In Pursuit of Coolness

 

Weather2

Nothing profound from me today. It has been, is, and will continue to be hot. Please don’t see this as a complaint. I wouldn’t dare complain for fear it suddenly changes to unending rain! Instead, I’m trying to think of a positive side to hot sunshine.

It does bring on the flowers. I’ll say that for it.

Summer Peony

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Summer Sun

Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven with repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays.

Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlour cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.

The dusty attic spider-clad
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles
Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.

Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy’s inmost nook.

Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.

 Robert Louis Stevenson
(from - A Child’s Garden of Verses – 1885)

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I remember reading that to my Grade One students a good many years ago. There are lots of good things to say about the sun, but I don’t do well in the heat and right now I need something cooling to distract me.

Water 1

Ahhh… yes, that helps.

Water 2

Oh, this is much better! Now I’m of a mind to go in search of a beach and some ice cubes — the perfect pursuit on a hot summer day. :)

What’s your best way of cooling down when it’s too hot to think, let alone write?

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There will be a shelter
to give shade from the heat by day,
and refuge and protection
from the storm and the rain.

(Isaiah 4:6)

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So Many Books, So Little Time!

I’m sharing an article from the archives today, updated from its original posting in 2008.

But FIRST… I have to share my daughter’s exciting news! Her first publishing contract! Head over to Shari’s blog and read about it, then come back here to continue. :)

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“So many books, so little time.”  If you Google this phrase you’ll come up with about 563,000,000 results — everything from a link to the quote attributed to Frank Zappa, to Sara Nelson’s book documenting a year of her passionate reading, assorted articles on the subject, even a forum of the same name on the Indigo/Chapters site debating about what ten books you might take if you knew you were going to be stranded on a desert island.

Summer Reading GraphicFor me, the words stand alone, not as a title for anything. They emerge from my mouth sounding more like a moan, even a wail, expressing my frustration that there are more books that I want to read than there are hours left in my life. (And I’m planning for a lot of those!)

Selecting what to read — what’s worthy of my time — is always a dilemma. So I could relate to a  blog entry written some years ago by literary agent Jessica Faust.  Here’s an excerpt:

“I somehow had the impression that as a recent college grad, or just an intelligent woman, I should be reading more intelligent books (whatever that means). In other words, I should be catching up on the classics I missed out on as a journalism major or reading only books that incited great philosophical discussions… It took me a long time to accept and advertise the fact that I was a commercial fiction girl… I think all readers evolve and grow over time and eventually find their niche. I hear often from those who read only fantasy as young people and now have grown to read different kinds of fiction, and I hear from others who still can’t stomach commercial fiction but love nothing more than to cuddle into a long classic. Some typically enjoy longer literary works, but when life is tough or getting them down, they will pull out a favorite romance or thriller. What we read and when we’re reading it can say a lot about who we are in that time of our life, just like the music we listen to and the movies we watch.”

I wonder what my reading choices say about me. I’m definitely not scholarly. Today’s post is a re-run from my archives, but at the time it was first posted, my virtual coffee table held the following: Fiction — “Leota’s Garden” by Francine Rivers, “Carlyle’s House” by Virginia Woolf, “Light on Snow” by Anita Shreve and Kirsty Scott’s “Between You & Me”. Non-fiction: Julia Cameron’s “The Sound of Paper”, Des Kennedy’s “Crazy About Gardening”, and John Fischer’s “Be Thou My Vision” (daily meditation).

Reading vies with writing for possession of my time. No matter how much I spend on either, it’s never enough! I need to live to be 120!

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QUESTIONS FOR YOU:

  • Are your reading choices eclectic, or do you have favourite authors or themes that govern what you read?
  • Are your summer book choices lighter reading than what you choose during the rest of the year?
  • What’s on your coffee table (or bedside table) right now?
  • What’s on your summer reading list … anything you’d like to recommend?

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Cruising takes on a different meaning…

A little reprieve from cruise photos… sort of. Yesterday it was cruising of a different kind as hubby, son and grandson drove our two vintage vehicles to a large car show. ‘Old Car Sunday in the Park‘ is a Father’s Day tradition in our area and is “one of the largest shows of vintage, antique & collector vehicles on display in Western Canada.” Last year more than 1,340 vehicles participated. This year there were only 534 due to the threat of bad weather (which never materialized), but it was as much fun as ever! The organizers’ motto is, “If you love it, bring it!”  and it’s evident that a lot of people love their old cars, whether rusted or restored, classic or custom.

Our Vintage Vehicles

Our guys don’t claim to be ‘collectors’ — both the 1930 Ford Model A and the 1946 Willys CJ2A Jeep were acquired quite unexpectedly, thanks to the kindness and generosity of family and friends. But they both bring much delight to our men who appreciate their enduring heritage and enjoy tinkering with them.

