Usual Early Morning Stuff

It is 5am. I fight with the alarm. I fight with the cat. It is hard to leave the bed soft, fresh sheet, downy blanket hugging me back to slumber. He won’t let me sleep in and the 10-minute snooze won’t either. My choice. I set the alarm. I keep feeding him.

I sit up. I strap on the robe and sandals. I set about the usual early morning stuff. The cats weave around my legs as I pee. There are two cats, but she is much quieter, so I don’t complain about her in the morning. The gurgling coffee pot calls to me from the kitchen. I set about feeding us.

Shredded fish and gravy for them, OJ and coffee and ink for me. He eats, and naps curled in the chair next to me. She disappears again. The coffee has been poured into a weekday cup of average size. I put on a blanket against the chill from the degrading kitchen windows.

I begin to empty my mind of anger or poems or scene sketches for a novel I am months from completing. It is slow at first, unsure of my characters. What if I make bad choices for them? These are someone else’s kids in my care- no? They’re mine? Even worse. The white space fills with black ink, mostly legible, with circular patterns of character self-discovery and bad descriptions.

The paper and ink raw messy dirty dish reality of my kitchen conjures the best times of my life- food and wine and people I love. The space I write and create, the space of warm ovens and cold drinks, of turning spice into curry and flour into bread. It is fertile ground. It soothes my aching soul when the pen digs too deep into the flesh of all that is hidden.

Later the computer will sterilize this but not too much. Only enough to make it appear I am not completely uneducated though my reading list is long and impossible. Writing my flesh then clothing it in gauze. My living room editor life of electronic square blinking screen, cold and efficient, symbol of productivity and work.

The alarm on the stove beeps. The pen and paper are closed. Night clothes come off, day clothes come on, different. Hair different, hot and pasted into place. Breakfast, commuter bag, lunch bag, journal, calendar, coat, hat, boots, mittens… power off, locks on, out into the ally to the street to the bus to the bumper car traffic to the place I spend most of my days, not writing, in a cube farm.

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, February 2018

I See You

I’m on my lunch hour. The sun peaks between the holes in the clouds. A small rain shower, enough to cool and clean the air. Enough to make a little muddy patch of dirt beneath my feet, where I sit on this cement bench beneath the caterpillar tree. Not mud really- wet earth. Roots of the tree are visible in places, some as thick as the smaller limbs overhead. Trees grow roots wide, not deep. Some grow in groves, so they do not fall over in high winds.

***

I arrive in the ICU after work. She is awake. It’s hard to watch her silently scream with the respirator tube in her mouth. Her lungs are not in good shape. She will go under the knife again, get a tracheotomy to attach the respirator to her neck. Increase her comfort levels. She is not out of the woods yet. Her abdomen is split open for access and won’t be sewn shut for months.

She almost died. I can’t talk about it. I always push this stuff off until a later time when I have the space and distance to deal with my grief. For now, someone needs to be present and hold their shit together. There are too many factors pulling me in multiple directions. Time is precious. Writing is painful. It stirs up every sort of horror that my eyes have seen, and my heart has registered, but my face left blank. I have friends and cats and bars. It will have to be enough.

***

It’s evening downtown on a Thursday. The youth are loud, full of anger and angst. School is out for summer and maybe forever for some of them. It is July in the 60’s and there is mist hanging over the fractured energy. The volume makes me tense. An old man says to me as I pass, “Smile, it’s not that bad.” I am transparent, my stress clearly on my face. I look at him kindly and say, “So says you.” I stand in the bus shelter to escape the cold. A teenage girl weeps on the bench and explains to the boy that has come to fetch her, “I’m OK; I was thinking about grandma.”

I wait for the #4 bus. In front of me is a five-story mural of Bob Dylan: three faces, three ages, staring off in kaleidoscope color. I try to find the associations in the schema but I can’t tease it out. The details of his wild curling hair, the wrinkle folded flesh, the wide red stripe splitting his guitar in half- where does the inspiration come from? I am lulled into meditation by the sound of a jazz saxophone street musician. His timbre is calm, and the kids grow quieter and move on.

When the bus stops, I line up but think better of it. Two dollars pulled from my wallet and placed inside his case. I do not look at him. I am worried about the bus and run to board it. As we pull away, I watch him: black man, bright sax, waning sunlight, mirrored glasses, reflected blue light. He looks like jazz- cool, peaceful, vibrating. I smile as we pass him. He plays on. I wonder if his eyes are closed.

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, July 2016

Month in review: April 2018

It’s May and this blog post is late. That’s indicative of the sort of month April turned out to be for my writing- either late or never. April was also National Poetry Month. All my writer friends produced massive amounts of poetry to celebrate. Me… not so much.

April 29th was the 5-year anniversary of the apartment fire that consumed all the electronic copies of my writing- but not the paper ones. As an IT professional, computer screens mean databases and software and day-job. It puts me in a particular mindset that stifles my creative voice. So, it is my habit to write everything longhand first. There is something about that organic experience of paper and ink that creates a limitless plane for my mind to wander on. By some miracle, I was able to salvage all of my writing in journals and notebooks though they are smoke and water damaged.

I also have print outs of two different novels that I wrote over ten years ago. I have been working on one of them in the early morning hours before work since January. It has been a struggle for me to figure out what exactly it is that I am writing. There is such a difference in who I was when I first wrote it and who I am today but I have to write what is within me and this is what is coming out. Though the general story is the same, the way it is being written is vastly different.

