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Ocean-longing
dune path, beach path
tree_lady
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My "ocean-longing" comes to life in mid-spring and lingers for the next six months. All summer, depending on my degree of homesickness, I either dodge network weather spots given by reporters standing somewhere in Ocean city or else hover by the TV trying to look beyond the reporter to catch any bit of the town. Mostly I walk away from the brief broadcast blinking back tears.

I think about OCNJ all day over the warm months, wondering naively why I'm not there. How can this be? I was supposed to live there! I decided that long ago while still in high school. I would teach math at Ocean City High School. I would grade the papers at the far end of the Music Pier,                       (see pix)
OC_Music_Pier by DBeards

and use a clam shell to keep the ocean breeze from stealing them away. And I would have a horse, stabled who knows where but not on the island.

Based on dozens of OCNJ photo albums and carefully dated loose pictures, my last visit must have been in the early-mid eighties. How then can it be about three decades since I last visited my beloved Ocean City, my true earthly hometown and the place I was supposed to be living for the rest of my life? On one hand, it’s a puzzlement.

But it does have a rational answer. In the mid-1980’s, I began haunting speculative fiction conferences instead of “visiting home”. Armed with the unpublished author’s essential “One Minute Elevator Pitch”, I s/t/a/l/k/e/d/ searched for either a publisher or literary agent who would take on my Narenta books. I could afford either my yearly visits to Ocean City or annual searches at SpecFic conferences for someone who would publish my books. Not both.

That wasn’t a great trade-off, but it would work out okay in the long run. After 2 or 3 years of persistent A. manuscript submissions by mail, B. attending conference writing workshops and C. “publishing industry-related” panels in pursuit of publication, someone would offer a contract for my books and I could resume visiting my beloved town. Win-Win.
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Summary of Millenium PhilCon programming
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ABOVE: Millenium Philcon programming summarized

Who knew? If the books brought in enough extra income, maybe I could afford to make my home in Ocean City after all! Maybe I would write drafts of new Narenta novels on the Music Pier. A much better prospect than my original dream of grading high school papers!

Why the abrupt change in my focus? To answer that, we have to back up to the 1970’s when I began writing. I had something I needed to offer to others but especially agnostics like the one I had been before 1970. The direct approach wouldn’t do it. At least proselytizing had worked on me only to the extent I ran from it.

Instead, this scared little agnostic was “infiltrated” by the words of such fantasy authors as C S Lewis, George MacDonald and Charles Williams. I delighted in retelling myself the most meaningful fragments of their stories and eventually what I felt were the best parts of my own stories. Remembering, feeling again with each retelling, the awe at the touch of God's presence--like in Lewis's The Horse and His Boy.*  Or being touched by the mere title of Dorothy Sayer’s book, “The Consciousness of Battle”. And learning through sweet experience (and oddly enough my own writings) that Charles Williams had it right when he wrote of the Joy of the Obedience.

Others--like the me I used to be--needed to know about this! Others, wary of argument but open to a subtle hint in a work of fiction, for instance tucked within the camouflage of fantasy. Or as some author named L/o/u/i/s Lewis called this subterfuge,slipping ideas "past watchful dragons".

Even while writing fantasy, I can convey only a hazy glimpse of what it felt to be overpowered with awe at the touch of a Presence. A Presence that I profoundly felt but could neither hear nor see. So filled with awe that to this day I can only characterize it verbally with inadequate and misleading phrases like “overpowered with awe” and “My spirit bowed within me”. There are no words fitting for what cannot be described. “Words are clumsy.”** No easier to communicate is how, years later, I was suddenly surrounded by Love--Love that finally irrevocably cast out my longest fear. A profoundly “real experience” demonstrating within me for all time that the “clumsy words” written down by Julian of Norwich (and later paraphrased by T S Eliot) “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well",*** are true beyond hope. Have always been true.
Evidently, I'm not the only person who knows what it feels like to be overpowered with awe. (Note that she used the same phrase I did!)
"My spirit bowed as I felt the Holy Presence, and I drank it in ... breathed it in ... and rested."
                                                                                                              ~~ Grace Adolphsen Brame

A decade ago, I asked the leader of the “Written Remains” writers group why she had given it that name. I wish I could quote her answer but, in essence, she said that we authors create characters, emotions and whole scenes in our thoughts but in the end only a collection of keyed-in words on a screen remains.

