Dealing With Our Limitations

Grumbling is a constitutional right, isn’t it? Everyone complains occasionally. It might be about the weather, the stack of month-end bills, or a mother-in-law’s upcoming visit. Some people don’t like their lot in life, or they don’t feel they get the breaks they deserve. Or they may justifiably resent having to deal with more serious problems, like illness, or incapacitation, or unemployment.

I can think of many reasons why people are discontent, but there are people who have a legitimate cause to complain… and don’t. In her weekend blog post Ann Voskamp included the following video of a KING-TV interview. It blew me away!

 

 

We can’t always manage to do what we wish? The message is: find something else that we can do and then get on with it.

From now on, whenever I bemoan my trivial limitations, the remarkable Paul Smith will come to mind.

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Staying Focused

Living rurally provides me with opportunities to enjoy wildlife of several varieties, literally on my doorstep. You’ve seen photos and read stories here of deer in our garden, bear on the back lawn, raccoons on the deck, and a great assortment of birds and critters at our feeders.

Deer 3

This nice looking buck appeared in the back yard early in July. It was the first buck we’ve seen here … at least, the first one bearing a set of antlers. He had a doe in tow who was casually munching on my rhododendrons. She wasn’t concerned that I stood in the window taking her photo; her buddy was keeping a wary eye on me. When I started moving to a different window for a better shot, he told her it was time to leave, and they immediately disappeared into the woods.

Deer 2

In August while we were driving in a town on Vancouver Island, we encountered this doe on the lawn of a church. We pulled over and I rolled down the car window to take her photo. She apparently decided I was relatively harmless, and she returned to nibbling the grass. Still, she kept a cautious eye on me while slowly working her way to the back of the church property where I lost sight of her in the trees.

Deer 1

This doe was either very smart or very stupid. Last week our daughter’s Rough Collie was on the back porch of their rural home in Cranbrook, barking furiously at the brazen intruder. Perhaps the deer recognized that the dog was on a chain, because she showed no concern, just continued to stand and stare.

Deer 4

After several moments, a noise in the bush caught her attention. I’m not sure how she even heard it over all the barking.

Deer 5

Her ears perked as she evaluated the disturbance.

Deer 6

Deciding it was a possible threat, she turned to face the woods. Then her tailed flagged, and before I could take a final shot, she wheeled and bounded off in the opposite direction. Only seconds behind her was the neighbour’s tubby Basset Hound, running as fast as her stubby legs would go … easily outrun by the swift deer.

The deer have a lesson to teach me about focus. All too often, both as a writer and as a follower of Christ, I get hung up on trivialities and miss out on the important things. I need to pay more attention, evaluate situations and respond appropriately. I believe it was the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca who said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

I need to be better prepared and learn to focus on what matters so I’m aware of opportunities when they occur. How about you?

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Writing in a fog?

Vivid blue skies accompanied us during the entire 800 kilometre drive on Saturday… at least, they did after the fog lifted. Until then, there wasn’t much of anything to see.

Morning Fog

As the early morning mist thinned, beautiful Moyie Lake was revealled.

Moyie Lake (East Kootenays), BC

Moyie Lake (East Kootenays), BC

After that, the rest of the trip was a joy… just one cloudless vista after another.

Kootenay Pass (Selkirk Mountains), BC

Christina Lake, BC

That resembles some of my writing days. I blunder along, searching for the direction a story should take, but it’s like being in a fog. Everything feels unfamiliar, although it shouldn’t. After all, the route, the basic storyline, is my own. Still, the way ahead is obscure and I can’t see where to go until a fresh breeze of inspiration finally opens up a glimmer of an idea. Once I can expand on it, my writing picks up speed.

That’s where I am right now. There’s a non-fiction article I want to write, but the idea remains murky. Unfortunately, I’m running out of time (it’s for a contest), but I’ll persevere… I’ll keep concocting one sentence at a time, waiting for the breakthrough to happen.

If only the fog would dissipate! Do you think it would help if I set up a couple fans in my office? :)

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September Clouds and Shadows

Clouds and sunshine, light and shadows… September’s weather can be an unpredictable mixture. Often the first week of school is summery, making it hard to be closed into a classroom. This year it hasn’t been, at least, not here. There have been clouds and showers every day so far, with occasional sunny breaks. Any clear skies seem to appear only in the evenings. We’re hoping for sunny days towards the end of the month with a family wedding in the offing, but you never know.

Clouds 1

 

Clouds 2

(A click on either photo will enlarge it for a closer look.)

This month of new beginnings has its pros and cons. It elicits enthusiasm, but it can also overwhelm. So much happens, and all at once. Holidays end, school starts up (well, everywhere except in BC’s public schools where the teachers are still on strike!), clubs and meetings resume, and we suddenly come face to face with all the tasks and commitments we put aside at the end of June.

We stumble into September with good intentions, maybe even with fresh goals, but without much forethought as to how they will be accomplished. As the proverbial snowball gets rolling and the calendar squares start filling, the highest priority activities get the attention they demand while the less obvious ones slip quietly into the background. Too often they turn out to be the ones we subconsciously think of as self-indulgent and expendable.

