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:

Old-New Dogs

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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So much promise…

My first peony of the season opened on Sunday. I’ve been keeping an eye on the buds as they show colour and swell with promise, but this one appeared while I wasn’t paying attention.

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The clematis are showing promise, too, but none of the buds have opened quite yet. (The banner photo is from last year.)

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So much promise! I love seeing all the spring newness as it happens. It’s hard to believe that in just two weeks — on Father’s Day — spring will be replaced by summer.

We’re already into a 30+ celsius week here, and the annuals that have burst into bloom in my baskets are dipping their heads against the oppressive brilliance and begging for extra drinks. It’s taking them a while to get accustomed to the sudden heat. (It’s taking me a while, too! I am SO not a lover of hot weather, but it sure gets those buds into bloom quickly.)

Seeing all the buds makes me think of ideas — those tight little word capsules that show up in a writer’s mind and tantalize with all their promise of what might be coming. It doesn’t help to be impatient when they’re slow to blossom into a potential story. It doesn’t help to focus on them, willing them into reality. Like a watched clock, they aren’t going to move ahead any faster for all our extra attention.

All the potential will surprise us, as the peony did, by simply showing up when the time is right, probably when we least expect it. At least, that’s been my experience.

How do your new ideas develop?

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Eventide at Wildwood

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After sunset, the woods around us grow quiet. Dusk descends like a muffling snowfall, silently subduing the day. There will still be light in the marsh, but the trail to it is dark, and recent wildlife activity makes it a wee bit too menacing for a walk in that direction.

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DSC05146 - Version 2I lean on the deck rail and watch a single robin and starling make their last rounds of the lawn for bedtime snacks. What an odd pair. A towhee lands on the clematis trellis and perches for a few moments, keeping an eye on me, ever hopeful that I will recant and put out the bird feeder again. Sorry, little fella, but it won’t reappear until winter does.

As daylight’s murmurs subside, nighttime’s begin. Two chirps from hidden tree frogs set off more, and soon a chorus swells in the marsh. Every night their evensong canticles overlay the hush of darkness.

The coming weekend promises summer-like heat, but there are still enough remnants of springtime’s chill to start shivers dancing across my shoulders, and eventually chase me indoors. With the words, “It is well with my soul” running through my mind, I slip inside and slide the patio doors closed behind me.

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Eventide at Wildwood is complete.

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Uncluttered

This graphic always makes me smile. While it’s meant to be funny, there’s a kernel of truth tucked within. Einstein Cluttered Desk Clutter drives me nuts! A temporary, working mess doesn’t count, but the kind that builds slowly, insidiously, sneaking into places where it should never be–? I hate it!

Our master bedroom closet and my office are two offending locations right now. The closet is just plain overcrowded, while the office qualifies as cluttered. It’s important to make the distinction because overcrowding can be frustrating, but clutter is mind-warping. Granted, both are first world problems … an embarrassment of overabundance that should fill me with guilt for having what much of the world does not.

What it does, however, is immobilize me. In my office, creativity is at a standstill. I can neither write, nor push myself to do something about the clutter that is to blame, so I escape with my laptop to the family room. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’, right? Not totally, but it helps.

The closet is harder to ignore. It’s a mid-sized walk-in under the guise of being an all-season storage locker. If it were smaller, I’d do what one of my daughters does, and every few months sort off-season clothing into a bin and put it in the basement. But because our closet gives the illusion of being generous, my hubby and I keep our entire wardrobes in it. As a result, the rods and shelf space allotted to me are woefully inadequate, everything is squashed together and I can never find what I’m looking for!

(This is embarrassing, but it's all for the sake of honesty. I yanked a T-shirt out of the pile and it toppled.)

(This is embarrassing, but it’s all for the sake of honesty. I yanked a T-shirt out of the pile and it toppled.)

Closet-1 I need to clarify that I am not a shopper. Some of my most frequently worn clothes are ones I’ve had for more than twenty-five years. I own about six pairs of shoes, but wear the same ones almost every day. I’m not an hoarder, either, although perhaps I qualify as a keeper-of-things-I-like.

That’s why a recent Facebook post caught my attention. A friend talked of “creating a minimalist capsule wardrobe”. She advocates “paring down your closet to include only the clothes you love and really enjoy wearing. (And the ones that fit…not that you hope will fit in 2 months.)” Her inspiration came from the Un-fancy blog.

Now that our kitchen’s mini-reno is complete, I’m ready to embark on a new project. I’m not likely to go out and shop for anything to create a new ‘capsule wardrobe’, but I feel inspired to do some paring down. When I pack a suitcase my criteria is always comfort, coordination, condition and ease of care, and I see those as a good goal for my closet clearing.

A tidy closet won’t contribute anything towards my writing, and whether or not this exercise will inspire me to tackle the office clutter is yet to be seen. I’ll let you know.

Do I dare ask you to describe the condition of your closet and/or desk? Are you one who produces best in a distraction-free, pristine environment, or while nested within the comfort of familiar clutter?

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Late Night Thoughts: Sights and Sounds

If you’re anything like me, too often you go through a day seeing the obvious but missing the gems. Sometimes we focus on what’s right in front of us, and see nothing else.

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Other times, if we look beyond the obvious, we discover glimpses that beg to be investigated.

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Little glimmers,
hidden bits of truth and beauty,
sometimes visible,
sometimes only heard.

