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Memoir Monday 4

beach

On my beach 2013

Part 2

Nature Heals: A Non-Scientific Study

A 5-year, blinded by multiple deaths of loved ones, study.

After Paul died (Aug 2009) I spent my few waking hours out on the back deck of our home. From my lofty vantage point, I soaked up the panorama of our own overgrown lawn and gardens and the wild acreage surrounding them. Beyond all the love and support of our circle of family and friends, nature itself helped bring me back to life. In Memoir Monday 3 I wrote about my experiences with nature immediately after Paul’s death. If you missed it, you can catch up here: Memoir Monday 3  http://wp.me/p3i5jo-wA

 

When our home and property was stripped in the name of “estate business” and I no longer felt the essence of Paul within those walls, I ran away to the beach. I’ve told that part of the story before. Once again, nature brought me back to life.

Excerpts from the beach cave, February-March 2010:

I think about the cool agates I found earlier in the day and the beautiful sunset I watched from the beach. Ahhh, this is the life.

The beach was a comedy of errors today, with lots of treasures found. It started out cloudy with sun breaks, and yes, very windy. I had on my layers, rolled up the cuffs of my pants, grabbed a wad of tissues for the runny nose, and was off. Just yesterday I figured out to roll up my pants, instead of having them drag in the sand and soak me to my calves. All vestiges of vanity were left in the truck; I looked ridiculous, with a smile. I found 2 awesome pieces of driftwood right off the bat. Along with a half-dollar sized yellow agate, I seemed to be on a rock hunt today. So many beauties, mostly green, but I got some interesting layered ones and a big maroon rock with white streaks in it.

Weekends get busy here, and I usually don’t go down to the beach if there are tons of people, but I just needed to today. They were all wimpy tourists, and pretty soon I had the whole stretch practically to myself. A couple of women were griping about “slim pickings today”. I’m not sure what they were looking for, maybe twenty-dollar bills? I was finding a little of everything, including a teeny tiny sand dollar. You know me; I was having a freaking blast. Kid in a candy store kind of fun. Like that. Pretty soon I look up and I am alone on the entire beach, some dark clouds are hanging over me, but I keep doing what I do. I sneak down to the get a peak at the good stuff when the tide goes out, grab a shell or rock, and then race back to safety when the waves come back to try and get me. This is good good exercise. I also laugh at myself a lot and thank the waves and the ocean when they bring me a goody—out loud. You know, just being my own crazy self.

In the middle of my dance with the waves a little hail started falling. I look up to judge how far away my truck is (a long way) and keep on hunting. It has briefly hailed on me the last several days, no big deal. Next the rain came, in seconds it was pouring. No, I didn’t bring a damn umbrella down to the beach. I have a perfectly good hood on my coat…that was soaked through and dripping in my eyes within minutes. Of course, as it goes when you hang out with Murphy, the wind kicked up. The big meaty front parts of my legs are numb from wind and ice cold rain. My hands are now too wet, but I attempt to put my gloves on, no such luck, I shove them back in my pockets. With all this water from the ocean, water from the sky, well, now I have to pee so bad I’m almost in tears. By the way, I am STILL looking at the goodies on the sand, and even picking up a few. I am a diehard. The rain stopped by the time I wearily climbed the huge sandy bank and reached the bathrooms. Standing under the eaves of the building is about 7 wimpy tourists. I said, “You chickens!” One smarmy lady replied, “No, we just know when to come in out of the rain.”

So, I finally figured out to roll up my pant legs, but it is a moot point, since I am soaked from top to toes anyway. GRRRR. Now, fully warm (I finally changed my propane tank), I’m gonna curl up with a hot cup of coffee and my library books about agates, shells, seaweed, whales and other beach-living necessities. Home schooling at its best! (The common sense is supposed to come naturally.) Huh.

Each death that followed over the course of the next several years, plunged me back into darkness. Nature revived me again and again. I am held gently in the arms of solitude and nature. So many times I had no words to express my feelings of pain, guilt and loss. Instead, I’d reach for my camera to witness, record and share every angle of beauty that I could find.

My heart was lifted by this witnessing and sharing, and I felt like I could breathe again, that I could take the next step towards living.

And you responded with kind words about what you saw and enjoyed in my photos and words. You got it. These responses also helped/help bring me back to life.