She was talking about writing fiction in general. About the inevitable frustration authors experience when we try to record even a fraction of our inspiration. We are given visions of evocative settings and histories and cultures, all populated with characters none of whom existed an hour earlier but who now live vibrantly in our thoughts. Past a certain point, we "see" new character details rather than choose them. First, we wonder about our characters' pasts--and then we know, often in more detail that we will never need for our story. Writing fiction resembles pruning more that using Miracle-Gro. Eventually, as she said, we turn to our keyboards to transform whatever we can into mere words. Words are too clumsy.

The limits of language are never more frustrating than when our initial inspiration is mysteriously gifted to us. Gifted with such inspiration, we must use it. Not "must use it" because it's an obligation but "must use it" because we cannot do otherwise. That kind of inspiration fuels creativity to a white heat. So gifted, so burdened, speculative fiction authors in particular don't, or rather can't, stop coming up with new details once characters and plots mature. We may even be drawn to try our hands at the “subcreation**** of whole worlds. I think, I hope, God smiles at our efforts. Charles Caleb Colton wrote, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."


Yikes! My apologies for straying so far off topic!

Given what I had experienced and its profound ramifications, I feel obligated to “pay forward” whatever I can in the hope of helping a new generation of wary doubters. Not by offering a detailed description of my experiences--I still can’t do that even inside my own head—but by sneaking fragments of those moments into the lives of my characters. Speaking of characters, the peskier ones sometimes "tell me" things about themselves I never would have guessed. In my wip Da Boid da Tree-Rat n da Loser, I suddenly "knew" that a main character had himself experienced awe and delight when he was only seven.

What does this mean? When I reread my work, I find hints of varied experiences tucked into Seabird and Earthbow, and my later WIPs: The Gryphon and the Basilisk, Marooned and Da Boid da Tree-Rat n da Loser. Sometimes, I know I did that bit of tucking after laborious attempts at wording and many revisions. Sometimes, mysteriously sweet, I read a sentence or even a scene and think, When did I write this? or How could I have written that? This happened all the time when I first started writing. Less now but then my output is also less.

I began my first Narenta fantasy novel Seabird in 1979, followed by Earthbow in the very early 80’s. I moved on to The Gryphon and the Basilisk, simultaneously postponing my annual trips to Ocean City until my earlier novels found a publisher. The “finding” didn’t happen until the end of 2006, when David Wood sent me an email beginning, “God is a card sometimes.” Gryphonwood Press published Seabird in 2008 and Earthbow two years later.

It’s now January 17 2014. I stopped attending conferences a couple of years ago. The only attractions they still offer are the nightly bardic circle filksings. Being part of a bardic circle, singing half the night away, is beyond great! I miss the comraderie terribly. But not enough to spend approximately $1500-$2000.

I still haven’t returned to Ocean City. During the decades since my last visit there, convenient public transportation has pretty much evaporated between where I live and my seaside “hometown”. Every year, when the ocean-longing comes on me, I spend days searching the web, looking for a way to get to OCNJ and back without a car (I no longer drive) and without resorting to the nearly $1000 charge to hire a town car for the short trip there and back.

I am after all retired on disability and living on a pension plus social security. For decades, trying to get Seabird and Earthbow published cost me thousands of dollars for conference membership, my hotel room, food and transportation. But I’ve never taken a penny of the novels' meager earnings once they were finally published. Not that I'm above that! I mean, why bother? Neither Seabird nor Earthbow have attracted more than a handful of readers.  I’m fairly sure that I’ve purchased at least half of the copies sold—as gifts for friends or acquaintances and what were supposed to be ARCs.

