Friday, April 29, 2016

Three Years of Morning Pages

I was sure it had been four years since I adopted the habit of writing Morning Pages, but one of the benefits of blogging is that it does provide a log of what I've been up to. Each year, I celebrated my Morning Pages anniversary, and thus it turns out that it's been only three years. It really seems much longer than that to me because it has become such an integral part of my life.

I can go several weeks without producing a piece of writing, by which I mean an essay or an article that I plan to submit for publication, or fiddling with a larger writing project, but I rarely skip a day of Morning Pages. Five mornings a week, Monday through Friday, with a cup of freshly brewed coffee, I sit in my spot on the couch, my legs curled up under me (not very healthy), the notebook propped on the armrest, and write whatever comes to mind until two pages of these red/black books are filled. In last year's photo there were five notebooks in the stack, now there are seven.

My husband has become accustomed to my writing in the morning; even if I can eek out only ten minutes, it's a graciously quiet time for me. I aim for two pages, which takes me about 30 minutes and two cups of coffee. If there is less time, I settle for less because it's still beneficial for me to visit with myself. That's what Morning Pages have really become: a visit with myself. As Julia Cameron writes, and to her I am indebted for this wonderful ritual of Morning Pages, "writing means expressing yourself, and in order to express yourself, you need to have a self to express."

My Morning Pages books have become sign posts, places to house ideas that get scribbled on the margins, homes for lists of ideas, tasks and plans. Those pages of lists are often ear marked, and I do return to them now and then, to see where I've been, where I wanted to go, and whether I made a few destinations or ended up taking a different route. I've noticed that often, when I begin writing, I'm first dumping the trash of the current events in my life, and then it truly bops around less in my mind. As I keep going, however, I write myself into something else, something I didn't see coming, something new, be it a different angle on something that's happened, or an idea for an essay.

Every morning I marvel again at the beauty of this process. It is simply a great tool not only for a writer, but for life.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Building Update

It's been way too long since I've shared an update of our building project, the barn with built-in apartment on our country property in Indiana. This is partly due to lots of days spent at the construction site. When I return home, I'm too tired to work on a blog post, and my other days are crammed with running the rest of my life (family, job, writing, etc...). Anyway, things have progressed nicely, and we hope to be able to "move in" come summer.

This is what it looked like when the snow left. The other shell was done before winter came, and pretty much all work since then has been on putting in the second floor with the apartment and finishing the inside.

Most days, it looks like this now. Doors open, and construction stuff everywhere. The porch is where the apartment is going in.

Conferences with the crew are still a constant.

And I still love the patterns found on a construction site; here the cabin of the caterpillar up close.

The inside of the barn without the caterpillar. On top of the storage loft: stacks of insulation material.

Inside the apartment, we had stud "walls" for quite some time while all the wiring and pipes were put in. Now they are slowly getting closed up. 

I love the lines and symmetry of the electrical wiring as well as the texture of the insulation. And I think it's kind of fun to know what's inside the walls, what makes it all work in the end. But it does mean deciding where every outlet goes, how each light is switched, where each faucet, thermostat, volume control, etc. are positioned. And most of that you can't really decide until you stand in the actual space.

This will be the future main bathroom with what my husband calls "Annette's" tub because I love taking baths and insisted on having a tub.

The kitchen counter will run along this window where the podium with the plans is right now.

The living area seen from where the kitchen will be. Beyond those windows is the porch.

A few days later, in that very same kitchen/living room, the tubing for the in-floor heating is put in, and the chimney for the cast iron stove is installed.

And, as usual, various contractor vans are parked out front, their wondrous worlds of tools and supplies on display.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Power of Keeping a Promise to Yourself

St. George's Monastery, Wadi Qelt

Always, always, I have wanted to see the Greek Orthodox monasteries of Marsaba and St. George, built into the cliffs of the Judean Hills. But on all of my trips to Israel so far, it was either too hot (the desert wadis are not places to visit in the summer), or too dangerous (political unrest), or I was too busy with other things (seeing family and friends, learning Hebrew and seeing other sights) to actually attempt to see them.

On my most recent trip (I just returned a few days ago), I finally did it. I did something I always said, mainly to myself, that I wanted to do.

I found a jeep tour that would pick us up at our Jerusalem hotel and drive us out into the West Bank to see the monasteries. I texted my daughter whether we should do it on that one day when it looked like it could work out, she texted back, "Let's do it!"

So we did it. Mind you, traveling out there is not without its hazards, see sign above, so you absolutely need a guide who knows his way around. In addition, the monasteries are remote, isolated, as the monks want to live as undisturbed as possible. They have left the world behind and have run these desert monasteries for hundreds of years.

Once we leave Jerusalem and are off-roading, we stop by an 800-year-old cistern (it can supply the Bedouin family that lives close to it with water for up to three years), pet a new-born lamb, and spot Israel's national bird, the hoopoe, on a Bedouin grave.

Not until we reach the edge of the Kidron Valley does the magical castle of the Marsaba Monastery, clinging to the cliff on the opposite side, appear in the car window.

Founded in the 5th century CE, the Marsaba Monastery has been in continuous use and twenty monks live there these days. Inadvertently, I caught one of them in the above photo, on the stairs under the copper dome.

Women are not allowed inside the monasteries, so we are only able to view Marsaba from the opposite cliff.

It is a wonderous castle, isn't it? Fortified by the crusaders in the 11th/12th century, it boasts the architecture of their sturdy fortress walls and towers.

Then it is time for mint tea and cookies, prepared by our guide in the back of his SUV.

On our way across the Judean hills, traffic jams West Bank-style.

My first glimpse of the St. George Monastery, built into the cliffs of Wadi Qelt, on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho.

St. George is not as remote as Marsaba, so here we tourists are met by souvenir sellers.

On the hill tops above, crosses stake the monastery's claim to its territory.

Founded in 480 CE, St. George was destroyed by the Persians in 614 CE, and not really restored until the late 19th century. You can see that its architecture is quite different from that of Marsaba.

Before we leave, we visit the remnants of an aqueduct built by King Herod (73-4 BCE) in Wadi Qelt. The Dead Sea shimmers beyond the Judean Hills, their northern slopes dusted green with the grass of spring.

As we leave the wonders of the wadis behind us and drive back to Jerusalem, I sit in the back of the SUV and smile to myself. I am tired, sweaty and dusty but I also feel like I'm flying, floating on the inside. Why does it feel so great to have seen the monasteries? Sure, they are indeed magnificent sites to see, and I am happy that I finally managed to see them. But more than that, I realize, by having made this trip, I have kept a promise to myself, and there is special power in that.

Keeping a promise to yourself boosts your confidence in yourself (your self confidence) because you actually do what you tell yourself you will do, not only for others but for yourself. And then, when you do it, when you fulfill that promise, you grow a little on the inside. You gain a little pride in yourself. You float.

PS: This post is my contribution to the Bella Grace Blog Hop. Remember to leave a comment (until April 1) for a chance to win a copy of the Bella Grace Spring 2016 issue (be sure I have a way to contact you!), and check out the chain of Bella Grace Blog hoppers.

Thanks for stopping by!