Wildfires and Writing

 

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Red shadows shimmer from a red sun as smoke blankets our skies this week. It’s all because of the more than 180 wildfires currently burning throughout B.C. Everything is hot and tinder dry (including me!), thanks to an extended heat wave.

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Such unpleasant events always accelerate the climate change conversation. Unfortunately conversation alone won’t change anything. The David Suzuki Foundation website suggests many ways we can contribute to  the solution rather than be part of the problem.

“Though you might feel like your lifestyle is insignificant compared to things like oil extraction or vehicle emissions, the choices we make in our day-to-day life — how we get around, what we eat, how we live — play a major role in slowing climate change.”

David’s weekly ‘Queen of Green’ column offers all sorts of information about how changes in little everyday activities can make a difference.

As you might expect, my brain meandered in the direction of writing, and I began thinking about my fictional characters and their lifestyles. It’s never good to preach at our readers — most don’t appreciate being hit with blatant ‘thou shalt’ or ‘thou shalt not’ messages — but characters who display responsible preferences within a story can set subtle examples of good habits and stewardship.

I know one author who quite successfully writes novels to share her passions. Valerie Comer calls herself “a farmer, locavore, beekeeper…and the author of the Farm Fresh Romance series, farm lit from a Christian worldview.” She combines her storytelling abilities with her preference for locally grown food and her Christian faith, to produce wholesome fiction with an underlying message.

The inspirational genres are popular with Christian readers. What other authors and/or books do you know of that combine storytelling with a passion for something worthwhile?

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Simple Things

Old fashioned Oxeye daisies can be found just about anywhere. We see patches of their sweetly nodding heads scattered along mile after mile of dusty roadsides, and liberally sprinkled through wild meadows.

There’s an attractive, wholesome aura about them, but they’re considered an invasive species and of major concern in some areas of British Columbia — a relatively short-lived perennial  “that decreases forage for wildlife, decreases local plant biodiversity, and may compromise vegetative ground cover due to its growth form that results in exposed soil.”

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Fortunately there’s an equally delightful-looking alternative available, the Shasta daisy. For a few years I searched the local nurseries in vain for them. I discovered the variety I sought wasn’t the only kind, but I finally located what I wanted, and  blogged about it here.

Their chaste, sunny little faces are such a joy, brightening the often-shady, mostly green places of our yard. There’s something about these ordinary, simple flowers that also lightens my heart. I associate them with my grandmother’s garden, with daisy-chains, and straggly bouquets gathered and clutched in grimy hands. There’s a nostalgia when I recall fields adrift with them in the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ television series that the girls and I watched faithfully.

They make me want to break out in song…

… but, of course, I won’t. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to hear that! (Although the video’s worth watching since there’s a little face near the end that could be considered a clue to something else that is soon coming to brighten our days and lighten our hearts.) ;)

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Simple things are appealing, and I don’t mean just daisies. Most of the characters in my current novels seem to prefer a pared down lifestyle. They don’t live in mansions, do elaborate dinner parties, or take exotic vacations. Are they reflecting my own preferences? Probably so, although I don’t intend to impose such limitations in all future stories. I suspect many readers enjoy the escape provided by more complex settings.

What’s your preference as a reader? or as a writer? Do you lean towards the austere or the more complex when it comes to a story’s setting and the characters’ lifestyles?

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Sunshine and Shadows

“There are infinite shadings of light and shadows and colors … it’s an extraordinarily subtle language. Figuring out how to speak that language is a lifetime job.”

[Conrad Hall]

Sunshine and Shade

(Consider clicking on photo to enlarge.)

“Find beauty not only in the thing itself but in the pattern of the shadows, the light and dark which that thing provides.”
[Junichiro Tanizaki]
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[Today marks the beginning of my eighth blogging year.]
:)

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It’s way too hot! (What’s the symbol for Heat?)

Dusk is arriving, trying to fool me into thinking it’s a bit cooler. I’ve just come inside and I’m hot and tired, sitting here guzzling a glass of water.

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The flower baskets and parts of the garden have now had their daily dose of water … mostly just the annuals and the newest shrubs that might not make it through this heat wave without help. Hubby has measured the water in the well and it’s holding its own, but we never waste it on plants that can manage without it. The lawn is never watered. Most years it stays green anyway. This year it’s rapidly turning brown.

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There is one rose bush on our property but it doesn’t do well even when the weather is ideal. It sulks in the shade and acidic soil, but still puts out one or two pink blooms every summer. At least it has until now. Right now the bush has two or three leggy stems bearing only a few leaves and no buds. This summer might see its demise.

I don’t have a photo of any of its blooms. The one above is from the floral arrangement we were given to bring home from the recent wedding we attended. It was white while in bud, but opened to this gentle blush.

