Saturday, November 28, 2009

I've lost my fictional way again while lying under the weather for the last week, while trying on Ohio for a few thank-filled days. I will find it. As I round the corner of the month I plan to pick a path, probably a new one and see where it goes. My 50,000 words for Nanowrimo will not be met but that's okay. It was a good experience to get to about 35,000 and feel the momentum of language building on a daily basis. I'm back at home, my head is clearing and I'm ready to do it all over again.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Artistic Voyeuristic

Other than a year-long stint in Boston, I've never lived in a dense urban environment. In Boston, I lived in a tiny dorm room on the top floor of a brownstone. From the single bay window, I looked out at the buildings of M.I.T., the Charles River, and the rush of traffic on Storrow Drive. While the view was brilliant, it was an unpeopled landscape, not a portrait. All the windows were too far away, the cars too quick.

Moving to Portland, I fell in love with a different kind of city living, one that made space for porches and gardens and wide sprawling parks. Out my office window now, I get a much more mundane view of my neighbor's patio with its card table, TV and left over football party beer cans. While washing dishes in my kitchen, I see the retired longshoreman in the house next door washing his dishes or watching TV and paying his bills. From my porch, I watch a girl with tattooed arms on the steps of her porch, smoking and watching me.

A certain amount of voyeurism seems commonplace in any urban setting, whether your view is of twenty floors of brick and glass or a single well-lit bungalow. For some reason, the curtains remain open. The lives remain on view. And who am I to turn away?

I was excited to see that a real photographer has gone out and done the project I've always imagined doing. Gail Albert Halaban has created Out My Window, NYC. They are luscious, lonely and yet comforting photos of New Yorkers and their views. Yesterday, the New York Times wrote about her and other Window Watchers. While I'll always prefer my Portland view, it made me long for all the well-lit windows New Yorkers get in a single glance.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Katahdin, not just a big mountain.

This is the bear from the movie Prophecy, our Halloween movie pic. She had the misfortune of being mutated by toxins from a paper mill in upstate Maine. Now imagine being a young boy of about 8 who lives in upstate Maine. Your rather clueless father takes you to the drive in and there she is, the slimy mutant bear who leaps from the woods and tears her victims to pieces. Funny, those woods look an awful lot like the woods along the road you live on. The next day, you decide to stay home and not bike to your friend's house down the street. You may never bike down your street again.

I will now blame Katahdin, the bear's name (and also Maine's highest peak) for, well, everything. I blame her for everything. She doesn't look very happy about that, but I live in Oregon and there are no paper mills here, right?

Monday, November 02, 2009

Six hours and 3,466 words later

I wouldn't call my first day of Nanowrimo full of flow unless it was a flow of sticky honey. Still, I took the free hours and made a good show of it, pushing through to my first pile of words. I flailed around in the first paragraph for way too long and then eventually found a way in. The way in wasn't this photo, but when I found this photo on my computer this morning, I see that it will be today's portal.

So already, I find lesson one, which of course is a lesson I already know: Be open. Be receptive to the world's bright and brassy cues, as well as to its rhythms and subconscious ripples. I'd lost touch with this kind of openness with the work on my first novel, the plodding and plodding and plotting and plotting. The fun part is looking (but not looking) for connections and patterns in my life and my character's lives. The grind I'd made of my writing life simply wore out anything loose and ephemeral. Now I have a chance to get that back. Eyes open, but slightly lowered. Brain alert, but slightly dreamy.