A plot can emerge in a story while my characters are in the midst of doing something else, and it’s reminiscent of the adage, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” Who came up with that saying it is uncertain. John Lennon said it in his song “Beautiful Boy” (1980), but it also has been attributed to Allen Saunders (1957), Quin Ryan (1958), and others.
To me, the phrase seems to say that living is a fluid experience and thus we may find that our plans and even the way we live diverging from their expected paths.
When it comes to the characters in the Saint Maggie book, A Good Community, plot happens when my invisible friends are engaged in their day-to-day activities, and suddenly they find themselves enmeshed in something they did not quite expect.
This is clear in the new book’s first chapter. We know something crazy will be going on later in the book because of its first entry, which dated August 1. Then we jump back to June 14, where Maggie is struggling to get noon dinner ready for over a dozen people with only two helpers and herself in the kitchen. Worse yet, one of the “helpers” is her domestically challenged daughter, Frankie. Maggie’s future plans here are limited: get dinner on the table.
We go next to her husband Eli, who has other plans: he wants to enlarge the reach of the newspaper where he serves as editor-in-chief and floats an idea by the paper’s publisher, Tryphena Moore. He wants to do something daring. He wants to put advertisements in the paper to supplement the income from subscriptions.
Check it out. (I know I've ;put this up before, but I've made some changes.)
In Chapter 2, Nate and Emily’s baby is born. At the same time, Maggie realizes that her oldest daughters, Frankie and Lydia are becoming women. Letting go of them, allowing them to live independently is a struggle many parents have faced throughout the ages. And this is one thing life is now throwing at Maggie. But it’s not the life-changing plot.
That starts to emerge in Chapter 3 with the arrival of Mary and Addie Brooks, two orphaned girls of color, who happen onto the Greybeal House property. The desire to provide for Addie and Mary’s education is the spark that leads Maggie and her friends into action that in turn leads them into controversy, and then leads Maggie to into on a role she never considered, much less wanted. In short, it looks as if our heroine’s life is rudely upended by the plot. So, plot happens!
I’m looking forward to releasing the novel, because it will lead Maggie into new territory that will be explored in later books.
NOTE: Speaking of planning, I had planned to release the book this month, but things have happened in the lives of two of my beta readers that have slowed and even stopped their ability to read the beta draft. Likewise, I spent the first half of 2019 with my own “life happens” moments: caring for a dog with cancer, having her pass away in early May, and then grieving for the loss of a dear, furry friend.
But finally it looks as if the book is close to being released.
Regardless, this all has been a huge lesson for me: while I was making plans for the new book, life intervened. Whether it is releasing a new novel or planning to live quietly in 1860s Blaineton, life (and plot) happens and can turn things around.
One final thought. Having been around for a while, I know that it’s not so much what happens to you as how you deal with it. It a difference whether we get engulfed the life-wave or whether we are able to surf it.
But that’s a story for another blog.
Until Monday, friends! Have a good weekend.
Image found on Warder, G. (2015). Women in nineteenth-century America. Retrieved 09 Sept. 2019 from http://www.disabilitymuseum.org/dhm/edu/essay.html?id=18.
The concept of “separate spheres” for men and women was pervasive, especially among middle-to-upper-class people. Of course, women in the lower classes and among non-European and immigrant groups worked to feed, house, and clothe their families and no one seemed to find it shocking because, well … class and race. But what led to this notion of separate sphere? I suspect that much of it was connected to the Industrial Revolution.
The Industrial Revolution had several phases and is acknowledged to have had a first phase, which occurred in Great Britain in the 1700s. The result was that the shift from an agrarian-based economy to an economy based on industrial production and consumption caused a huge upheaval in Britain. Factories sprouted up in cities and people flocked to them in search of employment. But soon problems arose from this boom in urban populations, among them were crowded and inferior housing, crime, and a spike in alcoholism made possible by access to cheap gin. And this put the nation on the edge of a crisis. As a result, a host of reformers arose at that time to address the nation’s issues. One of them was a guy named John Wesley, the founder of Methodism (my character Maggie’s faith community).
In the British colonies in North America, the Industrial Revolution did not arrive until after their establishment as an independent nation. It is generally believed that the first wave industrial wave in the United States began around 1790 and continued through the 1860s. It was followed by a second wave of industrialization from the 1870s until about 1914 or thereabout.
