November Is the Hardest Month

It really is. It’s a month full of birthdays, sports events, holidays, fall cleaning, and school functions. Even when I homeschooled, November was full of local events and homeschool fieldtrips. In New Mexico, fall is generally a brilliant time of year: cool with clear, bright blue skies and low wind. Fall cleaning is a thing because the spring brings with it gusty and dusty winds that shriek over the desert. When I lived in the river valley, it wasn’t uncommon for frosts to extend through April. So fall is the pleasantest season here, and it’s no wonder people want to clean and go outdoors for fun activities.

Therefore, it has always struck me as odd that NaNoWriMo occurs during this hectic time of year. The person who invented NaNoWriMo must live in a dreary part of the world where humanity wants to remain indoors all month long. It’s a distinct possibility. I do remember that the rains started in September when I lived on the Oregon coast, but they didn’t really pick up speed until November. The rainy season culminated in a long dreary January and February and didn’t slack off until summer. If it were up to me, I would hold a national novel writing month in January or February. BUT an author can write a book in any month of the year he chooses to. An author can also get a group of writer friends together to check on each other’s output any month of the year. But for some reason, every writer I know wants to do this during the now official month of NaNoWriMO.

For my part, I was going to use this month to finish my current book, Order of the PenTriagon. To be honest, I wanted to finish before 2018 ended, and I’m faced with the last two months of the year, so…NaNoWriMo is convenient. However, I’m trying to write 2000 words a day six days a week, to equal 12,000 words a week until I finish. That’s actually a higher output than the NaNoWriMo word count of 1667 words a day, seven days a week, which comes out to 50,010 words for the thirty days of November. If I’m successful, I’ll have written 52,000 words for the month while maintaining a day of rest. I need that. God rested on the seventh day when creating the universe, and so should I, even if my creation is a measly book that will sit on Amazon unread.

How is it going so far? It’s going in fits and starts. I’m heavily behind this week for a number of reasons; primarily, if I miss the hours my kids are in school, I have little time to make up for it in the afternoons and evenings. I managed to delete 1000 words I wrote yesterday, albeit a blog post. Still, it demoralized me, such that I ended up trying to write after the kids were home and snapped at them if they tried to bother me. You need help studying?! Ha ha ha ha….Okay, I did help my daughter study for her science test, and then went back to my story, only to realize I needed some intense research. When I imagine scenes in my head, I don’t always consider the amount of unknowns that will be occurring.

After all was said and done yesterday, I ended up with 1000 words written, 1000 words deleted, and a lot of reading and video-watching. Finally, I went to bed determined to start early on Friday and complete several thousand before life and its demands crowded around me. Let’s not talk about how that’s going…

But at least I will post this, unless I manage to delete it. By the way, yesterday’s disappearing post was an odd quirk because there are usually autosaves and a list of draft revisions on WordPress, which were entirely missing yesterday. Not to mention, the entire post disappeared when I hit “edit undo.” We Christians used to jokingly talk about the spiritual oppression of our technology if our machines weren’t working properly (to be accurate, if we didn’t understand how our machines were working). It was a joke. I think. In my head, the post I lost was inspired because I wasn’t talking about writing, but discussing the first chapter in 1 Corinthians…the part about God’s foolishness being wiser than man’s wisdom. I will probably try again next week, but the irony of it won’t be lost on me.

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*Politics Politics Politics*

New Mexico is run by people I like to call “corrupt crusaders.” It’s mildly amusing to me that the people cry out about our state problems, such as a failing education system and poverty, and then hope they can vote these problems away. But voting gives one a sense of having done something forward-thinking and positive. Hence, we now have Michelle Lujan Grisham as governor because she promised free preschool. Yes, folks, that’s how she’s going to fix New Mexico’s education ranking: by extending a failed system to include poor hapless 3-year-olds. Everybody deserves to fail, even the youngest amongst us; that’s the essence of egalitarianism. Speaking of egalitarianism, did I also mention that Lujan Grisham will be the first Democrat Latina governor of New Mexico? Not the first Latina, of course. That honor went to the Republicans with Martinez, who will be leaving the failed education and poverty rates to her successor. I mean, incomes did go up during her time in office, but not by much.

It has to be acknowledged that New Mexicans don’t like change. They like where they’re at, and they don’t particularly even care about education. I mean, they do as long as they can demand another program run by a corrupt crusader that will ultimately fail. But as far as parents living it in the home? No, they don’t really care. The kind of hunkering down they do here isn’t all bad, though. New Mexico may be one of the most impoverished states, but it also isn’t as prone to huge economic fluctuations driven by bubbles of hot air. And by hunkering down, the people can protect the vestiges of their culture — the good and the bad, of course. But honestly, until the culture at the family level begins to care about education, it’s not going to improve. Why should kids care when their parents don’t?

