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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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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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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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.

Wedding-gate

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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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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Active and Passive Waiting (again)

There were too many happy distractions during the past week, and creating a new post wasn’t in the cards. I hope you’ll find something of interest in this re-run from 2013.

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“They also serve who only stand and wait.”

John Milton
mom at larwood beach_sm

I admit to doing a lot of sitting. I sit and think, sit and talk, sit and watch, sit and write. In this photo taken by my DD, I was sitting and absorbing inspiration from the sight, sounds and smells of the ocean.

Sometimes I sit and wait.

Writers do a lot of waiting… waiting for time to write and inspiration to strike, or perhaps waiting to hear from beta readers, editors and agents. The most ineffective kind of waiting is passive, and I don’t believe indulging in it has any value. If we sit, wonder and worry, we fall prey to negativity. We stagnate. Active waiting puts us in control of how we are affected by the passage of time. It’s all about attitude.

Being proactive results in being productive. While we probably can’t change the outcome of whatever it is we’re awaiting, we can use the time to our advantage by doing something positive. Writers might start a new story or article, go on a research trip, contact a colleague to brainstorm or offer encouragement. Whether in life or writing, when we make an effort to wait actively, we discover there are all sorts of possibilities.

Milton’s quote is often used out of context, but so are the scripture verses below. They can be construed to mean we should just sit around (or stand) and wait for God to make something happen. But in my books faith is meant to be active. I know it’s a noun, but I prefer to think of it as a verb… a kind of ‘doing’… just as waiting should be a ‘doing’.

Can you think of other situations in which we can actively wait and thus move forward rather than be a victim of  inactivity?

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“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.”

Isaiah 40:31a

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen thine heart.

Psalm 27:14a

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Inukshuk: You’re On the Right Path (Reprise)

I hope you won’t mind a reprise from my 2010 archives.

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They crop up in unexpected places – stacks of rough stones called inuksuit. They are Inuit symbols representing ancestors who learned to survive on the land.  In a harsh and unknown landscape sighting a familiar inukshuk (the singular of inuksuit) means,  “You are on the right path.” An inukshuk with arms pointing in a specific direction may indicate a safe navigation channel or mountain passage. Without arms it would likely mark the location of a food cache.

This one was on the northeastern shore of Howe Sound, and I wondered at its significance. Situated on the driftwood-strewn beach below well-kept gardens skirting the condominiums of Furry Creek, it apparently pointed in the direction of Woodfibre, a dismantled pulp mill community at the head of the Sound.  Fascinated, I took several photos on the way past, and more on the way back. Later in the day I realized my attraction was not so much to the figure but to its message. Like the inukshuk itself, what I took away was symbolic: You’re on the right path.

So is there anything to be learned from all this? For me it’s a reminder that with an appreciative heart and inquisitive attitude I can find encouragement for the journey all around me. God is good. :)

Have you had any epiphanies lately about the significance of unexpected encounters?

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Blessed is the man who finds wisdom,
the man who gains understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
[Proverbs 3:13-15]