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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

I knew I wanted to write novels, but I could not finish what I started.

The closer I got, the more ways I'd find to screw it up.

Steven Pressfield, author, The Legend of Baggar Vance

All my life, I have adhered to the belief that there are two types of creatives in the world: those that work by perspiration and those that work by inspiration.  Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art, might define it as those who put their butts in a chair and those who don’t.

Since I have the attention span of a gnat, I have always lived in the “inspiration” category of creatives.  I once read that the Creator has assignments, and if we pass on a creative suggestion, it will get passed on the next, perhaps more willing, participant in the co-creation of a work. 

Somehow I found that comforting.

So for mostly fifty plus years, I simply observed the world and waited for a story or scene to unfold before me filled with human goodness or inspiration and then composed or written to capture that moment. I just waited patiently for the muse to direct my path. And that worked for years until a vague sense of dissatisfaction began to creep in.

Perhaps in a desire to see if I could persevere in something…anything…I started this blog.  For almost 100 weeks, with some exceptions, I have persisted.  During that time, I quit every week, I composed farewell letters, and I covered my ears and sang loudly to avoid those 3 am creative assignments.

But I showed up.

And then a funny thing happened.  I started showing up for the novel that haunted me all these years, and I am realizing that now my focus now needs to be on completing that work as it moves from its birth to its development.

So for awhile anyway, Tuesday Epiphanies will morph into Spontaneous Epiphanies… coming with their own time table, which will probably be very sporadic.. I figured out I needed to free up space in my busy, easily distracted mind to fully embrace this novel until it is polished and complete. The characters deserve my full attention, and I know they will let me know when their story is ready to be shared. I have come to love them deeply in this journey, and they feel like old friends now.

During these last two years, I have been humbled and lifted up by your support and encouragement.  I have felt you with me every step of the journey, and every time I was ready to throw in the towel, one of you would respond in a kind way to a post, and I thought to myself…okay…one more…

You have blessed me beyond measure, and I will continue to hold you close to my heart.

I am leaving you with the prologue to the novel, Water Skeeters, which opens on a trail in the North Cascades of Washington State.  Rachel Colburn and Emma Love will meet in that wilderness, and Rachel will emerge on the same trail a few days later a transformed woman.

Water Skeeters - Prologue

Can you hear the humming?

The soft breeze is thick with the searching appetite of mosquitoes and the laser scope scent vision of deerfly and yellow jacket.  Soaked in the sound, strangers have gathered here – their deepest fears submerged at the bottom of their backpacks, rolled into tight balls for easy transport - tucked as space fillers into the corners. They skate on the surface of their thoughts like water skeeters, poised on the tension between air and water, balanced on their teetering need for acceptance, yet desperate to remain unknown.

The path before them is steep - a ragged scar in the landscape that carves its way down through thick pine, huckleberry, and dry summer air.  They step out and down, their backpacks lightened by the counsel of the instructor - only one of everything needed: one cup, one bandana, one extra pair of shorts, one extra shirt, one extra jacket. They do not want to enter the wilderness overly encumbered, she announces.  And so they leave their discarded possessions in the back of the van.

As boots hit the trail, the sound of gathering acquaintance fills the air, and voices from the East Coast and West Coast co-mingle on the path and get tossed back to the rear of the line where she places herself, always places herself, so as to avoid scrutiny and connection.  Invisibility is only guaranteed here as the last in line.  Fearing a stumble on the steep trail, no

one ventures a glance back, their gazes minutely focused on the rocky path. And so, she is able to do what she has always does best.  She observes, listening carefully for land mines hidden within the words.

The road that had carried them here through the river valley was quiet…only the occasional rush of a truck’s breeze, with a trailer’s wind momentarily rocking the sturdy body of the bus.  Trapped like captured insects behind the glass, they had sat straight, facing forward and silent, traversing their fears carefully, frightened of what what might tumble down the slopes of their thoughts, what beckoned from the tenuous ground.

But here, now on the trail, it is different.  Tentative conversation clutters the air, drifting through the leafy canopy.  Like small fry dashing out into unknown waters, these strangers dart in and out of connection, feeling their way, clinging to the illusion of their anonymity.  As they journey downward deeper into the scar, these tiny forays into the mundane begin to weave a fragile spider web of commonalities. 

But the differences linger out in deep water like fish of prey awaiting a moment of over confidence, a hunger for vulnerability that will draw them out into dangerous waters.

As she listens to the rhythm of their footsteps and watches the swirls of dust dance around their feet, she realizes she knows something they do not.

They are not alone.

Here, on this path, songs emerge from the landscape like brushstrokes on a painter’s canvas. Old songs from the ragged pine, the columbine, the Indian paintbrush and the forget-me-not.  Old songs that seem familiar but are rough and watery like the creek that bubbles through the undergrowth.  Old songs that weave quietly and ceaselessly through trail conversations, seeping into the strangers’ bones and whispering of restless sleep.                                 

Can you hear them?


  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

I am sure there are good things that I don’t know yet.  But it’s  hard to find them sometimes in the tangle of lies and deceit.  Or is it that I let the lies and deceit scream louder than the background noise they deserve to be? My addiction to doom scrolling and catastrophic thinking, both generic and learned behavior, completely crowds out the whispers of any good thing lying beneath the surface of the noise.

Some days, in the midst of the noise, I feel that good thing tugging at me insistently, like a child hungry for my affection and attention, but only out of the corner of my eye or the edge of my brain.  And like an exhausted parent, I give lip service to the possibility of the hope it promises.  Yeah. Yeah.  Maybe someday. But the dishes are never going to get done. And my God, are you ever going to clean your room?

