Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Reflecting the Bones


By the latter part of the 1800's the smaller, green and growing places of Oregon were claimed and near settled. What were these, the late pioneers, to do, but to set their sights on the vast-dusted sagebrush, the sudden snakes and lanky rabbits, the desolate openness and dirty hills?  To be sure, the weary, sorrow-laden few hauled the whole of their lives into the great sandy desert and said, "Well, here we are. Give us this barren land and we'll make something of it."  And they built a sunrise home of fresh clapboards. They dug and cut and cultivated the untamed land, mastering it as they'd done back east. 

Trouble was, they'd been taming and mastering something that wasn't, in truth, in need of taming. Their minds were grown on the idea that if they could bring it to heel, it was theirs, it was good, it was civilized. 

The Northern Paiute Indians knew how to live here without taming it. They did not need to bring any of its wildness to heel. They knew where to find food, though it be small and lengthy to harvest; some were known as the Walpapi (Root Eaters), the Wadatika (Grass-Seed Eaters), the Yahooskin (Crayfish Eaters), the Gidi'tikadii (Groundhog Eaters), and the Sawawaktödö (Sagebrush Eaters). They were master weavers and intricate bead-workers. They were spiritual leaders and prophets. They were war chiefs and artists. They were mothers and fathers and children. They lived along the edges of desolation and called it life, and then they called themselves the people of it.

They wanted to be left alone. They wanted to drink their water and pass through all of the space of the high desert as they'd always done. The settlers wanted to call it their own. This land they'd been given in the Homestead Act was their right. They had a job to hone out the new country from it. It was practically their patriotic duty to hold this space.

And so they killed each other for it.

Now the Native Americans have reservations and the settlers have a few craggy trees surrounding the lonely ribs of their once golden homes.

There are no excuses; there is silence, for I do not claim to understand. I do not have the words for the white pioneers not so very long ago who are not me. I am from them and I am here and I look at the truth of it, but they are not me. All I can do to make any of it less wrong is to look it full in the face. 

I see the warm-skinned mother keening over her tiny cradle-boarded child, dead at the hands of a white man. I see the life of the peach-cheeked mama leaving through the deep wound in her neck. The papas who would never come home to the wickiup or the sod-house. The young men who would not grow older. The girl-dreamers who would not dream again. The red-raged fighters who died under each other's selfish hands. The old men who died slow deaths from infected gun wounds. I see the children taken and raised up away from the life they knew before. 

I see the weeping and the sorrow and the disillusionment. I can taste the seething bitterness like wild carrot left in their mouths.

I also see the moments in shameful stories for courage and beauty and truth. I see the moments when their hearts believed this is not how it should be. When they could stop the one bad thing from becoming worse. When the little white girl did not tell anyone about the Indian camp she'd seen for fear that all their laughing and loving would be wiped from the earth as easily as dirt from a boot. When the papa gave an old Walpapi grandmother and two babies a horse so they might escape the soldiers in the night. When the Paiute brave left the woman washing at the river alone because his heart told him it was enough that she should be doing the same as the women of his family have always done; maybe we aren't much different from each other.

This was not our war, but we are still left to make it right. What then shall I do?
I did not want to do any of the telling, because I did not want to make it small or to make a heavy thing as though it were light. And so, I have decided that I will reflect the bones of it, and we will remember it in the places of our hearts where we have knowledge of these things. It will not happen again, we will say.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Harvest


Dear readers, 
Autumn has come to Central Oregon. Nights are fires in the hearth. Days are sweaters and wind. The grasses are yellowed, gathering inside themselves what they will need for the constraints of winter. The sun comes slanting and thin through empty seedpods and slate clouds. 

The grass field behind us has been cut and baled 3 times this summer. Now, it is only watered until it, too, will be put to bed for the winter. The cows and their big calves were separated last week, weaned for the season. I've heard the cows crying for the sake of their full udders. The big babies content on their green grasses and fresh water. Everyone is fine and grazing now. I always wonder about cows, how they adapt and accept what comes to them, how they mourn and worry over their losses. The snows will come and cover their backs as they graze and chew. Ice will form on their horns and they graze and chew, the steam coming off their backs like a mountain in the mist. Late calves and early calves will be born in the snow, dropping from their mothers as soon as they are born; their first lesson is "Life is hard. Accept it and move on." I wonder about this, too. 