Witnessing and photographing nature and other amazing and wondrous things is my sedative, my meditation, my prayer. I am reminded that, through all the pain of grief, beauty, joy and wonder still exists for me to witness and share.

Peace,

Patti


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A Writer/Caregiver Packs For A New Journey

Tokeland, WA PHALL PHOTOS 2013

Tokeland, WA
PHALL PHOTOS 2013

Tomorrow (Friday) I set off on a new journey. It may take a week, a month or maybe longer. The timeline is open and so am I. I’ve detailed my truck, except I need to vacuum it. I’ve re-potted and watered my houseplants. I stirred the compost pile and planted the lilac and rose by the fence, and a handful of mini-crocus near the pond’s edge.

I’m fairly certain that I can come home once a week. Mrs. M.’s grand daughter lives near and should be able to manage a day and night with her. It’s over 300 miles, round trip, so I hope I can break that into 2 days. I’ve got the edited hard copy of my Postcards manuscript packed and I’ll also be working on the middle book of the memoir series. I’ll take my laptop, but I will hold off on taking my printer until I have a better idea of how long I’ll be needed.

The biggest thing I will miss is my little cave/home (Maggie) and the beach. It will just be the two of us and I’ll have my own room, so I can still be a part-time cave woman:>)  I look forward to getting to know Mrs. M. better and seeing what mischief we can come up with in Portland. I’m certain to get a better schedule going and get outside more often.

Journaling is a strong habit for me, so I do plan to journal about my time with Mrs. M. I know I’ll take a lot of photos of my new surroundings. I am sure that I will be online and checking in with all of you at least a few times a week. As you can tell, until I get settled, everything is up in the air. That would frustrate many people, but I really look forward to the mystery of it. I am very adaptable and change doesn’t bother me.

The big difference with helping out this time is that I don’t know Mrs. M. I have met her maybe 3 times over the years. She has passed the main part of physical therapy and does not need a lot of assistance there. Also, there is no stress or heart break related to her care. She may be almost 91, but she is mentally sharp and physically on the mend.

These links will take you back to the posts where I talked about this new adventure and my other caregiver experiences. Here and here.

Did you notice that I changed to a static “home” page? Check it out when you get a chance and let me know what you think. I am still working on the site…

Take care,

Patti


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Runaway Writer Found on Beach, Heart Broken, but Alive!

For those of you who were not able to make it to the contest, here’s 2nd place winner, “My Gutsy Story,” for those of you who are sick of reading about this: sorry, one last time and I will put it to bed:>)

Runaway Writer Found on Beach, Heart Broken, but Alive!

One of the best moves I’ve ever made was to run away from home when I was almost fifty-one years-old. Once I made the move, my life changed. I did meet a small new circle of friends, but the biggest change was in my writing life.

It had been over 10 years since I was actively writing online. Back then I was writing for online magazines, a weekly column on the now defunct “She’s Got” network, and I ran a site for young writers. I wrote children’s stories, poetry, and a novel, while plotting my moves to publish them all. Then life took another swing at me and my writing life was back to just me and my journal, which satisfied me for a time.

In 2008 a personal tragedy brought writing back into my life; I wrote online updates to friends and family about my husband’s fight with leukemia. I wrote from Paul’s hospital bedside and from the desk at our temporary housing near the hospital and clinic. I wrote about our thoughts and feelings, about the latest medicines, and their cruel side effects. I tried to keep positive and I tried to make our weird humor an ingredient of my updates. Amazingly to me, I kept getting comments on my updates like, “I hope you’re saving this for a book,” and “This is going in the book isn’t it,” and “You have to write a book to help others through what you and Paul have been through.”

Patti Hall and Paul

Patti Hall and Paul

Almost a year from the day he was diagnosed, Paul passed away at home in our bed. Even stunned by his death though, I missed writing those updates, and the connections that they brought. A few weeks later I began an email journal of my painful progress through nightmare estate issues and my stunted grief process. My email journal went out (and still does) to our same circle from the leukemia updates, with pictures, poetry, and reader comments. My audience continues to laugh, cry and cheer for me.

