Some People Have All the Luck!

Notes from Alexis: A life full of gardening, weaving, and writing. All her joys –with a touch of humor.

8-2-84

Dearest Lex,

So sad to hear you aren’t coming down. Sadder still, I didn’t get your letter until after I cleaned the stove. Oh well, I planned to do it in a year or two anyway, and an interesting thing developed. I found out the inside of the oven is gray (with some black specks) which was a little shocking as I thought it was all black. Now I have a dilemma – do I not bake until you come down or what?

Dad laughed about your three gray hairs. Which made me remember that the C’s all, went gray early, Which reminded me that they, the C’s, are having their reunion up at D’s -just brothers and sisters and spouses, minus one (me). I think they can’t stand me, but when S. found I wasn’t going, it began to enter her mind that maybe I can’t stand them either, and of course she couldn’t bear that. So now she has begun to try to force me to go. Don’t you love it? The thing that always amazes me is how many people try to force me to do things. I’m a challenge I suppose.

Your raspberries and beans are out in the freezer waiting patiently. I got so sick of freezing beans that I gave the last picking to S. and she got nine quarts. But they are all gone now. Dad did all the picking and he was ready to pull the vines a long time before I was ready to quit. I am going to freeze you some z squash. I have the greatest pancake recipes and of course you can use them for bread, too. This has got to be the best Z we have ever had.

Well, I am typing up Part II – Bainbridge of “EAB” and have one chapter to rewrite, then I’ll be two thirds through. I have to rewrite Wellman – Part III and then it’s finished. I was telling Dad all the reasons why I wasn’t going to do “Webs” right now and he said he thought I should anyway even if I don’t want it published. He said as long as I’m thinking of it, I should write it, because later on I won’t be thinking of it, and besides I don’t have anything else so clear in my mind. It hangs there before my eyes, so I guess I better put it down on paper.

I got brave and wrote Mary MacCracken. I am having so much fun writing to my heroes.

I finished your material and washed it and it turned out to be 20½” wide by 13-2/3 yards long. I was shocked at how much it shrank in width and how little in length. Well, such is life. It is lovely and soft so maybe you can cozy it together and do something with it. I’m beginning to be glad we gave you some money for your wedding present, as more and more the yardage seems less and less.

I have put one last and final (I think) piece on the loom. I really meant it when I said either/or, for writing, but who knows maybe you are right and I will do other things. I intend to peg away and finish all my started projects at any rate. I hate to leave things undone.

I am glad you got some jobs lined up, as I know you won’t relax until you do, you always worry about money. But, just remember there isn’t anyone as rich as someone with 100 lbs of grout (especially a potter). I felt envy well up at the thought.
Some people have all the luck.

Will close for now, and come down when you can.

Love

Mom

The Dilemma: Do “Anything and Everything” or Write!

Notes from Alexis: Loving writing so much it is time to lighten the ship and dump ballast.
8-15-84
Dearest Lex,

Well, the mad gardener has struck again. I thought to outwit him by cutting the garden by 1/3 but I was the one out foxed. He planted the same amount of seeds just in a smaller plot and the seeds loved it, so we are getting quadruple produce.

I just have one more yard on your material and will finish it up this weekend. I hope you are laughing, one of us should. No I’m teasing, and now getting excited about getting it off the loom and washed.

Just finished Tom Helms ‘Against All Odds’. He is now on my list, a must read!

Well, I have another bulletin about Gwen. I always thought I could do anything and I have spent the last 50 years proving it, and now I find I can do “anything”, or I can write. I can do one or the other but not both. Well, of course, I want to write. I am having so much fun and it is Plan B in my life plan, and with maybe a modicum of talent but dang it, I am struggling about “anything.” It has been fun doing all these things and I have developed habits and addictions and now I’m having to lighten the ship, off-load, dump ballast.

What trauma! No one told me it would be either/or. I wanted to do both, of course! I know and you know, I can always pick them up again if writing runs off and leaves me for a 30-year-old blond who is cute as a button.

And in a way it is a marvelous thing to clean house, even mental housecleaning is fun. It is so nice to get rid of junk (at least in the brain).

