Saturday, November 5th, all nerves but excited at the prospect, I shared my first public reading with Cameron Acosta.
We were in a lovely place to accomplish that. The Artworks Community Gallery, its walls covered with beautiful paintings,
is devoted to the promotion of local and national artists. Their mission is a worthy one ~ bringing together local artists and community members along with those from elsewhere to inspire and encourage their many various works, claiming “Art is a means by which a community develops for itself a medium of self expression and interpretation.”
In their tiny white walled, wood floor room they have perfectly utilized the space to include many exhibits of fine art, photography, ceramics, jewelry and public readings. I consider myself fortunate to be included in one of these special events.
Cam and I were introduced by Lee Dunnavant, co-owner of the gallery and instrumental in
bringing these events together with her own special brand of expertise and Mar Preston, prolific author of six murder mysteries and four others on Writing Your First Mystery.
Cam was the first to read her novel, The Art of Surprise, an engaging romp into the business world of event planning by two identical but disparate twin sisters and how they resolve their differences with a unique twist on party planning. At times funny, it always engages the reader to follow the unexpected problems and the turns they take while the sisters engage in their sibling rivalry.
I found it an interesting coincidence that my novel, Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow also involves identical twin sisters albeit with their own unique differences and with very dissimilar problems to solve.
I read from both of my books, Maggie’s Shadow and my recently published novel, Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow. Prior to the event, I had decided to try and use different accents for my characters. Maggie’s Shadow was easy in that I could quickly switch my own English accent to another more strident one for Norma, the vituperative mother. For Elena, the insightfully wise elderly woman in Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow, I had no clue what an English speaking Romanian would sound like but
discovered a new resource for information by accessing YouTube, the video sharing website and found what I was looking for. Acting, though, is definitely not something I can comfortably do being far too self conscious with the fear I would forget my words and freeze. Reading from my own books, however, was a different matter ~ the words were my own and in front of me and I loved playing the roles of the characters I had created.
The evening was a success. Both Cam and I were congratulated as everyone gathered around, drank wine and coffee and nibbled on the chocolate chip cookies I had made and brought earlier. I met with friends and neighbors from my community along with people with whom I was unacquainted to then become friends and if they happen to read this blog post I’d like to thank everyone again for coming. And thank you, Lee and Mar, for making it all possible. I’m really looking forward to the next reading, wherever that may take place, and perhaps in the meantime practice speaking with more accents.
It’s fall and a rare thing to observe in Southern California but I live in the mountains with seasons. After I moved to Santa Cruz determined never to return to the West Valley, it was one of the primary reasons for coming back to this otherwise heated and dry area. Here, in the Los Padres National Forest, despite hot summers, the rest of the year is worth waiting for. I tolerated the few months of heat with a ceiling fan and drawing the shades to help maintain the overnight drop in temperatures but now I can enjoy what I moved here for. The leaves of deciduous trees are turning rich colors of reds and golds and as the leaves expose more of the branches they form a myriad of glorious patterns that will become white with snow in the forthcoming months.
My sages and other perennials are beginning to fade ~ no longer bearing the vibrant colors they’ve had during the summer. Some of my cold tolerant plants ~ gingko, lilac, chives, oregano and thyme will live through the winter into spring. Chives, one of my hardiest plants is beautiful with its white blooms and when they die back into soft, wafer thin brown
petals clasping hundreds of little black seeds, they assume another kind of beauty. Closely related to garlic, shallots and leeks the leaves have a distinctive onion smell.
The evenings have become cooler and the first glistening of frost appeared on the roofs below me ~ frost that melts as the sun rises and warms the day. It’s a reminder that there will be days and nights where those more treacherous shade areas of the twisting S-curves of our mountain road in and out of town will conceal black ice along sections of the asphalt to throw the speeding and unsuspecting driver into a spin. On several occasions even with caution and studded tires I’ve skidded and spun out so heart stopping moments.
The container plants of my deck garden must be protected. The majority of those are frost tender and would never survive the winters here. Over the years I’ve become more efficient and learned to bundle them together against the
house under the eaves, then cover with frost blankets and
plastic. They don’t like being squished and since I can’t enjoy their greenery neither do I but they eventually emerge to greet the spring ~ not as sprightly as they might be in another warmer location ~ but alive and well. During those unseasonably warm days when the weather pretends it’s not winter, it’s one of my greatest pleasures to roll back the covers and let the plants breathe in the sunlight but when that disappears into colder late afternoon and evening to be tucked away again.
Temperatures can drop to 20°F here ~ even colder for neighbors a thousand feet higher than me ~
and a challenge to keep everything protected .When gale force winds howl around the house leaving downed trees and torn branches in their wake it’s not been unknown for me to creep outside ~ often in the dark ~ and literally rope everything down so that the covers are not blown away. From those earlier past experience when I was awakened at night with the covers flapping against the window or being hurled along the deck, I now make sure the covers are secured behind and underneath the containers then draped down and held with rocks.