Some days the good things that are already known I feast on and try to recreate.Today’s sunrise was a Monet. Yesterday’s was a Picasso.  Tomorrow?  Van Gogh?  Then again, some days, the sun seems to be in the wrong place, and the clouds crowd out the silhouette of the mountains against the sky, and I think to myself….blah, blah, blah.  Just a boring sunrise. How disappointing. I guess I will go weed the gravel.

But some days, in the midst of the seduction of the monkey tasks or hidden in the haze of catastrophe and confusion,  I feel good things are still waiting to be known.  Like that high school crush who was the object of all desire.  Whose mere presence, whose light scent, whose voice alone created a longing to be looked at, to be noticed, to be seen.

The good things want that.  To be anticipated and adored in the waiting.  To be sought after in the crowded hallways and dreamt about in the midst of the dark chaos. To dance too close for the chaperones’ comfort and accidentally brush lips in an awkward embrace.

The good things waiting to be known deserve that kind of attention.  And that is an act of the will that requires a deep practice of noticing.  The begonia in the indoor planter stretching its peach winged flower towards the direction of the awakening sun every morning. The imprint of my finger in the soil leaving a soft hollow where moisture gathers.  The light catching a glass watering bulb and revealing a jade green Taj Mahal.

A remembered voice calling out in the chaos and the confusion reminding me to rest and be still.

The world will always be the world.  Peace will never be found there.  It will only be found in the shy glance of a young girl tucked against her mother’s breast.  The flick of a lizard tail scurrying across the pavers.  Baby birds in the vestibule peeking their heads through the twigs and the soft down.

This day.  This next moment. This next breath. All wrapped in the certainty of Love.

These good things longing to be known.

  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

When we gave away most of our possessions before moving here, the hardest to sort through were the art pieces acquired over time. We managed to gift even the most valuable before packing up, but there were two we could not surrender because they were created by our daughters.

One of them was a colored chalk drawing of a golden retriever. Tim had never owned a dog, and he had always dreamed of a golden retriever, so when Melissa took her only art class, she chose to draw a golden for him. I will never forget the day she brought home the picture as a surprise for Tim’s birthday. He did what we all do in this family of people “built close to the water”…. He wept.

The other is of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, two of Tim’s favorite characters, drawn by our other daughter Alisson, and also given to him as a birthday present. The drawing is accompanied by Pooh’s and Piglet’s conversation. “I just wanted to be sure of you.” Tim wept when he read it and saw his two favorite characters walking away in the picture, so close they are almost touching. It summed up how Tim felt about his journey with both our daughters and it became a model for our journey as a family. We just want to be sure of each other.

Our first year here, as we were approaching Tim’s birthday,I glanced at the drawing Melissa had done, and had this idea that The Boy who had always dreamed of owning a golden retriever deserved to have that wish fulfilled on his 70th birthday. And, through extensive research, I found a “breeder release”… a dog who at two was discovered to have mild hip dysplasia, a condition that prevented breeding for this AKC registered female. So after two years in a kennel awaiting a life of making puppies, this timid, scared of her own shadow, unsocialized Zuni became ours.

This was not a dog like the ones in the movies, running up to every human and licking them to death or snuggling up every night in bed. That doesn’t happen if you miss out on any social interaction for two years. She cowered with her tail between her legs. She had to be taught to play with a ball. And every little sound or movement or shadow in the outside world caused her to become anxious and cower. Her transformation has been slow and steady and has required the patience of saints, as with us all.

But she is a different dog now.

This is a tail wagging, gift giving, hand licking goofball around whom our life centers. We plan our days around her needs, and we have learned the art of the sniff walk and the joy of seeing her respond with reckless abandon to life’s simple dog pleasures. Others who knew her in the beginning have remarked about the transformation they have seen in her.

But I have wondered if it is she who has been transformed or The Boy and I.

The Boy has always been emotionally reserved, but he has learned through loving this dog that a “flat affect” is not welcoming to a dog. And so I revel in observing him come through the door to be greeted by the gift of a slobbery stuffie. His newly acquired “dog voice” is expressive with excitement and joy which belies his quiet nature that served his cat years so well. Zuni has transformed his natural reticence into what could pass for boisterous love and affection.

And I have had my own transformation as well. My need to wander in nature has always been a deep part of me. But it has been hard to justify when the “to do” is always so long and time is always so pressing. But having her as part of the family allows me to “put her needs first” and constantly change my plans to accommodate a drive to the canyon to watch for deer and turkeys or simply to sit by a stream as water flows like liquid glass over stones and branches creating melodies that soak me in peace.

We think we are giving her these “gifts” of time and energy to meet her needs. But maybe she has an agenda as well.

Perhaps in her dog brain she brings gifts to Tim because she knows he needs a tangible expression of love. Perhaps she is training him how to “wag his tail” with joy and excitement when encountering someone you love. Perhaps she stares at the door in longing expectation because she knows that living as I do in a world of competing creative desires, I need to set it all down and have an adventure in the woods once in awhile to keep my perspective.

Perhaps she knows that Tim and I, like Piglet and Pooh, just need a loyal, unconditional love we can be sure of, whatever the circumstance.

She has given us that in spades. Over and over. Every day. Like her owners, she is still very much the introvert, content to lie on her back in the sun in her dog version of a sun salutation or sitting a certain distance from you on the couch, content to stare lovingly and occasionally sigh. But now she strides confidently out into the world every morning greeting the day with tumbling routines on the wet grass and exploring the world on her own terms. She leads her pack only glancing back periodically to make sure of our adoring


And when she is leashed up and on the trail, we are often asked if she is a rescue, as so many dogs here are. I used to say yes, but now I think I would answer differently. After a year of being loved so unconditionally by her, I think I would simply say,

We did not rescue her.

She rescued us.

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