Talk about cold feet!

You were duly warned. You were. I distinctly remember saying, “we’re probably doomed to an abundance of cruising analogies here for the next little while.”

Then I began browsing through the 500+ photos I took last week. A lot are just mediocre shots; I’ll undoubtedly trash a good many of them. But the odd one made me smile… made me remember the delight of discovery.

Below the massive Hubbard Glacier, casually riding a calved chunk of ice, was a gull who… in my mind, at least… had cold feet. She stood there for a time, then took off to flap circles in the sky before settling back on the iceberg. (I imagined she was getting her circulation re-energized.)

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Not far from the gull were two spotted ice seals who periodically slid off and then clambered back on an iceberg, eventually solving the problem of cold ‘feet’ by holding theirs aloft and resting on blubbered tummies.

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Yes, I realize I was letting my imagination run wild, but that’s what writers of fiction do. We imagine, ask “what’s happening?” and “why?” and sometimes make up fanciful applications.

For me, those ‘cold feet’ are reminiscent of my jitters when I think about sending my stories out into the world. After a little agitation I settle back into my office chair and go back to the more familiar environment of writing or revising, even if it’s not the most desirable place to be.

I think many of us accommodate the negatives in our lives by rationalizing and adapting instead of trying to overcome.

Am I wrong? (A better question might be, can you dream up a more reasonable analogy from these photos?) 😉

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Hanging in there on a Monday

It’s Monday again… and I imagine many of you went into it already counting down to Friday. I happen to like Mondays, but I’m probably an oddity. (Stop nodding your head and laughing!)  Living through the week while being focused on something else is a little like what our resident squirrel does.

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He took all winter to figure out how to work his way over the squirrel-proof bird feeder and reach the one beyond it that contains his favourite black oil and striped sunflower seeds.

Squirrel 2The problem is, he’s so enamoured by his discovery of the food, he sometimes forgets where he is.

Squirrel 3Squirrel 4He throws caution to the wind (along with a lot of millet) and neglects the important aspect of hanging on, occasionally slipping right off.

The fall to our deck is about seven feet, but if he misses that — and he often does — he falls fifteen feet to the gravel path.

Lack of focus may not be his problem so much as ineffective multitasking.

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“Didn’t your momma tell you it isn’t polite to laugh at others?”

So, about this yearning for Friday business…. maybe wishing the days away isn’t as wise as putting all you’ve got into the present, even when you’re planning ahead for the weekend.

I’m sure there must be a writing analogy in this, but I don’t know what it is. I’ll leave it to your imagination. Meanwhile, I’ll go back to burying myself in my March Madness and Speedbo writing. 🙂

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Campfire Musings on Life

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“Ohhhh!” A spark snaps from the embers and sizzles through the fleecy fabric of my shirt. I have a few sweatshirts and jackets that have been similarly annointed.  It’s just one of the hazards of sitting too close to a campfire — something I’ve been doing on summer nights for decades.

Fire

I love a campfire… its cheery crackling,  flickering colours, and toasty warmth. Oh, and S’mores, foil-wrapped potatoes (or cobs of corn) baked in the coals, flame-charred popcorn… what’s not to like? Fire is wonderful… that is, if it doesn’t get out of control. When I see scenes of forest fire devastation on TV, or drive through areas of blackened sticks that were once lush evergreen trees, and crumbled foundations of what were once homes, I am reminded of how fragile our control is over life and the environment.

Something else on television reminded me of that this week, too — the posthumous video made by Canadian microbiologist Dr. Donald Low, an advocate of assisted suicide. He isn’t the first dying person to argue for ‘the right to die with dignity’, that it’s his body and he has the right to say what happens to it and how his life will end. The weakness in that argument, at least from my perspective, is that our bodies are not ours. Even those who don’t believe in God can’t say they chose to be conceived, when or how they would be born, or what bodies they would have for the duration of their lifetime.

