Mixed-Media Novelist

a creativity workbook

Note — there is a formatting issue with this post. WordPress is helping me to fix it. If we can’t get things straightened out by Monday morning, I’ll re-do the post so it looks right and the links work.   Until I saw SPC Scott Hagan’s photos posted this morning in our Pensacola online newspaper, NorthEscambia.com, I never thought about the small Panhandle Florida town of Marianna at all. Its only significance to me was as a place roughly halfway between our home in Pensacola and Tallahassee, a place where we usually fill our gas tank when we’re driving to Jacksonville’s Mayo Clinic every six months for Buck’s scans to be sure his mantle cell lymphoma remains in remission. Drone footage showing the horror-show coastline devastation from late-season Hurricane Michael of the Mexico Beach and Tyndall Air Force Base area has been seen all over the planet. But there is something remarkably personal and heartbreaking about Hagan’s photos of his hometown of Marianna, some 50 fifty miles inland from the coast. Click here to see his work and here to read the narrative.
Anyone who has ever lived through a major hurricane knows about the eye of the storm. The eye is beautiful, alluring, and extremely dangerous, like some tempestuous relationships. If you don’t understand where you are, the eye will fool you. You will think the preternatural calm, the blue sky, signal the storm is over, that you are safe. And then, with no time to escape, a wall of wind and water from the back side of the storm will rise up like hell and death itself. You will run, swim, cling to a rooftop, scream and go mad for a time. If you survive the roar, the wave, the snakes in the water, the smell of decay, and the fear of your own death, and if you are very lucky, a morning will come when you will feel the soft feathers of a dove on your shoulder bearing an olive branch in her mouth. Coax it to stay with you, ma chère. It might be a sign that your life has been handed back to you; that you have a fresh start. Evangeline Tibbedeaux Harper, from The Mapmaker, a novel-in-progress by Elizabeth Westmark (This passage was written several years ago when I was thinking about Hurricane Ivan that hit Pensacola in 2004. In The Mapmaker, Evangeline is a Hurricane Katrina survivor.)  
For the survivors of Hurricane Michael in those hardest-hit areas, it will be a long time before they are able to see that dove, to grasp that olive branch, to feel that a fresh start is possible.
There’s a nifty site I recently added to my Twitter feed that feeds creativity. It’s @mymodernmet. They have a store attached to their website, with links to cool things like tattoo socks with gorgeous birds and all sorts of other clever, often beautiful, creations. A day or two ago I saw a link to a free collection of Japanese wave and ripple illustrations by artist Mori Yuzan, done in 1903. For more information on the artist and the designs, check out The Public Domain Review’s page on them here. I downloaded them and printed on my regular (cheap) printer paper, then cut one in half to glue into my Moleskine daily calendar and saved the rest for later. I don’t know why I stuck an old piece of gold embroidery thread through stick-on hole reinforcers, but there you go. The quote, “You didn’t come this far to go somewhere else,” was clipped from a magazine somewhere, sometime. It’s a reminder to me to quit posting in this blog and get back to my novel manuscript. It’s working well, right?
Between working on a manuscript, following the Kavanaugh hearings, and fretting about whether Hurricane Michael was going to hit Pensacola (have you seen the video from poor, devastated Mexico Beach and Panama City?), I realized yesterday that I’ve gotten myself into a state of sleep deprivation. Never good. So last night I brought out the big guns: a beautiful whole chicken, carrots, onion, celery, broth and a generous splash of dry vermouth. Settled down with Buck for our usual evening cocktail — a Manhattan for him and scotch and water for me while the ingredients simmered into heavenly medicine. It worked its magic and I got the first really great night’s sleep I’ve had in days, if not weeks. Woke up feeling like a tigress and ready for a dash to the gate with Lula Belle. We dashed because a cool front had rolled in, at last, and the temp at seven was 54 degrees, a tiny bit cool for gym shorts and tank top.

A stunning sunset in unscathed Pensacola can’t erase the destruction and suffering being visited upon our neighbors to the east and northeast by Hurricane Michael. Buck and I had just finished a comfort food supper when I saw it, grabbed my camera and raced upstairs and out to the second floor terrace to snap the moment before it was gone.

I covered up so much of the pages on my daybook with pictures and ink that there wasn’t much space left for notes, so I decided to try adding a blank insert. It was simple to do and turned out well.

The paper is from an old stack of ivory executive-size second sheets. I tore one in half, folded it to make a seam for glue, and stuck it in between the pages for October 10 and October 11. I added a rub-on stamp to the front along with some hickory smoke distress ink and have filled up the two inside pages with writing, saving the back for tomorrow! The old stationery has a lovely feel to it. 

Hurricane Michael, a most unwelcome late-season guest, will be making landfall somewhere between Destin and Panama City Beach in a few hours.  Our inland location near Pensacola in Escambia County, Florida has been downgraded to Tropical Storm alert status. It is our friends and family to the east who are in great jeopardy for loss of life, property and infrastructure damage. 

Apalachicola is a quaint, lovely small riverfront fishing village. It hasn’t seen a bad hurricane in this century. Buck and I met for a reunion with my brother who lives in Apalachicola and my other brother who lives in Lakeland back in October, 2015. Some photos, below. 

The Water Street Inn. Last television report I saw showed their parking lot under more than four feet of water.

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