I've begun a new story that is the golden grasses and far-spread prairies. It is the wind over rolling hills, sky painted right up to every hillock in a flat gray-blue that is beyond imagining. It is the story the rock fences tell of back-breaking and skin-slipping. It is the deeply-voiced story of bleeding callouses and sweat rivulets. It's the sharp edge of a scythe and the horror at finding once-live furry things in the windrows. It is love and heartbreak, contentment and bone-deep anger.

Here's how it begins:

No one ever notices the beautiful things til they're almost all used up. Butterflies just before they get ate by birds, or rainbows just before the sun dries em up. Water as it rushes over stones is beautiful. I used to think it was the stones was beautiful, but when I took a bright green shiny one out of the water, it looked plain and ugly just about right away. It was the water rushing away that done it, that made me want the stones.

I remember the face of my mama under the water, white and clean. Her hair floating around her face like water weeds, the blood around her hair making it look like the red washing out now she was dead and gone and didn't have need of that red hair anymore. 

I knowed she wasn't my own mama from a long time back. I got me brown hair and brown eyes and so does Papa. I figured my mama was maybe a whore from atop the saloon that Papa looked at real wistful sometimes. He pretends he's good, but I think he's got a devil in there somewhere. 

Mama, leastways the only mama I knowed, died in the water, which struck me as real mean, since the rain never did come to us in time to start the seed Papa laid in. The water just wouldn't come, and not two weeks after Mama floated down the Crooked River, that river that run through our fields, the whole thing just done and dried up. I imagined it took Mama away and then, just like me, it ain't had use for crying one more day and so it stopped and went dry.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Buy it on Amazon!

I'm a story writer. I didn't just play with my dolls, I made stories for them. Barbie was an artist who showed her works in a gallery where the the gallery owner often sold her work for more than she'd asked and would pocket the rest of the money. Sometimes Barbie was a pioneer woman who had a mercantile. She would often let many of the people buy on credit during the farming season, as she knew that they would pay up when the harvest came.

I have never...never...never finished a story that I've written. Never. I just had an idea from beginning to end and I did it.

Hidden is the story of a girl who grows up to rescue herself, just to find out that she's always been being rescued by everyone she loves.

I truly hope you enjoy reading it, and that, somehow, it resonates. My dream is that every single person who reads my stories can say, at least once, "I get that. I totally understand how that feels." Finding ways to make connections with other people, no matter how small, is deeply satisfying. ENJOY!

Buy it on Amazon Kindle

Buy it on Amazon Paperback

Saturday, August 20, 2016

My Novel!


Wanna know what I've been doing all summer? Well...not writing. I thought and thought and thought, and couldn't get anything done, but then one afternoon I sat down for 15 hours and completed it. Honestly the work that goes into a novel is mind-bending.
My book is coming to me in proof form this next week, so I can make any final final FINAL changes.

Here is a funny/weird thing...if you go look on Amazon for a book titled "Hidden" you'll find 40 pages of books and etc. that have the name Hidden as the sole title, or part of the title. Isn't it weird?
However, nothing else will do. 

Here is the back cover right now...until I fix it some more:

Forbidden from straying further than the brightly lit woods above their farm in 18th century Norway, Dagrun's life is small and lonely. When a boy comes tripping out the woods, dark secrets and nightmares begin to unravel her predictable world. She seeks the guidance of the gods as she learns to harness the magic she was born with, but will she be ready to confront the shadowy thing that threatens to destroy everyone she loves? 

It will be available in paperback and Kindle in September!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Taking it back

My little story is back in my arms. I hold it close, like a child. Nudging and pulling at words until something new comes up and surprises me. I want to share or not share as much as my heart desires, finished or unhemmed. (I've removed the first chapter as it has been mended, as it were, and needs to be part of the whole, which will be available soon.)