I am going looking today for some foam pads for your little bed, so you don’t have to suffer the floor. And I plan to vacuum the floor before you come. My God is there no end to a mother’s sacrifices?

Got to run, so will close for now and send lots of love,

Mom

Mumbling and stomping around about finishing books!

Notes from Alexis: Fruits from the farm, and books coming to an end, such drama.

7-27-84

Dearest Lex,

Well, first I went out and ate raspberries until I almost foundered, but I couldn’t get ahead of them, so I went out and picked a pint for later. There will probably be a pint this afternoon as well. This will be the biggest crop yet. I have never seen so many raspberries!

The frost got the Rome Apples. Not one apple on the tree, but there are about 40 or 50 McIntosh’s. Not a cherry and I haven’t had the heart to go check the plums, but doubt if there will be any.

Hold onto your hat – Dad wants to take a couple of days off work and come up and see you and your house. If nothing goes wrong at work he plans to take Thursday and Friday of next week off. He has some time coming and needs to get away.

I have some news about EAB that will delight you. You know the painting in the story? I was going through and boxing up some of your old letters and there was a Mother’s Day card, and on the front was THE PAINTING I was looking for! The picture I have carried in my mind was right there. I was so thrilled. Talk about the luck I have had with this book. In the story I describe a blue and white flower, and there it was exactly as I had imagined.

It’s funny how I have to have these real life objects to hold in my hand and how they influence me so in my writing. My perception of the people and places change because of the real life things I see and find, I am able to get a better idea of what I am doing, it is just not so hazy after that.

I have now begun to see another aspect of my M.O. with writing. There is a twilight or a hush before the storm – some kind of pause in a book. I hate to finish anything (no kidding and I mean anything) and when I reach a point where I can see the end, I become a little down, a little blue and cross.

I mumble and stomp around. It happened with “Always Going” and I had to lecture myself severely to get in there and finish it. It is a sort of sadness. I have to just keep slogging along and then I come up out of the morass and it is fine. I’m there now with “EAB” I have one more chapter to write and then I will go back and rewrite the whole thing, but for all practical purposes it will be finished when I get this one chapter finished.

So here I sit out on the limb holding the rope, and I hate to jump in there and write that last chapter, because it will be the start of the end. I know I am going to do it, but I just hate to, I am at that moment of hesitation before the jump.

Did I tell you I wrote Ron Ransen and got the nicest card back from him? No wonder we like him so much. I wrote him about “Assassination of Jesse James.” Hope you will be able to get it and read it.

I counted up and I have nearly 16,000 words for “Bits and Pieces” which is a third of a book. When I started out I had planned for some of the stories in “Always Going” to be able to stand alone, and so with them I have at least half a book. Here is how I think they should be published; First EAB, then Always Going and then Bits and Pieces. Although I think the ones for Bits and Pieces would be right for magazines before going into a book.

I plan to get down to a lawyer and make up a new will and have you be the Executor or whatever the name is, for the one who takes care of all the details. This particularly means the writing. You will do whatever you think is best at the time, and these are just ideas in case I don’t get them published before I die.

Funny thing – I really have no doubt that they will be published. I have just stopped even worrying or thinking about it, as it is so set as to being a sure thing. Actually the only thing I know how to do is write and I just have to let the other go. Not my area of expertise and hopefully not my problem.

Guess what? You wouldn’t guess in a million years, so I will tell you. I found a ferret out in the box by the burning barrel. I didn’t know what to do with him so put a screen on so he couldn’t get away until Dad gets home. I was reading up on ferrets and find that they do kill birds but they also love moles and pocket gophers of which we have a’ god’s plenty, so maybe we should just keep him around and let him work for his keep.

Love,

Mom

Can’t remember when I have had so much fun!

Notes from Alexis: Two books ready for press(almost) and many more to come.
7-20-84

Dearest Lex,

I have finished “Always Going!”

I have now gotten first two parts of EAB and need one or two more chapters for Part III and then will start rewriting. Keeping away from it for six months has helped. I just fell back into it, at home so to speak with it, with all the characters and the story.

Another author I remembered and have been rereading is Edmund G. Love. He is so good. Start with ‘Subways are for Sleeping’ if you can, but any of his books are good. Got Cousins’ books again and will reread them all. I remember really liking his books.

