Susan’s Blog

Posted by on Mar 6, 2013 | Comments Off on Susan’s Blog

May 2, 2013

Writing is an intensely personal endeavor. It requires long periods of solitude and silence. “Deep immersion”, I’ve heard it called (my husband has other names for it). Then we come out of immersion and want to share our stories with the world. I need to share with other writers as well, people who experience these same extremes. I’ve looked for the middle ground. If anyone out there has found it, please let me know.
Since this is my first entry, I hope to set a foundation here for discussions about writing and the writing life. I want to hear about the ways you have discovered to create an immersion space, to isolate and protect a time to work. I want to know how you operate in the world while carrying the weight of a story (or stories) around in your head and in your heart. If you’ve found your way here, you are a lover of the written word. Book people, my friend Rick calls us. Whether we read them or write them or do both, we have a stake in the writing life.




May 18, 2013

Got Gnomes?  You see them in Garden Stores and supermarkets, on greeting cards and calendars. You even see them in major Ad campaigns. But what do we really know about these elusive little beings? Gnomes may be the most widely misunderstood genus on the planet. Domus tontus has been a fixture in Europe,  Scandinavia and the Near East for thousands of years. Having gnomes in one’s house was a source of pride and  a sure sign of cleanliness and contentment. But times have changed.

According to an article in Good Housekeeping in 1959, 70% of homes in the United Kingdom shared living quarters with gnomes. Today those numbers have plummeted. Recent studies show that only one in ten households now has gnomes. In those few, household members rarely have an inkling that they co-habitate with this non-human species. Most attribute their missing socks and misplaced keys to age-related memory loss of dryer malfunction. Yet researchers in the field are now speculating that these home-and-family-loving creatures may be perpetrating small acts of thievery as a cry for help.

But help for whom? Gnomologists agree that gnomes are among the friendliest of all the non-winged earth-entity varieties. Their own domiciles, expertly tunneled beneath tree roots or into earthen mounds, are studies in warmth and comfort. They value time spent with family members above all things. And so, as some have suggested, they may be expressing their concern for our increasing alienation and ‘busy-ness’ by causing us to stop and search for the car keys, the glasses, that watch we’re certain we laid on the desk.

In the distant past, gnomes formed powerful bonds with humans, attaching themselves to one family or clan for decades and even centuries.Certain branches formed similar bonds with places, remaining in a location through the many incarnations of human occupation that occurred upon it. Thus one might inherit a gnome from one’s parents, as does Edward in Book Three of the McCool Saga, or by moving into a house in which a gnome clan has lived for generations.*

But alas, the gnome-as-ally has fallen out of favor. These days, people prefer their earth-entities gaily painted and carved from wood. And they are content to write off the odd missing item as ‘one of those things’. Most folks insist that there’s a rational explanation for these disappearances. But has being rational truly served us? Check out the faces of the people in line with you at the bank, or in the car next to you at the red light. What do you see? The results, perhaps, of our rationality. The london Times recently published a list of warning signs to help the public determine whether they lived in a gnome-infested home (London Tines, Apr.17, 2010). But as with so many things in this topsy-turvery world, perhaps we have it all backwards.

Maybe if we loosened our grip on rationality, our humanity would begin to return. Our creativity, our joy, our sense of wonder all might flourish if we stopped drawing lines, closing doors, choosing sides. So, loose those keys again? Can’t find  that wallet? Instead of getting frantic, step outside and breathe. Maybe leave a little something on the back step (gnomes love carbs) and ask for a little help. Send a silent welcome. See what happens. Let us know…


*Many such occupations have been mistaken for hauntings, causing owners  unnecessary expense in exorcism and ‘house-clearing’ fees.


May 29, 2013

Dragons in Philadelphia? Mario the Magnificent, the Drexel University mascot created by sculptor Eric Berg, dominates the courtyard in which he stands, with his graceful neck and rippling tail, his scales glinting in the sun. The Drexel website states that the dragon was chosen as a mascot because it represents ferocity and combativeness. Those words resonated with me. For all I know, the mascot-choosers were thinking about football when they picked a dragon to represent their school. But I think ferocity and combativeness  are qualities we should all nurture~ in our children and ourselves.