Does writing fall into that category? If we consider it a hobby, then it’s okay to relegate it to leftover fragments of time. However, if we’re aiming for a writing career, be it primary or secondary, it must be treated as a serious commitment and given its due time in our daily schedules.

If we don’t give serious thought to our needs as writers it won’t be hard for life’s storms to build up, envelop us and devastate.  Self-preservation isn’t an indulgence!

When we finally acknowledge that we can’t do it all, and a grey cloud of discouragement begins to hover, what can we eliminate to keep from being overwhelmed?

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It’s September!

Yes, it’s September. We’ve all had our fill of long, lazy summer days and are more than ready to dive into fall schedules now… right? Ha! If you’re anything like me, you’re staring in disbelief at the calendar and whimpering, “What happened to June, July and August?” I’m still in mañana mode. 

Garden Flowers

Our summer baskets continue to bloom happily, beckoning me out onto the deck and into the garden. I’m not ready to settle down indoors and face the many tasks I’ve unintentionally ignored for the past several weeks.

The baskets were planned for their hardiness and cheery colour, with plants that included long-lasting shasta daisies, hardy geraniums, trailing golden bidens and tiny white bacopa. With a little slow-release fertilizer and a drip system of watering that my husband concocted, they’ve survived my normal summer neglect surprisingly well. I was quite pleased with them… until last weekend’s discovery.

On our recent journey over the Gray Creek Pass, somewhere around the 5000-foot level, we came across lush drifts of gentle colour and occasional splashes of vibrancy. Unplanned and untended, those wildflower displays rivalled the most beautiful of domestic gardens and far exceeded anything a gardener of my calibre could have created.

Alpine Floral copy

 

Indian Paintbrush

They made me wonder at the point of all my spring gardening efforts at home. That led to thoughts of other forms of neglected creativity, such as my well-intentioned writing efforts. Oh, I have been writing — a little — sometimes working on my new(ish) W.I.P. and other times fiddling with revisions on an earlier manuscript, but the results haven’t been very satisfying. Only a short piece that I wrote in a burst of unplanned enthusiasm feels like it has any real value, and I wonder why.

Maybe… is it because I try too hard to force the words I believe ought to go well together, instead of allowing wildness to invade the page?

This has nothing to do with plotting versus pantsing, but everything to do with inspiration and the freedom of true creativity. I’ve concluded that I can’t tell my brain what to dish up; I need to let it do its own work. As I slowly slip back into September’s familiar routines, I’m going to experiment more with free writing, and see if my creativity will respond favourably.

Does a new season provoke you to try something new? What are your September goals?

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Summer Snapshot: Butterflies

“Butterflies are self propelled flowers.”

R.H. Heinlein

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Butterflies are fascinating in their ability to be transformed via metamorphosis. I also admire their gorgeous colours and their fluttering flight, but seldom spend much time trying to figure out their names or habitats. Three years ago an attractive yellow and black butterfly — a Tiger Swallowtail — captured my attention in our garden, and I ended up photographing him (with great difficulty) and using the experience for a writing analogy.

During this summer’s travels I encountered two other flitting beauties that were impossible to ignore, one at our younger daughter’s rural home in the Kootenays, and the other at our cabin in BC’s Cariboo country. I think I’ve determined their names, but feel free to correct me. I present them for today’s summer snapshot(s).

Butterfly

Zerene Fritillary (Speyeria zerene)

 

Butterfly 2

California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica)

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“I tell of hearts and souls and dances…
Butterflies and second chances;
Desperate ones and dreamers bound,
Seeking life from barren ground,
Who suffer on in earthly fate
The bitter pain of agony hate,
Might but they stop and here forgive
Would break the bonds to breathe and live
And find that God in goodness brings
A chance for change, the hope of wings
To rest in Him, and self to die
And so become a butterfly.” 

Karen Kingsbury (Oceans Apart)

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Summer Snapshot: 4×4 Adventure

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”

[Jawaharlal Nehru]

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I’d like to say we went mountain climbing, and in a sense we did. In a four-wheel drive pickup truck we drove somewhere we’d never been before — over the Gray Creek Pass in southeastern BC. The road is open for two months of the year… July and August. It’s only 56 km up to the summit and 16 km down the other side, but the journey took us five hours. The views were worth it!

Sign 1

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View 3

We climbed to 7000 ft., almost to the tree line, on a mostly rocky, pot-holed, one lane road. We saw two other trucks and three motorcycles during the five hours.

View 2

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View 6

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View 7

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View 8

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Sign 3

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At our destination, we spent an hour on the beach at Gray Creek where it empties into Kootenay Lake, and then returned home via the highway. We were gone for over eleven hours… a day-long adventure during which we could constantly exclaim,  “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire. He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved.”

[from Psalm 104]

Kootenay Lake

Kootenay Lake, BC (A click on any photo will enlarge it)

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Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is bliss, taste it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.

[Mother Teresa]

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