Of course I would love to own a greenhouse. How perfect that would be but an unrealistic dream for the space and finances that I have. Resourceful thinking with plant frost blankets and plastic along with strategic placement is the solution. I’ve risen to the challenge and for the most part have saved and protected perhaps 99% of my plants.
The other challenge has been little critters that take advantage of the warmth. I’ve discovered untidy nests securely lodged in and among the branches where the plants become a readily available larder for them so if the plant doesn’t succumb to cold then being demolished by those small offenders availing themselves of a winter harvest is an additional threat. Often, during those warmer days of rolling back the cloths, I’ve had to reluctantly dislodge their homes and spray the plants with a hot pepper wax spray and hope that the squatters found somewhere else to survive.
I’ll miss the flowers, especially the hanging baskets of petunias and nasturtiums. And so will the hummingbirds that hover over them for the nectar. But that’s okay ~ as long as everything else survives I can trot off to the nursery in the spring for more annuals, uncover everything else and enjoy them all again next year.
I didn’t realize until I went into my files today, that the first draft chapters of Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow were started in June of 2013 with my research into the early days of the Venice Canals. This was while I was still at work on Maggie’s Shadow. It’s hard to believe that the seeds of the story took root over three years ago. I thought it was later than that and my files, with their dates, were undeniable. After that my timeline was typed up from the original scribbles on March 2015 with the first real chapter drafted in August 2015 and a template of the complete paperback end of September 2015. It’s good that my computer keeps better records than my memory. I was convinced it all started about January of last year.
Formatting, along with revisions and corrections, were ongoing with multiple drafts back and forth on my Lulu project page for both the paperback and electronic versions ~ and a crazy making time as I tried to keep things straight. The process of publication occupies a different mind think than the writing. During those months I was also working on the front page illustration and did two of them ~ one of how I visualized the house and blue
gate on a foggy canal day and, rejecting that, another of the hummingbird and Brunfelsia above. Painting for me is laborious and my creativity flows easier with words. I had the drawing board and water colors on my dining room table for weeks with reluctant hours sitting down to rework then trying to ignore what I had done in the event that I had perhaps ruined it in some way and had to start again.
During the writing of Belle’s road trip I was constantly researching motels and road stops as she might have seen them in 1993. I poured over Google maps of the drive cross country and was able to get an idea of how long each part of the journey would take her. It was as though I was on the road myself and thought it would be interesting to take the drive for real ~ but with my dog for company.
From having lived there years ago, I already knew Santa Monica and Topanga. Big Sur, too, still occupies a very special place in my heart and I return whenever I can. Before I started UCLA I spent several months of that summer working at Big Sur Inn. The Inn is still very much the same today as it was back then although now without its iconic and irascible owner Helmuth Deetjen and a great deal more of the beautiful wisteria that covers the side patios.
Nepenthe was another very favorite spot just up the road from there and the patio was and still is quite glorious with its location high on the cliffs with a view of the coastline that stretches for miles. So yes, I know why Belle would head up to Big Sur to gather her wits and reflect on what she was about. I’ve done it myself. It’s a place for renewal.
Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow was fun to write and I spent hours at my desk doing it. At times, though, it was a challenge but I’m pleased it’s finished and starting to establish itself in the world. I’m curious where it will find itself now that it’s left my hands and into those of its readers and book suppliers like Amazon.
Squirreled away in my little mountain house I don’t go out much. I’m a reader, writer, gardener and beader who, on occasion, meets a good friend for lunch ~ really long lunches where umpteen cups of coffee are poured and where the servers tend to change shifts. Other than telling us someone else is taking over and a gentle hint to pay the bill along with the tip, we’re generally left alone to chatter on.
I haven’t been to the movies in years, perhaps because of my location although more because it’s easier to rent a DVD so I watch those at home, usually with a cat on or by me and a glass of wine where she is not. The last film I saw was The Quartet. It was directed by Dustin Hoffman with Maggie Smith in the lead role as an opera singer past her prime who moves to a rather magnificent retirement home for musicians. The interest gathers as she, diva that she is, is wanted to join three of her ex opera stars ~ including her divorced and still bitter ex husband ~ in a Rigoletto quartet for the resident’s yearly gala performance and celebration of Verdi’s birthday. Maggie Smith is, of course, the incomparable Maggie Smith and a joy to watch but I digress. I didn’t intend to write any kind of review on either her performance or the film which were excellent, but instead to chat about my recent invitation to the Hollywood Bowl this week and one of those rare occasions when I actually went out for an event.
I was ambivalent about going. I tend to prefer symphonies or operas and the performance scheduled was for The Culture Club. I’d not heard of them ~ or at least didn’t remember who they were ~ until we were almost parked and I discovered that it was Boy George and his band. I’d heard of him and quite perked up at the prospect.
The evening became yet more intriguing when I was led to a table in the front row with the edge of the stage a few feet from where I was sitting. From then on it got even better. Perhaps this is a telling comment about me but I had no idea Boy George is the incredible entertainer he is. Charismatic, outrageous, funny and a great singer he and his band were perfect. Sitting where I was, I could see just how blue his eyes were and how they conveyed his own enjoyment as he got the audience to their feet and dancing wherever they were located . Including me. I even sang but then I’d also had a couple of glasses of wine so that helped but Boy George did the rest. His clothes, manner, makeup and irreverent humor invited the audience to have fun, stand up, join in, clap, sing and to dance. So we did.
