Up the River

The featured image is one I licensed through Can Stock Photo as a concept image for the novel I’m writing. I think once I can start running on the trail again, I will be inspired even more to write (since I get so many refreshing ideas when running!), but for now we have snowy sidewalks and trails. And I’m still working on the book quite a bit every day–it being up to Chapter 9 now.

I have mentioned my novel before in this blog It’s called Up the River, which alludes to Sing Sing, at least originally the phrase did, as the prison was literally up-river on the Hudson, but the phrase eventually referred to any prison. And in my novel, up river is the place where a pipeline ruptures that is carrying bitumen from Canadian oil sands to the Atlantic. The novel is set in beautiful, southeastern Kentucky–during a soft Appalachian summer. My relatives are from there, on my mother’s side, so I spent a lot of time in that culture when younger. And we drove back through there a few summers ago. We were surprised the entire mountain behind my Mammaw and Pappaw’s had been dynamited down, whether for development or something else we do not know, and that the hollow was fully changed with new houses instead of great mountainsides, water trickles, and woods.

In my novel, I characterize the people as I knew them back then, not anyone in particular, but the kind of feeling I got from them. They were hardworking farmers and lived off the land. They were loving and wise and looked after their families. I would like to think that meth and all the other problems never hit that area, but they did–yet, the relatives I remember were steady people that predated the current times. They may have been poor, but they made do. Pappaw helped build his own house and did the electrical and plumbing work. Mammaw cooked, canned, sewed, gardened, and killed her own chickens. I still remember our large extended family gathered deep around her dining room table with its lacy cover and fancy China. I still remember her great fried chicken and collard greens (I found some collard greens today at Pomme, and made them tonight and they were delicious; it’s the only collard greens I have found up here in Canada).

In the novel there are hints of climate change too–hotter summers than usual, a flooding river along with the oil spill that threatens the local aquifer, which provides drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people nearby as well as irrigation water for agriculture. The main character is Lily Collins, who feels like an oddball because she has a pair of webbed toes and received endless humiliation about it when growing up. She learned to appreciate nature and is an isolationist for the most part–coming out of her shell when a graduate student from Louisville comes down to head the oil cleanup. Their relationship is deep with connection but seems to have no chance for romance because he has a girlfriend. Lily, only 19, is going to college soon and majoring in forestry too. She’s new at closeness with others. I’ll leave what happens between the two a mystery. But her love interest, Jack Emerson, takes her under his wing, impressed that they share a love for all that is wild. He teaches her how to clean off oily ducks and turtles. The animals covered in oil will want to naturally preen themselves but cannot do this successfully. The submergence of oil that takes a while to get rid of imprisons wildlife, similar to the up-the-river reference. In fact, one might say that oil imprisons us all in some ways.

So yet another blog post with no running news. We were supposed to get a disastrous storm last night, but it didn’t hit our town. This was on the heels of our two-feet dump of snow the other day. The storm was supposed to be a mix of warm air coming from the southwest, mixing with our Arctic cold air, and dumping more snow (up to 20 centimeters), then freezing rain, and then rain overnight. When I went to bed, I saw some flurries, but when I woke up this morning we had gotten hardly any snow at all. Today it rained until late afternoon, dousing the world in slush, until the sun came out and I found some sidewalks that might be runnable next week if only we don’t get more snow and ice!

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