Friday, March 27, 2009

Back on Real Time

If you happened by today looking for a Flashback Friday piece, I hope you won't be too disappointed to learn that Flashback Fridays have run their course: we're back on a strictly real time format.

Accordingly, I'm blogging live from a Writers' Conference where I'm soaking in all the literary trends, talk, and tips I can get as my masters program is about to go the way of Flashback Fridays. I'm 10 weeks shy of a whole new chapter as I exit academia and re-enter a cut-throat world peopled by agents and editors and polluted with trails of crumpled rejection slips. But as presenter Alex Kershaw established moments ago here at the conference, writing is an "unhealthy addiction" of which I will most likely be afflicted for the remainder of my life.

Which means that there will be so much bloggable material unfolding in the coming weeks, there's no need to rely on flashbacks.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Peeking in My Classroom Door, Part One

If you happened to be wandering past my classroom at Generic Middle School this afternoon, let’s say around 2:00, you would have seen me at the overhead projector discussing the merits and drawbacks of various narrative leads. Using a vignette concerning a boy named Scott whose tranquil camp breakfast was interrupted by his father’s announcement that a car was in the lake, I showed my students multiple ways to draw a reader into the action, while avoiding the drab, “ho-hum” style opening plaguing many a student essay.

One opening featured Scott abandoning his breakfast and running at breakneck speed to the lake. Another began with Scott’s father frantically calling him to the shoreline. A different lead took us straight into Scott’s thoughts as he wondered what caused his dad to disrupt breakfast with a lot of shouting.

Throughout the lesson, I remained in close proximity to one of my more, um, spirited students who did not appear to be engaged in the material. When I asked the students to try the different leads out on their own stories, I wasn’t surprised that this particular student wasn’t eager to participate. What did surprise me was the reason he cited for not wanting to go proceed.

“What happened at the lake?” he demanded.

The lake. What lake? Oh. Until that moment, I hadn’t thought of the paragraph leads as anything more than a curriculum-supplied exercise—a means to an end. But here, my student was looking for a story. And why shouldn’t he? We’re studying narratives, after all.

Not missing a beat, I answered, “Well, I guess the writer really did his job,” explaining that the paragraphs were just examples of how a writer might begin a story. “He drew you right in, didn’t he?”

“Did his job? Did his job?” my student sputtered. “How can you say the guy did his job if he didn’t even finish the story?”

Good question.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Just Another Cake-on-the-Head Day; or Flashback Fridays, Week 3

The following piece was woven together from 2 similarly-themed articles than ran in the religion column I used to write for the Daily Press. I plan to include some incarnation of the following in my upcoming book.

It was not a cake a rookie should have ever attempted, that much was clear. Three made from scratch layers sandwiching mounds of freshly whipped filling and covered in frosting hand whisked over ice, it required seventeen different ingredients, an intimidating array of kitchen appliances, and, as the recipe title ironically indicated, a “perfect” result.

In a tactical error, I had decided to bake my daughter’s first birthday cake in the kitchen of my grandfather, the master chef, as we were in the middle of a move and I didn’t have any of the aforementioned fancy gadgets, anyway.

The trouble started while layers one, two, and three were in the cooling stages and I began to whip the filling. It was a warm day, and the cream was a bit touchy. I managed to curdle the first two attempts, and I believe that the third carton of heavy cream that the corner market sold me was probably their last. Grandfather, the master chef, desperately wanted to get involved. I desperately wanted to do it myself. My grandfather dissolved into a stream of rapid-fire Italian. I muddled on, wondering how Perfect Chocolate Cake had gone so horribly wrong.

It’s hard to pin down exactly how it happened. It may have had something to do with the cream, but I think more likely it was the icing. A miscalculated gesture brought the entire process to a screeching halt as one of the cooling layers tumbled from the counter and on top of my daughter’s head.

Metaphorically speaking, cake-on-the-head days are pretty much status quo. It’s the chaos in which we spend the majority of our lives: the deadlines, the unfinished projects, the clutter, what we have to do, the things that didn’t turn out the way we expected, all that might turn out later.

We’re working toward some sense of accomplishment and we end up surrounded by the flotsam of unread memos, looming deadlines, the pressure of balancing work and family, and a sneaking suspicion that we’re further from our dreams than we were just yesterday.

The truth is we all want to rise to the top of whatever heap in which we’ve found ourselves. We’re all looking for the fast track out of the trenches.