I should do that more often. He was right! And perhaps I should get a little more creative with what I wear. That would mean, of course, leaving the house and I really do enjoy writing, reading, gardening and beading and for those activities I already look a little bizarre. Comfortable but odd. Maybe I’ll think of what I’ll wear the next time I’m invited out! Perhaps I should aim for a tad eccentric which would mean a more thoughtful version of what I’m wearing now.
Not sure why I chose to write about my worm composting bin but I love it ~ although that may sound extreme for worms ~ but I can post pics and always enjoy photographs with these blogs.
The container is small, black, circular and in it goes all the vegetable and fruit parings from the kitchen. Worms have to be fed.
It doesn’t smell and doesn’t attract flies ~ two things I wondered about when I first started. I’ve had it for perhaps nine or ten years now and hard to think it’s been that long.
First established on the deck under a huge Redwood in the Santa Cruz Mountains it was dismantled with the worms in a bucket to move here, almost four hundred miles south in the Los Padres Mountains.
Worms can’t get too hot or too cold although have found they can survive when the temps drop to below freezing or soar above 100F. But like any creature dependent on me, I endeavor to make sure they’re comfortable enough to survive.
With food they proliferate like crazy and my only regret is not having a real garden within which to release them. The unfriendly and rocky soil here precludes that so I have a raised veggie bed and containers instead.
The soil wasn’t as forbidding in the Santa Cruz Mountains and I grew many herbs and perennials releasing excess worms there. But deer nibbled their way through most veggies until I learned the hard way and discovered that Lavenders, different Sages, Rosemary, mints, chives and Lemon Verbena were ignored. Everything else needing protection was placed in containers on the deck.
Worms quickly disappear when there’s light and the lid is raised. They ease beneath the food stuff previously tossed and being worked on to a deeper layer beneath that into their castings. Remove that upper level of the bin to the one below and there they are ~ hundreds of pink, long, small and infant wrigglers doing what they do best and converting organic materials to a beneficial soil amendment~ called vermicomposting.
They eat any organic waste such as fruit and vegetables, coffee grounds, paper such as coffee filters and they like melons and pumpkins and go through my cantaloupe rinds no problem.
I generally cut the large pieces before I toss them into the bin because the food will break down easier since there’s more surface areas for the microbes to attack and it’s the microbes, as well as the scraps, that the worms consume.
No meat, dairy, grease and oil, though. No pet or human manure should be added because although worms will still consume these it attracts flies and other little predators anxious to share the feast.
The castings, or the manure of the worms, are thought to be the best soil amendment, and the nutrient content is in a form readily available to plants. Many chemical compounds are found in castings that promote plant growth. Nature works above and below ground and she has spent the life of this planet evolving such a wonderful symbiosis.
Earthworms don’t have eyes but receptor cells that are light and touch sensitive. Too much light they can become paralyzed and die as their skin dries out. No lungs, they breathe through their skin coated with mucus which must stay moist to allow the passage of dissolved oxygen into their bloodstream.
They have a sound — slight but audible as they chew their way through the soil and some worms, I’ve read, actually gurgle although I’ve yet to hear mine do that.
The only problem I have here is they are an attractant to bears and raccoons. Both love worms and the stuff they feed on. Local bears raid any fruit tree they find and enter any door or window they can access. They’ve been known to rip open a garage or car door to get into anything they consider delicious ~ human food or pet. I’ve had them meander onto my deck for the bird seed I keep in a container and watched one as its claws grasped the lid and hauled it over. The noise it made as it fell plus my presence at the glass door scared it away. Such a beautiful creature but seeing it a few feet away on the other side of the door was an adrenaline rush and I wished I had my camera.
I’ve read their sense of smell is so acute they can detect food from a distance of twenty miles. How true that is I don’t know but they can appear while one is unloading groceries and, as a consequence, I unload any attractant first before I move the rest of my groceries and supplies. I learned that Pine-Sol can disrupt their smell and now keep several large bottles strategically placed around my property. So far it’s worked despite my neighbors’ reports of sighting very close to where I live.
I’ve given serious thought to discontinuing my bin as a consequence, but as I accumulate my fruit and vegetable parings along with the coffee grounds each day I hate to throw them away and it always seems to me that I’m facilitating a process and returning them back to the original source. That’s more satisfying than disposing of vegetable wastes into plastic and tossed into a waste fill somewhere. I may not have a beautiful garden to release my worms into and I definitely don’t intend to advertise them for use as bait. That seems too cruel for worm and fish but I do give a bucketful every now and then to another appreciative gardener. Just knowing they’re there is a comforting thought. It’s a beautiful part of life I can observe happening a few feet away. And it’s something to write about and who knows, there may just be a perfect garden somewhere at some future time for all of us ~ me and the worms. In the meantime, I’ll just keep them happily munching while I dream on and for the most part do the majority of my gardening in containers and writing about it in my books.