Per usual, I have started to worry about what to write after EAB. I just hate not having a book cooking in the works. And yes, I know I said I had some ideas, but until I actually get involved, I don’t feel right. I have become addicted to writing. Can’t remember when I’ve had so much fun. I enjoy the whole routine – from wedging to unloading the kiln (a little potter humor there).

I seem to be able to move on two books at once. I write on EAB in morning and then type on Always Going in afternoon, and it is fine. No problem jumping back and forth because I am just a ‘type-er’ on the typewriter and not a writer. What I need are some boxes for all my manuscripts, and future ones to come.(Positive thinking)

I am going in to copy another 50 pages of Always Going. Any more than that and I and the machine get tired. Will close for now and write more later.

Love,

Mom

“Do something, even if it is wrong!”

Notes from Alexis: Delightful thoughts on aging, hope, fear, being verbose, and just plain funny thoughts about people being irritating.

7-13-84

Dearest Lex,

I loved your last letter and I’m so glad you are worried about my problem of aging. It isn’t that I want you to worry, but it’s nice to have a buddy in the war.

Now if you think about it a little, you set out to study a situation I already have a modus operandi for, a M.O. I jump in with all four feet, read everything around, with gusto, and expect to rise up out of it with an answer, or a skill, or some knowledge.

Now when I did that with weaving and spinning you could say, “Oh look, Mom’s out in the swamp having fun,” but with aging you think, “We’re out in the swamp, and it’s no fun at all.” Wrong. We are out in the swamp and it is fun, but it can be a little scary if it’s not your M.O.

I was not only studying aging, but men also, since I was, and am, in the act of writing from a man’s point of view. Now I really never doubted I’d have any trouble with aging. I felt sure I knew how to catch the big one, but I really thought I was in water too deep, over my head, with men. Not so! They too can be caught.

Just this past week I have come up out of the swamp, if not with all the answers, at least with some of the questions, and that’s a big part of it.

So for my lecture on aging, as you suggested ‘fear’ might be the very rock that others would stumble against and fall, but not me. Fear has always been something to tackle for me. Whenever I found myself afraid then I would take that fear out, turn it over and around, study that sucker, look at it from every angle, then just do it. I would never let fear stop me.

No, fear was not the stopper. Lack of hope was. Can you believe it? I, who have never lost hope, have more hope than I can use – the great evangelist losing hope! It’s to laugh at, or cry, or both but it’s true. I found myself temporarily out of hope for some reason. It took me a year but I finally mixed myself up a new batch.

I’m always okay if I can do something. You know the “Do something, even if it’s wrong” syndrome. But first comes the thought. So my thought for some reason was that I was short and fat and ugly – old if you will. Well God, those are things that can be done something with. So I’ve set to with great good humor.

I changed my hair-do. I have lost some weight and firmly intend to lose some more, but evidently changing my attitude was the good part, because a man flirted outrageously with me the other day, and I’m here to tell you it didn’t hurt one bit that he was young and beautiful. Bless his heart.

My sense of humor is coming back too. I think it is funny that I was so concerned about what other people think. I have never cared before, but this time it was the right approach. It got me off my crying jag, got me moving, making a forward motion.

I have involved you in all this because I thought you would find it fun and enjoy the whole thing. If not enjoy, exactly, then certainly remember. I’m sure I’m not totally out of the swamp yet, but I’m no longer floundering around and lost. I’m full of pep and energy, piss and vinegar, and swimming for shore.

I haven’t worked out all the details yet about men, but you will hear all the gory details when I do, as I know you are all agog.

To change the subject – What is Wealth? – having five reams of lovely typing paper! You keep thinking you know what wealth is but I keep telling you that you are mistaken. Listen to Mother. I went to Active Office and told the gal I wanted 16 lb. paper and we looked and looked. We found 69 lb. and 24 lb. but no 16 lb. She asked the other girl and she hollered across the room. “Why does she want 16 lb?” I whispered to my gal, “Because it’s cheap, but one hates to yell that across the room,” and we began to laugh like a couple of loonies. She said, “Oh, come look, we have a whole bunch of 20 lb. on sale.” And there, my dear, was the loveliest paper at only $2.88 per ream which is half the price of this El Cheapo stuff I’m writing on now, and it is all the same length for God’s sake.

