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Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

Month

September 2013

To the Woods

woods 2 “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

CAM00128My writing group spent this past week in a cabin in the Blue Ridge mountains of Georgia. I think we all went for the same reason as Mr. Thoreau. We, too, wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. Most of these women have families — spouses, children or grandchildren. But though we are a quilt of many different patchworks, a common thread unites us. Writing.

This might be my favorite group to travel with. Everyone knows what it’s like to travel with family or friends and find it difficult. Someone wants to see every sight right down to a museum exhibit on the history of local postage stamps. Other people don’t want to see anything but the backs of their eyelids. Some are early risers. photoSome like to stay in the hot tub till 2 a.m., drinking and talking. (I’m both, obviously.) The thing about this group is — for me, it’s like traveling alone, only better. How freeing to be with a bunch of women where there is no pressure or squabbling. To do exactly what you want to do, when you want to do it.

CAM00157At any given moment someone might be reading, someone else making dinner. Another two might be lost on a hike (literally) while someone else works quietly, watching the mist settle over the mountains. This was a writing retreat, so there was plenty of that, along with lots of appreciation for the beauty of words. What was more unexpected was the depth of comraderie and fact that I could be so relaxed and comfortable away from the comforts of home and my accessibility aids (i.e., special pole, shower bench, etc.) The cabin was advertised as accessible, but that was pretty much a joke. It took three people to help me negotiate the steep ramp, and two more to get me in and out of the shower or hot tub.

CAM00148But that’s the way this group is. Everyone supports and helps everyone else. I never once felt like I was putting anyone out. A rarity, since traveling with me comes with some unique challenges. There’s something wonderful about spending time with a group of people unlinked by family bonds or shared alma mater. People that come together, instead, over a common interest. Something important to us all.

I guess what I’m trying to say is — I found my peeps. May you find yours.cabin1

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Fall Cleaning

fileI’ve never felt more like a real writer than since I stopped writing.

Not really stopped, of course. I still write this weekly post, after all. But I stopped writing with the disorganized intensity that comes with writing a book. I can breathe again. The little black cloud that has been following me around for years — consuming all my thoughts, making me feel guilty whenever I did something, anything, else — has disappeared. I want everything to feel fresh and clean after the storm. It’s time to get organized.

It’s been feeling like Christmas morning lately. When the Office Depot or Office Max delivery truck pulls up, I get so giddy it might as well be Santa’s sleigh. I’ve been purchasing file cabinets, Manila folders and desk organizers. I admit it, the thought of establishing so much order makes me unnaturally happy. My mother’s unsolicited psychoanalysis of me is that I have a need to exert control over my surroundings. I say neatly labeled green and purple files are just pretty.

Besides, she does it too. She’s next door right now, surrounded by piles of books, separating them into piles to keep or give away. The closets are next. The difference, she would say, is that she has no delusions about why she’s doing it. Feeling a little down? Lacking a good night’s sleep? Something bothering you? Time to clean. I prefer to think I’m just a highly organized person. Mom would say I’m in denial.

Either way, writer or no, both sides of the house are looking pretty good. And, it must be said, there’s something very writerly about having a file marked “Ideas” in which to put unfinished stories, random thoughts or a beautiful sentence that comes to you at 3:00 in the morning. And when I’m ready to submit some story for publication, I’ll go to the file marked “Places to Submit.” That is, until the next book idea takes hold of me. The clouds’ll be building and the wind picking up soon now.

Benefits of Getting Organized

  • Save Time – How long does it take you to leave the house in the morning? Stop wasting time running around from one end to the other looking for misplaced items.
  • Save Money – Penalties for late payments is money down the drain. Planning a meal will save you money on expensive last minute take out and wasted groceries.
  • Reduce Stress – You’ll feel better about your environment and have more time for yourself or your family. Organization creates relaxation.
  • Increase Productivity – Perform with increased efficiency. Missed appointments or deadlines will be a thing of the past, leaving you better able to achieve your goals.

Birthdays

photo 3Today is my mom’s birthday. I’ll go ahead and relieve the suspence now– I’m not throwing her a surprise party. I made that mistake one year before finding out she hates surprise parties. She does like the attention to her birthday, I think. Perhaps just not that much concentrated attention.

Some people would rather forget the anniversary of their birth entirely. Why? We’re all so excited for our birthdays when we’re young. What happens? Remember, it’s not easy to get old, but there are far too many who never got the gift you have been given — the gift of growing older. Happy Birthday, Mom.

photo 4And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. ~Abraham Lincoln

There was a star danced, and under that I was born. ~William Shakespeare

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. ~ Mark Twain

May you live all the days of your life. ~ Jonathan Swift

m2_2There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval. ~George Santayana

Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative. ~ Maurice Chevalier

Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest. ~ Reverend Larry Lorenzoni

Everything I know I learned after I was thirty. ~ Georges Clemenceau

The heyday of woman’s life is the shady side of fifty. ~ Elizabeth Cady Stanton

photo 1Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age. ~ French Proverb

At twenty years of age, the will reigns; at thirty, the wit; and at forty, the judgement. ~Benjamin Franklin

Pleased to look forward, pleased to look behind,
And count each birthday with a grateful mind. ~ Alexander Pope

Very early, I knew that the only object in life was to grow. ~ Margaret Fuller

Unpathed Waters

dianaTo unpathed waters, to undreamed shores.

