Days of Drear and Whinery

It is raining, again, and cold. I have been sick with a lingering spring form of the creeping crud for the past two weeks. I am grumpy at best, bitchy if I am honest about it. There is a fire in the wood stove to take the chill off and I have spent the afternoon — after a very nice Mother’s Day Brunch created by my oldest daughter and her husband at my youngest daughter’s home — lying on the couch, covered in my favorite afghan, napping. This morning my youngest’s wonderful, kind-heartedboyfriend brought me cold medicine in an attempt to make me feel better, and minutes ago my husband handed me a mug filled with a steaming toddy to try to make me stop coughing. (I have a feeling the toddy is less about making me feel better than the fact that my constant hacking is starting to aggravate the crap out of him. But, I’ll take it).

I should be taking this day to read, research, and work on my manuscript since the rain has me penned inside. Instead I have been staring out the window between naps, watching and listening to the rain pelt the windows, wondering when it is ok to give up and go to bed until tomorrow. I am wallowing in self-pity about just about anything I can think up, especially the fact that tomorrow is Monday and I will have to go to work and I have managed to pretty much waste an entire day away from my outside office job doing much-of-nothing. I am whining. I am not being verbal, but I have done nothing but moan and complain inside my head for the entire afternoon. I generally am a pretty up-beat positive person so what the hell is wrong with me? I am thinking about all this when my phone buzzes from its perch on the windowsill beside where I am lounging. I glance at the caller id and see that my elderly next-door neighbor is calling.

“Happy Mother’s Day Miss Virginia.”

“Hi Sweet Pea. Happy Mother’s Day to you too. How are you feeling on this dreary day?”

“Kind of like the weather.” I tell her. “But don’t mind me, I’m just whiny and unmotivated. I can’t seem to get out of my own way today.”

“Me too,” she chuckles, “Go with it. The more you whine the better. Don’t you know that is what will cure what ails you? We are all entitled to a day like this every so often. That is the purpose dreary days serve. Get it out of your system today. Rest. Recharge. Then start over tomorrow.”

We chat for a few more minutes about neighborly things and life in general. As we say our goodbyes she tells me to go write–anything–even a grocery list and I will feel better. After we say goodbye, I realize that she has managed to pull me out of my grumpiness a bit just by calling. I think about what she said, almost giving me permission to feel the way I do, but with a gentle reminder that I need to get back to work soon. I realize I have imparted the same kind of pep talk to my children every so often when life gets them down. Give yourself time to feel badly and then get on with it. This too shall pass. Maybe we all need someone to tell us it is ok to feel this way sometimes.

So, I have decided to embrace the rest of this wet, miserable day. The rain is still thrumming against the window, but the light from the fire is glowing warmly, the dogs are lazing on the floor by my feet, my husband has put some light jazz on the stereo, and the toddy has kicked in enough that I am not coughing until my eyes water. What have I got to whine about?

I’ve got it pretty damn good.

Copyright 2017 Kathryn M. Balteff All Rights Reserved

Writing on the Road

Best intentions being what they are, I had fully intended to have my next packet to my MFA mentor the day before it was due, which coincided with the day we were leaving on our annual escape to warmer climes. You can already guess how that plan worked out.

Thankfully the gods of technology have my back, so here I sit, in the passenger’s seat of our truck, laptop open, editing between bumps in the road. Every so often my husband asks me, “How’s it going?” I am not sure that he really wants to know, except that the agreement is that he will drive until such point that I hit the send button and pray the data lines carry my thirty five pages off safely to their destination — on time.

Four hours in, I am almost done and happy that I will still be ahead of the deadline, even if  by just a few hours. It has been surprisingly easy to write this way which leads me to analyze why?

It is not that hard to come up with an answer. I have been unable to do much else other than the task at hand. My phone is turned off, I am captive in the same spot, the same seat, for at least the next eight hours (except for bathroom breaks), and my partner-in-escape has put our favorite music on and refrained from talking to me at all except for his few check-ins to gauge when he can hand over the wheel. I look up occasionally to watch the scenery speeding by, just enough of a break for me to refresh, then I am back to proofreading.

I joke that maybe this is how I need to write, on the road, with forced semi-isolation,  but that is the truth of it. While I write everyday and pretty much at the same time, there are changes I can, and need, to make to my routine in order to be more successfully productive in my writing.

