Thursday, July 3, 2008

"The fire is just a big raging animal right now," said Darby Marshall, spokesman for the Monterey County Office of Emergency Services

The fires continue raging--and now the town of Big Sur, which is about 70 miles from where I live in San Jose, has been evacuated. Yes, the whole town. 25 miles of one of the most beautiful coastal highways in the world have been shut down. Big Sur is one of nature's amazing beauties, with its old redwoods and stunning coastline.The fire was started by lightening. And although we've been dealing with more than 1,000 fires in California during the past couple of weeks, this one is the worst and most out of control right now.

Our skies in my neighborhood have cleared up significantly, though, so certainly progress is being made on many of the fires. I was able to go on a long walk today without my lungs tightening up. In fact, I'd walked for 90 minutes along the Los Gatos Creek Trail and was cooling off in the shade of Campbell Park with my dog Max, when my cell phone rang in my fanny pack. It was my friend Kelly asking me if we were going to walk today. I told her to come over to the park, and we walked another hour together.

Sometimes I feel like someone who was born to do a Walkabout. I feel like I could walk for hours, days, months...Maybe I should try it sometime. Maybe for my 50th birthday (five years hence) I'll walk 50 miles.

That's nothing, though, compared to what my friend Laura is doing for her 60th birthday. She and her husband are training right now to walk 100 miles: from Squaw Valley to Auburn, California (my hometown).

Another friend, Michele, hiked the Grand Canyon for her 50th birthday.

Annie's 50th birthday is coming up in January, and she's trying to decide what to do to commemorate it. She's leaning toward a winter cabin in the snow, drinking hot toddies--and preferably getting snowed in so we have to miss a few days of work.

Ah, but it feels strange to be talking about snow with all this heat we've had lately. On my walk today, I enjoyed the first Technicolor-blue (rather than brown) sky that I've seen in a while. Usually bluest of blue skies are daily summer fare here.

This blog entry is wandering ... apropos since I'm talking about walking, I suppose. Here's an update on my writing. I wrote a book review that was just accepted (with revisions I need to make by next week) by a journal that's actually paying me a little sumpthin. I have so many stories, essays and poems forthcoming in print and online journals and anthologies that I've kind of lost count. I used to be very meticulous and writing all this stuff down, but now I just enjoy the surprise when a curious package comes in the mail and I rip it open to find that, ah yes, that journal that accepted my X has come out.

On the writing-the-novel front, I've had a few days (okay, weeks) of being really stuck but had a kind of breakthrough this morning--a structural breakthrough. I think I now understand the novel's central thread that will weave through each part to hold it together. I think.

Now I need to find the damn voice. I've never had voice elude me quite this way. Kelly and I talked about this on our walk. I do think the fact that I'm telling the story in third person is making finding a lively voice more difficult. First person voice is usually a no-brainer for me. Third person voice is always more elusive. That--and the fact that the characters all lived more than 50 years ago. It all feels a little distant still.

I need to find some way into the intimate space of the characters' lives that will give me an "alive" voice. Kelly suggested I imagine a character telling the story. Even if I keep the novel in third person omniscient, I can imagine an-invisible-to-the-reader person who is speaking. A person always has a voice. I like the idea. Now I have to wrap my mind around who that speaker might be.

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