A couple of years ago, I came across the "School Days" book of my childhood. You know the type. Each page has a pocket for putting report cards into. There are lines for filling in things like height and weight and What I Want to Be When I Grow Up. The pages look like this.

(gender specific much?)

I must have gotten mine in the first or second grade, because the retroactive filling in of blanks matches my writing from those years. And when I went back in time, I filled in second grade and first and Kindergarten with a tidy little X in the box next to the blank. On the blank, I wrote, "author."

It's been a lifelong dream, writing has. It's a think I have always wanted to get good at. When we were in high school, and had a Career Day, and heard from such visiting Career people as the longtime Portland newscaster, Mike Donahue, and the author, Walt Morley, I still wanted it. I remember which classroom -- which desk -- what he looked like when he said it. "If you want to be a writer, do two things. Write every day. Write everything. Read a lot, and then write some more. But mostly, live your life. Living your life will give you something to write about."

So that's what I've been doing. I've been writing and I've been living. It feels as if I have been gathering baskets of fibers. All different kinds. I didn't like what was in the Education basket, and so I went back to school and got a different Bachelor's degree (accredited this time), and then a Master's. These fibers are tough as well as beautiful. 

I have things in the Meta-metaphors basket, and smaller baskets ranged around that one, various baskets that hold the smaller metaphors, down to the word level, sorted into type and color so that I can twist them together before they go into the loom. 

I have things in the Philosophy and Religion basket, and things in the Health of Body and the Health of Relationships baskets. There are only a certain number of these baskets. Not many. There used to be more of them, but I've consolidated and weeded and given things away and made fires of some stuff to get rid of it forever. I've been gathering. Gathering. Gathering.

And now I'm ready to weave.

Bookstore. Writing. Home arts. Prayer. Bookstore. Walking. Writing. Prayer. Bookstore. Writing. Home arts. Prayer. Strength training. Take a hike. Cook a feast and clean up after it. Bookstore. Writing. Home arts. Prayer.

The clatter of the loom as the fabric becomes real is the sound of the life with which I clothe myself now.


The Week Will End in Lights

Something happens when I post in this blog.

I've tried other blogs, but nothing happens there. (There are a lot of them. They're like space junk from all my other explorations, and now they just orbit my planet. One of these days I'm going to take a big bucket and get out there to clean up my atmosphere.) Long ago, when I started it, I said I wanted to go back to school. Now I've got a (second, accredited this time) bachelor's degree and a master's degree to go with it. I said back then that I wanted to be able to navigate the transition from having kids in the house to not having kids in the house. Check. There's just something about telling everyone in the whole interwebs that I've got these plans and hopes and dreams -- something about telling them -- it feels like this.

(From Disney's Fantasia, if you can't quite place it.) The idiotic little mouse is pretty pleased with himself in this scene. In the narrative, this turns out to be a good example of foolish optimism.  Hubris. Getting too big for your britches.

But the truth is that it's also a good example of Try It. Sometimes the Try It ends up like this,

 ... and sometimes the Try It ends up like this.

That last one -- the, "oh crap!! Now what?!" one -- it can happen.

But I don't think it's going to this week. I am not alone on this one. I have a partner. And I think this week will end in lights.

Lights around the front windows, and in the windows there will be books. Bookends. A Christmas tree. And we'll be readying the invitation to come on in to North Bank Books, and look around. We'd like to introduce ourselves. We plan to be here for a good long time.

Lights in the ceiling. We will by then have discussed (for the twenty-eleventh time) what on earth we're going to do about the fact that the entire thing, the horrid drop ceiling tiles and all, is painted black. We might checkerboard it. We might leave it until spring. We just don't know. But the black track lights up there will all be lit.

Lights at the front, at the sidewalk, on the posts, wound through greenery, twinkling in the early evening's darkness in December. Lights and ribbons bows and greens, tied down with an abundance of intention because this is the Gorge and the Gorge has wind.

We're scrambling. Stevenson, Washington, has its annual Christmas in the Gorge festivities at the end of this week. (The fire truck with lights is from the (optimistically named) Starlight Parade -- even though water and cloud cover is a lot more likely at this time of the year.)

