A Heart, a Brain, Da Noive…

For one of the group classes at the therapeutic riding barn, we start on the ground standing in a circle. Everybody introduces themselves, and chooses a word that encapsulates their state at that moment, and that word goes on a magnetized white board. We have a number of words on magnetized strips–happy, mixed, scattered, angry, et cetera–but any word is fair game for adding to the board.

Because clients are involved, I pull my punches. If I’m actually steaming mad over somebody cutting me off in traffic, I might choose “distracted.” If my daughter just safely gave birth to a healthy baby, I’ll go with “happy” instead of ecstatic/relieved/worried. I don’t give much thought to this exercise before the lesson begins, in part because the volunteers are busy getting out tack, helmets, boots, and so forth.

This week, I was bustling along the barn aisle with water bottles (each student has their own), when I spotted a stray word on the rubber mat at my feet. “Brave.” Must have fallen off the white board as somebody shuffled it out of the tack room. I picked it up and stuffed it into my pocket. The kids sometimes choose “Brave,” when they’re scheduled for their first ride or coming back after a hiatus. Good word, but my initial reaction was, “Not my word. My life is darned easy, and bravery isn’t much called for.”

But then I got to thinking about what a timid driver I became during the pandemic–me, the queen of the coast to coast to road trip. About how I dread every lab report because the news might be worse than last time. About how artificial intelligence–built largely on literary and artistic piracy–could well put me out of business as an author, and very soon. About climate change…

Maybe brave was the word I was supposed to find that morning. I realized that for those kids to simply say how they feel takes bravery. For the instructors to put the students up on 1500-pound beasties of independent will takes bravery. For all of us to get in our cars, turn on the news, and just go about life takes bravery.

So I listed brave as my word that day–it fit better than I thought it did. I call on my courage more often than I realized, and so do the people around me. Have you seen any bravery lately? Have you had occasion to call up some courage of your own? Did the universe ever present you with unexpectedly appropriate “random” food for thought?

The e-ARCs for Lord Julian’s fourth tale, A Gentleman in Pursuit of Truth, are on their way out the door. If you’d like one, email me at [email protected]. The print version has just gone live on Amazon.



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11 comments on “A Heart, a Brain, Da Noive…

  1. These days, I think that just getting out of bed in the morning and trying to live a good day is the bravest thing I do. I have never been particularly brave and have felt for a long time that choosing to give birth is a very brave thing to do. Way back when I was a senior in college and had to give a Senior Seminar presentation, I explained that though I was getting married after graduation, I was probably not going to have children because to bring a child into the screwed up world we lived in didn’t seem right to me (obviously the presentation was more detailed). Now this was way, way back in 1970 and I never actually did give birth, mostly due to other factors. But my sisters all did and many of their children have done, and so human life continues into new generations even without me. But I still think it takes a special sort of bravery to defy the badness in this world and be hopeful of the good, and I’m still pretty much the pessimist. But I’m enough of an optimist to get up every day, too.

    • I hear you, and there have been times in my life when I’ve had to talk myself into getting out of bed, and it hasn’t been a short discussion.

    • Make, that’s “encouraging,” from my selfish perspective, but the general sense among writers is, the more prolific you are, the more of your material AI can steal to train on, the more the results will sound exactly like you. My brother tried this with science fiction authors as an assignment from a short course, and he said that AI was lousy at impersonating debut authors, or the folks with only a trilogy out. For Ray Bradbury, who has tons of material out there, it was a spot on. I know for a fact that ChatGPT trained on dozens of my books without my permission. It’s not a good feeling.

  2. Every time I go for my bloodwork and chemo, I stop for a minute and think Be Brave Susan. I watch the drugs drip into my port and try to be brave and positive.
    I see bravery and courage all around me in the waiting room.
    People of all ages have chosen treatment and it’s not an easy journey. There are people in their 60s , 70s and 80s and young mothers my daughter’s age in the waiting room.
    I feel grateful to be one of them.

    • Susan, I thought about you as I drafted this post. You have been handed a situation where every option demands tremendous courage. There is no easy path, just different hard paths. I’m glad you chose treatment, and I commend you for your kindness toward the others walking the same walk. I am rooting for you, and hoping treatment goes smoothly and successfully!

  3. There are days when getting out of bed in the morning (or putting down my book so that I can go to sleep at bedtime) requires me to tell myself, “Push through! Get started!” I see that others of us feel the same – hang in there. <3. Susan G, I send healing thoughts to you – what you're doing requires a lot of courage.

    Grace, thank you as always for your thoughtful, beautifully crafted words.

  4. I just found you as an author. I just finished when a Dutches says I Do…I think that even if AI tried to replicate your work it would fail. Among other things, for the first time in 15 years I am finding words I didn’t know! (The last ones were from medical textbooks.) I love the way you can turn a phrase, piece together references, develop plots, have characters with believable motivations and reactions–and (as far as I have found), quite accurate, not overly stereotyped geographic and cultural references. I am absolutely delighted. And yes, I think you are brave. So brave to put your heart and brain out there for us. Thank you!

  5. I am trying to do a bit of a pivot into volunteering where I feel a calling and figuring out a way to fit it into my life. Eventhough I am certain that this is going to be both fulfilling and a good fit, I still have to get together a ton of bravery to branch out into a new community. I’m hoping each step will require a little less bravery but I suspect that is not how these things work.

  6. This reminded me of a time I was helping a friend pack up her apartment. I was sweeping the floor of an emptied closet and noticed an upside-down jigsaw puzzle piece.
    Aha! My life was barreling along just then, kinda out of control, and for some reason I thought this puzzle piece might have an answer, or a pointer to something good.
    I picked it up, and its good side was white. All white – a blank. I sat on the floor and laughed like a loon: so much for cryptic messages from the universe!
    I like your ‘brave’ better.
    Just finished Jules2 and loved it, especially the way Julian observes all he can, and keeps going until he finds the moment that makes the pieces make sense. Also, all the meadow tea.
    And I would love an eARC of Jules4, please and thank you.

  7. A dear member of the extended family has gained remission from leukemia for the second time in her 49 years. Her last run was 30 years. It has cost her dearly, once again, and maybe that’s what makes me a coward. “Brave” costs something.

    Our son is in IT and says machine learning will take more jobs than AI. However, we’re always looking for a better mousetrap, provided we don’t expect it to be more than be an efficient mousetrap. I have read books that could have been written by AI and some that largely were written by translating programs. As long as you’re willing to keep writing, I’ll read.