Well, we have officially reached the end of November, and the end of Nano Poblano and of course, Nanowrimo.
When I pasted my entire month’s worth of blogs into a Word document, the total word count came up to 12,567 words. Which to be honest is more than I have written in a month in MANY years. So I am Very Pleased.
It was TOUGH.
It was hard to prioritise time to write a post each day.
I would just sit down, put the number in the title, and then just write. So whatever came out of my fingertips was published immediately with no editing and no re-reading.
My plan is to read over what I have done, do a tonne of editing and planning, and then make it into the Thing it has been in my head for over seventeen years.
Might take me a few more years lol.
Might be next November when I challenge myself again.
But it will happen.
This challenge has taught me one thing: I do have time to write about 500 words a day. They don’t have to be perfect or edited, they just have to be there on paper. It’s better than nothing!
If you did nanowrimo or nano poblano or any other writing challenge this month, how did you fare?
It was the sound of the thundering freight train at 10pm every night that woke her. She knew that now. At first she thought it was something far beyond the reaches of man calling out to her. Something bigger than her Beast. Something deep in the underbelly of the earth, or soaring above the stars.
When the sound reached her dreaming ears it enveloped her completely. It dragged her by her heavy limbs from deep slumber and into the world of the living. Her eyes focused on the ceiling. Silvery in the light of the moon that always bathed her room on clear nights when the it was in its full form.
He asked her. She said no.
‘Why did you say no?’ her mother had asked, when she ran in sobbing after that fateful day in the garden.
‘I couldn’t lie to him, Mother,’ she told her mother, wringing her hands.
‘It wouldn’t be a lie, dearest.’
‘It would. It would!’
‘Well, who else are you waiting for?’
‘NOBODY!’ and she slammed the kitchen door as she flung herself out, threw herself up the stairs, stamping for emphasis, and then fell onto her bed in defeat. And perhaps some despair.
His face kept rising in front of her eyes when she tried to go to sleep. His face. She loved that face. The way he smiled, always. The secret smile. The boyish smile, when he made one of his numerous jokes or teased and teased and teased everybody who let him. The smile when he was just being himself. The smile he had ready for anybody he saw – and then the smile they reflected back at him. The smile when she spoke, the one she knew was only for her, the one she knew he didn’t even know he put on. He had no idea he smiled like that for her. The smile that she had wiped off his face so cruelly with only six little words.
She wanted to snatch those words back out of the air. Unwhisper them to the wind. Take them back and tuck them away where they belonged.
But where did they come from? They had to have come from somewhere.
Her heart felt sore. Yet the tears would not fall.
The first time they encountered the beast it was when the children were all swimming at the Lake.
It was not really a ‘lake’ – it was a small body of water surrounded by tall fir trees. You could access it via a stony, winding path, the edges of which were flanked by a low stone wall built by hand over a century ago. All the town’s children traipsed down the path in the torrid summer weeks, picnics and clothes in baskets, their chatter and laughter rising higher than the trees which brought them relief from the heat.
It was the longest day of summer. The hottest day. From the moment they woke up in the morning, they were stifled by the heat. When a ten year old Laura went downstairs, all the windows had been flung open, and the drapes hung lifeless in a nonexistent breeze. They had a light breakfast of bread and cold milk, before their mother shooed Laura, John and Phyllis out to the woods to play in the shade. It was cooler there, and on her way out Laura asked if they could swim in the Lake.
‘Yes, yes of course. Don’t forget to take your swimming things. And have Minnie pack you a lunch,’ was the response.
They met Mary once they reached the winding stone wall path. She was picking her way among the scattered stones three paces behind Tom, her older brother. As they neared the Lake, they heard splashing sounds, laughter and screams, and they all smiled at each other in anticipation.
They had to turn a final bend, which, when they did, they found themselves faced by a larger thicket of tall pine trees, rather than the slope down to the Lake that they had anticipated seeing. Tom, who was ahead, stopped dead in his tracks.
‘That’s funny,’ he said, as the others reached him, ‘that isn’t supposed to be there.’
‘We must have taken the wrong turn,’ John said quickly, grabbing hold of his sisters’ arms. The earth went silent. They could no longer heard the shouts and whoops from the Lake.
‘We can’t have taken the wrong turn,’ Tom hissed, ‘there is only one straight path.’
The children stood still. Frozen in place.
A wind started to blow. They felt it surge at them, and before they had any time to react to it, it swelled around them with a shriek so deafening that they fell to the ground. It pulled at their hair, hot and damp, tugged at their clothes, and roared in their ears. Laura, who had fallen next to Tom, locked eyes with the older boy – his, vivid, green, wide, looking directly at her, just so, in that way; she knew immediately he had heard exactly what she had.
Then it stopped, and when they looked up, the world was loud again. Birds chirruped in the trees. The path was clear ahead of them, sloping down to the grassy edge of the lake, where they saw their friends leaping into the water, squealing and splashing as though nothing was wrong.
My sister sent me a text when I was downstairs in my mother’s house, working at the dining table.
It was 7am. The house was silent. Everybody was fast asleep.
‘There’s a rainbow outside’ she wrote.
Immediately I jumped up, yanked open the curtains, and this is what I saw.