This went another direction than I had intended. Originally, I was just going to make some political commentary…probably inappropriate commentary because I’m not entirely pleased with the voting results in my state, and find some of the choices to be foolhardy. E.g., Michelle Lujan Grisham, who does not have the same sense Steve Pearce does. And yet, if the tallies are correct, Steve Pearce lost by a giant margin.

C’est la vie, I guess.

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Periscope

Because this is the only platform I have right now, I will share my Periscope here. Have a blessed All Saints Day.* https://www.pscp.tv/w/bqsiTTFETEVCRGxvT1ZtS0p8MUJSSmpYcHBraldLd-69rm0UeMGdWJPlUaM0BOaltRQfGUMbMJkdKKvxd42c?t=12m58s

*I apologize to those following me in their feeds. I don’t usually use my phone to post blog posts, and it managed to publish this post three times. It could have been user error, but if so, I’m at a loss to know what that error was.

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False Variety

When my son was sick yesterday, we got desperate for a diversion and watched A Wrinkle In Time on Netflix. I don’t want to get into the theological problems of the book’s author, Madeleine L’Engle, but let it be admitted that she came from a Christian culture, attended a Christian church, and infused her writing with symbols and quotes of Jesus, which were tellingly absent from the film. As a replacement, the film delivered a mishmash of new age aphorisms about love and light and believing in yourself. Also, it delivered a fair amount of diversity that was lacking in the author’s world. L’Engle unapologetically created a white European cast of characters — and not just in this book, but in all of them. The director apparently thought color-washing instead of white-washing would take a wooden script and delivery and make it sparkle, but it didn’t work. And I certainly don’t blame that on the actors, who might sparkle under good directing. Kaling and Witherspoon are known quantities; Kaling can be very funny, and Witherspoon definitely sparkles in some of her films. I also have hopes for the new-ish actress who plays Meg.

Despite the film’s failing at taking a weird SF tale and a few good actors and making it better than bland and boring (I mean, come on, they had a lot to work with here), it did produce one scene that stuck in my mind. When Meg and company land on the planet cloaked in evil, they find a neighborhood where all the children of all races are bouncing their balls to the same beat. This is followed by the mothers — again, of all races — simultaneously calling in their children to dinner using the same words. What you see is Hollywood admitting a central truth of our culture: our push for diversity is outward and doesn’t really mask the general lack of appreciation for eclecticism. I found myself asking if this weren’t perhaps a meta moment, where the film was taking a good hard look at itself. I suppose even Hollywood creators are capable of accidental moments of clarity.

False variety is present in every layer of our society. From the products that fill our grocery store, to politicians, to “edgy” thinkers, there is very little real variety. In 90% of brands, the ingredients are the same. The yogurt is all low-fat. The bacon has the same list of ingredients on nearly every label. Everything packaged tastes like canola oil. McCain was eulogized by almost every segment of society because his conservatism was the same as the their liberalism. The Bushes and Clintons play golf together.

What got me thinking about this was the cancellation of the Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter tour in Australia. It was canceled for no apparent reason, and the ticket holders were told they could switch their tickets out to see Tommy Robinson and Gavin McInnes, as if “edgy” thinkers are all exactly alike. And to be fair, generally they are very similar when push comes to shove. Edgy is allowed, if it fits into the right parameters of what “edgy” means. But I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. Milo has been permanently banned from Twitter; McInnes’ organization The Proud Boys was recently banned from Facebook. Although all four of these rightist thinkers are edgy rabble-rousers, none of them are of the appropriate “edgy” variety. Swapping one group out for the other is a stop-gap measure before these types of tours just never find any venues at all, edgy money notwithstanding.

Albeit, sometimes I think I’m just not seeing the entire picture. I mean, obviously, I’m not God. Or even QAnon. In any case, most of our edgy rabble-rousers provide absurdist level distractions.

I don’t have a profound point to end with here — unless I want to tie this post back to Trump in some way. I don’t know how profound that would be, more like inevitable. Trump is the renewed version of Godwin’s law. Everything comes back to him. And it’s perhaps too easy, really. Trump did not and still does not have the same ingredients as the other products on the shelves, which is why his sudden salability has driven the “producers” or “authorities” to frothing at the mouth every few seconds.

