Word Limbo

I’m in that limbo stage between stories. It’s a weird place to be, having no story to sink into on my writing days, or daydream about on non-writing days. Since I’m a slow writer, this phase only comes along every few years. But when it does, I’m left weightless, not grounded by words.

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Getting set up for the recent get-together

What happens during those dreamless days? Well, I make many false starts on new stories, trying to force the words.

I fail.

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View from the book launch setting

I find myself almost desperate for an idea. That’s not because there are no ideas during this phase. There are always ideas. It’s more that the ideas are like hummingbirds, shying away on speeding wings at the slightest movement in their direction.

Have you ever tried to chase a hummingbird? You can’t even tell what direction they’ve gone.

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First few people beginning to gather

Time gets filled with going empty-handed to the critique group. Sitting there pathetically, envious of all the flowing words. And yet not too envious because the stories always come back and I know this.

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And so there’s a tiny bit of anticipation, there under the day-to-day grind, fluttering in the subconscious.

Something is on the way to me.

Some story is tentatively moving in closer, getting ready to light on my shoulder and whisper in my ear.

Soon, I hope.

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Rocinante – known to, unfortunately, leap off fences and catch hummingbirds in mid-air. 

Pride and Parents

Several years ago when I was an emergency medical technician (EMT), we were toned out on a call about men in a fight at the local general store. When we arrived, the two men who had instigated the fight were gone. The two young men who were the victims were still there.

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There’s still a general store down there.

One was bruised but okay. My patient, however, had been kicked repeatedly, in ribs and in the head. He was talking to me with full cognitive abilities, but because of the mechanism of his injuries, we wanted to transport him to the hospital anyway.

I was in the back of the aid car working on him, asking him questions, getting a history, blood pressure, and so on. As a precaution, I’d put him on oxygen. I asked a question, and got no answer. When I turned to him, he was out. Completely unconscious. Within seconds. I yelled for the driver who called out the paramedics to meet us.

It was a lesson to me in three ways.

I was fairly newly certified at that time, and it was a lesson in how dangerous head injuries are, and how fast they can change for the worse. Even in someone who had presented no symptoms only moments before. It was scary, and a lesson I never forgot. He survived, and actually, a few years later, came back to town to thank me for being with him. He remembered my holding his hand, not being afraid to touch him. Of all the things that happened during his treatment, and that touch was what stood out for him.

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We look so young. This was our engagement photo.

Why you might ask? That’s the second lesson I learned.

The two young men had come to our area of the woods because there was a large and well-known private campground, that actually was across the street from our cabin. And it was a gay campground. This was back in the 1980s.

The two young men had been sitting outside the general store, waiting for an order. The other two men pulled up in a truck and asked them if they knew where the campground was. When they gave directions, those two men got out of the truck and attacked them.

Those men knew about the campground and had come to the mountains specifically looking for those who camped there. Looking for gay men to attack and beat up. I was shocked by the cruelty and bigotry. (They were eventually arrested.)

That campground was busy on weekends. It was in the woods and our place was the only neighbor. The road was narrow with trees to the edges and not much shoulder, so on weekends the road was crowded with cars on both sides.

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Which meant that in the mornings, those cars would have slashed tires, broken windshields, and nasty graffiti painted on them.

My father, from a generation when being gay wasn’t as well known, was angered by this. He took to patrolling the road in the evenings, an old man in bib overalls and black-framed glasses, with his thinning flat-top haircut, and an old Savage short-barrel shotgun over his shoulder.

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He’d decided all those going to the campground were ‘his boys’ and he took on the job of watching out for them.

It quickly became known in the campground what my dad was doing. It didn’t take long before campers, men and women, were crossing the street to visit. They would sit in that tiny cabin and have coffee and cookies with my mom. They would potter around with my dad. They helped stack firewood. My parents became their surrogate parents, an old couple accepting them, not judging them, and loving them. Several long-term friendships were created.

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The cabin before a face-lift. That’s an old metal door nailed to the wall to cover where a window used to be. My dad was innovative…

I remember one man, Jeff, who became a good friend of mine, and who ended up moving permanently to the neighborhood. When I first started going out walking with the man who would become my husband, Jeff took him aside and had a talk with him. Told him if he ever hurt me, he would have to answer to Jeff.

Another friend from the campground, Kevin, had a huge crush on my husband. And my husband, being the strong and wonderful man he is, was flattered rather than horrified or embarrassed, or threatened.

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He’s not short; that’s deep snow.

Which leads me to lesson three. For as much bigotry and hatred that still exists today, and seems to be growing, there are still those who care. As Pride Month draws to a close, I hope those who love continue to outnumber those who hate.

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Rain

If you live in the Pacific Northwest you have to align with the rain. If you wait for a day without rain you’ll never breathe fresh air.

Yesterday, my sister said ‘let’s go for a walk in the woods!’. Off we went. My sister, my nephew, my great-niece, and her boyfriend. We didn’t have wet-weather gear; my sister was even in open, sandal-type shoes. We came back soaked. It was a fantastic family get-together.

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The same sister, on another day when she said ‘let’s go for a walk in the woods’

At one point my sister commented on how the mountains were hidden in the clouds. I told her I prefer them when it’s stormy, when you just get glimpses of the high peaks. When they are fully exposed on a clear sunny day, there’s no mystery, no magic, no unanswered questions. No dreams about what might be up there, no possibilities.

In other words, no stories.

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Looking toward Mt. Baring

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Looking toward Mt. Index, with a hint of Bridal Veil Falls

Many years ago we lived off-grid and generated electricity from a water wheel. This meant never-ending maintenance of the pipeline, which climbed the forested ridge. Dad and I (and any visiting family members) spent a lot of time out in the woods in all sorts of weather. I remember one time when the pipe broke and spewed creek water all night. When we reached it, there was a thick frozen waterfall from a tree branch where the pipe had shot water. It was like the tree had become one with the creek.

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We’d be out there either wet or freezing. Trying to hold onto tools, pipes slippery/slick, glue too cold, dropped screws in forest floor impossible to find within ferns and needles and water. Sometimes, miserable, we worked in silence just to get the job done. Some times we told stories.

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I’ve lost many screws, nails, and even hammers, in places like this.

One time, the ground gave way beneath my dad and he broke his leg. It was challenging getting him back down the steep trail in the rain. There was cussing involved. And fear.

I have laughed in the rain, shed tears in the rain, spent wonderful moments with close friends (and family), and also moments of precious solitude. Water always seems to be there, in the form of rain or snow, or just the whitewater rivers and creeks.

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The power of rain and river

As much as rain is a part of my life, I love the ending, after walking in the rain. Coming home to a hot fire in the wood stove and a tea kettle simmering on the top. Stripping wet clothes from clammy skin, and leaving them to steam by the fire. Slipping off soggy shoes or boots and placing them as close as possible to the heat. And then holding slightly blue hands over that heat.

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Or like I did one time, backing up to the wood stove to thaw and getting a bit too close. Steam and smoke are close kin and look a lot alike.

But I love that contrast from stepping out of the rain and coming in to the dry. I love the feeling of having been out in weather and not only managed it, but enjoyed it. I huddle by the wood stove and clutch that mug of hot tea, letting the steam warm my cheeks and realize that the ending sometimes is the best part of the story.