Skipping the present to get to the future

There’s frost here this morning. Our shake roof glistens white in the sunshine, and trails of mist play at the edges of the marsh. An e-mail from family in the southeastern corner of the province brought photos of their first major snowfall — 22 cm that delighted the children but required plowing at 5 a.m. to ensure everyone could get to work and school.

I love the early fall, when bright colours dapple the landscape. It’s my favourite season.

Geese on the go in the Fraser Valley

Geese on the go in the Fraser Valley

Fall on the Fraser River

Fall on the Fraser River

Mist on our lake in BC's Cariboo

Mist on our lake in BC’s Cariboo

I’m not so enamoured by late fall. We west coasters know that many weeks of grey skies and constant rain are on the horizon. But if I dwell on what is to come, I won’t fully appreciate the present.

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When it comes to my writing, during November if I’m not revising one particular manuscript I’m working on the first draft of another. That one is still new and I don’t have a clear view of its ending. As I work on preliminary scenes I’m sometimes tempted to skip ahead and try to figure out exactly how my characters solved their dilemma. However, to do so would mean missing the excitement of discovery along the way. For now, I plan to focus on the present and worry about how the future unfolds when the time comes.

There are many different ways of constructing a novel. What’s your process during a first draft?

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A Little Seasonal Meandering


Sharing another post from the archives.

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A friend of mine dreads autumn because it heralds the coming of winter, which she hates. To me that’s like not wanting summer to come because Thanksgiving will follow, or disliking spring rains because of the impending summer’s heat. At first glance it’s irrational. I do understand, however, that for this friend winter means more hours of darkness and nasty weather, both of which keep her housebound. So I shouldn’t belittle her dread.

While I’m not a winter sport enthusiast, living someplace where the weather is consistently warm doesn’t appeal much to me either. I love the diversity of our seasons. I’m not sure which is my favourite. In March I claim spring is — the season of discovery with all its new growth, vibrant greens, and the return of birds, bees and butterflies. By June I’m praising sun-soaked days in the garden and anticipating vacation time at the lake. September replaces summer’s laziness with a crisp edge of colour, energizing me into more ambitious pursuits. Then December arrives and amid the inconvenience of blustery weather there are cosy sweaters, fireside visits, the wonder of Christmas, silent snow-filled January skies. Winter’s a time to hunker down and plan ahead — plan for the coming springtime.

The orderly rotation of seasons gives a sense of permanence to life.

Today I think autumn is my favourite season.  I think I’ll go for a walk through our rain-washed woods to inhale the earthiness and admire all the turning leaves.  I’ll complain about raking them up later.

Which is your favourite season? And, just to be ornery, what DON’T you like about each season? Do you find it easier to settle down to your writing in one season better than in the others?

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“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” (Eccl.3:1)

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Imperfections in Life and Writing

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The autumn colours entice my camera and me out onto woodland paths where vine maples are showing off.

Returning to the back yard I check the lone tree that stretches toward the garden from within the woods. Its colours are changing, too, but I’m disappointed to find a brown blight that spots its leaves.

It has always been spindly, so often nodding in the shade with only a small section able to reach out to the sunlight. The rest of the trunk is perpetually shadowed by crowding evergreens, its roots covered by creek dampened and mouldering debris. Most years the leaves manage to remain clear, but not this year, and I wonder why. There is still a rustic beauty in the etched colours, but it’s blemished. I resolve to clear away the smotherings and try for a better result next year.

I wonder if God looks upon my life efforts, sees the blemishes and is disappointed in the the lack of loveliness in my seasons. Still… in all my imperfections I am one of his creations. Each new season is a fresh opportunity. Each day I can begin again.

There is a comparison in my writing as well — seasons when my well-intentioned writing has faltered and been less than stellar. I labour on to complete the draft, encouraged by the prospect of future revisions. I can make it better.

Renewal  ~  Repentance  ~  Revision

The ongoing cycle seeks to improve, reaching towards elusive perfection.

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Ten months of 2011 have passed. Do you notice things that you want to do differently ‘next time’?

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“For the Beauty of the Earth…”

During our travels this past weekend we climbed mountain passes where cooler temperatures had created autumn’s colours in all their God-given glory.

The first couple verses of Pierpoint’s hymn, “For the Beauty of the Earth” repeatedly sang themselves in my head and made my heart join in:

For the beauty of the earth,
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

For the wonder of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale and tree and flower,
Sun and moon, and stars of light;
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

 [Folliot S. Pierpoint]

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“O worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.”
[Psalm 96:9]

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 “One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.
They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and I will meditate on your wonderful works.”

[Psalm 145:4-5]

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Blackberry Memories

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Berries black and purple stain lips and fingertips as we pluck the heaviest from prickled vines, and eat twice as many as make it into the bucket.

