Still working on a run of earthly delights in homage to Ross Gay’s Book of Delights which has now been returned to the library. Today I am delighting in clouds while vacationing with family on Lake Chelan in eastern Washington. Perhaps because it is in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains which are delightful in themselves, the clouds here are wonderful. There are lenticular ones, streaky ones, wispy ones that are all set off wonderfully against a bright blue sky or turn streaks of red, purple and other bruise colors during sunsets over the mountains. There seems to be a constant variety and it is quite a contrast to the sometimes louring skies over Seattle which is only a couple of hundred miles west of here. Chelan can be blazing hot in the summer but right now is in the comfortable 70’s, cooler at night.
I couldn’t resist looking up cloud names just now. While flying in to Seattle the other day, I spotted a line of anvil shaped clouds and remembered vaguely they were associated with storms. Anvil clouds are scientifically known as cumulonimbus incus and is connected with thunderstorms. The clouds I saw towered over the thinner cloud cover underneath them and just had to be up to no good.
The wispy ones are cirrus, not to be confused as I was, with cirrhus which is apparently a band and is closer to cirrhosis which is a liver disease.
Anyhow, if there is an opportunity spend some time this summer cloud gazing. With some 16 hours of daylight here in Chelan, there is plenty of time for me to do so tonight. Here’s hoping for another red sunset.
It has not been a week with an abundance of readily available delights, but here is one, struggling to write this because my 20 year old cat just decided she absolutely must sit on my lap, the lap upon which I was writing. So I have her to thank for the inspiration as I was going to write about something lesser like the smell of laundry fresh out of the dryer, the feel of writing with an excellent pen (not the one that wrote this), the sound of my son (home from school for the summer) chattering with a good friend.
I just read Ross Gay’s delight–a rhapsody about home-grown carrots. I don’t have carrots in my garden but I have a carrotty weed that pulls from the ground with the same satisfying po. It is hard not to channel Gay’s stream-of-consciousness writing style as I pen this.
I any event today’s happy moment is about the weight of warm, furry, elderly cat on my lap. She has a lot to teach about aging with dignity.
Yesterday was a day without writing but I was gifted with a few lovely moments courtesy of a crow. I returned home from a workout and approached my back door only to see a young crow perched on the fence. Even a juvenile crow is a big bird, but this one lacked the long tail feathers of an adult. Its beak and feet were too big for its body adding to its charm. The crow didn’t seem upset by my presence and allowed me to photograph it with my phone, enter the house and take still more shots with my digital camera. At some point the parents, far overhead in a maple tree, got involved, cawing and flapping their wings but not approaching. I never saw the baby fly although I assume it could.
In a moment of slapstick humor and a little consternation, I watched the bird hop up the stairs to my back porch and look through the window. It then flutter-hopped to the stair rail and slid haplessly down to the rail’s end, falling off and to the ground.
I never saw the crow return to its parents or the next but I believe it did for as I write this I can hear the alarm calls of the adult birds. My husband and I imagine they find parenting hard work with such a wayward offspring. As parents ourselves, we can relate.
Ross Gay in The Book of Delights also makes note of a crow which was bathing in a creek near him. There are no creeks in my neighborhood. I imagine they have all been paved over and Gay’s essay makes me miss the creeks of my childhood in Seattle. Those were a major delight.
Day 2 was so not delightful, that I wrote this post and then watched TV for a couple of hours before bedtime. So here is my writing from June 11th . June 12th’s is already written, but one day at a time as they say. Here are my thoughts:
I have struggled to access delight today. The past 36 hours have been unkind despite winning a new suitcase in a drawing–and yes–that was an unexpected delight after I realized it was not a scam. But then, a patient came to me clutching some papers that revealed a truly grim medical diagnosis she had just received from another physician.
This woman is one of my most treasured patients. Someone who is grateful for my presence in her life and makes me feel my work is valued. I told her once in Marie Kondo terms that seeing her name on my schedule “sparks joy.” And now I learn she is gravely ill with a disease that she may also be passing on to her children whom I also know. I hugged my patient and her husband and promised to help while they wait for a confirmation of the diagnosis and if she truly has the disease in question. When my next patient came in I had to try hard not to let her see the tears in my eyes.
That night, I had an evening dinner meeting with my local professional organization. I chatted with some good friends and colleagues and was feeling better. On my way home, however, my car was sideswiped by a man who was undoubtedly drunk or high or both. Although I was unhurt, my car wasn’t in great shape and a miserable evening ensued.
The car that hit me fleeing the scene.
There was certainly no joy in waiting for the police to arrive (they never did) and yesterday I had to take an Uber to the police station to file my report. Which they refused to do. I had 5 separate phone conversations with the 911 dispatch and the police officer who called me about the incident at midnight when I finally was tucked in my bed reporting the hit and run and asking about procedure for filing a police report. But at the police station a lazy officer or clerk told me there was nothing she could do and I Ubered back home.
So here I am, no police report, no car and a mountain of frustration. It is hard to feel Zen under the circumstance. Even so, last night I dug deep and found a delight or two or perhaps a gratitude since I am still too pissed off for delight.