Beyond the bank of trees that border our back garden is a marsh. At one time it was a pond, officially named on municipal maps. In recent years there has been less water, but a stream still flows through and contributes habitat for geese, ducks, and assorted other wildlife.

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Where earth shimmers
In garish greens,
Liquid and leafy
Reflections of a secret life
Lived marsh deep.

Where night blackens
Sights but not sounds
And coyotes and tree frogs
Compete
In discordant harmony.

(To hear our late night marsh activity you’ll need your sound on.)

In both your life and your writing, I challenge you to look beyond the obvious, look into the depths, and discover meaningful capsules in the world that comprises your everyday.

What one thing have you discovered today that you consider worthy of recording and remembering?

~

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.

[Hebrews 11:1]

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Just another spring morning…

A bit of blue sky, a glimpse of sunshine…yesterday was the perfect day to paint or play, depending on your priorities. For my hubby, it was his morning to begin applying the white paint I had taken several weeks to choose. Our kitchen mini-reno is almost complete. With all the construction done, it’s now paint and fabric time.

He was carefully applying Benjamin Moore’s ‘Vanilla Milkshake’ to the breakfast nook wall when he discovered two adult bears on the lawn below the window. Both were black bears, Ursus americanus, although one was decidedly brown. (Black bears come in various shades of black, cinnamon, brown, even white. If you’re curious, there’s lots more info here.)

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For these guys, it was time to romp through the garden, tromping on shrubs, overturning that pink pot of sedum, and breaking a branch or two. Then they settled in to graze on grass, just as a different visiting bear had done exactly one year ago to the day. (I shared that morning in photos here.)

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We noted the yellow tag in the black bear’s ear, a sign that he had been relocated by conservation officers. It was likely this was the same bear who visited our back deck on a couple of earlier nighttime bird feeder raids. That one wore a yellow ear tag, too.

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On closer inspection of my photos, it looked like there were actually two tags, each with different numbers. Not a good sign for this bear, who apparently is establishing his reputation as a troublemaker.

DSC05032 - Version 2We’ve duly reported the encounter to the conservation office, but living rurally means we expect to see wildlife here occasionally. Last night it was coyotes, a pair behind the house yipping and howling in competition with the chorus of tree frogs.

I’ll take wildlife any day rather than the smog and congestion of city living. Over the four-or-so decades of my hubby’s studies and pastoral service, we’ve lived in both big and small centres — Vancouver (BC), Toronto (ON), Coleville (SK), Creston (BC), Calgary (AB), Port Alberni (BC), Langley (BC), and Maple Ridge (BC) — almost always having our homes on typical residential streets.

In retrospect, we wish we’d discovered country living a lot sooner. It isn’t a lifestyle that suits everyone but the peacefulness and treed setting is a blissful sanctuary for us.

I realize my love of a quiet rural setting has rubbed off on my fictional characters who are all situated somewhere other than in a major city. They all own dogs, too. I guess it’s true that we write a bit of ourselves into our stories, but why not? In our world-building, we’re in control of every aspect of our characters’ lives, so why wouldn’t we let them live or work in places reminiscent of our personal experiences and preference?

Would you label yourself a city-dweller or a country-lover at heart? Where do you situate your characters? (Tell me I’m not the only one who imposes my choices on them! Come to think of it, I’ve even had a character encounter a bear on his property.) 

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Renos and Revisions: Decently and In Order

Renovations can be stressful. Being a contractor’s daughter, I shouldn’t be surprised by renovation woes — the delays, unavailability of ordered materials, and, of course, the mess.

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There’s a difference in being a contractor’s daughter, and being the affected homeowner. Now it’s personal. The problems that crop up, while apparently trivial to the contractors and suppliers, are a bigger deal to me.

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Quality of work is paramount, but reliability is important, too. When multiple contractors or technicians are involved, each is dependent on the others to do their tasks in a timely manner. When one is delayed, the effect ricochets down the line. Some delays are unavoidable; some are not. Some are a result of poor planning.

Last month I wrote about the minor kitchen reno we had started. The main contractor has been super, but a couple of the sub-trades have held up the process. The end should have been in sight today, but it’s not, and it’s frustrating. I tend to be impatient when it comes to inefficiency.

I related my other post to the writing/revision process and I now realize my current situation is also applicable, especially when it comes to revising a manuscript. Without effective planning, it can become a frustrating endeavour. If I begin with the wrong things — perhaps tweaking sentence structure and grammar — before dealing with larger issues such as plot holes, location of scenes or character development, I will find myself muddling along, going over previous ground multiple times, and inevitably having to redo earlier edits. That prolongs the task. My hubby likes to say things need to be done “decently and in order”.

Editor Danielle Stoia  says, “the editorial work on the road to publishing has three [progressive] stages: taking care of the FORM (Substantive Editing), the LANGUAGE (Editing or Copy Editing) and the final overview (Proofreading). Any and all manuscripts should go through these stages … and the need for this ‘quality control’ does not affect, infringe upon or otherwise criticize the quality of the writing or the author’s competence.”

We still have lots of little things to do in this reno — painting, installing a new range hood and light fixture, window coverings — but even if we went ahead and finished all of them, until this pesky tiled backsplash is done, the room will not function well or look complete. It’s one of the biggies!

(But at long last, today I have a sink, tap and running water again! WooHoo!)

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