Friday, June 05, 2015

And Then It Clicked

Summer brings out my inner Adrian Monk – not the obsessive compulsive Monk. The Monk who worries about "the jungle out there". I worry about ticks when I walk across my lawn. I would never take off my shoes and walk in the grass – who knows what kind of bacteria I might pick up. I've been doing research on the public health movement and the effort to eradicate diseases. So, of course, I'm worrying more this year about those potentially malaria-carrying mosquitoes that torture me even when I wearing bug spray. I worry about the snake that might be stretched out on the path if I go for a hike in the woods. I did once encounter a large black snake when I was a teenager in Virginia walking along a country road. And then there are the things lurking in the ocean that I love. Blame that one on Jaws (this year celebrating its 40th anniversary and being screened two days in June in theaters).

The photo below is of Assateague Island, the island in Virginia where the wild horses live. I've been there twice. Once in autumn (when this photo of the beach facing onto the Atlantic was taken). But the first time I went to the Eastern Shore of Virginia, it was summer. I had a wonderful time. But summer is not my happy season.

Did I mention the early morning light? But this morning when I woke up at dawn, I had a possibly life-changing thought. It could have been prompted by those Little Debbie commercials that I've been seeing on television for the past few weeks. The one where the child version of the adult appears and reminds the adult how much he or she loved Little Debbie snacks when he or she was a child. That could be what reminded me of my forgotten child.

I don't remember liking summer even when I was a child. The only good part about summer was three months of no school when I could read and dream and do what I wanted. But I do remember liking ice cream cones and corn on the cob and hamburgers on the grill (well, I have always liked food, whatever the season). And I remember going to movie matinees. I remember going to my bookcase and finding books that I loved and reading them again during long summer days. I remember laying on a blanket on the grass (after checking for ant hills) and looking up at cloud shapes. So this summer – which isn't officially here yet – I am going to make my list. That list will include planting tomatoes and cucumbers (my father who "truck farmed" in summer in addition to his day job, used to let me have my own garden patch). I am going on nature walks. In fact, I'm going to get back into my walking program that fell by the wayside when I moved from the suburbs to the city. (There is some irony there because I was sure I would walk more when I had ready access to sidewalks). And, I am going to begin the mornings with breakfast on my little enclosed sun porch.

This morning, however, I began the day with a moan when I realized how early it was. I tried to fall asleep again. Instead, I fell into that twilight stage between sleep and wakefulness. And that was when I solved several problems. First, I had a half-dream about taking my laptop computer – that is now over five years old and that no longer has sufficient space to do regular backups -- to my computer guy. My laptop crashed last night and after trying to fix its own problem finally informed me that some systems could not be recovered. I had to unplug it to turn it off. So, this time -- I realized in my half-dream about my conversation with my computer guy – I must admit defeat. I must hand him my old computer and tell him I'm ready to buy a new one.

Problem number one solved – and then something else clicked into place. I was awake again and thinking how much I hated never being able to get a good night's sleep when the weather begins to warm up. And then I must have drifted off because suddenly I was seeing a man who was standing at the edge of a field. He had dirt cupped in his hands and he seemed to be taking great pleasure in the smell and the feel of the soil. I woke up and realized the man in my dream – who had looked like Kevin Spacey – was the villain in my 1939 historical thriller.

If you read my last post, you may remember that I was struggling to connect with my villain and make him a three-dimensional character. Somewhere in my dream, he came to life. My villain owns a large farm – a plantation – in 1939 Georgia. He is a successful businessman, but he has a strong sense of heritage. He would feel a love of his land. He would love the summer and the heat. He would go for walks in the woods with his hound dogs. To get into in his skin, I need to try to "do summer" – and maybe that's what I had realized before I fell asleep again and dreamed about him. Or maybe deciding to embrace (well, at least, try to occasionally enjoy) summer allowed me to find the link that was missing between my character and me.

Cullen (that's his name) would stand outside during a thunderstorm enjoying the lightning display and the rain soaking him to the skin. Ain't going that far! But I'm beginning to understand the pleasure that he takes in nature and his senses.

And that leaves me with my sweet, gentle protagonist. My hero, who is still as much of a mystery to me as my villain (sorry, make that my anti-hero, or hero to himself) was. But if I've find the core of one of them, I'm sure the other will come. I just hope my hero isn't a winter guy. I can't wait until January.

Okay… I was typing that when I realized maybe he is. He grew up in the South, too, but maybe he wasn't a boy who took to nature. Picked cotton and hated getting sweaty and sticky. But never liked jumping into the creek, looked first. Used to be teased about being a "sissy" by his friends. But a good-natured boy who took the teasing in stride. Read books and went to small Southern college. Now, a Pullman porter, who takes pride in his appearance in his uniform. Saving his money to go to law school, imagines himself in a courtroom. Never thought of himself as particularly strong or adventurous…

This could work. Maybe I should try writing the whole book when I'm sleep deprived and have stumbled to the computer. Or maybe I write better on my desk top than the laptop. Shucks! Does I need to replace my old desk top, too. It still works (I'm writing on it now) but it may not be up to a book.

All right, have breakfast out on my sun porch and think about this. And remember summer dreams can be good for my writing process…

1 comment:

Ivga Stark said...

I get your point, it's awesome! Don't hesitate to ask for help, they can make your life easier.