Why so few sales? What's lacking? Any form of useful PR. Pretty covers, great descriptions of my novels, and uniformly good reviews at Amazon mean nothing when potential readers have no idea that my books or even myself exist. If only readers were clairvoyant! Anyway, what’s a few hundred dollars back in royalties, compared to the over fifteen thousand I spent on conferences--to say nothing of the emotional rollercoaster created by those futile decades of effort? Sure I could use the money. Semi-disabled senior citizen on a pension & social security, remember. But all I ever wanted was to be read--actually being given a chance to pay forward to others those same precious hints of love and awe I had been given.

This summer, I will be returning to my seaside hometown. After much worry about my budget compared to all the expenses, I came to the conclusion that I had better go while I can still fully enjoy the visit. I’ve had a balance problem all my life and it seems to be getting worse--to the point that I’m worried for the first time ever about falling on the boardwalk.


bdwalk3b

I used to bike from one end of OC's 2.5 mile boardwalk to the other and back most mornings, pausing en route only long enough to take pictures. Totally out of the question now. My legs are too weak--to say nothing of the accumulated damage to my knees after decades of falling.

Two years ago, I was diagnosed with AMD (macular degeneration). So far, thank God, my central sight appears to be unchanged! AMD blesses some people with snail pace degeneration like this. Then maybe some time later—or not—that same person’s central vision can deteriorate within months. There’s no way for ophthalmologists to predict what will happen with any given patient. I suspect that others diagnosed with AMD are, like me, praying for advances in stem cell research.

AMD is my real spur for visiting Ocean City now while I can still enjoy it. If nothing else I’d like to still see well enough to search for the little shop in which I discovered my actually-nothing-like-a-seabird-on-a-chain necklace.***** It's a reminder of the days when I would come home from work—open my spiral notebook-- and marvel at what I had written the previous night!
Seabird necklace closeup jpg

p.s. Funny story. Maybe three months ago now, I had Paratransit take me to a local shopping center so that I could take care of some bank business and shop for shoes. I had built enough time into my schedule to enjoy the semi-rare treat of eating out.

I settled on Boston Market. Not far into the meal, I found a broken rib bone in my "boneless" chicken pieces and then a second bone. These were on my fork—not in my mouth or throat. I mentioned this to the manager who apologized profusely. Only days later did it occur to me that I could have ranted and raved and sued Boston Market. And, perhaps, some time this very year, I might be moving to my true hometown for the first time ever.

Guess I’m not litigious. Or maybe I’m just stupid.   ;-D
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FOOTNOTES
*"Who are you?" "Myself" said the Voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook. And again "Myself" loud and clear and gay. Then the third time "Myself" whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all around you as if the leaves rustled with it.  Shasta was no longer afraid ... but a new and different sort of trembling came over him.
**“…I can still remember it as it once was. I do not need my own words. Words are clumsy things. In my mind I can return earlier, to the first place, my first experience, as perhaps Adam could recall lost Eden…”   --- John Fowles, The Art of Fiction No. 109, The Paris Review 1989.
***The 20th-century poet T.S. Eliot incorporated the Julian of Norwich’s saying that "…All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well", into "Little Gidding", the fourth of his Four Quartets poems:
"    ...And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
By the purification of the motive
In the ground of our beseeching.”
****a term coined by J R R Tolkien. ("As a Christian, Tolkien could view sub-creation as a form of worship, a way for creatures to express the divine image in them by becoming creators").
*****She felt drawn to one case in particular, where a necklace with a frosty silver pendant like a soaring osprey glimmered. … Wow, the necklace was huge. The distance between one wing tip and the other must be four, five inches. Cool how the chain was fastened to the wings.” ( SEABIRD (paperback) / Seabird (kindle)  Chapter One--An Invitation, p.22.)
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BTW, I suspect a shorter version of "Ocean-Longing" will appear in my Tree House Tales collection, coming out some time in 2014

Speaking of Tree House Tales, here are the last few stanzas of my
"Between Worlds" (Interwoven Memories of Ocean City New Jersey)


Distant thunder-rumbles.
The sound. The scent. The chilled skin.
The beloved heartbeat.
I gaze down at the slow throbs,
Mistily visible in their turn
On an always shifting stage.
Humble, each flees before the next
Wishing to take its rest.
Life in black silk rises,
Is lace-crowned, and falls,
Stitching crest to crest.