~William Shakespeare

So this week, I couldn’t get enough of Diana Nyad, the first person to complete a marathon swim from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida without a shark cage. I guess I’m a sucker for those kinds of feel good, “follow your dream”, “it’s never too late” stories.

If you paid attention too, you already know it took 110 miles (or 53 hours), she’s 64, and this was her fifth attempt. Her first try had been at the age of 28. The rest, after the age of 60. The dream never died. Laid dormant for decades, but never went away. I read one article (by Chris Erskine of the LA Times) that called her the High Priestess of the Land of Try-Try Again. I like that. I wish I’d thought of it.

Fall seven times, stand up eight. ~Japanese proverb

But I know about nagging feelings that won’t go away. I have one. I won’t call it a dream. Maybe just a fantasy. A daydream, really. I want to become fluent in Spanish. It’s comical I know, since oftentimes my English can’t be understood, but there you have it. And I believe if you have a dream, or a recurring, nagging something that won’t be forgotten, you probably should be doing it. I used to think I yearned to know Spanish because some sexy Latin lover was going to whisk me away to foreign lands. Now I think it’s more likely an adopted dog that only knows Spanish is in my future. The point is, I’ve added it to my to do list. I have a friend in her fifties, learning to play the flute. She just wants to. You don’t have to know the reason. There doesn’t even have to be a reason. Just start.

You should do whatever it is that calls to you. If you need more inspiration, check out Diana Nyad’s TED talk in 2011 which she ends by paraphrasing Mary Oliver. This led me to look up the poem, but first I’ll close with a quote from the swimmer herself. “You tell me what your dreams are. What are you chasing? It’s not impossible. Name it.”

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?”

~ Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems

New Routines

mornin1I wasn’t sure about my new neighborhood when I first moved in. I missed seeing the ocean every morning. I missed hearing the seagulls overhead. Frankie seemed to miss his dog buddies. We hadn’t met a lot of new dogs or their owners on our walks at Mom’s.

“How’s it going?” a friend asked me.

“I don’t know,” I sighed. “I might as well be in Mandarin.”

Now, don’t take offense if you live in Mandarin (or some other suburb of town). I’m not trying to pull a beach superiority complex on you. I just mean, I felt very far away. I moved half a mile down A1A, but when you don’t drive, it might as well be across town.

There were no more drop-ins at my friend Michele’s for coffee. No cruising down to the corner in my power chair for dinner out or a book signing. And no trips with Frankie to Jarboe Park to watch the ducks. Frankie and I did discover a park here, but all we can watch are the homeless people.

When I thought about my old morning routines, I felt sad. Then I thought about another, more major time of loss in my life. I compared the experiences and wondered. Is it possible I was more depressed about my move to Jax Beach than my move to a wheelchair? It sounds ludicrous yes, until you realize — it’s all about acceptance.

Everyone said I’d accepted my place in the disabled world quite well. I think I’ve figured out how. I mean, what choice did I have? Clinging to what might have been is no way to live. Spending the rest of my days woulda-coulda-shoulda-ing is not for me. And there’s the answer. I needed to let go of my past to be able to enjoy my present.

I had spent my first month here trying to enjoy my old routines. I could get to the ocean, but I hated crossing Third Street. I tried to make it to Michele’s, but it took so long now I had to leave by sunrise. And I knew better than to attempt to hit the corner spots for dinner unless I had a death wish.

When I stayed in my own neighborhood and developed a couple of new routes, we met some folks. We met Steve walking Sage, Larry with Luna, and Betty and Ed who don’t appear to have a dog, but drink coffee on their porch when we pass by around 7:45. The dogs, walkers and cyclists are fewer and farther between now, but they’re out here. It’s just taking longer to meet them. I’m trying to be patient. Frankie is beside himself when anyone stops to chat, especially with a dog. He’s dog-starved.

Of course, it helps me appreciate what I have when glimpsed through someone else’s eyes.

“It reminds me of the Keys back here,” said my friend Jamie, looking at the pool. “If I lived here, I’d be out here all the time.”

Waiting
Waiting

So I’ve started eating my breakfast out there. Bella and Frankie line up by the door every morning, part of our new routine. It’s ridiculous that they both wait for me to open the door when there’s a perfectly good dog door right there. But Bella, in true cat form, only uses it when no one’s looking. I know she’s figured it out, because she appears and disappears mysteriously. She probably doesn’t want to appear graceless or un-ladylike getting her rather portly body through the opening. I have no idea what goes through Frankie’s head or why he waits for me to let him out this one time when he flies in and out the dog door regularly.

So, I’m enjoying my mornings again. Only here, it’s chlorinated instead of salt water, cardinals instead of seagulls and retirees instead of twenty-something surfers. It all reminds me of a plaque that hangs in Michele’s garden, “Bloom where you are planted.” So, you know what? I’m blooming.

My breakfast buddy
My breakfast buddy

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