Goldilocks Meets T.S. Eliot

Goldilocks' Three Bowls

I try to pay attention. Truly, I do. Still, I’m constantly searching for my car keys. It slips my mind that I should stop at the grocery for milk, or swing by the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions. Occasionally, I neglect to feed the cat until she nudges at my foot, murmuring her complaint. Computer passwords dissolve into the ether, along with the names of former school chums, padlock combinations and the phone number of my favorite aunt. 

People who understand such things tell me this everyday-forgetting is unremarkable.  A little more age here, a few more-interesting things to ponder there, and the mind wanders off, unconcerned with milk, kitties or keys.

Over time, I’d even forgotten my promise to some blogging friends that I would tell them the story of the beginnings of The Task at Hand - specifically, how it received its title and tagline. Being a Janus-faced month, a time for pondering the past as well as looking toward the future, January seems as good a time as any to recount the story of those first, halting steps onto the path called “writing”.

In late 2007, I’d come to the point of wanting to learn how to post images to the web. In order to have a place to practice, I decided to start my own page in the blog section of Weather Underground. I’d joined the site in 2005 to learn about weather and hurricane tracking, and I was comfortable there. It wasn’t an obvious choice for a blog site, but I wasn’t a blogger. I simply was messing about, exploring and experimenting. 

My first entry was a recipe for pecan pie, with a few photos of the Texas hill country thrown in for good measure. My second, a short entry detailing my trip through Kerr County, veered off into memoir. A few people seemed to like it, so I posted a third time and then a fourth. I enjoyed the experience, and began to post more frequently.

Two months and a few posts later, I joined the Bay Area Writers’ League.  I’d never thought of myself as a writer, but I was curious to see what people who defined themselves as writers might look like.  As it turned out, they looked very much like me – in love with words, eager to tell their stories, willing to spend precious hours listening to the halting efforts of beginners and eager to learn from the polished, compelling presentations of published authors.

At the January, 2008 meeting, I was introduced to the concept of “flash fiction” and decided to participate in the monthly contest.  The challenge was to respond to a photo posted in the group’s newsletter with no more than a hundred words of either poetry or prose.  When the photo was published, I recognized Sisyphus immediately. Too clever for his own good, Sisyphus may have brought his punishment upon himself, but images of his plight have compelled artists for centuries.  Unfortunately, as I gazed at my first challenge, I had no idea how to cross the gap from image to words without falling into cliché.

Three days later, I was hand-sanding a boat rail and thinking about nothing much in particular when a line came to mind, fully formed. Deciding it was the first line of something, I looked at the wooden rail and my hands and found a title. Over the next few days, I combined sanding and word-shaping, seeking ways to join meaning and sound. In the end – and quite to my surprise – I found I’d written a poem rather than a piece of prose.  

The Task at Hand

Even the right word takes effort.
Quarried from a crevice of the mind
it stumbles into context from a surprised tongue
then slips again toward silence.
Breaking chains of metaphor,
pulled from its page by the gravity of doubt,
it defies similitude
and heaves past frail allusion,
blocking passage after passage
with its heavy presence
until turned and nudged and tried again
for perfect fit
by one who never tires
the Sisyphean poet.

The Task at Hand won the little contest. I was so happy with it that, when April came and I began my new blog at WordPress, there was no question it would provide the title. A non-writer, I’d written a writer’s poem, a poem with room for all of the discipline, surprise, faith and teeth-gritting perseverance that writing requires. Did I know it then? Of course not. Even now I know its truth only in glimpses, in fits and starts, in those passing moments when a “right word” appears and finds its context.

Meanwhile, back at the Bay Area Writers’ League, it was customary for the winner of each contest to read their creation aloud at the next month’s meeting.   After I’d read The Task at Hand, a fellow wearing a plaid flannel shirt and mismatched socks came up to me.  “So,” he said. “This your first poem?” I said it was, that I’d just started writing. “Then let me tell you something,” he said. “That poem’s like a suit of clothes two sizes too big. That’s ok. Don’t worry about it. You keep writing, and in a few years you’ll start growing into it.”

Remembering his words today, I smile with new understanding. He didn’t say, “In a few years, you’ll have grown into it.” He said, “In a few years, you’ll start growing into it.” He was right.

At first, the tagline appended to my blog’s title was A New Writer’s Search for Just the Right Word.  After about two years, I changed it to its present form, A Writer’s On-going Search for Just the Right Word

Recently, I received an email from a reader who said, “Whenever I go to [search for your blog], my first instinct is to look for The Task at Hand – A Writer’s On-going Search for the Perfect Word“. Obviously you put a lot of thought into the blog name. But I couldn’t help wondering why “right” instead of “perfect”. I look at “perfect” as having more of an emotional [component] to it, the satisfaction that it is just the perfect word with the perfect feel. The word “right” carries with it a sense of correctness or strictness. I was just curious about your thinking.”

It’s an interesting question, one I’d never considered.  My first response was to say that nothing in our world is perfect – no person, no flower, no performance, no meal. Imperfection is woven through the fabric of life, and to demand perfection in words is to risk bloodless writing.

Beyond that, it’s not simply a choice between “perfect” and “right”. The phrase itself matters. “Just the right word” suggests not only the end but the means – the process of writing itself. Hearing the phrase “just the right word”, I can’t help recalling the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. In the version I learned as a child, Goldilocks tries out the Bears’ porridge, chairs and beds. At first she finds them in turn too hot, too large and too hard. Only after going on to experience too cold, too small and too soft was she able to say, “This is JUST right!”

Goldilocks’ story is a wonderful analogy for the experience of writers who sit and sift through piles of words, rejecting one and then another as being too long, too short, too foreign, too “street”, too archaic, too hip. Eventually, whether from a dictionary, a thesaurus or the crevices of the mind, a word emerges. With a sigh of deep satisfaction the writer eases it onto the page and says, “There. That’s just right.”

One of the best lessons for beginning writers – or accomplished writers, for that matter – is learning to recognize the truth that a search for just the right word signals neither inexperience nor inadequacy. Even the best among us hint at the necessity of the search, leaving the record of their words to nourish us as we continue growing into our own.

The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph.
from “Little Gidding” – T.S. Eliot

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112 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hello Linda:

    Now I know why your writing is so compelling to read. In the process of writing you are always in the pursuit of the right word.

    Thank you for being such a word searcher and word weaver. We savor your work.

    Regards,

    Omar.-

    • Omar,

      Well, as I like to say, words can be windows or words can be walls. Both serve a purpose, but it can be difficult if we confuse them!

      To paraphrase River Rat in “The Wind in the Willows”, there’s nothing half so much fun as messing around with words. I’m glad you appreciate my messing!

