Cat Days of Summer

Gus has had it. It's hot. He's old. And he's waiting for the heat to break.

I feel sorta the same way, except that, unlike Gus, I've got tons to do in the midst of the heat. I can water the garden twice a week, and do. (We're still in the midst of a drought.) But mostly I stay inside in this heat and humidity, where I'm surrounded by projects.

The house needs putting back together after all the construction, and the papers that are stuffed into boxes (and that decorate my office right now) need going through so that they can make their trip to the University of Southern Mississippi (hey, y'all!), and the house needs cleaning and the novel is blasting strong (so of course all I want to do is sit with it and let it come and come and come), and yet there is so much administrivia and mail and paperwork to do, research is ongoing, and there are friends to visit (yesterday we celebrated Mahathi's 18th birthday), and lunches to make -- and it's too hot to cook, so here's lunch these days.

And, there are naps to take.

How do you choose what project gets done first? It's 7am as I start this entry, so watering gets done first. Then, a house to straighten, as friends Carl and Linda, from Maryland, come by today -- it will be so very good (look at those qualifiers! What's a better construction? TREMENDOUS -- it will be TREMENDOUS, STUPENDOUS!) to see them. It will nurture my missing-my-friends soul. Jim and I are jockeying for the favored position on the lunch menu ("I'll make lunch!" and "No, I'LL make lunch!" then, "We'll make lunch together!"). Neither of us is jockeying for any position in the clean-up that needs doin' around here. No problem; our friends come to see us, not our debris. I hope!

One of the advantages of being self-employed as a writer is I can shift my schedule around so I get to see friends when they are coming through town.

It's also one of the dilemmas.

Can you relate?

When I wanted to write essays, lo these many years ago, I read essayists, especially those who wrote about families hugging their knees as they wrote, because that was my situation. I read a great book by Marjorie Holmes (now out of print) called WRITING ARTICLES FROM THE HEART: How To Write & Sell Your Life Experiences. (Look! It's a dollar at Thrift Books! I have purchased much of my sixties research from Thrift Books.)

I keep my dog-eared, underlined copy on my personal canon shelf. Marjorie Holmes wrote personal essays for McCall's, Family Circle, Woman's Day, Readers Digest and more, and she wrote this book to tell me how to do the same.

"Keep a notebook," she admonishes on page 22. Ha!

Not all her advice is relevant today. On page 151, under "How To Get Along With Editors" she writes:

"Submit only clean, double-spaced, original typewritten copy on good, white paper. Never use erasable bond or colored paper or onion skin. Never submit carbons or photocopies."

Well... it's relevant in spirit.

But the reason I pulled this book off the shelf this morning is because, even though I feel like Gus these hot summer days, I have lots to do and lots of deadlines breathing hot air down my neck. And I want to be reminded of what Marjorie says about getting it all done, on page 158:

"Sooner or later, writers or would-be-writers have to face the fact that the world will simply not ever stop to let us write."

Amen, Sister, Amen. Marjorie outlines a six-step plan to help with the fallout from this truth. Number 5: "Be patient with interruptions. Do everything you can to keep them at a minimum, but stop fighting back when they occur. It only wastes valuable emotional energy and time. Spare yourself and everyone else by maintaining an attitude of stoic but cheerful acceptance. Then get back to work and do the best you can."

Haha! This always makes me laugh out loud. Oh, my. Is my staff an interruption? Are friends? Birthday celebrations? Watering the garden? Children? Making lunch? It depends on how you look at it. I prefer to think of it as the Stuff of Life, and I try to embrace it all.

I have had to learn this, though, and I continue to learn it on days like today, when, after priming the writing pump for weeks, writing forward and back, uncovering and discovering Franny's story, talking with editor Kara and uncovering even more (whew!), this 1962 novel, the first in the Sixties Trilogy, is itching at my fingertips for attention during this morning's writing time, and I'm going to be busy -- happily so -- with the lovely blessing of friends and family. I won't even have to be stoic. I am going to fall right into this day with great gladness and rejoicing for whatever it brings me.

And then, as Marjorie advises, I will get back to work.

Life cannot be contained and organized in little boxes. We really wouldn't want it that way -- would we? Life is a messy glory, as Uncle Edisto says.

I know you know what I mean, yes?

Here comes a day like no other. Bring it on, I say, bring it on. But let me water the garden first...

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