Shhh… shhh… shhh…
Froth voicing its last note
In the moonlit dance.
A pause longer than a breath drawn in,
The shallow builds its height.
The moon tugs. It tumbles,
Hissing a warning, shhh to younger siblings.


The shy foam dithers,
Caught between demanding swells,
Makes itself small.
Makes itself gone.


A longer crest creeps closer.
Still bright in scar-mooned lace,
Giving shapely life to the turbulence beneath.
Ceaseless motion alive.
Faithful, patient, unending,
Dark water gives freely wave on wave.


Bright and dark together
Shifting beneath the orb glow.
Foam-garbed this way.
Dark-mantled that.


Shifting, shifting, shifting.
Hair tugs sideways,
Coolness on my neck and back.
The water bows to wind’s wishes.
Lesser the light now.
The moon pulls its grey mantle close.


Voices of Sirens call me landward
With fractures of broken chants.
Notes windswept to me
From a hundred open mouths.


Called by bright songs,
Sweet cacophony,
I turn. I gaze.
I shake my head at no one.
Too soon to join the two-way flow.


Down a secret path I go,
Eager for unbound toes
To touch the sand.
To touch the sea.

Steve Parks waves at night

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Revere Beach, storm of 2013

I may have to re-do the link, I'm never sure how the image in a comment works. Anyway - Revere in the winter storm of 2013 in fact it is the end of my old street.

Seabird is on my wish list on Audible I think I will pick it up in Feb with my new credit.

That is some swell! I would love to feel that wave drench me BUT only if I were firmly secured to something! Do you remember storm waves like this when you lived there?
BTW, I have always known about your Massachusetts roots but I always thought that you lived in a Boston suburb. Or is Revere actually a Boston suburb? Blush.

I appreciate learning that Seabird is on your Audible wish list. If you do get the audio version, please tell me what you think.

Thanks for responding!
SherryT

Re: Your link worked!

Well it was snowing when that pic was taken. I was never down at the beach when we were having a storm bad enough to cover the whole beach and breach the seawall.

Yeah, Revere is a Boston suburbs.

I will let you know

Re: Your link worked!

Wow. So that's ice and snow on the left? Of course it is! Duh. You DID say winter storm, didn't you?
In that case, I'm stating officially that I do NOT want to have that wave washing over me!
Also, I will try harder next time to "read with comprehension", as they used to say.

For anyone who would rather be less ignorant than I am, I offer the following:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revere,_Massachusetts

Siren song of the sea

So many of us are called to the sea; alas I am not one. Although, like you, I derive joy from being near the sea - as I have been most of my life - I do not desire to be upon it. Its waves and swells do not agree with my constitution. But I love the endless personality of the water - be it a river, a bay, a gulf, a sea or an ocean.

Many stories have been written about brothers, one of whom answered the siren song of the sea, and the other, the call of the wild - the mountains, the forests, the valleys...

Thank you for sharing these thoughts; they are no less precious by dint of readership.

X

Re: Siren song of the sea

Thank you, Xanthorpe!

It's good that not everyone wants to live near mountains or oceans or farmland or cities. Talk about population overcrowding!