      Linda

  2. I can’t imagine that you would ever have not considered yourself a writer. That’s not a platitude. I’m genuinely astonished at that. You’ve grown into it quite well.

    Often I think of the right word long after something has been written and consumed for whatever purpose (work or blogging). Revision is my constant friend and enemy.

    • Hippie Cahier,

      Well, back in the dim dark, I did a good bit of writing. But it was academic writing, job-related writing and so on. It certainly wasn’t creative writing – not even creative non-fiction – and it never was the sort of thing that would lead me to call myself a writer.

      Of course, I’m of the generation that even was taught how to write proper letters – social letters, business letters, letters of thanks or approbation. My goodness – what came out of those letter-writing classes was better than some stuff getting published these days.

      Don’t you hate when that happens – the sudden word-occurence? It’s like thinking of the snappy comeback two weeks after the argument is over. It drives me crazy. ;)

      Linda

  3. The New York Times Magazine a week or two ago had a cover story about Jerry Seinfeld in which he talks about the fact that, although he is worth about $800 million, he still does stand-up at clubs all over the country on the average of twice a week. Sometimes he appears at clubs without being announced, hoping for a limited and tough crowd. His purpose is to refine his material. He might work on a joke for three years if takes that long for it to feel right.

    In the end, no matter how much money he has made and how much celebrity he has achieved, he is at his core a comedian, and he has to work at his art since the alternative is, in a real sense, to die. Folk singers are like that. And we writers, God help us, may be the prototypes. My sixth-grade teacher told me that I should think about writing as a career. She thought about that before I did.

    Now past 70, I work full-time as a writer and editor, I freelance theater and book reviews, I write homilies for my ministry as a deacon and a regular column for the Catholic newspaper in this diocese, and I write a blog on WordPress. My elementary and high school classmates ask why I don’t retire. Retire? That’s neither the perfect nor the right word.

    • Charles,

      The Seinfeld story reminds me of Philippe Petit’s famous quotation: “When I see three oranges, I have to juggle; when I see two towers, I have to walk.” There’s an artistic compulsion that can’t be denied – a combination of talent, love and skill that gives so much pleasure to the artist it serves as reward enough, no matter the response from others.

      And I was caught by that phrase about Seinfeld “working at his art”. Now and then someone will happen along the dock while I’m laying varnish, stop to watch and say something about how easy it looks. I just smile, thinking about the number of bad coats I’ve sanded off and redone over the course of the years. In the realm of writing, Nathaniel Hawthorne knew the dynamic and got it right -“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”

      Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I’d not been dissuaded from my intent to major in English as an undergrad. On the other hand, I know what I would have missed, and now I have a lifetime of experiences ready to inform my writing.

      But retire from writing? That makes me laugh. They might as well suggest retirement from breathing.

      Linda

      • Your Hawthorne quotation reminds me of what Blaise Pascal wrote in the 16th of his Lettres provinciales. Here’s the version of the text I’ve been able to find, along with a straightforward translation:

        “Mes Révérends Pères, mes lettres n’avaient pas accoûtume de se suivre de si près, ni d’être si etendues. Le peu de temps que j’ai eu a été cause de l’un et de l’autre. Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.”

        “My Reverend Fathers, my letters haven’t habitually followed in such quick succession nor been so long. The lack of time that I’ve had has been the cause of both of those things. I’ve made this letter so long only because I haven’t had the spare time to make it shorter.”

        • Steve,

          Isn’t that the truth? Funny, too. I suspect all of us have been on both the sending and receiving end of that particular experience.

          When I read that “the Provincial Letters are credited with single-handedly changing the meaning of ‘casuistry’ (which formerly had meant the Jesuit use of case-studies in their moral philosophy) to mean ‘sophistry'”, the quotation became even more amusing. I suspect there’s a little tweaking going on there that would escape someone like me who’s not familiar with “The Provincial Letters” as a whole.

          I swear – those mathematicians are everywhere, aren’t they?

          Linda

  4. I love your distinction between perfect and right. Also worth a thought: “perfect” suggests there’s only one word meant to be used in any given situation.

    The “right” word is subjective and depends on the preferences and style of each writer — the right word for you might not be the right one for me, but that wouldn’t mean either one of them is flat-out wrong, both words could be equally appropriate for the situation. The words we choose to use and that we see as right are the ones that best capture our sensibility and the way we think in that moment.

    Isn’t writing fun?

    • Amasian,

      You’re exactly right – context counts. Given the same hundred words to arrange, each of us would do it differently. Given a thousand words, the possibilities multiply immeasurably, and given the whole of the lexicon to deal with, I end up with Golilocks and Eliot, while you might have Shakespeare playing soccer!

      The interplay of language with personality and experience is a good part of what makes writing so much fun, and so satisfying. Add imagination and technical skill, and it only gets better.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and adding to the conversation – you’re always welcome!

      Linda

  5. Boy does this post hit home – when I’m working on a poem, if it doesn’t just appear in my head in its entirety (that DOES happen sometimes!), then, “Quarried from a crevice of the mind” is exactly right.

    Also, this is the second time today that I’ve seen a reference to Sisyphus (the first was the comic strip New Adventures of Queen Victoria). I wonder what THAT means? :)

    • The Bug,

      OK – I’ll confess. I’d never heard of “The New Adventures of Queen Victoria”, but I’ve seen the strip now, and I laughed. I laughed even harder at some of the stuff in the sidebar, especially “The Real Housewives of Windsor”. And you know I recognized That Hat! I like it better in red, though.

      Actually, you’d be surprised at Sisyphus’ popularity. I mentioned him in a post about Roz Savage, the long-distance British rower, and now every time some teacher assigns an essay on Sisyphus, I get a bunch of Google hits from what I presume are high-school students trying to crib an assignment.

      I like it when things just “come to mind”. One problem with quarries is that they tend to use dynamite. ;)

      Maybe we need a poster that says, “Be Poetic, and Carry On” (You can steal that – I’ll never tell.)

      Linda

  6. I didn’t know this story and am delighted to read it. I can’t believe you started writing so recently. Your writing is so polished and elegant that I’ve assumed you’ve been at it for a long, long time and had to be working on a book. (Speaking of which, I know I haven’t been around much the past month, continuing my effort to stay off the Internet and make some headway on the stacks of books I’ve accumulated, but I do keep an eye out for what you’re up to.)

    • Susan,

      Well, as I mentioned above, I had an excellent foundation laid in school. It’s like any other craft in that respect. If you have a firm grasp of the tools, the skills development is much easier.

      On the other hand, the confidence to use those tools in unusual or imaginative ways can be slower in development. I’ve always liked Annie Dillard’s perspective on this and found it encouraging. As she puts it, “It is no less difficult to write a sentence in a recipe than sentences in Moby Dick. So you might as well write Moby Dick.”