Monday, May 02, 2016

my two monsters


I'm 40 this year, and still waiting to understand these two things:

Number one: Is it wrong to feel everything so deeply?

And, number two: Is it wrong to ask, "Is it wrong to feel everything so deeply?"?

See this lilac bush?

It is me.

I struggle with depression and anxiety every day of my life. I am learning to enfold it and carry it with me. The medicine I was taking dulled too many of my other senses to be of use for me for the rest of my life.

But having too large and monstrous of feelings, isn't acceptable, so, I pretend to be solid and moving from age to age like a wise woman, but my heart is this unruly lilac, fresh and twisted, poly-directional.
My heart has radial symmetry, reflecting this circular scene round and round, like the Rose Window of Notre Dame .
 Blossoms rich and drooping with a scent too insistent. They seem precocious and cause me to raise my eyebrows at them saying, "Is that so...well...oh my..." and things like that. Their spontaneity and mismanagement of space make me feel embarrassed, like I've gone too far or tried too hard and now everyone is coughing and turning away.

Depression and anxiety are tangible monsters that I have to rule every day of my life, and so I write to let them out to play. If you do not have your own monsters, you do NOT understand this.

I need to give them voice. They need to be seen and understood. They pester and peck until you must look at them and say, "Okay!!!" It isn't kind to say, "Stop that now. How stupid to be upset about that." They do not live in this world. My two monsters cry and worry about what, and at a time when, they want, so I let them. Mostly when I write, and mostly when I write here.

This is the only acceptable place they can come in public to be heard and understood. Poor, gentle monsters with hearts made of lilac petals, persistent and sincere.

Do you have monsters? How do you live with them?

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

3 pieces of dust...

...meant to be caught and made into mud:


____________________________________

Creeping phlox. The whole yard had succumbed to them, drought or no.  Purple haze marred the tight yellowing scrap of lawn on the eastern corner, like the birthmark that slipped up my neck and gripped the edges of my jawline. Mama liked em, the phlox, but mama's opinions weren't to be trusted.  She told me I was beautiful, once.


_____________________________________


The whole entire grass field was a wide, low pricker bush. It made me feel mean and nasty just to look at it. I sat on the rock fence letting my hat make a perfect-circle shade over my barefeet, thinking hard on getting boots or roughin' it. I wished I'd known it didn't matter. I wished I'd just gone on ahead without those boots. I wished I'd known a lot of things the summer that daddy ran away and Judah came in the rain.



____________________________________


The astro-turf dock that swayed like a mother in the best of weather was the first memory that came to her mind in that moment. That, and the never ending ricochet down the canyon. The ripples of disaster kept her in a state of pre-awareness. The dock slapping and sucking on the water's surface harmonized darkly with the ping-chuck of the gunshot. When the memory began to fade, she squinched her eyes tightly, "Don't go away. Don't go away. Wait..." Gone. Gone and shelved.





Monday, April 18, 2016

I didn't ask you



You could never hear the green edge reaching,
gasping

its change is in slivers
and lines of white, impenetrable

don't pretend that the fact you have a soul
makes you privy

I smile at your clamber
but not long,
I just don't care

my skin is stretched,
tattooed vein-deep
with dirt and ash

curled, cocooned
battle-ready

your words don't change me
you say proper things
you cannot live here

if you knew fragility
I'd ask your thoughts
but you don't

so i won't

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

hiding


Would that I could shapeshift.
I'd sprout little horns and run away into the wood.
I'd perceive indentations under trees and curl there;
away from danger I'd chew at rich grasses
no further than neck's length.
One day the sun would insinuate itself
through my ceiling,
glinting on one brown eye.
It would make me cry and the teeth would see my tear.
It would see my tear in an unholy refraction of light
as though the heavens itself could not abide my hiding any longer

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

a list of scary things

John Bauer - 1915 - The Gold Key- "and she held up a key, a find key made of pure gold."

