Winter may be showing off all its powers to wreak havoc on the rest of the country, but here in the Willamette Valley, I feel almost guilty to report that temperatures have been fairly mild. This combined with dazzling blue skies has not only got daffodils straining their green fingers Heavenward,but has also managed to raise my spirits back into the realm ofoptimism…especially after the sadness of last week.
Yes, my ailing friend died on Tuesday, and another very dear lady in my life died Wednesday. She was 96 years old, had lived a full and healthy life, and was ready to transition to the next phase of reality. But that doesn’t mean I was ready to let her go.
And even as I sat at her bedside and confirmed, “Are you getting ready to fly away, my dear?”, I couldn’t hide my tears, tears for my loss, not for hers. She was ready. And amid great gusts of wind that rattled the doors and windows of her little cottage, she slipped away into the night.
One day you’re saying good-bye, and the next thing you know, the door opens to a new acquaintance, possibly a new friend. And so to day I welcome author, Thea Ramsay into my home.
Me: Welcome, Thea, how nice to finally meet you!
Thea: Thanks for inviting me.
Me: As we chat, would you like a cup of tea? Or perhaps you’d rather have coffee?
Thea: I’m a chocoholic, with no plans for rehab, so, although I do enjoy decaf coffee, a thick cup of chocolate is always preferred.
Me: Mmmm, that sounds scrumptious. Let’s whip some up while we chat.
Thea:Chocolate is said to raise one’s endorphin level. And as you may know, endorphins are the brain chemicals which create euphoria from a variety of sources.
Me: That’s fascinating, Thea…I’m stirring…tell me more.
Thea: Chocolate, exercise, opiates, sex, love, bonding and singing are all ways to enhance endorphin production. My favorite two emotions are love and euphoria, which is a very strong joy, with at least for me, elements of synesthesia. That is, when I’m euphoric, I tend to have nicer synesthetic responses. Music sounds sweeter. Words feel softer. Yes, I can feel the textures of words. The really euphoric words have ‘th’s in them. They sound and feel fuzzy or fluffy to me. Synesthesia is a poorly understood neural connection phenomena.
Me: Amazing…well, here we go, two cups of freshly brewed cocoa.
Thea: Thanks–just so you know, I’ll always choose chocolate over anything else, including fruit, nuts, meat, or dairy.
Me: Haha, I kind of got that idea. Let’s sit in the livingroom where it’s comfy.
Thea: A comfy chair with a purring cat on my lap is my favorite place to be. I have a new cat which I named Theta, in honor of my book, Lucy, being published.
Me: Well, no cats here, but Ari will sit by us, and keep our feet warm, won’t you, Buddy?
*A big yawn from Ari as he wags, jingles his tags and settles down at our feet for a nap.*
Me: Ah, now thea, tell me about yourself…where you live, how you like it, whatever you wish.
Thea: I live in Toronto, actually, in Scarborough. I like the plethora of services available, including WheelTrans, which is a door to door transportation service for those who cannot use the subways and busses. I’m blind and in a wheelchair, so that puts me firmly in WheelTrans. I like the amount of meetups available. Since I have no family, and the people I love are either gone to the next life, or moved away, and since I find it hard to really assist people to look past my disabilities, I find myself alone too much. That’s why I eat too much chocolate. It doesn’t quite substitute for no family or warm loved ones, but it’ll have to do till the real thing comes along. Ha ha.
Anyway, I lived on Maui for twelve years. During that time, I was married and raising two kids. I really miss being married. I miss the companionship, the snuggling, the in jokes. I miss his pork stew, his chili, and his green bean casserole. I miss the way the aromas would permeate our little honey house on Maui. I miss the warm routines, the ‘fur’ of someone being there. I don’t like being alone. It’s better than being in a crappy relationship, but all things being equal, I don’t like aloneness.
I don’t mind some time alone to write, but as a good friend of mine says ‘Alone in this world is a crock’.
I miss Maui, too, but I came back to Toronto when my marriage and my health failed. Plus, I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a fairly serious mental illness.
Me: My, you have had a lot to deal with, haven’t you?
Thea: And I just thought everybody else was crazy! LOL
Turns out to be me.LOL.
Me: Does where you live impact your writing much?
Thea My writing doesn’t often involve my place of residence; it more often involves my emotional states and the experiences that triggered them.
Me: And what about your writing process? Do you have a certain time or place that works best to inspire you?
Thea: I choose my writing time based on when I have the most energy. I have several inflammatory conditions, each one carrying stiffness and fatigue as symptoms. So I sometimes lack energy.