      I can imagine you’re enjoying your reading time tremendously. It’s the season for it, although I’d not be surprised to see you suddenly fly off to one of the marvelous musical events you’re keeping us abreast of. So many arts, so little time!

      Thanks much for stopping by – I appreciate it.

      Linda

  7. This is such an interesting glimpse into your blog’s origins.

    • Julie,

      Thanks! Do you suppose our Muses ride around on our shoulders like Gutsy9? The very thought of that makes me laugh – who knows what we may produce in the future?

      Linda

  8. The poem is so, so right. Right words are indeed elusive. Thanks for a wonderful post.

    • John,

      Thank you so much. I’ve always loved that poem – both for how easily it came, and for how much work it required. It’s always been one of my favorite achievements and a great encouragement.

      Linda

  9. You just wrote a perfect post. I would expound on that but I must call about doing a long scan to delete any virus that might be infecting my computer. You have no idea what a mess my blog looks like from “inside” I found the tech support place but it will not allow me to write my complaints. Can’t get to the dashboard, etc. I liked this post a “bunch”. I could not come up with a perfect word.

    • Yvonne,

      From my perspective, “a bunch” does just fine. After all, when I think of “a bunch”, the first thing I think of is a bunch of flowers. And if I think of “bunches”, I think of my grandma saying, “Get yourself over here and give me bunches of hugs, girl”. What’s not to like? It feels perfect to me!

      Now, I hope you get those troubles worked out!

      Linda

  10. Having read this post, I do not have the words for a proper comment.

    • purpleborough,

      You might not have words for a proper comment, but you’ve got a good sense of humor!

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for commenting. You’re welcome any time!

      Linda

      • Thanks, Linda. I am Linda also.

        • Funny – my folks chose my name because, in 1946, it was so unusual. Now, we’re everywhere! But it’s still a good name.

          • I hope so…good meaning…well now I’m lost! A good name to have? a good person to have a good name? good meaning that we don’t have a bad name like…?

            I don’t mean to question. My sister has such an unusual name…Clytice…and I always wanted a “good” name like hers :)

  11. Thank you for this, Linda. Finding the right word – or is it being found by the right word? – is one of those experiences that keeps me coming back to this joyful burden. In a way it reminds me of the observation attributed to theologian Karl Barth, who likened our experiences of revelation to a flash of lightning in the darkest night. For a brief moment I can see so much! But only for a moment, and then it is back to that mysterious rock, that rock pulls me up the hill unawares. Allen

    • Allen,

      Well, at least now you know why I’ve been wandering around with Goldilocks on my mind.

      Whether or not that attribution properly belongs to Barth, it reminded me in a flash of Mark Twain. In a letter to George Bainton in 1888 he said, “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

      The best part of that is that I didn’t find the quotation until well after I started my blog. I’m clinging to it as evidence that I have at least something in common with Twain. ;)

      Linda

  12. Haven’t visited here in awhile — glad I did today. Your poem is wonderful.

    • klrs09,

      Oh, I’m so glad you like it! It’s been lingering around for a good while now, and really deserved to be shared again. And thanks for stopping by!

      Linda

  13. I’m sorry. “I never thought of myself as a writer” stopped me dead in my tracks. I will have to regroup and finish reading this post when I’ve caught my breath ;-)

    • nikkipolani,

      You know, it’s really true. When I started this blog, I said to friends that I wanted to use a blog platform to learn how to write. I believed the best way to learn was to write, week in and week out, no matter what. I’ve been mostly faithful to that, except for a few times when I’ve gone as long as ten days between posts, but my goodness – have I ever learned! I’ve got a lot more to learn, too.

      Thanks for sending me off to sleep with a good laugh! I’m not sure I’ve ever stopped someone in their tracks before! :)

      Linda

      • Okay. I’ve recovered and read the rest of the post. I loved reading how your writing began — and what a poem! I like what Arti said about “perfect” versus “right”.

        • The one little detail I forgot to include was that that first poem was written mostly on the back of used sandpaper. Moleskin journals and fancy pens are not required! As for “perfect” and “right”, see my response to friko’s comment, at the very end of the thread.

  14. You wrote such a brilliant poem – your first – only in 2008? I’m astonished Linda, I thought you’d been writing poetry forever.

    that first line
    Even the right word takes effort.
    is simply *perfect*

    and the T.S. Eliot quote is perfect too.

    Are you still in the writing group? I’m also curious
    to see what people who defined themselves as writers might look like – – – -

    • rosie,

      Actually, I know I was writing poetry in high school, because I was elected Class Poet. It’s a bit of a strange story. I forgot about that honor for decades and only remembered it after I started my blog. I didn’t have a copy of the poem I wrote for graduation, so I had to call the high school. They found it in the yearbook, and a nice administrative assistant sent me a copy. That whole story will probably pop up sometime.

      I left the writing group after only a few months. Their monthly meetings weren’t particularly useful for me, since getting published was the goal for probably 99% of the people there, and “writing for the market” was considered Rule #1. The markets for young adult fiction, science fiction/fantasy and romance novels were hot, so that’s where they focused. As one speaker said, “You may not want to write a Gothic Romance, but if you want to get published, that’s what you need to do.” I didn’t think I needed to do that, and I certainly didn’t want to.

      Apart from the monthly meeting-with-a-speaker, there were critique groups. I went to those for about four or five months. Maybe six. Let’s just say they weren’t useful. Eventually, I acknowledged to myself what I instinctively knew – anyone who’s learning an art or craft needs to be critiqued by someone who’s more, not less skilled – and I quit. Cheeky, huh?

      Linda

      • I’m not surprised to know that you were the Class Poet. I look forward to reading your graduation poem.

        I don’t think I’d stay long in that kind of writing group. I can’t imagine how someone could spend many months writing something like a Gothic Romance just in the hope of getting published. Sheesh!

        • Well, everyone has their preferences. The whole world seems obsessed with that British drama that’s back on tv – “Downton Abbey”. It’s apparently marvelously written and produced, but I’ve never seen a single episode. There’s no reason, except that it hasn’t caught my interest. Likewise, Gothic romance. But there are plenty of people who do like the genre and they, too, need authors who will work hard to make the stories compelling.

          • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with spending months writing a Gothic romance if you like that genre. I can’t imagine spending all that time writing something I didn’t particularly care for.

  15. Great post. Thank you for the insight.

    • lilyboat,

      You’re welcome. Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I’ll always be delighted to have you stop by.

      Linda

  16. Linda, people who don’t read the responses and replies miss so much. From the responses and replies:

    “The interplay of language with personality and experience is a good part of what makes writing so much fun, and so satisfying. Add imagination and technical skill, and it only gets better.”

