Friday, December 15, 2006

WHAT ARE YOU SEARCHING FOR? The Existential Question of the Week

, originally uploaded by Gianni D..

Today I searched for my credit card. I handle that thing way too carelessly, frequently jamming it in a pocket or tossing it loose into my purse to avoid taking more than my fair share of time at the cash register after a purchase. This time, I found it between the pages of Suite Francaise. Nice book mark.

I also searched for the end of my new novel, which I was due to forward to my agent yesterday. I found it, too (!) which makes this some kind of banner day. I made myself cry at least three times when I was reading the final draft which may be a good sign...or may just mean that a surfeit of holiday music has brought out my inner schmalz.

Later, Lexi and Emma and I went out and stood in the middle of the street and looked for snow. Though there was none forecasted, we thought if we looked really hard, we might see a sign. But all we saw was our own longing.

I said that I wanted snow so high it came up to their waists, but Emma thought I was getting a little greedy.

"Just ask for enough to make a snowman, and go sledding," she said, espousing a philosophy I've always admired: Never take more than you need.

I also searched for the perfect birthday card for my mother and my son, Josh, who are both celebrating the amazing and mysterious thing that is existence today.

Then I went to Technorati to see what the world was searching for, and found some interesting results:

As it has been almost constantly for the past several years, the world is madly searching for Britney. Still, no one has told me why. As far as I can tell, she hasn't done much of interest beside marry some dopey guy, get drunk in public, and get pregnant. And while those things may be fascinating in their own way, couldn't just about anyone do them as well?

The madding crowd is also on the look out for "Tara O'Connor" who I, living here in my happy cave, had never heard of. The first blog where her name turned up was one that listed its subject as "Hollywood, Rumors, and Breasts." Hmm, I was beginning to understand....Turns out Tara O'Connor is Miss USA, and has become an object of fascination by, of all things, acting like Britney. Maybe if I want to build the all-important buzz for my novel, I should try it. On second thought, or maybe even first, I don't think the Hollywood, Rumors, and Breasts crowd would find me a very good candidate. I'd probably just get arrested.

Another unfamiliar name on the list was Leslie Harpold, who apparently died this week of bronchitis. Though I had never heard of her, she was apparently a trailblazing blogger, writer and media person, who probably effected what what many of us do in ways I never knew. I got lost both in her archives, and in the tributes to this remarkable woman, writer, and friend.

I liked this quote:

"My advice to you is this: make something you love. You love to make things, feel best when you're creating something you feel has value, even if only to you. Tap into the vein again, as many tries as it takes. Find that place where the world blurs by, and it's just you and and your project in pure creation mode." --Leslie Harpold's advice to herself in a difficult time

So maybe I, too, was searching for Leslie Harpold; I just didn't know it.

What did you search for today?


kenju said...

Nothing too fancy...I searched for the perfect Christmas gifts for my daughter and her father. I found some, but I know they aren't perfect.....LOL

Anonymous said...

Wow, Patry, a second novel on the way to your agent. Congrats.

Unlikely as it may sound, I spent a lot of today (and yesterday and the the day before) searching for information on old steam boilers, as I have one that breaks down in chapter 8 of my novel. By a very happy set of circumstances I was directed to a great website called, which has a section called The Wall, where people can post questions, and the whole community of experts (if your query intrigues them sufficiently) will respond. This crew proved to be not only expert but highly entertaining (one of them calls himself Steamhead), and several of them tried to take over my novel and turn it into a real thriller. Another of them pointed out that boiler guys and writers have a lot in common--both spending long stretches of time alone in dark places.

rdl said...

I had to admit that I wasted alot of time looking at xmas ribbon, but i did think of Josh today when I wrote the date - just remembered bout yr. mom's being the same day. did you have cake?

gerry rosser said...

"make something you like" is there any better advice to be gotten?

You said you found an ending for you next book. You know, endings, bad ones, are the bane of movies, books, and lives. If you can create a good ending, just a competent one--not necessarily a soul-chilling one--you are entitled to riches, fame, and awards (and kisses).

So sayeth me.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

LOVED this post.

I searched for balance between my punishing super ego, and my body which is crying out painfully for me to relax.

I searched for reassurances to myself that I will get back to my novel when the hard work is over.

I think I found both for a few minutes.

Then I fell prey to my new weakness: Grey's Anatomy.

Anonymous said...

You always seem to ask the right questions in your posts!

