Showing posts with label conversation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label conversation. Show all posts

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Conversation Under The Maple # 6


"Potato skins,” said Harvey, coming from the kitchen where he had heated his treats under the broiler. "Red potatoes from Liz with cheese, green onion, and sour cream to dip. And Ollie, there is a bag of potatoes on your counter for you to make the potato salad for next Sunday. The kids agreed to come since I set the date and didn't give them a choice. They'll be driving down from Seattle and Portland."


"Great, Harvey," said Ollie, "you guys are so creative with the snacks. Is this a competition?"


"For me, it was a slam dunk. I used the inside of the potatoes for hash browns."


Everyone dived in. 


"Yum, these are perfect, Harvey, thanks," says Sally.


After everyone had eaten a stuffed potato skin and settled into their seats with a drink, Twinkie pulled a canvas bag from beneath her seat. "Ollie, I brought you something." She pulled a 6-inch glass orb from the canvas bag. "It's a fishing net float I made last Saturday, primitive by professional standards, but my first piece worth sharing." She held it out to Ollie. "It’s for inviting us into your lovely home. And for being the gracious hostess, you are."


"Oh my, Twinkie," says Ollie, gently taking the glass ball. "It's beautiful. Your blues and greens are exquisite," she turned it around in her hand, "and there's a bit of purple, "How'd you do that? You are an artist! I see there's a little loop. I will hang it in my kitchen window. Thank you so much. I am honored." 


Ollie swishes her white caftan aside, and with her gold dangling earrings flashing in the sunlight, she sits the glass ball in the center of the table. "Simad," she says, "We sent you off with little help last week."


"Truth be told, I ran off because I was embarrassed. I was complaining."


"No, Simad, you told us how you felt," Ollie explained. "That's different from complaining. As much as we would like it, life isn't always rosy. Our experiences are what they are. Remember, we're here to support and encourage."


"Then figure out what in the hell is wrong with me."


"You know what?" says Shal, "Stuckness like you are having means you are onto something big."


"You think so?"


"Well, the closer you are to the truth, the more the monster resistance will jump on you. It's inescapable. It is always there. It is not your fault. You can't kill it."


"Whoa, that's encouraging."


"But you can trick it."


"Shal, where do you get these things?"


"Well, for one, I read Steven Pressfield's Do the Work. One exercise is this: He took it from Patrica Ryan Madson's book Improv Wisdom. Madson was an Impro teacher at Stanford, and one of her exercises was this: Imagine you have a box. What's inside? You open it, and there is a frog, a book, or a clock inside. No matter how many times you open the box, something will always be inside. 


"Pressfield wrote, 'I believe with unshakable faith that there will always be something in the box. Ask me about my religion? That's it. That's how I approach my work. My brain will always give me an answer.' Guys," says Shal, "that's my religion, too."


Simad was silent thoughtful, one hand stroked his chin. 


Ollie said: "Why did you start writing in the first place, Simad?"


"I felt it had me by the neck and wouldn't let go. I had to do it."


"Did you love doing it?"


"Oh yes, I'm in the zone when words are flowing. I'm out of the zone when the words all bump into each other like a train wreck. That's where I am now."


"So, says Twinkie, you do it out of love."


“I suppose so, yes, I love doing it. It feeds me. Is that being egocentric?"


"Who cares, "says Shal. "You must be somewhat egocentric to do any art. It's putting your heart out to be shot at."


"Is that troubling you, Simad? You're afraid of being selfish?"


"Well, there's an aspect to it."


"Give it up, dear one. Do you think Beethoven was worried about his ego?" Ollie says.


"Maybe. He was human."


"Yeah, but he did it anyway, even deaf. Imagine that. He must have heard all that music in his head, and it was roaring to get out."


"But I'm not a Beethoven."


"Nope, he's been done, and you don't want to be deaf anyway. I bet you have words roaring to get out." 


"I do. It's the deadline that has me tied in knots."


"Ah, the ole, I'm not good enough ploy—the pressure. Or maybe you're afraid of being shot at. Get back to the joy of it. That's the reason you want to write. There is always a little something we must pony up to when fulfilling our dream. There is always an aspect to it we don't like. And you have a publisher wanting it. Many people would go into poverty for that."


"I'm into poverty already. This is my first novel. My last book was non-fiction. I'm not supporting myself with it."


"You're making excuses," says Ollie, "Get back onto the joy of it. Do you have your ending?"


"That's part of the problem."


"Let your protagonist write her own ending. You don't have to do everything for her."


Simad laughs. "I'm curious to see what she comes up with."


"Me too. Hurry and finish so I can read it. I'm tired of your lolly-gagging. Even if you don't know what to write, your fingers should move on that keyboard. Write "crap, crap, crap***" until something emerges." Ollie fills her cup as though for emphasis.


"And," says Twinkie, "You still have your hearing."


"Yeah, if I didn’t I wouldn't hear all this advice. Or know to love you guys because you want to help me."


"And stop worrying about being perfect. That'll kill you. Just get 'er done," said Sally. "When we were on vacation, my kids got their best shopping done in the last 15 minutes. There was something about the urgency of it."


