Posts Tagged ‘project’

The Post – Extra! Scarlett O’Hara is Pregnant

February 17, 2008

Well, that is life for you. One minute you’re choking in the ER, the next maybe we’ll be surrogate grandparents for our fiddler crabs?

Again, it is my husband, the one who made fun of my fiddler crab project, who notices changes in the fiddler crab tank.

We have noticed Scarlett O’Hara on occasion, seeming interested in Admiral Byrd. Admiral Byrd of course, ALWAYS waves his claw even when no one is around. My husband explained this is a guy thing – you always stand around looking cool, just in case. Well, apparently things happen when the lights go out.

For the last 2 days my husband has mentioned, with concern in his voice, that Scarlett O’Hara has been climbing all the way up the water filter, almost to the top of the tank, and has been hanging out up there. We just thought she wanted to be queen of all she surveyed and liked being up high.

Today he looked at her and said: “I think Scarlett is going to have babies! Do fiddler crabs carry their eggs on their abdomen?” I glanced at her and there was this wad of brownish spongy stuff tucked against her abdomen, underneath her mandibles.

Sure enough, a glance at a web site of the Fiddler Crab Life Cycle, shows pictures of pregnant females carrying hundreds of thousands of fertilized eggs on their abdomen. The pictures look just like Scarlett O’Hara. So, she’s pregnant!!!!

Now my understanding from something I read, was that female fiddler crabs burrowed down into the sand 23 inches or so, to lay their eggs. So I felt assured we would not be contending with “babies.” In fact, maybe that’s why Scarlett’s been climbing on top of the water filter. Maybe she’s been looking for someplace deep to lay her eggs.

However this same website on the fiddler crab life cycle indicates that female fiddler crabs RELEASE their fertilized eggs into the water and they float around as plankton. When they molt and get big enough, then there’s JUVENILE CRABS running around the tank.

My husband’s reaction was almost identical to 20 years ago when I invited him to have lunch with me at the hospital one weekend when I was working, so I could tell him the results of a certain pregnancy test I had just run: “Oh my God.” My husband said, “I’m not ready to be a grandfather yet, especially to a few hundred thousand fiddler crabs . . . ” But you and I both know, if there’s babies in the tank, he’ll be watching over them and concerned about them.

Now another site I found, About.com’s Keeping fiddler crabs as pets, (which by the way is a GREAT summary of how to raise fiddler crabs in general AND has instructions on setting up a brackish water tank) indicates it’s near to impossible to raise the babies in captivity. Apparently the babies need to go out into deep ocean water to grow then return to the brackish water estuary when they are older.

Well we shall see. Who knows? We may yet have BABIES in the tank!!!!! 🙂 So, the $4 fiddler crabs, with the >$100 of support gear so I could establish a brackish water tank so they wouldn’t die, have apparently not only not died, but thrived! Now we may need ANOTHER TANK so the thousands of babies have a home. Anybody want to buy some fiddler crabs? I’ll keep you posted on the progress of the pregnancy.

Stay tuned this week for pictures of the pregnant mom!

The Post: Finally, I Graduate to Stage Two – Focusing the Lens

February 15, 2008

 

I knew Phase II had arrived. Its symptom was unmistakable. I was tired. The amount of work coming from the dictionary job ran up against the short-term deadlines and heavier workload from the ethics board. Family needs took up more time. The ethics board work increased even more. And then there was the point of it all, my writing projects. I realized that I not only couldn’t keep spinning 20 plates on sticks forever, but I didn’t want to. Where some people revel in that level of activity or that challenge, I did not. That, in itself, was telling.

Going back to Mr. Shulevitz’s advice: “You must listen to yourself from your own depths and become acquainted with your own true self . . . learn which is you and which is NOT you. You are what you truly love.” My husband’s reminder felt viscerally real: I wasn’t getting any younger and I needed to stop trying to be what I was not.

I let go of the dictionary work. While it was a good job, I wasn’t meant to be a lexicographer. I throttled back on the ethics board work. It was time for that directive: “Be alone with yourself . . . Achieve inner silence.” In my case that came partly from renewing my dormant practice of meditation and prayer, as well as just, being alone. You can’t run from yourself. To be a writer, if you’re going to have anything worth saying, you must learn your own truth. And it’s only in the quiet moments that the voice within can be heard.

For the first time, I stepped back from my work and took a look at the big picture. I listened to Mr. Shulevitz and sorted out the voices without and within, I looked to see what themes kept repeating themselves in me and my work. That’s when things started to come clear.

I love nature. I loved being 10 and climbing trees and fences and running free in the neighborhood – that time of childhood where you are most capable, where adventure and innocence are at their crest, before the trials and tribulations of adolescence set in. I love castles, the Revolutionary War, diners and the sixties and the blue collar, ethnic world I grew up in. And mythology.

