“…congenial autumn”

‘Tis past! No more the summer blooms
Ascending in the rear,
Behold congenial autumn comes,
The Sabbath of the year!*

~  ~  ~

*A visit to the Country in Autumn by
Scottish poet John Logan (1747–88)

 

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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.

Clipper-2

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.

Clipper-4

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.

Clipper-3

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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Monday Distractions

Yes, it’s Monday again, and yes, I’m late with today’s blog post, but I was distracted by three things this morning, and it’s all Jan Drexler‘s fault. (Of course, my short attention span might have had something to do with it, too.)

First, was her Facebook post sharing an opportunity to query a particular publishing house. It caught my attention and I had to go investigate.

Then I came across her meatloaf recipe on Yankee-Belle Cafe’s website. Meatloaf is a favourite around here, but hers looked and sounded like something special so I had to take time to copy out the recipe. At the end she also posted a link to this beautiful song with graphics that took me right back into my morning devotions.

So here I am, an hour later, still without a blog post, and it’s time to get on to other things. Sorry! Maybe you’ll check out the links, get distracted yourself, and forget my shortcomings.

I’ll leave you with some shenanigans by two of my other Monday morning distractions. (Did someone say, “Squirrel”?)

This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

[Psalm 118:24]

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It’s all about communication

There’s a very nice little mailbox standing at the end of our driveway. It meets all the requirements that Canada Post has for an individual rural mailbox … but our mail is not delivered there. Instead, we walk or drive the equivalent of about three city blocks to where a set of group, or community mailboxes are located.

Mailboxes

It’s not a huge problem for us to pick up our mail there. We’ve been doing it for almost twenty years. But recently Canada Post changed its services and began phasing out home delivery even in the cities, causing much indignation from those who have always enjoyed the convenience of door-to-door delivery. It’s an economic move for Canada Post.

I understand their rationale, but this business of raising postage costs while reducing services has been going on for many years, and I’ve never understood why they think charging us more but offering us less is going to make them more money. The more it costs me to mail a letter, the fewer letters I mail, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. This has the potential of being a constant downward spiral!

I like the personal touch of handwritten cards and letters, but as they become more expensive, I resort more to e-mail and telephone calls. When I look at the number of people I contact regularly through e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter, I recognize the convenience and immediacy of digital communication with them has many benefits. I probably wouldn’t handwrite long, newsy letters every few days if I needed to seal pages into envelopes, affix a costly stamp, and trundle them off to the post box, then wait a week for them to be delivered. Instead, I resort to a quick few paragraphs on the computer or iPhone, press ‘send’ … and my message is instantly in a friend’s home to be read at their convenience.

Is it a better way to communicate? I don’t think so, but as long as Canada Post continues to make it more expensive, more difficult and more time consuming to do it ‘the old fashioned way’, I won’t hesitate to follow the digital trend.

As a writer, I think communication is a big deal, but I seem to be in the minority when it comes to the personal version. Even cursive writing and penmanship are becoming a lost art as they are being phased out of the curriculum in many schools. I sometimes wonder if there is a correlation between the decline in personal communication and the breakdown of social standards — i.e., lack of respect for other people and for public property, ignorance of etiquette and common courtesies, etc.

That may be taking it a little too far, but it’s food for thought.

One dilemma that the decline in personal communication creates is in novel writing, where rapidly changing technologies outdate what would otherwise be timeless stories. Any mention of faxes, cell phones, thumb drives or CDs, for instance, will sandwich a story firmly in a particular decade, and possibly make it less relevant to potential readers.

We’ve come a long way from author Jack Whyte’s “cold stone slab and a chisel”* but I’m not sure every step has been in a desirable direction.

How do you address constantly changing methods of communication in your novel writing?

* Jack Whyte, Surrey International Writers’ Conference 2014

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It’s September!

Yes, it’s September. We’ve all had our fill of long, lazy summer days and are more than ready to dive into fall schedules now… right? Ha! If you’re anything like me, you’re staring in disbelief at the calendar and whimpering, “What happened to June, July and August?” I’m still in mañana mode. 

Garden Flowers

Our summer baskets continue to bloom happily, beckoning me out onto the deck and into the garden. I’m not ready to settle down indoors and face the many tasks I’ve unintentionally ignored for the past several weeks.

The baskets were planned for their hardiness and cheery colour, with plants that included long-lasting shasta daisies, hardy geraniums, trailing golden bidens and tiny white bacopa. With a little slow-release fertilizer and a drip system of watering that my husband concocted, they’ve survived my normal summer neglect surprisingly well. I was quite pleased with them… until last weekend’s discovery.

On our recent journey over the Gray Creek Pass, somewhere around the 5000-foot level, we came across lush drifts of gentle colour and occasional splashes of vibrancy. Unplanned and untended, those wildflower displays rivalled the most beautiful of domestic gardens and far exceeded anything a gardener of my calibre could have created.

Alpine Floral copy

 

Indian Paintbrush

They made me wonder at the point of all my spring gardening efforts at home. That led to thoughts of other forms of neglected creativity, such as my well-intentioned writing efforts. Oh, I have been writing — a little — sometimes working on my new(ish) W.I.P. and other times fiddling with revisions on an earlier manuscript, but the results haven’t been very satisfying. Only a short piece that I wrote in a burst of unplanned enthusiasm feels like it has any real value, and I wonder why.

Maybe… is it because I try too hard to force the words I believe ought to go well together, instead of allowing wildness to invade the page?

This has nothing to do with plotting versus pantsing, but everything to do with inspiration and the freedom of true creativity. I’ve concluded that I can’t tell my brain what to dish up; I need to let it do its own work. As I slowly slip back into September’s familiar routines, I’m going to experiment more with free writing, and see if my creativity will respond favourably.

Does a new season provoke you to try something new? What are your September goals?

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