Lumpy Gravy, Thoughts on Writing Well

I’m working on the rewrite of a chapter in a new book and in spite of hours of effort, when I pause to listen to what I’ve written, it sounds like lumpy gravy.

Yes, I realize that gravy doesn’t talk, sing, or make any other noise, but it still seems the perfect metaphor for my imperfect words. In case you’re not familiar with gravy and, in particular, lumpy gravy, a brief description-

Gravy is a sauce made from cooked meat juices, stock, and other ingredients. One ingredient is flour, which is used to thicken the sauce. When the flour is added incorrectly, the result is lumpy gravy, little balls of unmixed flour in the sauce, a culinary no-no. Like good writing, I believe creating good gravy, a sumptuously smooth sauce, is a combination of rigorous practicality and delicate art.

My own experience is that lumpy gravy usually results from hurrying, compromising time and care because of impatience, setting an unrealistic timeline for creating something that simply cannot be rushed. There is a proper order and way to add and mix ingredients. don’t do this and you get lumps.

what are the lumps in my writing? Words and phrases that don’t sound right, feel out of place, don’t fit the desired style, don’t truly support the theme. Adverbs and adjectives that were easy to insert but, upon reflection, don’t add anything. 

What I write seldom comes out smooth and lump free the first time. Admittedly, I rarely succeed at creating lump free gravy either. In cooking, there are two ways to fix this, stir or whisk much more, or, something few will admit to, strain the gravy through a sieve to remove the lumps. 

This is what rewriting is all about, the writer’s process of removing the lumps from his work through careful consideration, in my case, listening as I can’t see what I’ve written. Often I brainstorm words, sentences, even paragraphs. with the magic power of today’s word processing technology and my text reader friend, Alex voiceOver, I can quickly try and listen to many options, until I hear something that is smooth and feels right. And on I move to the next paragraph.

Ultimately, I’m the cook in my word kitchen and I know, that unless what I’ve written passes my taste test, unless I’ve taken the time, done the work, to make perfect, lump free, gravy, those words can’t leave the kitchen.

tio stib

2018, 2019

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My Dementia Diary 87 – Harold!

“Harold!” shrieked the voice across my neighbor’s yard.

‘Harold, get in here!”

I and certainly everyone else in the neighborhood now knew that Harold was being called. To my surprise, the man himself, standing on the other side of our common fence watering his flowers, did not seem to notice. In fact, there was not the slightest trace of recognition that he’d heard his summons.

Smiling, Harold said, “that corn of yours is looking mighty fine, almost ready to pick.”

I nodded in agreement.

“Never had much luck with vegetables, so I just stick with flowers,” he added, smiling with pride at his little patch of pansies.

Harold was retired, had a nice head of white hair, excepting for the bald spot which was always covered with some sort of hat, and he was blessed with an eternally pleasant personality. I never knew a mean word to escape from his mouth. I always enjoyed our over the fence chats, particularly when his wife was not nagging him.

“Harold, get in here right now!”

 As he continued drowning his flowers, I realized that while anyone within a block of his house could hear the wife’s belligerent commands, Harold had tuned her out. Not a hint of displeasure, a grimace, nothing showed on his face but that benign smile. Yet his hearing was fine, as evidenced by our continued conversation.

“Fine summer day, don’t you think?” he asked.

“Harold, now!”

I think of Harold’s beatific tranquility when my wife’s pestering neediness is about to drive me nuts. I imagine myself standing beside him watering flowers with a big grin on my face.

But, I’ve yet to achieve Harold’s state of Zen peace.

A few years after his wife met her demise, Harold passed on as peacefully as he’d lived. Out driving, he had a heart attack and his car slowly slowed and stopped against a power pole. I sometimes wonder if, as Harold approached those pearly gates, he heard a familiar voice yell out-

“Harold, get in here now!”