As for waves and swells not agreeing with your constitution, that's my God made Dramamine. (Just kidding, Lord!) I always t/a/k/e/ took Dramamine to Ocean City, etc, just in case. In fact, the one time I was seasick in OC, my grandmom and I were in the yearly "Night in Venice" boat parade. It lasts maybe two or three hours, during which the small boats cruise slowly past most of the OC homes on the bayside. Naturally I got seasick and didn't bring the Dramamine. :0

In many ways, I think I was fated to love water, especially the ocean. As you may know, I was born in Baltimore a descendent of two families who had lived there for either a couple of generations or for so many that they lost track. We had people who moved to what's called the "Eastern Shore" of the Chesapeake Bay. My paternal grandfather and my step grandmother had a summer place just off the barrier islands of North Carolina. When I was very young, my family would visit them in the summer.
I have an old photo of my brother, then just a toddler, playing in the beach sand in Ocean City. Based on how young he looks, the photo is proof that we began visiting OC when I was maybe ten or eleven. So I was blessed with lots of "ocean-exposure" during the first half of my life, even conceding most of the visits were short and far apart.

So if you're "the other brother", is it mountains, forests, or valleys for you?
SherryT

Re: Siren song of the sea

The whole Dramamine thing brings up the thoughtline of how we (humankind) are always struggling to overcome barriers to things that WE want to do. Seldom will we work as hard to overcome barriers to what HE wants us to do.

But I digress.

For me it would be mountains, forests, and valleys. For when you have a mountain, there is always a valley nearby. And oftentimes, there is a forest betwixt, is there not?

Sorry...I am in the midst of reading Allan Quartermain by H. Rider Haggard. 19th century adventure always takes me back to a time when language was colorful in a good way...

Besides, when many and many a noted Croesus, at whose feet the people worship, and many and many a time-serving and word-coining politician are forgotten, the names of those grand-hearted old adventurers who have made England what she is, will be remembered and taught with love and pride to little children whose unshaped spirits yet slumber in the womb of centuries to be. Not that we three can expect to be numbered with such as these, yet have we done something -- enough, perhaps, to throw a garment over the nakedness of our folly.

Haggard, H. Rider (Henry Rider) (2004-11-18). Allan Quatermain (pp. 73-74). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

For a writer to read such things is dangerous for Night's Edge will surely suffer another interminable edit because of what I like to refer to as The Tolkien Effect.

Batten down the hatches, as it were. And may you weather the storms of winter as well as Quartermain weathered those of Africa.

X

Re: Siren song of the sea

Hi again, X!
You wrote, "the call of the wild - the mountains, the forests, the valleys..."

I neglected to say earlier that, if I couldn't live by the ocean* my next choice would be those forests. Not all by myself, mind! But perhaps in a small town or a village** just within or on a border. LOVE trees! (Hence that upcoming title, Tree House Tales). And I love animals!

Now I'm writing footnotes in comments...

*...and well actually I can't

** Remember a certain forest in Seabird?

*** The photo above is of the Delaware Water Gap, taken in the fall, not quite a million years ago.

Hometowns

(Anonymous)
Thanks for the thoughts. The closest I've ever had to a hometown is Austin, TX where I attended high school. But I grew up in so many TX cities, it would be more appropriate to claim the whole state and be done with it. :)

But if I had my choice of places to live out the rest of my life, Austin isn't high on the list. An ocean or mountains would be great. Where I'm at in the TX hill country is pretty good too.

Hi. Mr,Mrs,Ms Anonymous.

Oceans or mountains. I'm reminded of one I was a kid and everyone in our extended family wanted to vacation at the shore. Except my maternal grandfather who loved the mountains. He was both strong-willed and vocal so we occasionally ended up in the Poconos. Nothing against people who want to live in the mountains but.... Well, blah. (Sorry.)

I've never been to Texas. A few years before I retired, I actually considered moving there, sight-unseen, because of the huge difference in cost of living between here and places like El Paso. Then one day, it occurred to me that a desert is not entirely completely unlike an ocean.

Forgive me, but do I know you from elsewhere? In any case, you're most welcome! thanks for your response!
SherryT

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