Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Walk In The Woods (Part 2)

Image courtesy: Jim Pater

(Part 1 is here if you’re interested.)

We’re through the gate. The trees rise high—a wall of grey-brown trunks. The path takes you down a hill, cut by logs set on an angle to shunt the rain aside. At the bottom starts a long series of platforms, boards on top, Styrofoam underneath. At the end is a broader section for the dock proper, perhaps twelve by fifteen feet, the edges encased in a white rubber that will crack, fade, and peel as it ages.

Image courtesy: Velo Steve

A smallish dock on a tiny inlet of Lake Hartwell, and we’re the only house to take advantage of our location this way. Ten years is a long time to live somewhere—not a record-breaker by any means, but long enough to infuse this dock with memories from every emotional hue of the rainbow.

In the beginning, there was joy. The water in those years ran high, maybe six feet or more off the end. My sister and I would run, our feet slapping on the sun-warmed boards as our white spitz took the pleasure of turning wolf, snapping at our heals while we dashed off the end and took the plunge. Back flips were perfected. Sunfish nibbled on small toes.

Image courtesy: J.W.Photography

Later, there was adventure. A small powerboat made its summer home snugged up to the dock’s side. Long rides on the lake were an evening treat. The best part was turning into the wakes of larger boats and the bone-rattling thuds as our smaller boat rode those waves. Our mother took up water-skiing.

As I grew older, the rain levels fell. Many times the inlet's water was reduced to a tiny nest of streams lost among the green marsh grass that grew high and spiky. The summer sun revealed fat clamshells. As a teenager, I would perch on the ladder, pushed by the absence of water several feet higher than the dock, and listen to the mud pop and the crickets sing and ponder my place in the confusing mess that is junior high.

Image courtesy: David Hoffman

Sadly, one of the last memories of this sanctuary is terror. I’m walking down the long platform with the August sun roasting my head. My feet are bare. The space between the boards is half an inch. I hear a rustle under my feet and look down between them.

Image courtesy: Simon Hucko

Inches below my soles, a nest of water mocassins writhe and stir, disturbed by my footsteps. I don’t know which way to run.

Image courtesy: Hunter-Desportes

Another time I’m still on the path, just about to step on the platform, when the leaves next to my feet start to churn. It’s two of them this time—big ones as thick as my arm and at least five feet long. I jump, certain their fangs will find my legs. I’m just too close this time.

In my dreams, they always get me. In real life, I managed to get away. How about you? Are there places from your past and/or childhood that show up in your dreams?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I Done Lost My Mind (in 2011)

Hello, dear readers. I’ve been raising procrastination to an art form, literally. I didn’t mean to, at least, not at first. I blame a friend of mine who called last summer, inviting me to be a member of the board for the Montessori preschool our kids attend. Only four meetings a year, she said. I said yes. I thought it sounded easy. Plus, it was high time I did something for my community. My kids were long out of diapers. I wasn’t working. And it sounded so—adult.

Okay, first meeting. The school was celebrating its 40th anniversary. Spiffy. I wouldn’t mind being on the anniversary committee, would I? Oh boy. At the first meeting for that they started flinging out ideas—galas and golf tournaments. I started to feel nauseous. There’s only thing worse than planning a social extravaganza—attending one.

What to do? What to do? Then I seized upon the perfect escape—fix up the school’s raggedy garden plot! Perfect—no social interaction required. Someone (might have been me) suggested making garden stones the kids could press their sweet little handprints into. Fabulous.

(Little Bear's stone. No, she's not an alien; she does have all five fingers.)

Three months later? The gala invitations garnered four acceptances out of seventy-six invitations. (One was mine.) Gala cancelled. The golf tournament fell by the wayside. Now it was down to 40 Acts of Random Kindness and the garden. Neato.

While the garden was buried under two feet of snow, I could safely ignore this missive. Then spring eventually showed up and I had to face the facts. I had agreed to make garden stones with the kids—all seventy-six of them.

It took five days, four bags of Quick Crete, eight bags of glass stones from Michaels, one roll of paper towels, a Sunday paper, and two boxes of Saran Wrap. Dude, I was wiped.

That was the easy part. Next came the construction of a garden path with these puppies. You’d think seventy-six stones would be plenty, but I ran out two-thirds of the way. Screw it. We’ll make more next year once I’ve forgotten what a pain in the ass it is.

(Bright white marble. Umm, no. Clash City. Replaced with river stone--see top pic. Yes, I edit in real life too.)

So here it is, in all its muddy glory. And no, I’m not done yet. Have you found creative ways to derail your writing lately?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Authentic Nigeria

Image courtesy: talatu-carmen

On April 4 of this year, I was privileged hear Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie present a talk at RIT. Ms. Adichie is a world-renown author from Nigeria with two novels and a collection of short stories.

Sitting in the audience with her newest book in my lap, my husband and I were scouring the room to see if she had arrived. After attending a wedding featuring a groom and several guests from Nigeria, I expected to recognize Ms. Adichie by her clothes—a brightly colored gele on her head, perhaps. When we finally spotted her, the only thing to hint at her country of origin were the colors in her top. But when she started to speak, it was obvious she warn’t from ‘round here.

As a southerner, I love a crisp British accent. English from her lips is a beautiful thing. Ms. Adichie joked about reading a story as a child in which someone ate a bagel. In her young mind, she read it with the accent on the second syllable, making it sound fancy.

I had the reverse problem. I had to take the ‘fancy’ way she pronounced certain words and translate them back to boring. ‘World’ sounded like ‘wall’ and I was confounded on what, exactly, a ‘perry-fairy’, could be. Can you guess? (I’ll put the answer at the end.)

It wasn’t just the sound of her words that was magnificent, but her entire presentation. She is one of those rare people who combine high intelligence with wit—someone you could listen to all night.

One of the reoccurring themes in her talk was other people’s expectations of her as both an African and an African writer. When she arrived in America for college, she recalled the disappointment of her roommates when meeting her for the first time. Her fellow students weren’t expecting someone fluent in English or someone wearing . . . jeans. (How silly of them! Ummm—yeah.)

When she wrote her first book, it was criticized for not being ‘African enough’. It wasn’t about AIDS and starvation. Nor were there any lions, elephants, or giraffes roaming about. Instead the main character was the daughter of a prominent businessman. They had a nice, two-story house and a car. (Unfortunately, the father is abusive and scary as all get-out.)

Of all the barriers there are to getting published, that would be a kicker, huh? To have your character’s world—the world you live in—judged not authentic.

Her talk is online here. My husband asks a question around 60 minutes about a character from Purple Hibiscus.

Perry-fairy = periphery (Did you figure it out?)