Today I searched for records of when family members came to this country. Some we're finding, some we're not. It looks like some of the Ellis Island ship manifests from just past 1900 were lost, and we think that's when they arrived. But the 1920 U.S. census records are very detailed. We found actual street addresses of where our relatives lived back then. Very exciting.

I'm doing this as part of Christmas presents for the family.

MB said...

Well, after reading of her on your blog, I searched today for more information about Leslie Harpold. I didn't know her personally, but I was aware of her well-respected presence in blogland and I admired her wonderful design sense and have enjoyed her advent calendars for these last few years, and was wondering what had happened this year. Oh, so startling and sad.

Kay Cooke said...

I've searched for time - today and other days - and found it lurking in corners I'd forgotten about - for example, in old letters. I searched for peace and found it too - in the offer of a helping hand. (ABM cooked dinner.)

Anil P said...

If we couldn't see our own longing, the skies would appear further away than they are.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to your mom and your son!
What am I searching for today? Healthy home: plumber; a roofer; an arborist (or a lumberjack, or just a trimmer of trees); a strong back; a home loan; my energy; my patience; and peace of mind. I think I just found peace of mind (for a piece!) in your blog and this quote. Thanks.

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leslee said...

Hmm, fortunately it's early enough and I haven't been searching for anything yet today. But I'm off to shop in NoHo this afternoon, so I'll be searching for a few interesting (yes, you can read that as "cheap"! but hopefully nice) presents.

I've been posting Leslie Harpold's Advent Calendar on my blog sidebar for the past few years - they were fabulous. Someone searching for her found my blog and left me a note on Monday, I think, that she'd passed away. Shocking. I did search around for a couple of days to find out what happened until I found some tributes from her friends. So sad.

Anonymous said...

I searched for the perfect photo to use for my daughter's Christmas card. I wanted one that would cheer her up and inspire her to use her many creative talents. My final choice was a shot of the Christmas stocking she made out of a pair of her little boy's old jeans, filled with oranges and candy canes, photographed outdoors.

The quote you posted from Leslie Harpold is just what she needs to hear. Thanks!

Patry Francis said...

kenju: The quest for the perfect gift has driven me to distraction for many years. Now I just search for imperfect gifts, given with love.

susan: What a great story about Steamhead and friends. I love the comparison between boiler guys and writers.

jordan: Maybe a delicious hour with Grey's Anatomy WAS what you were searching for all along. Very relaxing, and a mini vacation for your subconscious, which is stealthily working on the novel in its own time.

kg: That sounds like the best kind of gift. I love delving into the past, though I can--and have--become quite haunted with the lives of my ancestors.

mb: I don't know how I missed her Advent Calendars, though I'm now catching up. What a wonderful concept.

chiefbiscuit. Time and Peace. What better, and frequently more elusive, things to search for?

anil p: What a beautiful comment! Thank you for it.

tinker: That's a lot of searching--particularly right before the holidays. I can barely handle searching for my address book so I can get my cards out there. Sending peaceful thoughts.

leslee: Ooh, Noho--one of my favorite places to shop! And also to eat--hope you had time for dinner while you were there.

Anonymous said...

She DIED?! I had no idea...but...I'd just been reading her advent calendar last I had the past few years. Oh, that's so very sad.

But congrats on finishing your second novel!!!

robin andrea said...

On Friday I looked for color. The clouds lifted and the storm blew past. The sunset was so beautiful. I kept running out to photograph it. And finally when there was no color in the sky, but the final silver blue before night, I realized all along that I had been looking for light.

robin andrea said...

I meant to add two things to that previous comment:

You have a second novel already? Congrats! You are amazing and remarkable. I am so happy for you.

You ask the very best questions, Patry. I love coming here and answering them.

Shannon Hopkins said...

A Christmas tree, probably a Charlie brown Christmas tree. I always seem to feel sorry for the scraggly ones I know no one will buy, so I buy those, and then they look scraggly in my house, but at least they have decorations and are loved.

Zhoen said...

Terrific photo.

I will be searching for my peace of mind. I expect it fell behind somewhere, maybe the bookcase.

Sent off three items, not specifically gifts, but needful items.

Patry Francis said...

marilyn: It seems as if everyone knew about Leslie, but me. Particularly poignant that she, who was most well known for her Advent Calendar would die during the holiday season.

Robin: Searching for color, and I bet you found it, too. Now I must go see.

Thanks for the good wishes about the novel.

tarakuanyin: It is a truly kind and sympathetic nature that pities the unloved Christmas tree. I have a Charlie Browner, too--though it looks quite pretty decked out in lights and berry boughs.

zhoen: Chances are that peace of mind will turn up somewhere you least expect it--probably sometime in January.

