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“I am at two with nature.”–Woody Allen (or, weathering the storm)

Roughly a week ago, Maine was the epicenter for a middling-to-large earthquake, felt for many hundreds of miles around.  This week, not only is there a (somewhat downgraded) tsunami in Hawaii and a large quake in Canada that caused it, but lots of rain and snow in Canada as well.  In the southern United States on the East Coast, people are already trying to clean up and recoup their losses from Frankenstorm Sandy while the Mid-Atlantic states are in the midst of it or have just had it leave, and New Jersey and farther North are bracing for the impact, assessing risks and giving advice and aid to those who need it.  We seem to be these days (in Woody Allen’s words) “at two with nature.”  Though my spectacles are a bit nearsighted and I haven’t lately looked at world weather beyond this continent, during this year at least there have been major weather events the world over, all of which tell us that something is vastly wrong, beyond the notion of a twenty year weather cycle such as some people cite.  And that something is clearly what is known as global warming (which until recently a child of my acquaintance referred to by the accurate misnomer of “global warning”).

Yes, we clearly are receiving a “global warning,” about our use of fossil fuels, and about our polluting of the earth, and about all our other climactic sins and misdoings.  So what do we do now?  Well, the idea of windpower strikes me as especially fortuitous, because one of the results of our misuse of the earth has been higher winds, gales, hurricanes, and if we can manage correctly to use the bad conditions we have thus created, then it’s a step toward redemption and redress of Mother Nature’s grievances.  Now if only we could find some natural process that required the use of dirty air, dirty water, etc. then we would be a lot better off than we are now.  That’s what we as a global people can do, if that’s not too much dreaming.  At the very least, we can learn to live on better terms with our environment than we do now.  As Willa Cather said of trees, “I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.”  Right now, trees with leaves still on them are losing branches willy-nilly in storms and water surges, yet beginning next spring, already many of them will be sprouting little limbs out of the raw, torn flesh where full grown limbs once were.  Then again, many of them will be too damaged to do so, and will die and need to be chopped down, so it doesn’t do to be too sanguine or lackadaisical.  This to us sometimes seems like the cruelty of nature, the anti-human and illogical force that swirls around us and sets limits to the greatness we could achieve.  Yet, what do we do (sometimes) when we have “greatness” in human terms?  Often, we end up displaying an equal or worse cruelty in human terms to anything nature could dream up, making wars and genocides and allowing people to starve and die needlessly.  At the very least, one can say that Mother Nature is impersonal (whereas we have even made our complaints against nature personal by personalizing and referring to “her” as “Mother”).

It follows from this that the best we can be as humans is to help solve the problems created by impersonal forces such as nature, both to our environment and to other humans.  And in the process, we help save ourselves and solve our own dilemmas.  This year, why not volunteer to clean up a beach, or to help out at a soup kitchen, or to run or walk for a charity, something which you yourself are interested in so that you don’t lose steam halfway through?  I have in the past for differing periods of time served as a sighted guide for a visually impaired person and have volunteered at an animal shelter, working predominantly with cats.  If you don’t have much time on your hands, then think of contributing to a charity of your choice.  This is how we stand a chance of weathering the metaphorical storms of our lives, and pulling together to solve the larger problems of our existence, such as the ones “Mother” Nature is throwing at us right now.

As to more immediate and personal plans for this coming week?  Be practical, prudent, and self- and other-protective in anticipation that nature may have some unexpected challenge for you.  We have bought groceries which we plan to cook or prepare ahead of time, things that will keep fairly well.  I have my reading and my crocheting to keep me busy during the brunt of the storm.  We have towels ready for the rain, which may or may not seep in around the windows.  And we have batteries and a heavy-duty flashlight ready to keep us steady should all the lights go out.  Our prescriptions and over-the-counter medications are stocked and up to date, and our car will, we hope, be parked in a spot where we can avoid having it flooded.  Here’s hoping that you have (or have had) the same luck with your preparations.  And here’s a dedication to those who have died in this storm already; may they find rest in whatever home individually awaits them according to their wishes, and may some spring come when fresh buds spring out from where they were torn away.

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“Alice, angry, told herself that it must be the fiftieth time she’d seen the man without knowing his name.”–Fall 2012 Writers’ Relay

I had an idea.  It’s not an original idea, but I think the way I plan to do it and the place I plan to do it (here, on my site) may be new.  The idea is this:  I’m going to write two paragraphs, not more than 10-15 lines each, and post them in this space below.  The first person to comment gets to write the next segment, also composed of not more than 2 paragraphs, 10-15 lines long each.  The second person responding gets to write the next set of paragraphs, and so on and so forth (please rewrite your comment before hitting the comment button if it is too long, so that as many people as possible get a turn).  For me, this will have the upside that I get to read and talk to my followers a lot more (but you can respond to this post even if this is your first time on my blogsite).  For me and for you both, it may turn out to be funny, enlightening, enriching, and just a lot of fun.  If the comments slow down, I’ll take another turn, and every time there’s a response I’ll answer with another story fragment, unless someone else gets there first.  If you’re just ready to respond and someone gets in in front of you, you can read their comment, adjust yours slightly to fit the next slot, and then go.  This writing a collaborative “book” has been done numerous times in literary history, the most famous ones known to me being A Book by Twelve Authors in which Henry James and others participated, and in the 20th century Naked Came the Stranger, written by several famous authors under the pen name “Penelope Ashe.”