    “Annie Dillard’s perspective … ‘It is no less difficult to write a sentence in a recipe than sentences in Moby Dick. So you might as well write Moby Dick.’ ”
    ~~~~~~
    I, too, did not realize that you had been writing here for for such a short while. I knew you were special, but now realize you are amazing. Your writings, comments, and commentaries are always enlightening. As a budding writer who hopes one day to be published, I look to your work as inspiration.

    I know we have completely different styles. However, it is the caliber your work that gives me something to aspire to. So when my stumbling in the dark does not lead the the right word, the eloquent sentence, or the complete paragraph, then I know I can find a refreshing of the writer’s spirit here.

    In awe,
    Lynda

    • Lynda,

      The interaction between writer and reader is a good part of the charm and interest of blogging. If I wanted to write only for myself, I’d be content with a journal. If I were interested only in traditional publication, I might limit myself to counting copies sold – just as some bloggers focus solely on their stats. Neither option seems very attractive to me – though journaling and publication both have value and passionate advocates.

      What’s most surprising to me is that my draft files have grown over the years, rather than being emptied out. When I began, I was a bit anxious that I’d run out of things to write about. Well, that hasn’t happened! What has happened is that some of the subjects lingering in my draft files are too large for one post. I’ve already done a couple of “series”, like my trip to Louisiana last Christmas.
      Other pieces clearly are “stories-in-waiting” or longer essays. What I’ll do with them is the question to be answered this year.

      I’m honored that you’d say you’ll look to my work for inspiration. I suppose if I’d add any cautionary note, it would be to say this – don’t forget that “work” is a process as well as a product, a verb as well as a noun. ;)

      Linda

  17. Has anyone properly thanked weather underground and hurricane season for providing the tiny spark?!

    Thank you for a great story and for the glimpse into how you approach writing. I loved this post!
    z

    • Lisa,

      I certainly received a good bit of encouragement there, and for the first months here at WordPress, a few Weather Underground folks were my only commenters.

      I might have grown discouraged, had I not had the experience of building a business. My hunch was that the same approach would work here as there – focus on producing good content, and let the rest sort itself out as it would. In fact, it took about three years for my business to begin turning to profit, and it took time for this blog to develop. One of my friends still remembers the day I called her, excited as could be that I’d had fifty page views.

      I suspect you’ve seen the same dynamic at work with your art. It’s one reason perseverance is as important as creativity, no?

      Linda

      • So true; we write or draw or paint or garden because the desire bubbles up from within us. It’s an amazing bonus when others come forward and say they like what we’re doing.

        Although I have always had people like my art, I continue to be dumbfounded when I witness people’s reactions to the mola series of paintings. Maybe I’m too close to them – like a beautiful woman who doesn’t understand why others think she’s beautiful. I take a step back and try to see what they see/what I’ve captured. Maybe it’s not that I captured anything, but the painting captured me!

        The most baffling part to this series is how many of the paintings drain my energies. I put in a session of painting, and later collapse into a deep sleep. I awaken just as exhausted as when Isurrendered to sleep. Perhaps I am still recovering from my illness, but my painting right now comes at an expense to my physical strength.

        For sure I’m at a turning point with my art, though I hope I find a way to diffuse this fatigue. Thankfully writing and managing photos does not tax my energies to those depths. There’s a balance, thank goodness.

        Thanks for listening, and for understanding!

        • Not only your mola paintings, but the molas themselves seem to have a deep fascination for people. As for the fatigue – there’s no question work of art can be exhausting. But there are some people I know who have been dragging around the after-effects of bronchitis for months. Don’t forget your body’s as much as instrument of your art as your brushes. Take care of it!

  18. The Sisyphean rock in your photograph looks enchanting.

    • Of course. The photos for those writing prompts were provided by group members, and it makes sense that someone would have been over there. I don’t remember the location ever being provided, but a quick image search for “enchanted rock boulders” was instructive. I’ve never visited the place, and never would have made the connection.

  19. Wonderful post! So fun to read about your beginnings in this blogging venture. And of course, I can relate to a lot of what you say here. I love the poem. I love the name. I love the right and perfect words that make up this place. Keep telling your stories, Linda!

    • Emily,

      When I read your latest, it brought to mind this post. I couldn’t help remembering the wonderful scene in “Gone with the Wind” where Prissy declares, “I don’t know nothing ’bout birthing no babies!” In the beginning, none of us knows much about birthing any kind of baby, but we learn, don’t we? There’s always some labor involved, and there’s always great joy.

      We can predict some of the births that will come in this new year, but not all of them. Here’s to the unexpected – both the labor and the joy.

      Linda

  20. Linda, I’m so happy to learn where your blog title came from and how you evolved into a writer! I do agree that “perfect” sounds a bit uppity, while “just right” sounds perfect. I’m beginning to see why poets are so special — they choose just the right words, whereas prose writers often grab the first word that floats by (and then must edit and re-edit to make it SING!)

    • Debbie,

      I’m not necessarily willing to draw that kind of distinction between poets and other writers. There’s some truly leaden “poetry” out there, and some prose that reads poetically from beginning to end. I think the form isn’t what makes the difference, but the willingness of the writer – essayist, poet, novelist, journalist – to find and use the “right” words. A travel writer recording a trip through New Mexico may choose to write poetically, but may just as well choose a different approach, depending on the purpose of the piece.

      That editing and re-editing you mention is a necessary part of all writing. (I was going to say, “except for grocery lists”, but when I think about it, even my grocery lists get edited – though not for spelling or grammar!)

      Sorry about last night. I’m sure the Domer and his friends still had fun. ;)

      Linda

  21. I’m thinking about a time when I wrote term papers. I would always work in three words to impress: “Paramount” was one of them and I forget the other two.

    Finding “just the right word” causes a fantastic physical reaction. We’ve EXpressed. If no one is impressed, it’s irrelevant. This is of paramount importance. :-)

    • Claudia,

      “Paramount” is good. I remember being fond of “conversely”, myself.

      And there it is – my little rule about “write and let go” put down in other, equally satisfying words: “We’ve EXpressed. If no one is impressed, it’s irrelevant.”

      Now, if I just could get Dixie Rose convinced of your wisdom. If she doesn’t get the sense that I’m impressed, she expresses and expresses and expresses…. ;)

      Linda

  22. The French phrase “le mot juste” came to mind as I read your post. Sometimes writing is like painting pictures with words, and sometimes it’s like working one of those 500-piece picture puzzles. You have to find the word that fits that particular space in what you’re trying to say. I like your Goldilocks analogy. Spot on.

    • WOL,

      I’ve got a friend who’s a puzzle fan, and the day I sat down with him to work one of those concentric black-and-white-spirals, I thought I was going to go crazy. Talk about a good analogy!

      Just thinking, here… The puzzle analogy’s good for the times when we’re trying to decide among words – “this one, or that one?” The painting analogy feels more like the times when nothing seems to do, and we need to come up with something entirely different, like mixing a different color.

      The word of the day here is rain. With luck, it’ll move far enough north to give you a good dousing, too.

      Linda

      • With regard for the rain moving north, as the saying goes, “from your ‘lips’ (or would it be ‘fingers’?) to God’s ears — ” We’ll gratefully take whatever we can get.

  23. I am not meaning this comment to be sad but the reference to ..imperfection being woven into the fabric of life..reminded me of something from my life.

    My baby sister, Susan Leigh, died when she was 6 months old due to a heart defect. They wanted to wait until her vessels were larger to operate but were forced to try sooner but she was too weak to survive the surgery. (gosh that was about 44 years ago now) One thing I always remembered from her funeral service was the pastor alluding to Susan being too ‘perfect’ for this world. He remarked that in Persia when a rug was woven an imperfection was deliberately included because perfect things aren’t meant for our world or to last or maybe even bad luck.

    Perfect is possibly too elusive even though we misuse the term all the time…..how perfect!!…that is perfect!!….kind of like understating the word love. So maybe ‘right’ is where we need to be to convey the nuances of life with all of its glorious messiness. Not perfect, just right!

    • Judy,

      What a pretty name your sister was given, and such a sorrow that her life was cut short.

      The pastor’s point was both right and perhaps just slightly off the mark. A year or so ago, I wrote about the joys of imperfection. A commenter added:

      “Many years ago, on an elementary school field trip to the United Nations, our tour guide paused and directed our attention to an elaborate tapestry (a “Persian rug”) hanging on the wall of a stairway. She explained that, because the artisan believed that only God is capable of perfection, a deliberate imperfection was woven into the pattern.”

      In my response, I mentioned that in Navajo rug weaving there always is an imperfection woven into the corner, meant to allow the Spirit to move in and out of the rug. The interpretation of the flaw offered by a woman who wove a wall hanging for me was slightly different. She said the flaw is there to remind us that all of creation is flawed. In her view, perfection is not the elimination of imperfection but the ability to incorporate imperfection.

      A wonderful expression of this line of thought is Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”:

      “Ring the bells that still can ring,
      Forget your perfect offering,
      There is a crack, a crack in everything,
      That’s how the light gets in…”

      As I said a year ago, I suppose the trick is to focus on the light rather than the crack.

      Linda

      • Yes, your explanation of the flaw in the weaving makes more sense than my memory of it I think. Thanks, I think Susan Leigh was a beautiful name also.

  24. What an interesting story. I’m glad you remembered to share it. I’m not fretting too much about forgetfulness this morning. My young nurse couldn’t remember if she emptied my urine or not. She was forced to guesstimate when I told her it was half full.

    It’s always interesting to learn how someone chose their blog title. Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes not. I would have guessed that yours originated from the philosophy of do what you can where you can. Happy you remembered to share. Now don’t forget to feed Dixie Rose!

    • Bella Rum,

      I’m happy to see you up and about and advising the medical staff. Our big excitement around here is rain – possibly too much at one time, but we’ll see. There are flash flood watches out, so it’s going to turn into a catch-up day here at home.

      It is interesting to look back. So often, when we’re right in the middle of something there’s no sense of “story” at all – just a series of events that seem to be connected, but not with much significance. I suppose that’s what story is, at heart – a narrative we impose on events. That’s why different people can tell the story of the same events so differently.

      It’s funny – sometimes people who know my general area assume I live in the little community of Shoreacres, on Galveston Bay. Not so. I simply chose a name at Weather Underground that combined my love of the ocean and the place up in the Texas Hill Country – hence, “shore” and “acres”. ;)

      Linda

  25. Well, my friend. I decided to play hooky for a few minutes (don’t tell) and look what I found — just as I was struggling with finding the right words for a press release to launch a new program! And you’re correct — they are the right words, not the perfect ones, partly because like you, I’m not certain that perfect exists and partly because there may be many right words — not “just” the right words!

    I didn’t know how your blog came to be, and the fact that you are not a writer by profession always astounds me because (as you so perfectly changed in your title) you ARE a writer. A wonderful writer whose use of language is surpassed only by your creative, observant, inquisitive mind, the mind that knows how to take a journey. There is always a destination in your pieces, and they always complete the circle — but there is also a detour or two along the way that takes us to the most delightful off the road places, enriching the experience for all!

    • jeanie,

      I’m really glad I decided to post this. I keep forgetting that the first year of my blog I had so few readers that most of this is new information – even to you!

      Your mention of journeys, destinations and detours is on target. I take such pleasure in learning new things, and sharing discoveries. It’s one reason I enjoy following your travels – you always have something wonderful and new to share with us. I do get restless for the open road – very restless, sometimes! – but there are other ways to travel, and this blog is one of them.

      One thing that crossed my mind yesterday is how similar your crafts are to writing. The “kaleidoscope” theory of creativity works for us both. We take little bits – language, paper, ribbons, paint – and combine them into something new. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, of the Harvard Business School, has written compellingly about the processes of change and creativity – from a child’s toy to the boardroom!

      Hope you found your words – I’m off to see your images!

      Linda

  26. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I love hearing from others about their inspiration and writing. While I have never created anything as beautiful as your poem, I have occasionally experienced that mind-flash of words and ideas. It is a magical thing.

    • klyse3,

      I enjoy reading others’ stories, too. It seems there always are little bits of wisdom, inspiration or even amusement to take away and ponder.

      I’m not sure I’ve ever written a better poem than this one – but I don’t try to write poetry, either. I’ve been more comfortable and happy with the essay. I’m glad you like this one – and I’m glad you’ve had that wonderful experience of finding “just the right word”.

      thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. It’s always nice to meet someone new!

      Linda

  27. I enjoyed the story of the blog birth. The poem is great and I can’t believe, like others, that it was your first one!! Those lines ‘quarried from a crevice of the mind’ chimed with me too, that’s exactly what it’s like! Funnily enough I’ve just been writing a piece about an abandoned quarry so it all seems doubly fitting.

    Sometimes I find that I put writing off, and then when I get started I wonder what I was dithering for. It seems to take hold and then you start quarrying andit’s both fun and full of anguish. I always feel like taking up smoking again at a particularly sticky point :)

    I’m at the beginning of the writing journey so all this is incredibly encouraging. Thank you.

    • Sarah,

      Isn’t the dithering funny/strange? Getting rid of some of that is part of my grand plan for the new year. Focus is a key, of course, and one of the biggest problems I have with focus is the nature of my work. Because it’s totally weather-dependent, I never can be certain when I’ll be working and when I’ll have some free time. While I enjoy the solitude, the nature of my work and the pleasure of the outdoors, being able to say, “Work is from 9 to 5″ would go a long way to giving some shape to my life. Ah, well. We all have the issue in one way or another.

      Of course, as you suggest, once we get into it, time flies. More nights than I can tell you, I’ve looked up at the clock and wondered exactly where those two or three hours have gone! It is fun – absorbing, I should say. If it weren’t, I suppose I wouldn’t be writing.

      This quarry talk reminds me of something Auguste Rodin said about his work as a sculptor. As he put it, “I just choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.” Perfect!

      It will be fun to follow you along this path. Of course, you have one great advantage I don’t have. Whenever things aren’t going well, you just can post a photo of your three “girls” and we’ll all sit around and coo for a while!

      Linda

      • Ah yes the life of the self employed, know it well. Though I’m sure the shape of 9 to 5 would begin to chafe at the spirit quite soon.

        I wish you well with your grand plan – can’t wait to see what your ‘more focus’ will bring us ;)

        Haha I’ve gone cow crazy on my latest post! Also I love your blog so much I’ve put it on the first cowgirl blog list – spreading a bit of blog love over the waves. Thank you for coming on my journey, I’m so happy to have met you.

        • It’s true, of course. I no more could go back into corporate life than I could fly to the moon. I might have a better shot at the moon.

          I caught just a glimpse of your new cowgirl-and-cows posts. I’ll be by soon to really give them the attention they deserve, and give you a proper thanks for including me. I have a cow question or two, but I’ll save those for your place, where others might be interested!

  28. Linda,

    I’m sure in your wisdom, conscious or subconscious, you’re well aware that it is simply impossible to find perfection in this world. Doing the right thing, choosing the right word, being at the right place at the right time… could well be the closest to arriving at perfection. I’ve appreciated your tracing back to the beginning of The Task At Hand. I remember all these you know, and esp. the Sisyphus metaphor. As a “Charter Follower” of your blog, I’ve enjoyed being a witness to your success. All the best in finding more right words in 2013! ;)

    • Arti,

      I suspect you’re right that perfection, in the sense of “flawlessness”, is a little tough to come by. On the other hand, if we’re willing to allow for a little flexibility in our standards, there certainly can be a perfect evening, a perfect meal, a perfect film or poem. There was a time in my life when I never had a perfect day – but my expectations were pretty high and even a little rigid. Now, perfect days are more common – and I enjoy them tremendously.

      I just was thinking about those early days, when we discovered we both enjoyed Madeleine L’Engle’s writing. Isn’t time funny? On the one hand, that seems forever ago. On the other, it could well have been yesterday, as clearly as I remember it – along with your wonderful “place in the country” and that silly post about Free Cell that got freshly pressed.

      Well, you’ve not only been my most faithful reader, you’ve gotten me into the theaters and signed me up for a read-along. Who knows where we’ll be in four more years!?

      Linda

  29. Sensitive and insightful, as always… I love how you trace your growth and process of writing. It’s quite helpful — anyone who’s tried, can fully respect the difficulty of arranging and choosing the words to flow in a meaningful way. And you do so very beautifully….!

    • FeyGirl,

      I suspect you’ve gone through the same process with your photography. There’s a lot of messiness surrounding it, a lot of experimentation, a lot of mistakes and plenty of false starts along with the successes.

      It’s one reason I decided early on to keep writing, every week, no matter what. I’m sure I learned that from my friends who love photography. They’re out there day after day, fiddling with settings, looking around – figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I do the same things with words – fiddle around, figure out what my subject is, get it in focus and then try to capture it in the best way possible.

      If I were really brave, I’d try it with those five alligators and two red iguanas – but I’m not sure I’m ready for that!

      Linda

      • You’re exactly right…. If one doesn’t devote the time and practice to any craft, there’s no room for growth. Even professionals understand this! I’ll never forget being told, as a young rider and burgeoning horse training (rehabilitating abused and neglected horses to re-sell, to avoid the killer auctions) — even the pro riders have people on the ground helping them with their positions. That always sticks in my head. :)

        Haaaa! Funny you mention the iguanas. I just spotted two orange beasties in a rookery. They’re nasty fellows here — non-native, and eating the native birds’ eggs.

        • Especially professionals understand this – and the best professionals understand it most of all. That doesn’t mean their paths always are the same. I just bumped into Jack Kerouac’s “Belief and Technique for Modern Prose”. There isn’t much about active and passive voice, but he does caution, “Try never get drunk outside yr own house”. Now that’s a writing tip for the ages!

          • EXACTLY. The most professional realize that there’s *always* learning to be done….

            Hahahaha! Oh I love that quote… Love it! I’ve never seen it; I really needed a laugh — thanks for that. :)

  30. Gore Vidal caught Tennessee Williams revising a play one afternoon. When asked what he was working on, TW replied, “I just want to fix a few words.” GV said, “Why? That’s one of your most famous plays?” “I don’t think I have it quite right”, he replied…

    • Lindy Lee,

      What a wonderful story. It reminded me of a snippet of Williams I’ve always liked. Asked about his writing, he said, “I’m a poet. And then I put the poetry in the drama. I put it in short stories, and I put it in the plays. Poetry’s poetry. It doesn’t have to be called a poem, you know.”

      Truthfully, I think if he’d put his poetry in the manual that came with my microwave oven I’d have read it over and over. He was as good as anyone at getting it right.

      Linda

      • The Shakespeare of the U.S.

  31. Thank you for taking me to where you started. I had thought of you as an accomplished essay writer of long standing.

    Of course it must be the ‘right’ word and not the perfect word. Only the right word can be anything you need it to be, it’s the perfect word which puts you into a straightjacket.

    • friko,

      Well, sometimes it feels as though I’ve been at this forever, but it will be five years in April. One of the great satisfactions has been seeing some of my “hunches” about how to approach all this borne out. Everyone has their own path, of course, but having the confidence to forge my own has been its own delight.

      As for “perfect” – let’s just say that many years of being the “perfect child” taught me a thing or two about the straightjacket called perfection. Breaking out is possible, but it can lead to the stuff of some really good stories. ;)

      Linda

  32. Linda, as ever, this post and the community of responses which it has triggered, is a rich feast. I have really enjoyed reading it all; it’s made me look back on my own long, colourful, diverse relationship with the art of writing, rooted in that ever-beguiling, infuriating necessity: finding the right word.

    Like you, I am more likely to stop breathing than stop writing.

    Write on, brothers and sisters!

    • Anne,

      For whatever reason, something just occurred to me while I was reading your comment. You mentioned the art of writing, and I thought of all the workshops, classes, how-to books and such that are offered to help people learn how to write. But the writing doesn’t come first – the story has to come first, whatever form that takes. If we don’t have a story to tell, perhaps no word is the right word. Just a thought.

