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.]
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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!

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Daisies are like sunshine to the ground.”

[Drew Barrymore]

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Resilience – in gardening and writing

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Information Overload

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It’s just a truck — this single vehicle that replaces all our other ones. Granted, it’s new, and we expected there would be some changes since years ago when we acquired our previous one, but things like a ‘Centre Stack‘ command module with touchscreen computer wasn’t one of them.

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And yet there it is, front and centre, almost as big as an iPad, telling us everything we need to know, and a lot we don’t. Bluetooth wireless connectivity wherever we go. Sheesh! It takes more programming than our home computers! Thankfully it came with a manual.

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The problem is, we can only read so much before our heads begin to swim with information overload. We forget which feature requires that we touch the icon for more than two seconds until a beep sounds indicating the setting has been saved, and which one will shoot past all the settings if you do more than touch it once lightly.

We’re learning that it’s best to deal with one feature at a time, on a priority need-to-know basis. We sit in the truck with the manual in hand and work through the necessary steps. At this rate, however, it might take until it’s time to trade it in again before we figure out everything.

I recall when some of my writing attempts made me feel equally uncertain. I read so many books on how to write, that when faced with a blank screen I wasn’t sure how I should proceed. Too much information had overwhelmed me and confused the process.

Now I just write. I do it while hoping that I’ve absorbed the most useful techniques enough to use them automatically, but knowing any necessary repairs will happen in stages during a later revision process. I’ll read the finished manuscript through multiple times, looking for specific shortcomings to correct each time. When I’m done, I’ve come to accept it still won’t be perfect, but it will be ready to face the scrutiny of my critique partners, who will undoubtedly offer additional advice for polishing.

I wonder if I could convince my critique group to meet in the truck for one session. They could browse the manual and offer suggestions for programming the Centre Stack display. I’d love some help in finding and setting my favourite radio stations from Sirius satellite’s choice of one hundred and twenty!

How do you deal with the ‘information overload’ syndrome?

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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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Sunshine and Shadows

“There are infinite shadings of light and shadows and colors … it’s an extraordinarily subtle language. Figuring out how to speak that language is a lifetime job.”

[Conrad Hall]

Sunshine and Shade

(Consider clicking on photo to enlarge.)

“Find beauty not only in the thing itself but in the pattern of the shadows, the light and dark which that thing provides.”
[Junichiro Tanizaki]
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[Today marks the beginning of my eighth blogging year.]
:)

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It’s way too hot! (What’s the symbol for Heat?)

Dusk is arriving, trying to fool me into thinking it’s a bit cooler. I’ve just come inside and I’m hot and tired, sitting here guzzling a glass of water.

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The flower baskets and parts of the garden have now had their daily dose of water … mostly just the annuals and the newest shrubs that might not make it through this heat wave without help. Hubby has measured the water in the well and it’s holding its own, but we never waste it on plants that can manage without it. The lawn is never watered. Most years it stays green anyway. This year it’s rapidly turning brown.

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There is one rose bush on our property but it doesn’t do well even when the weather is ideal. It sulks in the shade and acidic soil, but still puts out one or two pink blooms every summer. At least it has until now. Right now the bush has two or three leggy stems bearing only a few leaves and no buds. This summer might see its demise.

I don’t have a photo of any of its blooms. The one above is from the floral arrangement we were given to bring home from the recent wedding we attended. It was white while in bud, but opened to this gentle blush.

Roses have been long used as symbols of love and romance in a number of societies. According to Wikipedia, “Rose” actually means pink or red in a variety of languages, such as the Romance languages and Greek. *  I love the tea roses and the David Austin’s fragrant English roses.

Calla-1

On the deck where the wedding was held, the resort had large cedar tubs planted with Calla lilies. I’m told Calla lilies are a symbol of beauty, as well as of magnificence. **

Symbols are objects used to represent ideas or qualities. One source says symbolism is “an artistic and poetic movement or style using symbolic images and indirect suggestion to express mystical ideas, emotions, and states of mind. It originated in late 19th century France and Belgium.”

Symbolism exists in everyday life, for instance when we talk of doves being a symbol of peace or the colour black as a symbol of evil and death, but writers also recognize it as a literary device.

“To develop symbolism in his work, a writer utilizes other figures of speech, like metaphors, similes, allegory, as tools….

“Symbolism gives a writer freedom to add double levels of meanings to his work: a literal one that is self-evident and the symbolic one whose meaning is far more profound than the literal one. The symbolism, therefore, gives universality to the characters and the themes of a piece of literature.” ***

I wonder if symbolism is more common in certain genres. I expect it in poetry. I rarely utilize symbolism in my novel writing. Do you? My unconscious resistance may have something to do with a certain high school teacher whose mission was to make us examine in great detail every piece of literature in our curriculum. She insisted the authors wrote multi layers of meaning into each line and our duty was to determine what they were. It should have turned me off literature altogether, but I chose it as one of my majors. Maybe she was a better teacher than I believed at the time.

Think I’ll settle in with my book now and see if I can discern any symbolism. :)

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* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_(symbolism)

** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zantedeschia_aethiopica

*** http://literarydevices.net/symbolism/