The Moon as Muse

Here’s why I love second drafts…

When you revisit your characters after writing their finale, you have a better grasp on who or what they’re fighting, what their motivations are, and how they might achieve their victories.

At times, when these characteristics and motivations are falling into place, you, as the writer, have an intense “ah-ha moment” that ties everything together in magical and unique ways.

This is what happened to me as I was writing the second draft of my upcoming YA novella—to be illustrated by the lovely Brynn Ronning Sandoval. My MC, Cassidy, had to have some sort of connection with the moon because of its numerous, fantastic cameos. But, I hadn’t yet put my finger on that was.

Until now…

The moon now plays a major role in Cassidy’s past. Not only did it cause immense grief, it also has the power to change her life into one of joy.

So, in honor of the moon and Cassidy’s unique connection with it, I present some awesome moon artwork pulled from our nation’s top institutions. What a fun mining project this was. Enjoy!

Caspar David Friedrich (German, Greifswald 1774–1840 Dresden) ~ Two Men Contemplating the Moon ~ ca. 1825–30 ~ Oil on canvas ~ 13 3/4 x 17 1/4 in. (34.9 x 43.8 cm) ~ Metropolitan Museum of Art Permanent Collection
Paul Delvaux ~ Phases of the Moon ~ ca. 1930 ~ Oil on canvas ~ 55 x 63 in. (139.7 x 160 cm) ~ Museum of Modern Art Permanent Collection
William H. Johnson ~ Moon Over Harlem ~ ca. 1942-1944 ~ Oil on plywood ~ 28 1/2 x 35 3/4 in. (72.5 x 90.8 cm) ~ Smithsonian American Art Museum Permanent Collection
William Kooning ~ Untitled (The Cow Jumps Over the Moon) ~ ca. 1937-1938 ~ Oil on Masonite ~ 20 1/2 x 36 5/8 in. (52 x 93 cm) ~ Harvard Art Museums Permanent Collection
Yashida Hodaka ~ Moon ~ ca. 1952 ~ Color Woodblock Print ~ 16 x 10 13/16 in. (40.6 x 27.5 cm) ~ Art Institute of Chicago Permanent Collection
Charles Melville dewey ~ The Harvest Moon ~ ca. 1908 ~ Oil on Canvas ~ 24 1/8 x 30 1/8 in. (61.2 x 76.6 cm) ~ Smithsonian American Art Museum Permanent Collection

My Favorite Turtle

If you live in Buena Vista, Colorado or the Arkansas River Valley, you’ve most likely seen work by the very talented and delightful Brynn Ronning. Well, here’s a little secret. A small collaboration inspired by this turtle might be in the works.

BTW – I totally and completely fell in love with this image and am sure you will, too!

Here’s a snippet for you to enjoy.

He leans against the boat’s edge and calls into the water. His voice is a symphony of brass, a blend of notes impossible for a person to make. I can’t focus on how strange it all is because the sound hypnotizes me until I no longer feel the waves, the cold, or the pain.

I find my balance and peer over his shoulder. Large, log-like masses move in a slow and fluid dance in the water. A fluke rises into the air, and I gasp.

“Whales,” I whisper.

Even as I speak the word aloud, I hardly believe it. The closest I’ve come to a whale is watching them migrate from the shore. Even then, all I’ve seen are small humps rising and falling on the horizon. If I was lucky, a whale exhaled, causing a stream of mist to shoot into the air. Never have I seen whales this close. Their presence leaves me speechless.

The boy juts his chin in the direction of the pod. “Sperm whales. The smartest ones out there.”

He oozes arrogance, speaking as though he’s trained them himself, which confuses me more.

The boat stills as the waves change direction to push the whales away, who barrel through the ocean unaffected. I can’t take my eyes off these magnificent beasts. They’re larger than I’ve ever imagined, and when they swim together, it’s like an island rising from the sea.

They surround the boat as the boy speaks to them. The whales’ sonar moves through my skull, my sternum, and my legs—click, click, click. The volume pains my ears, and I cover them with my hands. Are they talking back?

The boat jolts and lifts from the water, causing me to fall again. I bump my hip on the center thwart and pain shoots up my side. I wince and massage it, momentarily forgetting the insanity happening around me. All I see is the inside of the wet boat.

