Watching and Waiting: a poem

You may be getting tired of my bear photos, but I’m hoping you’ll bear with me a little longer. (I honestly didn’t intend that to be a pun!) I’ve been taking part (after a fashion) in a book study being done by a group of us on Facebook, organized by Sandra Heska King. The book is MAKING MANIFEST: on Faith, Creativity and the Kingdom at Hand, by Dave Harrity. ‘Taking part’ is presumptuous… an over-statement. I’m barely auditing the participation of others, reading portions as I have time, skipping bits, or re-reading others that particularly appeal to me.

There is an exercise for each day, a prompt provided, meant to stimulate a response to the day’s chapter. Day #21 was about “Making New: Bear [or bare] yourself before the page, wait, be patient. Ask for something impossible. Come to the desk [or the yard] for renewal,” and we were asked to write a ten-line poem that features an animal.

It made me think of our recent visiting bear, waiting for her invisible cub to finish its nap, hidden away behind the greenery. Thus my ‘bearwatch’ poem was born.

I don’t write much poetry, but I believe the required spontaneous creativity has a spin-off effect on my other writing. How about you? Do you ever write poems? Do you prefer the tidy, measured, rhyming kind, or the more emotional free verse? If you’d like to try your hand at this exercise I’d love it if you’d add a poem in the comments section below. (I won’t critique yours if you don’t critique mine.) 🙂

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WATCHING AND WAITING

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Patience stretches time

into moments undone

unseen

hidden in green

waiting while a babe restores.

We would do well to emulate

watch and wait

and be recreated

a child of God

in His endless time.

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(Carol J. Garvin for the ‘Making Manifest’
book study group’s Day #21 exercise)

A not-terribly-useful photo journal of a morning in my life…

Bear 6Some days I approach the writing of my blog post wondering what I can say that will be meaningful, or interesting, or useful. What bit of wit or wisdom will make you feel it was worth your while to stop here? My tidbits about the craft of writing are gleaned from personal experience and can’t be counted on as professional expertise. My life isn’t full of extraordinariness that makes it much different from anyone else’s. My efforts at photography are hit and miss at best. I take oodles of shots, and discard most, but I present you with the few that suitably illustrate my topic du jour.

My problem today? No ‘topic du jour’ will come to mind! I have no brilliant writing analogies, and my days recently have been pretty ordinary. However, I DO have some photos I can share, not because they’re particularly great photography, but because the subject matter is pretty spectacular… at least, it is to me, given it was shot in my own backyard.

I’ve mentioned before that we live more-or-less rurally, in a cul-de-sac, but one where the few homes are surrounded by woods and marshland. All manner of wildlife wander through en route to wherever. Wednesday the biggest bear yet came through… but she stayed. And stayed.

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My hubby yelled at her when she started up the stairs to the deck, so she backed off. Instead, she wandered around the lawn and through the gardens. She climbed high into one of the very tall (200′) evergreens and then backed her way down again. She laid down and grazed on the grass, got up and wandered some more, repeatedly… for eighty minutes! (I know that because I checked the time stamps on the first and last of my 100+ photos.)

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She didn’t DO anything, but neither did she seem inclined to leave.

Then, after keeping us entertained for eighty minutes, she took one last stroll through the garden shrubs, turned and headed with determination across the yard towards the trail to our marsh… this time followed by a little cub who materialized from behind a rhododendron and scrambled to keep up!

 

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Our best guess for the prolonged visit is that, en route to wherever, it must have been time for the cub’s morning nap. Mama Bear had deposited him there, out of sight just above the creek, and left him to snooze while she put in the time munching and mowing our unkempt lawn, and posing for her extensive photo opp.

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(If you’d like a closer look, click on the photos to enlarge)

I’m left with an abundance of photos and memories of this close-up wildlife encounter, but I still don’t have a useful Friday post for you. Nothing brilliant has emerged from my boggled brain, so I hope you’ll be satisfied with this photo journal and feel your visit here hasn’t been entirely in vain.

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“Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth,
and makes us wiser than the fowls of heaven?”

[Job 35:11]

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Seeing the bright side in the unexpected

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Nothing has gone quite as our son and his wife have expected recently. They are in the process of a move and it seems like everything that could go wrong, has. Late yesterday afternoon they were on their way to the Lower Mainland with their truck loaded and towing a trailer with our vintage Jeep. On a busy section of Hwy #1 one of the trailer tires blew. They managed to safely navigate across three lanes of traffic and pull onto the shoulder to change the tire. It was hot and they were exhausted but there wasn’t much they could do but get the job done and move on.

