Years ago, I’d never received the memo that you work for your life and not the other way around. Gradually as the grey hairs grew and the wisdom pearls hatched a little from dusty eggs of experience, I realized that most of us are required to work and it is best if you at least enjoy your work most of the time. However, your passions, that likely cost you more money than you will ever make, will be the essence of your one fabulous life, the secret part of you that can bring joy to every day and make of life the most delicious adventure.
I’ve never bothered to figure out how much money I’ve made from writing, because it’s likely not much and I honestly don’t care. I’ve certainly given away more books than I have sold. My mother used to say that you shouldn’t have an occupation that didn’t make you money, but as an artist she did exactly that; so, she clearly didn’t follow her own advice. Art filled in some of the gaps for her and I feel the same way about writing. I’ve been writing for so many years that it’s quite the addiction, something I need to do regularly.
My newspaper column “Window on the World” has been in existence in the local paper since 2003, so quite some time. I’m always amazed when people tell me they read and enjoy it. “I feel I know you,” commented one reader in an email. “You are so open with your life. We all go through the things you describe, and it makes us feel less lonely.” Anytime someone tells me they read what I write, it spurs me on to keep doing it; but it’s also a discipline for all the books inside me that are still waiting to be written.
Though I don’t always make my weekly deadline with my editor, I try to at least cough up a word or two every couple of weeks to keep my hands warm and my brain ticking. Some weeks I scratch my head and wonder what on earth anyone would want to read about this week; but something always pops up, even right on top of deadline.
I’m currently working on my fourth adventure — what I fondly call my “Rosie book” (as yet untitled). As many of you may know, it’s an effort to write the story of my sister’s life colored with many other voices from the people who loved her. It’s a patchwork quilt of an endeavor to talk not just about Rosie and her amazing life, but also grief, loss, death … subjects that we humans are not always so good at tackling. Two and a half years on from Rosie’s passing and I’ve found this project to be the best form of grief therapy I could have mustered.
In the early days and months after her death, I struggled horribly with my grief and where to put it. This project has been a priceless exercise in processing the aftermath of my own personal loss and putting all those mounds of thoughts and feelings into something concrete that I hope will be helpful to some and delightful for others. I’m sure it will cost me a lot more than it ever makes me in terms of money; but I am equally certain that it will provide immeasurable counseling for me and hopefully others too.
When I go away for a few days to work on my Rosie book, I find myself totally immersed in that work — often taken down roads untouched since she left us. I find myself on another planet. I cry a lot and sometimes get so angry again, I shut down the computer and go for an aggressive walk on a beach somewhere beautiful and wail at the universe. I always go somewhere beautiful. Those are the places from which wonderful things can emerge. Beauty can emerge from the light as much as she does the dark.
Most recently I was in my happy place near the beach with my project and I came across a quote from a Turkish friend of my sister’s that was posted after she passed. I was pondering this when the very same girl popped up on Messenger and asked me if she could help me with my Rosie book. She told me how Rosie had been such a special sister-friend-mentor to her, and she was so glad that everyone’s memories of her were being preserved in this way. I was so touched by her outreach and loved the magic of when she showed up in the process.
We discussed her translating the book into Turkish for all Rosie’s people over there who loved her. It’s a project I will so enjoy handing over to Zehnip and letting her fly with it in her part of the world, Rosie’s chosen home. I’ll let you know how the passion flies over there with her, when the time is right.
Now our lockdown has somewhat subsided, and some “normal” activities are resuming, I am happy to say that I can finally have my first book signing of my last book, if that makes any sense at all (likely about as much as the whole of 2020!). In conjunction with Scheid Vineyards and South County Animal Rescue, I shall be signing my book “The Animals Teach Us Everything and Other Small Tails” on Saturday, April 24, 1 to 3 p.m. It’s a compilation of my predominantly animal stories from the last few years, illustrated with my own photos.
South County Animal Rescue (SCAR, of which I was a co-founder) will be hosting Taco ‘Bout Dogs, serving free tacos from La Pontranca and information galore about who they are and what they do (also lovely merchandise for sale). Scheid Vineyards will be doing what they do best — serving and selling delicious wines at their gorgeous location on Hobson Road off Highway 101 between Greenfield and King City.
I pledge to make a donation from every book sold that day to the amazing SCAR and all the important work they do. I think it will be a fun and fabulous way to raise money, have fun and feed our passions. We’d love it if you would join us.