Still Saturday: a Sunbeam’s Kiss

THE HUMMINGBIRD

The sunlight speaks. And its voice is a bird.

It glitters half-guessed, half seen, half heard

Above the flower bed. Over the lawn…

A flashing dip and it is gone.

And all it lends to the eye is this –

A sunbeam giving the air a kiss.

Harry Kemp

~

~  ~  ~

.

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.

~

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! 😉

~  ~  ~

Knowing when to turn your back

One of the downsides to reading blogs and books on the craft of writing is the quantity of advice that can be accumulated. It’s all valuable, but sometimes it’s all too much! There comes a point when we have to turn our backs on the information and venture off on our unique writing journey.

I have several sources I’ve trusted to help educate me on what constitutes good writing, but every so often I reach for my keyboard (or pen), and freeze. Where to start? What to include? How to best tell this story?

It’s not writer’s block, but a temporary, immobilizing panic, and it can happen whether I’m facing the first draft or the umpteenth revision — an agonizing paralysis while I hover on the edge of uncertainty, wanting desperately to get it right.

There’s only one way to move past this point. I have to make it personal. I remind myself that it’s a matter of trusting my instinct. That, and knowing if I’m not totally happy with the words I’m about to place on the page, I can exercise my control of their destiny and delete them.

The whispering Inner Critic that suggests I’ll never get the words right has to be ignored. I turn my back on the confusion of information gleaned from writing books and helpful blogs, plop a smattering of thoughts onto a page and give them permission to take flight. Without self-censoring I just write, because the only way to know whether the words will be worthy or not, is to fling them out where I can see them … give them wings. Once they’re on the page they can be fixed. But there’s no hope for them when left locked behind a paralyzed pen.

Am I alone with this phenomenon or do you sometimes face a similar moment of anxiety? Does ‘free writing’ help loosen your Inner Critic’s grip? What other ways do you have of dealing with it?

 ~

But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”
that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim. 

Romans 10:8 (NIV)

~  ~  ~

Using Photography in Writing

.

Not everyone who writes wants to create their own photos to accompany articles and blog posts, and with the availability of free graphics online, it’s relatively easy to find suitable illustrations when we need them.

Photos are often the inspiration for my posts here. I look through my digital albums until I see one that suggests a topic or potential analogy. Occasionally I take specific shots to illustrate an existing idea, but I’m a shameless shutterbug, snapping everything that catches my attention whether it has merit or not. You just never know….

Magazine editors seem to appreciate my offer to provide a few related photos when submitting material, and not long ago even used one as cover art. But I’m not a great photographer – I discard more photos than I keep, and often wish I had the talent of people like Susan Etole, Sandra Heska King and Ann Voskamp, or my daughter Shari Green and cousin Gary McGuire, whose photos always make my breath catch.

For decades I was content with my 35mm SLR camera until, eight years ago, we were given a digital – a Pentax Optio 33L – as a retirement gift. I was ecstatic with its 3.2 megapixels and 3x optical zoom and have used it extensively, totally content with its capabilities and portability.  This weekend, however, I received an early birthday gift… a new digital camera. It isn’t highly sophisticated as cameras go, but with 16.2 megapixels and 30x zoom, my new Sony Cyber-shot has features that I’ll probably never fully learn how to use, while still being small enough to take everywhere. Besides taking the usual still shots and movies, it records in HD and 3D, and even has GPS!  I just have to figure out how it works. It has ‘auto-intelligence’ that is much smarter than I am!

I like its ‘soft skin mode’, which will be great for portraits of grandchildren… maybe not a good choice for bird shots, but hey, I’m experimenting.

So tell me, do you think articles and posts are enhanced by the addition of graphics and photos, or most times is the text sufficient on its own? If you use photos, do you take your own or borrow from another source?

~

Humming along…


Beautiful flashes of brilliance catch my attention as two hummingbirds hover close to the window, scanning the blossoms in our hanging baskets. They are Rufous Hummingbirds, the male suitably attired in rusty feathers with an iridescent red throat and his female companion wearing green with dainty iridescent orange at her throat.

At barely three inches long and weighing three-to-four grams, they are the tiniest birds in existence but their apparent fragility is misleading. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology calls them the feistiest species in North America, “relentless attackers at flowers and feeders.” On our deck they aggressively dart at others in defense of their right to an exclusive buffet meal.

I’m amazed at the energy these tiny airborne jewels expend, whipping their little wings at sixty-or-so beats per second. They eat their body weight in food each day and become torpid at night to conserve energy. If adequate food and shelter are available they can tolerate temperatures down to -20°C. but usually make an annual migration run that takes them almost 8,000 miles clockwise around western North America. Some live over a decade and use their remarkable memories to return every year to the same location and feeder.

They are fascinating, belligerent wee beings and I love watching them flit back and forth from the trees, hovering in place or even flying backwards as they jockey for position at the feeder.

Part of my fascination is in realizing how persistent and enduring Hummingbirds are despite their diminutive size.  They don’t let their limitations become an excuse, but persevere against the odds, sometimes travelling incredible distances to reach their goals.

Let’s see now, do you suppose there’s a lesson to be learned from them?

.

Photos courtesy of Ryan Bushby and Sberardi

.