Bicycle Lesson #8 - Rhône Alpes, France

When It Rains It Pours

When It Rains It Pours

Didn't want to bike in the rain.  Made excuses.  Said it was pouring though it was only drizzling.  But here I am.  Glad I came, though now it really is pouring.

Lesson for today:  Do it!  Do it!  Do it!  Practice!  Practice!  Practice!  It's okay.  The ride gets easier.  If I take a break and not ride, it only slows down the process, puts a stop on what's important.

And that gets us to why I'm really here on this hilltop in a rain and windstorm; it is to write my new novel "Marisa," which by the way is going great! Near the end of the first draft but I have to keep at it every day.  Just something.  Anything. Just a thought.  As long as its 1,000 words a day. 

So that 's it for today.  Got to go fill that blank page. Happy Sunday. 

Fall harvest in la Drôme - With Enthusiasm!

"The Greeks understood the mysterious power of the hidden side of things," wrote Louis Pasteur. "They bequeathed to us one of the most beautiful words in our language––the word 'enthusiasm'--en theos--a god within. The grandeur of human actions is measured by the inspiration from which they spring. Happy is he who bears a god within, and obeys it."

I chose "harvest" as the ending title for “Summer in la Drôme,” because, during my stay there, I lived in the fields of my imagination, where I planted and nurtured what grew into 116,297 words of my new novel THE DRUMMER'S WIDOW. I’ve brought the results, my harvest, back to America to sell in the publishers marketplace.

I chose Louis Pasteur's quote on enthusiasm because I would never have finished MELISSA if I hadn't obeyed my “en theos” who supported me through the days when no words budded or worse they died on the vine, and who celebrated with me on the days when words burst forth into colorful and loquacious blooms.

I chose the butterfly and poppy images because the enthusiasm of nature is the source of our own and it's contagious. In a sliver of Brazilian forest only a few miles square, scientists have counted more than 1,500 species of butterfly. And the poppy when coupled with another poppy and given seven years and the right conditions will produce 820 thousand million million million descendants. That’s enthusiasm!!!

News to follow on Marisa's publication date. First I must complete the third draft come Spring. So from now on my blog will be about the writing life. Well, not entirely. I am pulling up my Manhattan roots, deeply grown down under for thirty years. It isn’t easy to get out of New York, it takes a lot of enthusiasm, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for some time.

If you would like to learn more about enthusiasm I recommend "Exuberance: The Passion for Life" by Kay Redfield Jamison from whom I cite in the above text.

A Summer in la Drôme - La Saison des Tournesols

"Exaggerate the essential and leave the obvious vague."  Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
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And as the summer wanes these sun worshippers, which van Gogh painted, turn their heads toward the sun to catch the last of summer's light.

Outside my writing studio, in the fields, the lavender has been cut down by the local farmers and taken to the distillery to be condensed down into its essential oil.  The distillery is down the road and the balmy warm wind from Provence brings the essence of lavender to me in the early morning air.

I'm in the middle of my manuscript's second draft and, taking van Gogh's advice to heart, I am exaggerating the essential and leaving the obvious vague as I revise chapters and cut, cut, cut!

I expect my manuscript to be harvested by the autumnal equinox but time is going by damn fast!  And that is why I've had less and less time to blog.  My inconsistent blogs are accessible by e-mail if you click the RSS button found on the right column.

By the way if you ever want to read an awe-inspiring book on the life of an artist check out "Dear Theo: The Autobiography of Vincent van Gogh."  Not only was van Gogh an exceptional artist he was a really good writer.

Bicycle Lesson #9 - Rhône Alpes, France

You might be wondering why I'm photographing sheep for my lesson on gear shifting.  Well for one they're cute and might draw your attention and, more significant, they are a metaphor for those who hardly ever shift gears.Sheep prefer to move very slowly and eat and then be eaten.  The other half of the lesson is for those of us who are gear-shifters. My brother, Greg, an avid bicyclist once said to me, "If your bike has gears, it's easy to ride uphill." Though there are five gears on my bike, I still hadn't figured out how to make it "easy."  Today huffing and puffing on my uphill climb I breathlessly said, "I can't do this. I'm going to get off and walk."

