Tag Archives: Karleen Koen

red

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The last place my Mom and Dad lived in before he died was out in the country, near Lake Fork, Texas. There was a big plate-glass window in front of which Dad had hung bird feeders. Among the many birds who winged in were cardinals, crimson feathers startling, vivid, unforgettable. Whenever I see cardinals, real or otherwise, I think of Dad, I think of that place, a home place for him, a vision he’d worked toward all his life. And I think of my mother, too, acquiescing to him, sharing his dream. What was hers?

In Pier One yesterday, caught like a magpie by all the Christmas glitter and glow, I saw LED candles with tiny red cardinals on them. I had to stop and touch the glass. My throat got tight as I thought of my father, but also of my mother, 13 years down with Alzheimer’s, bedridden, incontinent, unable to turn over or ask for what she wants, able only to croak sounds and smile her occasional but still lovely smile. I didn’t buy the candle. I bought five small, red clip-on cardinals, glitter on their tails and shaken like salt in among their color. Foolish, I thought as I checked out. She won’t see them.

But today I go to place them in her room, among the bits of holiday tinsel I put up even though she doesn’t know. My heart hurts, my throat is tight. I think I summoning Dad to bring her on home.

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I’m on sale

Through_A_Glass_Darkly_s2Hello. I’ve been offline resting, but online ebook seller bookbub has Through a Glass Darkly on sale only today for $1.99. If you would, if you can, pass it along on Facebook or Twitter or Goodreads or email or whatever.

Here’s the link: https://www.bookbub.com/ebook-deals/latest?page=2.

Where have I been? Well, the novel I’m in is taking too long, so I’ve been in lots of worry and fear and judgment, which makes me tired. But I am in some sort of ending (never-ending is what it feels like). I hope all is well with you. I hope I pick this up again, for it feels nice to be here. Love, Karleen

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hope

DSC_0094Le Notre and I are busy. He walks around my yard, leaning on the gold-headed cane gifted him by Louis XIV, and commands me to prune and pick up and plant. I love it when he visits. It’s that time of year, when my yard becomes a siren, and I lured to toil. It’s good to put one’s hands in soil, to dig and rake and straighten. To put a seed down. Seeds are the epitome of hope. I DSC_0094need hope in these days of my aging. It’s my botox.

i keep saying good-bye

IMG_0277_2I’m straightening Mom’s room at the place which cares for her. She’s in year 10 of Alzheimer’s, healthy but unable to do a single thing for herself or communicate clearly. I’ve made her room pretty, but more and more I take things away and store them: the costume jewelry someone gave her to play with, the received cards she so loved to tear to pieces and then rearrange, clothes which are too difficult to put on her. If I bring a plant, she doesn’t notice it. I gaze at the things I’ve selected to comfort and define her. Without her zest and vitality, their definition is less and less clear. cameilla

e-book savings

small_May11I’m pleased to announce that Sourcebooks is offering Through A Glass Darkly‘s e-book for $2.99 starting December 8-26, a big savings from the regular e-book price.

They’re offering e-readers and other things, too, in a promotion that starts December 1st. Enjoy and Merry Christmas, ya’ll.

Here’s the link: http://books.sourcebooks.com/promos/

25 Days of Christmas Logo

vision

I’m back listening again to The Writer’s Almanac. It’s fun and heartening for anyone writing, whether that’s in a journal or something larger. In addition to reading a poem every day, the host, Garrison Keillor, always includes anecdotes about writers, how we fumble and fail, stumble on success or don’t. If you write to be published, there is an enormous amount of work that is completely unseen, that which is dropped, changed, rewritten dozens of times. Anyway, this quote was up on the site, and it touched a nerve.

Writers end up writing stories or rather stories’ shadows, and they’re grateful if they can, but is is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough.

I think it’s speaking of the gap between the vision and the finished project…….do you know what I mean? Is it always impossible to grasp the vision? An artist I know says she has learned she can’t control creativity. What do you think?

fresh

The new year can be a time of fresh starts, and one way is journaling. Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way recommends writing three pages long-hand before you’re fully awake in the morning.

Why? Because you dump irritation, bad feelings, complaints onto the pages usually, and then you begin your day, and a lot of what would have muddied the hours is on those pages, rather than carried outward with you. It’s as if you’ve been heard. And writing three pages every morning creates discipline. (And more, but you’ll have to find out about that by going to her website.)

