"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Sounds of SIlence

The Sounds of Silence

Clive thinks I’ve been suspiciously quiet for too long a time. Clive is one of the people who went to Australia with the pack of us. He wonders if I’m on my Wild Women trip, as he called it, and whether Pablo the Parrot will forgive another such transgression so soon after the Australia walkabout.

Well, I’m here and the reason for the silence is much more prosaic than running off with the Wild Women. In fact, yesterday my registration check was returned in the mail. I don’t think they found out how old I am. After all, the registration form said only that attendees had to be over 18 years of age. There was no mention of an upper cap.

No, the letter said that Becoming an Outdoors Woman could take only sixty registrants, and my application arrived after they’d filled the quota. So, rats. I don’t have that many years left to learn how to become an outdoors woman. I was sort of hoping to find out if I had been correctly using my chain saws all these years—the Homelite EZ that my husband gave me for a wedding present, and the Stihl 024 Wood Boss that he gave me for an anniversary present after I wore out the Homelite. The newest Stihl, the M5250C, I bought for myself.

Then there was the fly fishing class that I was looking forward to. I’ve been a meat fisherman for umpteen years, and never really considered fishing a sport. I thought the fly fishing class would add a new element to fishing. I would have to give up my force-feeding equipment—the three-pronged snagging hooks. “I can’t help it if that fish doesn’t know where its mouth is,” I would tell my husband…

Dutch Oven Gourmet was another class I wanted to take. Can’t say why, though. After all those years of cooking at home and in restaurants, including owning a restaurant for seven years, I’ve had enough of cooking. I’d much rather assemble a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or slather a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel with butter than actually cook a meal these days.

No, what really bums me out is that now I have no excuse for spending a king’s ransom in gas money by driving to Haines, pulling my little camping trailer so I had all the amenities of home with me. Then, I was going to take a side trip to Valdez to visit some friends on the way back. One of the things I wanted to do on that side trip was stop by a farm out there in that frozen Interior wilderness, and introduce myself to someone I’ve gotten to know rather well this past week, as well as his horse and his pigs.

Those critters are the reason for my week’s silence. I gave the muse the time off (as if I actually have ANY control over her) so that I could do a favor for a friend. Well, actually for his brother, who had written an account of establishing a farm out in the middle of nowhere in god-forsaken COLD country. What the brother needed was someone to edit a story he’d written about that adventure. The story turned out to be more than 54,000 words! Book length!

I’ve edited my own stuff—I call it a left brain attack—but never anyone else’s. So, for the past week that’s what I’ve been doing. When the manuscript arrived by e-mail, it was pretty rough. Two different typists had worked on it from the original hand-written copy.

The formatting was all screwed up, parts were missing, apparently where they were unable to read his handwriting, lots of misspelled words, and there were some grammatical errors. The whole thing turned out to be a fascinating story, and a lot of work! There were special circumstances here, as the author is facing that Big Deadline in the Sky, and could communicate and answer questions only when he was sufficiently medicated.

I worked my tail off, and kept long hours in front of my computer. I not only burned the midnight oil, but way-after-midnight oil. I learned a whole lot about my computer and all the little hidden toolbar thingies. I also learned how hard it is for me to edit someone else’s work, and that I’m not very good at it. I kept wanting to rewrite it instead of just correcting it. The formatting gave me fits. I could produce a well-formatted page and print it, but when I tried to merge all the chapters into one file, everything went berserk. Bold face and italics chapter titles appeared here and there, and parts of the body text were bold faced. Page setup went awry. Nevertheless, a nice, clean-looking 230 page manuscript, chapters and front work all merged into one Word.doc, formatting finally behaving, emerged on the computer.

Six days later I finished the manuscript, but only after I enlisted the aid of a retired teacher here in town to double-check it for me. Well, actually by this time it was probably the tenth or twentieth check. It’s a darned good thing I did, because some glaring grammatical errors had flown right past me. Apparently I had been more attuned to spelling and formatting than grammar. The number of errors she pointed out gave me reason to pause and consider my own writing, and how much I’ve forgotten.

Now to get some neglected chores done and then it’s back to the Aussie journals….if I can find my muse.

Anyway, at 4 a.m. today I e-mailed the completed manuscript to him. Later this morning I received a note from him that read in part, “I am so happy.”

So am I.



  1. I'm trying to comment but keep doing something wrong. I've either left two already or none! Here's another try. . .

    "I'm so happy." How many of us can say (no matter how hard we may have tried) that we have contributed in a concrete way to another person experiencing a clear moment of happiness?

    You can.

    Plus, my God, what you have learned about editing, formatting, grammar :) etc. in the process.

  2. Yes, many of us can say that you have made us say "I'm so happy" at one time or other.