Happy Canada Day!

Celebrating Canada’s 148th birthday
and
our flag’s 50th!

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Simmering Down and Summertime Planning

Friday again. But not just any Friday … the last Friday of springtime. Grandchildren are finishing school for the summer season that starts this weekend, and all the mid-week meetings and organizations are beginning to simmer down.

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For those of us who don’t hold full-time jobs, summer is ‘me’ time, when there’s breathing room in daily schedules and freedom to savour an extra cup of coffee in the mornings.

Summer is when I always assume I’ll have time to do all the things that fell to the wayside during ‘the busy seasons’. Unfortunately, it rarely happens that way.  Either I slow my pace to the point that everything takes longer, or I fill the days with unanticipated pursuits that squeeze out time for anything else. Suddenly September arrives and I’m moaning about the lost summer.

This summer I want to be aware of each day and of how my time is spent, whether it’s in a specific activity or doing nothing at all.

I have unimpressive goals which include some writing projects, lots of reading, a little scrapbooking, periods of puppy training (yes, there’s a new puppy on our horizon), bits of gardening and the least amount of housework possible. I’m planning ample time for gatherings with family and friends, and lazy lakeside hours with extended opportunities for meditation and intentional thankfulness. In some ways it doesn’t sound much different from other summers, except that I’m planning ahead so it won’t disappear without opportunities to acknowledge its existence.

When summer arrives this Sunday (on Father’s Day!) what will it herald for you? Are you making any specific plans for how you’ll spend its days?

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The Solstice and Seasonal Turnaround

Late dawn. Early sunset. Short day. Long night. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the December solstice marks the longest night and shortest day of the year.” *

Solstice Sun

In last Friday‘s post I mentioned Sunday would mark several things — the fourth Sunday in Advent, the beginning of Christmas week, and the Winter Solstice. Someone on Facebook today said, “What? Wait! You mean this is only the first day of winter?”

Yes, it’s the first official day. I don’t mind winter, but it’s the one season here on the B.C. west coast I wish were a little bit shorter. Misty, grey days get tiresome. Still, today we can take heart in knowing that from now on, daylight hours will slowly begin to increase again.

I wish the moody seasons of writing were equally predictable.

Writing every day is a habit for me, but I admit the quality and quantity of my words are often seasonally affected. During November I concentrate on NaNoWriMo, but when December arrives I love to focus on Christmas. The days (and evenings) fill up with special activities and there is less energy leftover for creative writing. With the approach of the New Year I start thinking about my need for a renewed commitment to my W.I.P. (work in progress), whether that means adding new material or revising what I have.

Many people make New Year’s resolutions, but I’m not one of them. I don’t see the point of deliberately setting myself up for failure. Convincing myself that when the calendar page flips over I’ll magically be able to change my ways… well, I know from experience it doesn’t happen. It will still be winter in January. I’ll continue to put words on a page but it will probably be a good time to work on scenes that require darker emotions.

A new season is under way; the year is beginning to turn around. It’s the season for indulging our fictional fancies, maybe starting something altogether new…a different genre, a fresh theme or plot.

Winter is just right, too, for fleecy sweatshirts and cosy sweaters, shearling slippers, afghans and lamplight. Just right for settling in with mugs of sweet tea and hot chocolate. Time to hunker down and survive.

Spring is coming. I promise! 🙂

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“For as long as Earth lasts,
        planting and harvest, cold and heat,
    Summer and winter, day and night
        will never stop.”

[Genesis 8:22 – Msg]

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*EarthSky.org

Some days are more conducive to writing than others. (Or are they?)

Bitter wind rattles the windows and flings icy pellets at the glass. The rhododendron leaves are curled into themselves, huddled against the cold. It’s wild and wintry outside … a good day to stay home, turn up the thermostat and catch up on the writing we’ve been meaning to do all week.

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Of course, it’s also a good day to do a bit of Christmas baking. Or finish cleaning the bathroom. There’s too much to do. We’ll have more time to write in the New Year, after Christmas is over.

