It’s happening again. I feel lost in the present and afraid of the future so my mind is frantically flipping through the past. My body sits here in the sun. Birds chirp in the trees overhead. My fellow customers of the coffee shop chat with each other creating an incoherent bubbly sound that competes with the rush of traffic on the other side of the fence. Brilliantly colored flowers smile from terra-cotta pots placed haphazardly around the garden area. I can feel the chair beneath me supporting my weight. I can feel my feet resting on the brick pavement and feel the sun warming my back.
But I’m not really here at all.
The book lying open in my lap smells of age and the decay bibliophiles can feel in the back of their throats. I fly back in time to the old bookshop in downtown Mesa with the grumpy owner who sits behind the glass display counter. He grunts a hello after the bell above the door jingles my arrival. He doesn’t really care that I’m here and that is fine because I really don’t want to talk to him. I’m on a mission. Past the tall shelves of Arizona history, past the glass cabinet with a handful of first editions including Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of OZ, past the antique typewriter and the small replica statue of Rodin’s Thinker, lies my desire – the youth section. I need to find that last volume to complete my Anne of Green Gables series. It won’t actually be read – the first three books were dearest to my heart – but I want to feel the deep satisfaction of completion as I rest my eyes on their numbered spines.
But before I can reach the aisle a high, sharp scent hits my nose dragging me away from the bookstore then dropping me in the middle of my parents dinning room. Great white lilies cover every available surface, their pervasive scent stings my nose and threatens to suffocate me. I know my mother is lying in bed in the room across the house. I know she will need me to give her the pain meds soon and help her empty the drain tubes. The cancer was found early. For that we were all thankful. But she was still afraid and had both breasts removed anyway. Every minute after the first min – sitting in the doctor’s office staring at the sun forcing its way around the closed blinds listening to the doctor’s prognosis issue from her mouth in slow motion – was violent to me. Strings I never noticed before ripped apart from inside me as we waited for the doctor to emerge from surgery, as I brought her to every follow-up and reconstruction appointment, as I watched my dad try to help her when the meds wore off and her breaths came only through wet sobs, as I saw the scars trying desperately not to think about what loosing such an integral part of womanhood felt like. Enough, I cry. Enough! Please, bring me somewhere else!
The fates aquiesce and I am back in a garden. But it is a garden different from the one I began in. There is an old house with wooden shingles to my back and a two-story antique apartment to my right. I remember aching to climb the stairs to see what treasures were nestled behind the windowpanes. There is a mosaic of a teacup embedded in the brickwork patio and two halves of a teacup are glued to either side of the houses windows conjuring images of Alice stepping through the looking glass. Alice in Wonderland is of course the theme of this coffee shop taking residence inside this 1920’s bungalow. The place is brimming with bookshelves, tables, and mantels all overflowing with books and random antiques. There are far too many items to dust so the owner simply gave up and the whole shop now resembles Miss Havisham’s cobweb strewn wedding cake. I love this place in this moment in time. Here ghosts sip tropical iced tea while the elderly couple in the corner hold hands and the devoted Tuesdays and Thursdays types furiously on his laptop. Here I am safe, far from the cancer. Here I can hear my dreams again. Here hope isn’t faded but blooming and alive. Here my artist heart whispers of things yet to be created. It tells me that even though I can’t see the future, I can begin to create parts of it.
Something seeps down my arm – the warmth of the present. The bird’s songs continue to pull me back into my body. My iced tea is almost gone but I don’t remember drinking it. Today is a beautiful spring day in 2017. A good day to begin to create a future of hope.
Have you ever seen a mood board? It is a collection of photos, illustrations, fabric swatches, really anything an artist/designer finds inspiring when they are creating a project or body of work. I LOVE them! If I could I would have entire walls in my house dedicated various mood boards, but I’m afraid I ‘d look like a Jerry Fletcher so I confine my inspirations to apps in my phone. No one would worry about my sanity that way 😉
I have several collections of images representing a few of my developing characters. In her book, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott talks about spending time with your characters letting them develop as you talk with them. I’ve spent about two years with Jake. He’s a mysterious one, not willing to let himself be read in one simple sitting. I’m still learning about him but I wanted to share with you the fragments of him that I’ve discovered over that time. (Please, don’t hesitate to let me know if I’ve miss credited any of these photos)
Featured image credit: www.flickr.com/photos/nishe/23342780290/
It is 5:30 in the evening. I’m cooking tacos for dinner in my blue and white kitchen while my husband and little daughter play in the other room. I’ll be forty in a handful of years; a thought I keep trying to push away despite its persistent stubbornness. How did I get here, to this age? Have I done enough? Have I squandered my life up to this point? Doing my best to ignore the approaching milestone I flop a square of ground beef onto the steaming surface of the skillet. The meat crackles and spits hot oil. I close my eyes trying to calm the rising anxiety.