Roses have been long used as symbols of love and romance in a number of societies. According to Wikipedia, “Rose” actually means pink or red in a variety of languages, such as the Romance languages and Greek. *  I love the tea roses and the David Austin’s fragrant English roses.

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On the deck where the wedding was held, the resort had large cedar tubs planted with Calla lilies. I’m told Calla lilies are a symbol of beauty, as well as of magnificence. **

Symbols are objects used to represent ideas or qualities. One source says symbolism is “an artistic and poetic movement or style using symbolic images and indirect suggestion to express mystical ideas, emotions, and states of mind. It originated in late 19th century France and Belgium.”

Symbolism exists in everyday life, for instance when we talk of doves being a symbol of peace or the colour black as a symbol of evil and death, but writers also recognize it as a literary device.

“To develop symbolism in his work, a writer utilizes other figures of speech, like metaphors, similes, allegory, as tools….

“Symbolism gives a writer freedom to add double levels of meanings to his work: a literal one that is self-evident and the symbolic one whose meaning is far more profound than the literal one. The symbolism, therefore, gives universality to the characters and the themes of a piece of literature.” ***

I wonder if symbolism is more common in certain genres. I expect it in poetry. I rarely utilize symbolism in my novel writing. Do you? My unconscious resistance may have something to do with a certain high school teacher whose mission was to make us examine in great detail every piece of literature in our curriculum. She insisted the authors wrote multi layers of meaning into each line and our duty was to determine what they were. It should have turned me off literature altogether, but I chose it as one of my majors. Maybe she was a better teacher than I believed at the time.

Think I’ll settle in with my book now and see if I can discern any symbolism. :)

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* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_(symbolism)

** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zantedeschia_aethiopica

*** http://literarydevices.net/symbolism/

Discoveries and Ideas

We like to meander along unfamiliar roads and pathways. While we were travelling on the Sunshine Coast a week ago, we followed this country road until it finally ended at a private residence overlooking Jervis Inlet. Along the way there wasn’t much to see thanks to all the overhanging trees, but while we retraced the trip in the opposite direction we looked closer, and there were plenty of discoveries.

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Maple Road on the Lower Sunshine Coast

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Tall spikes of Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea)

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A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) on the lookout for lunch

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A patch of Oriental Poppies (Papaver orientale)

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An American Robin (Turdus migratorius) enjoying the dappled sunshine

We wouldn’t have noticed any of these delights if we hadn’t been looking for something. It’s not that we were specifically looking for any of them, but simply keeping our eyes open, watching with expectation.

One of the most common questions a writer is asked is where do our ideas come from. The best answer I can come up with is “everywhere in general and nowhere in particular.” Everything has potential as story material. Whenever my hubby sees something interesting or unusual, his first response is usually, “How can I turn that into a children’s story?” Mine is, “Surely I must be able to get a writing application out of that!”

The trick is not to just move through our daily existence, but to experience each moment of it with expectation. So much is there, just waiting to be discovered!

Did you discover anything new or especially interesting last week?

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“But blessed are your eyes because they see,
and your ears because they hear.”

[Matthew 13:16]

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A weekend like none other

Despite the more than 350 photos I took this past weekend, it was impossible to capture everything — the emotions of the occasion, the beauty of its location and the significance of being included. In the interest of privacy, I won’t give you all the details, but here are a few photos. (Consider clicking on each to enlarge.)

There was a destination wedding...

There was a destination wedding…

...with this fabulous view as a backdrop.

…with this fabulous view as a backdrop.

A gathering of friends...

A gathering of friends…

...at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge on BC's Sunshine Coast.

…at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge on BC’s Sunshine Coast.

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Elegance in a rustic, very private setting...

Elegance in a rustic, very private setting…

...on a bluff overlooking Sechelt Inlet.

…on a bluff overlooking Sechelt Inlet.

The special couple -- beautiful inside and out.

The special couple — beautiful inside and out.

A glorious ending...

A glorious day…

...to an absolutely perfect day!

…with a perfect ending!

These are only ten of my 350 photos, but you get the idea. It was a very special occasion in a beautiful wilderness setting. My hubby participated in the ceremony with our current minister, and we stayed in one of the resort’s forest cabins Friday through Sunday.

Now that we’re home, I must admit this morning’s two pieces of buttered toast were a bit of a let down compared to yesterday’s breakfast of french toast topped with apples and pecans simmered in a maple sauce. :)

So many good memories to cherish, big and little! One the special joys was sharing in the marriage of two young people of deep faith who have known each other for eight-and-a-half years while growing up in our congregation. Their wedding unites two of our church families that we’ve known for over twenty years.

In this traditional month of weddings this was a precious weekend indeed!

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Be completely humble and gentle;
be patient, bearing with one another in love.

[Ephesians 4:2]

And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.

[1 Corinthians 13:13]

And over all these virtues put on love,
which binds them all together in perfect unity.

[Colossians 3:14]

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