Summertime & Keeping it Real

When there’s deep snow to slog through, I complain. When it rains for weeks on end, I complain. When hot sun arrives and pushes the thermometer up past the 30C degree mark, I complain. Apparently I’m hard to please. LOL.

After several days of suffocating heat, the summer solstice arrived today in delightful moderation — filtered sunshine, a breeze and 21C degrees. It couldn’t be more perfect.

(Lantana ‘Marmalade’)

My bare arms were even a bit cool as I sat out on the back deck this morning. (But I did NOT complain!) Now I’m doing a bit of writing and revising, and have suddenly been faced with the realization that in this current manuscript, my characters haven’t complained. Not once. That made me think back to the previous book. Did anyone complain in it? They argued (sometimes a lot), they objected to some happenings and reacted negatively to others, but I can’t recall anyone actually complaining.

I may have to go back and check, because reality says ordinary people always seem to find something to complain about — the weather, a child’s behaviour, the condition of lettuce at the grocery store. Even glass-half-full people don’t live every minute of every day in a Pollyanna glow.

As writers, we have the ability to create make-believe worlds where everything is the way we would like our lives to be. The main characters can always be thoughtful and kind in their interactions with other likeable characters (we’re not thinking of the villains at the moment), but how realistic is that? How credible?

When writing dialogue, it’s important to make our characters speak ‘normally’, which means they won’t always use full sentences, or show a clear step by step progression of thoughts. Colloquialisms and abbreviations will happen. To have them speak formally would make for a stilted conversation. A similar parallel occurs in how they live their lives. There are going to be occasional speeding tickets about which they will grumble. Granted, storytelling should minimize the mundane and stick to the important scenes that move the story along. But a glimpse into the everyday reactions of our characters is necessary to keep it real. It’s okay if they occasionally complain.

In a word or two, how would you describe your main character’s personality? How does that affect how s/he reacts to conflicts encountered in the story?

~  ~  ~

(Peony)

 

 

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A Strange Start to September

“Don’t ever open by writing about the weather,” the workshop instructor warned. “It’s deadly.”

Well, yes, I get that talking about the weather has been overdone. It’s a cliche. But these days it’s all I can think about. This is British Columbia’s west coast — what we locals often call BC’s rainforest — and yet once summer got underway this year, rainfall became all but non-existent. July and August were the driest in our recorded history, and September is starting out with another heat wave.

So you’ll have to forgive me for having hot sunshine on my mind. I can’t get into the mindset of the television broadcasters who keep mentioning that because it’s back-to-school time, the end of summer has arrived. No, it hasn’t! Even if it’s too hot, I’m not letting go of it until the bitter end.

The spiders obviously believe the untruth, since webs are popping up in all the wrong places. This one caught the mist from the hose while I watered begonias one morning. I’d be impressed by its beautiful symmetry if I didn’t know its rather large creator was lurking nearby.

Since we’re on a shallow well here, we don’t usually water the gardens, only the few annuals that are mostly in baskets and tubs on the deck. Once new shrubs and perennials are established, they’re on their own. I’m surprised how many survive despite being neglected.

There have been periods of smoky haze this summer — earlier from all the forest fires in central BC’s Cariboo and Chilcotin, and more recently from those in Washington and California. We missed our usual August vacation at our lakeside cabin in the Cariboo because access roads were under fire restrictions. The cabin itself has remained unscathed so far, so maybe this month we’ll get there. Or maybe not. The wildfires have been difficult to contain and the situation changes from day to day. I’ve heard some of them may continue to burn until next spring.

The southeastern section of the province is now also dealing with multiple wildfires and we watch with concern since we have family members in their path.

September is usually one of my favourite months of the year, but this one…? It’s off to a strange start.

~

What does September bring for you? Back to work? The usual schedules and deadlines? Or will this be the time you decide to find a better balance — time for commitments, time for yourself … body, mind and spirit?  

BALANCE

Life is a segway
If you let God handle it 
It balances out.

[Ashley Somebody] 

~  ~  ~

Fire!!!

Nothing speeds up the heart rate like hearing someone shout, “Fire”! It instantly generates visions of an out-of-control blaze, and right now there are several of them burning in our province.

