A Smoky Start to September

Ann Voskamp’s ‘Joy Dare’ prompt for September first is to count three things related to summer. The first thing that comes to mind is s-m-o-k-e, and it’s hard to be thankful for the thick greyness of the hard-to-breathe air that’s been a byproduct of the abundant wildfires in British Columbia and Washington this summer.

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We drove to Cranbrook on Hwy #3 during the height of the Stickpin and Paulson Pass forest fires last week, and passed through some very eery landscapes.

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(Near Grand Forkes, BC)

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(View towards Paulson Bridge, BC)

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(Looking back at the city of Osoyoos, BC from the lower switchbacks.)

There is always something to be thankful for, even in the worst of times.

For instance, there is thanks attached to the wild wind and rain storm that struck southern British Columbia last weekend because, despite all the devastation and power outages, the rain and cooler temperatures have helped firefighters. (Still, the Stickpin fire remains only 20% contained at 21,638 hectares in size.)

There is thanks to give in that the evacuation alert has been lifted in Grand Forkes and Christina Lake — the two cities that have been most seriously threatened by the fire that rages less than five kilometres south of the Canadian border.

There is thankfulness for the neighbourliness that is emerging as firefighters on both sides of the border work together, and as communities ‘prepare for the worst and hope for the best’.

So yes, I can find at least three things to add to my ‘Joy Dare’ notes today. :)

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My August hiatus didn’t see me accomplishing as much as I had originally intended, but it’s been refreshing. When September arrives and fall routines get underway, it’s sometimes hard to remember that summer isn’t over quite yet, but it isn’t, and I’m thankful for that, too!

How did you spend your August days?

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(The early evening sun in Cranbrook, BC)

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Time to tend the daisies

Always have something beautiful in sight,
even if it’s just a daisy in a jelly glass.

[H. Jackson Brown, Jr.]
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Daisies

 

No daisies in jelly glasses adorn my desk, but there are several clumps in the garden, braving a renewed blast of summery heat.

On this last day of July I’m balanced on tiptoe, peering into August and realizing that summer is slipping away and there’s still so much I want to fit into my days before fall schedules resume. There’s writing to do and reading to catch up on, a puppy to play with (I’ve renamed him ‘Wild Child’!), and family gatherings to enjoy.

I’m devoting all of August to such things, so you won’t see me here on the blog or on Facebook very often. I’ll be picking lots of daisies and smelling the roses. :)

However you’re spending your summer, I hope it’s doing the things you like best — and don’t forget to always keep something beautiful in sight!

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Daisies are like sunshine to the ground.”

[Drew Barrymore]

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Resilience – in gardening and writing

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If you’re a gardener, ‘Lacecaps’ and ‘Mopheads’ will likely be familiar terms. They describe the two main groups of hydrangeas within which there are several different species and varieties. And that’s just about all I know about hydrangeas!

DSC05937On second thought, that’s not entirely true. I know that many of the varieties are sensitive to soil pH and the colour of the blooms reflect that. In acidic soils like ours, even when I plant pink varieties, the flowers usually revert to blue. In alkaline soils they’re more likely to stay pink. If you prefer the blue you can add soil sulfur, or to encourage the pink colour you can add lime.

I also know my hydrangeas prefer more shade than sunshine, and they would like more water than I give them.

Blowsy blossoms explode their summery colours in many gardens, and most look much better kempt than mine. It hasn’t helped that the bears romped through the garden bed this spring and broke branches on one of the blue bushes. It now has a decidedly bedraggled and lopsided look … but it’s blooming.

The thing about hydrangeas is that they’re survivors. Despite all the neglect and abuse, every summer they put renewed effort into providing colour. Even if their branches die, I can cut the plants down to the ground and so far they’ve always come back. That says a lot about their resilience … and their persistence.

I think that makes them a suitable floral emblem for writers. No matter the treatment, the rejections and resulting discouragement, we can always pare down to the essentials and start again. Given time, the regrowth may even turn out better than the original.

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A Humbling Encounter (reprise)

Earlier today I came across a post on Facebook from Chris Hadfield:

“46 years ago today we walked on the Moon. Neil, Mike and Buzz inspired me to do something different with my life. I cannot thank them enough for the gift they gave us all.”

I wonder if they thought of their accomplishment as “a gift”. I wonder if they had any idea it would impact generations to come, well beyond the historic and scientific milestone it was.

I recall Robert Thirsk telling me about having his love of Mathematics and Science instilled while in my Grade One classroom, and his passion for space exploration fostered by a Grade Three teacher who brought a radio to class so he and his fellow students could listen to the historic ‘walk on the moon’ moment as it happened. Teachers may never know the value of what they do, but they believe in the importance of nurturing young minds.

