Big Wind and Bones

Here is Elvis-Andy-Bebop, or Elvis-Bebop-Andy, I'm not sure which. He is spending as much time with my son Jason these days -- more -- than he is with me, so I guess I have become a grandma, but I don't mind. I love being a grandma, actually, and I am spoiling ol' Bebop for all he's worth. Sorry, Jason.

Here stands Elvis, attentive at the red screen door, gazing intently out at the whoosh of activity in the front yard brought on by the Big Wind that's blowing through Atlanta today.

It's gorgeous here. Overcast, because a front is coming through. The wind crescendos up up up and high high high and every tree sways in a thousand frenetic directions, giving up leaves to the loud dance of the wind, and the leaves swirl everywhere, up and down and about, falling, falling, and the birds SING OUT! and the chipmunks call to one another, and the squirrels skitter up the trees, and the wind comes down again, like an out-breath, an exhale, and the birds dash to the feeders, Cleebo the cat gets ready to pounce unsuccessfully once again, and the puppy watches all this from his position just inside the front screen door.

He has been out many, many times already this morning and has exhausted himself. Soon, I predict he will collapse in a heap on the old quilt he sleeps on and snore himself into a two-hour nap. Then I will get some real work done. Or not.

It appears I am a Big Wind, a "sound and fury signifying nothing" these days. Yesterday I blithely detailed for you what my Saturday would be like, and it was nothing like that, nothing at all like that. I did not make gingersnaps for Belinda. I did not work in the yard. I did not epitomize that model of the working writer that I aspire to... ...

... but I did write. I did discover. I did ... nap. Big time. The big wind was half the size of today's wind, but still, with the doors open and the outside coming in, I was too tempted to crawl between the covers and snooze myself through a Saturday afternoon. So I did. Oh, the deliciousness!

Not so long ago, early October Saturday afternoons were for soccer games and kids with friends over at the house and a thousand peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and yard work and shopping for shoes or back-to-school. Delicious as well, just a different taste.

My life has changed. My writing and writing habits have changed, too.

The last years that I lived in the house in Frederick, Maryland, I used to rise, without fail, at 4am and write. Now it's more like six, and even seven and eight... but I have the day ahead of me in a way I never had it before. I have had children since I was 18 years old. I am 55 and still have children, but they are all grown, and most are on their own. I wrote with children underfoot for 25 years, and now I write with the ever-changing tides of my household surrounding me.

I can nap on a Saturday afternoon, too, for which I am profoundly grateful. Last night I finished a new chapter four. Today I am entering known territory -- I have a good chunk of the previous revision in front of me, and I am going to see how well I can tie these well-known and loved pages into the new chapters I have written, and vice versa.

I pray that the old stuff doesn't have to go, but I can already see that much of it will. I have already killed one darling, and more may be advancing toward the guillotine. Still, the bones of my novel feel intact, growing. I need to make sure, at this juncture, that all my current story sinews connect to the bones of my novel.

I look at Elvis-Bebop-Andy this way. He is All Leg. Growing, connecting, discovering, figuring out his world, and all the while those bones are stretching and lengthening and growing, in their natural progression. I want my novel to feel just that organic... I want it feel just-so, just-right, and totally, completely of-a-piece.

So today will be about the bones. Structure. How's it coming together as a whole, this novel? I'm going to spend time with the novel in a big-picture way today. I may not write forward (revising, shaping, adding, cutting), but I will understand what I've got, I hope. I will look at my overall arc, and it will be like standing back, taking a breath, seeing where I am at this point, after adding this new material right to the front (and having ripped out the old).

It's Sunday. Jim and I have an undeclared but official date-day on Sunday afternoons. We will likely go... out. Or maybe we'll nap. It's the one afternoon we usually have at home together where neither of us gigs. We actively nurture our relationship on Sundays. I will passively nurture this novel, as we get out and about in the Big Wind that is Atlanta today.

Maybe I'll make those gingersnaps, too.

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