This year, we won't be open yet, but we will almost be. This year, while everyone's in town to walk the shops and see the sights, at North Bank Books we'll be adding our lights where everyone who passes by can watch us. Inventory won't be done yet. The final touches won't be on. We'll still be getting ready, but we'll be smiling and waving at passers by while we arrange the displays because North Bank Books is about to make its debut.


Black Friday

Like a barely contained classroom full of energetic middle schoolers, America roars back to life today. I know this because my email inbox is overflowing with the shouting, tap-dancing, jumping up and down of "Sale! Sale! Sale!" We Americans could barely stand it that for one day when we all had to come inside and talk nicely to each other. Mind our manners. Be whatever version of Norman Rockwell models we could tolerate being, and pretend we care more about community than we do about commerce.

And some of my friends really do care more about the family at the feast than they do about Black Friday's doorbusters and good deals. I know this because my Facebook feed is full of really great pictures. My friends are lovely people. Their days looked a lot like this.

My 2017 Thanksgiving Feast held fewer people. It needed to this year. 

This year, to own the truth, I set a somewhat bad example for the good home-and-family-minded people. While the turkey cooked, I went down the hill and used my key to the store. Our store. Mine and Meg's. I took with me the only family member who could be pried loose from the house, and we stood in the space and looked at the leftovers from the previous tenants and figured out what needs to happen next. It's disagreeable. It's exciting. It's the mess in the kitchen after someone else's experiments. It's the place where we're really going to cook.

What is that wall made of? Where does that gas line go? Why is that outlet poked so far out into the room? Where can the wifi come from?

In the post right before this one I said North Bank Books would be coming to Stevenson in 2018, but in the time since I told you the plan -- in the days since that long-distant day (a whole nine days ago) -- one of the best spots in town came available, and we decided to jump. 

There will be a bookstore in Stevenson
by the middle of December, 2017. 

I got back to the house yesterday in time to take the turkey out of the oven before it was incinerated. I seared the Brussels sprouts and balsamicked them. I melted butter in 1/2 & 1/2 and poured it on the potatoes someone else was mashing and threw in some salt, and I made flour-free gravy from the pan drippings and the backbone and giblet broth. I made a huge cookery mess. And we feasted. And we enjoyed each other's company. Me, the Great Husband, the Son, and the Uncle. Four people, enough food for twice as many, and some good wine. 

And all the while I sat and talked and laughed, while I whipped the cream for the pumpkin experiment, while I made some more coffee, my brain was buzzing, humming, acting like a crazed email list sender. Coupons. Ads. Where shall we put the Brown Badger books?

I still loathe Black Friday sales and the commercial insanity of our wealth-worshipping country. I am NOT going to be leaving the house today or any other Friday after Thanksgiving to join a line outside a store so I can get my piece of the holiday scraps cheap. I don't want to earn my own Good Customer merit badge. And when North Bank Books is up and running, we probably won't be open the day after Thanksgiving. 

But I bet we'll be in there. Me and Meg. Putting holly and ivy on the dragon. 


Short-Haired Girl ~ A Manifesto

It was the 70's, and everyone had a Wedge or feathered bangs or the Farrah Fawcett shag. There was a LOT of hair everywhere. Hairspray too. (This may explain some of the political decisions taken in the 80s and 90s. Hairspray might do something to gray matter. Somebody should do a study on it.)

Anyway, I did NOT have a lot of hair. Like, ever. My whole life, my head has sprouted only fine, straight-ish, mostly reluctant hair -- much more Twiggy than Charlie's Angels.

See? Big difference. No way Twiggy hair will ever respond to hot rollers or even to perms. I know this to be true. I tried. 

So, back then, when I was underage and stuck with Twiggy down to my waist and Sophia Loren below it, I rebelled. Not against The Man, or my parents, or anything like that. That seemed a little stupid to me. I rebelled against my peers. 

Fine, I said to myself. Fine. They've all (yes, all) got lots and lots and lots of hair. So I'll cut mine off. This stupid hair was short when I was a kid, and I'll wear it short again. They've all got platform shoes? I'm wearing ballet slippers. I don't need the extra height anyway. ("Short People Got No Reason" -- this song was written just for me.) I will not wear tight jeans. I will not gossip. I will not be cooperative. (I will not be invited to a lot of parties.)