Speaking of paper you can’t imagine how shocked I was at your paper. I couldn’t figure out what I was seeing until I realized it was a letter. I wasn’t offended you understand, but the world finally stopped tilting when you explained. I have to tell you that you are a mite askew. You wrap your gifts in newsprint but you write on exquisite paper. I finally got the rules figured out, and then you rocked the boat with scratch paper. Please try to remember that you are dealing with someone with a very shallow nature. Down deep I’m very shallow as someone once said, and I need rules and regulations to keep me straight.

Since I am now paper rich, I am in the process of typing “Always Going” in its best clothes for some dear agent or editor, who is going to ride up on a white horse and sweep it off to a publisher.

I got up this morning with a positive picture of another chapter of “EAB,” I suddenly can ‘feel’ the middle (Part II). Before, I just wrote it and felt nothing. I am sure that is why I have felt uneasy about it.

Have also written three more good things for “Bits and Pieces” – this makes fifteen, but wordage is so small that it will take a bundle to make a book.

I told you I was writing authors, and I wrote to Aram Saroyan about his book “William Saroyan” (get it if you can). It is about his father and I grew up reading William Saroyan’s books. He, Aram, wrote me back a nice card. Besides being a beautiful looking man he named his daughters ‘Strawberry’ and ‘Cream.’ How can you not love someone like that?

D. J. had a watercolor show at the Art Gallery, I went to the reception Sunday and she really irritated me. I have put up with a lot of guff from her, as well as defended her, as she is so damned grating! She asked me what I was doing, and I told her writing, and she said “I knew you were verbose.” This means ‘wordy – too many words,’ and I took umbrage. In all the years I have known D.J. I have never been able to get a word in edgewise. She talks all the time, and it irked the hell out of me for her to say such a thing. Not that it isn’t true of course, I certainly am verbose, but it is maddening to have someone who never stops talking say it. There are two others – A. B. and D. C. – who have said the same thing more or less and both of them never shut up, never let anybody else speak. So why am I all a wroth? Good question, and if I can figure it out I shall impale them with my pen.

Well, dear here I have to stop, eat breakfast and do some “EAB” work. Found another author, James Stephens, and I love all his works, but if you read him start with ‘Deirdre.’

Will write more later.

Love,
Mom

I’m not too fat, I’m just too short!

Notes from Alexis: Ladies, I do believe she has found the most efficient way to get to the proper weight/height ratio.

7-7-84

Dearest Lex,

You will be happy to know that I have found a source for my pens – Active Office here in town, so that is one burden lifted from you and a vast relief to me. I love those pens so, and I hate to think I couldn’t get one when I want it.

I have now learned the manual alphabet for signing and though I am slow and awkward, I can do it. I am now hot on the trail of a deaf person to teach me signing.

Progress on writing: Have finished first draft of my memoirs called “Always Going” aka Travels. I am in fact writing it up in its ‘nice’ state ready for sale. However, I want to sell the novel first, “EAB” had been giving me fits and some of it was your fault. You didn’t like Anna wandering around sightseeing and I was having trouble knowing what to do with her for six weeks and then I woke up the other morning and it there it was. Have now written two new chapters for middle and I feel better about it.

I seem to be having trouble losing weight. Since I’m not willing to diet or exercise I have now decided that I’m not too fat, I’m just too short! So I’m going to get Dad to build me a stretching machine, a rack, let’s say. A mere increase of three inches in height would make all the difference in my weight/height ratio. (A perfect solution and one that needs promoting)

Well anyway, back to writing, enough of such foolishness. I have about 28,000 words in the form of short essays that will someday go in the book ‘Bits and Pieces’ and just this morning I thought of another one. This one is titled ‘Time’ and not bad. So now I have nearly 2½ books written. I have been writing, re-writing and typing every day and have been enjoying it very much. The rewriting is the crucial part and I like it too. It takes the pain out of the back of my neck, relieves the tension at the back of my mind.

