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.

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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/

Discoveries and Ideas

We like to meander along unfamiliar roads and pathways. While we were travelling on the Sunshine Coast a week ago, we followed this country road until it finally ended at a private residence overlooking Jervis Inlet. Along the way there wasn’t much to see thanks to all the overhanging trees, but while we retraced the trip in the opposite direction we looked closer, and there were plenty of discoveries.

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Maple Road on the Lower Sunshine Coast

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Tall spikes of Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea)

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A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) on the lookout for lunch

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A patch of Oriental Poppies (Papaver orientale)

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An American Robin (Turdus migratorius) enjoying the dappled sunshine

We wouldn’t have noticed any of these delights if we hadn’t been looking for something. It’s not that we were specifically looking for any of them, but simply keeping our eyes open, watching with expectation.

One of the most common questions a writer is asked is where do our ideas come from. The best answer I can come up with is “everywhere in general and nowhere in particular.” Everything has potential as story material. Whenever my hubby sees something interesting or unusual, his first response is usually, “How can I turn that into a children’s story?” Mine is, “Surely I must be able to get a writing application out of that!”

The trick is not to just move through our daily existence, but to experience each moment of it with expectation. So much is there, just waiting to be discovered!

Did you discover anything new or especially interesting last week?

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“But blessed are your eyes because they see,
and your ears because they hear.”

[Matthew 13:16]

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So much promise…

My first peony of the season opened on Sunday. I’ve been keeping an eye on the buds as they show colour and swell with promise, but this one appeared while I wasn’t paying attention.

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The clematis are showing promise, too, but none of the buds have opened quite yet. (The banner photo is from last year.)

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So much promise! I love seeing all the spring newness as it happens. It’s hard to believe that in just two weeks — on Father’s Day — spring will be replaced by summer.

We’re already into a 30+ celsius week here, and the annuals that have burst into bloom in my baskets are dipping their heads against the oppressive brilliance and begging for extra drinks. It’s taking them a while to get accustomed to the sudden heat. (It’s taking me a while, too! I am SO not a lover of hot weather, but it sure gets those buds into bloom quickly.)

Seeing all the buds makes me think of ideas — those tight little word capsules that show up in a writer’s mind and tantalize with all their promise of what might be coming. It doesn’t help to be impatient when they’re slow to blossom into a potential story. It doesn’t help to focus on them, willing them into reality. Like a watched clock, they aren’t going to move ahead any faster for all our extra attention.

All the potential will surprise us, as the peony did, by simply showing up when the time is right, probably when we least expect it. At least, that’s been my experience.

How do your new ideas develop?

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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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