Ferocity implies intensity, passion, desire. Fierce love and compassion for other people or for things we believe in can bring us to our knees. Feeling deeply sets us up to lose and makes us vulnerable. It takes great strength to to resist the urge to run from feelings of danger and annihilation. Not running requires ‘grit’, according to Seth Godin (The Icarus Deception). We have to literally combat the flight mechanism hard-wired into our brains.

According to Godin, our lizard brain, which resides in the amygdala, gets activated by danger. Our  amygdala sends us running from the potential mugger, the snapping dog. Yet it also warns us not to risk ourselves in love, not to stick our head up above the crowd.  Godin equates this knee-jerk impulse to flee with the resistance we feel when we begin a new venture, a new chapter, a new relationship. Godin’s friend, writer  Steve Pressfield, calls this need to back off and dumb down  ‘the resistance’.  Some of us know it as writer’s block, blank-canvas paralysis, fear of the critic or the terror of starting out with no map.

Godin says that anyone creating connections is an artist, and that this snapping lizard is the artist’s companion. When you hear the lizard screaming, you know you’re in the zone. Reading this made me think of shaman’s and snakes. It reminded me that you have to risk poison and penury in order to say that one shining thing that no one else has said. That you have to risk being laughed off the stage because you dared to unleash  your own voice. A new, never-heard-before voice. A voice that will repel some, maybe, but ring true for those that have ears to hear you.

The legends say that if you look closely at a dragon’s breast, you’ll notice one scale different from the rest. Get close enough and you may detect an intermittent  red glow. Here is the dragon’s heart, the place where ferocity lives. The legends say that if you touch a dragon’s heart, you’ll be forever changed. So changed that people who know you might be frightened by you, or might not recognize you any more. Once you decide you’re okay with that, the rest is academic. Your screaming lizard will keep you from getting bitten by dogs or eaten by bears. Thank it, then go and find your dragon.




July 29, 1995


                                    Of Orange Mice and Yellow Fritillaries


When my mother was 16 years old, she saw an orange mouse run across the kitchen floor. My grandmother and great grandmother were there, but they missed it. Must’ve been a fast mouse. Or maybe there was no orange mouse. That’s what everyone tried to convince my mother of. Of course, we kids first heard this story when my mother was in her thirties, at which time she stood by the veracity of what she saw. She’s 88 now, and still insists that she didn’t imagine that mouse. I, for one, believe her.


Why? Because I’ve seen things in my life for which I can find no rational explanation. Because I think rationality can often get in the way of a  real experience. Because I believe that we humans perceive only a tiny slice of what is  available to us. We  all-too-readily believe what others tell us, shamed into compliance by our fear of being different. Of sticking out or not fitting in. Or worst of all being labeled as crazy.

How many of us have been talked out of ‘real’ experiences by well-meaning others who would  straighten us out or save us from ourselves? It starts around age seven when they give you the ‘Santa’ speech. After that, they fess up about the Tooth Fairy. Next to go is the Easter Bunny. Off with his head, fuzzy bunny ears and all. I remember kids swaggering into school, proudly denounce these marvelous beings and daring any of us to go on believing in them. They took up where our parents left off, making us feel stupid for subscribing to such silly notions.

Our parents’ intentions were good. They wanted us to fit in. But I submit to you that they may have unwittingly harmed us. They  handed us the first brick in the wall many of us have since built between our rational selves and the marvelous. We ascribed to the notion that if we’d never seen something, then it probably didn’t exist. We bought into the idea that if something seemed extraordinary, then we most certainly imagined. Pah!

This past February, I had one of those light-bulb revelations you get sometimes, on an issue that had been dogging me for ages. It felt like a gift, so I said thank you to the particular gang of entities I refer to on these matters. Later that morning,   I took a walk around our pond. It was iced over, the temperature hovering at around 10 degrees C. I saw something bright dancing over the pond. A leaf, I thought. Only no wind was blowing. I looked closer. Leaves didn’t flap their wings. Butterflies do, though. This one was bright yellow. It dipped and swirled, then fluttered out of sight. A ‘your welcome’ to my ‘thank you’? I choose to think so. But I don’t expect you to believe me. That’s the beauty. When the marvelous touches you, you don’t need anyone else’s opinion. You’ll just know. I promise.butterfly+yellow+2_edited-1


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