I always feel a little uneasy about my writing until it has been rewritten, and even sometimes when a piece is finished I still feel uneasy. You know the feeling. You’ve looked at many of your pots with the same look. But what is one to do? Finished is finished. You might say, “Yes, but you could still change words and I can’t change firing.” Not true. Someone else might be able to change, but I cannot. Finished is finished.

Onward – Dad bought a truck load of logs and had them piled on Lot 1. God, there is a mountain of wood – $525 for the load. We borrowed the money from Visa. There should be 14 or 15 cords which brings the price down to about $35 a cord which is a manageable amount, a tolerable level. Besides which he won’t have to spend all his time driving, falling and loading the pickup. He might even get some help from the old lady, who knows! He can just go out and whack up enough for the year. He figures we have four years’ worth at least.

I have had a strange series of thoughts and I will entertain you with them. First I had the idea of taping “Always Going” as an audio book for some strange reason. Can’t imagine where this idea came from. Ah well, then I remembered the tapes I made for the library and went down and checked them out to listen to them again. That must have been about seven or eight years ago that I made them. There is good news and bad news. They are both good and bad at the same time. I mispronounce words and talk too fast and make noises and other crimes, but the material is so good that I found myself making allowances for the human condition of the reader (me) just for the enjoyment of the story.

I’m considering making copies of the tapes for myself. I don’t think I’m up to rereading them from scratch as new tapes. Don’t have the time, or inclination, or desire, or whatever I suppose. Still I sort of want a copy. Is this vanity? A strange thing don’t you think?

Will close for now and eat breakfast and write up “Time” for Bits and Pieces as I want to get it down before I forget it.

Love,

Mom

If we could turn back time – would we?

Notes from Alexis: “Always Going” becomes a ‘thought’ in her world of writing. Eventually becoming a great published book.

06-25-84

Dearest Lex

Well I finished the first draft of ‘Travels’(Always Going) and started the first rewrite and came up with two more chapters. When I first started ‘Travels’ I was envisioning short stories, so some of the early chapters are rather slim, I was just not able to do much with them. They were finished, it just seemed easier to add chapters. This makes twenty-two so far and over 50,000 words.

I was thinking about writing an autobiography – carping a little to myself about how it is not all that creative. After all the places, people and dialogues are there, it might be like a paint by number kit. About the only choice is to add color. Still it is a grand way to learn to write.A funny unexpected development is that I found I hated to be through with it. I have enjoyed visiting again with all those people and places. I have zilch desire to actually visit them again, but going back in my memory was fun.

I think I am always going to hate to finish a book. I feel the same about EAB. I got the neatest idea for a book up at your place as I told you, but have put it aside until I am through with Travels and EAB, as it is so complicated – plot and people. It will hold.

Have you read “Buying the Night Flight by Georgie Anne Geyer? So good!
Also I wrote a neat story “The Creative Vacation” which you will enjoy, I think.

You won’t believe it but we had to have a fire last Thursday morning and I wore long johns to the dentist (ate a filling), and by the time I got home it was so hot I almost expired. It has been hot – hot every day since. It has become Summer with a vengeance.

I was just thinking about you saying how I should wait until things are cosmically right, and realized that you are tuning in to your own gang of cosmic helpers. You might have circled all around the state of Oregon before you landed, but you were attuned enough to know where to land. This pleases me a great deal. I’m glad you don’t have to look to anyone else for your direction. All you have to do is listen.

Well, all of a sudden I am just beat so will read for a while. I was struck so by a thought. Here I have been faunching around about ageing, and since you are 30 and 30 is a nice age, what about if I was 30 again? Thirty wasn’t my best year by any means and I wasn’t writing, and you were nine. If I had my choice – would I be 30 again and not writing, or 51 and writing? Would you let me go back and you be nine again? We know there are a lot of ways (fifty one – I think) we could have turned the wrong way along our paths. We might turn “wronger” next time, eh! It’s just too chancy for me, so I’ll stick with 51 and writing. I’m so happy writing! God I love it!

I have started learning the manual alphabet for ‘signing’ – and am doing pretty well. I’m through the R’s today. I work in front of the mirror so I can learn to receive as well as send.

I’m really really stopping now.

Love, Mom