Energy is something I don’t like to waste, since I no longer have as much of it as I want. So when I’m energetic, I write and write and write ..
Me: I see.
Thea: I joined a meetup group called Write Together which meets every Tuesday at a downtown café for writing and socializing. The organizer of the group has us work for fifty minutes, then take a fifteen-minute break. During the breaks, we usually talk about our projects. During work time, the best way I can describe it as parallel play. That is, we write side by side, but each doing her own thing.
I also like the fact that we’re working at a café. I get there early to grab some chocolate.
Me: Haha, of course. And when did you start writing, Thea?
Thea: I started writing before I could spell. I remember writing a story in which I spelled magic “madjik.” Seriously. I couldn’t have been more than seven. I’ve been writing since then. My fifth grade teacher encouraged me to consider writing as a career. While reading Heaven by Randy Alcorn, (I highly recommend this book), Alcorn spoke of a runner whose name I’ve forgotten. When asked why he ran, he answered, “Because it’s what I was put here to do. It’s my gift. In fact, to not run is to hold God in contempt.”
When I first heard that, a bell wint ‘ping’. Someone had said what I’d never realized till that moment.
Although I’ve played music and love the theater madly, my real gift is writing. To not write is to hold God in contempt. It is the one thing I can still do, despite inflammatory conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.
I perceive the world in a unique way via my synesthesia and my mood disorder, and the fact that I’ve been completely blind all my life. I don’t operate from a visual center, but a tactile one. Did I mention that the feel of fur puts me into ecstasy even most blind people don’t feel? The brush of sleek, glossy fur on bare skin, especially when unexpected, kills a few million brain cells for me.
All these things help, especially if you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy.
Me: That’s very interesting, Thea. I can certainly understand how your shift in perception would add distinct color and depth to your writing.
Thea: exactly. Rainy nights on Maui brought out the smell of night-blooming jasmine for me. I would hear the rain thrumming on the roof of our honey house, and grab a Braille book. Hard copy books have textures and fragrances all their own.
I think they go well with rainy afternoons, or sunny days in the gazebo among the flowers.
Of course, now that I live in Toronto, I don’t get the benefits of nature so directly, so I downloaded an app called ‘nature space’ on my iPhone and listen to the various woodland and meadow scenes, birds, winds, and waves.
And of course, rain.
It’s not the same as the real thing, but it’ll do.
Me: Do children play a role in your life, or in your writing?
Thea: I have a son and a daughter. I bonded better with my daughter than I did with my son. That’s because both my daughter and I celebrated and enjoyed our girlhood. Children don’t play a large role in most of my writing, though my Lucy books do feature children as the main characters.
Me: Do any Fairy Tales or children’s stories speak to you?
Thea: I enjoy reading children’s literature, because I am apt to find lovely concepts (such as all the neat features of Willy Wonka’s shop or Hogwarts) are to be found in children’s books. And I’d have to say my top children’s fairy tale is The Wizard of Oz, followed closely by the Harry Potter books, and the Willy Wonka books. Last but not least, the Arabian Nights.
All of these stories have one thing in common: rich imagination. Flying carpets, princes and princesses, beauty, etc. are all to be found in classic children’s literature.
Me: Oh, I know you need to get back to your busy life, but before you leave, tell me a little more about your writing, won’t you? And where I might read your work?
Thea: Sure, my book is called:
A VERY SPECIAL HOUSE
A novella by Canadian author Thea Ramsay
You can find full details of this and my other publications, which are a novel and a short story at: http://www.dldbooks.com/thearamsay/ There’s even a nice review by Leonore H. Dvorkin.
Me: Wonderful. Thank you so much for visiting with me today, Thea. I hope you’ll come visit me again very soon.
I hug Thea good-bye, confident that we will talk again, and close the door. The trusty candlelighter finds its way to my hand, and I carefully straighten the candles on the mantle. My thoughts turn to the moment, the task at hand. Shabbot is drawing near, and it is important to welcome it, so important that Jewish sages of old even equate Shabbot with a Bride on her wedding day, and a Queen.
The candlelighter clicks and I bring the flame to the candles, close my eyes, and seek the delight of the moment. One breath, two, and I’m circling light toward and around me, then out to the world. We could all use a touch of delight, a smidge of joy, an embrace of peace, I muse. Then I whisper:
Blessed are You, Beloved One, Source of Life, Bringer of joy, Partner in all things delightful, including Shabbot. May we join You in song, and in enhancing joy for all we meet.
And let us say: Amen.