This is a hard thing to do, isn’t it? My characters struggle. They wonder if God is good. They wonder if people can be good. They often turn away from God (or try to forget about Him completely) like the first garden inhabitants who hid in shame with a new awareness of good and evil.
Even the best humans have dark hearts (some would take issue with the word BEST ). Anne Lamont once wrote how easy it was for her to slip from elevated thoughts of God down to heated arguments with her son over trivial matters.
Despite this I find real and imagined humans lovable. I wonder if I’d love them more without their hang ups and flaws. It’s a silly thought since perfection is impossible in this life. How is love so powerful even when we only do it fair to middling? The tiniest drop of it ignites huge cravings even in the steeliest of people (though some of us tend to seek love out in troubling and destructive ways).
There are a few characters of mine who seem to have fallen completely under dark spells, but in those dark places lie hidden hurts and desperate attempts at numbing those longings that have so often met with abuse and neglect.
I’m not so naive to think the world can change with a song and a Coke. Some people choose a path of darkness and willfully blind themselves to everything else, but most people just struggle. Those people are the ones I like to write about.
**featured image from Pinterest
ENTER THE GOODREADS GIVEAWAY! (The winner gets the much prettier new cover)
Despite my best writerly intentions, late July brings a bevy of visitors (all of whom love our crazy dogs–and cat) and excursions. It’s the price I pay for living in the beautiful Adirondacks–I’m not complaining! I’m enjoying my time, but look forward to visiting all the wonderful blogs I follow. Hope you’re having a great August!
So I thought I’d show a few pics of our RESCUE DUCK “Chip.” He’s now taken to spending his dog days on the hammock:
If you’re lucky enough to have storytellers in your family you may have experienced what I’m naming Soul Holloways. Holloways are sunken, endlessly trod-upon paths. Their histories are sometimes buried deep, but the roots are exposed in places. Some holloways date back to Roman times and some to Native American trails.
Soul Holloways are those fleeting times when you remember what you don’t remember. The past opens through an old picture of a great-grandfather with mischievous eyes and the trace of a smile under his mustache. This great grandfather was the son of the son of Charles Foster who was hung from a tree when he was 6 and whipped all day for being late. He came to Christ at age 21. His father was a drunk but strong and cut the first roads through New England.
The women of the Foster Holloway Clan were spirited but given the burden of walking with drunks or very strict and straight-laced men–the tension between insanity and stability always being great.
Holloways are mysterious and beautiful but have been used in times of war to trap men in their depths or hide them from enemies–making them sometimes famous and sometimes infamous.
It’s easy to get trapped or saved in a Soul Holloway–exposed roots tell you where you came from, but you must not get mired in them for the holloways can be muddy in spring. Walking your Soul Holloway makes you feel you can touch every kindred spirit since even before they landed in the New World in 1630. You say, “Yes, I know that about myself now. It’s how it has always been in my family.”
Once, in the forest we found an old paved road. Within ten years of no one caring for it the forest had reclaimed much of it. We may try to cover or pave over our holloways, but holloways are more like beautiful scars than roads that cover earthy smells and allow us to rush by in fast cars.
Soul Holloways are beautiful scars, too. They ask us to linger a while.
I write about family scars all the time. Maybe you’d recognize a familiar Soul Holloway in one of my novels! BUY ONE TODAY. 🙂
Glade by the Sea by Frederick Ballard Williams
James Madison rocks, doesn’t he?
Once upon a time there lived on a Saratoga hillside surrounded by lakes a tragic little family of wealth and privilege. Spencer and Katrina Trask lost every child they ever produced, but gathered countless friends, many of whom were artists and poets drawn to the couple’s generosity and toughness in the face of Job-like losses, year after sad year.
Henry van Dyke was one such friend who wrote the following inscription for Katrina Trask’s garden sundial dedicated to her four dead children:
“Dr. van Dyke is the kind of a friend to have when one is up against a difficult problem. He will take trouble, days and nights of trouble, if it is for somebody else or for some cause he is interested in.” Helen Keller said of him.
“I’m not an optimist. There’s too much evil in the world and in me. Nor am I a pessimist; there is too much good in the world and in God. So I am just a meliorist, believing that He wills to make the world better, and trying to do my bit to help and wishing that it were more.” Wikipedia
There was once a time in America when it was quite fashionable (even among the intellectual elites) to see something good in America. Does this mean there was nothing bad? Surely not, but van Dyke’s poem always tickles my fancy especially when children recite it in schools that still teach that America is a pretty great place to be:
AMERICA FOR ME
‘Tis fine to see the Old World, and travel up and down
Among the famous palaces and cities of renown,
To admire the crumbly castles and the statues of the kings,—
But now I think I’ve had enough of antiquated things.
