…but no, she’s going with a fury after the plate that had asparagus on it, hoping for one last bite. It’s her favorite food — one of them.
I saw a peacock on my way to work yesterday.
This pheasant — the national bird of India — was wearing a royal blue blazer just like I was. The Indian Blue Peacock has iridescent, brilliantly hued tail feathers with bright spots called “eyes.” He was standing there in a pasture with five horses surrounding him, his tail train lying flat behind him against the dried brown grass, his vibrant blue head perked high, watching my car pass.
Actually, there’s more than one peacock, and I slow each morning, hoping to see them. I take the backroads to work, a route my son clued me to, swearing he used to be able to get to Brentwood High School in thirteen minutes. The narrow country lane is lined with thick trees as it twists in sharp curves through a rural area of pastures and horses and muddy ponds and mansions.
And peacocks. Once I saw two standing in the bed of a pickup parked in the driveway of their home. Always I lift my foot from the accelerator and crane my neck to see through coils of vines and gnarls of branches that hide the pasture from the road. I get a thrill if I see them.
So why are these Indian peafowl in Williamson County, Tennessee? They live here — have probably been here as long as I have. It’s what I love most about living here. It’s a growing, progressive place, the third wealthiest county in the state and one of the Top Twenty in the country, but anywhere I go, I see old barns, cows, horses, rock fences…once a deer walked down my street, and once I saw a fox crossing four-laned Carothers Parkway smack dab in the middle of the sprawl and traffic of Cool Springs. It is “country.” Nature abounds.
I am in the middle of a major project: serving as co-editor of an anthology put out by the Williamson County Council for the Written Word. In writing the introduction for Gathering: Writers of Williamson County, I make note of this unique place and how it got next to my heart:
“In 1988 on the cusp of growth, I came to this Place. I was a child of Delta flatlands and cotton and stale bayous and nothing else. This Place quickly captured me — its narrow backroads that slide through tunnels of saplings and ancient trees, blooming honeysuckle vines, and wildflowers like buttercups and clover and Queen Anne’s Lace; centuries-old low stone fences that follow the roadways and lines of sweet yellow daffodils that mark off homesites long gone … In this Place, even now, no matter where I venture, I see pastureland on rolling hills and big rolls of hay and old barns and black-and-white cows chewing grass and horses looking over black fences and new subdivisions with lines of old pasture trees and deer grazing in front yards and the brown, rocky Harpeth River coiling through it all.”
And I even see peacocks. What more could a girl want?
At 5 this morning, I watch a sliver of moon rise quickly in the southeastern sky. Moons are supposed to be nocturnal. Why is this one coming up before daybreak? Is it getting ahead of itself?
Early spring brings such an urgency. I feel it when I am outdoors and aware of my surroundings, and my pulse tamps out the rhythm. The bird-songs are loud and rapid trilling, the trees are desperately pushing out buds, and flowers are coming up out of cold earth. An awakening. Yesterday the branches were bare, today they have red tassels, tomorrow there will be lush green leaves that seem to appear all in the twinkling of an eye. Nature pushes things forward. Nature rushes winter to spring.
Life abounds. Robins peck in the tall fescue. A squirrel jumps over the fence and runs across the yard, toward the patio, across the patio, to the goldfish pond, where he takes a drink. Then he runs through the grass, past the statue of an angel reading a book, and climbs the arbor that will soon be wrapped in white wisteria. He reaches the top, scares off a bluebird, stops to scratch and smooth his tail.
I notice the blue flowers beside the concrete statue are blooming. Colleen brought them to me a year ago.
The forsythias are in full colorful display…I have nine of them. The Carolina jasmine is ready to open. My backyard will be all yellow, like sunrise of a new day.
I’m getting there, too.
Currie, Colleen, and I had a Mardi Gras brunch a couple of Saturdays ago. I’m just now getting around to posting pictures of the reason we got together: beignets!
The French word for doughnut, beignets are a New Orleans deep-fried specialty smothered in powdered sugar — like a doughnut, but square and without a hole. Colleen had just been to New Orleans and was inspired by this delicacy of the Cafe du Monde. She’d planned to bring a mix home, but ended up making the beignets from scratch.
The yeast dough squares are cooking and puffing up and turning golden brown. Colleen had a special basket-like spatula to turn them with.
Bubbly, crusty, brown. It was fun rolling the hot cooked squares in a plate of powdered sugar. We got it all over ourselves and all over the floor.
They were delicious — served with fresh strawberries, omelets, and cafe au lait. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
This is the hardest thing I’ve ever written. I probably shouldn’t be writing it. But I might as well get it out and be done with it. It has bothered me for eight months. I didn’t understand it at all. Now I think I do.