But perhaps New Year’s Resolutions will make fitness sessions and the gym more of a priority, (Of course I’m talking hypothetically here! You know me better than that!) so we’ll take a breather and get back to writing next month … or in the spring. Well, after the garden beds are dug and seeds planted. Oh, but there’s always summer to look forward to … all those lazy vacation days with endless opportunities. In the summer the excuse becomes the heat. It’s too muggy to stay inside and write. Better to take advantage of the sunshine and opt for gardening, or vacationing, or enjoying some family time at the beach. When the fall rains start there will be time enough to stay inside and write. We won’t talk about the changing colours and crisp autumn afternoons that will tug us outdoors for walks.

From what I’ve seen, successful authors don’t procrastinate. When there’s writing to be done, they write. But when being interviewed, it’s interesting to hear them describe what they consider ideal writing conditions.

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Darkness has enveloped everything beyond the window. The family room is lit only by Christmas lights, the fireplace crackles and the room is cosy. Lyrics of a winter song come to mind: “Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go”–we might just as well write, right? Except it’s too cosy, too comfortable. I’m content to stare into the flames and let my thoughts wander.

I think it’s time to grab a mug of black coffee and take my laptop into the office where the room is cooler and distractions are minimal. It’s time to get down to work and make the most of the next hour.

What are your ideal writing conditions? Is there one season or situation that’s more conducive to a productive writing session?

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Blogging hiatus and a little R & R

The hot weather’s back and the timing is perfect for me to take a bit of a blogging break. I’m heading offline for a couple weeks, hoping to get a little extra writing done and maybe squeeze in some R & R.

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I’ll be back in the traces and on schedule again by mid-August. Probably. Maybe. (But don’t count on it if this heat sticks around.) 😐

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Weekend Scenes

Yes, it’s true … I’ve been gallivanting and I don’t have a ‘real’ post ready for you, so all you’re going to get today are some of the scenes from my weekend, and then I’m suggesting you come back tomorrow to read about Denise Jaden‘s soon-to-be-released fourth book, Foreign Exchange, and get in on its cover reveal.

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Now, about my weekend sojourn…

We took the trailer into the south Cariboo on Friday, and spent the weekend at Loon Lake helping friends celebrate their 25th anniversary. While we left the coast in the rain, we soon made it past the dark clouds and into glorious sunshine. It was an awesome drive. I hope you enjoy the scenery, and will remember to drop in here again tomorrow. 🙂

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Seeking summertime serenity?

Summer’s eve!

Anticipating deep breaths

of rose and peony infused air

Long, languid days

Luscious berries

blossoms and bees

Deck time

and solitude

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Whether skies turn out to be cloudless or cloud filled, the whole idea of SUMMER conveys an element of relaxation, a less scheduled pace and some vacation time. We covet getting away from the rat race, with stolen moments of serenity in holiday destinations or secluded garden sanctuaries.

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Is it realistic? Probably not. Vacations aren’t for everyone. There are no holiday weeks set aside in some calendars, no opportunities to ‘get away’. But most people still dream of summertime for simpler stress-free days, and time away from the mundane.

So how can we achieve that and make summer the special time we envision? Perhaps it means getting up a half hour earlier so we can sip morning coffee on the deck or porch steps, and savour the silence before the day’s routines begin. Maybe we can plan ahead… shuffle schedules to allow for an hour or two enjoying the flowers on a walk through one of the city’s parks. Or make a picnic supper, spread a quilt on the lawn and enjoy a quiet hour in the backyard.

If we’re among the ‘house-bound’ population, we could spread out that quilt on the couch or floor, order in some deli potato salad and cold chicken, and make up lemonade for a homestyle picnic, perhaps invite a neighbour in to join us for lunch or later for an old-fashioned hour of tea, cookies and conversation. Or if company doesn’t appeal, simply set aside an hour of uninterrupted reading with tea and the current book of choice. If we’re writers, that might be an uninterrupted hour of writing! We can put on a nature-themed CD for seaside background ambience, close our eyes and savour the serenity as we develop a plot.

The point is to be intentional about creating memorable times. We’re at summer’s eve. Get ready to leap in with abandon and find your unique moments of joy.

What are you most looking forward to doing this summer?

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Easter? So What?

