The clutter in my life, garden and writing… better known as reality

In the pre-dawn stillness yesterday morning I lay awake, contemplating the coming day. Its square on the calendar was empty. I love non-designated days with their freedom to pursue whatever tasks come to mind. One of retirement’s perks! I tugged the duvet close and snuggled down to think about what I might undertake once daylight broke.

My mind began lobbing ‘could’ and ‘should’ ideas at me like a tennis ball machine. Soon I was burrowing deeper and wishing I could go back to sleep, but it was too late. I was overwhelmed with mental clutter. If you could have seen into my head you would think it looked a lot like my gardens.

Back Garden Flowers

A landscape designer would be horrified by the gardens here. In each of the eighteen or so years we’ve lived on this rural property we’ve planted a few things — sometimes a half-dozen new perennials, sometimes a woody shrub or another tree. Goodness knows we don’t need any more of the latter! Our home is surrounded on four sides by towering trees…lots of cedar, hemlock and fir interspersed with a few poplar and alder. But one can’t really consider them ‘landscape’ trees, so I’ve added others like Japanese Maple and Dogwood.

Fall Backyard

Hubby and I have created assorted garden beds around part of the yard’s perimeter, prying out the boulders and filling the holes with whatever needed planting. There was never much planning done, except to choose things that could cope with the soil acidity and abundant shade. We have a well for water, and once things have been established we don’t waste any on them, so they also have to be hardy and drought tolerant.

The beds are a mishmash. That’s the nicest thing I can say about them. In one area Solomon’s Seal has all but choked out a clump of Siberian Iris and one white Astilbe. Wild ferns poke out from the middle of  sprawling Junipers, and everything leans in the direction of the sun, eventually overlaying whatever is in front.

It’s a muddle.

Except for a few tubs and baskets on the deck, we don’t plant annuals in the backyard. In fact, we don’t plant them in the front either, except for a small bed that edges the sidewalk at the front door. For the past several years I’ve bought one flat of colourful bedding plants, usually Begonias, and tucked them into unoccupied nooks and crannies. It’s my one concession to summer colour…a bright spot in the chaos of green. I try to remember to water them in May and June, but once summer comes, they’re on their own like everything else. I am always surprised that they survive and sometimes even flourish.

Fall Flower Garden

It’s all somewhat reminiscent of what comes out of my cluttered mind. Little ideas germinate and manage to develop into potential stories. I nurture them along for the first while and then, without plotting or planning, give them the freedom to grow or not. Most times they surprise me by producing an abundance of words. Occasionally, like one I’m considering now, they shrivel up and disappear from the page. The fact is, not all ideas are sturdy enough to last.

It can be discouraging in writing when enthusiasm for what seemed like a good idea fades; or in gardening, when a pot of cheery marguerites suddenly stops blooming and turns brown; or in life, when some days just seem like too much. But that’s my reality. Fortunately, there’s always another idea, a fresh blossom or new day coming.

Have you ever abandoned what at first seemed like a promising idea? Do you save it for reconsideration later, or toss it altogether?

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Spider Season

They dangle, harmless but horrific. Those ugly bulbous orb-weaving spiders are everywhere! I know, I know…it’s fall. They hang out in the fall. I understand their need to capture extra calories. I just don’t want to encounter them in their restaurants when I’m en route to my car or stepping onto my deck.

Different spiders make different kinds of webs — spiral orbs, tangle, funnel, tubular and sheet webs — but it’s just this sticky, stretching-across-open-space, hit-me-in-the-face kind that send me off the deep end.

 

Rained on Web

No, there isn’t a spider in this web. Yesterday I and my trusty can of ‘Raid’ sent him over the rainbow garden bridge. I admit to gritting my teeth and holding my breath as I pointed the spray in his direction. But there were no qualms at all. Yes, I know he was a “good” spider, but he made the mistake of crossing the boundary between his territory and mine. The rest of his family live on, somewhere in the garden, in their out-of-the-way nooks and crannies, without risk of annihilation. 

Fall Garden

If you have a masochistic need to be grossed out by a B-I-G spider, go check out this Facebook post from my grandson. Personally, I’m content to display the delicate beauty of the rain-etched web without its occupant.

There are a lot of things I like about autumn, but the sudden influx of spiders is not one of them. ::shudder::

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Facts or Fiction in Writing a Novel

One of our signs of autumn is the Woolly Bear Caterpillar, which is the larva form of Pyrrharctia isabella, the Isabella Tiger Moth. It waits out the cold winter, sometimes freezing solid, and thaws out in the spring to pupate and eventually become a moth. (Such interesting tidbits I provide for you on this blog!) The width of its coppery brown stripe is said to be an indication of the severity of the approaching winter  — the thicker it is, the milder the winter. That’s the myth, anyway. 

