• Tag Archives Blue Cloud
  • A Morning During Our Long November

    Winter                            First Moon of the New Year

    Our long November continues.  Patchy snow, mostly bare ground and leafless trees.  Occasional sunshine, like today, otherwise gloomy and gray.   I’m disappointed in the season since I believe we have to earn our springs here and I’m not sure we’re going to this year.  Of course, last year may have counted for two.

    Action method and Evernote have both made my work on the computer much more productive.  I can switch seamlessly among projects now without having to do a lot of hunting for files and resources.  Since my days have become more and more study oriented this means a lot to me.

    (remember last winter?)

    Kate’s out having lunch with a friend, Penny.  I worked on Ovid, finished up my ten verses for this week.  This afternoon I’ll check out my objects for my two China tours tomorrow and probably enter some more of the material I wrote last March at Blue Cloud.

    I’m getting close to having that finished.  Once I do, I’ll go back over my notes and start writing again.  I expect I’ll have a rough draft finished in February if things go well.  I’ll start on Book II after that.


  • Story Problems. More Story Problems.

    Imbolc                                                        Waxing Bloodroot Moon

    OMG.  I can’t count!  I did about one-third the number of words at Blue Cloud as I thought I did.  A silly arithmetic error.  Have you ever seen that Gary Larson cartoon with Hell over the door and a bookcase containing books titled:  Story Problems, More Story Problems, Story Problems the 11 edition?  That’s me.

    It doesn’t change how hard I worked, not at all.  Or, the value of getting back to the writing.  Just deflates my overall sense of accomplishment.  Which, come to think of it…

    On my last night at Blue Cloud I met an unusual guy, Lawrence Diggs.  Lawrence is a bald headed Africa-American about my age, a Buddhist and refers to himself as the Vinegar Man.  Lawrence and I had a two hour long conversation about reality, economics, racism and writing.  It was strange to meet a fellow flat-earther as far as divine metaphysics go on the last night of my stay at this Benedictine Monastery.  Strange and exhilarating.

    When the Woollys go back to Blue Cloud in September, I’m going to set up a visit to the International Vinegar Museum in Rosslyn, about 40 miles to the west on Hwy. 12, toward Aberdeen.  I mean, how many chances will you get to see it?

    As I now calculate it, I have about 60-65,000 words done on Missing, counting the Blue Cloud work.  That’s about 2/3’rds of the way.  Just gotta keep plugging away.

  • Next to Last Day

    Imbolc                                   Waxing Bloodroot Moon

    I’ve had visitors now for lunch every day.  Father Chris and I discussed being hard of hearing.  When I mentioned saying something inappropriate occasionally in noisy places, he recounted a time when a parishioner said he was going to his sister’s funeral.  That’s nice! Father Chris replied.

    Brother Paul presented me with a pound of Blue Cloud Abbey honey, from one beekeeper to another.

    I’ve gotten to know more of the monks on an individual basis, mostly through lunch since I spend most of my time here in the room writing and when I finish in the afternoon no one’s around.  Dinner is in silence and afterward the monks retire.

    Breakfast is usually in silence although Sunday morning is not, I learned today.  The rhythm goes silent breakfast after morning prayers, then day prayer and eucharist followed by a lunch when talking is ok and a silent dinner not long after evening prayer held at 5 pm.  Vigils come at 7:30 and after it, at 10 pm, the night or grand silence.

    The silence at regular intervals and the quiet in general make this a wonderful place to write.  The only noises here are bells, singing and chanting, howling wind and the occasional train.

  • Heading Home Tomorrow

    Imbolc                                     Waxing Bloodroot Moon

    Snow has begun to come down in earnest.  I like the view out of my window here in the Bishop’s room.  Snow falls between the two pines that frame the central pane and I can see across the service road toward what I now know is the Monastery orchard.  This is a wonderful piece of land, wooded in parts, with two lakes and ample space for agriculture.  The Monastery did have a large farm at one time.

    I’ve decided I’ll head home tomorrow afternoon.  I’m a bit lonely here now and I want to see Kate and the dogs.  Since I get my writing done in the morning, sometimes a bit after lunch, I can write tomorrow morning, eat lunch and head out.  That way I can be back at my desk on Tuesday morning, ready to keep on writing.

    So ancientrails will hit the road around 1 pm tomorrow, driving east on Highway 12, then north on 494.

    Breakfast today is at 8, not 7:30.  Feels pretty soft, writing here at 7:50 instead of dining in silence.  The Monastery is a great place to focus on writing and I think I’ll return when it comes time to revise one of my earlier works, perhaps in January.  Once I finish the first draft of Missing, I’ll have Kate read it and comment on it, perhaps Lydia, then I’ll set in a manuscript box on the shelf in my study.  6 months or so later, I’ll take it out and read it like a stranger, making the first cuts and revisions.

