Monday, October 29, 2007
"Start on page three." - Kurt Vonnegut
I like to call this Matt's First Pumpkin-Carving Experience. Note the dual faces. Yes, that is a bagpiper on one side and a funny face on the other. Happy Halloween y'all.
Shetland has been cooperating since we got back. Mornings are bitterly cold, bearable when clad in snowboarding gear, but beautiful. The North Sea has a seductive sheen in the mornings, glistening from the sun, calm after an evening of chaotic flow. A few mornings ago, I shared some rocks with six beached seals. Some were spotted, others brown, others gray, and all were fascinated with me. They didn't talk, but stared - their black eyes are mesmerizing. Perhaps it's the Kansas girl in me, but there is something magical about seeing seals in their habitat. And birds, and jackrabbits, and all the other animals that live every day somewhere. In Shetland, though, people exist with nature. There is talk of the whales someone spotted, the sick seal who washed up on shore down south. It's a healthy respect for living alongside the creatures who were here first. That said, there are no paper or plastic recycling facilities on the islands. Paper is burned for fuel. Plastic is tossed away with everything else. This is frustrating, even as a temporary resident.
We went south for a walk along the coast the other day. Scotland has a fab law that allows trespassing. Those who walk the peaty fields must respect the path and the animals, but have no limits as to where they go. This black-faced sheep followed Matt, then backed into the corner and stared at me. I figured he wanted to be immortalized.
I like this photo (above) because it shows the sense of how it looks here. This is around 50 meters from the coast (below). It really does feel like wilderness when you're the only two people for miles. It's always weird to think that this island is in the same country that claims London.
I fell in love with the sea when I moved to Seattle in 1996. Kansas is a two-day drive from any sort of coast. I had always found solace in the Colorado mountains, skiing down a piste or hiking or rafting. I never really understood the allure of the sea. Of course I didn't - I'd only been to southern California and to the busier Florida beaches. The ocean meant bikinis and surfing. Then I found a spot in Ballard, near Ray's Boathouse - this tiny park with swings that look out over Puget Sound and the Olympic Peninsula. That became my spot. A lot happened in my three years in Seattle, and that spot was a place of healing in many ways. The sea became sacred.
The endless faces of water fascinates me. The stillness, the chaos, the anger, the resilience, it's all overwhelming. The Shetland sea is a chameleon. Some days, the waves swell a hundred meters from the coast, push and push and thrash the rocks with fury. Other days, tiny ripples lap at the shore. Sometimes the swells are light, splashing on to the shore enough to hit the sidewalks. Seals like to body surf in these waves. I like going out to see what kind of sea is visiting that day, that moment.
I finished the first round of edits earlier today. I am, as ever, disgusted with some of the crap that came out of my brain. That said, some of it is okay. My guinea pigs have spared the barbarous slagging that the first novel received (and deserved!), so perhaps I've learned something already. The next phase is to re-read without stopping or editing, making notes on a separate piece of paper, checking things like consistency and characterization. I'm also doing NaNoWriMo with a story idea that's been kicking around in my head for awhile. We'll see how it goes. I've never just started a novel without having years of notes to rifle through to find a compelling story.
Editing is tough; you end up cutting things of beauty. And the unnecessary. Hemingway wrote an amazing short story: "For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn."