As of Monday, Mars is retrograde in Virgo until April; in translation, it means that work, organization or systems will lag a bit. In particular, completing tasks and meeting goals will take longer.

If I know, you have to know but here are the stars for goal-gazing.

Yup, this is a check-in for A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW 80). ROW80 is an exercise for writers who aspire to write and to live—preferably at the same time—and be happy about it. Of course, that is my interpretation of ROW80, as it happens to be my lifelong goal.

Writer Dorothy Parker—there is a Facebook page that features her—expressed it this way:

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

I am 60 this August, no longer young but still aspiring, although I’ve called myself a writer for over 30 years. Have not been without a copy of The Elements of Style in over 40 years, yet happiness, unlike so many needless words, has been omitted. However, believing  age favors my living on, I continue as a starry-eyed writer.

In my career(s), writing has always played a part: teaching writing at the junior college and university levels; editing two journals and a statewide newspaper; writing grants, proposals, and government reports. I have some fiction and poetry published, one novel written through, awaiting revision.

Some years ago, I chose writing over the love of a lifetime. Still amazes me, from time to time, but it’s not surprising, really. I have always written stories, sometimes in place of truth, but more often as a way to truth. Not sure there’s a difference.

loving yourself requires a courage unlike any other. It requires us to believe in and stay loyal to something no one else can see that keeps us in the world—our own self-worth” (Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening).

Rhythm of ROW 80 Wednesday Word Markers:

Since January 2, I have written almost 250 words per day or approximately 5000 words.

Two and “Not Two”

Len Huber, Photographer

A winter’s day in Seattle produces snow-fog all around Puget Sound as the warmth of a cloudless sky bathes St. Mark’s Refuge on the Gulf of Mexico. We categorize them as here or there, as opposites even. What one location has, the other has not, for they are two. Yet, they are “not two” as they are one with the waters that cover the earth.

“Not two” was the constant response of Seng Ts’An–third patriarch of Chan in the seventh century–to all who sought his advice. Perhaps the patriarch’s response is best understood by what he did not say–oneness.

As one, we are both here and there, not completely in one place or the other. There is no separation between what we have and what we lack if we are one, not two. When we identify ourselves as this or that, we deprive ourselves of our joy, the “filling up and spilling over”* of  us.

In oneness, we are infused with the force of life and all of its mystery. Mark Nepo writes that “there are no wrong turns, only unexpected paths.”  If we believe that failure and success are one–not two–then we understand that every choice we make is complete in and of itself, a path of our own accord. Happy trails!

*Cris Williamson lyric in “The Changer and the Changed.”

Rhythm of ROW80 Sunday Scheduling:

  • Submitted bi-weekly Leashed as scheduled
  • Introducing short story revisions to writing schedule this week
    Plan this for afternoons/evenings but have to work in a nap
  • Novel revision consistent but not daily yet
  • Doing the Tao with Dyer on duality
  • Nepo morning meditation continues

Day of Freedom

On this day of the noble SOPA and PIPA protests to protect Internet freedom, here is the freedom story of  beagle Snoop (now Cooper) and feline Emma (now EmmaRose), who got a little help from another beagle named Gumby.

Ten year old Snoop and his cat, Emma, had been together for all of Emma’s six years. Then, their elderly owner was admitted to an assisted living facility. The “mature pair” was taken to an animal shelter where they were separated immediately.

Snoop’s geriatric status meant he was not adoptable so he was facing euthanasia. Emma was being held, although she most likely would have contracted a respiratory infection as she waited, which would have meant euthanasia for her as well.

Second Chance Farms, Inc. (SCF) decided Snoop and Emma deserved better. “We became aware of their situation and couldn’t help feel sorry for this lifelong pair who were first separated from their beloved owner and then from each other. We decided to take them both into our program so that they could be reunited and have a chance at being adopted by a forever family.”

Five months later, my beagle, Gumby, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. She was an elderly, SCF graduate, whom I’d adopted. For three years, I took her beagling, and she taught me Zen. Thus, on January 19, 2011, I found myself turning down the familiar SCF road– tears turning  into sobs of  loss—then, the moment passed. Gumby was with me.

SCF seemed to sense Gumby’s presence as well. “As if Gumby had orchestrated the whole thing, Snoop and Emma were welcomed into the open arms (literally) of Gumby’s mom. Snoop clearly knew that his job was to help Gumby’s mom heal after the loss of her special friend, and he eagerly greeted his new mom with many kisses and excitedly jumped into the car (along with his cat, Emma) when it was time to leave the farm to head to their new home.”

