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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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
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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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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?

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

[Hebrews 11:1]

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The Harmony of Words

If you look back, you’ll notice the titles of my recent posts seem to have a common theme: music, rhythm, and now harmony. I’ve been relating those themes to our writing.

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Much of this past weekend has been spent with family. Four generations of one branch came together to celebrate Easter at our son’s home. My hubby and I were the oldest; this smiling wee miss was the youngest. In fact, at just eighteen months, she is currently the youngest member of our entire clan.

When I reflect on the weekend, after the cross and resurrection, I think of family. It’s hard not to remember the food, too — turkey and ham with all the trimmings that accompany a sumptuous meal, mugs of coffee and multiple desserts. The next day’s leftovers were unforgettable, too — a help-yourself lunch with heaped plates taken out on the deck to consume in the warm sunshine. And at random moments there were always chocolate morsels to unwrap and pop into one’s mouth.

After the church services, with their prayers, praise and singing, there was a dishwasher to be loaded, emptied, loaded and emptied again, and pots to wash. There were repeated attempts to convince the dog to stay out of the kitchen, bubble blowing sessions on the front porch, and storybooks read by conscripted aunts and uncles, and, inevitably, the usual spills to wipe up before someone walked through them.

It was typical family stuff, but it was memorable because of the harmony. Good-natured banter, frequent hugs and laughter. Our faith and a common appreciation of the Easter events that drew us together. It was a weekend warmed by love and harmony.

Harmony is hard to define. In music we think of a pleasing blend of sounds or the absence of discord. There is a comfortable sense of balance when the parts meld into the whole. In real life it’s all that, and more, but what about in our writing? How is harmony achieved by words? I believe it’s one of those illusive things, like voice, that we can’t easily describe but must experience. We know it’s been achieved when a story leaves us satisfied.

Is harmony something you strive for in your writing? Harmony can be expected in the romance and inspirational genres, but do you think it needs to be present in others? In mysteries? In science fiction?

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Come away…

Do you remember those first-day-of-school essays? The ones that asked, “What did you do last summer?” Today I’m sharing a photo essay about what I did last weekend.

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“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place
and rest a while.”

[Mark 6:31]

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On Friday I mentioned that I was gearing up for the annual March Madness writers’ challenge. All the details, and the place to sign up and record your goal for the month, is on Denise Jaden‘s blog. But if you’ve already signed up, plan to take a moment each day to check in with the ‘host of the day’ to receive a message of encouragement and to share your day’s accomplishments (or frustrations, as the case may be). Today’s Monday, so be sure to click on over to Kim Baccellia‘s blog here for #MarchMadness Day #2.

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Super, Black and Blue, Full and New

No, I’m not bruised. I’m referring to the moon. There hasn’t been one visible in recent night skies. I would have called it a New Moon, except I read that “the third new moon in an astronomical season with four, is called a ‘Black’ moon”, and Wednesday, February 18th was a ‘Black’ one.

I’ve taken photos of Super moons, Blue moons, and just plain full moons, but a Black one defies my abilities, thus my photo of a near-full one instead. (I know, that makes no sense at all. Cut me some slack! It’s all I could come up with.)

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Wednesday also marked the beginning of Lent, the period prior to Easter when “we journey through Jesus’ adult life as he reveals to us who God is and how much God loves us.”* Somehow it seems fitting that we should begin Lent in darkness. There will be full moons between now and Easter, of course, but consider this: on April 4th there will be a full moon accompanied by a total lunar eclipse — that’s on the eve of Easter Sunday, which falls on the 5th.

I expect it will bring home the reality of the Easter scriptures.

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When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

[Psalm 8:3-4, NIV]

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 * Pastor Gerard Booy,
Haney Presbyterian Church

Finding inspiration

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One of my newest treasures is this hand stitched Double Irish Chain scrap quilt made by my aunt. She was 86 at the time. It took her two years, and I believe was the last one she made. I apologize for the cliché, but it truly is a work of art.

She had a sewing machine, but it was too heavy to lift from the cupboard shelf, so she decided she would sew the quilt entirely by hand, just as her mother and her grandmother had, and as she had done before. She said if she’d realized at the beginning, however, just how much work this one was going to be, she might not have undertaken it.

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I wonder if that isn’t true for many novelists, too. Few realize how much work will go into producing 90,000 ‘just right’ words, until ‘The End’ is staring back at us from the page. If we knew how much effort and time it was going to take, and the possibility that it would never be of publishable quality anyway, would we even begin?

While some might not, I believe the dedicated ones would, simply because they have a creative spirit and the desire to try. The drive to produce something special, something of significance, has to be followed by the determination to make a start. Then, word by word, stitch by stitch, we keep going. We know our earliest creative attempts aren’t going to be perfect, but only by learning and experience will we improve, and we have to begin somewhere.

Like playing a concerto, hand stitching an intricate pattern, or painting a masterpiece, writing an outstanding story takes more than desire. It takes ability, dedication, perseverance, and very hard work.

I’m not there yet as a writer, but the exquisite beauty created by my Aunt Norma inspires me to continue on my journey.

What inspires you in your creative pursuits?

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“For everything that was written in the past
was written to teach us,
so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures
and the encouragement they provide
we might have hope.”

[Romans 15:4]

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 (Photos by Norma McGuire)