But then I shifted gears in my head and said, "Wow! look what I can do. I'm climbing a hill. The little engine can do it." And I made it to the top feeling breathlessly wonderful. 

There's still a lot to learn about gear shifting that can't be covered in one lesson. 

If you would like to subscribe to my column "A Summer in la Drôme" click RSS feed in right column and link your Google reader or whatever to my blog or you can have an email subscription.  Facebook link is not necessary.  I publish my la Drôme column on my bike riding days, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays but because of my full writing schedule I don't always make the deadline.

Tour de France Races thru la Drôme

                      

Today I'm letting the Big Boys take over on the bike trail.  After riding already for sixteen days these guys are not slowing down as they pass nearby on their way up into the Alps going over 25 miles per hour.  Three days from now they will reach Alpe d'Huez (6000 feet), which is 370 miles from here.  How about that for fortitude!

I'll be watching them on television this year as we are having a bit of winter weather and it is not conducive to picnics on the grass.  These pictures were taken two years ago when I last watched them whiz through la Drôme with my sister Kate Hudson.

Bicycle Lesson #7 - Rhône Alpes, France

Come fly with me ! ! !"The more you let yourself be distracted from where you are going, the more you are the person that you are. It's not so much like getting lost as it is like getting found."  William Stafford, poet (1914-1993)

View from bicycle.

View from bicycle.

This is a very important lesson for me.  When I ride my bike, I get so focused on where I'm going, which is usually up or down a hill, that I forget the joy of distraction.  Today I stopped on a hilltop and allowed myself to be distracted.  And in that moment I found myself drifting with the clouds and it was grand.          

Bicycle Lesson #6 - Rhône Alpes, France

Get Going!  Marcel Proust called it exercising the authority of his inner self.

I woke up this morning knowing it's Tuesday and I've committed to riding my bike though I'm really not into it. This early in the morning I'd rather be in bed reading.  But once on my bike, I take off down the hill and immediately start feeling really good.  And now I'm on my way home with the results of my work; a baguette, a good workout, and several new ideas I want to put to paper. 

I realize I do the same with my writing. I go to work at my desk saying I have to do it as if it is a terrible chore. When actually once I get going it is the most fun thing in my life. 

"No Day Without A Line" - said Apelles, Beethoven and van Gogh

There is no bike lesson today.  As I am a practicing writer I also like to discuss writing. And today I was inspired by this quote and looked it up to find out its history:

The original quote came from Apelles, an ancient Greek painter in 4th Century B.C.:  "Nulla dies sine linea."

Then Beethoven (1770-1827) said, "No day without a line" in answer to how he accomplished so much work as a composer.

Then along comes van Gogh (1853-1890) who wrote in "Letters to Theo" (an extraordinary, intimate, and uplifting correspondence about the work of one of our greatest painters):

"Not a day without a line.  By writing, reading, working and practicing daily, perseverance will lead me to a good end."

That's it!  That's what you gotta do, whatever your creative expression is.  Now if I can just apply it to my own daily work I'll finish this mansucript before the end of summer in la Drôme and turn it into a novel!!!

Bicycle Lesson #5 - Rhône Alpes, France

"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body but rather to skid in sideways thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "What a ride!"

Goats grazing on bike trail.

Goats grazing on bike trail.

Today's lesson was difficult!  I just couldn't find the energy to pedal up the final hill and had to stop.  Looking down on the goats who felt as enthusiastic as I did reminded me of this anonymous quote I use to get going.

I got back on my bike and pedaled hard and when I reached the top of the hill, I loudly proclaimed, "What a ride!"

Bicycle Lesson #4 - Rhône Alpes, France

If you want to reach the top of a hill on a bike, you must have a goal in mind.  Upon awaking this morning, I realized that I had no reason to go to la boulangerie to get a baguette as we were having lunch with friends at midday.  Oops.  Now what am I going to do?  I asked myself, lying there in my peaceful bed.  Croissants quickly came to mind.  That's it.  We'll have croissants for breakfast with strawberries.  And being quite interested in the DSK (Dominique Strauss-Kahn) affair, because I really want to see this guy go down, I will also bring home Le Dauphiné to read the latest on the scandal that daily enfolds like a soap opera here and in the USA.  So with two worthwhile goals in mind I took off on my two-wheeler.