Life is a gift.  I didn’t always see it that way, but as a Christian, I’ve come to understand mine is a gift from God, infused with uniqueness and lent to me for my life’s duration. It is to be used much as in the Parable of the Talents* where the owner’s gold was put into the care of his stewards during his absence, to be used wisely and not wasted.

At life’s end I trust that the knowledge he has given to those in the medical profession will be used to keep me as comfortable as humanly possible until God decides it is my time to return to him.

Dignity isn’t found in legal lethal drugs. Who needs dignity, anyway. After all, what was dignified about the way we came into this life?

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I push my camp chair back a bit from the fire. The flames mesmerize me with their layers of colour. The hottest blaze blue and fiery embers darken, while newness flashes yellow white. Tiny flicks of rich colour feed from an unknown source, burn brightly and are soon gone.

Even as I loll in the welcome warmth, the bucket of lake water sits close by, ready to douse any wayward sparks. I may not have control over lightning strikes, but I am responsible for this circle of fire created by my own hand.

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“Do you not know that your bodies
are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you,
whom you have received from God?
You are not your own.”

1 Corinthians 6:19
* Matthew 25:14-28

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Fearing the transformation… writer to author

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Writers sometimes fear the very thing they earnestly desire… becoming a published author. It’s not a conscious fear, but a subtle concern over facing the unknown.

Writing in obscurity is easy. There are no expectations, no commitments, no deadlines. Some may putter for a decade or more on one or more manuscripts because it’s less stressful to keep writing than to try and put those words out where they will be scrutinized. There is worry about being judged and coping with their very private, introspective world becoming public. Yet the dream of publication remains.

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All changes, even the most longed for,
have their melancholy;
for what we leave behind us
is a part of ourselves;
we must die to one life
before we can enter another.

(Anatole France)

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The thing is, even published authors face doubts. They wonder about their ability to write another marketable book — one that is better than the one before — or was the initial achievement just a fluke? Can they fit the writing of something new into the daily schedule that now includes promoting the earlier book(s)?

There’s no magic remedy for the fear. Changing the status quo takes courage and effort. (I have to keep telling myself that! How about you?) There is no possibility of failure if an attempt at success is never made.

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Seeing the bright side in the unexpected

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Nothing has gone quite as our son and his wife have expected recently. They are in the process of a move and it seems like everything that could go wrong, has. Late yesterday afternoon they were on their way to the Lower Mainland with their truck loaded and towing a trailer with our vintage Jeep. On a busy section of Hwy #1 one of the trailer tires blew. They managed to safely navigate across three lanes of traffic and pull onto the shoulder to change the tire. It was hot and they were exhausted but there wasn’t much they could do but get the job done and move on.

What do they remember most? The kindness of a tow truck driver who had been travelling in the opposite direction and noticed their situation, came back to park strategically behind them to shelter them, while offering a bit of assistance for which he refused any payment.

Earlier yesterday I was doing some beta reading for a friend. Some mornings I would be out on the deck, but this time I chose to sit in the family room, just inside our open patio door. The fresh morning air had been pleasant, but the day was beginning to heat up. My hubby checked the temperatures inside and out and decided it was time to shut the door.

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Less than three minutes after closing it, a shadow caught my eye and I discovered a rather large black bear just outside the door! It’s not the first time bears have made their way onto the upper deck — last spring three of them decided to empty the birdfeeder that hung in the corner — but there was no such attraction this time. Fortunately he didn’t stay. I yelled and he left, although he wasn’t in any hurry. I caught this photo through the kitchen window as he ambled past the garden, down to the creek and across to the neighbour’s property.

My hands trembled for quite a while afterwards but I was extremely thankful that my hubby had closed that door, and  I hadn’t been left with only the screen between us. Just three minutes earlier….

