Looking Ahead, Looking Over My Shoulder

The month of January is associated with the Roman godlet Janus, conventionally pictured with two faces, one looking forward and one looking back. I’m looking forward at 2012 with subdued anticipation, wondering if the new year will be as much of a mixed bag as the old one was. Personally, during 2011, I felt as if I were skidding from one extreme to the other, in between every kind of loss and gain imaginable, both personal and professional. We lost my father, for one – the day after Christmas, 2010. Then I had a book to launch early in the year, and the sequel to it to finish in time for the Christmas rush – plus the all-in-one edition of the Trilogy. I had a round of speaking engagements – much fun ensuing from those, including keeping a straight face when urged to join the Sons of the Confederacy Ladies’ Auxiliary. I didn’t mention that my ever so-g-g-grandfather the Quaker abolitionist and Underground Railway safe-house keeper probably was a major disqualifier.

I severed a professional relationship with one publisher, and moved over to another, smaller and local publisher. I had sufficient paying projects as a free-lance writer and editor in 2011. Between the freelancing, my books and partnership in the Tiny Local Bidness, I didn’t need to take on a job such as I had to take some years ago, in a telephone call center. I’m starting off this year with a guest appearance on a local internet radio show – this Thursday afternoon at three CST on the Yankie Grant Show. For books in the new year? I’ll be working on the research for the next one for sure, a picaresque adventure set in California during the Gold Rush years. I’ve always wanted to write a novel about the Gold Rush, where an extraordinary number and variety of people came to California all at once, seeking their fortunes in the mines or from the miners.

A sudden freeze late in spring last year demolished just about all of the tender garden plants and hanging baskets. Over the summer we worked to revive it all – and wonder of wonders, I finally managed to grow tomatoes. In the fall, we found three patent grow-boxes put out for bulk trash – so in this new year we have ambitions to plant more tomatoes, peppers, beans and squash. Some of them will be in the grow-boxes, and some in the topsy-turvy planters hanging from the big mulberry tree. We have already designed an arrangement of 2x4s and chains so that we might be able to hang them in two rows.

At the end of this year just past, I paid off a long-term debt. Another such debt will be paid off in April, 2012. The mortgage, alas, still has another eight years to run – but this is progress that I just couldn’t see a couple of years ago. Through my daughter’s machinations and well-established fondness for animals, I have presented with two: a cat and a dog. The cat – elderly, half-blind and bad-tempered was adopted from anther home because she didn’t get along with a new puppy. The dog is a Maltese-poodle mix found, running loose in a neighborhood where no one recognized him. We thought sure that he had escaped from a fond and indulgent owner and returning him would be a piece of cake – but no, he was never claimed and now he is mine. He looks like the dog Toto in Wizard of Oz, save that his ears flop over rather than sticking up, and he is curled up in a basket under my desk as I write this. Hopefully, 2012 will not bring us any more animals.

My computer gave up the ghost shortly before Thanksgiving 2011; a happening long-predicted by my friend the computer tech so it did not come as a complete surprise. He very kindly moved all my files off the old hard drive and onto the new one, which is several times more powerful than the old one and has much more capacious storage. In 2012 I hope to be able to take fuller advantage of it. And to replace certain of the programs that I had on the old one with their up-to-the-minute versions.

So – looking forward – looking back. I hope 2012 won’t be as much of a bumpy ride as 2011, but I am buckling up, as it very likely will.

7 thoughts on “Looking Ahead, Looking Over My Shoulder”

  1. Sgt – want to hear a slightly amusing story about the Gold Rush? In my family ancestry were 2 Scottish brothers who came out in 1849 to seek their fortune – never to be seen again.

    Family lore had them finding a fortune and being killed for it –

    Most likely with tired backs they decided to (a) go back from whence they came (b) try farming or ranching, (c) tend a store or (d) try Internet radio (OK I am seeing if you are still awake at this point).

    Point is for 150 years they just vanished.

    A few years ago my mother got a phone call…..from one of their descendents. Turns out they were doing internet genealogical research and my mother’s name finally came up – 30 miles from where these descendents lived!

    BTW a lot of the people who made the big money weren’t the miners but the merchants – charging fortunes from everything from eggs to shovels.

    Look up Sam Brannan.

    Do you want to include Virginia City NV in your book? It has its own rich history. Including how the “Comstock Lode” got its name. (Hint – it involved a bit of drunkenness and thievery).

    Bill (incognito)

  2. I know about the fortunes being made from providing services to the miners, Bill! No, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn about the two Scots brothers, who just decided to do something else and never bothered to write home again … our family is the one who misplaced a step-great-aunt, who fell out of our ken around 1895 or so. (Her maiden name was Page, she was last seen as either the governess in the family of the Swiss Ambassador to England, or the family of the English Ambassador to Switzerland. One or the ‘tother.)

    I’m at the point where anything amusing I read about, happening in California/Nevada/Utah/New Mexico in the years 1854-58 may very well become an incident or character in the next book. That’s how it works for me at this point …

  3. I didn’t mention that my ever so-g-g-grandfather the Quaker abolitionist and Underground Railway safe-house keeper probably was a major disqualifier.

    Sgt. Mom! I wanna hear more about this interesting ancestor….

    – Madhu

  4. Well, all right Madhu, but I don’t know much more than the bare outline. His last name was Smedley (they’re one of the original Penn land grant families) and his farm (where my grandmother grew up) was near Lionville, Chester County. He was a ferociously fire-eating abolitionist and the family legend has it that his place was the local alternate safe house on the Underground Railway. The primary safe house was the inn/tavern in Lionville, which supposedly had a secret room with a concealed escape tunnel ending in the nearest patch of woods. He did not risk much by this – as all of his neighors were Quakers and abolitionists as well.
    G-g-g-grandpa Smedley’s enthusiasm for Mr. Lincoln’s war was considered so unseemly that he was thrown out of the Quaker Meeting; he took his religious custom to the next-nearest establishment of religion, which fortunately for us all happened to be Lutheran. He was not so enthusiastic about the war to the point of enlisting in the Union Army: He hired a substitute. I think that his younger brother served, though.
    And that’s all I know… oh, but my Grandmother did tell us that one of the escaping slave families did settle in Lionville. She went to school with their children/grandchildren; they were very mixed-race, apparently. About the only noticable characteristic was very tightly curly hair.

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