"But Sally, Chefs are notorious for being a perfectionist. What do you do if a dish isn't perfect?"


"I throw it in the garbage and start over. I do have a deadline—a customer waiting for their food. I don't cook all that much, though. I give the recipes to my cooks, and they do it. I'm not looking for a Michelin star. I'm a cook, not a Chef. I'm more like Julia Childs: a pinch of this, a dob of that, pour in some red wine, eat, enjoy."


"How did you get so blasé about your art, Sally?"


"I'm not having a heart attack over a plate of spaghetti. Oh, I'm sorry, Harvey."


"No problem. Liz couldn't cook worth a darn. She loved to garden, though. You figure."


"So, she died doing what she loved. We should all be so lucky." Twinkie says, "I don't mean to be disrespectful, Harvey."


"It's good that you are disrespectful about death, for there isn't any. People live on, just not here. It's the person to hold and to love I miss. We had our ups and downs in marriage but were always committed to working it out. She was my best friend and my lover. I looked forward to coming home every day."


"We came together to expand our spiritual journey, Harvey. Thanks for sharing that." Ollie says. "Simad, I suggest you write for about 15 minutes outside your manuscript. Write out the crap. Or run around the block. Or clean house. By the way, do you have dishes in the sink?"




"Wash them as soon as you get home, and your block will disappear."


"Is this like paying for warts to make them go away?"




"I'll do it. In fact, I'm excited. I'll wash the dishes, then dive into my novel. I'll pretend I'm shopping those last 15 minutes before boarding the plane for home.


Shal pipes up, "Homer began both the Iliad and the Odyssey with a prayer to the Muse. He knew his best work came from some invisible source he could not control. He could only invoke it."


"I will let my characters get what they have been wanting all along.," says Simad. "I believe I was afraid to write "The End,' although writing 'The End' is passe' now."


"Yeah, Simad," says Shal, "just finish the damn thing. Be cocky enough to believe you can do it."


"I will."


"One more thing," said Shal, "Oscar Wilde said. He always passed on good advice. It is the only thing to do with it, he said. "It is never of any use to oneself."


"Here, here," said Harvey, chuckling, and hoisting himself out of his chair. "I'll heat up the rest of the potato skins."



P.S.You can find all the conversations on Substack, plus a little extra in between. 


Jewell D's Substack



Monday, September 11, 2023

Here We go, Under the Maple, conversation #4


"How did your week go, guys?" Ollie asks as the entire gang comes chattering through the gate.

"Fantastic, guilt-ridden, Great, Better." All give Ollie a hug.

"Look what Twinkie brought," Simad says, finding his chair around the table. "Brownies, my favorite chocolately thing. Thanks, Twinkie," He sat down then bounced up. "Why do we always sit in the same place? Isn't that strange? Let's mix it up. Twinkie, I'm sitting in your chair."

"You're welcome, Simad." Twinkie sits her plate down, runs over, jumps on his lap, and throws her arms around his neck. You're in my chair," she says.

 Somewhat taken aback, Simad finally collects himself and says, "Why didn't I think of this sooner?"

She kisses his forehead. "You sat in my chair, you get sat upon." She pops up and runs back to her plate, rips off the plastic wrap, and places it beside the tray on the table set with coffee, tea, hot water, an ice bucket, cream, sugar, and lemons.

"Is that laced with anything, Twinkie?" asks Harvey.

"Nope, It's pure unadulterated melted chocolate, flour—you know, from scratch, regular stuff." She opens a jar and begins to dribble chocolate across the tops of the brownies.

Everyone dives in for a brownie, coffee, tea, whatever is already on the table and settles into their seats.

"Twinkie," says Harvey, "I'd expect Twinkies from you. Oh, do they make Twinkies anymore?"

"I don't think so," Twinkie says finding a chair, but I loved them as a kid—that's how I got my name. But when I learned that if you place one on a porch railing, it will still be fresh six months later. I envisioned one sitting in my stomach like a petrified rock. That stopped me. These are to thank you guys for last week. I'm unflappable today."

"How so, Twinkie? Tell us."

 "I was so anxious to tell you guys.” She sat forward in her chair, “I did as Shal suggested. I meditated every day for six days—today will be the seventh."

 "What happened?" asked Shal.

"I was miserable for the first two days. I couldn't stop thinking of a zillion other things I'd rather be doing. And then, on the third day, I got this message. It read: "Dear Twinkie, I gave you a heart, a brain, and courage. Use them." Signed, 'God'."

"Where did you find that message?" asks Harvey.

"Oh, Harvey, I didn't suddenly go bonkers and hear voices or find golden tablets. I wrote it in my notebook. It was a message from me to me—or from God. It got me thinking. I want to do what I want to do. And you know what that is?"

"No, tell us," said Ollie, sitting in her not usual chair. "This is sort of like who won the Design Challenge."

"It was sort of like that," says Twinkie. "I watched "Blown Away," the glass-blowing competition for inspiration. I've always wanted to try my hand at blowing glass. And not those little figurines you see at fairs, but the big stuff, bowls, and artwork. I thought Glass blowing was for big husky men, and I'm 5 foot 5 and what they call petite. With that show, I saw that a woman can do it. In fact, a woman won the competition.

