Climb A Mountain

The mountains are calling and I must go ~ John Muir

southern alps

Image by paul bica

As I’ve written before, I live in the mountains fifty miles east of San Diego, at an elevation of about 4,200 feet. Deer and wild turkeys are common. The hills are lush with grass, and native oak love the rain that falls in winter and spring. Much of the pine forest has lost its battle with a bark beetle, but cedars still flourish on the tallest peaks. Stands of sage and chokecherry dot the open meadows, and savvy hikers look sharp for the bright green tri-leaf stands of poison oak before they venture off a path. Firestorms have decimated much of the landscape, but pockets of beauty survive, and I pray they always will.

My family owned a cabin in these mountains when I was a kid. My parents bought the place in partnership with four other families, cousins and life-long friends. The cottage was one huge room with a wall of curtained, built-in bunk beds (which we absolutely adored). The kitchen was a dark add-on, tiny and primitive. The dank, moldy shower stall approached horrible, and the “facilities” were outside, an old-fashioned outhouse that was a drag to find at midnight.

I loved the place. A couple of my Life’s Most Awesome Moments happened there. My cousin Julie and I caught a horse wintering over next door and rode it around the pasture. In high school, we played hooky and rented skates, then spent the day sprawling floating back and forth on the nearby Southern California lake that had frozen for the first time in 25 or so years. Growing up, I thought the mountain life was perfect, and I decided that someday I would live in the pines.

I was born “down the hill” in San Diego, a coastal Navy town, back when locals easily found a parking place a block from the beach. I’ve always had a hermity personality, and as city life busied with the surge in population, I relocated to an inland valley in search of quiet, farther away from the sea breeze-seeking population. Once my day job went online, it was easy to pick up and move an hour away to live beneath the trees.

My goal was to find a place where I could hear nothing but the sound of the birds and the wind. To walk out my door with the dog and amble through the woods every day. Although I had to work to pay the mortgage, I had a notion that the peace would finally settle me enough to write a novel. I found the right place, but years passed. Job, family ties and remodeling projects took precedence. Writing was always relegated to the bottom of the list. Until one spring, when I simply decided it was time to prove – or disprove – whether I was capable. So I started, just like that.

In retrospect, I think “writing a book” is a huge task and the enormity of the project kept me from Chapter One. Some folks have the ability to break projects down into smaller pieces, prioritize them and dig in. It’s only been later in my life that I’ve learned to wear blinders. I get the concept now:

How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time, baby. One step at a time.

I’d daydreamed about crafting the sort of mystery I love. I’m the type of reader who roots for the good guy to win and the girl to get the boy, as long as the boy has the soul of a really great man. I’m partial to strong-yet-flawed characters who experience conflict, but have an innate core that’s good and real. I’m a quirky person with a personality that’s a clash of opposites. A great friend who lives too far from civilization to be a good one. A lover of random thoughts with little time to entertain them. A smartass with no one to practice on but the dog. Someone who loves to laugh but rarely has the chance to make others snicker.

To a great extent, I’ve resolved my internal conflicts by crafting novels. I love to write about deep friendships between intelligent, sharp-witted, smart-mouthed women. Like me, my characters are flawed and floored by life. They juggle too much and struggle along, until a light goes on and they experience their own “aha” moments. Oh, but sadly, the epiphanies are few and far between.

Writing a good novel is so much like living a good life. I’ve found that the secret to both is really all bound up in our ability to figure out workable solutions. The better we get at solving problems, the more satisfying and successful our life – and our novels – become.

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Image by Creative Commons License paul bicat

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18 Responses to Climb A Mountain

  1. Kitty July 16, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    Beautiful post, Molly. And one I can relate to. I, too, spent years knowing that I wanted to be a writer, while it got relegated to the bottom of the list. I’m happy to have finally jumped into writing with both feet and to find fantastic people like you with whom to share the journey!

    • Molly Greene July 17, 2012 at 7:22 am #

      Kitty, I’m so happy to hear that you and I are on the same journey. It’s been frustrating and exhilarating, but I completely agree – the best part so far has been the fabulous people I’ve met who have helped and encouraged me along the way!

  2. Diane Hughes July 16, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    That’s right! One step at a time. What’s that old saying? “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

    Here’s to climbing mountains, both literal and figurative (’cause I am a hiker/backpacker, you know). :-)

    • Molly Greene July 17, 2012 at 7:24 am #

      … and I think the trick is not to ask yourself, “when will I get there?!” It’s all about the travel, not the arrival. So glad you and I are on a parallel path!