      As Flannery O’Connor says, “You don’t write a story because you have an idea but because you have a believable character.” Of course, even an idea can become a character, given the right words. When I saw the film “Lincoln”, it was clear to me that the main character wasn’t Lincoln, but the 13th Amendment. That perspective’s given me a lot to think about.

      On we go! May all our retrogrades be useful ones!

      Linda

  33. I was going to say this entry is perfect…..but I won’t. How about ‘just right’! I envy your creativity with the written word. I’ll just stick to crocheting! LOL

    • Karen,

      Ah, but you know the truth. If I’d ever learned to knit or crochet, my mother would have been ever so much more pleased with me. She was a great fan of doing things that were useful, and sitting here tapping along on the keys never qualified!

      We all have our gifts, and we all take pleasure in different things. Thank goodness! Think how boring the world would otherwise be!

      Thanks for stopping by. It looks like you’ll have a fine weekend to stay in and do some crocheting – I hear your area’s singing “Baby, it’s cold outside…”

      Linda

      • Well, Linda, I know you aren’t on Facebook, but my status update about 3 times in the past couple of weeks has been, “Baby, it’s cold outside!” LOL Hopefully today was the last of the very cold ones. It was bitterly cold today, mostly because of the winds. I heard that L.A. set a new ‘low’ record. Now, they say by Friday we’ll be slightly above average. I sure hope so!

  34. I remember (don’t I? I’m sure I do) your first blogs – definitely the one on Sisyphus. I easily remember pictures and hang all kinds of associations on them. So I’ll say that I was, just as Arti mentions, a “charter” reader of Task. And have followed along all this time. Look at all that’s been done and written and recorded in that time – as in the blink of an eye, really. (I owe all I know to understand “time” to Einstein, and to my Mom.) Kudos and onward!

    And then there’s my old fallback, my beloved French language, who exacts getting stuff down on paper referring to it as “le mot juste.”

    They’re not something literal you can take apart, those three words. They related to meaning and feeling and the fact that we have hundreds of words but at that time and moment, only le mot juste. Whatever we call ourselves, it is the continual pursuit of getting words down and getting them right by instinct and drive to express something both paradoxically personal and universal that truly makes a writer. Et, voila! Vous y etes! (you ARE one…)

    • oh,

      I know exactly when we “met”. It was June 22, 2008, during the Mississippi flood. My blog was three months old when you landed at this post, titled “The Flooded Heart”. Maybe you’d been googling – my first sentence included a reference to St. Louis, along with a first quoting of T.S. Eliot – his lines about the river being “a strong, brown god”.

      And you know – one of my own favorite posts is the one about the joys of imperfection, the one where I used your Christmas jigsaw puzzle with the two missing pieces. I may never know where my car keys are, but I remember the important stuff!

      The wonderful thing about blogs (IMO, of course) is the continually-building context, the interaction between writers and readers, the history that accretes, bit by bit. It’s all part of “le mot juste”, the meaning and feeling that connect us all.

      To put it another way, even when the Mississippi’s not in full flood, we still gather at the river – the words that just keep streaming on. I suppose the biggest choice is the one my Dad’s old desk plaque posits: “Most any poor old fish can float and drift along and dream, but it takes a regular live one to swim against the stream.”

      Thanks for the years, and all the kind words – and more!

      Linda

  35. You write as if you’ve been writing for 100 years. Your words are music. Your thoughts are a painting. Artfully arranged you bring the reader along with you. After all, who do we write for.

    I laughed at the notion of growing into clothes made of words. No matter how you want to interpret this statement you wear these clothes well. Clearly, you were born to write.

    This was a wonderful post. Thank you!

    • WildBill,

      That’s one of the first questions, isn’t it? Who do we write for? I’m not prepared to suggest one answer’s better than another, but clearly – if we’re writing to be read we need to make our words as “readable” as we can. Even those of us who’ll never be a great artist with words can gain some skill in the craft!

      I love the thought of “growing into words”, too. And I like the thought of making friends with the words we use. You may get a kick out of this image . Who knows? Maybe our words are so happy to be given life on the page they do feel like hugging us!

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! I’m really glad I dragged out the history.

      Linda

  36. I knew some of the story but it was nice to hear the whole thing.

    You’ve come a long way since your first blog in 2005. You should be proud of yourself!

    • Gué,

      I still remember the first photo I posted at WU – it was a rainbow over my marina. And you know who helped me sort out how to do it? Doc! From there it was just a hop, skip and a jump to the giant pecan in Seguin and the cypress trees in the hill country. Good grief.

      Actually, I joined WU in 2005, during “that” hurricane season, but didn’t post my first blog entry until October of 2007. It took me that long to get up the courage!

      I was digging around in my files a couple of days ago, looking for something specific, and discovered a file with a few of my very, very early WU posts – written before or just at the time I was starting out here at WordPress. One of them dealt with the whole issue of success – the worry that comes along with satisfaction. I asked, rhetorically, “What if I can’t do it again?” Well, that was about five years ago. So far, so good!

      Linda

      • 2007? Really? I would have sworn it was longer ago than that. Your WU archives go back to July 2005, although, you (like Sandi) delete prior entries when you put new ones up.

        How do I know that? I was being nosy! lol

        • Nope. Those 2005 entries were just photos. Then, in September of 2005, everything came to a screeching halt because of hurricane Rita on September 18. That was the fourteen hour trip to Nacogdoches with Mom and Dixie Rose. :)

          After we got back home from Rita, that was the end of my blogging for a while. There was a full two year gap until I picked it up again in 2007.

          I couldn’t figure out why I started and stopped after just three months in 2005. Then I remembered Rita and it all became clear!

          • That would do it.

  37. Well we all got to start some place or another but it was in the mid-40’s i think it hit me that we didn’t have to finish. Some old guy I knew died that was known locally for his letter writing and his amazingly paper filled office area. So my brain is stuck on the fact that it isn’t what you have done but what you start that is incomplete.

    As always it is fun visiting this place. I will break down and blog someday and it will cut into fishing some. Carry on until then.

    • blufloyd,

      You’d be happy enough to be blogging down here this morning. It was 72 and calm yesterday – now we’re 42 and windy. The callers on the early morning hunting and fishing show called in from home, mostly drinking coffee and congratulating themselves on their good sense. But they think the crappie fishing’ll be good once things settle out.

      You’re right – we don’t have to finish. I don’t figure I’ll ever finish. One day, I’ll just get mown down like a field of daisies and that’ll be it. That doesn’t really bother me, though. I’d rather just keep on keepin’ on until I can’t any more. When that time comes – well, I’ll figure it out then, if I have to. I’d far rather do that than be one of the folks who stops living years before they die.

