With a gratuitous Slobbering Beast shot (doesn’t he look embarrassed?) and a redirect to the Writer Unboxed site for my essay on how to find a great beta reader. Please stop by if you get the chance!
Last week, after one of the constant snow storms, the Slobbering Beast and I were lucky enough to be the first ones on the trail. No car tracks at the main entrance, no boot marks anywhere. Bliss. We hiked in silence, the only noise the creaking of the trees, the crash of ice and of snow sliding off a branch. We took a side trail, not the main one, and about 15 minutes in the snow was covered in tracks. Small prints — mice or maybe chipmunks — hand-like prints that could have been raccoon or skunk, and then, far off on the rocks, a large dog-like paw print with no human tracks in sight. We didn’t linger near that one.
The Slobbering Beast was in his glory, running this way and that, investigating every scent. It was a reminder to me that the woods are like this for him every time, full of invisible residents. They are there always, even when I can’t see the signs of their presence.
Stories are like that too, I think. All around us, hiding in plain sight, invisible until there’s a shift in our thinking, a catalyst to change how we view the world. Then they reveal themselves, ready at last to be told.
What stories will you see today?
Posted in Uncategorized, tagged great neighbors, slobbering beast, who needs coffee when the morning starts like this on October 1, 2013| 4 Comments »
Today two things happened: I realized I didn’t have a blog post planned, and my daughter thought the dog looked like he wanted an adventure. I will never say anything about blog posts in the dog’s hearing again, so help me.
My kids go to two different schools now, in two different towns with different schedules, and the Slobbering Beast does not like this. He hates when a kid leaves the house on his/her own, as my daughter does when she is carpooling, and this morning he stuck to her like glue. “I think he wants to go to school with me,” she said, and at her words he went and parked himself at the door. “He looks like he wants an adventure.”
We laughed about it and I moved him out of the way and then she left for school and I went up to have my own adventure waking the boy, but not before letting the Beast out. On days when I don’t drive the carpool, the routine is we wait for the girl to leave, The Beast goes outside for a short run around the house and a cookie from the neighbors, and then he comes in for breakfast.
But this morning, he met his match. I heard a loud noise, like a flame-thrower — Whoosh, thump, whoosh, thump — but when I looked out the boy’s bedroom, didn’t see anything. About five seconds later, the phone rang. It was my neighbor, telling me a hot air balloon had almost landed in our yard. Now, the Slobbering Beast does not fear much, but apparently this thing descending from the sky was the breaking point for him. He galloped out of the yard and headed for the hills.
I am blessed with very good neighbors. While I yelled for the boy to GET UP! GET UP NOW! and grabbed my car keys, they were already in action. One stayed at home to relay messages and three headed out to search. The boy and I looked too, with no success, until it was time for school. I was just heading back and turning onto the road where we hike when I got a phone call saying he’d been spotted on the trails. I looked ahead of me and there was another neighbor, waving me down. I pulled in and started calling, and within five minutes the Slobbering Beast came crashing through the undergrowth, looking a bit wild-eyed. He’d taken the cookies the neighbors had bribed him with but wouldn’t let them grab him. I’m not sure if he was spooked or just enjoying his time off, but he’s back, looking quite content.
Next time in the morning I will say something more useful, like “I wish the Slobbering Beast would bring home a million dollars,” and see what happens. Although perhaps he already did — my neighbors are worth at least that. (Thanks, guys.)
Audio books listened to: Nine
Favorite: No Passengers Beyond This Point, by Gennifer Choldenko (Caveat: The Graveyard Book will always be my very favorite. As my children grow, I find it more mournful, but each summer that we listen it’s like running into an old friend.)
Sharks sighted: None (Thank God!)
Boat rides taken: Two
Lobster rolls eaten: Five
Oysters consumed: Embarrassingly, too many to count.
Summer Song: Call Me Maybe (What can I say — blame the US Swim Team.)
Summer Wine: Grangia, from the winemaker Elvio Tintero
Meltdowns by children: none
Meltdowns by mother: one
Blue moons witnessed: One
Emergency trips to the vet: One
Emergency trips to the dentist: Three
Number of teeth pulled: One
Chapters written: Let’s not talk about that, shall we?
Perfect sunsets watched from the beach: Three
Days I would love to have back so I could live them all over again: Every single one
How was your summer?
This is Harley.