It was six months after Paul’s death that I ran away from home. Our home was home no more; it was a torn shell that had once been the comfortable shelter of our love. Home was now held hostage in a gripping tug-of-war between lawyers and heirs. All I could focus on during those first six months was Paul and my driving need to be near the ocean; a need that pulled me like the moon tugs at the tides. Some of our most fun and soothing times had been spent walking sandy shores.

During those six months before I ran away, I thought of other times that I had found sanctuary on the beach. As a young divorced mother, I had often bundled up my nursing son and my toddler-daughter and made excursions to a friend’s beach cottage, or to the sands of Ocean Shores Washington. I recalled treasured memories of Huntington Beach California, with my beautiful red-headed sister and our young families.

As beach memories crowded my thoughts, automatic pilot (that self-protective part of me) managed the details of the next episode of my life. Without that autopilot, I could never have abandoned our home; that sacred place of “us.” Autopilot shielded me from sinking into fear and served up a pair of wings for my flight to the beach.

Maggie’s as safe as the closet that our dog, Jake, snuggled into during fireworks or storms (and she’s not much bigger than that closet!). Maggie is a travel trailer who beats her chest with happiness when salty winds batter her metal skin. She sings along with the chimes I hang, and apologizes unceasingly when her plumbing proves imperfect. Maggie is home, and only a short walk to the beach.

Once settled into my new life, the addiction began. I dug out old work. I produced new work. I started writing under my maiden name, which I had not used since 1977. The solitary writer’s life I led now had little resemblance to any of the former lives I’d led the past 36 years, so a new (old) name made perfect sense to me.

I polished a children’s book written for my children when they were young, and then I wrote a 4000-word story based on my granddaughters. I pulled out a series of poem-stories that I wrote years ago; I had drawn little booklet covers and attached the poem-stories to whimsical creatures that my girlfriend made for sale.

I spent hours researching and educating myself on writing and publishing in this new modern world. I joined a local writer’s class in the arts center and an online memoir class. I began attending a local writing group at my library. There, I presented a new story I was writing based on the superhero flights of fancy of one of my grandsons, but written for all three of them.

More research. I followed a course online on building a writer’s platform. I made my website to blog my future readers. I joined Twitter and Facebook. I passed the initiation and became a member of several online writing groups. I was writing new material every day and blogging most of it. The feedback was encouraging, more than encouraging, as several professional and/or published writers were insisting I publish my work. I was on a roll.

I’m still on that roll. I’ve had two other very close deaths recently that almost stopped me in my tracks again. The grief is overwhelming, but what I can do is write. I can write of the cold dark hours and long, never-ending days of my grief. I can even write and photograph the joyful minutes that I allow myself to see and feel the miracles of nature; the raging waves reaching for the shore, the dancing birds on the sand who rejoice in flight, the moss-covered shack I capture being swallowed by vegetation. I’m at my beach and I’m writing a memoir. I’m alive and I’m hopeful.


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Writer’s Journal; Memoir, Beach and Pieces of Me

Kites down on beach.

Kites down on beach.

Please see the new collage of photos in column on far right.

Beach Tour…

It was sad to see the beach so littered from the celebration of our country’s freedom. Yep,  tons of firework and party mess on the beach. I told my friend that I wish every person who celebrated and left trash would come out in the daylight the next day and clean up. Did you?

I still found many wonderful things to bring back for you (not the garbage). It was another tide pool day. I won’t bore you with too many more tide pool treasures though. It was also a tourist day and it was very cool to see so many families out enjoying the beach…kites, cook outs, sand castles, dogs, surf fishing and one family had two people completely buried laying down, so that only their heads stuck out—that is pure trust. It was quite a scene for a cave dweller to experience, but I reveled in it and smiled and waved and found so many pictures to bring you.

Memoir/Writing News…

The memoir is going good. I got invited to share my mind map poster and journal page with the local writer’s group next Saturday. Our writing group is  putting together a writer’s mini conference this winter; hopefully, the first annual one.  I returned my friend’s book to her and we had a great talk about her book, the changes she’s making, and the next steps to publish it.  We also discussed my memoir series and the writing camp. She is a veteran of NaNoWriMo and was happy that I joined. I felt jazzed talking about writing and books in person, rather than the virtual world. Don’t get me wrong, I love my peeps here too, but you know.

