My Brain Has Melted, Melted…No, Wait. I Think It Froze.

A weather update from the frozen and pissed-off with everything about Winter shores of the Long Island Sound.


It snowed on Sunday.


And then it snowed on Tuesday. It’s a wonder that I still have all my, uh, what do you call ’em, those round thingies that roll smoothly from one synapse to the other in a sequential and thought-provoking manner.


And then it snowed all the live long day Thursday. Marbles.


I measure bird feed by the pitcher.


I throw out three to four pitchers of bird feed a day. The kind you make iced tea in.


Broadcasting the bird feed o’er the land gives our birdies wing-space.


The blue jays are a bit wary of the squirrels but the cardinals are downright cowards.


Mrs. Cardinal has a tad more chutzpah than the old spherical object tied around the tarsus. ( That’s him, peering over the shoulder of an about-to-pounce-on-a-sunflower seed blue jay.)


And this is him, opting for the better part of valor.


This is from the back patio feeding ground.


Awww, squirrels are so cute.


Come on! That’s cute!

But maybe not as cute as this:


Dear Readers, I am in a mood today. Not the kind of mood that makes you want to take a twirl in the twilight or whip up a batch of champagne marmalade. The other kind of mood. The one that makes you feel as if  fate has thrown a meat cleaver directly into the heart of your peace of mind.

On Monday I amazed myself by hitting FINAL on the last re-write of the next-to-last chapter of the Damn Garden Book. The End was Sooooooooooo Near. Sooooooo near. The nearest it has ever been in the three years I’ve been writing this Damn Book. The weight of deadlines and trial and errors and writing the wrong Damn Book over and over again was almost off my shoulders. I had at last got it right! I wrote good stuff! Any day now I could open the special Prosecco that has been on my dining room shelf waiting to celebrate  The End of the Damn Garden Book!

All I had to do was write the London chapter, a chapter that I have put off writing for two years because I knew it would be “easy” to write. I did piles of research, read a whole book about the history of apothecary gardens, written pages and pages of notes, gone over the notes and pulled out whatever seemed  too digressive, shaped up 14 pages of narrative — all so the writing would be a breeze. A breeze.

This is how organized I am: this is what the data base for the DGB looks like:


See? Everything in place, at my fingertips.

To refresh your memory, this is what the London Chapter look like:




The only thing between me and the end of 3 years of 7-day work weeks is the London chapter. And I can’t find it.

It’s not lost in the black hole of the internet, or in the one-way labyrinth of my hard drive. It’s lost in my house.

I have lost the hard copy of all my notes-taken and outlines plotted and fun fact shoehorned. I can’t find my London pile of notes.

My editor at Bloomsbury is OK with getting 8 our of 9 chapters from me on Friday (the wished-for deadline was last Monday). She will look over the flow and the sentences and the potholes of the text while I start assembling the layouts for 208 pages of book. After the text has been content edited, line edited, and proofread, I will drop the perfection of prose that will forever be Vivian Swift’s Last Damn Book into the blank spots between illustrations.

And then I can life like a normal person.

But I can’t do that until I find the London chapter. After a few days of moping, I started a down-to-the-floorboards search starting i my workroom. If you are reading this as a normally scheduled post, then I haven’t found it yet.

If I had found the damn London chapter, I would have posted this:




This is a picture of the neighborhood walled gardens of London (Knightsbridge  — you watched me paint it in the post called It’s True. I Paint Like a Writer under the category London Gardens).

Shortly after I painted this, I ruined it. I added questionable line enhancements and I cropped off the sidewalk. I am a few illustrations short in the London chapter, so I recently took another gander at this and realized that I still like the idea of the pic so much that I want to rescue it. I want to correct my mistakes and turn it into the full-page (8 inch by 9 inch) title page for the London chapter.

I am very sorry for not replying to all of your Comments last week. I just haven’t had the heart. But I will — I hope you keep checking.

I hope by next week I will have found the London chapter along with all those tiny globular containers of mindfulness that fire the concept of a person I call “Me”.


36 Comments, RSS

  1. janet b.

    open the freaking prosecco already!! you will find the chapter. i have no doubt about it!
    and good DOG, let’s hear it for SPRING…

    • Vivian

      Bah, humbug. March is nicer a truly “Spring” month here in the northeast, and especially not this year. It will be interesting, tho, to see how long it will take for the snow to melt. Top Cat and I have a pool. Neither of us guessed any where ear March 21.