What’s the appeal of old things? Why do we like old vehicles, vintage clothing, and the ancient history found in books, antiques and museums? I think it has a lot to do with the nostalgia created by these reminders of the lifestyle from a bygone era. We like to believe it was a simpler time, a time when quality and old-fashioned principles were held in higher esteem, and when a hard day’s work created calluses rather than stress. I doubt our forefathers would agree with that analysis, but what else is it? Why do Currier & Ives Christmas card collections remain so popular through the decades? Why do historical and Amish fiction continue to dominate book sales? Why do groups hold such successful car shows every year? I don’t have an answer. Do you?

What’s your opinion? Do you like owning any special reminders of the past?  What do they mean to you?

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Prose and poetry that delve deeper

Eyes closed
mind focussed on a fragrance
sparked by the image
of lilacs

Wildwood Lilacs

 

Sandy’s words
a “fragrance of simplicity”
explode a kaleidoscope
of memories

Lush blooms
spilling from a milk glass jug
set on grandma’s table
glowing purple

Dappled light
filtering through heart-shaped leaves
onto a lavender-strewn lawn at
season’s end

French white
solemn in crystal beside a coffin
pristine and gentle beauty
without cheer

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(Lilac Memories – Carol J. Garvin)

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We’ve reached the end of another month, this one concluding the study of Dave Harrity’s book, Making Manifest: On Faith, Creativity, and the Kingdom at Hand. Its meditations and writing exercises were meant to be daily devotional explorations, but I didn’t follow the rules. Reading snippets sandwiched into still moments, I didn’t take the journey as planned. Still, this month and its continuing focus on poemia – that’s Greek for poetry, meaning where anything is made – has reinforced my desire to plumb emotional and spiritual depths even as I write my secular prose.

We can’t expect readers to experience the lives of our characters if we don’t experience real emotions while we’re writing their stories. Scenes that flop effortlessly onto the page are sometimes not as inspired as we might like to believe, but are the result of superficial writing. I’ve been guilty of this, occasionally letting the words spill out without feeling any attachment to them.

Sandra Heska King refers to this month of digging deeper as “learning to see a little more clearly, to listen a little more deeply.”  She speaks of faith and matters of the soul, and “a holy awakening,” but truthfully, doesn’t it take a combination of heart, mind and soul to find and follow any writing path that God has mapped out for us?

The book study may be over, but now it’s time to continue the searching, to dig below the surface, to grasp that which is meaningful, and make sure it’s significant and honest before planting it on the page. Are you with me?

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Now that May is over I’ve decided to take a week off from blogging. There might be the occasional random post next week, or there might not be, but I’ll be back on the regular schedule by Monday, June 9th to begin my seventh year of sharing mental meanderings with you here. (Can it be that long ago that I ventured out onto the blogging stage? Wow!)

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 DSC00081

Hiding from… what?

Ten days ago we celebrated my aunt’s 91st birthday with a small party… cake, presents, flowers and, of course, photos. There are other better ones, but I rather like this photo… a ‘peek-a-boo’ shot of her hiding behind her flowers, taken as a joke by her son.

20140508 - Mom behind Birthday Roses

(Photo credit: Ra McGuire)

Just a week before the birthday celebration there was a photo-taking situation of a different kind in my backyard — I posted about it along with a sampling of the photos here. But there were additional, less impressive photos that I wasn’t planning to display.

Bear Tree

 

Bear Bush

In each case, the subject was hiding, one willingly, the other unwittingly. The shots made for… um, interesting, but not terribly useful records of the event. None of them gives a very clear picture of the subject.

What they do, however, is get me thinking. (I know, that can be a dangerous thing!) People also hide more often than is acknowledged. Not too long ago I attended a social gathering where I spent a good portion of the time hiding behind my camera. I’m not great in social situations… often at a loss for words to engage in meaningful conversations. I’m better at putting them on paper.

I think authors hide among their pages, peeking out via their characters. We’re asked if we put ourselves or our friends (or maybe our enemies) into our stories, and the answer is almost always ‘no’. But glimpses…? Ah, yes, I think some of our characters say things we wouldn’t dare say but might like to, wear the clothes we wish we looked good in, live in homes we can only dream of in settings that appeal to us.  Would we admit to it? Maybe not. We like to hide.

Do you agree? If you’re a writer, do you model any of your characters after yourself or people you know?

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Disappointment… or not!

I should have known better. I’ve tried before to take shots of the moon with my ‘big girl’ camera, and despite its zoom capabilities, they’ve never quite managed to replicate what my eyes see. But Wednesday evening as we drove home from the church and discovered the moon rising low and large, I couldn’t resist trying again, using the only camera I had with me… my iPhone’s.

Full Moon

The resulting lunar blob is insignificant, barely more than a golden glow in the ebony night sky. And yet… and yet, when I get it uploaded to the computer, this view appeals to me almost more than the crisp orb of previous attempts. When I tilt my monitor, the focus becomes not so much on the moon, but on the moodiness it paints into the surrounding sky and landscape.

My initial disappointment has been replaced by the realization that the less-than-perfect can sometimes be of more value to me than that for which I intentionally strive.

My mother would have called such discoveries “happy accidents” but I think of them as God bumps — nudges in a better direction, perhaps intended to help me navigate the challenges of my writing journey. What I take away from this nudge is that perfection is not all it’s cracked up to be! Doing the best I can with what I have may well produce something far better than I could hope.