Maggie’s world of Civil War America was not as heavily industrialized or urbanized as the last decades the nineteenth century, yet it still experienced the impact of industrialization. Up until the nineteenth century the United States and its colonial predecessors had been largely rural and agrarian. We had towns and cities, of course, but these were nothing like the cities we know today. Twenty-first century New York City with its world of skyscrapers, wall-to-wall traffic and people, business and busyness would have blown even the mind of my free-thinking Eli Smith.
But as in Britain, the Industrial Revolution in the USA brought an explosion of factories and urbanization. With them also came enormous cultural changes. One earth-shaking change was how time was perceived. In earlier eras the passage of time was measured by seasons of the year and by daily activities. The day ran from sunrise to sunset. The work people pursued depended upon the time of the year. As the factory system emerged and grew, time became more regimented. People no longer worked until the job was done but according to schedule. They also did the same activity day in and day out.
Another change occurred in the home, particularly among those in the upper- to middle-classes. Men left the home and went off to the rough and tumble “world of work.” On the other hand, women were expected to remain in the home and tend to household chores and raising children. As a result, perceptions of men and women’s natures underwent a shift. Men came to be seen as coarse, instinct-driven, amoral at best and immoral at worst, while women were perceived to be pure, spiritual, and moral. Men therefore were meant to be “out there” among the danger and corruption, while women were designed to keep the home a safe haven, raise virtuous children, and see to the family’s religious training.
When I was an adjunct professor, my students frequently were stunned when I produced the laundry list of things women couldn’t do in the nineteenth century. Examples: a woman could not vote in national elections and frequently could not vote in state or local elections; she could not hold public office; once a woman married she became a femme covert (a “covered woman” who was absorbed into her husband’s household rather than existing as an independent human being); in some states marriage meant a woman no longer could own property or have the right to any income she earned; she could not deliver a speech to a group of men or to a mixed group of men and women; she could not lead or vote in most organizations, such as the abolition movement, although she could lead and vote in groups comprised only of women; and a woman could not be a clergy person, nor could she preach or lead a church, although she could “exhort” (encourage).
Not surprisingly, the “rules” changed somewhat as one went down the social ladder. They also changed according to a woman’s race. So, a lower-class woman could work in a factory; slave women and the wives of farmers could work in the fields; and the wife of a shopkeeper could work with her husband, but most other professions and jobs were closed to women – although some did manage to break through. Exceptions also emerged as non-native people moved westward. In frontier areas women frequently had greater opportunity to break the rules and flex their creativity, skills, and talents.
I routinely bring these women’s issues into the Saint Maggie series to highlight the struggle for women’s rights, something which began in earnest in the USA during the 1800s. Maggie’s illustrates this change, commenting that she hopes her daughters will be able to more than she was allowed to do. And indeed they seem to be going there.
Throughout the series, Frankie feels called to ministry and is trying to find ways to answer that call, even though she is blocked from ordination by most Protestant denominations. Lydia begins her journey as the family’s official “nurse” (an in-house job open to all women) but who goes on to become a midwife and a doctor.
Although Maggie does editing and writing for husband Eli’s newspaper, the upcoming novel, A Good Community, pushes her into a more prominent position. It feels to me that she goes into it kicking and screaming. Maggie does not believe that wider opportunities are meant for a woman in her early 40s. But she’s wrong. As Eli tells her, she’s powerful, but she just doesn’t know it yet.
Have a good week!
See you on Friday.
After being unable to get to the Mauna Kea Information Station, we were at a loss what to do next. Then I had a brainstorm. I asked Mike if he thought that giant traffic jam on Route 19 had broken up. Everyone in the car immediately perked up and we rerouted for Kona, where we planned to score some shave ice.
Is it any surprise that it took us forever to find our way to Kona? Even with GPS? Perhaps Pele the fire goddess was giving us a message. Or having a good laugh at our expense. I really think it’s the latter. After all, we're such a bunch of clueless haoli.
After what felt like a long drive, we finally arrived in Kona - after dark. Mike parked our car and we made our way to a funky little shop called Scandinavian Shave Ice.
Yes, I know. The name makes no sense. What could be less Hawaiian than Scandinavia? Plus, if I’m not mistaken, shave ice came to Hawaii via Japan. So, what the heck?
Oh, well, the where’s and why’s don’t matter. Because the truth is shave ice delicious and addictive! Scandi’s (as the people of Kona call it) is a popular place, especially on a warm night. We hopped right in line and waited our turn.
So how is a cup of shave ice concocted?
First shave (do not crush) the ice. Then shape it into a nice ball
Add the flavors next, as many as you’d like.
