Tilting At Windmills

Sanity is a slippery slope at times. We all know this. We’ve all fought our share of four armed giants and lost. None of us as innocent as when we started out. Certainly, as supporters of the romance genre, whether as reader or writer, we’ve defended against countless giants in the form of cynics and naysayers. Some might say we are the Don Quixote of the literary world. The laughingstock. The discounted. The delusional.

Romantic ideals don’t put food on the table. No matter the ideal is food for the mind. Reality must be dealt with. But how we deal with it is up to us.

man of la manchaI saw Man of La Mancha at Globe Theatre last night. Can you tell? In case, like me, you’re unfamiliar, it’s a play within a play. Tax collector, writer, soldier, and unfortunate poet, Miguel de Cervantes, is tossed into prison and is waiting his hearing by the Spanish Inquisition. First, however, he must defend himself against his follow prisoners to save his most precious possession. His unfinished novel, Don Quixote. The trials and tribulations of a mad knight.

Don Quixote is a lot bonkers. He’s read too many books about chivalry and knights and romance. Poor sot. Determined to resurrect the notion of chivalry, he sets out on a journey.

I shall impersonate a man. His name is Alonso Quijana, a country squire no longer young. Being retired, he has much time for books. He studies them from morn till night and often through the night and morn again, and all he reads oppresses him; fills him with indignation at man’s murderous ways toward man. He ponders the problem of how to make better a world where evil brings profit and virtue none at all; where fraud and deceit are mingled with truth and sincerity. He broods and broods and broods and broods and finally his brains dry up. He lays down the melancholy burden of sanity and conceives the strangest project ever imagined…. to become a knight-errant, and sally forth into the world in search of adventures; to mount a crusade; to raise up the weak and those in need. No longer will he be plain Alonso Quijana, but a dauntless knight known as Don Quixote de La Mancha. – Miguel de Cervantes, Man of La Mancha

Yeah, there are days I’d like to lay down the melancholy burden of sanity too. Then again, I am a romance writer and reader. So…there you go. Fortunately, I haven’t read so many romance novels my brains have dried up. Or given me unrealistic expectations, a familiar taunt and most insulting insinuation by the way.

Here’s the thing. You know he’s nuts. But…you can’t help but root for him, even if there’s a little pity mixed in. He sees the world, not how it is, but how he wishes. In this age of text messages and the illusion of 750 Facebook friends, why not dip your toe into the pool of delusion. Not as a full time job, of course.

I come in a world of iron to make a world of gold.- Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha

I loved this play. It inspired me to think and wonder. I’m not quite sure I understood it all, but that only makes me want to see it performed again. Because, you see, I couldn’t help but relate to Don Quixote. And that’s the thing about this play. There’s a little Don Quixote in all of us. Reality can break a person. Therefore, we must bend it a little to suit ourselves.

Which loops me back to romance. Romantic fiction is necessary. Stories filled with sole purpose of traveling the winding, uphill road to a happily-ever-after are important.When reality presses in, pick up a romance novel. Immerse yourself in modern acts of chivalry. Spend some times with heroes or heroines who you know will fight to figure it out. Let them inspire you. Give you a few precious moments of peace. Of adventure. Turn the pages, dream the impossible dream. At least for awhile.

When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. To seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be!  – Miguel de Cervantes, Man of La Mancha

If you get a chance to see Man of La Mancha I hope you take it. I hope it inspires you. I hope it brings out the Don Quixote in you, my fellow travelers.


If Life Were Like That…

If life were like that…I’d have a green thumb. Like my Mom or my Dad for that matter. Or my Brother. My father-in-Law, or countless other relatives. But I don’t. That doesn’t stop me from loving flowers and other green things. With spring here, hopefully to stay, my mind wanders to what I’ll plant in pots and flowerbeds. My lack of a colored thumb necessitates keeping things simple. I have my favorites: petunias, pansies, and impatients. Hardy little souls, they provide lots of color.

I love visiting the greenhouses and wandering colorful aisle after colorful aisle. The colors! Begonias and tons of others I don’t know the names of. Geraniums, that always make me think of Anne of Green Gables and her little plant she named Bonny.

“What is the name of that geranium on the window-sill, please?”

“That’s the apple-scented geranium.”

“Oh, I don’t mean that sort of a name. I mean just a name you gave it yourself. Didn’t you give it a name? May I give it one then? May I call it–let me see–Bonny would do–may I call it Bonny while I’m here? Oh, do let me!”

“Goodness, I don’t care. But where on earth is the sense of naming a geranium?”

“Oh, I like things to have handles even if they are only geraniums. It makes them seem more like people. How do you know but that it hurts a geranium’s feelings just to be called a geranium and nothing else? You wouldn’t like to be called nothing but a woman all the time. Yes, I shall call it Bonny. I named that cherry-tree outside my bedroom window this morning. I called it Snow Queen because it was so white. Of course, it won’t always be in blossom, but one can imagine that it is, can’t one?”  from Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

As spring blooms around us, does your thumb turn green while your mind starts planning various groups of plantings? What are you favorite sort of flowers?

If Life Were Like That…

If life were like that…I’d be reading instead of cleaning. A cleaning service would come in every week to shovel out Camp Good and help keep it sparkly clean. Not in twenty-two years of marriage, eighteen of those being a mother, have I figured out how it can get so damn disorganized around here  in a space of hours. Suffice it to say we like the ‘lived-in’ look.

Now I’ve heard it said that some people enjoy cleaning, I’ve even met a few who’ve confessed to such disturbing traits. Nightmarish stories of getting up before the sun rises to vacuum, excitement over certain brands of cleaning products. I’m not sure I believe them. But if it’s true, I want to know what they put in their morning tea that causes this strange desires. Or maybe I’m missing a gene.

Interesting fact: One writer Ava Gardner did know quite well was Ernest Hemingway, with whom she was good friends. She starred in three movies based on his writing – The Sun Also RisesThe Snows of Kilimanjaro andThe Killers.

If life were like that what would you be doing right now?

Friday Fantasy

If life were like that I’d be sitting out in the middle of the wilderness today on this beautiful deck reading and relaxing. Or maybe I’m on a mini writing retreat – yeah, that’s more like it – I’ll be busy revising my novella, Off The Grid. Surrounded by all that glorious nature, I’m sure to be inspired. Oh, I know, I’ll have someone come in and give me a massage right there on the deck after a particularly grueling scene. Because obviously money’s no object! Sounds good, no?

Instead, I’ll be cleaning.

No, no, you say? Go for option number one? If you could see the state of my poor house you’d agree – it has to be done.

So, while I dream of wooded decks I’ll be mopping and scrubbing and doing the necessary. Because that’s what life is all about here at Camp Good today. What’s your Friday fantasy? What’s your reality?