I noticed that I collected, and still do, every silly, touching or factual story about nature, animals, and zoos. I kept a nature journal of our backyard bird feeder and the pond area and collected 3 years of information. I identified with creatures either too small or too much in the background to get noticed, and I was that nature-geek, driven to learn about every tiny sea creature that lived under the ocean pier.

I also knew I’d probably never draw comic strips, or write romance novels, science fiction, or true crime. Nothing against any of those genres, by the way. In fact I am fascinated by the genres of comics and romance novels – they are unique worlds and they seem cool and fun. They just aren’t my talent. And no, I will not try to write any more picture books. In truth, my husband has that voice.

I started to define the projects that were me:

A mid-grade novel set in Williamsburg Virginia during the Revolution. A mid-grade novel set in a 1960s blue collar ethnic New England town, of course, set in a diner. A historical fiction set in 1200s England on the Welsh Marches borderlands. A chapter-book of Greek mythology stories. A fantasy trilogy involving the world of a groundhog living at a highway rest stop, who faces the battle of ultimate evil, personal despair, loss, and emergence into wisdom. And a present day Tween novel of a girl above the pier, in another diner of course, and a hermit crab below the pier.

There is also a love of tweaky, short non-fiction articles about history and . . . nature. I rediscovered a love of and need for essays, which I will write about separately.

I started collecting reference books for all of these projects. Nature guides. Historical fiction. Topographical and historical maps of England and Wales. I made a plaster of paris model of the castle that my lord built, incorporating the latest high-tech gadgets of the early 1200s.

I pinned my project papers everywhere – the study walls were covered on one side with the pier story – maps of the fictitious town, topographical maps of Narragansett Bay, schematic of the diner of my dreams, the one I’d have if I had the money. The other side of the study has the groundhog world – map of the rest, deep woods, nearby farms. The hallway, spare room and stairwell have 1700s Williamsburg, while the den downstairs houses maps of England, schematics of the castle, and the castle model itself.

I even have two webcams up on my computer that allow me to step into 1700s Williamsburg whenever I want. I can see the view down Duke of Gloucester Street or watch the goings-on at the Raleigh Tavern any time day or night. I even had a lobster-cam until that one broke. So I had to settle for the DVD, Realm of the Lobster, that has footage of the undersea world of the lobster in the Gulf of Maine. I found that in this cool marine store store, Hamilton Marine, up in Searsport, Maine. Great website and catalog! Everything from diesel boat cabin heaters and EPIRBS, to cold-water rescue suits and ship’s bells. My next purchase from them will be a hand-crafted wind bell that sounds like a harbor buoy. They even give you the choice of 13 different bells – each one sounding like a buoy in a different place – Bar Harbor, Portland Head, Camden Reach, Outer Banks, etc. I use anything that puts me in the place of my stories.

I started painting again and even did one for the pier story. I bought a new digital camera and started shooting pictures . . . once I stopped being afraid of the thing. It only sat in a box for 2 years. In both painting and photography, I noticed the themes of nature, broken things and overlooked things.

And the words mosaics and broken bits, kept surfacing.

Finally, exhausted, I left the ethics board job. It had gotten to be so much work I was too drained to write. Besides, it was no longer who I was. Revisiting Stage One, I collected outside information as it applied to the projects I wanted to do, from sources like Writer’s Digest magazine, The Writer, countless writing newsletters, market guides and writing books.

All of this I did silently. Alone. Immersed in my own world. And I came to accept that I will work alone. Others can prepare you, teach you, assist you, but when you finally stand at the edge of that dark forest- your own inner world – you must face that one alone. It’s that line from the movie, The Empire Strikes Back. Luke Skywalker is about to enter an area of the swamp where evil lives. He asks Yoda what is in there. Yoda’s response: “Only what you take with you.”

All that was left now was to pick which project came up on deck first. My groundhog story was fairly well outlined. The 1700s Williamsburg novel had some drafts done, characters fleshed out, rejection slips collected. The Under the Pier story had an equal amount of journaling, drafts, and character work finished. The other projects were much further back in the data collection and journaling stages. One day in confused desperation I asked God to please “pick a nipple for me.” A few days later we stopped at Science Safari, a tweaky science store for kids. Sitting atop the discards pile on the sale table outside, was a stuffed hermit crab. My husband and son spotted it. I knew who sent it, so I bought it. The answer had been sent: Start with Under the Pier.

UP NEXT: A Sidetrip to Essays – But the Bus NEVER Came Up This Far on the Curb Before!

THEN: Phase Three: Coming Into My Own – The Evolution of a Novel.