Furry Fellow

Wikipedia says, “Folklore of the eastern United States and Canada holds that the relative amounts of brown and black on the skin of a Woolly Bear caterpillar (commonly abundant in the fall) are an indication of the severity of the coming winter… In reality, hatchlings from the same clutch of eggs can display considerable variation in their color distribution, and the brown band tends to grow with age; if there is any truth to the tale, it is highly speculative.”

Separating truth from fiction can sometimes be a challenge. When we’re writing non-fiction or memoir, truth matters, but in a novel it’s not so important. At least, that’s what some writers seem to think.

There’s a difference between truth and accuracy. A novel may be fictitious but any details must be accurate for the story to remain credible. But, you say, it’s contemporary fiction. We write what we know. Why do we need to research anything?

Yesterday on the Seekerville blog, author Amanda Cabot‘s post, “So You Want to Write a Contemporary“, asked seven questions writers should consider when deciding whether to write contemporary or historical fiction. In her sixth question she debunks the idea that contemporary doesn’t require research. The reality is, all writing requires research.  It’s true that research for contemporaries is different from historicals, but it’s still essential that your details are correct.  If anything, readers are more critical of contemporary authors who get their facts wrong because it’s so easy to get them right.”

Hopefully our contemporary fiction isn’t devoid of an interesting setting or enriching details just because we’re writing only “what we know”. It’s good to stretch our horizons and venture into a bit of unfamiliar territory once in a while.

What kind of facts do you deal with in your writing? How did you research their accuracy?

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A wedding weekend overflowing with family, friends and faith

It was that kind of weekend — the only two warm sunny days sandwiched between two weeks of rain — ideal timing for a glorious outdoor family wedding.

There is no writing application hiding at the end of this post. Instead, please indulge me while I share a few photos. My head and heart are filled with memories of a sweet union of two families, and of our home being joy-filled with the happy chaos of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There was no time for writing!

Wedding 5

 

Wedding 0

 

Wedding 1

The wedding’s chosen theme was a little vintage, a little country… elegant, but in a casual, relaxed way. Peeking out from under the bride’s white lace were the toes of her cowboy boots; the groom’s attendants wore cowboy boots with jeans. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

Wedding 2

Throughout the ceremony the focus was on the Christian faith of this special couple. At the end of the service as they symbolically braided three cords, our eyes were drawn to the words of Ecclesiastes 4:12, prominently displayed behind them, reinforcing the declaration that this was to be a three-way union, with God integrally woven into their lives.

It was that kind of weekend — one filled with cherished family and friends, enriched with love and faith. We were blessed!

Wedding 4

 

~

“A cord of three strands
is not quickly broken.”

Ecclesiastes 4:12b (NIV)

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Summer’s Winding Down

Robins are supposed to be harbingers of springtime … that time when everything is becoming vibrant and new. This one is tattered, a little tired-looking and worn. Maybe that’s to be expected as we go into the last weekend of the summer.

Autumn Robin

I read on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website that Robins can produce three broods each year. If that’s the case, I can understand why this one might be feeling a little frazzled and frayed. Parenting can be demanding! Then again, it’s said that although “the entire [robin] population turns over on average every six years,” the occasional one can live up to fourteen years, so perhaps this one is just showing his age.

All winter long we wait for summertime, and when it finally arrives we exult in relaxed schedules, vacations, and the opportunity to catch up on everything we didn’t have time for in the preceding months. We garden and travel, make time for afternoons on the beach and backyard barbecues. Then, all too soon, we see it …

Autumn Glimpse

… the unwelcome hint that it’s all coming to an end.

We’re already back into September routines and any vacation time we might have had is little more than a distant memory. I should feel refreshed after several weeks of cottage time and family visits, but in reality I’m a little breathless. The weeks zipped by like a roadrunner on caffeine. I enjoyed my activities, but I’m taking stock and discovering that a lot of what I hoped to accomplish during June, July and August didn’t happen. What became of all that extra time I expected to have?

Perhaps having a summer birthday and acknowledging the passing of yet another year in my life makes me more aware of time’s elusive nature. Like the Robin, I’m getting a little worn around the edges. It takes me longer to get things done — although that may be less to do with aging and more to do with stopping too often to appreciate the blaze of changing colours or breathe in late summer’s distinctive scent.

Yesterday was subdued … a mist drifted through the trees most of the day and mingled with a cool breeze. The alders have begun letting their leaves loose to flutter down and clutter the freshly mown lawn, and down at the marsh there’s a hint of gold. We’re approaching the last weekend of summer and I’m feeling a little melancholic about it.

~

“The whole earth is at rest and is quiet;
They break forth into shouts of joy.

[Isaiah 14:7]

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 SS-BUTTON

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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