Does God have a sense of humor?

tio stib

You might also enjoy: A One Act Play, My Dementia Diary

 

River of Words

River of Words

my life floats down a river of words
on paragraphs, syllables, tales once heard
they call out as I drift by
love and pain, both truth and lies

emphatic “yes!”
a stolid “no.”
the overused, unhelpful “so”
“goodbye”
“forever”
“I’ll be there”
“why not?”
“you said”
“I don’t care”
“quiet, please”
“how can I think?”
“have you ever seen the sky so pink?”

the words speed up
the rapids roar
fearful sounds from times before
then I’m lost and swept away
chaos and cacophony
gulping right and spitting wrong
gasping as I’m thrown along
shouting voices, “me! me! me!”
screaming insecurity
then bashed on conflict’s argument
my heart gives out
my soul is spent

in drowning plight
I see a dove
one final thought
remember

love

the verbal roar falls far behind
consciousness comes back to mind
as grace, sweet heaven, sets me free
and quiet waters welcome me

my life floats down a river of words
heading towards a voice unheard
yet whispers on the waves call me
“you can, dear one, you can be free”

love

love

love

tio stib

2017, 2019

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My Dementia Diary 86 – Stumped Town Dementia and Death Doulas

I connect with other bloggers who focus on the challenges of living with dementia. Their stories and insights help me navigate the bumpy road we share. I’ve found the woman who writes “Stump Town Dementia” to be particularly honest, humorous, and helpful. She recently shared information on “death doulas,” a source of dementia caregiving assistance I’d never heard of before.

Do you know what a “death doula” is?

Here’s the link to “Stumped Town Dementia”-

https://www.stumpedtowndementia.com/post/death_doula

tio stib

You might also enjoy: My Dementia Diary 75 – Sleepless in Benicia, My Dementia Diary

 

 

The Memory of a Single Rose

has love been worth
the silly fears of youthful years
the agony and sobbing tears
rejections, dejections, emotions tossed
plans and hopes and dreams now lost

has love been worth the unmet wants
the emptiness of sensual haunts
the births, the deaths
the final breaths
the agony of cried regrets

all this for a glimpse of bliss
the rapture of a secret kiss
a sudden smile
a soft caress
the eternity of souls confessed

and so I ask a broken heart
as time tugs our love apart
was it worth the cost
the moment’s flame?

ah, yes
sighs the sent
the sight
the memory 
of a single rose

again

20100531 Roses from Laura 002

tio stib

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My Dementia Diary 85 – New Friends, Sort Of

I’ve discovered that our disabilities are providing us unique ways to meet people-

Sitting outside a coffee shop, my wife and I sipped on our favorite hot drinks while we breathed in the gorgeous Fall morning. Suddenly, my white cane leapt from my lap.

Surprised, as I’d heard no one approaching, I was about to start searching  when I heard-

“No Lucky, that’s not yours, we need to give it back.”

And so I met Lucky, the Labrador puppy, who’d decided that the red ball on the end of

my cane was something he had to fetch. His apologetic owner and I had a good laugh.

My wife has her own way of getting attention., as demonstrated by this encounter in front of the same coffee shop-

“Hola Abraham!”

“Excuse me?”

The young man stopped in front of the door and turned to face my wife.

She repeated, smiling I’m sure, “hola Abraham!”

Seeming to understand, the young man moved closer to her and said, “hello, how are you?”

She unleashed a torrent of Spanish babble.

Unperturbed, the young man graciously replied, “thanks, it’s a pleasure to meet you too,” and continued inside.

Such happenings are more frequent now, where my wife mistakes others for our son or daughter, who, living in other countries, are nowhere near our neighborhood. She’ll jump up, wave, call out expectantly. 

The responses are varied. Some ignore her, some wave back and continue on, a few, like the young man mentioned above, graciously stop and talk with her. Occasionally, I’ll share that she has dementia and thank these kind folks for stopping.

Such experiences are among the side benefits of living with blindness and dementia. True, none of these brief acquaintances have become friends, but the graciousness of some has given my wife precious moments of happiness.

We’ll take all we can get.

tio stib

You might also enjoy: Flavors of Friends, My Dementia Diary