      Speaking of starting things – isn’t it about time for you to think about getting yourself down this way? Maybe we could get Wendy to take us fishing. ;)

      Linda

  38. My front door has a padlock, so I keep my keys on a – wow, what DO you call that little clasp like is on a horse’s lead shank? I just hit a wall with my vocabulary! (I’ve been painting!)….

    So I always slide the little ring through the lock when it’s not in use or I clip the keys to my belt loop or purse. Otherwise I’d be misplacing my keys as well!

    Again, I loved this post!

    lisa/z

    • Lisa,

      Just remember – losing keys is far less important than losing the creative urge or the creative edge. There’s always someone around willing to find our keys and roll their eyes and give us good advice about how not to let THAT happen again. Creativity? It’s not so easy!

      Happy painting!

      Linda

  39. I first read this post days ago, and like others, I was stunned by the news that you’d come to writing in such recent times. A ‘late bloomer’ was the term that popped into my head, and a quick search on Google brought me to this page – http://www.laterbloomer.com/about
    and of course, I was distracted for a time…..

    Returning here I’m as always, entertained by the comments/replies, and through such I found these words of wisdom by WildBill on his blog – ” I’m content with my own thoughts these days. This is something that age has improved. It is important to note any improvements with age. This helps to counter act the many setbacks that aging seems to promote.”
    Yes – blogs, especially gems like this one, are wonderful!

    • eremophila,

      I’ve been sitting here pondering… Late bloomer in some ways, yes. No question. But also a very early bloomer in others. I was reading by three, in school at four, and reading voraciously by five. And I picked up some disciplines in school that are proving useful now – especially research skills and the ability to be at least a half-way decent editor for myself.

      But in the end, I think my “blooms” along the way have had one thing in common – the freedom to create without expectations. I don’t just suspect that freedom is critical to gaining confidence and finding contentment as we age – I know it is. But we need a little age in order to have a little perspective – that perspective’s probably the best thing I can find about getting older!

      Linda

  40. It’s really interesting to know about the background to your blogging and writing, Linda. And look at the number of comments here before mine! A sure sign that you’re very much appreciated.

    You say you were a “non-writer” in those very early days. In that case, you’ve certainly come a very long way since then, with the exquisite writing you present us with in every single post. All the best…

    • Andrew,

      Like everyone else, I did plenty of writing in my schooling and earlier careers – but most of it had a point (or was supposed to) or was much more formal. Perhaps the biggest difference here is the degree of freedom. I write about what interests me, and can roam all over the place – rather like a photographer with camera in hand!

      There really are so many similarities. Questions about what to focus on, which details to include, how to process/edit – I guess it’s no wonder I’ve turned so often to the writings of photographers to learn how to write!

      Linda

  41. Thank you for sharing your path with us. What is remarkable about your writing is not that you write consistently week after week, but that its texture remains consistent.

    When I was a little girl, our family gathered for dinner where we didn’t just eat. There was always conversation and especially on Sunday. I came to love following the conversation, and interjecting my own two cents. I find that here I’m not only enjoying the main course, but following the comment thread of all who partake. As one of your commenters noted here or another post, “What a rich feast.” Thank you, again.

    • Georgette,

      I swear I left a response here. I’ve been having such trouble with wordpress – no notifications in my toolbar, missing emails, and so on. Hard to say. We’ll just say it’s my mind – easier to fix my memory than to fix WP!

      Like your family, ours maintained mealtime as a family event. Especially on Sundays, when the extended family gathered, there was plenty of conversation, and one of the great “transition points of life” was being allowed to move from the children’s tables to the adult table. Sitting there in a big chair, trying to remember which utensil to use and gathering up the courage to say something – it was wonderful!

      One of the things I love about blogging is the interaction. I’ve always thought of the original post as a starting point. Where it goes from there depends solely on the inclinations of the commenters – what piques their interest, which associations arise and so on. It’s one reason I read the blogs of those who comment as consistently as I can – as we get to know one another, comments do become conversation. Now and then we have to head to the closet to pull out another leaf for the table – but that’s a joy, not a chore!

      Linda

  42. I don’t recall now how or when we found each other, but I do recall your sharing how you started at Weather Underground and how it went from there. I’ve always thought you were a wonderful writer, and have said so many times. The images you conjure, the feelings you invoke, are always just right! There’s so much more to say, but I think you know what I mean!

    • Wendy,

      I know exactly how we found one another. Your blog was in the sidebar of a blog called “One More Good Adventure” – belongs to a fellow in Panama who used to work crew boats in Louisiana. I came over to your blog from his, was completely entranced by Camp Dularge, and sent an email. I’d already spent some time in Breaux Bridge, but was looking for a way to get farther down the bayou – and there you were! It wasn’t long before Joan and I showed up on your doorstep. We were there the week Deepwater Horizon blew – didn’t even really know about it until we got home.

      I’ll tell you this – spring is starting to stir and I swear to goodness I’m going to make it back over there. Now that I have some context, I’m better prepared to learn more and enjoy a whole lot more. Just a little work to get done, first. I think you know what I mean about that, too!

      Thanks for being such a faithful reader and friend. Here’s to a 2013 that’s a lot more fun and a lot fewer problems!

      Linda

  43. Dear Linda,
    The porridge, or indeed the salvia, is just right. It becomes just right for you and me when the quarrying we do is not only relentless — Sisyphean task — but also a sustainable one.
    I have been through this post so many times, I just might believe I could do it, too!

    • Priya,

      Of course you can do it!

      Here’s a story I’ve always loved. I think my mother told it to me first, but it could have been Grandma. In any event:

      A caterpillar found another caterpillar lying on his back in a ditch. “What’s the problem?” asked the first. “I can’t move!” said the second. “Why not?” “I started trying to figure out which foot should move first, and now I can’t move any of them!”

      Sometimes, less thinking and more doing is all that’s needed. ;)

      Linda

  44. Dear Linda,

    Thank you for this post. It is so beautiful and inspiring.

    in my experience, i oftentimes become frustrated when finding the right word is so elusive… But like a butterfly when I don’t try too hard and turn my attention to other things, it quietly and gently comes to mind.

    I love the Goldilocks story and its analogy for writers.

    As always, it’s a delight to read your posts…

    Jojang

    • Jojang,

      I have the same experience. Sometimes it’s a single word, sometimes it’s even something like a title for a post or a bit of structure. I’ll go to bed at night, and wake up in the morning with what I was looking for “right there”. I like to describe it as my brain working the night shift. ;)

      I’m so glad you liked the post – especially the Goldilocks analogy. I was so surprised when that came to me. It just goes to show – even remnants of our childhood can remain available to us, to be used in new and creative ways!

      Thank you so much for stopping by. It’s such a pleasure to follow you and Matt on your own site.

      Linda


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