A familiar scent begins to drift up slowly winding around my head – browning meat. It makes me dizzy as it beckons to something forgotten lying deep inside me; my brain shifting from the present to memory then back again. The scent succeeds throwing me back through the years landing me somewhere in the 90’s.
Sun reflects off the surface of the pool water warm and bright. The sharp scent of chlorine hangs heavy on the hot air. My younger cousins are playing in the pool splashing one another. Soon they’ll get out and dry themselves by running around the small yard with blades of grass clinging to their wet feet. I squint against the brilliance of the day as I get comfortable on my grandma’s patio chair. She needs to replace these chairs; their weaving has frayed and the plastic arms have turned brown from the sun.
Two of my uncles are drinking beer while they barbecue burgers. Again, the meat crackles and spits. I can’t make out what they are talking about but it doesn’t matter. I wasn’t ever interested in the adult’s conversations that typically revolved around dissatisfaction with their marriages. Somewhere deep inside I believed love could be better than that. I’m glad I was right.
Smoke from the grill snakes its way up through the branches of my grandmother’s great orange tree. She told me once that my grandfather planted it for her back in the 60’s. My brother and I used to climb that tree when we were younger pretending the ground below was a flowing river of molten lava. I remember scuffing my new sneakers with the rainbow sunglasses against the bark, chiding myself for not taking them off before ascending into the leafy canopy. When I grew tired of the noise and bustle of the big family I would climb those branches up to the roof, clear away the piles of spiky dried up orange blossoms, and sit perfectly still listening to the birds sing their songs.
The sun shines pink through my closed eyelids. I’m wearing my favorite Roxy tee shirt with my taned legs tucked under me. Silky fuchsia petals of a hibiscus flower tucked behind my ear complement my long blond hair. I am a surf princess landlocked in the middle of the desert with dreams of riding waves with my California love. When I go back home today I’ll grab my beat up secondhand surfboard and practice in my own pool. So far I can get on the board, paddle, and stand for a few seconds. Those few seconds are pure bliss surpassed only by riding real waves in Maui on my honeymoon with the California love I did end up finding.
Sounds of laughter in the next room pull me back to 2017. The meat has burned in the skillet while I was away. But it doesn’t matter. My husband enters the kitchen smiling at the smoke hovering about our heads. He’s amused that I have been time traveling again. Tonight we’ll have pizza instead of tacos.
I’ve always been amazed at the way good books become a part of us, their stories and characters sinking into our memories somehow becoming real in that secret place.
During my college years I had a nagging feeling of not knowing who I was and attempted to find myself on the shelves of my favorite bookstore. Whenever the uncomfortable questioning feeling creeped into my heart I’d drive to my local Borders bookstore. As the glass doors glided open and the scent of paper mixed with brewing coffee surrounded me, the dread began to evaporate. The brightly colored book covers smiled at me beckoning me to them, “You’re in this one! Or maybe in this one!” I would drag my finger across the wooden shelves scanning the various spines while hope bubbled within me.
There were a few pieces of me hidden in Anne Shirley, Vianne Roche, Jane Eyere, and a hand full of others, but I never completely found my whole self. There was a story inside that I just couldn’t find on those beloved shelves. It gnawed at me for years yearning to become a reality until I found a quote by Carol Shields. She said, “Write the book you want to read, the one you cannot find.”
So I have decided to write it; the gnawing story that never went away bursting with old houses filled with spirits, brave and conflicted characters, seemingly unbeatable evil, and unstoppable hope.
But my mind is a very messy unorganized jumble. In an attempt to sort everything out I’ve started a Writer’s Notebook.
In this notebook I can organize plots, themes, characters, settings, and inspirational photos into designated folders. It is compact so I can work away from home. As I write this I realize a laptop could do the same thing, but I don’t have access to one…so…the Writer’s Notebook 😉
I’m already in love with my little notebook and am really excited to see what emerges from its pages!
Welcome to my first post on Gold Pages Blue Linen, formerly Stories from Within Cosette’s Garden! This new blog will be dedicated to my process of writing a book. I plan to share writings, memories, character developments, inspirational photos, and drawings related to characters and environments. I’m glad you could join me on this journey!