Astrid has been sent to live by herself for the summer. She is to care for the small herd of sheep and cows in the lower pasture land, complete with a tiny sod-roofed summer cottage. Her family continues to live in the main house, far above her in the mountains. When no one comes for her at the appointed time, she treks up there on her own, to find that something horrible has happened. She can't live there anymore. She takes anything she might need back to the Summer Farm and prepares for a winter there. What she doesn't know is what happened to her family, who or what is terrorizing her, when or if someone will come help her, and if she can survive on her own. So...scary things that might happen to her:

creaking floorboards coupled with swaying, sputtering lanterns

From her garden, her eyes perceive the shape of someone who has hastily entered her cottage. She runs up to the door but she hesitates to enter. She hears nothing coming from inside, but she puts her ear to the door all the same. Someone behind the door, knocks. From inside. Right opposite her ear. When she swings the door wide to dissuade the intruder, she sees no one.

getting scared and dropping something outside upon her hasty exit, only to find it (perhaps neatly folded) on the end of her bed in the morning. Her doors and window are shut fast and locked.

strange things happening in bright daylight

stepping over a threshold and feeling instantly and acutely vulnerable

hazy shapes at dusk

creeping and shuffling, in a barn, at night

dead farm animals in the morning that at night were perfectly alive and healthy the night before

hands and fingers on legs in deep, murky water

tapping on windows, at night, with no moon

a cold, long shadow coming over her suddenly whilst sitting in the forest in a bright spot with the sun high overhead, turning to see what makes the shadow, only to have it, just as suddenly, disappear. nothing.

being stuck - anywhere - and not being able to get out

on a midnight pathway through a forest with only half a moon, she sees before her a night shadow - dense and deep as the maw of a cave - under a thick oak, and as she passes through it, she bumps her feet into something soft laying there in the middle of the path

deep loneliness in a strange new place

not being able to start a fire after pulling herself from a frozen lake

strangers being strange

partially submerged any-things

those she loves instantly being apathetic toward her

something that lures innocents to danger and death

writing quietly in the dead of night and hearing the squeaky wheels of a tiny wagon being pulled along under the window immediately to her right

having to choose between certain anguish or certain anguish

whispers in empty houses

no soft noises from the forest

fiddle music coming from a cave - that is empty

pool surfaces that do not ruffle in sudden breezes

ancient peeling wallpaper revealing chalked on hexes

coming suddenly upon nests of things - other than birds

finding body-width holes in the ground that drop more than 10 feet into cave systems that have no other way in or out, BUT those body-width holes - now 10 or more feet above her.

if she finds, one day, that every single thing about the life she has led and are leading now, is regretful.

getting tangled, head-to-toe, in a fishing net that is steadily being pulled into the ocean

The animals in the barn are in distress - loudly. She hops out of bed and bundles on her sweaters and shawl to run out and see what the matter is. As it gets louder and louder, she gets more frantic. She swings the barn door wide and leans in with the lantern. Utterly quiet. Not one peep. She inspects each animal. They all appear to be breathing softly and content. Confused, but glad, she steps back out of the barn and closes the door quietly. On her way back to the house, her lantern sputters out and there is extremely heavy breathing right behind her, warming her ear.

fingers poking at her back, under the covers in bed, when she sleeps (and lives) alone





Sunday, March 13, 2016

Dagrun

John Bauer Agneta and the Sea King

Dagrun (dahg-ROO-ne) is my main character. I think about her even when I'm not writing. She is so like me, I have to step back and shake my head to see her as a stranger might.

Her name is Old Norse for "day" and "secret lore". If I can call my characters' names "Dickensian", I've definitely done that. Their names ARE who they are.

An excerpt:

     The Haraldson's sad little place, smaller than it should be for two children, a husband and a pregnant wife, was deep in the woods surrounded by enough stumps that everyone from the village could've sat on one apiece, and they'd still have some left over.