When I force myself to stand and have regained my balance, I glance over the edge of the boat, which hovers several feet from the ocean’s surface. My eyes widen in disbelief. We’re no longer in the water but perched on a pod of whales carrying us toward the moon.

The Wall

It’s summer, and between work, building a house, and two children on summer vacation, writing fiction has been tough. I’m definitely looking forward to the start of school when stricter schedules allow for more writing time. In the meantime, I thought I’d post an excerpt from a short story I have in the queue. It’s inspired by Peter Doig’s Lapeyrouse Wall, a 2004 oil on canvas currently at the Museum of Modern Art. I was drawn to this painting’s soft edges and the juxtaposition between the pink umbrella and the top of a factory in the background. And once I read about the cemetery, I fell deeper in love and knew I wanted to write a short story about the man and his connection with the wall. Enjoy!

The Wall (an excerpt)

The loneliness in my life is so great, it rides on the slow ticks of a clock.

I’ve tried to bring people into my life but blending into this world has always proved disappointing. So, I stopped. Don’t worry, I’m accustomed to my solitude, and have, at times, considered it a fine thing.

Today is Monday, and I’m on a bus pulling into the Port of Spain station in Trinidad. I will walk six blocks to my work at Republic Bank, where I will talk with people for the first time since Friday.

My walk takes me past the Lapeyrouse Cemetery, Trinidad’s city of the dead. It has streets, alleys, and residents with fixed addresses—rich, poor, Chinese, French, British, and everyone else in between.

Since the first bodies were buried in the 18th century, hundreds of corpses have been exhumed by robbers. A wall was erected around the cemetery to keep the vandals out. But, when I look at the wall, with its crumbling layers of cement and faded paint, I wonder if it also keeps the spirits in.

The wall is nearly as tall as I am. I can see over it only when I stand on my toes. I peek inside and hear the clapping and chanting of the Shouters in one direction and the murmur of the Catholics working at their beads in the other. I also smell flowers mixed with incense and firecracker smoke, which means the Chinese are here, too.

I relax back onto my feet and continue along the block. I’ve walked several feet when a woman’s voice whispers in my ear, and I swear I feel her lips brush my lobe.

“Every time ah pass, you look at me. Every time ah pass, you look at me.”

I spin around, my skin tingling, my hand landing on my chest.

“Ah gonna tell mah mama do’ sen me down dey. You better tell yo’ mama do’ sen yo’ down here. Every time ah pass, you smile at me. Every time ah pass, you smile at me.”

As she sings, purple, green, and blue notes swirl around me, wispy things like butterflies. Between them, I weave my loneliness, until it is tied in knots and I am no longer standing alone.

The River

Combining my two loves…

guglielmi_the_riverO. Louis Guglielmi (1906-1956)
The River, 1942
Oil on Canvas
Location: The Art Institute of Chicago
Photo Credit: The Art Institute of Chicago

I wait on the edge and shield my eyes. My skin feels as though I have walked through rain. I find a tissue buried on the bottom of my purse. Cherry-red lipstick marks one side, and I’m careful not to press too hard when I wipe my face.

A small girl in a green jumpsuit hangs on her mother. “Why must it always come on the hottest day?”

Her mother speaks between long, drawn out breaths. “Because feeling as though something is pressing on your back while your feet are buried in the ground stops you from running off and making a scene.”

The woman standing to my left nods church-like and whispers, “Amen,” because that was a pretty good way to put it.

I try to grip the railing, but my hands slip and my vision flashes black. I’m convinced I won’t make it when a cloud of cool air drapes over me. I pull it tight around my shoulders, stand up straight, and peer into the water.

The ripples come first followed by a beast the size of a whale. I crane my neck to see its eyes. Before I do, it fans into long strips of celestial, denim, and baby blue. It no longer resembles an animal; just thousands of leaves floating on the sea.

The changes are subtle. My back straightens, my skin tightens, and my gray hairs turn chestnut brown. Some years, I feel my heart beat stronger, though I worry that might be in my head. Today, I see better, which is new.

The shades of blue swim on, leaving me the same age I was a year ago, and a year before that, and twenty years before that. It’s strange to think I look the same as I did the first time it came by.

Now, only a few of us come. Staying young had gotten old for most of the others.

The mother picks up her daughter, grinning.

“Can I stay home next year?” asks the girl. “It’s always too hot.”

“When you’re older,” her mother replies before nodding to me and carrying the child away.