Tuesday, 20 September 2011


I get ideas and the urge to write a post while I am driving somewhere, when I am trying to reduce the pile of laundry waiting to be ironed, as I read the paper or a book. But when I open the computer, lately, I find myself checking Facebook, playing Scrabble, doodling mindlessly with Spider Solitaire, fiddling with my photos - anything but write. I suppose this is writer's block in a specially insidious form. And I am behind in reading a lot of your very good stuff, and very bad at commenting, lately. Inertia (my mother would have said 'Lazy!) is not a good thing.

Part of it is, I think, that I am not sleeping well. What with the man in my life ripping the duvet off me in the pre-dawn, an inability to go to sleep in any timely way or sleep in and what seems to be a chronic state of fatigue, my brain is not functioning well. When I was a sleep-deprived young mother, I used to listen to my elderly relatives complain about inability to sleep and mutter to myself that if I just had some time and a flattish surface, this would never happen to me. I thought their complaints about sore knees and itchy skin were sad but would not ever be relevant to my life. Well, guess what. I've got all of that as well as a few that they never mentioned, probably because the symptoms were too gross to be public.

Anyway, enough of all that. I am going to write again, and it is not going to be a catalogue of the joys of being almost seventy. (Picture my jaw clenched with determination, head thrown back, eyes staring sternly ahead - disregard the bags underneath these glowing eyes.)

I have a friend who has just taken up blogging and is having a fine time journalling her life. The other day she put up (at some unseasonably early hour) a list of what she planned to accomplish that day. Knowing the Bee, I suspect she got it all done, too. And when she finds her voice, she will shine as she is one of the most up-beat, mindful and generous people I know. I have to check with her to see if she wants me to put her site up. One more to add to the list of people who inspire me (you know who you are!).

My preoccupations at present - one is the weather. We got a few minutes of rain last night, enough to bring the rain gauge up to 3/4 of an inch. That depth is the total sum of the rain we have had since September 2nd. And we had 1/2 inch between August 2nd and September 2nd. There are a lot of stressed and grumpy trees that have just gone dormant and are shedding dry brown leaves. A few of the more deeply rooted are showing some colour now after three nights of frost, but it is not going to be a colourful fall. Time to put the flower borders to bed and almost time to start raking. These next few weeks are one of the highpoints of my year. The bugs are gone, the sky is often a remarkable blue (to-day with the last of the rain clouds sailing away), the colour, good or bad, something to make me rejoice.

I also rejoice at the wildlife we see. Lately we have had a bear, various numbers of wild turkeys, and this morning six deer trooped out onto the back field in the early morning light. One was a very young buck with single spike horns, and there were two fawns, dancing and chasing one another. I posted this sighting to Facebook, calling it a 'good haul' and got called on the expression. In fact, I was asked (tongue in cheek) if this meant that they were being loaded into my truck. You don't question the expressions you use until someone does question them, in my experience. My mother's family used 'a good haul' to mean a satisfactory collection of something, whether it be strawberries or shopping. My guess is that this set of ancestors must have fished - they came from Ireland during the famine there in the nineteenth century. And they used some lovely phrases. My grandmother called the guy who delivered the baking 'gossamer wings' for his inability to remember much of anything, leaving your work undone to go somewhere was 'roading' and a child who misbehaved got 'a good hiding'. In fact, what I meant was that this sighting had a good number of deer - we usually see only one or two at a time.

I love language. Well-turned expressions, succinct and punchy sentences, a lyrical stream-of-thought poem, all delight me. Someone who can tell a story well, design an understated amusing comment or convey an atmosphere in a few words is an inspiration. I read well-crafted novels again and again, for the turn of phrase, the skilful characterization and the sheer joy of an exciting plot, one that keeps your interest even when you know the ending. Reading the local papers is an exercise in keeping my temper, sometimes, when the writer of an article makes basic mistakes. Sometimes they get an email from me, more in sorrow than in anger, about the repeated ones. If we're reviewing a set of minutes or a policy statement at the board where I volunteer, the meeting members will sigh and resign themselves when my hand goes up and I start correcting lame sentences and awkward grammar. I got myself onto a committee to redesign our Vision, Mission and Values statements because of this nasty little vice. The whole thing is now boiled down to fit on one page but we are still tinkering. As with family expressions, something you don't question takes on a whole new aspect when someone else tags it. The latest is a question about 'just'. If we talk about a 'just' society, just what do we mean.

Stay tuned. I may figure that one out one day. And in the meantime, I have to go and stock up the deer feeding station.


  1. Well, that's quite a return to blogging after your hiatus. Of course, that's a redundancy since you surely couldn't return before your hiatus. Ive been wondering about you and am glad to have you back.

    As for sleeping, many people of a certain age simply need to sleep by themselves. I do, and yet I still wander from recliner to bed to her back (sometimes) and back around again. On the whole, it more or less works for me although I have my bad spells and still require sleeping pills.

  2. I hope your friend will share her site.

    I saw your FB post, but knowing that you feed the deer rather than the other way around, your intent was clear.

    I am reading One Day with my book club - they want to see the movie after, which sounds fun & I like Anne Hathaway - and already pulled out my notebook to jot down a phrase on page 8. I hope the writing in the rest of the book is as noteworthy.

    As for me, I am so slow when I sit down to write, I just don't have enough time. So many thoughts that will never turn into posts. Likewise, so many ideas that will never turn into photos... I fear I'm in trouble already. I should never join things.

  3. Facebook is indeed a terrible distraction. It is probably a good job that for some reason us Europeans are not allowed to play the same Scrabble as you North Americans. If I could also play with my virtual friends over the Atlantic I would get NOTHING done! Welcome back on stream, by the way. I too am suffering from blogging inertia but can't blame lack of sleep. I can (and sometimes do) sleep sitting on a crowded bus!

  4. so many distractions--and I hear you on the not being able to sleep at night! I enjoyed your post and hearing your voice.

  5. It's so nice to see you posting again, Mary. I've also found myself unable to finish any significant amount of writing. I miss it, but can't seem to bring myself to do it in the small windows of time that I find.

    I love language, too. But I think you knew that. I mean, I certainly should love language, being a linguist and all that. But aside from my professional relationship with language, I love reading well-turned phrases. I will reread my favorite books just to enjoy the writing all over again. Have I ever tried to get you to read Sarah Caudwell? She's not for everyone, but I think you might enjoy her. Hers are the books that I have read and reread whenever I have the chance to pick up a novel. I would write more about them, except that would be like writing a post. (Actually, I have meant to write a post about how much I love her books, but I probably won't do that tonight.)

  6. When will I meet you in person?

    (I fear the answer. Sigh.)