Thursday, March 31, 2011

transitions and tony hillerman

I have given myself two weeks to do nothing but sleep, eat, read and write. Ten days in, three out of four isn't bad. The writing will come. It always comes. And until then, I will continue to refill the well. I have plenty of books to read for class, but have found myself more drawn to one of the Southwest's most beloved and well known novelist: Tony Hillerman. I'm not a huge fan of mysteries, but I love his books. The care he takes with cultures and characters. His spare, accessible style.

I love the idea of picking an author who speaks to you and reading everything they've written. I've done it only twice (JD Salinger and Herman Hesse) and have several others I'm working on (Natalie Goldberg, Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Pollan and Mark Salzman). But here, in this place, Hillerman begs to take precedence. And so I have started collecting his books as I find them in used bookstores (of which Santa Fe has many) -- 18 Leaphorn & Chee mysteries, 4 other novels (including two for children),  12 works of non-fiction, and 5 books of photography. Five of his novels were made into films.

I've heard that Tony Hillerman considered Finding Moon his favorite and best book and it was definitely good, but for me it lacked the very things that I love so much about his Leaphorn & Chee mysteries -- his deep and compelling insights into the land and his characters. In those books it's like traveling with an anthropologist, not simply hearing a story about a friend's adventures. In Finding Moon, the primary character's growth (Moon Mathiason) was more about him realizing what everyone else knew about him -- it wasn't so much about change or growth as it was about accepting who he already was, which makes the title very apt, but the story slightly less engaging.

As always Hillerman's descriptions of the locations were gorgeous and his story had the ending the reader hopes for. But I am looking forward to getting back to the books that split open the soul of the southwest and the people who live here. I just need to find a copy of the first in the series: The Blessing Way. Because as with most series books, it's always best to start from the beginning.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

fresh ink book review: old man and the sea

Okay, I'll admit it: I've never been a big fan of Hemingway. With the exception of one chapter from The Sun Also Rises, I've just never connected with anything he's written. Not so this book. It was spare and beautiful and free of so many of the things that make it hard to like Hemingway's work (especially as a woman). The story was so focused, so clean and so raw. I rooted for the man and the boy and the fish and the last line put me right over the edge. There was so much emotion in those 127 pages, all of it achieved without actually talking about it in the book. He merely showed the action and left the reaction up to the reader. Man, my writing teacher sure can choose a book.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

new directions

It's been a while since I've posted here. Some of it was frustration at having so many things I wanted to do fall through. Some of it was business at work and at home. Some of it was pure laziness. And some of it was time spent working on a new plan. The good news is, with the possible exception of laziness, all of the other excuses have been resolved. Sometimes you need the rug pulled out from under you in order to get a new perspective. Thanks to that and some very synchronistic events, I am finally in the process of completely remaking my life, at least for the short term. Here's the plan:

- Take 6 months off work (leave of absence approved)
- Put possessions in storage, purge what I can
- Move to Santa Fe (I've got a great 6-month house/pet-sitting gig lined up)
- Attend Natalie Goldberg's year-long writing intensive (part one just finished)
- Write (do daily writing practice, finish my november novel and get to work on my next project)
- Get healthy (cook, exercise, sleep, breathe clean air, stay away from coyotes and centipedes)
- Reinvigorate my creativity (365 project, sewing, painting, etc.)
- Read good books
- Figure out what I want to do next with my life and where I might want to do it

I'm currently working out new daily routines to be put in place once I reach my destination (some time in late March) and will post that and more soon. Until then, enjoy a little taste of my soon-to-be sanctuary.

Monday, August 30, 2010

no impact experiment: days 1 & 2

day 1: consumption
things i "need" to buy this week:
- groceries (girl's gotta eat, farmer's market thursday)
- shower soap (try dr. bronner's)
- hankies (mom donating bandannas)
- clothes for vacation (wait, see what i already have)
- notebooks for vacation (found a bunch of unused ones in my closet)
- mini alarm clock for trip (may be able to borrow one)
- trash can with lid (non-essential)
- new toiletry bag (see if old one still works)
- new tennies (they can hold on a little longer)
- train pass (girl's gotta get to work)
- parts for car (the check engine light won't turn itself off, oh wait, it did)
- gas for car (car's gotta get to mechanic)
- sand for toilet tank weight (can probably scare some up somewhere)

so not too bad. looks like i'm down to food, transport and important maintenance.

day 2: trash
i was please to see that most of my trash falls into the following categories:
- empty food cans
- q-tips
- kleenex (this will be resolved today thanks to mom-delivered hankies)
- floss
not one of them did i use for more than 10 minutes, though the food cans were on my shelves for months, which is why i buy them. i already compost food scraps and recycle paper (once it's used on both sides), so that was a big help.

i would like to find some way to seriously decrease my food-related packaging trash but have found it challenging for several reasons a) i cook only on weekends so need stuff i can store, b) i have pretty intense food allergies so bulk foods are out due to cross-contamination.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

readying for no impact

yesterday i read through the no impact week how-to manual and realized there's probably a little pre-work i could get done ahead of time to make things go a little more smoothly.

sunday: consumption
- make sign for computer that says "amazon" with a big red strike through it

monday: trash
- get reusable produce bags (done)
- make hankies from old dish towels

tuesday: transportation
- research train and shuttle schedules and prices

wednesday: food
- find local farmer's markets (done)
- research CSAs

thursday: energy
- plug computer power strip into light switch outlet for easy on/off

friday: water
- buy, borrow or otherwise acquire a five-gallon bucket to put under the tub spigot
- get my hands on an empty plastic water bottle to fill and put in toilet tank

saturday: giving back
- look into local volunteer opportunities

sunday: eco-sabbath
- share my plans to unplug with interested parties
- make sure i have matches (or lighters that work)

Monday, August 23, 2010

walking the walk

i keep writing and thinking about the life i want to live and the things i need to do before i can start living that life. the events of the last month or two have forced me to face an important truth: if you wait for your life to be just right before beginning, you very well may wind up waiting forever. i'll be writing more soon about just what that might entail, but in the interim, i have signed up for two events that should help get me re-inspired:

1. no impact experiment: i talk a lot about wanting to make a difference for the planet. what better place to start than in my own life and home. and having the support of like-minded people who are doing the same thing at the same time doesn't hurt either.

2. writing and mindfulness retreat: it's always surprising how the first habits many people lose in a crisis are those that can best help them get through. writing and mindfulness are two of the top three on my peak emotional health list.

and let me add one more quick note: there was an inspiring article in the paper last about the radical homemaking trend that's sweeping the land. especially cool: one of the featured homemakers is someone i know (okay, the wife of someone i know, but close enough).

Monday, August 16, 2010

asking for help

last week i attended a very interesting training through work called situational self leadership. it was actually a really great course with some great information about development stages and what kind of support you need from your manager during each stage. the most important thing i learned in the class was this: no matter how long you've done a job, or been in an industry, there is always going to be some new task at which you are a beginner. and as a beginner, you will need help. for me, that means two things:

- learn to recognize when you need help
- when you need help ask for it

you can't assume anyone is going to know what you need and automatically give it to you, especially if you don't know yourself. and even if they do, you may not realize you need it and may turn them away.

there is at least one new task in my job that i have been struggling to get a handle on without the information or experience i need. this has caused me a ton of undo stress and more than my share of mistakes. the good news is, i now know to ask for the help i need (even if i don't know what it is because i've never done this job before).

the question now is: where else in my life am i trying to make a change or take on something new where i could use a little help? it may be time to call in the cavalry.