     Right in their front yard were two trestles, tall as a man and sturdy enough for one to stand on. Across the two, was always a log being ripped, or waiting to be ripped, into wide planks. She'd seen Bjern and his father working a couple of times, with his father standing on the log and Bjern below in a pile of sweet sawdust, a long rip saw between them, his ten-year-old arms barely able to keep up. Mr. Haraldson was usually yelling at Bjern to keep the cut straight, though she'd asked Bjern about it once, and he said it was the job of the top sawyer to keep the line straight. That didn't matter. If a board was crooked, Bjern was the one who paid for it.

     Today he straddled a log, taking off long slivers of bark with a drawing knife. When he saw the two of them, he rose from the mean work and dropped to his knees, fussing over Gunnar.

     Bjern's mother was at the door, long white apron being nudged by the breeze. Aslaug Haraldson was a diminutive woman, pale and sorrowful, with a huge belly. She was forever stooping and wringing her hands. today was the same. Her hands only came apart long enough to raise one in greeting.
 
     "Hello, Mrs. Haraldson. How are you, today?"

     "These babies will come any day, I suppose."

     "Babies? Two, Mrs. Haraldson?"

     "I'd bet my last coffee bean on it."

     They were both quiet for a moment when a breeze picked up, swirling through the sawdust, toppling a precarious-looking pile of skinny fence posts. Dagrun shook herself, remembering one of the other reasons she was here, "Oh, Mamma sent the woad yarn in exchange for the fence posts."

     "Ayuh. I hope they'll keep your goats in this time." Mrs. Haraldson put on hand on her expanding belly, and squinted out at her children: shy little Inga was taking a break from her white lace embroidery, her ruddy-cheeked older brother threw sticks for Gunnar.

     "I hope so too, but the younger ones are smarter every year, Mrs."

     "They aren't smarter. They just carry on from the old ones...learning from their mistakes...until they find a way out," Aslaug's voice softened as she went on. Dagrun wondered if they were still talking about goats.


Sunday, March 06, 2016

What have you been UP to??!!

John Bauer "The Tale of the Moose Hop and the Little Princess Cotton Grass"

You mean, besides teaching 2nd grade? Raising two kids, keeping our little farm running and housework? I've decided I needed to do what I really and truly love to do in my "off-hours": write. I've been writing at every available place and time.

At Christmas, I began really reading a book I bought a few years ago called Keeping Christmas: Yuletide Traditions in Norway and the New Land. My husband's family comes from Norway and I am enamored with Scandinavia myself. Between the pages of this book, I read about the "hill people" and the "hidden people". The "hidden people" came down out of the hills at Christmas. Of course, being from America, I imagined Appalachian hill people coming down out of the hills to celebrate Christmas with the "townsfolk" or something like that. This intrigued me to no end. Hill people in Norway. You can guess how much I wanted my husband's family to have come from the Norwegian "hill people": rich in traditions and superstitions. But theeeen, I looked it up. Not to be disappointed, however!
"Hidden Folk" are the fairies and elves, the trolls and magical beings that live up in the hills, the caves, the rocks of Scandinavia. It is so ingrained in their culture that even still today in Iceland, there were great protests over moving an building-sized boulder from its place where a roadway was being built, and they opted to build AROUND it...so they wouldn't disturb the hidden folk.

AFTER Christmas, I began reading a book called The Outlandish Companion by Diana Gabaldon, in which, among other wonderful things, she talks about HOW she began writing the Outlander series. The one bit that stuck with me was that she said she didn't know how to write a novel, but she began anyway. She was very careful not to tell anyone that DID know how to write a novel that she was writing one as well, this way, she could just do it purely and simply on her own. I LOVED THAT!

So, I began.

I figure that the world needs more Scandinavian (particulary Norwegian) fiction. Recently, I've been watching Vikings on the History channel, so that also inspired me. My son has begun reading a new series called Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan. But other than that, I don't find any recent books for young adults based in Scandinavia! I think I've found a niche!

So, began my research. Now, I can think of half a dozen books to write based on people's lives in Norway, touched by magic!

More to come...