Looking for the short cut that would deliver my manuscripts from the slush pile to to polished desk tops in the Big Apple, I turned to the successful format of Fox's American Idol for inspiration. Wondering if the successful format of the show could do for writers what it has for music industry hopefuls, I hatched the idea for a spin-off I like to call American Author. A panel including blockbuster authors Dean Koontz and David Baldacci along with a representative from a large New York publishing house would preside as budding wordsmiths make weekly forays into various literary genres. Horror week with Stephen King. Legal thrillers with John Grisham. Romance novellas with Danielle Steele.

I thought the idea was entirely original until I learned about the show my father created called American Programmer. Here, Bill Gates and a panel of high-ranking Microsoft representatives critique the work of a bespectacled cast of young hackers...

Face it, twelve kids or not, real life easily looks more like a scene from Cheaper By The Dozen than anything commanding an agent and a six-figure contract. Too much of our time is spent anticipating the future to have a real strategy for today. We go through the day treading water, convinced that there's an amazing utopia somewhere at the end of a long to-do list--if we can stay afloat to get there. Life spirals into a scene from the pilot of American Programmer: a series of if/then statements: if I can get through this, this and this, then I’ll be able to do something important.

If you’re anything like me, the list of stuff to “get through” just keeps growing. We’re so busy striving for Perfect Chocolate Cake, we forget the joy of the baking process: the nibbled chocolate chunks, the snitched sugar, the beaters waiting to be licked clean.

Life, then, must not be the the end result of the recipe. It must be found on the list of ingredients—in each and every item. Every day the most incredible things pass right through our lives, and too often we don’t recognize their significance until they live only in our memories. Magic moments fly by unannounced. Life just keeps moving, carrying with it the people and opportunities that inhabit our todays. I am reminded of this fact every time I look at my beautiful daughter, who is no longer a baby with cake on her head, or when I feel a pang of longing for my Grandfather, who is in heaven. Babies and grandfathers, and other precious ingredients in life, are to be savored for their role in each today with which we are we are blessed.

Most days aren’t “Perfect Chocolate Cake.” They’re just crumbs from an exotic recipe concocted by The Master Chef. And each one is good.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sniffing Out a Story

“So what you’re saying is, you can actually smell a story?” Bubble Boy leaned back in his seat, stroking his chin thoughtfully.

“Well, I suppose in way you could,” I said, pleased that my lesson on sensory details was making such an impact. We’d just concluded a reading of Amy Tan’s Fish Cheeks, a narrative detailing the particulars of a decidedly alarming culinary episode involving gutted prawn, bulging eyeballs, and dried fungus—a veritable feast of sensory stimuli which I was now using to encourage my seventh graders to “enter” the story. “Can you see those black veins being pulled from the prawn?” I asked. “How about that slimy cod? Can you hear it squish?” The students were eating it up—figuratively, so I thought, until Bubble Boy followed up his query with: “Well that’s good, because I just caught a whiff of something.” He waved a hand vaguely through the air, giving several curious sniffs.

“Good! Good!” I encouraged, really impressed to see him engaging in the literature.

“No, not good,” he replied. “It’s burning.”

“Burning?” I turned my gaze back to the text, scanning for any mention of flame.

“Yes, it seems sort of—rubbery.”

“That’s not the story,” another student piped up. “It’s tar. They’re working on the roof.”

Friday, March 13, 2009

Like Cheese and Wine; or Flashback Fridays, Week 2

Today's Flashback Friday post is a much-maligned piece I originally wrote as a contest entry. My hopes for a contest win, however, were crushed by a snarky judge who suggested the article would be truer to its theme if it were to "simply dissolve into nonsense" at its conclusion. Bouncing back from the setback, I retooled the piece as an introductory chapter for the aforementioned abandoned book project I plan to resurrect upon graduation.

Like Cheese and Wine

From an early age, I understood the second law of Thermodynamics. I may not have known it by that name, but I did notice that my music would last longer if I dubbed my record albums onto cassette, and even then, the ones I liked most would need to be taped again after the cassette succumbed to repeated rewinds. I noticed that Barbie’s best gowns would become frayed and wrinkled and pop their seams, until eventually they became castoffs for the Cinderella scenes. I noticed that even my most fantastic cardboard forts could not withstand more than three days of serious play or a single cloudburst.

