Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Cover Art!

I'm told there will be foil on the circular symbol. Mmm, shiny!
What do you think?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Into the Wild: The Hypocrite's Edition

Lately the kids and I have been taking walks in the woods behind our house after work. These are the same woods I played in as a child, but without any parental supervision. My sister and I would walk up the hill then down through the gulley where a creek ran, following it all the way to the waterfall where it got too steep to climb. Then we’d tack right and hike up to what we called The Big Rocks—granite boulders the size of tanks—and come back down to play in the muddy irrigation canal that traversed the steep hill and brought water from the mountain lakes to the valley’s farms and orchards. This was our playground.

The summer of my senior year, my friend Dennis and I would make plans for late-night rendezvous up at the canal when our parents had gone to sleep. Truly a friendship, there was never any romantic intention to these meetings but I do remember it being magical in the way life is when you are sixteen and sneaking away to sit on the side of a mountain by a canal with a boy, stars winking above you and the town lights winking below. Like Moon Flowers, the long philosophical conversations we had on the phone bloomed more fully in the night air.

What amazes me now is how fearless I was then, popping the screen out of my window and climbing out to run off into the dark. The trail to the canal was so heavily wooded that even on a moonlit night it would be black as a cave. I knew the trail by heart, though, and ran the mile or so without stopping. I never thought of cougars or madmen or bears or snakes—all absolutely real threats in those woods—and if someone had warned me, I would have rolled my eyes. Dying is impossible at that age. Danger is like a free and easy drug when the fragility of life is such a foreign idea.

As I walk the trails as an adult with my own kids, I’m torn. The relationship those woods and I have is as important and as meaningful as any childhood friendship, and the freedom we were given to roam was instrumental in shaping my sense of independence and capability.

Will I allow that for my own kids? I don’t know. I wish I could say yes but I’m still not sure.

How do you feel about kids running off into the wild?

Monday, September 21, 2009

What Would You Take?

Today the kids had to evacuate the school and we had to evacuate our house due to a raging fire that got far too close for comfort. You think you know exactly what you’d take in a situation like this, but after I’d secured our laptops in the car I was at a loss. I’d had the presence of mind to grab my favorite Estee Lauder face powder brush and then just sort of wandered aimlessly through the house. Photos could be reprinted. Clothing could be replaced by a couple of trips to Target. Shoes? Bags? I’d wanted to pare down. It was weird how unsentimental I was when it came right down to it, though I did get the kids’ baby boxes—all the special little bits and bobs one keeps—on the last run through.

The fire is not yet contained. As I type, helicopters are still dropping loads of water on the hillside. But we are safe and we have each other. And a very good powder brush.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

When Worlds Collide

After Prophecy of Days sold last year, I started a new manuscript—a twist on a ghost story that involves a teen girl, her triplet brothers, and a Buddhist monastery. It's one of those ideas that came fully formed, and I'm not sure from where. I took a few classes at a Buddhist monastery in Seattle, but that was over a decade ago and I haven't set foot in one since.

Meanwhile, in my other life, I started a new job. When I applied for the position the company was in another building, and since accepting the job on July 1 and starting on August 12, the company moved to a great new space in Ashland. When I showed up the first day, I discovered that my desk looks directly at this:

Intrigued by the strange design, I went over at lunch to investigate what this oddly constructed building will be. I’d love to say I was blasé when I found it was the first newly built urban Tibetan Buddhist center in the United Sates, but I am wired to find synchronicity. Here’s a photo of what the finished construction will look like from the back, what I will see from my office:

Every day when I come to work I park not 20 feet from this jobsite. The eight or nine hours I’m at my desk I look directly at the construction. There are all sorts of cheesy metaphors that I could make between constructing a building and building a novel, or concepts I could apply to the writing process, like patience and attention to detail. But mostly I just like to watch this thing being built, piece by piece, day by day. In a strange way it has made me relax into the process of selling a book. And it’s given me a new, longer timeline—I like to believe that this manuscript will come to fruition at the same time construction finishes and the Tibetan Lamas move in. If I had to guess based on its current state vis a vis finished architectural drawings, I’d say it might be a while. But really, who can tell with these things?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tears and Coffee

Today was Hank's first day of kindergarten!

Now I have two kids at the same school—a first!

Since we're just two blocks from Bellview it's a nice little walk.

I admit I teared up a little as I said goodbye. The teacher's aide helped me with some distraction so I could leave without making a scene. However, tears turned to joy when I went for coffee with Mom right after drop off.

How can you be sad around such a beautiful vehicle for caffeine? The accompanying Tartine with ham and thyme butter was camera shy but equally gorgeous.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Creepiness in the Woods - Redux

Do you remember a few months ago when I posted about the Cat Psycho at my Dad’s house? If you need a refresher, the post is here. Basically, he had left his house, which is in the middle of nowhere and protected by a gate with a code, to run some errands and when he got back his big black cat—still inside the house—was wearing a shiny new red collar. The same collar, in fact, that can be seen in a painting that is also inside his house. Nothing was missing, nothing was trashed. Which is, of course, the creepiest part.

Other odd things started happening. A sandwich that had been left for a moment outside would be relocated. Items would go missing and then return in odd places. They even called the sheriff at one point, but realized they sounded insane when mentioning things like sandwiches being moved around on the patio and cats being collared while they were gone.

For months, it remained a mystery of creepy proportions.

A couple of weeks ago, neighbors up the hill came by to say they were moving. Something about a new job and better care for their daughter, who, they finally confided, was schizophrenic. These neighbors mentioned they couldn’t take many of the potted plants they had outside and invited my Dad to go by and pick them up if he wanted them. Once the neighbors were gone they went over to get the plants. It was then that they noticed that a small section of fence near the back of the property was missing. They went to investigate and found a path through the woods that led—you guessed it—right to the edge of my Dad’s acreage. From the looks of the trail, the girl had been on the path trhough the woods hundreds of times.

It makes sense now: A mentally ill girl trapped with her parents on a mountain looking for something interesting to do. They had been there a couple of years and you have to wonder how many times the girl had watched them from the woods, let herself in to their house, walked around among their things, left with something small and meaningless.

The question is, what would be worse—never solving the mystery or realizing that you’d been watched for years?