Will it be survival of the fittest or of the most diligent seeker?

Nobody’s very happy about it. When a bear and her cub found their way into our back yard last week, I knew it was past time to put away the bird feeders for the summer. But you should see the looks I’ve been getting…

1-Junco

 

Jay

 

Flicker

 

Grosbeak

 

Thrush

Sorry guys, but this lunch counter is closed for the season. There’s lots of nibblies out there, but you’re going to have to find them for yourselves.

 

Squirrel
Ah, c’mon now, it’s not that bad. After all, the one who’s responsible for the sudden closure managed to find an acceptable alternative.

9-BearGrass

If there’s to be any kind of writing application in this, I’d say it has something to do with accepting that there’s no free lunch along the road to publication. We simply have to knuckle down and put in the work ourselves.

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Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.

Genesis 1:29-30

 

He has given food and provision to those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him; He will remember His covenant forever and imprint it [on His mind].

Psalm 111: 5

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The squeaky wheel… or bird!

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Depending on where you look, you can find various definitions of raucous:

  • making or constituting a disturbingly harsh and loud noise;
  • loud and unpleasant to listen to;
  • behaving in a very rough and noisy way;
  • disagreeably harsh or strident;
  • hoarse, screeching, squawky, grating, jarring, brassy;
  • boisterous and disorderly.

StellersJay

DSC04699The Steller’s Jay is a raucous bird. There’s no doubt he fits every definition. But he’s bold and he’s beautiful. I love watching him. He tears in, settles on our deck railing and makes his impatient presence known. Soon he’s squawking, “Get away from my suet!” to any other bird who may be enjoying a quick snack. If he’s ignored, he flies up and flaps in the other bird’s face. He’s quite outrageous. He gets heard. He gets results.

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I’m not suggesting his behaviour is something to emulate — after all, nobody wants to be labeled unpleasant or disagreeable —  but there may be a lesson to learn from him. If you want something badly enough, you have to make an effort to get it. You have to put your determination into action.

Fellow writers, I think there’s a writing analogy tucked in here, don’t you?

How determined are you to reach your goals? What might you have to do to achieve them?

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Therefore, my beloved brothers,
be steadfast, immovable,
always abounding in the work of the Lord,
knowing that in the Lord
your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:58

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Queries and Submissions… Oh, my!

It’s a no-brainer: writers love to write. Find a plot or an interesting character lurking in the brain’s back room and away we go, plotting (or not) and happily unravelling story complexities for hours, days, probably weeks… to the exclusion of all sorts of potential distractions. Housework? It can wait. Family? They’ll understand. Grocery shopping? Mmm, maybe a quick trip to stock up on essentials like chocolate and chai tea and Diet Coke.

When the initial writing is done we’re willing to delve right back into it, editing, revising and even rewriting. It’s what writers do, right?  Pick away at it from every angle until we get it ‘just so’.

Jay 2

When it’s finally ready, we steel ourselves to send it out into the world — to critique partners first, then to beta readers. Finally the day comes when we can’t stall any longer. The story is as good as it’s going to get under our hand. It’s time to find an agent or editor to mentor us through the next stage, time to send the manuscript out on submission. Ackkk!

That’s what sends me into a flap.

Jay 1

I end up all a-flutter, suddenly convinced that it’s premature… surely another revision is necessary. If it’s not the best I can make it, sending it out now could be a mistake. I begin to re-read. It’s total crap! I’m sure it is. At least, the whisperings of that nasty Inner Critic sitting on my shoulder are telling me it is.

What’s the solution? Do we re-work and polish manuscripts until the life is sucked out of them, then shelve them in favour of starting something new? Do we close our eyes to the possible shortcomings and throw them into the public eye, hoping the recipients will be kind and limit laughter and jeering to the confines of their own office before sending out the rejection letter? Or… dare I suggest it? Do we stand tall, pull up our big-girl britches and recognize when we’ve done the best we can for now — ‘for now’ meaning we accept the reality that there will undoubtedly be recommended edits forthcoming — and take the next step?