It wasn’t long before I began to apply my dire observations of entropy to life itself. Hit a certain age, somewhere around thirty by all appearances, and it seems people begin to buckle under repeated use. Creases form, seams pop, and after a long day at work, some folks lack the fortitude to withstand any recreation at all. A cloudburst called time seemed destined to drown the spirit of youth. As I catapulted into my thirties with little more than a windblown umbrella of optimism to shield me from the forecasted deluge, my grandfather and my aged dog departed in the same year, passing me a torch that leaves me completely at odds with Newton.

As any grade school science text will tell you, Newton’s entropy promises nothing short of a total downward spiral. The Second Law confidently assures us that all things eventually return to baseline, leaving no impression, creating no change. Confronting my third decade, I was running scared from Newton and his empirical absolutes. Left to reflect on two radically different lives that each touched mine in seemingly incomparable ways, I discovered common denominator. Within the lives of my grandfather and my pet, I found an affront to Newton, a rejection of his Second Law, and a call to live my story rather than count its pages.

An American-born son of Italian immigrants, my grandfather was a high spirited boy of mischief, who dipped pigtails into inkwells and played pranks along with his trusty steed, Mr. Don, who was both his ride to school and his best friend. As a young newlywed, he cooked his way through World War II on a Navy ship, and when the war ended, he helped his father run the family spinning mill. I’ll never know if his adventurous tales peopled with shady Italian businessmen and ancestors with names like Uncle Icy were more family history or product of his well-honed affinity for spinning another type of yarn.

What I do know is that faster, quicker, sooner were the words by which my grandfather worked and lived. The mill was typically abuzz with excitement as Gramps single-handedly battled stray shipments, overdue accounts, or botched dye lots with an army’s arsenal. His visits to our house were frequent, brief, and sudden in nature. He’d blow through the front door, stir things up a bit with guessing games, cash prizes, and a few rash promises about purchasing ponies, then jingle his pocket change to signal his imminent departure.

Trips to the movies followed a strict blueprint. Waiting—either in line or in theatrical suspense—was not an option. We’d arrive at the theater while our chosen feature was already in progress, secure tickets for the next screening and then proceed directly into the darkened theater to view the final twenty minutes of the movie. After a brief intermission while the crowd and the reel changed, we’d watch the beginning straight though to the first familiar image that flashed across the screen. At that point the soundtrack would invariably shift to the subtle jingling of pocket change and we’d slip out the back. Sure, we had to piece the story together like a patchwork quilt on the way home, but we avoided the crowds.

With Gramps, everything was done both in bulk and with gusto. If a little was good, then a lot was far better. Food in general and whipped cream in particular best illustrated this point. A particularly memorable stomachache in the late seventies was traced to a piece of cake slightly smaller than a breadbox and topped off with a quart or two of cream. He bought in gross, cooked in surplus, and shared in abundance. A local food distributor promoted him to caterer status and gave him a corporate account. To this day, after visits with my grandmother I still return home with several of his industrial sized cans of tomatoes. Never mind the can is four times the size that my family of four really needs—in their excess, the tomatoes are a reminder of the largeness of my grandfather’s generous heart.

A man of adventure, travel, and action, Gramps would leave for his Florida house or a western dude ranch at the mere mention of snow. Things would quiet down a bit. My father needed the winter months to repair relations with the folks at the Dye Works. At home, we kept busy with the ill-behaved ponies Gramps purchased before one of his departures.

As he grew older, doctors worked to stay one step ahead of his failing heart. His adventures changed. Considering his history, I can do nothing but marvel at the things that captured his focus in his later years. Canvases transformed by color and life with scores of brushes and dozens of techniques. Carved furniture protected by coats of varnish totaling in the double digits and each needing a full day to dry. Carefully strung beadwork.

When he could no longer make car trips west to visit his beloved dude ranches, he learned to surf there instead. The Internet took him where he could no longer drive, and he took his zest for life into those journeys as well. An entire forest was sacrificed as he began a campaign to print out every page of every website west of the Mississippi. I smile now at the card on my dresser, reminding me of the trees that were planted in a great western forest, a touching memorial from a dear friend who had no way of knowing the irony of the tribute. In his honor, may they grow tall, strong—and quickly.

In his later years, Gramps learned to put his energies into fighting only chosen battles. He forgave old grievances and let go of past hurts. I think even the Dye Works received a full pardon. Gramps mellowed as maturity gave him the courage to expand and adapt his adventures.

