Fall Snapshots: Looking for the good stuff

They always seem to arrive before I expect them. When the Northern Flicker made his first autumn appearance here I didn’t have my camera handy. I made a dash for it, but I needn’t have hurried. He hopped onto the railing and waited impatiently.

Flicker2014

He peered up at where he’d last seen the suet and bird feeders seven months ago. How does one explain to a bird that it’s too early in the season to hang his food out… that the bears are still roaming around looking for tasty treats?

His presence was a great photo opp for me, but he soon had me feeling guilty as he moved in closer to scrutinize the usual corner where the suet hook sat empty, just under the eaves.

Flicker2014b

His buddy, a male Varied Thrush, arrived on the deck at the same time and stomped around, also peeved at his missing repast. He’s a ground feeder like the Flicker, but during past winters they’d grown accustomed to an occasional domestic supplement. Now they were here looking for a handout of the good stuff once again.

Thrush

I finally took pity on both of them and threw a few handfuls of seed on the deck while hubby hung a container of suet. If the bear arrives to chow down, too, I’m going to be frustrated, but there was only so long I could handle the guilt trip these two were dumping on me.

As I watched them enjoying the goodies, I was reminded that I will soon have to do some persistent searching of my own. As I bash out the words of a first draft during this NaNoWriMo writing marathon, I recognize that the underlying story is present, but it’s minus a lot of the good stuff… the rich descriptions, insights into my characters’ motivation, and sensory details, to name some. There is an abundance of weak verbs and supporting adverbs to cull, too, along with a lot of my typical mental meandering.

Once November 30th becomes history it will be time for me to start revising. I’ll have to dig in and search out nuggets to salvage among the drivel. In the meantime, I’m dumping words on the page, a few hundred at a time, and squelching the internal critic that tries to convince me my daily average isn’t half what it should be and I’m pursuing an impossible goal.

Total words to November 13th = 7,786

Are you writing? Are you counting words and making measurable progress, or does that matter to you? Are you focused on finishing a project and gleaning the good stuff later?

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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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Having my say about procrastinating

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“A bird does not sing
because it has an answer.
It sings because it has a song.”

Chinese Proverb

Feed Me

To be honest, I have to admit this colourful male Varied Thrush was not singing. I’m not sure what he was doing — it looked more like a yawn, but it has prompted various potential captions:  “Feed me!!!” “Go find your own perch; this one’s mine.” “Hey, Alice! I’m gonna go watch the SuperBowl with a few starlings, and you can like it or lump it.”

The point is not so much what he might have been doing or saying but more that his mouth was open. Another Chinese proverb says, “A book tightly shut is but a block of paper.” It reminded me that intending to do something doesn’t require any effort, but doing it requires an action. When it comes to reading or writing a book, the action might be nothing more complex than opening the cover, creating a computer file or sharpening the lead of a pencil, but by not taking that simple action, any achievement is doomed.

DSC07413I should have thought of that during the weeks (months?) when I couldn’t face tidying my office! I know it’s related to the words of Chinese philosopher, Laozi: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, from which we glean that even the most difficult tasks have a starting point. Still, if anything is to be achieved, that single step must first be taken.

DSC07415In my office, the first step came by means of a donated bookcase. I had to relocate an old one to make room for the new. One thing led to another, and soon I was reorganizing the whole room. Making a start set off a chain reaction.

My next writing project has been waiting in the wings. Even though I’m not entirely finished mulling, I think I need something to prod me to open my mouth… open a file… and start letting the words spill out. They’re beginning to clutter up my mind and the only way to remedy that is to begin organizing them on paper.

I’m just not sure what it’s going to take. It’s soooo easy to procrastinate.

What does it take to get you started when you’re procrastinating?

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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

Arguments are for the birds!

I had an argument with myself this morning. I really wanted to spend some time writing, but Christmas baking was beckoning. You know how it is … reason arguing with desire. If I’d just get off my fanny and go bake something, I’d have time to write later. If I write first, however, I’ll never get to the baking. I know that for a fact.

Still, there’s this tantalizing thought begging to be recorded. It would take but a moment to jot it down. Of course that moment might stretch into several as the one thought leads to another. I know myself too well.