Today is Snoop’s (Cooper’s) eleventh birthday and tomorrow, January 19th, he, Emma (EmmaRose), and I celebrate our first year together.

As Dr. Mac said to Snoop just before we left, “You did everything right.”

Indeed, you did, birthday boy, indeed you did.

Rhythm of ROW 80 Wednesday Words:

  • Since January 2, I have written at least 250 words per day or more than 4250 words.

Become a Lake

In The Book of Awakening, Mark Nepo relates the story of a Hindu master and his young apprentice. Weary of the novice’s complaints, the master sends him to purchase salt.

Upon the apprentice’s return, he is told to put a handful of salt into a glass of water and drink. “`Bitter’” is how the apprentice describes the water. The master smiles.

They walk to a lake. The apprentice is told to throw a handful of salt into the lake and then drink from it. “`Fresh’” is the apprentice’s appraisal of the water’s taste.

“`The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain… remains…exactly the same. But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in.’” 

The salt of my last few days—staggering car repair costs, injured feline, lupus lurking, increasingly arthritic canine, a mere 320 words whittled from Chapter 1, no regular blog post, no Leashed post for secondchancefarms.org—disheartens, discourages, what ifs abound, fear surrounds.

Five-and-a-half pound feline EmmaRose snuggles the Internet modem box, her laceration and antibiotic injection not even a memory. Beagle mix Cooper James yips as he runs through his dreams; when he awakens, he’s just as happy.

“`So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is…enlarge your sense of things….Stop being a glass. Become a lake.’”

ROW 80 ebb and flow for January 8-15th:

  • Drafted a new plot point for my novel; wrote through its context and purpose.
  • Anchored structure of novel; opening scene revision close.
  • Incorporated ROW 80 goals into my meditation work with Nepo and Dyer.
  • Became a lake.

Attribution: Hindu story and excerpts from Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have, Conari Press, York Beach, ME 2000.

The Tao of ROW 80

“The Tao is both named and nameless.
As nameless it is the origin of all things; as named it is the Mother of 10,000 things.”
In naming my ROW 80 goals and publishing them on my blog, I named my writing, oblivious to the nameless.

“Ever desireless, one can see the mystery; ever desiring, one sees only the manifestations.”
On Sunday, I named my desire to write for two hours in the morning, which I did only on Monday. I could not see the mystery for my desire of hours.

“And the mystery itself is the doorway to all understanding.”
My ROW 80 writing goals–my desires—lead me to the way of writing always, a lifelong mystery for me.
1. Write through my novel again; at the end of ROW 80, I mark my words.
2. Publish weekly on my own blog and submit a bi-weekly post to secondchancefarms.org.
3. Morning meditation with Nepo; daily with Dyer “I do the Tao.”

 Note: The ‘T’ in Tao is pronounced as a ‘D’.
Attribution: All Tao quotations excerpted from Wayne Dyer’s book, Change Your Thoughts–Change Your Life, Hay House, Inc., Carlsbad, CA, 2007.

ROW 80 (01/08/2012)

I know better than to announce which day a blog post will publish. Ditto for submission deadlines to secondchancefarms.org, although Leashed will be submitted soon.

Frankly, it feels good to be struggling with the familiar structure issue. It certainly is a reason I am participating in ROW 80.

Tomorrow, I start writing for two hours each morning.  By next Sunday, I hope to have a specific time designated but that may be a step too far. Lupus lives with me  24/7 so structure with flexibility.

Have begun my work with the first verse of the Tao–the nameless and the named 10,000 things–in Wayne Dyer’s book, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life.  The idea of writing a blog post for each verse appeals to me, daunting as it is. For now, the verse provides enough energy.

My morning meditation with Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening continues to work well. May have found a daily routine for the rest of my life.

First ROW Check In

So far, I am writing at least one hour every day. The wording on this goal is deliberate in that an hour’s worth of writing–usually more– is accomplished each day. My plan is to make this goal more specific as the 80 days count down so there is no word count this week.

As for blog posts, “Grace in the Ether” is in draft and will be published on Saturday; between now and Sunday, I will submit “Leashed” for secondchancefarms.org.

By Sunday, I hope to make my morning meditation a regular part of my routine.

The Tao work is not yet defined.