Yesterday was Easter Sunday. Some have returned to work today, while others are still enjoying one more day of a long weekend. I wonder how you spent your ‘holiday’. I imagine that depended on your interpretation of  its significance.

Ask Google for a definition of holiday, and you’ll get the following:

hol·i·day  ˈhäliˌdā/
noun

  • a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done.

Wikipedia, on the other hand, also looks at the etymology and says:

  • “The word holiday comes from the Old English word hāligdæg (hālig “holy” + dæg “day”). The word originally referred only to special religious days. In modern use, it means any special day of rest or relaxation….”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides additional information, first citing it as a holy day before moving on to various popular definitions.

About now I expect you’re thinking, “So what? Get to the point!”

IMG_0234I was away for part of the weekend, travelling a little over 800 km round trip to visit with family and friends. One of the highlights was being able to rendezvous with a granddaughter and her husband, to meet my seven-month-old great-granddaughter for the very first time. We drove there on Friday morning and drove home Saturday afternoon so we could be in church for the Easter service. It was that important to us.

One of the messages at Easter is that Jesus died to pay the price for a debt he didn’t owe. He died an unimaginably torturous death, overcoming death to rise again. And he did it all for me (and you). After a Maundy Thursday service, daughter Shari Green wrote a poem that makes it very personal:

“Bread and wine offered,
Remembrance of open arms
And a life given.
This much, O Lord, you love me?
This much, He whispered, and more.”

Shari Green

The “so what?” of Easter — one’s definition of it as a vacation or a holy day — depends on a personal response. Without one  Easter has no purpose… and can you fathom someone willingly submitting to such a death for no reason at all? Oh, how He loves you and me! (Listen: Only God/Praise & Harmony: a cappella worship)

Do I dare ask how you spent your holiday? Better still, will you dare to tell me? (And isn’t that a precious smile to travel 800 km for?)

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Christmas preparations, secular and sacred

Our family has a dual heritage when it comes to Christmas preparations. There’s a combination of the sacred and the secular because my hubby and I came from those two backgrounds. Christmas was always a special time when we were children, but for different reasons, and celebrated in different ways.

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When Advent begins, along with the nativity figures, our decorations come out, lights are strung and a tree goes up. Christian friends might wonder how we can put energy into all the secular preparations and still focus enough on the anticipation of such a holy season, but somehow we do.

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Last night, for the umpteenth time, we watched the movie, “Miracle on 34th Street“.  “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” will probably be next, along with “It’s a Wonderful Life“, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and assorted other television specials. Years ago we watched these with our children. Now we’re on our own and we still watch them.

Soon I’ll turn my attention to a bit of baking. Not a lot, since there aren’t many of us to eat it, but we need a few of the annual goodies, like Shortbread, Melting Moments and Peanut Butter Snowballs. We’ll also be caroling to shut-ins, finding delight in the children’s Sunday School Pageant, singing a Cantata with our choir, and of course attending all the special Christmas worship services.

There’s a little magic and a lot of mystery associated with Christmas, and we experience both, in ways that are meaningful to us. I doubt that God minds our strange muddle of traditions. We still meet Him at the manger.

What are some of the meaningful traditions you’ll experience again this Christmas? In your writing, have you allowed your characters to establish traditions?

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Transitioning from Thanksgiving into Advent

 

 

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Sunlight filtered through the trees last weekend as we neared the spot where we would see the eagles. It was more of a stroll than a hike to get there, as the trail meandered through the woods toward the Chehalis River.

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Later we crossed over a stream via a log bridge and wandered back along an easier path that paralleled a golf course. It was a gorgeous day — a day that filled us with thankfulness for the beauty of our surroundings.

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But thankfulness is more than expressing appreciation for what we have. It involves a response to Him who is the giver of all we have and are.

This weekend many will be transferring attention from Thanksgiving to Advent. We begin the annual time of preparation, readying ourselves to receive again the Gift beyond imagining… God among us, the Creator and Saviour of the world. But truly, there shouldn’t be a transitioning from one celebration to another. We need to carry our thanksgiving on through and into Christmas.

What traditions are a part of your Thanksgiving-into-Christmas preparations?

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“Thanks be to God for his indescribable Gift.”

2 Corinthians 9:15

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