Is the kissing artificial, or the ball? Living in New Hampshire with a Presidential primary coming up, I get used to the signs on the side of the road, but this was a new one for me.
It’s a long story, how I came by the title, The Kind Of Honduras, for my novel. In fact, I now know the story is well over 50,000 words. I’m a proud NaNoWriMo Winner!
I just scrambled and uploaded the 50,277 words of my novel so far, and I think I probably have at least another 20,000 to go before I finish this story. But the brilliant people at the Office of Letters and Light, who created National Novel Writing Month, inspired me to get my butt in the chair at my desk for “this wild write-a-thon: 30 days of high-velocity, pedal-to-the-metal noveling,” and write the 50,000 words required to be a “winner.”
Yes, I have two long flights, to Moscow and back, to thank for 16,000 of those words. But all the rest happened during a month when I did a half marathon, hiked numerous times, visited with many friends and lots of family, presented at a national conference, paid bills, grocery shopped, did laundry, cooked dinner, stacked wood (okay, David mostly did that), put my garden to bed for the winter, trimmed my perennials, mowed the lawn for the last time, made several batches of apple sauce, hosted 19 for Thanksgiving, and had our annual bonfire. And I have four days to spare!
So here’s my next commitment, even though the month coming up is even busier than this one was. I’m going to finish the first draft of The King Of Honduras by the end of December. Expect regular updates. If you don’t see any, ask. I’m going to be able to go to parties next year and say (this is one of the motivators on the NaNoWriMo website), not that I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but that “I wrote a novel.” It may not be any good, but first I have to get it written to figure that part out.
The Presidential Ridge of the White Mountains is as spectacular as its name implies. Encompassing 11 peaks (including the highest in the Northeast — Mt. Washington) and 23 miles, the ridge for the most part is above tree line, wide and open, with the rest of the White Mountain ridges falling off in folds along the horizons on every side. Many NH hikers at some point do a Presidential Traverse, with most, like me, doing it in sections. I did it in 1998 with Adrienne, Alison and Anne, staying at two of the Appalachian Mountain Club huts, and covering 9 of the peaks, in three days. It was so much work for my body, no matter how much I ate for two days afterwards I was still hungry. Then there are those who do a Presidential Traverse in a single day, usually around the summer solstice so they have maximum light, even still having to start and finish in the dark. I can’t even imagine doing it.
A much easier way to experience the Presidential Ridge is to do a day hike to one of the peaks. Yesterday David, Betsy and I climbed Edmand’s Path, a remarkably even-footed and easily ascended trail, to Eisenhower. For a November day it was amazingly still and warm. Having been to Lake Willoughby earlier this summer, for the first time I could look to the northwest horizon and recognize the notch of Willoughby, and the higher Green Mountains beyond. The close view was equally beautiful, with a small scrubby bush having turned purple in the cold weather and creating a carpet of color on the open ridge. The day was a treat we gave ourselves.
Friday night I hiked up Neville Peak in Espom with the full moon lighting our trail up, even with clouds blowing past and over the moon. When the racing clouds did open to clear sky, the moon was as bright as a spotlight shining on us in the dark woods. At the top we could see the darkness of snow showers coming at us across the valley below, then spitting at our faces.
Yesterday afternoon I got on a plane to Moscow, and today I hiked through the Kremlin and across Red Square, again in spitting snow. The grandeur and glory and energy of a great city swirled around me, and the sharp wind cut into my clothes, reminding me of the coming winter. For now, I’m contemplating a hot meal, a full night’s sleep in a warm bed, and two days of hopefully interesting and productive meetings starting tomorrow.
And I’m up to 25,691 word on my NaNo! Nothing like a long plane ride to get some writing done.
I love palindromes, and I especially love palindrome numbers made by digital clocks (11:11, 10:01, 12:21) and dates. So, I can’t let 11-11-11 pass without at least saying, what an awesome date. We had a discussion at a staff meeting a year ago, about how cool it would be to have a baby on 11-11-11, and when would you need to get pregnant to have a chance at that as your baby’s birthday. That’s it, just an appreciation moment. 11-11-11
I went running in a short sleeve shirt this morning. I mowed the lawn in a tank top and shorts yesterday. As I ran, looking out across mist shrouded fields, passing my neighbor’s colonial breed of cows grazing with their bells gently ringing, I thought about another poem from The Truth About Death. While this poem was written five years ago next month, I thought it fitting for this morning. It was published the following year in The Sun. If you’ve never read The Sun, I strongly suggest you check it out. It’s a fabulous magazine, not just because they took four poems from my manuscript, but also because the writing is excellent, the politics are proudly humanistic and focused on the worth and potential of every individual, and all of us as a community of connected people, and there is a wonderful section each month full of short pieces by readers.
Some days I don’t have enough time to cry,
and then I miss it. A beaded curtain of rain
hangs from the porch roof; the Johnsons
have Christmas lights up. This week
I’ve been seeing you in the waiting room
in a wheelchair: exhausted, willing your blood
to behave, to qualify for a clinical trial,
any guinea pig treatment. By then
you were a withered man. If you were alive
we would go kayaking this weekend,
just to say we’d done it in December.
Last November we calculated how many times
we’d made love. Now there is thunder.
I’m doing it — NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. “NaNoWriMo is run by a tiny but mighty nonprofit called the Office of Letters and Light,” as they say on their website. OLL is dedicated to promoting creativity among children and adults by creating writing events. And have they ever succeeded with NaNoWriMo. Started 13 years ago, they now have so many participants their 23 servers couldn’t keep up with all the people signing on just before November 1 this year. Last year “when NaNoWriMo wrapped at November’s end, 200,530 participants had written 2,872,682,109 words, with 37,479 winners blowing through the 50,000-word goal. The staff deemed it an outrageous success, and wasted no time before congregating in a boardroom with bagels aplenty to strategically plan the upcoming year.”
So, this year I’m on board. I’m letting you know, because you’re probably going to be hearing less from me this month, as most of my writing energy is going into this “thirty days and nights of literary abandon.” When I checked into the website on Saturday night, after dinner with friends, there were over 72,000 people online. Yes, that’s 72,000 people spending at least some of their Saturday night writing a novel in a month.
One thing I’ve learned is that I can write quite fast (well, I already knew that) when I’m not worrying much about how the story is hanging together — up to 1,500 words in an hour. I’m just telling the story and seeing where it goes. At 12,574 words, I’m in good shape to get to the 50,000 word mark by midnight on November 30. And I have an hour right now before I go meet a friend for dinner, and my word count today so far is below 100, so here I go. NaNo time.
We’re entering the season of winter bareness, as the last of the leaves turn russet and dark yellow, and just plain brown, on the oaks. The maple leaves are long gone. Most bushes have lost their leaves now too, including the winterberry bushes that flourish in wet spots around my house. After dropping their glossy summer leaves, the bush is a great swath of color in an otherwise quickly-becoming-dim landscape. We passed a bush this morning while walking, which made me think of this poem, from my manuscript The Truth About Death. Noticing brilliance was part of how I made each day work for me, in that numbing first year of grief. It still helps, a spark of color on a grey morning.
Sunlight through the kitchen window
catches my glass of juice and fires
a moment of brilliance in my hand,
moving to my mouth, my lips. I drive
to work, I drive too fast, accelerating hard
up the hill from the traffic circle
a bright November morning, bushes
of winterberry red and red and red
against bare trees shiny with sunlight.