  3. Pamela Beason July 17, 2012 at 7:33 am #

    I SO agree with your “resolving internal conflicts by crafting novels” comment. One of the reasons I write mysteries is because I can make justice prevail, and that often does not happen in real life. And I’ve written romances with smart, tough, independent women characters, because they deserve wonderful lovers and don’t always get them in real life, either. Keep enjoying the beauty of the world we live in and putting words on the page, Molly–you have a lot of wisdom and creativity to share.

    • Molly Greene July 17, 2012 at 10:20 am #

      Pam, an author’s ability to detour from reality is one of the biggest reasons I so love to think up stories — and their outcomes — in my head. It’s like a dream world where we can reinvent things that happened, and this time the main character WON’T fall down the stairs and show her underwear to the entire eighth grade class … oh wait, I digress …

      I’m so lucky to have met you ALL!

  4. Laura Zera (@laurazera) July 17, 2012 at 8:49 am #

    So hurry up and write the next one, eh? Heh heh.

    Enjoy your journey and I hope that you love the view from the top of that mountain. And what do you mean you don’t get to make people laugh very often? You make me laugh almost every day. And the area you live in sounds so gorgeous. May it always bring you inspiration.

    • Molly Greene July 17, 2012 at 10:22 am #

      Hi Laura! Who knows when the next book will be out? We’ll see, probably in a year or so. Meanwhile, since I’m so easily entertained, I will continue to make myself laugh!

  5. Dannie Hill July 17, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

    Molly, this was a beautiful post. There is something about the wilds and mountains that will bring out the best in a person. You mentioning the silence you seek to write is something many writer try to attain. I moved to Thailand– not to be a writer but it happened that way. Like your wilderness over here the sounds of English quieted and my daydreams came to life in words.

    You’ve brought back some wonderful memories! Thank you

    • Molly Greene July 18, 2012 at 6:32 am #

      I can’t imagine the peace you must have in Thailand, Dannie. Hope someday to visit that part of the world and see it all firthand. Thank you so much for your lovely comment!

  6. Liz Barker July 23, 2012 at 11:20 am #

    Hi Molly,

    I actually found your site from both following on Twitter and a great blog post written about you on Christine Nolfi’s site. I like your post and it’s so relevant for me. I finally decided after many years to make the journey and write my first book. I still feel like my journey is still starting as it’s in it’s first round of editing but so excited for the process and can’t wait to see my book completed.

    Congrats on your accomplishment. I will definitely have to check it out.

    Best wishes,

    Liz

    • Molly Greene July 23, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

      Hi, Liz! So glad to *meet* you! Congratulations on your accomplishment – you’re writing a book! – and best of luck to you with all you do. It’s a wild, exhilarating ride and you’re going to meet some wonderful people along the way. Keep in touch!

  7. Karl Sprague July 23, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    Molly, keep ‘em coming, girl. Each blog / tweet / post / comment connects you to a strong following out here in the hinterlands. I didn’t know there were mountains anywhere near San Diego. I’m jealous. That quirky person who’s a clash of opposites is the same one who makes us laugh, makes us root for her – and binds us to her as an author. We’ll keep following you on your journey – as you climb, the view keeps getting better and better. Keep up the good work.

    • Molly Greene July 24, 2012 at 6:53 am #

      Karl, this comment alone will keep me going for a long time. Thank you so much for your neverending support and encouragement!

  8. Belinda Pollard (@Belinda_Pollard) August 7, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    *sigh* Such a beautiful post, Molly. And what gorgeous childhood memories. My parents didn’t get their mountain shed till I was an adult, but I have plenty of lovely memories of it, too. Gathering around the ancient fuel stove on freezing winter nights and reading books by gaslight while the burning wood popped and hissed, having a splash bath in scarce water in the old triangular pink tub that used to be in our house when I was small, dragging my crazy dog away from a deadly eastern brown snake that was heading for the rafters at 3am and sleeping the rest of the night in the car WITH the dog AND my mother (Dad just went back to sleep)…

    No deer — we had wallabies with our bush turkeys! ;-)

    I can’t possibly tweet this post today or my stream will look like the Molly Greene show. :-D I know, I’ll schedule it. (don’t tell anyone. ha)

    • Molly Greene August 7, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

      I can’t tell you how much I’d love it if you wrote posts about these things somewhere – can’t you find a place on one of your blogs? Or guest for me anytime. Would love to have you :-O

  9. Jon Jefferson January 12, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    After my time in the Marines in the late 80s- early 90s San Diego became one of my favorite cities to visit. Like you we enjoy the quiet and solitude away from cities but still there are some like San Diego that hold a special place for me when I can visit them.

    • Molly Greene January 12, 2013 at 11:35 am #

      San Diego is unique, Jon – the beach, the mountains and the desert all within a 2 hour drive. So glad you love my hometown!

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