Monday, January 17, 2011

Word for the Year

Rather than drawing up a bunch of Resolutions  for the New Year, poet Molly Fisk and her cadre of friends choose a Word for the Year, by-passing all the guilt and grief resolutions seem to bring. You might have heard her radio-essay on the subject on KVMR, up in Nevada City.

So, I've been thinking about this for, like, 20 freaking days, trying to come up with my word.

A Word for the Year should be carefully chosen, I figure, for it would have the ability to direct my attention and intention, in conscious and unconscious ways, towards something - maybe something productive and positive, if I choose well - or into a divergence, a distraction from what I'd like to accomplish. Definitely want to consider this with all due diligence; it could be a case of being careful what you wish for. (Another blogger, Busha Full of Grace, also contemplates this Word-for-the-Year thing and has some interesting points to make.)

"Walk" struck me as a good word, full of purpose and promise. Going for walks, considering my walk in life, two topics nagging the heck out of me already anyway. "Change" perhaps? Aaack, a trifle over-used and way too ambiguous. Molly and her compadres chose some good ones: precision, sing, ease, simplify, minimize, reach, pause. Good words, but taken. Somehow, I want my own word. I've considered: flying, fountain, wamble, expedition, truckin', abundance. None of them, (though I do love the idea of traveling and abundance sure would be handy) grab me.  If I keep this up, the year will be over before I've made a choice. Par for my course; decisions flummox me.

Little things, like deciding where to go for dinner (and then, oh horrors! what to have) or which jacket I should wear to work, can hold me up for hours. Sometimes, standing in decision-fugue mode in front of the coat hooks, I'll grab three jackets, stuff them in the car, and hope I'll figure something out before I get to work. If I'm lucky, it will start raining and my decision will be made for me. With luck, I snagged a raincoat. That shop of 31 Flavors? I just about short-circuited. The easy solution there was to pick a favorite, Jamoca Almond Fudge, which worked until the day they ran out of it. Then I stopped going.

Big things - I won't even get into the long, drawn-out dramas that major life decisions engender; suffice it to say there is a reason why my hair is thin and patchy. I'm usually holding out to the very, very last minute, muddling myself up by considering each and every option, all permutations of possibilities, the what-ifs and maybes, until the urgent necessity to make the decision overrides my reluctance to commit to a plan. Perhaps that is my word: commit.

Well, no. Commitment is one part of the process. But I've been committed to creating this book for year now. What I'm really interested in is completing the damn thing. Decisions are hard, committing is harder, but following through and completing something is hardest of all.  Let's say I figure out which jacket to wear. Returning home, I usually dump it on the nearest chair, never getting around to hanging it back up on the coat hook where it belongs. Meaning that, the next day, once I've finally made a decision to wear it (half an hour there), I then have to search for it (another 15 minutes). Late for work, again! I'm not famous for putting things back, completing a task, finishing up. Thousands of little projects are all over the house, in corners, in bags, in stacks, waiting patiently to be finished: bills to be paid; books to be read and reviewed, cushions to mend, curtains to hem; workshop plans created and submitted; blog posts, essays, novellas (3!), query letters to yep,  I think thats the word: completion!

and hey, I've finally completed this task. One down, 999 to go. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

1/11/11 at 11:11 pm - yes!

Napa Valley Writers Conference - Faculty posted!  Check it out!


I have had the privilege of working on retreat in Pt Reyes Station these past few days, putting together a book proposal that I will send out this weekend. I swear.

Today began chilly with high white fog cover, a day that called for a wood stove, or at least a lot of baking. By mid-afternoon, the air seemed polished, the chill overcoming mist, hardening it. The sun, sliding invisibly to the west behind the thick cover, nevertheless blushed the icy air a light pink over a pale arctic blue. I layered up in fleece, down vest and bits of cashmere here and there (gloves, long scarf) and walked down the slight slope to the library, admiring the briskness of the afternoon. And then a drop here, a drop there; by the time I returned my book and picked up another one, the afternoon had warmed up to rain, not a fierce rain, but still rain. Darkness settled in as I wended my way the two blocks to downtown, then to walk the two blocks of town and return, a warmer and wetter darkness than the brittle cold I had started out in.

And in the same unexpected manner, still in the first rosy blush of the year, 2011 has had its first sea change. ( I may be on retreat, but I'm not off the interwebs.) I am not an astute political pundit, much of what I think is knee-jerk liberalism which is why I avoid political commentary on this blog. But some things can't be ignored. Some things go beyond the political and begin to challenge the very core of what we think it means to be an American, what it means to have a democracy.

My heart goes out to Senator Gifford and to her family, and to the families of Judge John Roll and the others killed or injured in the Tucson shootings on Saturday. I can't help but feel we are at some sort of tipping point here.

This is what I think: The Republican leadership has a responsibility to be leaders, to model how democracy works, to be on better behavior than drunks at a honky-tonk. They need to be their better selves, even if they do represent drunks at a honky-tonk. They need to show that America is a country of debate not disparagement, of law and votes, not guns. And they need to leave the honky tonk in the honky tonk and act as elected officials - that is, adults, not bullies on the playground.

Nuff said. Back to regularly scheduled programming.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Just revvin' for 2011

Now that we are over the high hurdle and hump of the holidays (hooray for h'alliteration!), it's time to get back to business, or as late-night tv used to announce - and nooow! back to Maverick! Do they still do that anymore? Probably not. Once again, I'm guilty of using a catch-phrase well past its prime.

And by back to business, I mean prepping for the Napa Valley Writer's Conference. Yesiree, Bob! (who, by the way, is really not my uncle. Sorry.)

A quick bulletin ~ the fiction line-up for this summer:
Two returning: Lan Samantha Chang, from last summer, & Michelle Huneven, from several summers ago, plus two newbies to our conference (though no way are they newbies to writing): Adam Haslett & Daniel Alarcon. Okay, so is that the natural limit for using colons in one paragraph?

I've linked each author to one of their official websites; you can Wiki and Google it from there, I'm sure. With this mix of characters, it promises to be quite a dynamic conference. The new application will be posted soon!

And... if you are in the Bay Area (or need an excuse to be here), you can catch Daniel Alarcon reading with Chris Adrian and Yiyun Li at City Lights bookstore, January 19th, for the release of the book 20 Under 40.

Boy howdy, do I have some reading to do!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Season of Bread

Our holidays were blessed and bookended by loaves of most delicious bread, each baked (by coincidence, not a bake-off), via the cast-iron pan method @ 500 degrees.
Oh, yummity yummity yum!

New Year's Eve bread, baked and given to us by David "Shahabaddin" Durr, mouthwatering delicious just to look at. Can't even begin to describe the crackly yet tender crust, the delicate blend of whole grain and white flours, the sense of presence this bread brought with it. Just looking at it felt like a promise of a better year to come. And tasting it? oh, oooo, la-la. Definitely better already. 

Christmas Eve bread baked and brought to us from our now-official daughter-in-law, Jessica, accompanied by delicious dipping sauce from son, Immy. Yeasty, tender, sublimely delicious, with the chewy-crisp crust only high heat can create, and an aroma out of this world, a righteous tribute to the Christmas season.  Paired this with butter-bath chicken (hey, that's what the recipe called it) and the meal was one of the best of the year, hands down. 

May we all be blessed with bread and roses, with sustenance and spirit, all seasoned well with laughter and joy for the year to come. And bread. Don't forget the bread.