Then serve and eat.
Sorry about the above. My subconscious just leaked into my blog.
But shave ice IS the best. (Or "the bayst," as Nacho would say). In fact, shave ice so good, I’m planning a post-retirement career of buying a shave ice cart and going to street festivals.
I may or may not be serious about this.
Kona, of course, has other things to offer besides shave ice.
On the day of our departure, we checked out of the condo at noon and traveled back to the tough, but picturesque town. The airport is nearby, but since we did not need to be there until about 5 or 6 in the evening we wandered around Kona for a bit.
The locale’s full name is Kailua-Kona, but almost everyone seems to call it Kona. One of the historical buildings there is Mokuaikaua Church, the first Christian church in Hawaii (established by American Protestant missionaries in 1820). A wooden building was dedicated in 1823 but destroyed by a fire in 1835. A new building was immediately constructed, dedicated in 1837, and still is standing today.
Image from https://mokuaikaua.com/sanctuary-preservation-2/
Across the street from the church is Hulihee Palace, another historical building was constructed in 1838 and served as a royal vacation home. It is interior may be toured and inside you’ll find Victoria-era furnishings and other artifacts from the time of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani (reigned 1874-1891).
Naturally, we got hungry, so Mike suggested that we have an early dinner at the Kona Canoe Club, since it is right by the water. It has a varied menu, and this meant we all could have what we wanted, everything from burgers to New England clam chowder to a bucket of shrimp.
After eating, we came upon a seemingly random photo of Tom Selleck in the bar area. Naturally, Kristina and I had to stop and show our undying affection for him.
I still don’t know why the restaurant had that poster. I even tried to research it on the internet, but to no avail.
And of course I need to mention the honu, Hawaiian sea turtles. For some reason, they make me happy. To Hawaiians, the honu are sacred and their image represents many things: peace, long-life, protection, humility, spirituality. Their image is often found on t-shirts and as tattoos and look like the image on the left. But in real life, they look like the image on the right.
Image on left from: https://www.wcchc.com/Content/pdf/Trails/Honu-Trail-Learn-about-the-Honu.pdf; Image on the right is mine.
However, if you put a couple of hats on honu and slap them in an urban meme from a popular film, you get an amusing t-shirt.
That’s right. I bought the t-shirt. Kona is kind of a tough town, but honu are tough critters. And that makes perfect sense to me. The sacred is not necessarily all soft and lovey-dovey. It also can be intimidating and powerful. So there you are. Your bit of theological rumination for the day.
The time finally came for us to leave. We dropped off our car at the rental company. While we were waiting for our bus, I ran into someone you don’t see every day near an airport. I was all alone on one side of the building (I had to use the “facilities”). Meanwhile, the family was on the other side.
That’s when I came face to face with him.
Rooty the Rooster. He just happened to be hanging out and going about his own business as if he belonged there. The truth is, he did belong there. I was the interloper. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what his job was. He appeared to be the only domestic fowl at the rental spot. Do they normally hire roosters on Hawaii? Is this a thing?
Or, perhaps, maybe it was just Pele wishing me a whimsical aloha.
After all, anything is possible. Especially in Hawaii.
Thanks for putting up with my holiday chat. Aloha, everyone!
See you Monday with a new blog post.
Image taken at Hilton resort. Mauna Kea is in the background, shrouded by clouds.
We piled the entire fam into our rented giant of an SUV and set off on a couple of day trips while we were visiting Hawaii. We had a specific destination in mind for each of the two excursions. However, we left room for “hey, you wanna stop here” moments. (Track where we were on the Hawaii map at the bottom of this blog.)
Kohala Forest Reserve
The ancient volcano called Kohala is located on northwest Hawaii on an archipelago. The volcano is estimated to be a million years old. Interesting fact, the island of Hawaii has five volcanoes: Kohala, Kilauea, Hualulai, Mauna Kea, and Mauna Loa (see map).They formed the land mass that we know call Hawaii, or the Big Island. Kohala is considered to be extinct, while Hualulai is labeled as dormant, and the other three are active. Kilauea is the most dangerous, having erupted in lower Puna in May 2018. (https://www.tripsavvy.com/volcanoes-of-the-big-island-of-hawaii-4176591)
The Kohala Forest Reserve is located north of Waikoloa. (See map at the bottom of this blog.) We traveled north from Waikoloa on Route 19, past Hapuna Beach and toward the archipelago. Along the way, we passed through the towns of Kawaihae, Hawi, Kapa’au, and Halaula, stopping for refreshments at one point. These towns are where Hawaiians reside. If you want to see how the rest of Hawaii lives, you need to get out of the resort and hit the road.
