same thing holds true in writing. Action before reaction, scene before sequel. You can’t have the character yell for her husband before she sees the tough guy at the window. You can’t have a character jump before the reader hears the door slam.

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And then there’s the way-too-common cliché along the lines of ‘Pulling my pants up, I ran for the door.’ Two forms of action with the nefarious ‘ing’ word thrown in for good measure. Have you ever tried running while pulling pants up?

I know that action/reaction is such a common tool that every writer out there knows about it or has had an editor shake her red pen at them because they reacted to her edit before they saw it. But even though we all know about it, we still too often fall into the trap.

That’s where revision helps, obviously.

But in real life there’s no revision. There’s no time to go back and erase something and rework it.

So. Action before reaction.

Keep that rolling pin handy.

Of course, I also have an antique lead-lined billy club.

And a thing that looks just like a beater’s bat from a quidditch match.

And a couple dogs.

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And lots of big rocks on the windowsills.

So next time the husband goes out unannounced to pet the cat on a dark night, I will have a choice of actions.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll just lock the door.

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I Remember Her

Fifty years ago this month my young life was in upheaval. A man in the house taking on the role of father. Two teenagers taking on the roles of elder sisters, releasing me from the responsibility of being the oldest. A new house to hold all of us. A new school.

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I remember that time and I remember the stories but I think back now and wonder who she was.

Did I know her?

She wrote behind closed doors. She was painfully shy and blushed beet red and knew she was ugly and didn’t know how to fit in.

Thirty years ago there was another major upheaval. Siblings gone, parents retired, a move to the woods.

Did I know her?

She had a little more confidence but she still wrote in secret, this time by kerosene lantern. She had a clear vision of who she was going to be – an old hermit living alone in the woods with her books and stories and dogs. And when she walked down the narrow track through the overgrown spot in the forest that would be her home, she absolutely knew with a deep certainty that this was where she was meant to be. She spent many hours wandering the woods with field guides.

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That rooster – Little Bear – finished his hatching in my bra. Thought I was his mother.

I remember her.

Twenty years ago she was a wife and mother and still living in the woods.

Did I know her?

Her confidence level was higher still because she was held up by those who believed in her. On their wings she found the courage to share those stories that filled her with their reality. She raced out on fire engines and aid cars. She left a job after years to try something completely new. She envied her friends, those strong women she dreamed of emulating. Learning how to be a mother, realizing that she could still be a hermit with two kindred spirits.

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I remember her.

I wonder sometimes where those earlier versions went because there are days when they are strangers and the memories seem to belong to someone else.

So, here she is. Do I know her in this moment, as she slips into the robes of, dare I say, becoming a crone? Let’s not. Let’s say instead, becoming a wise woman. Hopefully.

Will I remember her in the years to come?

I’ll remember some stories, and trust those I love to remember more for me.

Maybe some stories will even have endings finally, like that pesky question – who really killed the goldfish by putting pennies in the bowl?

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The Turning of Days

Well, it’s here. 2018 has thankfully ended. Maybe 2019 will be better. But I’m not sure what is meant by ‘better’. Some things will never be better, like the loss of Sam this year. But maybe, even if some things don’t ‘get better’ other things will bring us moments of happiness. I’m not looking for joy, but we could sure all use some smiles. Maybe some laughter if we’re lucky.

The year has been hard for many friends and family. I hope the year has also included some moments of peace and circles of love. I hope those I care for found hugs when they needed it, like I did. I hope they found someone to wipe their tears and hold them up when they couldn’t stand on their own.

For those who had a wonderful 2018, I hope you keep that joy and find it increased in 2019. Thank you for taking that joy of yours and spreading it around, and allowing others to feel its warmth.

I’m going to try and find joy in 2019. I’m not too worried though. Because if I can’t find it on my own, I know those in my circle of life will share and I will bask in those moments like a tiny Twinflower in the woodland floor when a beam of sunlight makes it through the forest canopy.

There are so many ‘Happy New Year’s’ being voiced right now and I appreciate the sentiment behind the words. But this, found on the Facebook site ‘Contemplative Monk’ resonates with me so I’m going to share it here for its wisdom.

‘The old year is worn and tired. Time now to kiss it goodbye. Take with you its wisdom – the authority and the power of all you have learned. Remember the past year with love, but let go of its despair. Live the year that lies ahead with fresh energy and hope. Be strong, have courage. It is time now for something new.’

What is new ahead of us in 2019? Obviously I have no idea, but the sun is out melting the snow, ice is now water dripping from the tree branches, and change is in the cold and brilliant air. So let’s step out and see what we find.

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