Bear

Yesterday on Facebook Jessica Morrell quoted Guy Finley, a Zen humanist: “Your feelings about the world you see, with all of its confusing colors and schemes, are all reflections of your own internal life. You meet and see only yourself wherever you go. Nothing else. And that’s such an important lesson.”  Jessica had mixed feelings about it  and during the discussion I replied, “I don’t think people mirror our inner selves, but I do think most people respond to us in a manner that reflects our attitudes and expectations.” 

Our son could have complained about his bad luck. I could have ranted about the boldness of a local bear. Would it have helped? It wouldn’t have changed anything other than perhaps to make us more miserable and unpleasant to be around.

I follow several literary agents’ blogs and am always surprised at the attitudes some people display in their comments. No one likes to have their writing submissions rejected, or their requests for representation denied, but shifting the blame onto people in the publishing industry isn’t going to help get them what they want. As someone said, “Just suck it up and move on!”

Maybe it’s a “glass half full versus glass half empty” thing, but much of life is about attitudes and expectations. Then again, someone else said, “Whether your glass is half full or half empty isn’t the question. It’s obvious the glass wasn’t full in the first place, so pour yourself some more!” Now that’s a positive approach. 😀

Have you checked your “glass” lately? How’s it looking?

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“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.”

Proverbs 15:13 

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Fitting in or standing out — are we fictitious characters or our real selves?

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Some time ago there was a poster circulating on Facebook that said, “Why try to fit in when you were born to stand out?” I also have a poster in my office — I’ve mentioned it before — that says, “Be Yourself. An original is always worth more than a copy.”

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The truth of both axioms is obvious, and yet I’m not sure why I relate to them… why it appeals to me to have copies. It has something to do with believing I shouldn’t hide the authentic me behind a barricade.

Years ago I had a friend who understood how I felt. We would joke about how we hid behind brick walls and only occasionally pried a brick or two out so others could peek in for a glimpse. After we moved from that city I seldom saw her, and she’s been gone for many years now. I sometimes wonder if she allowed others beneath her protective surface or if most people missed out on getting to know the real person.

To figure out if anyone actually “gets” me would require understanding myself, and I’m not an introspective kind of person. Still, as an aspiring author, I wonder if my writing will allow readers access to me through my characters. (Scary thought!) Writers are often asked if they base their characters on real people, and it’s supposed to be true that we write a little bit of ourselves into all our protagonists, albeit unconsciously. In getting to know my characters I don’t recognize anything of myself in them, but since I don’t really know myself all that well, is it any surprise?

What do you think? Writer or not, how well do you understand yourself? Could you write yourself into a novel and have readers see the authentic you?

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“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

Psalm 139:14-16

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Simplicity

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Leonardo da Vinci

“Three rules of work:
out of clutter find simplicity;
from discord find harmony;
in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

Albert Einstein

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I believe that, just as the above is true in nature and work, so also is it in faith, life and writing. Simplicity is hard to define. It’s more than the lack of complexity, more than the lack of confusion. For some, it’s a way of thinking; for others it’s a way of living.

In writing, it’s the lack of artifice. But what else is it? How do you define simplicity in writing?

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The Precarious Part of Mondays


Monday. Ahhhh! 🙂

How many times have you heard me say I love Mondays? The promise of a new week, a fresh start, and a new page… the phrases may be clichés, but they’re all true… for me.

The problem is, not everyone feels this way. My exuberance can be grating for others.

Some people barely hang on through a week, desperately awaiting the arrival of Friday and a weekend break. When faced with the next Monday they heave sighs of resignation and begin the week’s countdown again.

It’s not just because of their ‘glass half full, or glass half empty’ outlook. For many people, life is filled with physical challenges, work-related stress and family anxieties. Or maybe it’s page after page on their calendar where every square is marked with a meeting, or some kind of church or parental commitment. Mondays mean returning to another round on the proverbial hamster’s wheel… the rodent’s version of a treadmill that goes on and on and never gets anywhere.

I’ve been there, but I admit to still loving my Mondays. It’s not that my calendar is totally empty now, despite being retired. Some days I still feel overwhelmed by life’s commitments, but I’ve learned to balance.