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Blackberry picking still evokes memories of many island holidays — a bramble-lined, gravel driveway to the big green gate with a weathered ‘Westgyle’ sign…

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yellowed arbutus leaves crunching under foot,
rocky shelves of shoreline to explore, and
a point where, at night, we would lay on our backs
and search out constellations;
knee high meadow grasses that hid
an old abandoned well,
badminton birds smacked into branches
that overhung a dirt court
outlined with crushed oyster shells;
walks to the marina to spend the daily dime or quarter
on a handful of jawbreakers
or perhaps a bottle of soda pop.

 

The aroma of a fresh-from-the-oven blackberry crisp will always bring back late summer memories from long gone years, even though these berries were picked in a neighbour’s yard just last weekend.

As we move into the post-summer days of October, what memories do you have that linger and bring a smile?

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A Wet Welcome to Fall

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Rain spills from the sky, sloshing down my windows, washing away last month’s accumulation of dust, and puddling on the abandoned patio table. Trees reflect on the water-slickened deck, while tiny droplets hover on the edge of the eaves, swelling until they suddenly drip into oblivion.

Elsewhere leaves are watered off limbs and into the grass, scattering amber and gold and brown.

This is a time of melding. There is resignation contained in the day, regret for summer’s end. But there is rejuvenation, too. A new season begins… the one promised three weeks ago when we began returning to fall routines. I like a lot of fall’s promises: the visual echo of colours edged with crispness, the silence of sung-out robins replaced with honking geese, the coziness of feathery duvets shaken from closets.

There is a spillover into my writing – a fresh energy to accompany new words. Do you feel it, too?

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Whispers of Winter

 

Soft and silent snow

Aftermath of windswept flakes

Whispers of winter

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Lonely autumn leaves

Chilled by a crystal blanket

Drop dying colours

Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.

[1 Chronicles 29:12-14]

 

 

Autumn Nostalgia

On the way into town today leaves fluttered from trees and floated across the road in windy disarray. So many barren branches compared to just a week ago. Now that clocks have been turned back, the extra few minutes of morning light are welcome, but evening sunsets are too early. It’s hard to steel myself to face twilight before I’ve even had my dinner.

As we whizzed past winter-readied fields I thought of our own gardens with their mushy hostas and wilted lily spears, faded hydrangea blooms and brittle astilbe feathers. I’ve ignored the fall cleanup process in favour of NaNoWriMo writing. I’ll be sorry next spring when new growth struggles to emerge from under the debris.

Autumn Sky

Colour still haunts the few leaves clinging to our blueberry bushes, but the lilac shrubs are bare. There is melancholy in late fall – regret for the passing of another season – but it is tempered with the promise that after winter’s hiatus the cycle will begin again.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

(I Chronicles 16:34)

Discovering the Shadows

Writing discoveries sometimes come from strange sources. Late last week I wandered around our yard on a sunny afternoon, noting the decline of summer perennials and enjoying the few remnants of late fall colours.

The lilac leaves that usually provide a rich burgundy display were turning from green to yellow to dead on the ground.  A vine maple – wild, and the only one that has stretched its way into the garden from the neighbouring woods – was layered with red on top and bright yellow in the protected areas underneath. The burning bush shrub had yet to show signs of changing colour at all. And the Japanese maple near the post box was rapidly discarding its spiky pumpkin orange foliage.

Later as I sorted through the afternoon’s photos, I was disappointed to discover some were anemic even though the exposure was correct, while others were rich with colour and texture. It took me a minute to realize that shadows within the depths made the difference. Shadows enriched the sun-drenched colour.

That’s true in life, too, and also in our writing. Life’s shadows provide a backdrop to help us appreciate the highlights. In writing, the deeper nuances add subtleties to our characters and plots.

Do you search beneath the surface in life and writing for deeper meaning and enrichment?


Evening Light


Glimmers of golden sunshine slice through the woods, splashing stripes of light onto the lawn.  Beyond the trees the marsh will be aglow with sparkles tipping the ripples made by a dozen Mallards, glossy green and mottled brown, feeding in the grasses and reeds.

I heard the geese earlier. We have two pair that nest in the marsh each spring… one has made a nest directly on top of the beaver house and returns to it every year. I don’t know what the beaver think of that, but the geese apparently believe it’s the safest nursery in the neighbourhood.

When fall temperatures dip, some geese migrate south in their aerodynamic V-formations, but many Lower Mainland flocks simply relocate and settle into local parks and grasslands for the winter.  The honking heralds preparations for an early departure, confirming my fear that our season of summer is truly over.

I’m melancholic. It’s temporary because I love fall. I’m just not quite ready to let go of summer.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity…. [Ecclesiastes 3:1]

As summer transitions into fall, how is your mood affected?