A lot of people are doing gratitude journals. A blog I read recently spoke to this topic with words from Nicoletta Baumeister:  “Gratefulness thoughts in the morning light are about the setting of the daily lens. What will we take in, what will we seek and what is today’s sense of self? Feeling grateful puts my feet on solid ground, able to work out the next step; whereas, asking what I don’t have sets my day on a frantic course.” She ends her day in an interesting way, too: “A poem, haiku or a small drawing at night has the effect of driving all other thoughts away. The narrowed focus and purity of intent creates a sense of calm after a day of supersaturated activity. It also affords feelings of satisfaction, job well done, if only in the tiniest work, so that I slip seamlessly into excellent sleep. Too many people out there have insomnia!”

Another way to journal is from wonderful Dr. Rachel Naomi Ramen, who counseled a successful but burned-out doctor in one of my favorite books, Kitchen Table Wisdom, to find again these three things in his days: what inspired him, what surprised him, what touched him. I’ve done this one for a long time, and it has transformed journal entries from junior high whining to memory rushes with sweetness.

And that, my dears, is what I want to take forward into this long day’s journey into night, into this particular new year in the journey, into aging, the only way forward in the journey: sweetness. What do you want?

new year

Keep walking though there’s no place to get to….

Don’t try to see through

the distances….

That’s not for

human beings….

Move 

within….

But don’t

move the way

fear makes

you move……

Poetry from the 13th century mystic poet Rumi….advice for a new year. I like it that there is some place in our calendar where we may stop, take note, take a deep breath, and try again. At living, I mean. The older I am, the less whirlwind there is in day to day life, the more I am left with myself. With the internal of myself. When I was a young woman, I fled that internal because the words it spoke, words I wasn’t conscious of, cut so deeply. I carried knives whose blades I never saw but from which I was always running.

What does your internal say? If it hurts, is it true? If it isn’t true, how wonderful. If it is, then begin the change so the words are false. Be the beauty you really are…. a goal for 2012………….

singing bird

Keep a green tree in your heart and a singing bird will come….Chinese proverb.

I’ve been nursing myself through Christmas for years, missing the breakup of my family, dealing with a fractured holiday where kids have to split in two to see all the parents, missing the young family I had, the young me so busy and so organized.  This year, I realized my work…..on defining what I and no one else but I….want for Christmas has paid off. The heartbreak seems to have been sealed off, like a leak in an old boat. The vessel may be creaky, but she can sail. I’m enjoying myself. Small things delight me:

Buying the three living green wreaths that unleash my decorating and never decorating them the same but just letting creativity flow…..

Noticing the beauty of the Christmas cactus blooms when they finally open; the closed blooms themselves are so satiny beautiful and then when they open….wow…

Letting myself be fully present at whatever small or large Christmas do I’m at, and it doesn’t matter if the only pair of wool slacks I have are too tight at the waist; I’ll diet in the New Year….

Punting around the kids’ schedules but having something Christmas Eve day with them….

Singing my heart out at the Unity Christmas Eve service, all by myself if need be…..

Going with Youngest Grandson (2) on admiring Christmas lights walks. “Light,” he says as he carefully navigates himself near the lighted object. “One finger,” he says, as he’s been taught, as he carefully touches a single light of each object. His masked, furtive delight that he’s talked me into allowing  him to walk down the sidewalk with me rather than placing him in the stroller could not be more obvious or more joyful to me. I get one more grandchild to do this with….

Buying reindeer antlers and a red nose for the car, laughing at how silly I must look because the cars I see with them on look silly….but happy, too….what if we all put such on our cars for this time of year…..wouldn’t that be a hoot?

So….a green tree did grow in my heart again around this season, and ten years ago I would never have believed it. I can’t be the younger woman with the world I once had, but I can enjoy the season again. Merry Christmas, ya’ll………

name game

Marquee was a word that came up at the Historical Novel Society Conference I attended in June. Should the main character be a marquee character or not….in other words, someone historically famous? Yes, seemed to be the consensus of New York (as in agents and editors). Philippa Gregory‘s best selling Tudor novels are the source of this.

I had just written a marquee novel, but not on purpose. I wrote it because it was what had to be written in the unfolding saga of the Tamworth family, this family who lives so strongly in my imagination, Barbara and Alice and Richard and Tony and others. Even though no Tamworths were in my marquee novel (there was a slight reference in the draft that was part of a larger scene I ended up cutting), Louis XIV had been brooding way in the background, waiting for me. Somehow, it had to do with this family, with the huge outside forces in their lives.

And now, as I walk carefully around the nesting egg of the next novel, it won’t have a marquee character carrying the story, though likely Louis* and Athenais and Louise will have their places in it. It will likely be similar to Dark Angels, fictional characters reacting to or intimate with actual historical figures. (I adored Charles Stuart and his wayward family. It was great fun to write about them all.)

I just believe in story. The story within drives me. What do you believe in? What makes a good story? A story you want to read? Should the main character be a name, if it’s historical? Why?

*More from my new favorite film Le Roi Danse….I love the actor who plays Louis….