The second installment of how I got started writing The Cedar Tree over twenty years ago is in this post, but first, the good stuff. You are perhaps looking at the old painting above by James McNeill Whistler–entitled Whistler’s Mother–and thinking: Eh? What has that got to do with anything?
The answer is, I was practicing on my shepherd’s whistle intended for our young border collie’s future training after lunch today. That reminded Gramps of Whistler’s Mother somehow. That, in turn reminded me that Gramps had once pointed out Whistler’s mother was probably seven-feet-tall when she stood up.
But Speaking of Old Ladies
A few days ago, I was very nearly the old lady who swallowed a spider like in the poem my grandkids love:
There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.
I don’t know why she swallowed that fly,
Perhaps she’ll die.
There was an old lady who swallowed a spider,
That wiggled, and jiggled, and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
But I don’t know why she swallowed that fly –
Perhaps she’ll die…
I may have come close to dying of a heart attack and a gross-out spasm, but am almost perfectly fine, now. Searching for the meaning of life in that close call, all I could come up with was maybe I should call the bug guy to come spray for spiders. (I also had the very brief thought it meant I should clean house, but that couldn’t be right.)
Hey. Maybe Those Whistles Keep Spiders Away
Well, anyway. Blowing a shepherd’s whistle is a lot harder than it looks. I blew on mine for about an hour before I could make it sound like a dying
spider cat. While a clip of me blowing my whistle and Nellie sitting outside the door pawing at her ears would be very amusing, I’ve included this real dog guy doing a shepherd’s whistle demo, instead.
But Without Further Ado
So now that y’all know how to blow a shepherd’s whistle, what a farm/ranch couple talk about after dinner, and the dangers of farm/ranch life for the middle-aged–who dare not drink anything ever again without glasses on–we’ll continue from where last week’s post left off with an excerpt from a post last winter entitled Broken Winged Buzzard Dreams Part 2.
We ended Part l with the unfortunate demise of my first characters, Rory and Kate. They ended up in the trash can of my writing dreams because I married Gramps when I was sixteen and barely out of diapers. (He wasn’t called Gramps then or I might not’ve had sense enough to marry him. Sixteen-year-old girls can be so shallow.)
At any rate, he was (and still is) my dashing soul mate and we happily dove off the cliff of love into the rapids of experience.
A year later, we two added a little child to make three and most of the writing I did went like this:
A couple years after that, I wrote my name on a line with Gramps’ and we bought our first little mountain rancho, ten acres and a house from which sheep had been evicted. Son #3 promptly made his appearance. A few months later, I rocked my twenty-first birthday with my three little kids–aged three and under–aided by koolaid and party hats.
All that while, I did almost no writing, but Gramps and I lived a real life while we traveled around and he made money to pay for our rancho. And while I tried to keep my babies and toddlers from self-destruction, I read.
I inhaled books like air, reading most genres except horror–although the book Treblinka about the Nazi death camp certainly qualifies–and cereal boxes. I read my Bible whenever I got a quiet minute. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot while rocking a baby in Colorado. Ernest Hemingway’s For whom the Bell Tolls while rocking a baby in North Carolina. I even slogged through Tolstoy’s War and Peace a few hours at a time from a curb beside a playground in Illinois.
And, unbeknownst even to myself, my next characters had begun to stir in the womb of my brains…
As always, thanks so much for reading, and please take this short quiz. (Old homeschool teachers grade on a curve, so you’ll likely pass. )
- How tall do you think Whistler’s Mother is, judging by the length of her thigh bones?
- Do you think–judging from Whistler’s Mother’s expression–she has swallowed a fly?
- Judging from Whistler’s Mother’s expression, do you think Whistler’s Mother wishes:
- A. Whistler would just hurry up so she can get back to practicing her shepherd’s whistle commands?
- B. Whistler would at least bring her a cup of coffee without a spider in it if he’s going to take all day with his painting?
- Or, C. Whistler would change his original title from Arrangement in Gray and Black No.1 to something a little more flattering to her–Definitely Not Whistler’s Mother?
Until the next installment of As The Cedar Tree
Burns Turns, God bless all y’all and enjoy this old clip of The Cathedrals doin’ Echoes From the Burning Bush just because I love The Cathedrals singing almost anything.
*These artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like ‘em.