    Though I’ve not practiced it, they say writing is in the re-writing and I believe it.

  • Corvids

    Imbolc                                  New (Bloodroot) Moon

    Another image came to me last night.  The monks look like ravens, clothed in black with their beaks pointed backward (the cowl) and a human face where the back of the head would be.  Ravens and the corvids in general are the most intelligent of all birds, having demonstrated their cunning and their problem solving ability to anyone who knows them well.  They also have demonstrated self-awareness, something many humans can’t claim.

    In that sense then this would be a rookery with the monks nesting in the long south wing and their guests in temporary nest to the west and north.

    The longer I’m here the more I realize what a strong community exists among these 14 monks.  They have roads to plow, vehicles to maintain, building systems to repair and maintain, dishes to wash, the sick to care for, guests to accommodate, prayer services to attend and lead, worship and eucharist on Sundays for the Blue Cloud parish, clothing to make, linens to wash.  Ora et labora indeed.

    The brotherhood and intentional community impresses me as does it long historical continuity dating back to the early centuries of the first millennium c.e.

    A little weary today of the writing, but I plan to plow ahead anyhow.  That is, after all, why I’m here.

  • The Writer’s Table

    Imbolc                         New (Bloodroot) Moon

    My table at lunch had more monks.  Word had got around that I was working on a novel.

    Brother Benet listed other writers who came from time to time to write, “John Hassler used to come here frequently, especially for his first 6 novels.”

    Brother Sebastian, stone and wood sculptor and the Abbey’s tailor, said, “Yes, he’d have readings. ”

    Great, I thought.

    “Bill Holm came here, too,”  Brother Benet said.  “And Kathleen Norris.  She’s back in Honlulu, now.”

    Father Michael added another, a guy who’s name they couldn’t remember, but “He’s an junior high English teacher and also works in a funeral home.”

    The lively and the dead.  Sounds like a good title.

    “Oh, yes,” Brother Benet said, “He got an MFA.  He wrote a book of short stories, all set in the funeral home.”

    We all got a chuckle out of that.  Must be a quiet place to write, that sort of thing.

    I admit I felt intimidated.  Bill Holm.  John Hassler.  Kathleen Norris.  Big names in serious literature and here I am writing a fantasy novel.

    Father Michael, it turns out, reads fantasy.

    I’m 25,000 words further along than when I got here and I think they’re pretty good pages.  Not great, but pretty good.  Having a long quiet time in isolation from the world is a great thing.  Wouldn’t want to stay from Kate and the dogs and the house like this too often, but it seems to be effective.  I might do it again.  Maybe when I’m finished and need to start revising.  Maybe then.

    Oh, yeah.  Then there’s the fact that both Hassler and Holm are dead.

  • Hail, La Nina

    Imbolc                                New (Bloodroot) Moon

    A while back I asked John Harstad, then the naturalist at Cedar Creek Nature Center, a wonderful place run by the University of Minnesota and only about 15 miles from home, about first signs of spring.  His answer coincided with a local master gardener, “Bloodroot blooms.”  Since that should happen within the waxing and waning of this moon,  I’m choosing Bloodroot Moon for its name.

    The snow began to come down this morning and has some legs.  The sky has turned sheet metal gray and the wind blows in from the northeast.  If I recall correctly, such wind direction can foretell deep snow.  Not predicted though.

    This is the half-way point in my stay here at Blue Cloud.  I’m feeling it, too.  I’ve been working almost twice as long each day as I usually do when I write at home.  Though I love it, I’m getting tired.  Might be another 10 am nap coming on, too.

    Conspirata, a novel about Cicero’s life, has been my casual reading.  I’ve finished 60% of it; I know this because the Kindle gives you a percent read number for each page since you don’t have the sense of the book’s length but its heft.

    The other reading I’ve been doing is Livia Kohn’s introductory text on Taoism.  As with most things that interest me, I find as I get deeper into it that my opinion begins to change, split along certain lines where my own sensibilities face challenges.  In the instance of Taoism I find myself drawn more and more into the mystical, physical aspects:  the Dao, the exercises, meditation practices and pushed further away from the political implications, or wuwei (inaction) applied to political affairs.

    This doesn’t bother me as I’ve learned, quite a while ago, that I don’t have to swallow the whole message to be enlightened by a school of thought.  Part of the creation of dogma comes as an institutional base emerges around any school of thought.  The dogma supports the creation of certain organizational structures, then the structures become a conservative force clinging to the original dogma, thoughts most often far removed from what Max Weber called the original “charisma.”

    Thus, by the time most of us enter into a body of religious or philosophical thought the original genius behind it is hidden by layers of defensive structure and dogma hardened over time, often hardened against the danger of the original charism.

    And so forth. Time to pick up the tablet and get to work.  Bye for snowy now.