Have any happy accidents or God bumps occurred in your life lately?

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Thoughts on Seeing and Believing

No writing analogy today, just some backyard ponderings…

Geese
In the stillness of early spring mornings I hear them — the Canada geese, returning to our marsh, honking in harsh duet. They aren’t the only noisy occupants of the marsh right now. The tiny Pacific Tree Frogs also make their presence known. At barely one inch in size, I rarely see them, but they sure do fill the air with their nighttime — and sometimes daytime — concerts.

Pacific Treefrog
In chorus together, the geese and frogs create quite the cacophony…

Amidst all the noise, I’m thinking about the words, “seeing is believing”. I don’t really need to see the geese or frogs to believe in their existence. They make their presence obvious. But when it comes to matters of faith, it’s not always easy to believe in something or Someone we cannot see. We want proof!

After a few days of rain I awoke yesterday to see footprints in the wet grass — two sets, one large and one tiny — evidence that our visitors of last week had meandered through the backyard once more. I didn’t happen to see them this time, but I have no doubt they were there.

Bear Tracks
After Easter when Jesus returned to his disciples, Thomas was as doubtful as we would probably have been. A dead man returning to life? Impossible! But Thomas’ doubt soon turned into belief and the reality of Jesus’ existence was acknowledged.

“Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” [John 20:29] In fact, it is believing that leads to true seeing, and not the reverse. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” [Hebrews 11:1]

Three weeks after Easter I’m still in an Easter frame of mind, and in awe of this wondrous gift of faith.

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Silent Prayerful Solidarity

There has been a swelling social media campaign using the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, as the world expresses concern for the girls who were stolen from their school in Nigeria in mid-April.

BringBackOurGirls

Critics of the campaign suggest that even if well-intentioned, these movements rarely affect the outcome of such events, and in this case, if you aren’t a Nigerian with the constitutional rights accorded to Nigerians to participate in their democratic process, you can’t do anything about the missing girls. Some go so far as to say, as in this Huffington Post article, that the international focus on the hashtag is actually doing harm by providing “legitimacy to encroach and grow [the U.S.] military presence in Africa.”

Supporters say that, at the very least, it can’t hurt… that “the world is now talking about 276 stolen girls in Nigeria when before it wasn’t talking about them at all.”

Personally, I don’t know who’s right, but my heart aches with compassion for those girls and their devastated families.

On this Mother’s Day, across the internet many blogs are in blackout, showing silent prayerful solidarity with the bereft Nigerian mothers. One of those bloggers is Sandra Heska King who has said, “If you land there [on her blog during the blackout], you will find a message and a link. Please lift a prayer before you leave. Praying that someone will hear. Knowing that One will.”

That’s the one right thing we can all do — pray!

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(You might like to listen to this as
quiet reinforcement for your prayer.)

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The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

Luke 4:18,19

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Do It Anyway!

Wow, did it ever rain yesterday! It pounded down, flooding over the eavestroughs, creating instant puddles, pelting the house with so much force it sounded like hail.

Rainy Day

Even the small, seasonal creek that runs through the trees along one side of our property became an honest-to-goodness stream for a time.

Rainy Creek

It was a good day to hunker down… avoid the nasty weather and wait it out, protected by home and hearth. I didn’t expect anyone to venture out. Certainly not the birds. Wouldn’t the fat and furious raindrops pummel them… give them a headache or something… knock those tiny Hummingbirds off course?

But no, right on schedule they all arrived to fill their tummies and empty the feeders. Nothing was going to deter them from meeting their daily caloric requirements. “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”* No, wait… that’s the U.S. Postal Service’s motto! 

Rainy Birds

As writers, we can find all sorts of excuses to explain why the words aren’t accumulating on our pages. Maybe the heavy mood of a miserable day isn’t conducive to being creative. The Muse isn’t cooperating. There isn’t enough time left after the day job or family commitments. We’re just plain tired.

I’ve heard it said that those who want to write, will. Those who wish they could, won’t. All excuses aside, accumulating enough words to write a book requires a commitment to get the job done. As I plod along in my new story, I’m frequently frustrated that the words aren’t streaming out as they sometimes have in the past. I could let my lack of speed discourage me — mutter my way down to a standstill and go find something else to do — but, like these birds, I have a need to fulfill and that can only happen if I keep at it.

When there’s a job to do, we need to do it, no matter how we feel about it on any given day. “The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” Oops… that’s not the analogy I was looking for! I think “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” is more appropriate.**

Then again, if you’re hungry like the birds but need some creative nourishment, maybe thinking of elephants isn’t a bad idea. After all, elephants wouldn’t let snow, or rain, or heat, or gloom of night (or a nasty downpour), stay them from the swift completion of their appointed rounds any more than the birds have. They’d keep plodding along, just as I am.

So, what’s keeping you from achieving your goals today?

* Herodotus, 503 B.C.
** Lao-tzu (604 BC – 531 BC)

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The Message of the Cross

 

Wishing you a blessed Easter weekend!

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Easter Corinthians

(Consider clicking on graphic to enlarge)

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“For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

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