While I argued, a similar scene played out on the back deck railing:

“Hi there, little guy. I’ll be out of your way in a moment, but I’m trying to decide whether I want millet for a snack, or sunflower seeds.”

“Okay, but get a move on. I’m hungry.”

“There’s leftover millet on the deck if you’re in such a hurry.”

“Oh sure. Expect me to eat leftovers while you get the choice stuff? Forget it. I’ll just tuck my wings behind my back and wait my turn for the buffet.”

“Suit yourself, but this might take a few minutes. Let’s see … mmm, there’s cracked corn up there, too. And peanut bits! I looooove peanut bits but the jays usually steal them all. So, yeah, maybe peanuts. Ah, but the black oil sunflower seeds have the higher fat content that I could use. I burn a lot of energy on these frosty days.”

“Oh, for pete’s sake, make up your mind! Do you have any idea how much energy I’m wasting while I pace back and forth waitin’ on ya?”

“Quit bugging me! If you’re starving, go hit the neighbour’s feeder, why don’t you? It’s just a hip and a holler beyond those trees.”

“WHAT? Do ya think I’m stupid?”

“Hey, lady! (peering back at me as I watch from the window with my camera) Will you remind this guy that your neighbour has CATS!”

“Cats, shmats. This place has a dog and you don’t see me worrying, do ya?”

“But the dog only eats the seeds left on the deck. He’s not interested in eating you, like the cat is.”

“Shows how much you know. The dog is a Labrador Retriever. Mean anything to you, buddy?”

“Oh. (gulp) Um. I get your point. Maybe I’ll just hop over to the rhoddie and check for iced bugs while you sort out your menu, but speed it up, will ya. The missus is waiting out in the hemlock for me to bring home a few groceries, too.”

“These decisions take time. Let’s see now…. Oh, by the way, did you know that if you wait until sunset the little lights around here come on. Warm toasted seeds! Now that’s a gourmet touch, I’ll tell ya.”

“Well, I’m not waiting that long. Huh? Where’d you come from? Go ‘way, chickadee! I’m next in line for the feeder when thrush is done. There’s a pecking order around here, remember?”

“Ah, drat! Now where’d YOU come from?”

“I guess it’s leftovers tonight after all.” (sigh)

“Fresh or leftover, it’s all the same to me. I don’t share with nobody, kid. So scoot!”

“Aghhh! I’ll risk the cats. I’m outta here!”

“Yeah, I think I’ll sit this one out, too. It sounds like sparrow’s feeling peckish.”

Nobody wins in an argument. Which means I’d better make up my mind about the writing versus baking thing. The baking wins out as I need to set a loaf of cheese bread to rise and make some shortbread. On the other hand, I’ve been writing, haven’t I? Isn’t that called compromise?

What excuses do you come up with when faced with something that tries to eat into your writing time?

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Learning patience by birdwatching

(Click to enlarge photos)

Black caps and white cheeks flash past my windows as the chickadees flit to and from the birdfeeder, interspersed with the occasional nuthatch. They dart in to snatch a morsel, then swivel away on their rapid return to the trees.

I sit with camera in hand and try to catch a photo, but on the automatic setting and without my tripod it’s almost impossible. These tiny fliers are constantly on the move and most of the images show the birdfeeder, but not the birds. Timing is everything!

The stellar jays and juncos are a little more cooperative, sometimes stopping briefly on the railing as they munch a mouthful.

Sparrows and varied thrush have a different mealtime technique altogether, choosing to clean up leftover seeds from the deck rather than hover airborne. The different species often arrive at the same time, but take turns, obeying an invisible pecking order as they dart in for their meal.

There is so much I can learn about God’s care from watching the birds. They may seem like insignificant creatures with very basic needs yet God provides for them, although they must work industriously to take advantage of those provisions.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.” [Luke 12:6 NIV]

Thinking of the earlier “timing is everything” comment, there’s a writing application here, too. When years of writing, revising and querying make us question our publishing dreams, it is encouraging to remember that patience coupled with vigilance and effort is important, and that “success comes when preparation meets opportunity.” [Henry Hartman]

To expect success in this particular challenge, I think I’d better go find my tripod!

What other lessons could we learn from God’s many creatures?

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