On this 46th anniversary I thought it would be timely to share this post from my 2009 archives…

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Throughout my life I have encountered a great many people but I’ve rarely stopped to consider the possible effects of those encounters. Today I am reminiscing about one of them.

On April 1, 1996 I received a letter that would have been easy to disregard as an April Fool’s joke. It began, “I was a student in your grade one class at Glenayre Elementary School in 1959-1960. Although it is unlikely that you remember me, I do remember you… I am writing this letter to you so that you won’t be bewildered when you receive an invitation in the next week or so from NASA inviting you to a Shuttle launch. I am now an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency….” The letter was signed by Bob Thirsk and it was no joke.

Thus began one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I met with Bob and was interviewed by magazine and newspaper reporters. A headline in the Vancouver Sun on December 7, 1996 proclaimed, “Teacher helped propel astronaut’s dream: Robert Thirsk returns to his Grade One classroom in Port Moody for a reunion with his first math teacher.”  Who, me?  It was, and still is, mind-boggling.

Carol Garvin & Robert Thirsk

Carol Garvin & Robert Thirsk

[On May 27, 2009] he blasted off again, this time from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station. Expedition 20/21 was another history-making mission taking Robert Thirsk on the first Canadian long-duration flight where he would live and work on board the ISS for six months. “It will also be the first time all five international space agencies — NASA, Russia’s Roskosmos, Japan’s JAXA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency — are represented at the station simultaneously.”

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My link with this history-making event was miniscule, but it is a reminder that we can never be sure what purpose God has for us.  Our task is simply to turn up each day and live our lives to the best of our ability, always depending on God’s guidance and giving him all praise and glory.

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Another new start…

We didn’t originally expect to get another Labrador Retriever, but life doesn’t always work out the way we intend, does it? “Life is all about how you handle Plan B” says a plaque a friend once sent me.

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So this is our Plan B. His call name is ‘Clipper’ (shortened from a registered name that will include ‘Eclipse’) and he’s eight weeks old. He likes to nibble on the levers of our recliner chairs, pounce on a squeaker toy, explore the backyard with Dad, gnaw a bit on his stuffed duck, and complain bitterly when he’s restricted even for a few minutes in an exercise pen.

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Like most babies, he goes full bore until he suddenly needs a nap. Then he collapses on whatever is handy — Dad’s foot, a comfy toy, or the shelf under our coffee table.

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There was a graphic recently circulated on Facebook that I saved:

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Clipper isn’t like our previous Lab that we lost to cancer last fall, and we don’t expect him to be. We won’t love him more than or less than Tynan, but altogether differently, because he’s his own distinctive self with his own unique personality.

There are going to be the usual ‘starting again’ challenges that goes with acquiring a new puppy, but our hearts are already expanding to include this sweet little companion who has only been with us one full day (and two somewhat interrupted nights).

I started out thinking I’d have a ‘starting again’ writing analogy to add, but I think I’ll simply leave it as an introduction to the newcomer in our lives. A new foot warmer for my writing times. :)

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Information Overload

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It’s just a truck — this single vehicle that replaces all our other ones. Granted, it’s new, and we expected there would be some changes since years ago when we acquired our previous one, but things like a ‘Centre Stack‘ command module with touchscreen computer wasn’t one of them.

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And yet there it is, front and centre, almost as big as an iPad, telling us everything we need to know, and a lot we don’t. Bluetooth wireless connectivity wherever we go. Sheesh! It takes more programming than our home computers! Thankfully it came with a manual.

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The problem is, we can only read so much before our heads begin to swim with information overload. We forget which feature requires that we touch the icon for more than two seconds until a beep sounds indicating the setting has been saved, and which one will shoot past all the settings if you do more than touch it once lightly.

We’re learning that it’s best to deal with one feature at a time, on a priority need-to-know basis. We sit in the truck with the manual in hand and work through the necessary steps. At this rate, however, it might take until it’s time to trade it in again before we figure out everything.

I recall when some of my writing attempts made me feel equally uncertain. I read so many books on how to write, that when faced with a blank screen I wasn’t sure how I should proceed. Too much information had overwhelmed me and confused the process.

Now I just write. I do it while hoping that I’ve absorbed the most useful techniques enough to use them automatically, but knowing any necessary repairs will happen in stages during a later revision process. I’ll read the finished manuscript through multiple times, looking for specific shortcomings to correct each time. When I’m done, I’ve come to accept it still won’t be perfect, but it will be ready to face the scrutiny of my critique partners, who will undoubtedly offer additional advice for polishing.

I wonder if I could convince my critique group to meet in the truck for one session. They could browse the manual and offer suggestions for programming the Centre Stack display. I’d love some help in finding and setting my favourite radio stations from Sirius satellite’s choice of one hundred and twenty!

How do you deal with the ‘information overload’ syndrome?

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