Personal Pieces…

I became a great aunt on the 6th. She is the fourth great grandchild for my parents, and my sister’s 2nd grandchild. It all happened in Alaska, so I probably won’t get to hold this baby until next year, whaaa. Thank the fairies for the internet and digital cameras, because I’ve already got to see her. Oh yes, she’s a beauty.

I will be staying the night with my 3 grandchildren and my daughter tonight.  My two grand daughters have birthdays this month, so it will be a fun time to visit. I get to be with my son for part of Tuesday, and we finally get to have a visit with his 4 year-old son.  It’s going to be hard to be away from my cave and my beach, but I’m so excited to see them all and play mom and grani for a day or so.

Be back in a couple days,

Patti

A Study of Beach Sunrise; Driftwood, Bird, Ship and Dunes

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 Taken first on this morning. Ship at Half Moon Bay.  Used binoculars; Johnny Depp not on board. Fouled again, matey!


Taken first on this morning.
Ship at Half Moon Bay. Used binoculars; Johnny Depp not on board. Fouled again, matey!

Sunrise at Westhaven Beach. Looks like a heart with a Coastguard Tower inside it. Yes, we love our Coasties.

Sunrise at Westhaven Beach. Looks like a heart with a Coastguard Tower inside it. Yes, we love our Coasties.

Sunrise at Westhaven Beach 3

Sunrise at Westhaven Beach 3

Sunrise at Westhaven Beach 1

Sunrise at Westhaven Beach 1

Sunrise at Westhaven Beach 2

Sunrise at Westhaven Beach 2

Sunrise at Westhaven Beach 4

Sunrise at Westhaven Beach 4

Sunrise through the dunes. (Shiny spot is alien on my lens or alien in grass?)

Sunrise through the dunes. (Shiny spot is alien on my lens or alien in grass?)

White Crowned Sparrow with a glint of sunrise on his belly.

White Crowned Sparrow with a glint of sunrise on his belly.

I head for the beach between 4:30-5:00 A.M. several mornings a week. I hit downtown near the docks first, then jump in my truck  and try the tip of our world here, on the viewing platform, and then drive about a mile to Westhaven Beach.  I take some pics and beach comb for a couple of hours.

At sunset, I do it all again, except I can’t beach comb after the sun sets. Damn.

Have been having a hard time with spots on my lens (mist & rain) and sand messing with the mechanism that makes the lens go in and out. All I can do is keep cleaning it out, but have missed or fouled a lot of good shots.

Oh, The writing camp is going good. I’m up to 13+k words. At some points I wish I could just hand it all to someone and have them write it. I’m just so tired of crying. This is as hard as I knew it would be, even after almost four years of living without Paul. He is so present as I write our journey, of course that means I get to smile and laugh in between the tears. Man, he was funny. Man, I miss him.

Hope you all (in the U.S.) had a great 4th of July.

Peace Out,

Patti


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Writer Journal; Memoir, Children’s Book and Pinterest

Memoir: Focus on the first book in the series. I drew the mind map a few days ago under the spell of fevered inspiration. Let it simmer, then worked on the title (the center circle) and chapter headings (the next branch of circles) last night. Realized how much humor Paul & I threw at our desperate situation. The book is not a serious non-fiction how-to. Not gallows humor either, well, not much.

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary, so I wrote an essay around the way we found each other. I kept catching myself smiling and just went with it. I had fun with the essay and submitted it just after midnight. Felt so good, I joined a writer’s critique group; Critiquecircle.com I can keep track of my submissions there and get/give serious critiques. Well, not that serious, but from working writers.

Children’s Story: Created a book launch mind map for the various things that need to be in place BEFORE I get to the publishing stage. At the beginning of August I will start working on making it a Kickstarter project, so stay tuned for that. Have not heard back from illustrator since I sent her the story…no stress, I know she is busy.

All The Rest: Most of the writing I’m submitting is in the form of essays and poetry, but virtually all of it is memoir based;  about grief, loss and hope.

I have joined a few more social networking sites. I now have a lot of photos up at http://pinterest.com/phallwrite and am using “Phall” as my photography name. I hope to run into some experts willing to share some photog tips, because I know what I want with certain shots, but  adjusting colors is the tricky part. You’ll find Washington Coast beach photos and some Hawaii photos.

That’s it for me for now.

Please leave a comment: thoughts, questions, suggestions, what color your shoes are…anything.

Patti