Jay 3

There’s nothing more nerve-wracking in my world than hovering my finger over the ‘send’ key. Despite what others suggest, it never gets easier for me. Over the years I’ve read plenty of books on the craft of writing, studied agents’ and editors’ blogs to glean helpful information and listened carefully to the experiences of other more seasoned writers. I’m developing a fat resource file, but nothing nourishes the seed of confidence that will tell me, “Yes, DO it now. You’re ready.”

Earlier this week I printed out another item to add to my file from the Books & Such Literary Agency blog: “Minimize the obstacles to publication“, a post written by agent Rachelle Gardner. Her very first point is, “Not working on your book and your writing craft long enough.” ::sigh:: See what I mean?

I just might have to peck out a bit more on this revision. I’m aiming to make it public soon, but… not today.

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What convinces you that your work is ready for public scrutiny? How do you block out the negative Inner Critic’s evil whisperings?

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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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The Precarious Part of Mondays


Monday. Ahhhh! 🙂

How many times have you heard me say I love Mondays? The promise of a new week, a fresh start, and a new page… the phrases may be clichés, but they’re all true… for me.

The problem is, not everyone feels this way. My exuberance can be grating for others.

Some people barely hang on through a week, desperately awaiting the arrival of Friday and a weekend break. When faced with the next Monday they heave sighs of resignation and begin the week’s countdown again.

It’s not just because of their ‘glass half full, or glass half empty’ outlook. For many people, life is filled with physical challenges, work-related stress and family anxieties. Or maybe it’s page after page on their calendar where every square is marked with a meeting, or some kind of church or parental commitment. Mondays mean returning to another round on the proverbial hamster’s wheel… the rodent’s version of a treadmill that goes on and on and never gets anywhere.

I’ve been there, but I admit to still loving my Mondays. It’s not that my calendar is totally empty now, despite being retired. Some days I still feel overwhelmed by life’s commitments, but I’ve learned to balance.

One year, somewhere between being a pastor’s wife, mother of four, owner/manager of a business and a member of various church and community organizations, I discovered the necessity of self preservation. Yes, God provides me with the resources to do all that He has commissioned, but He also created me human, not divine. I’m made with a body, mind and soul. My spiritual and mental selves need regular nourishment. My physical self needs certain things to function well, too, and my brain periodically has to step up and tell me when I’m depriving myself of those things.

A little TLC may feel self-indulgent, but it’s remarkable how the stability of my emotional and physical self tips precariously when I ignore the well being of any of my components.  I believe God expects me to take care of this vessel he created as his dwelling place, and to find the appropriate balance for my unique life. That balance has changed through the years, but in conjunction with time spent in God’s company, time spent in solitude has remained important.

Mondays are evaluation opportunities, chances to sort out the new week, its commitments, and my responsibilities. Beyond that, sometimes Mondays are do-absolutely-nothing days, sometimes they are full-to-the-brim days. Whatever they bring, Mondays are when I go into survival mode and make the choice of how I will cope with the rest of that week.

“When you have to make a choice and don’t make it,
that is in itself a choice.”

William James

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What affects your attitude about Mondays? Do you have a favourite day of the week? If you sometimes feel you’re balancing precariously what do/can you do to restore stability?  

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“My soul, be at rest in God alone, from whom comes my hope.”

Psalm 62:6

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Still Saturday: Creation’s Voice

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All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!

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(Apparently he thinks he's a bird!)

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Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!


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Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! *

 

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“Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.” [Rev. 5:13-14]

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“Let Heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and all that move in them.” [Psalm 69:34]

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* Words: Francis of Assisi, circa 1225
(Cantico di fratre sole, Song of Brother Sun).
He wrote this hymn shortly before his death,
but it was not published for almost 400 years.

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Linking to Sandra Heska King’s Still Saturday