Friday, May 22, 2015

The Wonderful Idea

I have a lot of ideas that I share with Paul, and they are sort of like horses trotting out of the corral, and he leans on the fence and watches them go, and makes non-committal comments occasionally, then answers his phone and orders tags for the 5-grain Ben is bagging tomorrow.

Other times he shocks me by randomly grabbing a particular horse, leaping on its back, and riding it as far as it will go.

Such as when we were in Kenya, driving home from school in that dusty white Peugeot, and I said offhandedly, "Maybe we should adopt Steven."

Which led through about 9 months and 50 miracles, and then Steven was really our son.

Recently we had an old machine shed at the warehouse torn down, and we were thinking about projects and salvageable materials and big lovely slabs of weathered wood, and I said, dreamily, knowing it was an idea as far off and unreachable as the moon, "I would love to have a little writing cabin by the creek."


By happy coincidence this was suggested after Paul had decided to end his teaching career, and suddenly he realized that he might actually have some TIME, that elusive commodity missing for the last 20 years, and we had all these cool old boards, and he loves to make things with wood AND--oh happy prospect--a project like this could cover at least a year's worth of Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, birthday, anniversary, and Christmas, if he played it right.

So I have been browsing Pinterest and eagerly sketching on graph paper, and Paul has been planning and measuring.

I needed a file for my ideas, and then I needed a name to write on the file.

"Writing Cabin" was kind of dull.  It needed an actual NAME, like they used to do in England, or in the Anne of Green Gables books.  Like Green Gables.  Or Whispering Winds.

I went online and discovered that there are actual websites for generating names of people and places.  Most of these are for gamers ("Ebonshield"  "Slydrift" ) but they're also for writers and people who want an actual name for a real place.  One such site promised to help you name a real house or building, which is what I wanted.  It lavishly proclaimed that it could generate over 1 trillion names!!!

All right then. I clicked.

First I needed to give the generator some clues, such as colors, foliage, natural features, and type of building.  I chose "oak" for the foliage, "creek" for the natural feature, and "cabin" for the type of building.

And clicked, imagining a long list of tasteful and imaginative names.  Gears ratcheted and motors whirred, and the result popped up before me.

Yes.  One result.  In bold letters.  The eagerly awaited name.


Sometimes, that is how my life goes.

So then, since there is lots of hawthorn along the creek, Paul suggested Hawthorn Cottage, with the double meaning of the plant and also suggesting Nathaniel Hawthorne, which is impressively literary of him, but Jenny said it would be confusing, and I agreed.  I asked if it would hurt his feelings if I didn't use his idea, since I worry about these things.  He said no.

I thought we should invoke the oaks, which led me to the charming but not too cutesy, I hope, Acorn Cottage.  12 hours later, I still lean toward this one.

Maybe our minds are better name generators than any braggy website.

Meanwhile, I can't explain how thrilled and amazed I am at the prospect of an actual rustic little cabin to write in, and to escape to on summer nights when the house is never silent, and for Jenny to have slumber parties in, and to use for private conversations with people who need a cup of tea and a listening ear.

Let us hope that Paul can stay on this horse despite harvest, preaching, and all the other distractions potentially calling him off the trail.

Quote of the Day:
[So there was this scary item in the news, where someone died of botulism from potato salad at a potluck.]
Me: The Poisonous Potluck.  That would be a great name for a Mennonite novel.
Jenny: Yes, except some Mennonites don't believe in calling them potlucks.  The Poisonous Carry-In doesn't sound as good.  Or The Poisonous Fellowship Meal.


  1. Wonderful visuals of the cabin in the oaks! Waitings all that gets penned from there! Good read to start my day,thanks.

  2. Hawthorne Cottage is still the best idea:)

  3. You know there will be joke made about you writing in the "nut house" :) pintrest will give you an abundance of ideas! Keep us posted :)

  4. I think you need to at least keep the "thorne" part of Paul's idea because of all the good ways it depicts what writing means. The urge to write is often a response to a goad that pricks until you move to respond. The distractions elsewhere are a "thorn in the side." And what you write can be a trip through some thorny territory, and may incite others to respond in a prickly way. Leaving an "e" on the word makes it look sophisticated--like the "e" on Anne.

    "Haw" might also fit more often than writers wish. One definition I found is "to be uncertain and take a long time deciding something" as in "hem (or hum) and haw." It also can be used to command a draft animal to turn to the left. Doing this to your audience would no doubt be committing a grave political blunder for someone who wishes to live above the political fray.

  5. What an exciting development for your future writing. Yes, absolutely this special place will need its own name! When our older son (who never married and who lives alone) bought "the perfect house" on a secluded culdesac in a quiet neighborhood with no barking dogs, boom boxes, loud parties or noisy traffic, he wanted to give it a fitting name. Here's the story of how he chose "the perfect name": Almost fifty years ago when the Apollo 11 spacecraft landed on the moon, it touched down on the "Sea of Tranquility". Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin used that spot as their base camp to explore the moon. Armstrong immediately changed the previously used call signal of "Eagle" to "Tranquility Base" and sent the following message back to earth: "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." Our son is fascinated by that history, and in case you have not already guessed, named his new home "Tranquility Base," a place of quiet seclusion, rest, and retreat from the interruptions and pressures of life.

  6. Maybe you could choose a suitable "outdoorsy" word to pair up with a word like --haven, or --hideaway, or --retreat or --something that symbolizes and reminds everyone of your reason for being in the cottage, that you need uninterrupted quietude so that you can think and write! (. . . or privately serve tea and listen to a troubled soul as the case may be). I know you'll figure it out and it will be great.

  7. I love the name "Acorn Cottage"! It's perfect. But I'm partial to acorns myself... and oak trees... and cottages... and creeks -- it sounds wonderful! By the way, I'm loving your book Footprints on the Ceiling and can hardly put it down each night! (Just one more chapter -- okay one more --now really, this has to be the last chapter tonight!) Beautifully written :)

  8. Even though knowing you just through your writing--I'm very excited for you to have this place of your own! (Title of your next book..."Thoughts from the Nut House"...)
    Sue R.

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  10. Well, the computer committed a naming no-no, the first word ends with the same sound as the second word begins, and the second word ends with the same sound that the third word begins. Also, Acorn Cottage might morph into a A Corny Cottage.

    I remember reading that one way to get the creative juices flowing is to require yourself to write down a number of options (10? 15?), even options that you are pretty sure you wouldn't choose but have some of the elements you like. You might consider naming your cottage something that would allude to the tranquility of the sound of running water in the nearby creek.

    ...perhaps something like one of these: Brookside Retreat, Brookside Cottage. Flowing Brook Retreat, Serenity Cottage, or Oasis Cottage.

    Thinking out loud,

    L R Miller

  11. Your little cottage sounds like a 'Creekside Haven'.

  12. OOH! I like Creekside Haven! I was thinking that it should be something with the water added...a bit English snobbery but Acorn by the Water, Hawthorne on Creek, or something with the the name of the creek. Little Muddy is it? Hawthorne by Little Muddy, Oh yuck I don't like that. Maybe Hawthorne Cottage on the Muddy? Also thinking onto paper... Like LR Millers writing a list suggestion
    Overall it should be what evokes a feeling of being able to write for you