In April I only worked on it for two days. Instead, I have had trouble sleeping, three separate visits to the doctor (including the ER), helped a friend move, traveled out of town for business, participated in a 4-week cooking class, and attended four different poetry events. *Whew*

Instead of my novel moving forward, I managed five different blog posts: ‘Movement’ (poem), ‘Drifting in at Night’ (poem), ‘Single, White, Professional, Female- in Kansas City, April 2018’ (essay), ‘Home assignment 1’ (food blog), and ‘Home assignment 2’ (food blog). I also was invited to read at ‘Writers Read’ at the Coffee Shop Northeast on April 12.

May should calm down as I return to my regular routine and writing practice though cycling season is just starting. I haven’t yet figure out how to do both at the same time and both take long hours of my life. Still, I can think of no better life then to bike to a lake in the warm sunlight and sit under a willow tree with pen and paper, dreaming…

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, April 2018

Month in review: March 2018

March has been an exciting month for my writing. Back in January, I decided to start waking up at 5am to write from 5:30-6:30, six days a week. Yes, Saturday too. This is of course after the cats are fed and coffee is made, but before I get ready for work. No, it hasn’t always worked out great. Sometimes, I get up late and I only get a half hour in. Sometimes, I am so groggy or overwhelmed with a head full of life and longing that I simply journal to clear the cobwebs.

But slowly, surely, I am filling a notebook with character sketches, scenes, and narrative that fill in the gaps in my book manuscript. In addition to the fiction writing and journaling, I also write poems and post to my blog every Saturday. This month’s selection includes the posts: ‘High Water’, ‘Paris With You’, and ‘Across Water’.

March has been a month of writing events. I currently participate in a poetry writing group at a local library that meets for six sessions, then concludes with a final reading of our work on April 25. More to come on that. I also attended the Rosemont Writers Festival on March 24, an annual all-day event of writing workshops, speakers, and book fair located in- you guessed it- Rosemont, MN.

But most exciting of all, was the Poets & Pints reading at Sisyphus Brewing on March 21 where I was one of four featured poets. In all the years of writers group events, open mics, and public speaking this was the first time ever that I was a featured poet. Nineteen people showed up specifically to hear me read and I was told, “You killed!”. I am very humbled by their response and grateful for the encouragement. Since that night, I have reflected on why it has taken me so long to become willing to share my work publicly with strangers. I only started seriously blogging a little over a year ago and reading at open mics in the last eight months, one of which led to the Poets & Pints reading (open mic: Poetry Happy Hour @ Troubadour Wine Bar). Continue reading “Month in review: March 2018”

High Water

When the flood comes into the house it leaves mud and mold. You try to clean up. It’s a bad day when you must throw the refrigerator and the flooring out- but what can you do? You have your life with you, the stuff of what remains- your mind, your experience, your willingness to move on or not.

Maybe that’s the real tragedy of it all. That the tragedy derails you for years. That passersby look on at the unfinished roof and are annoyed at your laziness. They don’t know that dad fell off the ladder, hit his head, and died trying to fix it.

And you can’t face it.

You can’t face the pain. Bills must still be paid and the collector doesn’t give a shit that your heart is in pieces. That you can’t think clearly enough not to pour spoiled milk on the last of the cereal in the box.

No one remembers your trauma and you are never over it fast enough for their taste. They’ve moved on to the next episode, the next season. As if life is a television series and they are sick of watching you.

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, January 2018

P.S. 2017

Dear Friends,

In 2013, I lost most of my belongings to fire that incinerated my loft apartment. Included in that was the electronic versions of most of my writing. Remarkably, all of my hand-written drafts and two 3-ring binders with printed versions of different novels survived. They have some water and smoke damage but are still legible. Fire is funny that way, random in its violence.

That year profoundly changed my life and in 2014, I made the choice to start this blog: cmmounts.com. Although I continued to write, I only got seven blog posts written that year. I just couldn’t keep it up. I had put pressure on myself to only share my new and best writing. I wasn’t writing fast enough or with enough regularity. Cycling long distance is funny that way, consuming all your time.

By 2017, I finally got tired of not sharing my writing in any kind of real way. I started to participate in open mics around the Twin Cities. I finished and published my friend Todd Park’s memoir, my first effort as a book editor. I made the choice to post any of my original work that I thought was decent, whether written recently or not. And I tried out writing a travel log for the first time- which I guess for a nomad like me is better late than never.

I view my blog as a self-published catalog of my different styles of writing, a tool to hold myself accountable to my goals, and a way for my fans (what!) to enjoy my work. And what fans I have! For many blogs, my statistics are modest but in 2017, I posted 42 times and attracted 730 visitors who made 1,178 views. I gained 56 new followers and not all of them were my mom! Actually, I do not know most of you and that blows my mind! Thank you so much for reading my poems, stories, and other ramblings… I am humbled.

In 2018, I will continue to post my work to my blog. I will continue to read at open mics and look for new opportunities to share my work. And maybe most importantly, I am working on a draft for a fiction novel for the first time in ten years. I hope you will continue on this writing journey with me. The best is yet to come!

Happy New Year!

Christine

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, January 2018

To Edit a Book

I am an accidental editor.

My friend Todd Park was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) in February 2013. An avid writer, he wrote entries in his blog from his diagnosis until 24-hours before his death, caused by treatment related side effects, on December 16, 2013. The blog survives as a harrowing and honest chronicle of his journey through his cancer treatment.

Early in 2014, something began to gnaw at me- What will happen to Todd’s blog? It needs to be a book but who will edit it? Who indeed. I contacted Todd’s brother John and asked permission to convert his blog into a memoir. John agreed. Continue reading “To Edit a Book”