Patry Francis said...

sandy: Don't know how I missed your comment; we must have x-posted. I was just telling my husband that next year, instead of sending out 50 cards, with a hurriedly and harriedly scrawled message, I would send out five homemade ones that attempted to be what the recipient needed. Your card to your daughter sounds exactly like what I had in mind.

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Anonymous said...

Would you believe I lost my cell phone. After much searching I thought.. why don't I try phoning my number. Sure enough a female voice answered, "Hello". "Hi," I responded, this is my cell phone..can you tell me where it is. Yahoo.. it was at the desk of the hotel where we had dinner last night. Thank goodness!

Patry Francis said...

Oh Coll, Losing a cell phone is almost as anxiety provoking as losing a credit card. It could be just innocuously misplaced. Or it could be in the wrong hands, creating mayhem you can only imagine. Glad your story ended so well.

Anonymous said...

I searched for the perfect puppy for Christmas, and I found him!

Actually, that was last Saturday, but I'm still in puppy love mode....

And we also searched for and found a Christmas tree. That was fun, too.

And as always, continuing my search for enlightenment. Or in my case, re-enlightment, or perhaps re-re-enlightenment. It is amazing how quickly it slips away and how hard it can be to get it back...

Congrats on the new book.

Patry Francis said...

donna: You probably know how I feel about puppies, and dogs of all ages. Now I'M searching for a glimpse of your new baby.

anon: It's morning where I am. But g'night to you wherever you are!

MB said...

Patry, in my discombobulation after reading your post, I missed out on congratulating you on your finish! Wow, you've done it again! Oh, so proud and happy for you!

Anonymous said...

Today, I searched for perspective.

Bills are overdue, as well as Christmas shopping, baking, decorating, house cleaning, work projects, school projects...ah, breathe.

But then I remember I have everything I need: a warm home, a good book, strong coffee, a kind husband, and, most important, three healthy, loving, brilliant children.

Blessings all.

Patry Francis said...

mb: Thank you. It feels like a huge relief to get a draft out there, but I'm sure that after my agent reads it, there will be lots more work to do.

amy: Thank you for the wonderful reminder. Perspective is often among the missing at holiday time--especially at my house.

Matthew said...

i've been talking with a buddy of mine for some time now about the seriousness of each of our writing endeavors. while i am always searching for inspiration (who among us is not, in one form or another?), i find myself of late searching, with particular earnestness, for the motivation and focus to hone my craft as finely as possible. as iron sharpens iron, so writer sharpens writer. it is easy, if one has a talent for words, to quickly create something that is respectable maybe even good. it is another thing altogether to labor over a poem of ten or fifteen lines for a month, emerging confident that it's as good as you can do, just then.

that's what i'm searching for, then: the motivation and focus to look back upon every piece of writing i create and say truthfully, "this is the best i can possibly do", followed immediately by, "how can my next piece be better?"

great question, patry. and congrats on finding that ending.

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Anonymous said...

Good-girl-turned-bad Britney Spears has topped an eclectic list of the net’s most popular searches
n the run-up to Christmas. The popstar,who hit the headlines last week for stepping out
“commando” with her new best friend Paris Hilton,has helped revealed exactly what the internet
savvy are looking for from their stars - the thick and the dead.

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Anonymous said...

Maps. I know that I have the street plan of St Albans (UK) somewhere, but where have I stored it that's the question?

I've just made contact with a second-hand bookshop there, who have a copy of Jennifer Johnston's A Gingerbread Woman, that I can actually get my hands on before Christmas... if I can find the street plan.. what the heck I may just wing it...

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Anonymous said...

I'm searching for the beginning of the novel I'm about to sit down and write. It came to me whole the week of the full moon, but I didn't write it down, and now I've lost it.

I know it's in there somewhere. Maybe it will come back with the next full moon.

I've bought a big, shiny, black notebook, just in case.

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chosha said...

I don't know what I was searching for on Dec 15, but I know today I am searching for organisation and an absence of clutter - not just the physical kind but every kind. My life feels too busy with things I don't need to do, my house too cluttered with things I should have sold of thrown away long ago. Right now I'm taking a break and doing decluttering of a different kind - clearing my email inboxes. That is also a formidable task. I wonder how much order I can restore before the new year starts.

Congrats on the second novel!

Patry Francis said...

chosha: I've been away for three days, and don't even dare to look at my email. Hope you come back and let me know how the decluttering went!

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Patry Francis said...


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