It goes back to the day I took my husband to the doctor and then he went by emergency ambulance to Williamson Medical Center. On my way to the emergency room, I called my sons who live in adjoining states 5 and 7 hours away. I also called my friend Currie to tell her where I was going. In the first hour, she showed up, and I was never alone after that, except for about ten minutes. It was what happened during that ten minutes that has bothered me.
After an hour or two, they moved my husband upstairs for evaluation and monitoring and surgery, and they moved me upstairs in a waiting room. No one else was there — no other families sitting vigil. Currie was with me and then Colleen showed up after we told her not to. She’d had a hysterectomy three days earlier, but she told us she’d do whatever she wanted and she’d come if she wanted and we should just shut up about it and not try and boss her around. We all compared hysterectomy scars, as we’d all had the same surgery within six months. (Mine was the best.) Then the two of them went to get Colleen some iced tea; Colleen has to have iced tea. My brother-in-law was on the way from West Tennessee, and Currie had called the sons to come home. But for the moment, I was alone.
The waiting room was deep and wide with dozens of empty chairs lining the walls. I had chosen a chair against the far back wall where there were big windows. I sat there trying to squelch the panic — unaware of how serious my husband was, aware that he’d be in surgery soon and he’d be there for quite a while. He had the best vascular surgeon in Middle Tennessee. I felt some comfort in that.
Then a woman about my age walked into the darkened room. She kept walking, she was aimed right for me. I thought, Surely she’s not going to come all the way back here and sit by me. But she did. What the hell? She chose a chair stuck squat up next to mine and took a seat, her right shoulder one inch from my left. I eyed twenty silent chairs up one side of the room and twenty up the other. I’m sure I frowned. I know I was shaking because I shook for 38 hours. I’m sure I wanted to ask, Why are you sitting here this close to me? My heart beat hard and fast. I folded my arms. I let the wrinkles in my forehead deepen.
She asked why I was there. I told her my husband was having emergency exploratory surgery. At that point, we did not know what was wrong with him.
Then she told me her story. She was there to visit her husband, who was in intensive care. She’d be taking him home in a couple of days. The previous Sunday he had gone to play golf. He fell asleep and ran off the road and hit a concrete bridge abutment. His car had On Star and 9-1-1 was alerted. Paramedics arrived on the scene and took him to the hospital. Emergency room doctors checked him over. A CT scan was ordered to make sure there were no hidden injuries, and doctors discovered an aneurysm that was leaking between the layers. It had nothing to do with the accident. It would have killed him within days or hours, though, … had he not hit the concrete … had his car not had On Star … had the doctors not ordered a CT scan. She was so proud and happy and grateful to God that everything had worked together to save his life. Call it divine intervention, call it a miracle, call it luck.
Currie and Colleen came back into the room and took their seats to the right of me. The woman got up and left.
It was 7 or 8 hours later that we learned my husband had an aneurysm that had leaked between the layers, too. Only he had no divine intervention, no miracle, no luck, no CT scan.
The inner layer went pfffft! and sloughed away, stopping up the pipe, causing mesenteric artery occlusion, shutting off blood flow to major organs, killing the bowel, killing him. Cause of death: intestinal ischemia.
Two similar cases. One in which everything went right. One in which everything went wrong.
Thursday morning in the cold sleet, I got my first slap in the face and knock upside the head about how bad our economy really is.
A few months ago my [husband’s] Outback started leaking oil. I had it changed the weekend before my trip to Mississippi and the baby shower for Jillie and Hardy. It still leaked, and furthermore, it used oil during my seven-hour drive. I had to go to Wal-mart (God help me!) and buy oil before I could drive home. Time for service.
I piddled around, not wanting to deal with this, not wanting to spend this m0ney, not having the TIME to deal with this, but finally made the call to the service rep at the new Subaru place in Cool Springs that has serviced both of my Subarus during the past two years. He passed me on to someone else to arrange the exact appointment and a rental. (This is the first time I haven’t had a husband to go with me in a separate car, to talk shop with the mechanic, and then to take me home or to work.)
I was set to be there at 7:00 AM and so was the rental so I could get to work on time. At precisely 6:45, with sleet slamming against my windshield, I drove up to the service door at the Subaru place in the giant car complex on Comtide Drive in Cool Springs — audacious upscale showrooms for Subaru, Infinity, Mazda, Nissan, and others. It was dark. Not a soul there. No employees. No customers. A 1950’s green and white truck sitting in the bay. I swallowed hard. My cheek muscles tightened. The sign beside the door said “M – F 7:00 – 5:00.” Okay, where is everybody? It wasn’t like the Saturday mornings I’d been to Moody’s Tires — arriving at 6:30 AM to a waiting room full of people reading newspapers and drinking coffee while their cars were being worked on.
