The view from my writing loft, in last week's blizzard. The big snowfall came on Tuesday, maybe 18", but it was the wind that did the work, whipping down across the Sangres from the northwest, sculpting the powder into three- and four-foot drifts. By Wednesday, all the roads in our village (Pendaries) were closed, and the main road across the valley and out to the county highway. Here on Goat Mountain, the roads weren't plowed until Thursday afternoon late, and it wasn't until Friday that Bill got the driveway shoveled. We had plenty of food and the power stayed on. The power is a big issue here, in storms, because some of the lines/transformers are remote. When the power goes down, it can stay down for 4-5 days. Brrrr....
The three young Ponderosa pines you see in the photo are our "bird trees"--where we've hung several feeders and scatter seed for the birds. For me, part of the delight of learning this landscape has been learning to recognize the birds that live here. Looking out the window on this sunny Sunday morning, I count three ravens, a quartet of crows, an assortment of juncos, and a pair of Steller’s jays, eagerly cleaning up whatever the redwing blackbirds and nuthatches and smaller birds have flung out of the feeders. Last summer’s abundant crop of grasses and tall forbs—mullein, thistles, fleabane, sunflowers—have all been stripped, and the snow cover is making forage difficult. I especially love to watch the ravens as they ride the winds that rise along the sloping mountain, spiraling high, plunging down, black bobsleds on an invisible, twisting sluice. Raven is sociable, usually hanging out with a gang of buddies, strutting, swaggering, dickering, debating. He's a talker, too: I love his rough cough, his sarcastic croak, the ringing tok! that spreads the news of danger or fresh food: insects, small animals, roadkill, promising kitchen trash. And a new supply of seeds under the bird trees.
This week, making progress on MOURNING GLORIA, into Chapter Four. In this book, I'm developing a couple of characters from previous books: Hark Hibler, the newspaper editor; and Caitlin, China's niece, now a permanent member of the family. Also did some research on psychoactive herbs (found a couple of exciting sources and am following up on them) and pushed the mystery (the crime and China's involvement with it) a little further. That's always the challenge in amateur sleuth mysteries: setting it up so that the involvement of the protagonist/amateur detective in the crime is motivated. This isn't as easy as it is in a P.I. novel, where the client walks into the P.I.'s office and lays out the case. It's also why the China books always get off to what seems like a slow start. I want to make sure China's involvement feels natural--feels as if she just has to start digging into the situation, whatever it is.
Also this week, worked with Peggy to set up Story Circle's online classes for the Winter term--our best term yet, seems to me. Strong teachers, interesting classes, and students already registering. Enrollments are strictly limited, so if you've been wanting to take an online writing class, check the site out now. Peggy also set up a new Facebook page for our book review site and I worked on it. Oh, and China's Facebook fan page is now up, and I'm trying to post something new there every day. I have an idea for a series of postings there after the first of the year. Drop in and see what's going on.
Currently reading: U IS FOR UNDERTOW, Sue Grafton's latest and a wonderful, wonderful book called LIFE IS LIKE A TORTILLA, by Carole Counihan--reviewing this for Story Circle. Last night on DVD, watched JULIE AND JULIA, a must-see film. Looking forward to watching Nora Ephram's director's commentary on it tonight. Knitting socks, keeping warm, enjoying the winter break. Bill goes back to Texas tomorrow (weather permitting). The dogs and I will have another three or four weeks here. Quiet, lovely solitude in a lovely place.
Reading note: I read the landscape to help me through, to know what’s come before me there, to find my footing in time. The land can speak us back to ourselves, a kind of autobiography. To see it as mere scenery is like looking at the closed cover of a book.—Deborah Tall, From Where We Stand: Recovering a Sense of Place