What do they remember most? The kindness of a tow truck driver who had been travelling in the opposite direction and noticed their situation, came back to park strategically behind them to shelter them, while offering a bit of assistance for which he refused any payment.

Earlier yesterday I was doing some beta reading for a friend. Some mornings I would be out on the deck, but this time I chose to sit in the family room, just inside our open patio door. The fresh morning air had been pleasant, but the day was beginning to heat up. My hubby checked the temperatures inside and out and decided it was time to shut the door.

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Less than three minutes after closing it, a shadow caught my eye and I discovered a rather large black bear just outside the door! It’s not the first time bears have made their way onto the upper deck — last spring three of them decided to empty the birdfeeder that hung in the corner — but there was no such attraction this time. Fortunately he didn’t stay. I yelled and he left, although he wasn’t in any hurry. I caught this photo through the kitchen window as he ambled past the garden, down to the creek and across to the neighbour’s property.

My hands trembled for quite a while afterwards but I was extremely thankful that my hubby had closed that door, and  I hadn’t been left with only the screen between us. Just three minutes earlier….

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Yesterday on Facebook Jessica Morrell quoted Guy Finley, a Zen humanist: “Your feelings about the world you see, with all of its confusing colors and schemes, are all reflections of your own internal life. You meet and see only yourself wherever you go. Nothing else. And that’s such an important lesson.”  Jessica had mixed feelings about it  and during the discussion I replied, “I don’t think people mirror our inner selves, but I do think most people respond to us in a manner that reflects our attitudes and expectations.” 

Our son could have complained about his bad luck. I could have ranted about the boldness of a local bear. Would it have helped? It wouldn’t have changed anything other than perhaps to make us more miserable and unpleasant to be around.

I follow several literary agents’ blogs and am always surprised at the attitudes some people display in their comments. No one likes to have their writing submissions rejected, or their requests for representation denied, but shifting the blame onto people in the publishing industry isn’t going to help get them what they want. As someone said, “Just suck it up and move on!”

Maybe it’s a “glass half full versus glass half empty” thing, but much of life is about attitudes and expectations. Then again, someone else said, “Whether your glass is half full or half empty isn’t the question. It’s obvious the glass wasn’t full in the first place, so pour yourself some more!” Now that’s a positive approach. 😀

Have you checked your “glass” lately? How’s it looking?

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“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.”

Proverbs 15:13 

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Just bearing with it!

For all of the almost-seventeen years we’ve lived in this rural neighbourhood, we’ve coexisted with the wildlife. The deer eat some of our garden plants which I replace with ones they don’t like. The coyotes occasionally keep us awake at night, and raccoons play Peeping Tom through the patio doors. A few closer-than-desirable encounters with bears on our deck are memorable, but there’s never been any real problems.

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We’ve learned to remove the birdfeeders before bears come out of hibernation in the spring, and to keep the temptation of garbage to a minimum. The acreage isn’t fenced, but we have a fenced dog yard, and in one nook  next to the house garbage cans have been contained in a wooden bin. Only recently did a bear decide to brave the dog scent and scale the fence to investigate the garbage.

Apparently on Friday night he had a midnight craving for our leftovers. I had words with him when he began flinging the cans against the house in an effort to dislodge their secured lids.

The phrase ‘Mexican standoff’ comes to mind. He ignored me, but he didn’t get the lids off, either. However he did manage to pry them up far enough to drag the contents out onto the ground before they snapped closed again. When I rapped on the window above his head and flashed the lights at him, he eventually ambled away… towing a couple of the garbage bags with him as he clambered over the fence, through the back yard and into the bush. Of course the bags snagged on the fence so the resulting mess was greater than if I’d left him to his munching undisturbed.

One day I’ll learn. In the meantime the garbage cans have taken up residence inside the garage where I must edge my way around them en route to the car, because there is absolutely no extra space in our garage. If you could do a better job of organizing our truck, van, Model A, lawn tractor, snow blower, fifth-wheel trailer hitch, freezer, pump organ, work bench and garden tools… well, you’re welcome to try… but that’s why the garbage bins were outside in the first place. I think I’m resigned to just bearing with it until winter freeze-up and hibernation begin again.