Disease weakens muscle, but time strengthens the spirit.

Surprisingly, my pet’s life followed a similar pattern. An abandoned husky wandering busy streets, Kelly was a high spirited dog of mischief, boasting a long rap sheet on any one of her carefree days of puppyhood. She’d snatched sandwiches from the hands of innocent children. She chased mailmen. She chewed furniture and ate college textbooks. One romp of reckless abandon through my parent’s living room was mistaken for a burglary and the police were nearly summoned.

Like other dogs with a penchant for trouble, Kelly was expected to bide her time in a crate while the family was away. Mistress of Escape, Kelly chose instead to baffle us with her Houdini-like ability to elude confinement. We’d come home to find her crate completely intact while she lounged on some forbidden piece of furniture.

Thoroughly stubborn, Kelly was quite possibly Italian also, preferring to sup in the ancient Roman tradition of reclining on something soft. She’d transfer her meals in large mouthfuls, scatter the pieces across her favorite carpet and delicately pluck and consume each savory morsel without so much as raising her head. Today, stray dog food bits scattered by her offspring, two ill-mannered, genetically improbable Labradors, remind me that some things aren’t meant to be changed.

A dog of intellect, she reveled in new experiences. An unfamiliar walking route, visitors, car trips: things needed to be barked at, sniffed, investigated. As a pup, those traits amused and at times frustrated me. She required supervision, guidance, and discipline.

When she surprised us with a litter of labs halfway through her ninth year, her history made us fear that she would be a disastrous mother. Despite the one groggy moment when she got up after her emergency C-section and scattered her formerly nursing pups across the bathroom floor, she was a great mom.

Her life took on new dimensions as she became an old dog rediscovering the thrill of senseless puppy play. When a new walking route took us to the beach, she found out that the ocean is really a big game of tag, and that the best romps were ones that ended with sand and sea salt between her paw pads.

Maturity transformed my furry menace into a perfect companion. She wanted my company through thunderstorms, reveled in long brushings, and wedged herself in the doorframe to prevent me from leaving her behind when it was time to pick up the children each afternoon. But I didn’t want to leave her, anyway. She had mellowed. Time with her was pure pleasure. Even as veterinarians worked to stay one step ahead of the deterioration of her health in her advancing age, nothing could lift her spirits as high as an adventure. Our last years together are the ones I treasure most and have mourned the hardest.

Years wear the body, but experience makes us whole.

Learn new skills. Discover new games. Extend forbearance. The best times are together times. Grow. Mature. Improve. These are the lessons embodied in the stories of two adventurous souls who taught me that time is to be cherished, not feared. Their legacy is mine now, to nurture as my own story refines.

A high-spirited girl, familiar with mischief, I choose to remain at odds with Sir Isaac as the chapters of my life unfold. Wrinkles will mark the pages where rough edges have been softened. Wear and tear will tell of lessons learned and challenges conquered. I need not fear the evidence time will etch on my body, I must, instead, choreograph its signature on my soul.

It may seem tempting to buy into Newton’s law. One look in the mirror may convince you to accept the notion that the creases, wrinkles, and popped seams revealed therein are the grim but inevitable work of entropy. If you’ve read the right fairy tales, though, you already know that mirrors don’t always tell the truth. Science books don’t either.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Flashback Fridays

Inspired by last month’s foray into the archives in search of contest entry material, I’ve decided to feature a few weeks worth of Flashback Fridays—previously unposted oldies I’m pulling put, dusting off, and potentially re-working into an upcoming project. Today’s piece is from a proposal for a book that got prematurely abandoned. (The project was entitled Defying Physics: What Newton didn’t tell you about stuffed animals, deep dark fears, and women over 30—by way of explanation for the later reference to the book’s title.)

Biff and Alice

Circumstances forced us to spell out the raw facts of life to our eight-year-old son.

In support of a family-fundraising-slash-spring-cleaning event, Brandon had obediently collected his outgrown assets. The process had been thoroughly uneventful until it became time to price his wares.

There was some back and forth. Things lost their value, my husband was explaining, citing specific items from the gathered assemblage as evidence. Then the conversation turned to Biff and Alice.

I was curious how my husband might handle the query. A refresher look at the title of the book you’re reading should soundly argue my qualifications for tackling the sticky issue of depreciation with the younger generation. The concept has eluded me since my own youth.