At precisely 7:01, I called and told the woman who answered the phone that there wasn’t a soul at the Subaru place. Silence. Then she said, “Subaru’s closed. You need to drive across the street to Mazda.”
I drove across the street to Mazda. The guy I had made arrangements with was there waiting for me and let me drive my car inside. I was the only one there. I thought of earlier days in downtown Nashville at Jim Reed with two or three lanes of cars backed up out onto the busy street of people waiting to leave their cars for service. I swallowed hard again.
“Nobody told me Subaru had closed,” I said. They had told me they weren’t doing warranty work. “What happened?”
“The economy killed it.”
Apparently, my Subaru rep has moved over to Infinity and all Subaru work is being done at Mazda where they have a really good Subaru technician and all warranty work is being done at Darrell Waltrip, who is now selling Subarus, or at Jim Reed. I am so out of the loop.
My heart pounded, and I bit my lower lip. Did I want to leave my precious car here? I walked over to the bay area and there were five or six other cars waiting to be fixed. The technician already had my car on the lift and was checking it out. Workers began to arrive and another woman drove her Mazda in for service. I started to feel better. Maybe it would all be okay, and maybe I will be bringing my Subarus to Mazda and their good Subaru mechanic in the future.
Mazda is only selling one or two cars a month. They have to sell 15 to stay open.
The 7th Council for the Written Word Spring Fiction Workshop is now one for the history books. Lingering, however, are a few memories and tidbits that I hope to hold onto. First of all, the image in my mind of the venue — the Westview Clubhouse — it was beautiful … something out of a Southern movie … tall, expansive, white, with columns and gardens and oak floors that look ancient, but they’re not. Our workshop was held in Townsend Hall, upstairs. Secondly, it did my heart good to see Bill Peach carrying out the trash afterward and Jim Taulman vacuuming the burgundy carpet in that huge room. Once again, Susie Dunham made magic with two 8-foot tables; she filled them with Krispy Kreme doughnuts, trail mix, and a silver platter of red and green grapes … and also a mix of Gerbera daisies. Currie Powers, Susan Lentz, and I waved our wands to put the other details in place, and Laurie Kay made name tags that matched the cover of our speaker’s book — Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore.
Some words of wisdom for writers from Susan:
You must spend TIME IN THE CHAIR. When you spend time there, the story takes you over and fills your head. Maybe you’ll write, maybe you’ll just think. Doesn’t matter. Spend time in the chair.
Susan’s journalism experience helped her to tell a story in a tight space, to know the importance of word choice, to use words that pull the reader in quickly, to know the importance of editing.
Write … edit, edit, edit … then it begins to sing.
First impressions matter, matter, matter. The first sentence should captivate the reader.
Think about how you can paint your story for the reader.
Four dozen writers. A speaker with a heart for her art. A good workshop.
Scott Pearson is a writer.
I first met Scott at a Council for the Written Word workshop a few years ago. He left in the middle of it. He emailed the next day and explained that he got called away on an emergency. I hope everything’s okay, I wrote back, assuming it was a family emergency.
Scott is a surgeon at Vanderbilt.
When he was a resident, he had 5:30 a.m. rounds, but when he became an attending, he did rounds later, so he began using the early morning time for writing. He was used to being up; why not take advantage of it? Because he can write knowingly about the world of a surgeon, he built a story around Dr. Eli Branch — a medical thriller. Intense. Graphic. A page turner.
Scott talked about his publishing experience at Barnes and Noble Writers Night last Wednesday. It was Day 25 after his book was released. He started his thriller, Rupture, in 2004 and it took three years to write and edit and take it through enough revisions for it to be ready for a publisher or agent. He went to writers’ conferences in New York, Boston, and Albuquerque just for that 10-minute face-to-face with an agent, but had no luck. It was here at home at Killer Nashville that he pitched to someone from Oceanview Publishing who ultimately requested his manuscript.
The back cover flap says, “A standout novel from an extraordinary new voice in the world of suspense, Rupture is a precise, urgent, and gripping tale. ” I’ve only read three chapters, and I am agreeing. Precise, definitely. Urgent is a fitting word. Gripping, for sure. I don’t read suspense. I don’t read thrillers. But I’m three chapters in.
The book is set in Memphis. Scott is originally from West Tennessee, went to UT Knoxville (Go Vols!), and then went to med school in Memphis. All you Memphians pass the word: Scott will be in Memphis March 7 at Davis Kidd. Go meet him! He’s friendly and all smiles and loves to talk about his book and how he got published!
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”
— Marie Curie