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Lineup at the Non-existent Birdfeeder and Breakfast Bar

The first seconds after I waken from a deep sleep are always fuzzy, so Friday morning when the birdfeeder that hung a few inches outside my bedroom window began to rattle and zing, I muttered into my pillow about energetic Jays and their pre-dawn appetites. Not that I said anything quite that polite. It was more like, “Those blasted Jays!”

When the rattling became a bang and a clunk, however, I got up to peer through the blinds at the offender. Offenders. There were three of them. Definitely bigger than Jays.

“Barely” visible in the predawn light.

Our place is surrounded by woods, and bears amble through our yard at least once every summer. We don’t have fruit trees or garden produce of much interest, so they’ve never lingered or caused us a problem. Well… only once was I startled to look out my office window straight into the face of a bear who was searching for a wooden birdfeeder we’d taken down earlier that day. It was empty and had been tucked behind some flower pots on the deck, right underneath the window. At the sight of each other we both fled in opposite directions, me away from what seemed like the cellophane-thin pane of glass between us, and him off the deck.

Banished to make do with the gleanings.

We know they like bird seed — they consider it gourmet granola — so at the first bear sighting each spring we always put the feeders away until the next winter. This time the bears found the feeder first. When they couldn’t flip the seeds out of it fast enough, they yanked it and the hanger with its screws right out of the wall, dumped it out and then climbed down off the deck to lick up the spillage.

I’ve never heard bears snarl before, but apparently the hungriest, or the alpha male (or female) wasn’t inclined to share, so a brief argument ensued. One loser scrambled away into the bush, and the second snuffled random seeds from around the perimeter while the third scarfed up the main meal — what would have been almost four litres of seed since the feeder had been filled just the evening before.

Chowing down underneath our bedroom window.

There was no opportunity to wean the birds from their heretofore bottomless breakfast bar, so over the weekend there has been a steady procession of them. They peck at the few remainders scattered on the railing and in the gravel below, or sit on the railing and peer with confusion at where the feeder use to be.

Hey! Where’s the birdfeeder gone?

I’ve found some dregs down here in the dirt.

Where? What’s it doing down there?

You’ve got to be kidding! There isn’t enough here to keep me going until dawn.

Pretty slim pickings! And you thought I was to blame for this?

The hummingbirds are the only winners. They have zipped past the mournful lineups to slurp nectar in greedy disregard for the other birds who will eventually find their way around the neighbourhood in search of a better-stocked seedy buffet.

What’s everyone complaining about? Mine’s still here. Yum!!

There is no writing application to this tale. It’s a bit of birdie chitchat intended only to describe why I went through my weekend doing very little writing but a lot of bird watching. I’ve been keeping an eye out for returning bears, too.

Then there was Sunday. It ended with the stunning and totally unexpected arrival of a 1930 Ford Model A in our garage. But that’s a story for another post.

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So how was YOUR weekend? Did you do anything special — maybe get to sleep in? If you did, I don’t want to hear about it! 😉

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Keeping Our Facts Straight

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Although I’m not eager to encourage bears near the house, I love to watch birds. Unfortunately, attracting them with strategically located bird feeders has the side effect of also catching the attention of hungry bruins looking for tasty granola-style morsels, as I mentioned in a earlier post. We no longer keep the feeders out during the summer, but wait until hibernation time before refilling them.

Natural sources of food around here also appeal to both birds and bears. We have a row of blueberry bushes bordering the garden, but rarely get to enjoy the berries before they are stripped off. I sometimes wonder why we bother to keep the bushes, but when they burst into their autumn colours I remember why.

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Our garden wasn’t planted with wildlife in mind, but it still seems to provide a menu enjoyed by butterflies, birds and black bears. One tree, not on our property but in the neighbourhood, is often host to a number of varied thrush – a ‘Pink Pagoda’ mountain ash. They weren’t visiting when I snapped this shot, but I’m sure they’ll be back, and even without them the tree is glorious.

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As I worked through the revision of a novel scene, I was reminded that it helps to have knowledge of the local flora and fauna when including them in a story’s setting.  Author credibility is jeopardized when we place grizzly bears instead of black bears, or wild scarlet indian paintbrush flowers in the suburbs of a southern BC city. We’d better go back and do our homework if we think we can show a heavily spotted bobcat racing over deep snow on his large paws.

We may resent the constant admonitions to write what we know, but there’s no disputing we’d better have our facts right.

Did you know it’s the lynx that has large feet and can cope with deep snow, not the bobcat? What kind of localized details are important in your current w.i.p.? How do/did you research for their accuracy?

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