In grade school, two classmates and I assembled some odds and ends in front of Sunshine Flagg’s house in a mildly successful attempt to fund an evening at the traveling carnival that had set up down the road. As Sunshine’s mother described it to mine later, managerial conflict was largely limited to disagreement over the pricing of merchandise. I wanted way too much coin for too little bauble, while Sunshine, on the other hand, seemed content to haul our treasures to the curb and simply give them away. (The third party, a neighborhood ruffian named Rob, was a late arrival to the venture and had to be included due to a distant relational affiliation with Sunshine. He somehow wound up taking a cut of the carnival goods in spite of the fact that his sole contribution to the venture was siding with whatever position was more controversial.)

The summer of the yard sale, when I learned the necessity of driving a hard bargain against the ravages of depreciation was the same summer I found out that, unlike my classmates, I did not care for Shawn Cassidy. It was also the summer Sunshine’s aunt Joan taught us the maxim “every cloud has a silver lining.” (My mother thought the observation to be sage, hard wrought advice from the voice of experience, but in truth was merely Aunt Joan’s response to getting to spend time with her boyfriend while supervising us at the aforementioned carnival.)

Thus, I have spent the intervening years in blissful rebellion against the laws of nature, the silver lining here that I can write witty, tongue in cheek prose about my aberrant tendencies. I am, however, tentative about inflicting my own children with such wanton disregard for what I’ve heard others describe as the way things are.

I was, therefore, relieved to hear my husband’s response from the other room. “Biff might be an exception,” he conceded. “What did I pay for Biff? Seven dollars?”

Yes, I agreed, seven dollars.

“I’ll bet you could still get seven dollars for Biff.”

Biff is an old, working class bike that my husband picked up at the thrift store after our daughter Allison’s fifth birthday when she was having difficulty learning to ride her birthday present—a shiny pink model she christened Alice.

We tried, with limited success, to create the scrapbook moment oft used as fodder for life insurance commercials where the father of a young rider runs down the road grasping the back seat of a shiny new two-wheeler. In the ads, the smiling dad slowly relinquishes his grip as the small rider gains speed and confidence and breaks into a toothless grin upon realization that she’s flying solo.

Dozens of such attempts had failed. My husband fatigued. Allison remained stiff, uncertain, afraid to tumble.

“She’s not afraid to crash,” my husband wheezed, “she’s afraid to crash Alice.”

Allison, my husband explained, did not need a support father to learn to ride. This was something she’d have to conquer head on, by herself and for herself –girl vs. front walk, the hard way. It made sense. That was, after all, how I’ve learned just about everything I know.

“You don’t need an Alice right now,” he explained to Allison after returning from the thrift store. Biff, my husband explained, was tough. Well aquatinted with pavement scrapes, Biff could handle the bumps and bangs of the learning experience. Biff, the heavy-duty pick up of the cycling world, wasn’t around to look pretty. Having spent his rust-free youth, Biff had moved on to a higher calling.

Biff’s tough-stuff, no nonsense reputation was never questioned, despite shades of pink and purple still visible beneath myriad scuffs and blemishes-- not even when he was deployed for Brandon’s own training days.

With the aid of Biff and several months’ growth, Allison became a top-notch cyclist. Astride Alice, she pedaled many happy miles, grew even taller, and is now tooling around on Slice, a hefty mountain bike. Brandon eventually grew into his own sleek ride.

Alice, having served her time parading around in streamers sporting little woven baskets and flashy wheel jewelry, is ready to get down to business. There’s a little girl out there somewhere who’s ready to take her scrapes and lumps and conquer the open road. A little shiny around the edges, Alice is still a rookie. She’ll go to a new home at the entry-level rate of $7.

Biff, however, is a seasoned veteran, having gone head to head with both my children’s most spectacular road wars. Survivor of training missions, tested on asphalt, gravel and forest floor, Biff has weathered wind, rain, ice and mud. It’s a wealth of experience he’ll take into his next assignment.

Biff’s not going anywhere for a penny less than $8.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Double Not Latte

"It’s the city that’s always asleep,” my husband said in disbelief. We’d covered the east end straight through to the heart of city center only to be greeted by shuttered store fronts and darkened lobbies.

“It’s Saturday night, for crying out loud,” my husband lamented, “What’s wrong with this place?”