Forest fires aren’t anything new here. Every summer lightning and human carelessness cause many hectares of land, trees and property to be destroyed. There are currently 167 wildfires burning in British Columbia. Since April 1, 2017, there have been a total of 616 wildfires in the province that have burned a total of 114,929 hectares.* It’s tragic, but it happens. It never seems personal until suddenly it is.

As of this morning, there are 39 evacuation orders and 24 evacuation alerts in place due to wildfires. Approximately 16,250 people are affected by the evacuation orders, the majority of them in BC’s Cariboo and Chilcotin areas. Nine sections of provincial highways are either fully or partially closed.*

Our off-the-beaten-path little Cariboo cabin is on the fringe of an evacuation alert which itself is behind the boundaries of an evacuation order and road closure. There’s no way to get to it now, and there’s nothing we can do to protect it, even if we could. We can only hope the winds won’t drive flames in its direction.

It’s not much of a cabin — more rustic on the inside than its exterior might suggest. It was built by my father and husband from wood cut on the land, slowly finished and furnished by family members over several decades, with used and free materials. It’s not insured because it’s worth nothing, and yet in sentiment and memories it’s worth everything to us.

Adjacent to the cabin and just across the creek is the home my parents built over fifty years ago — the only full time residence on the entire lake. They’ve been gone and their property sold and re-sold multiple times, but our cabin still makes it feel like “our” lake. It’s where we’ve been coming together as generations of a family since I was four years old.

Trees surround both properties, and indeed the whole lake, right down to the water’s edge. If the forest fires reach here, I can’t envision anything stopping them. I can’t envision what this secluded sanctuary would look like. I don’t want to envision it at all.

There are already people who have lost their homes and their livelihood. Several towns were given just ten minutes to evacuate. Businesses had to be abandoned. There are friends in the area whose total homestead and ranch are at risk. Our little cabin is insignificant in the overall picture of this disaster, but still … I can’t help selfishly hoping and praying it won’t be among the casualties.

In the meantime, I wait and write.

~  ~  ~

*Information from BC Wildfire Service

 

Time to tend the daisies

Always have something beautiful in sight,
even if it’s just a daisy in a jelly glass.

[H. Jackson Brown, Jr.]
.

Daisies

 

No daisies in jelly glasses adorn my desk, but there are several clumps in the garden, braving a renewed blast of summery heat.

On this last day of July I’m balanced on tiptoe, peering into August and realizing that summer is slipping away and there’s still so much I want to fit into my days before fall schedules resume. There’s writing to do and reading to catch up on, a puppy to play with (I’ve renamed him ‘Wild Child’!), and family gatherings to enjoy.

I’m devoting all of August to such things, so you won’t see me here on the blog or on Facebook very often. I’ll be picking lots of daisies and smelling the roses. 🙂

However you’re spending your summer, I hope it’s doing the things you like best — and don’t forget to always keep something beautiful in sight!

~

Daisies are like sunshine to the ground.”

[Drew Barrymore]

~  ~  ~

Resilience – in gardening and writing

Hydrangea-Lacecap

If you’re a gardener, ‘Lacecaps’ and ‘Mopheads’ will likely be familiar terms. They describe the two main groups of hydrangeas within which there are several different species and varieties. And that’s just about all I know about hydrangeas!

DSC05937On second thought, that’s not entirely true. I know that many of the varieties are sensitive to soil pH and the colour of the blooms reflect that. In acidic soils like ours, even when I plant pink varieties, the flowers usually revert to blue. In alkaline soils they’re more likely to stay pink. If you prefer the blue you can add soil sulfur, or to encourage the pink colour you can add lime.

I also know my hydrangeas prefer more shade than sunshine, and they would like more water than I give them.

Blowsy blossoms explode their summery colours in many gardens, and most look much better kempt than mine. It hasn’t helped that the bears romped through the garden bed this spring and broke branches on one of the blue bushes. It now has a decidedly bedraggled and lopsided look … but it’s blooming.

The thing about hydrangeas is that they’re survivors. Despite all the neglect and abuse, every summer they put renewed effort into providing colour. Even if their branches die, I can cut the plants down to the ground and so far they’ve always come back. That says a lot about their resilience … and their persistence.

I think that makes them a suitable floral emblem for writers. No matter the treatment, the rejections and resulting discouragement, we can always pare down to the essentials and start again. Given time, the regrowth may even turn out better than the original.

DSC05936 - Version 2

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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.

DSC05817-a

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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