So it’s home again, and home again, America for me!
My heart is turning home again, and there I long to be,
In the land of youth and freedom beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars!
Oh, London is a man’s town, there’s power in the air;
And Paris is a woman’s town, with flowers in her hair;
And it’s sweet to dream in Venice, and it’s great to study Rome;
But when it comes to living there is no place like home.
I like the German fir-woods, in green battalions drilled;
I like the gardens of Versailles with flashing fountains filled;
But, oh, to take your hand, my dear, and ramble for a day
In the friendly western woodland where Nature has her way!
I know that Europe’s wonderful, yet something seems to lack:
The Past is too much with her, and the people looking back.
But the glory of the Present is to make the Future free,—
We love our land for what she is and what she is to be.
Oh, it’s home again, and home again, America for me!
I want a ship that’s westward bound to plough the rolling sea,
To the bléssed Land of Room Enough beyond the ocean bars,
Where the air is full of sunlight and the flag is full of stars
Have any of you suffered through a three week flu? It’s awful, isn’t it? But there is a bright side. Everything I do is in slow motion so I’ve actually spent more time with my humans and animals–especially my animals who love sick naps.
Today I was amused to find that growing lettuce, eggplant or cucumbers is more damaging to the environment than raising pigs or cows. Getting veggies to market and onto our plates consumes a tremendous amount of energy, it turns out (according to scientists) and I’m not surprised having worked on a few organic farms, but I know where this always leads.
I was once a misanthrope. How could I not be? I went to public school and watched PBS. It didn’t take a genius to see that as a white girl I was personally responsible for pollution, slavery, genocide and the deaths of baby harp seals. I stopped eating meat as many a white girl has done to distance herself from all evil. The moral high ground of starving oneself is a great thing for one’s self esteem until your body gives out and you realize you really don’t want to die. It is then that I realized that my idealized love for animals actually made me wish for the deaths of other humans. Humans I didn’t know. Humans out there who polluted.
Have you heard of the Georgia Guidestones? They are stones in the middle of nowhere calling for a mass reduction in humans. Scary.
I re-grouped after the doctors forced me to eat hamburgers and researched my family tree looking for Indian killers and corporate evil-doers. All I found were men and women who wanted to be free. They intermarried with Indians, fought against tyranny, worked for oppressive bosses at age six and died in the fight against slavery.
Outside the classroom of my youth and when I was hospitalized for a serious condition that wouldn’t have materialized if I hadn’t hated humanity and loved fuzzy animals, I was amazed to discover that all around me were humans with the capacity for good. Of course I always knew my family members were basically good (though misguided for eating meat), but there were others! In the world beyond! Doctors and nurses, scientists and hunters. Activists and skeptics.
For a while I watched nature films. You know the ones showing a crocodile killing unsuspecting little Bambi. The I got a small farm. I’ve watched ducks brutally kill other ducks for no apparent reason. I’ve seen the aftermath of a fox killing frenzy. I’m pretty sure the fox didn’t pray over his prey.
So eating lettuce is now bad for the environment. Huh. Maybe we don’t get to live in Utopia. Yet as I sit at my laptop reading about misanthropes and cucumbers, I smile. I love western civilization even with its faults. I love its art, its music, its cinema. I like insulation in winter and an air-conditioned hospital room when I’ve eaten nothing but lettuce for weeks. I like napping with dogs (it’s what dogs do best), but I LOVE writing novels and reading blog posts and obsessing over Christmas gifts for people–yes those crazy characters who occasionally tell really good jokes (my dogs can’t do that).
I love loving people no one loves. So I can’t be a misanthrope.
** DRAWINGS by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
When I wake up to this I tend to linger a little longer in the yard. Even the turkeys spend more time on their “deck.”
Before it gets too hot and guests arrive I pickle and can beets (my sister loves them so I grow and preserve them for her visits).
The guests arrive and want to do farmy things. I’m all for help finding potatoes with my nieces.
The girls meet Clare, the crippled chicken and fall in love with her.
They love riding on the back of the truck,too.
We decided to get a few lambs and the day comes to pick them up. Goats don’t pee when in minivans, but sheep do. A lesson learned. Does anyone know a good way to get the smell of sheep urine out of carpeting?
We also build a house for our new ram, Smash Williams. So while I’d like to say I write no matter what, every day without fail I really can’t. The sun sets and another Upstate New York evening enthralls me and my visitors.
We sit in the yard. Buck Crenshaw and his world wait for me to return, but for now I just enjoy reality.