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Writing Ruminations

Writing is such an internal process. Why not make those private ruminations public? This is how stories take shape and grow.

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Location: Happy Valley, Oregon, United States

I've been supporting myself as a writer for many years and am watching the changes in the publishing world with fascination. For me, sharing the craft, teaching, is as creatively satisfying as the writing process itself.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Globalization in Action

Well, I am still here, lured outdoors by the hard summertime work that I love whenever I'm not actually writing. Speaking of lures, on the writing front, I have been lured into Alt History by editor Lou Anders. And oh what fun I had there, never mind that I did a novel's worth of research for an 8000 word novelette. I might do the novel yet. The Chinese reach the South American continent decades before the Spanish do, and the Chinese bring trade... and gunpowder. The North and South American continents are not the same in this 19th century, believe me. 'Sideways in Time' is a collection of Alt History mysteries (say that three times fast) and will be out next summer from Solaris. Don't worry, I'll keep you posted. It's going to be a very good anthology, with a lot of strong writers.

Meanwhile, I have been watching globalization in action. Metro is building a huge flood control project locally – I’ve mentioned it before. They’re restoring the original bends to Johnson Creek on the old Schweitzer farm, lowering the land so water can fill in, creating wetlands and fish spawning gravel bars. Of course David has been overseeing this. He was born there in 1928 and still lives on Schweitzer property and has never lived anywhere else. Everybody from the head engineer (who redrew the plans to save the cedar tree beneath which David’s father had a heart attack and died) to the guys on the track hoes know him now. And David, who has an eighth grade education and all the worldview you can imagine from a rural upbringing, is getting globalized. It all started with his sheep.

Quite a few African immigrants work on the project – from Kenya to Ghana, from engineers to flaggers. And a couple of them had been eyeing the very fat lambs out grazing in the pasture. And asked him about them. Sure, he sells them. And yeah, if they want to butcher them, they can do it right there. It’s all set up with a strong limb where you put the block and tackle to haul the carcass up for skinning and splitting, clean plywood for the basic cleaning, and David is more than happy if they want to cart off all the organs and intestines. Less for him to bury.

So they started showing up, talking about the family village farm that they all went home to even if they mostly lived in the city and went to school. They compared notes with him on butchering techniques at home, pasturing, feed. They bought lambs and were very efficient at their sheep butchering and David is always impressed with efficiency. And they, of course, treated him with huge courtesy, village elder courtesy.

I watched race fall right out of this picture. That common ground of Farming Right, an appreciation for hard work, and responsibility faded it to nothing. It has been fun. And when he needs some help, he gets helped. Nobody asks if he needs it, it just happens. They show up after a full day on the project to do whatever he's doing, grade him a driveway that won't wash out, bring him a bunch of straw bales that broke and couldn't be used to line the creek. He's going to fence a garden spot so one of the guys from Kenya can grow vegetables he can't buy here. (I can't wait!) I will be very sorry when the project is over, but most of these folk live in the apartments nearby and walk on the bike path, so they may still be around for some time to come. I hope so. :-)