The town of Kapaau (I think)
In Kapaau, Fishkins had a local hitch hike on his neck.
Along the way, Fishkins, our oldest grandson, noted that the environment was changing and commented that we were entering “the moist side of the island.”
Now, some people don’t like the word “moist.” Fishkin’s dad, Mike, is one of them – and Fishkins knows it. So they bantered back and forth until Dan finally spoke up, banning the word “moist” from the car, and suggesting that Fishkins use “wetness” instead. (So much better. Not.)
This, of course, gave Dan a chance to quip that we were on “The Edge of Wetness.” I liked the title. It sounds like a soap opera (as in the old “Edge of Night” soap). Unbeknownst to me, though, Dan also was playing with the title of a sketch from the old Johnny Carson Show. Since I’m not a night owl, I never seemed to catch Carson’s show and didn’t get the connection until I had returned home and a friend commented that she loved the sketch. I found it on YouTube. Better late than never.
The Kohala Forest Reserve is an absolutely breathtaking preserved area. You may hike on approved paths, but do not stray from them. For one thing, you could damage the environment. For another, park people track trespassers down and remove them from the park. So enjoy the pristine beauty of the area but stay on the marked paths.
Kristina looking out over an amazing vista and at the head of the trail. Say on that trail!
My shutterbug, Dan; and the walk to the reserve.
On another day we decided to go up to Mauna Kea to look at the stars. We did that the last time we went to the Big Island and it was the most phenomenal thing I’ve ever seen. The mountain’s height sets it far above towns and human activity, and the lack of light pollution make the stars pop. All I could do was stare, and gasp, and thank God.
This time, however, things went differently. First of all, almost as soon as we got underway on Route 19, we found ourselves stuck in a traffic jam of magnificent proportions. Granted it was not a Jersey-style backup with three or four lanes on either side frozen solid. Route 19 is only a two-lane road, but since it was one of the few ways into Kona, everything was snarled up. After a half hour in the conga line from hell, Mike turned the car around, and we took off for the Saddle Road that cuts across the Big Island.
I don't have many good photos of the trip up Mauna Kea, mainly because we were in a moving car the entire time. But here is one half-way decent shot of volcanic cones ( think that's what they're called).
Our detours were not over, though. Our next challenge revolved around a controversy.
The controversy has to do with plans to build a large and powerful Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) at a location where there are already thirteen other telescopes. “The site makes sense from a scientific perspective — its location above the clouds will allow scientists to understand more about star and planet formation, far beyond what we can do with current telescopes. But the choice makes less sense from a cultural perspective.” (https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/space/stories/the-controversy-behind-the-worlds-next-great-telescope) As another article put it, “The barren landscape is rich with [Hawaiian] history, and is believed to be the site of the genesis of the Hawaiian people. Many of their revered ancestors are buried there.” (https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/21/us/hawaii-mauna-kea-protests/index.html).
So there you go. It is a case of “Don’t you want to advance our knowledge of the universe?” (western science) vs “We were here first and this land is sacred to us” (native peoples).
Eventually, we encountered the protesters. We knew this most likely would happen, but thought we’d see if there was any other way we could get through to the Visitors Station.
The protesters (protectors) had erected tents on either side of the road and additionally blocked the Mauna Kea Access Road leading to the Mauna Kea Visitor Station.
The protesters were very nice. From what I saw, they were walking around doing their own thing which it reminded me of peaceful protests from the 1960s. No one yelled at us or made obscene gestures as we cruised through their tent city. I did not take pictures of the location because I felt it would be neither polite nor respectful. However, you may find images of the tent city on the internet.
Not surprisingly, a lively, loud fist fight – I mean discussion – about the protests and the TMT erupted in our car as we turned around to go back from where we came. I can only imagine what the protesters thought as our carload of shouting white people with Jersey accents trolled past.
“Hey, what’s up with those haole, brah?”
“Dunno. They sure are mad at each other.”
“They need an intervention.”
Eventually we realized that we required more information about the telescope and the protests before we could take a stand one way or the other, and peace reigned once again in our tank of an SUV.
But now we were faced with the eternal question: “What do we do next?”
On Friday: the conclusion of our adventures in Hawaii.
Map link: https://www.hawaii-guide.com/big-island/big-island-hawaii-maps
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder