In the Midst of Life

My days are a whirling blur coalescing into weeks, months, seasons. Summer drags Orion across the sky, and I am wearing my favorite sundresses one last time before it is too cold. The nights are coming earlier, clouds are scudding in on winds that bring cooler air, and I am the sum total of everything happening at once.

I am still crafting “Fluffy,” the first book in my series. There is a coherence to the draft that was not there before, and that feels good. I believe that I am getting close to the true shape of the story, and I am trying not to fret over timelines, deadlines, or that fact that I don’t have a working title. Hopefully, when I come up with a title, it won’t sound like the name of a torrid romance novel like Stolen Climates does!

In addition to the novel, I am also working on a short story to be included in a speculative fiction anthology. I haven’t written a short in years, and those were all “literary.” My plan is to take an older story, amp up the spec and tone down the lit. Ironically, the story does have a working title, and it contains the word “goat.” Hence my inclusion of what would be an otherwise random photo of a goat:

Goat Song for a Joshua Tree

I’m reading Fate’s Mirror by M.H. Meade, and loving it. This is the best piece of sci-fi I have read in a very long time, and I encourage any of you who enjoy the genre or are interested in what the world might look like when network-born sentience arises to get this book! The philosophical issues raised by Fate’s Mirror turn out to be a fitting companion read for my efforts in writing “Fluffy,” which has also features a non-traditional consciousness.

The next book on my To Read List is an ARC of Hunter Shea’s upcoming novella, Swamp Monster Massacre. I’ve been a fan of Hunter’s writing since I read Forest of Shadows, and I am thrilled to announce he has invited me to participate in his blog tour to launch Swamp Monster Massacre. Look for my review in the first week of October… which also happens to be the first week of my favorite month of the year!

When I’m not reading or writing, I’m giving zazen a try. I have a longstanding moral affinity to Buddhism, and a lapsed meditation practice I am attempting to revive. I joined the Urban Zen meetup for my first time last Monday, and I cannot tell you how alert, connected, and peaceful I felt after the session. I have a long way to go in terms of posture and mental control during meditation, but it feels great to be finally (finally!) making an effort to discover more about meditation. With only a week of practice, I already feel more centered within the maelstrom of fast-moving daily life – a Very Good Thing!

And, when I’m not writing, reading, or meditating, I am trying to learn the stars. Mr. Aniko and I walk the dogs before the sun comes up – a necessity for most of the long, hot Texas days. I have developed a habit of noticing what I see, and then, if I can’t identify it and I notice it multiple days in a row, to look it up in Stellarium. The night sky, which I always treated as a static entity, is remarkably dynamic. It changes with adroit stealth, bringing me a new stars almost daily. Sirius was a pleasant surprise, winking blue and red with such intensity Mr. Aniko and I were fooled into thinking it must be man-made. Ah, the hubris!

Finally, I’d like to thank a few of the people who made this week special for me:

  • Edward Lorn: Surprised and honored me by writing a post explaining how I inspire him.
  • Lindsey Beth Goddard: Hosts the Author Interview Corner, which has amazing interviews and which also scored me a signed copy of her new book, Quick Fix: A Taste of Terror!!
  • Mr. Aniko: Insulated the roof of my Mazda3, giving me a quieter ride and better protection against the hot, hot sun. He also cooked dinner and breakfast every day to help me find time to fit in everything else I’m trying to do. Mr. Aniko, I love you!
  • Mo & Poppy: Who sent me postcards from their vacation, which was both thoughtful and made checking my mail fun!
  • Eric and Ivey (Urban Zen organizers): Welcomed me to their sangha with kindness and openness.
  • Greg and Rickey: Who encouraged me to have confidence in myself.
  • Brad: For being the person at work who makes me smile.

Xoxo,

-aniko

Lollypop Tongues

This has been a year of reeling.  I’ve learned that it isn’t only the bad times that knock me down and shake me up, but the good ones, too. No sooner do I get my feet under me, take a few carefree steps when BOOM! – something else comes out of nowhere. The year is dense with overload, bristling with good and bad things like lurid lollypop tongues. It isn’t a bad year or a failed year or even a grieving year. In many respects, 2012 may be one of my most accomplished years, one full of opportunities, revelations, and surprising detours. It is a year of change.

blue lolly oceanAnd that’s not any kind of year for a stability junkie.

Or is it?

The shifting landscape of my life has forced me to find a calm center that isn’t based on any illusion of control. In the past, my days were ruled by an unwavering agenda. I ran my life like a tight ship, never straying from my course or getting stuck in the doldrums. Small upsets to my schedule made me anxious and fearful. I was inflexible in the weirdest of ways, and continually insisted on doing things that didn’t need to be done simply because I had them scheduled. It took decades for me to learn that life isn’t a boat, and I’m not a captain.

Life is an ocean. Beautiful-terrible, mercurial life! It is the last thing you were ever expecting it to be.

My prissily planned days were an artificial representation of the ocean of life. Sure, you can eliminate unnecessary complexity in calculating forces by assuming all horses are shaped like spheres. The rude fact is that horses are not spherical, and that forces aren’t always easily calculable. Years like this one make me aware that no matter how tightly I pin down one dimension of the equation, there are more variables I hadn’t accounted for popping up elsewhere. I’m finding this in my WIP. It started as a book, expanded to a triology, and is now projected to be a five book series. A series! I am in the second revision of the first book and the draft is … tumescing. I’ve added an additional twelve-thousand words, shutting down any hopes of writing a slim novella. And I’m not finished with the edit, which means that this book, like life itself, is going to keep me reeling.

I mentioned a calm center, but I don’t find them in these frenetic, strange words sparking in their own tinder-boxes of potential. The calm is here, though. All the time, right here.

To reach it, I had to abandon myself to the incalculable tides of fate. The waves stole my flip-flops, the undertow dragged me down. Down, down into my core. At first, it was incredibly hard to sit still quietly with myself. Panic was a threat, an intense urge to make lists was a threat, loud music and cold beer were welcome threats to the simple act of surrender. Yet in the quiet of my core, away from the spinning wheel of the daily, that is where I find true, unchanging peace. Moment to moment, I can go there and be free of what plagues me. There are such bad things, and some such good things, that shift my entire sense of self into a new spectrum of understanding, loathing, or loving. Those are the times the center is needed. Of course, those are also the times when I box in the asshole in the Beemer or snap at the nice guy from IT (and one should never, ever under any circumstances snap at the nice guy in IT!). The discovery of calm hasn’t made me perfect, but it has made me more aware of when I have spun out into the tempest. To go to my center focuses me. The stillness of calm gave me the strength to get out of my Ambition Room, the empowerment to define my own ‘All,’ and access to the conduit that sends me the stories I write.

The calm isn’t contingent on the world or reality. It is untouched by the whirlwinds of tragedy and triumph. It is within me, and it is my grace.

 

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