It’s not like we were looking for a wild night on the town. We just wanted a cup of coffee. But just because I happen to live in one of the top 40 metropolitan areas in the United States doesn’t mean it’s possible to get a fresh cup of decent coffee on a whim. Especially after 8 PM.

Not so very long ago, I took a fresh brewed cup of joe as a given. There may have been a time before I could pull up to my local Dunkin' Donut in any vehicle in our family fleet and receive a knowing nod from Bob the Arabic Vendor along with a "large coffee, cream," in his rich Middle Eastern tones, a hand off of a steaming foam cup, and a cheery, “see you tomorrow,” but I don’t remember it.

It was simply The Norm until what came to be known as The December 26th Blackout, when I saw, through the car window on an otherwise routine drive down the main drag, a big black hole where the Pink and Orange Beacon normally illuminated our city with rays of Cheer and Goodwill.

“Something’s wrong, something’s wrong,” I shrieked from the passenger’s seat.

Not one to be rattled, my husband assured me that that I was witnessing nothing more than extended holiday cheer. “Bob’s home for Christmas,” my husband said, in vaguely nervous tones.

“Bob doesn’t celebrate Christmas,” I countered grimly.

In a desperate attempt to delay the inevitable, my husband insisted that we “check it out in the morning,” when things would undoubtedly “look better.”

Far from better, the situation at first light spoke of nothing short of scandal, bankruptcy, or, failing that, Bob’s deportation. Reduced to a shell, the building was little more than a canvas for the word “closed,” scrawled in so much shoe polish across the glass storefront. No sign indicating a new location. No “excuse our mess while we’re remodeling.” No “thank you for your patronage” farewell. Just, simply, nothing.

Fellow coffee aficionados assure me that I did not overact when I curled up into the fetal position and threatened to call to my realtor. A grown man admitted that the closure of his local Dunkin' would reduce him to tears. Friends sent condolences. Others openly suggested the need for a move.

Armed with a couple bags of Dunkin’ beans, my aging home pot, and a plan to “fill in” with fare from secondary establishments, I stoically pressed on. To date, the only jolt this endeavor has yielded is a series of aftershocks which have served to underscore the harsh realities of our city's coffee-deprived state. A passable cup of coffee remains elusive. If you can catch the local shops open, it seems that the daily grind is nothing more than lackluster, overpriced swill. And home brew? That's taken on an inexplicable but definite pallor of rancid distaste.

Now, as it happens the coffee drought coincides nicely with my 10-week tenure at Generic Middle School. It seems that maintaining an iron bladder is a prerequisite to any serious school employ. Evidently, arriving to school coffee in hand is the exclusive domain of the private school teacher. Educators in the public sector keep a strict watch over their fluid intake, as I’m told even a momentary absence in the lavatory could end, best case, in a lawsuit, if not outright tragedy.

Having passed the halfway point, however, I’m anticipating a return to my Actual Life and my Usual Ways. Those ways invariably include 24-hour access to fragrant, freshly brewed coffee. In these hard economic times it should be good news for someone, somewhere that there’s a sleepy metropolitan city with an immediate opening for a new Bob. Serious inquiries taken at the Big Black Hole. Must be available nights and weekends.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Waking Up Beneath Two Blankets

I woke up, pre-dawn beneath my warm comforter—week 5, day 1, already mentally stumbling through the now-familiar getting-ready-for-work routine: rummaging through leftovers in the fridge, bypassing my jeans drawer in route to the career clothes, and ticking off the list of things I need to throw in my bag.

However, before I even left the warmth of my covers, I discovered that I was also beneath a blanket of a different kind. Although this second layer was a frigid sheet of icy snow, it turned out to be no less comforting than my toasty bedspread.

I can’t think of anything more nourishing to my spirit than an unexpected day off. Right smack at the mid-point of my 10-week teaching experience, a few hours of unexpected downtime is truly a gift. My artistic spirit requires a lot of time to process, reflect, think, and distill. If I don’t get enough of it, I start feeling a bit robotic. Even though my need for non-structured time is admittedly excessive—I’m not remotely employable, in the traditional sense of the word—I still don’t think I have the market cornered on the desire for occasional solitude. Everyone needs time just to be.

So here’s to snow days, and rain delays, and other deviations from the norm. Here’s to little pockets of time to think about where we’ve been and where we’re heading--and to little detours that enrich the journey.


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