Music for a Rainy Day: Interwar Duets

Cello, Leaning I’m not sure when I found the Interwar Duets, a collection of music for cello and violin from the period between World Wars I & II, but they’ve become a sort of favorite of mine since sometime last fall.

It began, I think, with a search for something two characters could be playing in a fiction piece I was working on then (and have laid aside, but will go back to soon). I wanted something interesting, something with a story, but something the average listener would probably not be familiar with.

It’s hard for me to listen to anything with lyrics when I’m writing, because I get distracted by the desire – no, the NEED – to either sing along, or get up and dance, or both. The thing is, I’m not good with quiet either, and my writing studio doesn’t have a television any more.

Whatever the reason, these duets have become ingrained in my being, and I find them particularly haunting in dismal, gray weather like today’s, probably because they were inspired by a rather dismal, gray, state of being in Europe.

Never heard them? Here’s a RHAPSODY LINK.

Image credit: demian1975 / 123RF Stock Photo

This Is the New Year

2014

Happy 2014.

I woke this morning to the crying of a puppy who was in dire need of marking the New Year’s start by, well, marking, but once I left our bedroom I was greeted by the first rays of true dawn, and the intoxicating smell of nearly-cooked brisket (We marinated it in espresso and JD BBQ sauce, and it’s been in the oven at 225 since midnight (The coffee helps tenderize and provides a smokey undertone.).).

I spent yesterday feeling overwhelmed by having so much to do and learned several small lessons, the most important being that even when the Parking Goddess smiles upon you it is far wiser to avoid CostCo on New Year’s Eve.

Between cooking and chatting and shopping and wrangling dogs I wrote 5,000 words of a story. It’s just fanfic, but it made me happy to write it, and it was posted just after midnight, and I consider the fact that I greeted the new year at my keyboard in a happy, writing groove to be an incredibly auspicious sign.

Well, I would if I believed in signs.

Today, in just a few hours, we’re having friends come over to celebrate with us by sharing food and laughter. And possibly the champagne we never bothered to open last night, because by the time midnight rolled around we were exhausted, and couldn’t see the point in opening bubbly for three adults when one of them doesn’t even drink.

Instead, we toasted the arrival of 2014 with glasses of Mexican Coca-cola, and went to bed with smiles on our faces.

The puppy and the chihuahua have now finished outside, and the big dogs are having their morning romp. I’m going to go take a shower before I feed them.

Happy New Year.

Have a song to get you into the spirit of things, it’s a recent favorite of mine: “This Is the New Year” by Ian Axel:

Image Credit: Yulia Glam

Dear Santa…

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

It’s that time of year again – the time that I write you a letter. I’ve been doing this for as long as I could read and write…do you remember?

When I was little, my mother served as your elf, writing my name in glitter on packages signed from you, and once, even leaving a trail of red construction paper footprints leading from my bedroom to the back of the couch, where the stockings were hung (we didn’t have a fireplace).

It’s because of her that I’ve managed to retain the ability to suspend belief, to find the bubble of magical delight that exists deep inside all of us, and to send it forth, sharing it with the world through words – essays and stories and songs – and yet, I never write these letters to my mother, Santa. I write them to you.

I don’t have a long list of “I wants” this year, Santa. Oh, there are tons of things I’d like to have – like the hoodie designed to look like a Star Trek: The Next Generation uniform, and this set of mugs I really like, but those aren’t things I need.

Other people, though, have real needs, so if you could transfer whatever allotment of North Polar magic I’m due to them, I’d really appreciate it. I even have some ideas:

I’m fostering two pit bull mixes right now, Santa. Madison is a two-year-old spayed female, and she’s as sweet as can be, though she prefers to not be around other female dogs, or any cats. Marco is a male puppy, who was born in a shelter and lived his whole life there, until he came to stay with me a week or so ago. I’d love for them to find forever homes with people who will love them as much as I do, but they’re safe for now.

More than that, I’d like for there to never be an unwanted puppy or kitten in the world. I’d like breeding mills and fighting rings to become things of the past. I’d like it if senior pets were either taken care of until they died naturally, or eased out of the world in the arms of the people who loved them.

I had a whole page and a half of other things to discuss, Santa, but I deleted it because I realized I was using my letter to you as a soapbox, and that wasn’t my intent.

And really, everything I wanted to talk about, even the animal issues I’ve already discussed, boils down to one thing:


COMPASSION

Compassion for each other, compassion for ourselves, compassion for the animals in our care, and those who exist in the wild, and compassion for this planet we call home.

We’re not, as a race, being very good stewards of the Earth or of each other. We’ve become cold and callous, embracing a “me first” attitude that is more than a little unpleasant.

It will be the end of us, Santa.

Already, friends and family members cease communications because they disagree with something they see in social media.
Our government representatives don’t cooperate with each other, and are smug about their non-cooperation.

It’s really sad.

And really scary.

So, Santa, please, bring us all a box of compassion this year. You can make my parcel a bit smaller than some, maybe a tiny bit larger than others, and I promise to share it, because the whole point of compassion, is that you do extend it to others.

I know in the past I’ve asked you for other intangible gifts. Love, generosity, patience – those are all things we still need in massive amounts.

But they come within the guise of compassion.

So, thanks, Santa, for listening, and considering my request this year. I wanted you to know that I’m completely over the whole wanting-a-pony thing. I mean, I have two huge dogs who are roughly the size of ponies already, and it costs a small fortune to feed and vet them. (Not that I would trade them for anything.)

But, if there’s a little extra Christmas magic, maybe whisper in the ear of my muse? My writing has been kind of hit-or-miss this year, and I could use some extra help.