First, a kind tow truck driver who stayed by me as I waited for my husband to pick me up at 10:30 at night. I am truly grateful and shared it with a good tip. Second, dusk in my backyard with swifts twittering overhead and a half moon backed by blue sky. A pile of weeds near me and dirt under my fingernails from productive weeding. The gods of luck or happenstance may have been toying with me, but these will do.
I’m embarrassed by the ebb and flow of my blogging lately–it’s mostly ebb. I’ve been writing, but not so much on-line, taking classes, working on my novel and short pieces and even got an essay published–my first! Here is the link to “Unmanageable Care” in the new journal Please See Me.
I have been inspired anew by a book I’m reading: The Book of Delights: Essays by Ross Gay. It is one of those books that selects something to do every day and then shares the journey. I’ve read one about making friends and I am sure there are a few others I don’t recall. I don’t intend to write a book review of Delights here but merely explain how it started me on a journey of my own.
I have the habit of looking up authors I enjoy on Twitter and yesterday I looked up Ross Gay. He’s not on Twitter (good for him!) but I found mention of the Printer’s Row Lit Fest and guess what? He was speaking in Chicago. I had meant to have a lazy, rain day at home but instead I packed up my book, camera and notebook and headed downtown. I had the pleasure or delight of hearing both Alex Kotlowitz and Ross Gay speak.
Kotlowitz was interviewed by a radio personality (whose name I did not catch) and the talk also featured two people who appeared in his recent book: An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago. I would highly recommend anything he has written. Gay read from his own work, both poems and short essays. He is an entertaining reader and made the audience laugh. Both talks made me glad I left the house on a rainy Sunday.
But I’m here to speak about feeling inspired by Gay to write a “delight” essay of my own. Of course, it’s derivative but it is also delightful, a way to add enjoyment to a day, to be mindful of the small things that make life better. It feels like something I need, unlikely though it is that I will persevere for a year.
Since I’ve exceeded my self imposed posting length, I will post my first “delight” tomorrow. Actually, I think this serves as a first delight post. So there.
I don’t know anyone who has applied for or attended a writer’s retreat–the kind where a writer or artist lives in a tiny cabin in the woods and shares meals with like individuals. They sound fascinating, perhaps a bit primitive, but who would have me, a relatively unpublished writer with no MFA? Maybe that is for another day when I have credentials or maybe not. So I made my own, this year in Lisbon.
I know I’m lucky. My husband is supportive of my adventures and I can swing a month long escape both financially and professionally without too much damage. I also have the necessary spirit of adventure, willingness to go outside of my safety zone.
This year I booked an AirBNB in Lisbon. I had a lovely apartment in a central location with a usable but not amazing desk to write on and excellent internet service. This matters because in Bari during a previous escape, my laptop crashed and I blew through all my internet data reinstalling Windows and other software. This caused a little consternation for my host but we figured it out. Fortunately, my Portuguese internet was stable and speedy.
The first week in Portugal was shared with my dearest friends who joined me from Chicago. We crammed in as many of the tourist highlights of Lisbon as can be accomplished in 6 days. We went to the Tile Museum (Museo Nacional do Azulejo), the castle, rode the tram, sampled the cuisine and walked until our joints hurt.
When they left, I hunkered down and started writing. Of course, nearly every day I was seduced by another ramble in the sunshine or an hour journaling at my favorite outdoor cafe or a trip to an amazing bakery for a treat.
In the next month of blogging, I hope to share some of the details. Enjoy.
Two years ago, I started what I hope will be an ongoing adventure, I took an informal “sabbatical” from work. First of all an explanation and a dictionary definition of sabbatical: “a period of paid leave granted to a university teacher or other worker for study or travel, traditionally one year for every seven years worked,” (link here). At one point in my life, I might have aspired to a paid leave. I am the daughter of a university professor and the wife of one, but I left academia early in my career, which is a story for another day. Now I am self-employed so my sabbatical is unpaid and short but hard-won.
Two years ago I spent a month in Bari, Italy, which I blogged about some time ago. The reason: to escape Chicago winter which wears me down a little more every year and to work on editing my book and preparing it for querying. The break was a success. Walking on the boardwalk, touring the city and nearby small towns while spending weekdays editing and submitting made for an amazing February. I’ll call it my “rest and revise” trip. At the end I decided my novel was not quite ready for publication but learned from my mistakes and went back, not to the beginning, but to a new round of revising.
Last year, I was dealing with some health issues and did not manage another getaway, but lucky me, I am now largely recovered, and I just finished a month in Lisbon, again focused on revising, writing, touring and sunshine, not necessarily in that order. I wanted to have my next round of revisions finished but didn’t meet that goal. Even so, I believe my book is much better for the time and attention and I am sharing new pages with my writing group.
I don’t like my blog posts to get overlong. I tend not to read long posts and doubt others do either. Here are images of why I ran and what I found.
More will follow in future posts. Thanks for reading.