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Sin Duda

Before we moved to New Mexico, we went on a scouting expedition: explorers entering a foreign land to determine if it could actually sustain life. That’s an exaggeration. For us, in any case. What isn’t is the mysterious nature of the high desert to people who grew up at sea level with their toes blue from soaking in the Pacific Ocean.

We camped at Water Canyon, which is 6800 feet elevation at the trailhead. In this unfamiliar land, in the dark of night, we heard the clanging of trash bin lids, a sound we recognized from our Oregon camping life. While it’s possible human vagrants enjoy banging cans in the middle of the night as they search for scraps of food, it’s more likely to be bears. And judging by the signs around the camp that warned against the beasts, bears were most likely responsible.

First the bears found us, and then it started raining. Although we’ve since learned that water in Water Canyon is a rare phenomenon, it fooled us on that first visit because it rained so hard we thought we might be washed down the gully — and make no mistake, this happens. When it rains in New Mexico, it pours. It floods.

To be honest, rain is also a familiar sound to Oregonians. The desert operates in extremes, though. It operates in high highs and low lows, in emptiness followed by arroyos clogged by floods that rip out shrubs and break away the dry wood. And so a new cycle in our lives ensued, heralded by floods and bears and the birth of a new child. She was born in the rain of New Mexico, before the high desert gave way to its other extremes.

In Oregon, I swam in the ocean. I swam in great rivers. As a child, I nearly drowned in an Oregon lake because I didn’t have the stamina to swim to shore — and that was one of the smaller bodies of water. Water disappearing was not part of my childhood. In fact, it was rather the opposite. The water was so everpresent in Oregon that it fully saturated my head. But here in New Mexico, I experienced extreme dryness for the first time.

Bears hibernate and then lumber awake, and they are fierce and hungry and full of aching life, banging on trash cans to find it. Desert waterways are the same. They are conceptually like bears — symbols of constant rebirth. While the droughts last, the Rio Grande dies completely in places; in others, it lingers, but only as peaceful rivulets etching out waving patterns in the sand. But when the rains come — and I mean really come! — the Rio Grande turns into a wild river that spreads over its banks, fierce and hungry and full of aching life. It becomes a rio salvaje.

These cycles in life are normal, but they are writ large in the consciousness of New Mexicans who must live through the droughts before the rains will come. After living here for twenty years, I’ve come to see my life as a series of droughts and floods. I, too, operate in extremes in work and sleep. Since moving away from the River Valley three years ago, I’ve been in a perpetual drought. At least it has felt that way. I haven’t been creative or intellectual or offered anything of value to the world. I’ve been in a desolate wasteland. A drought before storms.

But lately…lately, I’ve been picturing my many projects and variant skillsets like the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel. In Ezekiel’s vision, God connected the disparate bones together, ball into appropriate socket. The bones took on flesh, and God breathed life into them just as he had done to Adam. In fact, this ghostly vision of dry bones rising up has haunted my mind for months. Then the reality of the vision hit me: God was going to renew his people. It was a promise he made through the prophets. By extension, God promises to save us through Jesus breathing new life into our dry bones. But through Jesus, the cycle was completed. There would no longer need to be droughts followed by floods; no more hibernation followed by the intense hunger of awakening. I should have already known this, but there is a difference between knowing something and accepting it as truth in the core of being.

The spirit of God is a deluge, but like the River Valley, his great river has been diverted into arroyos, watering the crops that have sustained the people for centuries. In the yearly cycles of the Rio Grande, the diverted flood waters have led to the harvests of fall. And that’s where they’ve led me. Not to a time of rebirth, reawakening, or an opening of the flood waters, because that already happened. On a micro level, seasons still occur in our spiritual walk with God, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the once-for-all renewal that planted a seed that has already sprouted and grown continually in the direction of the light. That harvest, watered by the spirit, is now ready to be brought in.

It strikes me that I have friends who are also entering their time of harvest, but they, too, sense instead that they’re in drought, that the fruits they’ve labored to produce have died on the vine before bringing anything to the world. Or they sense the harvest passed them by, leaving their fruit to rot. But this is not true. The Bible promises it is not true, in numerous passages. In Psalms: “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.” In Philipians: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” In Psalms again: “He [whose delight is in the law of God] is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” In Jeremiah: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

The time of harvest is, in a sense, also a foreign land, but not a place I can scout out ahead of time to get a lay of the land. I have a sense of the harvest, anyway. I have a sense from reading about the harvests of saints who’ve gone before me. I can sense it in other ways, too. And it’s good. The work to bring it in may be difficult, but the fruit is there because the harder work, the initial work, happened a long time ago.

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