My peers didn't even notice, really. (This didn't occur to me until much later.) No on was knocking, asking to come into the otherwise empty classroom at lunch to get in on the arguing session I was having with Greg. For fun. There wasn't a lunch room in our school, so all the kids were eating in classrooms, and Greg and I would find an empty one, take our lunches, and argue. Debate. Pace and gesticulate and find the weird, geeky, brainy mind-flirting we both liked a lot better than the options that involved actual, physical, personal space.

Anyway, here I am, forty years later, ready to rebel again. Other people make New Year's Resolutions, but I like the French idea of September's being the second new year, and it's in the fall that I like to find mottos (not resolutions) for navigating the coming months. This year's idea didn't come to me until October. And today, in the middle of November, on a day when my hair feels particularly short and my arguing brain particularly spoiling for a fight, a whole manifesto of anti-pop-cultural ideas for the year tumbled in. Here they are.

Short-Haired Girl ~ A Manifesto

1. Think Inside the Box
My life has categories. These categories matter to me, and I'm tired of filling my life with what doesn't matter. This is the year to say no to anything that doesn't fill the boxes I want to keep.

2. Stop Multi-Tasking
Research shows that there is no such thing anyway. The appeal of multi-tasking is its ability to distract from what really matters and replace it with noise and bother.

3. Don't Play to Win
Play to play. A writing practice, and a religious practice, and a music practice, and a cookery practice ... these things are for practice. The practice is the thing. There's no awards ceremony.

4. Use the Power of Negative Thinking
Gretchen Rubin calls this making the positive argument.

5. Do Follow the Leader
But choose the Leader you follow. This year, my Leaders are Mark Sisson, the American Bookseller's Association, St. Hilda of Whitby, and all the working writers I know. My leaders are assisted by podcasters, dead writers I know, and as many miles of walking as I can manage to walk.

This is my second manifesto. Writing manifestos is another thing I got from Gretchen Rubin. Manifestos help me think. And here, within the next few months, I hope to be thinking and blogging mostly about two things: 
  • North Bank Books, the new bookstore opening in Stevenson, Washington, in 2018;
  • and my own professional writing career, which, so far, has consisted of almost nothing. 
I'll be working on these things, and blogging about them, in short hair.


Wet Edge

Behind the chair in which I'm sitting, the wall is made of century-old beadboard, newer beadboard in another style, oriented strand board, and plywood. The paint is Rice Paper (cream colored), with patches of various shades of yellow and a blue -- squares, rectangles, blotches where I've been color testing, literally, actually, for years. I've got artwork hanging on that wall. There are bookshelves filled with DVDs on that wall, and the pellet stove, and the lamp table, and the comfy chairs.

As of a few weeks ago, I turned my back on that wall and now face the wall with the chosen buff shade of yellow behind the TV on its cabinet. A finished wall that wraps around an interior corner and encloses new bookshelves with glass doors. There are candles on top. Icons on the wall above. And the clock that used to hang in the Stevenson train station ticks away the century, as ever.

I started this blog before I went back to school in 2008. In the decade since, I've gotten a (legitimate, accredited) degree (unlike my first one), and added an MFA to that. I've been painting patches on unfinished walls, and I've been starting up blogs for the sake of a writing course, for the sake of a new identity, for the sake of trying one more thing. Is this the thing? Is here my voice? Are here my readers?

And then, this morning, on my daily walk, all at once, the idea of working at the wet edge swam into my mind's view and I knew it was time to come back here. Back to my own Recollected Life. Start the painting again, right at the edge where I just used my roller. Start again where I left off before. I'm not making anything new. I'm finishing what I've already started.

I want to tell you about some stuff. I want to recollect, collect, collect again, and hear from people who are reading what I write. I started here and said, "I want to go back to school." And then I did that. I said, in print, online, in front of God and everybody, "I want to find a way to go back to work." And I did that too. I said, "I want a shop in Stevenson." Now that's on its way. It's going to be a bookstore. I said, "I want to be a writer." It's time to work on that. I'll be telling you here how that goes.

This blog is where I'm going to start again to recollect my life. Also, the wall behind this chair is finally going to be refinished. Soon. I mean it.