Fire Creeps In

It occurred to me Monday evening, while preparing to hit the publish button on the poem I had composed, that I often write about fire– in my poetry for certain and now, in my novel, I’ve burned down the cafe. And I suppose fire creeps into a lot of writing. It provides metaphors for all sorts of things: love, lust, war, creativity, warmth, cleansing, refining, life, death, destruction, rebirth…

I felt low that evening, as is sometimes the case after a long day. I’d begun the next chapter of the book, feeling unsatisfied with the way I’d left the previous one. The poem arose from that I think. But as I prepared my dreary little post, I reflected on why fire always seems to creep into MY writing. My approach is mostly from the death, destruction and possibly the cleansing perspectives of fire, rarely from love, lust and passion. And while I hate to psychoanalyze myself, because my mind is a messy, cluttered place these days, I couldn’t help but wonder….

I lost my paternal grandfather in a fire. My father was twenty years my mother’s senior when they married. He at fifty-five, she at thirty-five. My paternal grandparents were already in their eighties when I was born. Grandma Jennings died when I was three and I barely remember her. But Grandpa lived for a few years more. I had a lot more contact with him as a child. And as a result my memories are a lot clearer.

I was six years old when it happened.

Grandpa liked his cigars. He left one smoldering next to his favorite chair one Sunday evening before going up to bed. He must have thought it was safely stored in the ashtray but it wasn’t. The stub of the cigar either rolled or he carelessly dropped it right on the arm of the old upholstered chair. It smoldered. It consumed. It filled the house with smoke. It wasn’t a conflagration, it was a charcoal pit. When, in the light of day, the neighbors realized what was happening and called the fire department, it was too late. But Grandpa had known something was wrong. He had made it back downstairs in the smoke. They found him on the threshold of the front door in his pajamas and dressing gown. A few more steps and he would have been free.

That is the kind of information that a six year old girl most probably should have been sheltered from. But I wasn’t. I should fear fire. I should have a morbid dread of it. But I don’t. Instead, it creeps into almost everything I write.

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The Power of Negative Thinking

I woke this morning to howling winds. It’s dark and raining –perfect for staying in bed or for curling up with tea and a book. Or for writing. Usually this kind of weather lends itself to concentration and immersion in whatever project I’m working on. Recently, I’ve been struggling to write. It’s happened before but never for this long. I really haven’t put new ideas down on paper since before the holidays.

I’ve alluded to the stress I’m experiencing in my personal life –let’s just say that it is ongoing– and it’s had a dramatic impact on my ability to write. This too, is a new phenomenon. My best writing usually comes from that dark space inside. But this is different. And perhaps it has to do with the subject matter I’ve been working on. Without realizing it, I’ve given Maya –my main character– the same ‘kinds’ of issues that are troubling me as well. And maybe striking so close to home has stayed my hand. Because I can’t see the way forward personally, I can’t see the way forward fictionally.

However, the whole thing is tied up in a bundle together. If I can’t get the writing back on track, it will compound the rest of the stress I’m feeling. I have to act. If life would just imitate art, I could write myself a solution for my real problems and my fictional ones.

The Rearview Mirror 

I was thinking about all the bad stuff that happened this year, all the people who were lost, all the chaos and turmoil that 2016 dumped on us. But as I perused through the photos on my phone to recall what my personal experiences were, I realized there were some good things, too. Like Hamilton. That is all.

Ah, just kidding, although I am still talking about it… I did some traveling this year -hiked the Smoky Mountains, pub crawled Ireland and beached on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I’m already feeling restless, thinking about where to go next.

I made some wonderful new friends, both here and in person. I’d name names but I’d feel terrible if I left someone out… I think you know who you are anyway. Also, for some of my silent followers -those of you who stop by and like my posts- come and say hello. I’d love to hear from you.

In 2016, I dusted off another dormant skill – drawing. And in the six months I’ve been messing with it, I’ve made some decent progress. Fictional Kevin asked me to do this, actually. Voila:

So rather than look back and wallow, I am going to look forward and plan. For one thing, as I was finishing the year of drinking adventurously, I was trying to decide what to replace it with. I’ve decided that for as long as I’m working on Breaking Bread, I might as well talk about bread… and other bakery items. It will be called Le Boulangerie and will appear on Tuesdays, beginning tomorrow. I won’t necessarily bake every week -I may have some guest authors or write about bread in literature or in history.

I also want to return to writing Here Lies a Soldier and sharing some of the research I come across.  Brace yourselves for more World War One.

Some of my most popular posts over the last year have been my poems. Perhaps because they’re short and take less time to read? *self deprecating laugh* Thusly, I will continue to  compose verse on occasion. Although, I think I’ve drained the limerick pool after the A to Z challenge last year.

Other projects include editing The Mysterious Arboretum and putting together a collection of my short stories for publication.

I hope that 2017 will be a happy, healthy and productive year, not just for myself but for all of you as well. What a great group of friends I’ve made here on WordPress. In 2016, I had the privilege of meeting two of my fellow bloggers in the flesh: Kevin and Elizabeth. How cool would it be to meet a few more of you this year? So if any of you are coming to Philadelphia or the surrounding area and want to have a coffee (or a cheese steak – I really do know where to find the best one), let me know.

Finally, I’d like to say thank you. Thank you for being a constant source of support and feedback. There have been times when I’ve felt absolutely awful and you all have picked me up and made me feel like carrying on. I appreciate that so very much.

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become and still gently allows you to grow…” – William Shakespeare

Onward then into the new year…

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