"My arguments against it were that I thought I didn't have the strength or couldn't take the heat. I wasn't creative enough, or that I couldn't learn it. I thought my skin would dry up in front of a furnace every day, but I noticed the women had beautiful skin. Maybe it's like a sweat lodge where you sweat out the toxins—like from all those Twinkies I had as a kid--I'm strong. I can run five miles. But then there are those people who have 30 years of experience, and I'm 28 and just starting. And then there is the time and money. My roommate and I are just squeaking by working at Sacs, but I'm doing it. I found a teacher at the coast, so I'm driving over every Saturday and apprenticing under him."

"I can see it, "Twinkie's Twinkling Glass." Says Sally. "I'll commission a chandelier. Here's to you, Twinkie."

[Applause. Cheers!]

 "And you have a customer already, "says Ollie. "Who has a customer before they have a product?! Twinkie, look what you did."

"It will take a while, Sally, before I produce a reasonable piece. I have a lot to learn."

"I know, but you got started. I'm proud of you."

"The idea," says Shal, "is to begin wherever you are. When a gardener told John F. Kennedy that the tree he wanted planted would take 100 years to mature, Kennedy said, "Then you better plant it now."

"Is that tree still there?"

"I don't know."

"So, says Shal, how did everyone else do?"

"I completely zoned out one day," says Simad. "After writing until about midnight, I collapsed into bed with all meditation forgotten, then felt guilty the next day."

"Hey," says Ollie," don't beat yourself up. Just take a step back and regroup. We aren't saints, you know."

"I meditated the next day."

"There you go."

"Well," says Harvey, "I didn't do so well. It was painful. Every time I sat down, I thought of Liz."

"Oh Harvey," says Sally, "how long has it been?"

"Liz died two years ago on October 2."

"I'm so sorry you must go through that, Harvey," says Sally.

They could see he was beginning to tear up, and led by Ollie, the group gathered around his chair. Everyone put their arms around him, around each other, and genuinely wanted to take away Harvey's pain.

When they released him and each other, Harvey had tears rolling down his cheeks.

"I nev-er- cri-ed that day. I was too angry to cry. I loved her."

"We are here for you, Harvey, "Ollie said when they were seated.

"I know you guys try to stay upbeat," Harvey leaned his forehead into his palm. "I didn't want to bring you guys down."

"Nobody stays upbeat when they're hurting Harvey. We're here for all our feelings, not just the happy ones. Yes, we emphasize looking on the bright side,  but, Harvey, all feelings are important, and we want the sharing to be whatever is going on in our lives. I would love to hear about Liz. How about if you introduce her to us."

"Yes, I would like that. After a while, my friends and family stopped talking about her. It's as though they forgot her or don't want to remember, and it seems they want me to do so as well. Let it go...and you know this stupid thing about closure? Well, it's a damn lie." 

"Oh, Harvey, we never forget about the people we love. To this day, I miss my mom. I ask her advice every couple of days. Of course, she usually says what she said when I was a kid. 'I trust you. You'll figure it out.'"

People chuckled, even Harvey, who blew his nose with a big honk.

The groups almost laughed but stifled themselves.

"All the sweetness of Liz's family went straight into Liz. That's in contrast to me being a big lummox."

"You aren't a lummox, Harvey," said Twinkie, 'You're a big teddy bear."

"That's what Liz said. She was the light of my life; at 60, her light went out, just like that. One day, it was on, the next day off. You know how you come home after work? 'Hi Honey, I'm home.' I went to her office, and she wasn't there, but I knew the next place to look, the garden. In those days, she was hauling in cucumbers by the bucketful’s. I found her on the ground like she had decided to nap among the carrots. When I realized she was gone, I yelled until the neighbors heard me and came to my aid. The coroner said she had a heart attack. I didn't know she had a bad heart. I thought her heart was the grandest thing about her. Well, she was pretty, too. And a good mom and a good wife. I believe in soul mates, for she was mine."

"I'm glad you found yours, Harvey."

"It isn't fair, is it?" says Shal," Sometimes it seems as though the sweet ones leave early and the ornery ones stick around until the last cow comes home."

"When I see Liz, I will ask her if her cow came home."

"I'd like to hear her answer," says Sally. "Harvey, do you see your kids?"

"Yeah, I see them a couple times a year. They're busy. They love their pop, but it has been different since Liz died. We're careful like we're glass."

"Maybe you could have a ceremony of some sort when you get together, somehow honor their mother and your wife, and let people talk about her, not just like at a funeral." Simad offered.

"Would you guys come?"

"Yeah, of course, you betcha." Everyone agreed.

"We'll have a barbecue in my backyard," said Harvey.

"What say, I put on some music, and we dance a bit. I heard Liz Gilbert say that after losing her soul mate, she dances every morning to ease the hurt and honor her mate."

"Let's do it." Says Harvey, hoisting himself from his chair and offering his hand to Twinkie, who takes it, jumps from her chair, and begins whirling around the yard. "I love you. Harvey." She says, "Come on, let's boogie."