The rules are simple:  keep to the WordPress.com rules about appropriate language and material, which means a few curse words and profanities are okay, but it’s not about showing off your arcane vocabulary or shock value, and it’s not necessarily for any high literary purpose.  You can parody or play it straight (no previously published texts of yours or anyone else’s, please), but please don’t send any links, videos, or photographs in your response.  All it’s about is fiction for fun.  Even if Arabella Heartthrob Rapture writes first, and fills up her two paragraph limit with sighs and billings and cooings, that’s no reason why Anthony “The-Tantalus-Machine” Velociraptor can’t take the lovers on a swift interplanetary ship to the farthest galaxy in his two following paragraphs.

I don’t know whether you will like this or not, and if you don’t, then we won’t do it anymore.  But I think it might be a good exercise, if nothing else, something you could turn to now and again and limber up on before you begin your serious writing for the day.  And don’t worry if you don’t write fiction–write it for fun, or produce some highly embroidered non-fiction that will protect your privacy, if you like.  If it turns out that I get a lot of responses from this, then I may do it again, once a season at least.  Just remember:  two paragraph limit, not more than 10-15 lines long for each paragraph.  I hope you’re ready!  Here goes:

Alice, angry, told herself that it must be the fiftieth time she’d seen the man without knowing his name.  He always gave her a slight nod, or a friendly smile, or a cheery wave.  But today, when she was standing by the cosmetic counter at Wenkel’s, one of about six cosmetics counters the major chain store boasted, someone had come up to stand beside her, and a moment later had gently placed a warm, dry hand over hers where it rested on the counter, at the same time sliding something beneath it.  She jerked her hand away in reflex, now really annoyed with the saleswoman who was taking so much time to wait on someone else.  As soon as she had moved her hand and looked up, she saw the man looking into thin air in front of him, as if he really had no connection with his own hand.

“Does your husband know you come here?” he asked, still without looking at her.  Husband?  What husband?  Trying to frame an adequately chilling response, Alice glanced up again, but the man was already walking away in the distance.  She looked at his back.  His top coat was a gray rain coat, which had beads of moisture all over the surface; he must’ve just come inside.  She turned back and as she raised her hand to attract the saleswoman’s now unoccupied attention, her hand brushed a card, the business-style card the man had left under her hand.  She squinted at it; the writing was small.  The card said:

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The difference between demand and suggestion–what “paying the piper” actually means….

Hi, folks!  This is another non-literary day, which I have singled out as a writer’s day for making better contact with potential readers than I evidently have heretofore.  When I first set up my website, I based it somewhat on my former site, which wasn’t through WordPress.com, and which had an obligatory “Buy now” PayPal button on it for the long works of fiction and poetry which I had or planned to have on it.  That meant that if people wanted to read something from that site, they had to pay in advance.

On WordPress.com, however, I have a “Donate” PayPal button.  While this at first seemed like a disadvantage for financial reasons, and while I did encourage people to pay for what they read, I think the time has come for a bit of clarification.  In short, despite everything I said about wanting people to feel fine about reading the long works for free if they felt they couldn’t pay, probably only about 30 or so folks have done so since the week I put the works on my site, and that’s a generous estimate.  So here’s a guideline:

In the category section of the PayPal post, I have a category called “Time to pay the piper.”  I must confess, I was thinking of this in a sort of traditional cultural way, following the ages-long historical method of the piper who first plays a tune or tunes and at intervals passes around the hat to collect contributions.  It didn’t at first occur to me that this would seem like a preemptive strike for money:  that’s not what pipers do.  It’s after they play for the audience and please them, one hopes, that the hat is passed around.  My suggestion of a $5 bottom limit is to eliminate the problem resulting from a donation which is too small (less than $2) to count on PayPal’s system.

So, you see, I’m not a money-grubber, just a person who would like to receive some real-life recognition for work which I hope will amuse and inspire you; but the first step of this is absolutely being read, and if all you feel like contributing is a comment about what you’ve read, know that comments too are very welcome, and will let me know what you like about the fiction or find wanting in it.

Another point a person brough up who viewed my site from my computer was that the cover art page of each book and the size of the pages of the fiction are too large; I don’t know how it looks on your site, but on my site, it’s simply a function of the zoom level needing to be adjusted (when I added the .jpeg cover art to the text and .pdfed it, it automatically increased the size).  Just find your zoom level on your computer and adjust it to 100% or 75%, or whatever size is best for your own eyes.  The zoom level usually appears on a computer text in .pdf at the top of the Adobe Reader page, and it’s easy to adjust.

That’s all I really wanted to say today.  I recently finished (in August) putting the poetry I’ve written to date on this site, and a little later my fourth novel in what I hope to finish as a loosely connected series of 8 novels (but they aren’t connected as to plot and aren’t serials, so you can read them in any order you want.  The connection, slight as it is, comes in because I have chosen to try to link them loosely to the 8 family signs of the I Ching, which you will see in the upper right-hand corner of the cover page.  These signs are connected to a mother, a father, three daughters and three sons, and each novel is related in a marginal way to some of the symbolism associated with the signs, that’s really the size of it).

I hope that whether you can or want to pay or not, you will find something which you like in the novel(s) you read or the poetry, and that you will feel free to write in and discuss it with me.  Even negative criticism can be instructive to both parties because it shows human involvement, and may generate a dialogue, though of course one hopes most people will like one’s work.  In any case, I’ve made my argument for you, and I really should sign off on this post.  Until I hear from you, then, happy reading, whether you cover the posts or the longer works–I’m always happy to discuss writing and literature, my own or someone else’s.

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Filed under Full of literary ambitions!, Other than literary days...., Time to pay the piper....

The hour of reckoning–honestly, a PayPal button? Yes, please.


			

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Filed under Time to pay the piper....