I can list off half a dozen or more adjustments I am going to try back at my desk at home to show up whole-heartedly at the page every day. But, first and foremost I have realized that I need to take myself away from the familiar surroundings that always seem to be there nagging at me to do other daily chores. I need to isolate myself in my writing space as if I were away — on the road with nothing but a destination miles away requiring a highway of well placed words to get me to the next place.

Copyright 2017 Kathryn M. Balteff All Rights Reserved

Moving On  

We woke this morning to a wall of mist so thick you could not see more than a few feet in front of your face. This time of year, here on the coast of Maine, it is a bit unusual to have what we call “snow eating fog” visit us. It generally slides in sometime more like mid-March as the temperatures rise above freezing during the daylight hours. But, the unseasonably warm temperatures we have been experiencing for the past week have brought it on and mostly we are loving it. After winter’s howling winds and bitter cold we can get positively giddy with delight when the fog arrives. Today it just seemed gloomy and close — a grumpy beginning to the weekend. Plus, we had offered to help a friend move and no one likes the chore of moving, much less on a cool, soggy day.

“She picked a great day to do this,” my husband growled, pulling on his coat.

I rolled my eyes. “I’m absolutely positive she checked the weather a month ago to be sure the fog would be here to make life difficult for everybody.”

“Sorry. You know I hate going out in this stuff.”

“We’re going all of five miles and she has coffee and breakfast waiting. Give it up.” I shrugged my spring jacket over my shoulders. “I don’t think you want your winter coat, it is 42 degrees out there already.”

Ignoring me, he headed out the door. I grabbed my travel mug full of coffee and followed him to the truck.

Within ten minutes we arrived at Deb’s old place — the last of the crew to arrive. The big truck was backed in, door rolled up and ready to go. Friends were standing around talking quietly. Somehow the fog subdues everything. Deb was standing at her back door looking a little lost.

“This is harder than I thought,” she said looking down at the soggy pathway. “I’ve been here twelve years now. It’s kinda bittersweet, you know?”

I nodded. “I bet it is. There are a lot of memories here for you.”

“It’s a special place for sure.” She looked up at me and I saw that her eyes were bright.

I stepped forward to give her a quick hug. “We can do this and you love your new place. You will make new memories there.”

“Yup, I will,” she gave a half-hearted smile. She suddenly clapped her hands together. “All right guys, let’s get this show on the road. Coffee is in the kitchen and breakfast is on the counter. Help yourself.”

It was surprisingly easy to get the truck loaded up and ready to go. As they say, many hands make light work. Within a couple hours we were caravanning our way to the new house in the next village, just a ways down the road. The fog was thinner now — the temperature had already risen to a balmy 53 degrees and I grinned to myself as my hubby peeled of his winter jacket and threw it into the back seat of our truck after we parked in Deb’s new driveway.

“Yeah, yeah,” he smiled back. “You get to be right, again.”

I shrugged. “It’s a nice thing to be right about–not needing our winter coats.”

As we strolled up the drive together, the sounds of melting and running water surrounded us. A small brook along the edge of the property pushed toward the sea .

“The fog is not so bad now, but I will take it anyway. Look how much snow we lost this morning. That little stream is rushing right along.” 

“Yup, Snow Fog is good for that.”

For the rest of the morning, we all unloaded, lugged, and arranged furniture into the sweet little cottage across the street from the bay. The air continued to warm. The day brightened as the fog receded in slow retreat. The snow that remained was slushy and dense. Soggy, bedraggled patches of ground began to appear in the yard. Birdsong somewhere out back in a muted chorus of trills and chirrups caught my ear. I thought it sounded like a prelude to a symphony yet to come.

I was standing on the porch as Deb came outside after the last box went through the door.

She came up beside me. “Look,” she pointed across the street. “I can see the cove even through the mist.”

On cue, a tiny sliver of sunlight broke through the now lacy fog, placing a single, sparkling, golden ribbon of light on the water.

“Well, look at that would ya.” Our friend Sarah came out to stand with us her arm draped over Deb’s shoulders. The three of us stayed watching the sunlight dance on the cove.

“A first memory,” I said smiling.

Deb nodded. “I think I’m gonna like it here.”

Copyright 2017 Kathryn M. Balteff All Rights Reserved