Okay, extra help and the Star Trek: The Next Generation hoodie. In command red. Because even though Data was my favorite character, ops yellow makes me look sallow.

Image Credit: The Messy Desk of Santa Claus

Dog Days of Podcasting: The Swimming Lesson

Dog Days of Podcasting

It’s almost midnight, and I had no plans for anything specific to post today, but then I wrote this right before friends came for dinner.

Here’s an excerpt of The Swimming Lesson:

“Don’t let go, Dad!” The boy shrieks as his father tugs him further away from the steps.

“I’ve got you,” the man assures. “Kick your feet. I promise I won’t let go.”

The boy kicks furiously, sending frothy water in every direction, while his father holds his hands, and walks backwards in circles, providing momentum and balance for his child.

You can hear me read it at SoundCloud, or play it via the applet below:

Lazy Leo Gets Wake-Up Call

Leo I’m not a hard-core believer in horoscopes, because, just as with most forms of prophecy and divination, we use our imaginations to make the predictions self-fulfilling. Mostly, I read them for entertainment.

Once in a while, though, a horoscope will be more than just a neat read. It will be a nudge from the universe, an echo of the smaller, less insistent voice of my own sub-conscious mind.

Today’s LEO advice from one of my favorite syndicated astrologers, Rob Brezny, is one of those cosmic nudges. For the week beginning tomorrow, he writes:

Renowned 20th-century theologian Karl Barth worked on his book Church Dogmatics for 36 years. It was more than 9,000 pages long and contained over six million words. And yet it was incomplete. He had more to say, and wanted to keep going. What’s your biggest undone project, Leo? The coming months will be a good time to concentrate on bringing it to a climax. Ideally, you will do so with a flourish, embracing the challenge of creating an artful ending with the same liveliness you had at the beginning of the process. But even if you have to culminate your work in a plodding, prosaic way, do it! Your next big project will be revealed within weeks after you’ve tied up the last loose end.

I spent a lovely ten days in Mexico, and have been pretty much avoiding the computer since I came home. But my brain and Brezsny’s can’t BOTH be wrong.

In the words of my favorite fictional American president, Jed Bartlet, “Break’s over.”

Time to get to work.

Cruise Control

All this week, I’ve felt a bit like my life is on cruise control, except that while I’m going at a steady pace, there’s no one doing any navigation, so I’m just running in circles. padden-royal-mail-mediterranean It’s a frustrating feeling, because it’s this|close to stagnation without quite being so.

I did all my paid work this week in an unhurried fashion, and still finished it in time to get my invoice in yesterday. I’m where I need to be on some writing (paid and not) due tomorrow. I’ve worked out twice so far this week even though I had my period (I totally get a gold star for working through menstrual cramps, even if I have to give it to myself). I’ve edited a bunch of stuff for a good friend, and recommended her website to two other good friends.

I’ve taught the new foster dog (Zelda the boxer, who has been with us for nearly two weeks now) what her name is, and where her bed is. She’s taught me what her “I need to pee Right NOW” signal is. We’re working on commands like sit, stay, and come. She’s playing with my big, sweet pointer Maximus (aka Maximus the Monster Pup), now, and no longer getting all growly when one of the other dogs tries to take her abandoned bones.

But I haven’t been working on any of my own stuff. Not my creative non-fiction project. Not my novel. Not the super-skeret project I’m co-creating with a friend. Not the short story. Not even my fanfiction. I’m not blocked, exactly, just feeling really tired, and like I need to spend some more time reading before I do more writing.

I write every day for some reason or another, but I don’t always write what I want to write.

And I feel like I’m locked in cruise control mode, but not quite sure where I’m going.

Grid Lines and Aged Scotch

Hemingway drinking and writing

My friend Becca recently moved from a house where she’s lived for decades into a new place, and her writings about the move have me thinking about my own routines.

Next month will be our eighth year in this house. As I just commented on Becca’s blog, it’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my entire life, and while I love my house, and really don’t want to go through the temporary hell that is moving, I’m also having periodic bouts of antsy-ness that are getting harder and harder to quell.

I wasn’t meant to live in suburbia, but I’m spoiled by the space we have, and the pool, and the fact that our neighborhood is generally pretty safe. I mean, I don’t hate it, and it certainly isn’t one of those raw, sterile subdivisions, but it’s a lot more white-bread than I really like, and I wish there was a cafe within easy walking distance.

There is nothing like being able to walk your dog to your favorite cafe, grab a latte, and sit outside with the pooch lying near your feet, both of you people- and dog-watching. When we lived in the condo in San Jose, that was part of my routine, as was bringing my dog to work, and grabbing the best ever chicken burritos from the tiny Mexican place on the corner when I didn’t want to have lunch with other people.

Here, my routine is centered on my house. I get into bad habits, like writing in bed all day, instead of going to the Word Lounge, all of 100 feet away. I like working up there, mostly, but I hate having to go all the way back downstairs when my water glass is empty. It’s not the walking up and down that bothers me, but the fact that doing so distracts me from whatever creative flow I’ve got going.

Then again, most days I have to finish all my work before I shower, or THAT will ruin my creative flow.

Routines can be helpful things, but I don’t like mine to be so rigid that I feel trapped. I prefer broad frameworks, not tiny grid squares (and, in fact, I take perverse delight in buying pads of graph paper, and writing bad poetry across the squares, paying no attention to the lines). I like guidelines. I hate rules.

More and more, I’m convinced that great authors – Dorothy Parker, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, etc. – drank so much because the alcohol buzzed forced the lines to go down and the creative walls to tumble into dust.

I don’t drink that much, or terribly often, because I have little tolerance for alcohol, but there are days when I can completely see the appeal. Sometimes I find that funny.

But sometimes, it scares me.