  2. ArtistLady

    Okay everybody … let’s all “focus” and have Vivian’s London chapter notes appear! Are we looking (visualizing) for a thick folder with watercolors and copy? A box? 🙂
    As a side note to your Grey tutorial last week, I found a tip for myself: buy a heavy-duty tape dispenser that’s similar to yours (upper left-hand corner of first photograph). I’ve been using those ditsy scotch tape thingies for decades. Thanks!
    Lovin’ those London watercolors!
    CarolH … from the south shore of the Isle of Long

    • Vivian

      Hi Carol! South Shore…so you feel my pain. And your Comment just goes to show — when I put stuff “out there” (should be italics, but no can do) I never know who will connect to what. And yes, a real scotch tape dispenser is vital — you only use one and, and it never goes missing. Also, it’s great for holding down book pages when you are cooking while reading the recipe. Twofer! I really am happy to have been some help.

    • Vivian

      Hoo boy — I looked up the St. Atony prayer and it is looooooong. But you gave me a GREAT idea that I had not tried yet: I am going to ask the universe: Please show me what I overlooked yesterday. It always works.

  3. Patricia

    I’d come over and help look but I live in Seattle and don’t know how to drive in snow. I’ll just have to join in the group mind meld and send intense find-i-ness your direction (at least until all your marbles come rolling home).
    I know how you feel. Not the just “I’ve nearly finished a fantastic book my readers are all going to love” but the “where the hell did I put that”.
    Where I’ve found things; on a shelf in the closet, in a box in the basement in the craft area, sitting on top of a bookshelf in the man cave or still in the trunk of my car.Hope one of these help … it’s all I’ve got for you.

  4. Gigi

    Apparently cardinals are not the *Angry Birds* the gamers depict. Cardinals look like they would be bold birds. I see now that they are marketers – promotors of the peaceful beauty of snowy landscapes and trees with berries and powder puffs of snow on branches, and the like. And like good promoters anywhere, they stand right behind their bolder brothers, encouraging them, egging them on, if necessary. After this post that exposed the true nature of the cardinal, I will never look at a cardinal in the same way again. Not that I ever see *real* cardinals. For that matter, I never see snow like the snow you have in your yard!

    If ever there was a time for drink, it would be the *time of the third snowstorm in a week.* I think, as you rummage through the files and piles again, that you should – as Janet said – have an open bottle in your free hand. Take a sip. Take a breath. Take a break. Take a nap, in the apt manner of your kitties in the photo. The damn notes for the DGB will show up – and they will show up in a place that you have already searched – thoroughly. Because that is the way of lost essential paperwork.

    Soon we *spring forward* with out clocks. The only thing missing from that phrase is the desperation with which we do *spring* and embrace the whole constellation of benefits the word *spring* conveys. Take heart.

    • Vivian

      Thank you, Gigi, Great advise. With the right tonic, I might even enjoy looking for a small pile of papers that I know were laying around for weeks and weeks, always in the way UNTIL NOW. And I forgot about the clocks…I will welcome what our friends the Brits call “Summer Time”.

      Yeah, cardinals are very flighty. I can’t even walk up to a window to watch them because they see my shadow in the glass and are off in a flash. I have to walk against the walls and peep at them from around the corner of the built-in bookcases in the dining room. Good thing I have a 20x zoom.

  5. Maryanne in SC

    Maybe check your carry-on luggage, or the closet where they are kept?
    That’s where I found my “lost” stack of Christmas cards, addressed, stamped and completely delinquent in February last year.”

    My closet, not yours. 🙂

    • Vivian

      My dear sweet departed uncle Rolly said that after he turned 70, he kept losing things all the time. So he got in the habit of saying out loud, when ever he set down or stored anything: “I am putting [X] on the/in the/between the/ [Z]. The trick , of course, is to remember to say that aloud. But I have tried it on many occasions and it works!

  6. Kimwithak

    I love all the photos of birds and squirrels you feed! Love!

    Your book is going to be amazing! Three years!!! Wow! I’m so happy to have found your blog to get the back story of what goes into one of your books. It is truly eye opening and makes me treasure “my” Vivian Swift books even more.

  7. Been there, done that — not with something so valuable as the London chapter but nonetheless equally frustrating. I can imagine you’ll find all sorts of stuff during your search — but I know London will be the last thing you’ll find — because why keep searching after! Hopefully it is at the top of some heap you haven’t quite found yet.

    I have far too many “safe places” in my house. I don’t even remember where they are.

    But when you find it, when all is said and done, I have every confidence the book will be fabulous to the max!