Bicycle Lesson #3 - Rhône Alpes, France

Boulangerie at 7.30 A.M.  Spring Water Tap

At  6.45 a.m. I was snuggled in bed reading "Hunters and Gatherers" (great summer read) and I didn't want to take a bike ride. It was sixty degrees outside and that meant it'd be cold on my ride until the sun came over the canyon wall.  And then I remembered it was Sunday.  On Sunday I reward myself at the boulangerie with pain de chocolat, tarte framboise (rasberry), and croissants along with the baguette.

After a slow start, I whizzed down the canyon, as if it was a ski slope, relieved each time I drove through a sun-patch.  On my return, the phrase "one step at a time" came to mind though this was one pedal at a time. I found that it helped if I looked down at just what was in front of me, the pebbled road, and shaded my eyes with my cap so as not to look ahead at the steep incline, a vision that filled me with discouraging words. 

So today's bike lesson was that when you have something that you really want to do, actually love to do, but it's really hard (most things you want to do are hard!) - to reach your ambition you take one step, and then another, stay in the present, and don't look too far ahead. 

One Step at a Time

Bicycle Lesson #2 - Rhône Alpes, France

Okay here are the photos I promised from this morning's bike ride.

En Route Poppy Fields in BloomLavender Fields Forever

Unfortunately while I was working on uploading the photos from my iPhone to my iPhoto I had a technical breakdown - my internal keyboard froze, in other words non-communicative. Now I'm up and running again or should I say up and writing again but three hours later!

What I had started to write before my keyboard froze! was that today's bike ride was much improved because I'd gotten the tech part down. No more shifting into first gear to go uphill.  And once that was resolved I became more present, less uptight, and could really take pleasure in my extraordinary surroundings.

Today's lesson is two-fold.  Tech problems are unpredictable.  One just has to take a deep breath and through trial and error fix the problem.  Oh and another thing is not to be afraid of asking questions to those who know more than I do.  So . . . whenever I have a technical problem with my computer I Google for help.  My brother Greg taught me that.

Bicycle Lesson #1 - Rhône Alpes, France

Yes, I'm back on my BLOG and want to thank my sixteen loyal followers for not deserting me.  I'm really gonna get the hang of blogging this time around.  That is when I'm not working on the first draft of my new manuscript, a contemporary novel entitled MELISSA. For my blog content, besides continuing my articles on self-publishing and the writing life, I'm going to write about my life in La Drôme and am starting with the lesson I learned pedaling my bike today.

I have promised myself to ride a bicycle on Tuesday, Thursdays and Sunday mornings and BLOG on the same days.  It takes around 10 minutes to pedal on a one-lane road to the boulangerie, 2 minutes to buy the local newspaper, Le Dauphiné, and a still-warm-from-the-oven baguette, then 30 minutes to return home.  Why the difference?  Because I live in a canyon and it is downhill going and uphill coming back. 

This morning as I was pedaling up one of the many steep hills, I found it almost impossible to continue and I consider myself in good shape - elliptical three times a week in my Manhattan gym plus up and down subway stairs daily.  I remembered my daughter Amie, who is a physical trainer, telling me that I must "Push!" myself.  So I did.  I stood up off my bike seat and pushed as hard as I could.  But I hardly moved.  And then 'I got it!'.  I had accidentally down shifted into first gear.  Once I realized my error and shifted into fifth, I moved forward.  It takes a while to get the hang of riding a bike again.

My ride today reminded me so much of my writing life that I thought I'd share it with you:  It's thrilling to go downhill with the wind in your face and not a care, but it takes great effort to climb back up the hill later.  There are days when words come easy and it's lots of fun but there are those uphill days when no words show up on the blank page.  I just have to stay with it, knowing that if I practice writing everyday I'll push myself through those uphill days and finish my new manuscript by the end of the summer.

I'd like to share also that while I'm riding my bike past fields of just-harvested hay and fields of brilliant orange poppies and purple lavender (I'll take a picture on Thursday so you can see too) I am writing a thousand explosive words in my head.  That is the impetus to hurry home and write them down before I forget!

That's it for now as Melissa's story is waiting to enfold and I have to write a chapter before I can give myself permission to take an early evening walk.