One year, somewhere between being a pastor’s wife, mother of four, owner/manager of a business and a member of various church and community organizations, I discovered the necessity of self preservation. Yes, God provides me with the resources to do all that He has commissioned, but He also created me human, not divine. I’m made with a body, mind and soul. My spiritual and mental selves need regular nourishment. My physical self needs certain things to function well, too, and my brain periodically has to step up and tell me when I’m depriving myself of those things.

A little TLC may feel self-indulgent, but it’s remarkable how the stability of my emotional and physical self tips precariously when I ignore the well being of any of my components.  I believe God expects me to take care of this vessel he created as his dwelling place, and to find the appropriate balance for my unique life. That balance has changed through the years, but in conjunction with time spent in God’s company, time spent in solitude has remained important.

Mondays are evaluation opportunities, chances to sort out the new week, its commitments, and my responsibilities. Beyond that, sometimes Mondays are do-absolutely-nothing days, sometimes they are full-to-the-brim days. Whatever they bring, Mondays are when I go into survival mode and make the choice of how I will cope with the rest of that week.

“When you have to make a choice and don’t make it,
that is in itself a choice.”

William James

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What affects your attitude about Mondays? Do you have a favourite day of the week? If you sometimes feel you’re balancing precariously what do/can you do to restore stability?  

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“My soul, be at rest in God alone, from whom comes my hope.”

Psalm 62:6

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A lesson from the birds

I didn’t intend to show you more birds today. Honestly, I didn’t! But yesterday ended up with so many of them making their presence known around here that I had to say something about it.

Palm Sunday began with a fresh snowfall (yes, I know… I thought it was a cruel April Fools joke, too), and birds swarmed the birdfeeder hanging from a corner of our deck – apparently frantic for extra calories to fight the chill.

But the pine siskin travels in flocks, so we’re not talking about our usual three or four birds flitting in and out as the chickadees and juncos often do. No, we had dozens. All at once. And with two sets of glass patio doors and eight windows rimming the deck, there were some collisions. Most resulted in nothing more than a few lost feathers, but one Junco sat, stunned, on the deck for an hour before he eventually got over it and flew away, and one Siskin had a head-on with the glass and died instantly.

They were greedy and grabbing, chowing down as if it were the only food they’d seen in weeks. When the chickadees and juncos arrived for their regular meal, they were chased off the premises. It reminded me of the occasional department store sale I’ve attended! Hands off! I saw it first!

Friday I quoted from Matthew 6:26-27 about how birds don’t sow, reap or store up food and yet God provides for them. But I have to say, the belly-up-to-the-bar and elbow-into-the-trough kind of behaviour those birds were displaying gives me reason to question the intended analogy.

I think greed and selfishness may be the most common of our human shortcomings. We’re a “me first” society, too often thinking of how to meet our own needs before considering the condition of others.

I’m not even going to try coming up with a writing analogy for this one. As we enter Holy Week maybe it’s appropriate that we look at a more personal application instead.

When our own desires and preferences are more important to us than maintaining harmony within a community – when we begin grasping at what satisfies us without any thought that it might upset others or be divisive – don’t we resemble a greedy flock of birds more than the image of God in which we were lovingly made?

Sorry. I’m having a little soapbox moment here. But I’m looking ahead to Good Friday, and it’s something to think about as we contemplate the sacrifice that was made for us.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.”

[Micah 6:8]

Escape Into Winter

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An escape route that leads nowhere

but away.

Some days

away is where I want to be.

I could slip from the room unnoticed

but not reach the bend

out of sight,

thanks to that fence.

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There is always a fence.

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(Click to enlarge)

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Eyes linger

where my feet can’t go.

There is perceived respite…

a moment of visual escape

in burnished branches and untouched snow.

A moment of tranquility.

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For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
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[Colossians 1:16-17]

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