Now he looks like this.
Harley has many positive attributes. He is firm in his belief that the only good squirrel is a dead squirrel. He thinks teenagers should have 9 p.m. curfews, and if their parents insist on letting them out after that, he insists that they stay on the opposite side of the road from our house. If they forget, he reminds them. Loudly.
His best trait, however, is the fact that he loves kids. Mostly mine, but if they aren’t available, he’s fine with whoever happens to leave theirs laying around. He is never happier than when there’s a pack of children over and he’s in the middle, tongue out, running hard alongside them in a game of tag or ball. The kids use him to find each other during hide and seek, and as a shield during water pistol wars.
He’s very agile and has managed to avoid more than one collision that made me cover my eyes by leaping to the side (and sometimes over) a small child who has forgotten the rule about not running around corners of the house. I cringe, expecting to hear the ‘thunk’ of eighty pounds of muscle hitting forty pounds of boy flesh and instead I see Harley, valiantly twisting his body into an unnatural pose in mid-air.
Harley’s main, overriding flaw, and one that he has had since we adopted him, is that he lacks … intestinal fortitude, shall we say. Our previous dogs had cast iron stomachs, ate everything from horse poop to dead rodents and barely belched. Harley’s stomach formerly belonged to a little old Victorian lady who only used it for weak tea and cucumber sandwiches on white bread. She still got the vapors.
Every few months something inside him just … lets go. To avoid offending delicate reader sensibilities, I’ll just say that Harley turns into the Blast-Ended Skrewt from Harry Potter. It is not pleasant. We’ve had him tested for parasites multiple times, changed foods, kept him under hawk-eye supervision to make sure he’s not eating contraband … nothing seems to help.
Our latest efforts involve putting him on a grain-free diet. It’s too soon to tell if it will work, but I can say that a bag of this food — which has salmon and sweet potatoes and probably a maitre d’ in there somewhere– costs the equivalent of a nice … a very very nice … bottle of bubbly. Not that I’m resentful, or anything.
However, I’ve decided that the Slobbering Beast needs to start earning his keep, not just eating it. I thought about his many talents, and while I could rent him out for squirrel patrol (Hi Dad!) or possibly babysitting jobs (he’s very good at wearing small boys out) I was looking for something a little more … glamorous. Something that befits a dog of his dignity, so to speak.
Then I read that the fabulous and kind-hearted Joshilyn Jackson was running a contest to promote the paperback release of her novel Backseat Saints. I am a die-hard Joshilyn Jackson fan, and I loved that book. It has a very nice dog in it, too, one that is not a Blast-Ended Skrewt. Harley and that dog could be friends, maybe, if Harley were fictional and smelled better.
So, I decided to try renting Harley out, like billboard space. I’m doing a test case with Backseat Saints and Jackson’s not-yet-released next book, A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. On our daily three-mile jog we must pass at least … I dunno, fifty houses? Maybe more. Plus cars and whatnot. And that’s just here. Sometimes we humiliate the poor dog by taking him for walks in other places, too.
I think I have single-handedly solved the publishing world’s dilemma of how to reach readers, don’t you? J.K. Rowling, feel free to call me anytime. Me and the Skrewt are waiting.
I went for a run this week. It was cold and raining, and uphill both ways (okay, maybe it just felt that way) but it was the only day this week when I could do a real run outside. (I did not take the slobbering beast, because while he’ll spend hours outside in the snow, apparently he’s allergic to rain. And although I need increased upper body strength, dragging his 70 pound carcass along the road does not seem to be the way to best achieve that goal. )
So I went, and I grumbled to myself for at least the first mile. Then it started to pour, and I was too uncomfortable to grumble, and then somewhere along the way I kind of forgot about how miserable I was making myself and just focused on being — on the rain hitting my face, the rhythm I’d fallen into, the way my muscles were stretching and unfurling and really being used for the first time in a long while. And I thought how lucky I was to be doing this, outside on this New England spring day.
As always, my writing is falling into the same pattern. I find myself making tentative tracks on the computer, grumbling about how hard this is, how I’m out of practice, how I’ll never get it right. I have to concentrate and set tiny goals — just one more sentence! just X number of pages by Friday! — and somewhere along the way I forget to grumble to myself and find the rhythm again that reminds me just how lucky I am to be doing this.
Wherever you are, whatever your spring is, may you feel lucky too.