On one side, a gorgeous rainbow. Then behind me, opposite the rainbow, the prettiest sunrise!
Needless to say today I did not manage to sit to write a proper blog post. But I can’t miss a day, not when we are this close to the finish line. Every day in November a blog post! So here is my contribution from today. My eyes are stinging with exhaustion, I am about to collapse into bed, hoping my kids sleep through the night tonight! And I am happy I managed to get a post out before November 22 ends!
The most darling month of the year, she would like to argue.
Make a case.
Type it up.
Send it to court.
Not court. That would be too drastic.
Somebody must declare it for all to know. It would be a travesty if nobody were to be so absolutely certain of the superiority of October over all the other months.
In October, her roses still bloomed. Less enthusiastically, but they opened their soft delicate petals to the grim clouds above and strove towards life. Something she always took inspiration from.
Briskly tying her boots, brightly buttoning her coat, tucking the old brown umbrella that belonged to a certain someone that she would not name under her padded arm.
Every morning at ten o’clock she exited from the kitchen door to inspect her beauties. She had twenty varieties which she had cultivated lovingly over the last six years. She had climbing roses winding their way intricately around metal trellises and wooden archways. Shrub roses adorning every inch along the pathway which curved its way around the little rose garden, and in the middle an orchard of tree roses. Yellow, white, pink and lush peach. The scent in the summer was overpowering, wafting towards the kitchen on cool gusts of wind. In the winter it was a mess of thorns, with some roses struggling their way through the dreary storms of the season.
In October, however, there was still beauty.
The trees surrounding the rose garden were alight with colour. Fiery, furious, yet lovely and soft at the same time. Tame flames. And the rose bushes still nodded with blooms, even as the season’s change wrestled around them. In the morning they were bejewelled with droplets of glittering dew.
She would cup an ungloved hand under a deliciously fat rose, and bend her nose to it, closing her eyes.
I finally have a bit of freedom to read and write things. By things I mean blogs, of course.
My laptop was taken for a fix and for the week and three days it was away from me I anxiously called the fixing centre to enquire about my electronic child and ensure its safety. It’s back safe and sound, thankfully, and I am sitting here in a cafe using it to type these sentences.
In A CAFE?! On a FRIDAY? At 1:23pm?! How is that possible!? Well I booked a couple of days off work you see. I really needed to, I was beginning to go crazy, and growl at people on the street, and froth at the mouth if somebody dared to ask me how my weekend was.
My weekend was the same as every bloody other weekend, Janet, how was yours?
And when I say it, it comes out in a mocking tone, as though I am my brother’s older sister again making fun of what he is saying by adding emphasis to it and jutting my teeth out and crossing my eyeballs.
Anyway so I had two glorious days off and what did I do with them? Did I go hiking? Did I go to the gym, and greedily devour all the books waiting for me on my bedside table? Did I do all the things I daydreamed I would do when I was too busy to do them?
No, of course not. I cleaned my house and watched Harry Potter and had a very long nap.
And those things felt just as good as all the other grand things.
What things do you want to do when you’re too busy to do them?
Painting by SheerJoy, Australia. You can buy personalised paintings here!
You are cold and harsh this year, my dear. You gave us glorious snow two years ago. Snow that stopped the world, that created mounds in the roads, that fell in heavy heaps from the trees, thumping softly and unseen below. Snow that created a muffled silence, a glazed paradise.
Now, you are empty fields, frozen soil. Sheep droppings in icy piles. Wet puddles, rain. Desolate, muddy moisture.
You have lost your ardour, November. And I have nothing to do, so I am soaking in the dreary fields, with tired eyes. I feel like the days are all merging into one.
Heavy clouds scud across the sky and I see perpetual frondescence before me, endless and ending. Scene flashing in and out of focus as my feet trudge over grazed grass, chewed down to the stalk. Wherever I turn I see the world shrouded in ceaseless grey, evergreens surging up in the corner of my vision, a chasm, yet so full of being.Every breath I take is life, photosynthesis, respiration, cells laboring throughout organisms, cogs in the machine of life, breathing, working, living.
But oh, November, it feels so still to me. I don’t see your city lights, twinkling through the cold haze in the night. I don’t see warm shop windows, glittering with Christmas preparations. No fancy boots, woolly scarves snuggling into crisp, smiling faces, red noses, fluffy hats, curls tumbling over pretty, fashionable coats. Heels clicking, merry music wafting on the breeze, hot donuts sprinkled with sugar, carts of candy cane and coloured balls of fluffy sugar on the high street. No rush, hurry, drama.
It’s all emptiness here. Rolling hills, scuffled footprints of animals long gone, mist creeping over dark terrain, pitch black, death everywhere. I longed for emptiness, November, and green. I longed for trees and nature. Now I am not so sure.
Sometimes I wake up in the dark and I watch the branches of the evergreens swaying madly in the night, hear the menacing whistle of forces I cannot see hurtling over grassland, and I sit beneath the sky light wondering about the outside, in this snug cocoon of fluffy pyjamas and spotlights and heat storage radiators.
I can’t help but wonder, sometimes; where do I stand in this vast system of existence?
Hurry up, November, and send us some snow, that I might listen to the glistening stillness, and behold the world muted for a moment, holding its breath, so I can catch up at long last.