  8. Elizabeth

    I recently found my passport when it fell out between two DVD boxes while I was sorting through my DVD library to find things to send to my mother. How it got there, I have no idea, and if I had known it was missing I would have never thought to look in my DVD cabinet.

    Have you checked your record collection for the missing London chapter?

  9. Joan

    I know this is too late to do any good for the London Chapter of the DGB, but in the future why not take a photo of the “safe place”? Our brains are so full of crap that we can’t store any more data on our own hard drives. I have to write everything down as I think of it or it’s lost forever.

    About St. Anthony…I call on him by his more familiar name, Tony, as he’s now like a good friend. My husband has been converted from pooh pooher to believer when I told him to ask St. Tony where his very expensive watch could be found in the vacant lot next door. He found it within minutes of walking onto the property! And don’t bother with that long prayer…just ask him where the hell the damned notes are.

    I’m not a writer, but I would imagine that being as organized as you seem to be, that you’d have put this out of your way since it’s the last chapter in the DGB, sooooo, do you have a room/place that you usually stick the “to be used later” stuff? Have you put a coat or blanket on top of the box that holds the notes, hiding it from view? I can also picture you picking up the pile of papers in the way, getting distracted by a phone call or a bathroom visit, laying the pile down thinking you’d get back to it in a sec….we know how that goes, right? Look where Top Cat keeps his stuff. Does he have an office? How about near the printer or where you store the binders for your book paintings? Just trying to be helpful.

    I once found my dust cloth in the fridge. I stopped to get a cold drink before I dusted the living room. Didn’t find the thing until I got ready to fix dinner some 6 hours later. Laid my car keys on the canned goods in the pantry when I stopped there to get a bag to carry some stuff to my car…that resulted in not finding them for days & had to use the spare set! Sheesh. So frustrating.

    I’m off to put in a word for you with St. Tony…Please don’t wait until next Friday to let us know if you find the London notes before then.

    • Vivian

      The London chapter is FOUND!! And you called it, Joan: it was put down in a place where I am easily distracted — within the radius of the cats’ favorite places to doze in the sun, which is where I like the most to give them smooches.

      St. Tony…I LOVE it. BTW, what was your husband doing in a vacant lot, wearing a spiffy watch? Just curious. My Top Cat once lost his beloved 20-year old Swiss Army Knife when he crawled under a fence to get an inside look at a new construction in the neighborhood. He didn’t notice it was gone until the evening of the next day, so he had to wait until the next morning (third day of loss) to go search for it. Top Cat appeals to the Magic of the Vibe (AKA, Jerry Garcia, Rest His Soul) and he found it straight away. In a mud puddle, no less.

  10. Jeannie

    I suggest writing. Just start writing what you think the notes said. When you are on a role, the damn folder of London notes will appear. It never fails when I am looking for my favorite thimble or paintbrush. I go buy a new one that isn’t quit right, and half way through the project I’ll remember where the “special” one is hidden. Snow, good Lord! We usually get a couple of feet and this year none and the drought gets worse. At least you have colorful birdies to keep you amused. Take care and know that we are all hunting in our minds through your house to find the notes.

  11. Aurora Galen

    Once again it has been proven true that when you lose something, you always find it in the last place you look. In your case–in front of your eyes. At our house—always behind the mayo. Cheers and Hallelujah!

  12. Barbara L

    So happy your found it! My mother-in-law had a saying : “The house doesn’t lose anything; it’s just not ready to be found.” And I add it’s usually exactly where I have looked several times.

  13. Felicia

    I’ve been busy and missed the week prior post all together and didn’t get to this till today (Monday) and I’m so glad because I felt just heartsick and sad right along with you. But thankfully I didn’t have to feel that way for long. I could clap my hands together with joy and delight, like the prodigal son, what was lost is found and oh such joy!, such rapture to welcome it back into the safe confines of your files. And also last week it was 31 below zero (real temp no fakey wind-chill stuff) and today it’s 50-freaking degrees and I think this warmth may be spreading from Iowa to Long Island, spilling sunshine and happy thoughts everywhere.

  14. Yay11 – the lost is found! Now you don’t have to go to the place for people who have lost those round, rolly things that connect our, oh, what do you call them?? It is so frustrating to misplace things and so annoying! I hate wasting time looking for things that I’ve misplaced.

    Love the birdies and squirrels. Not the snow. Today a 5 foot long, 2 foot wide iceberg slid off the roof . Enough of this winter that won’t quit!

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