Blooming where I'm planted

Every year, I get outside to take pictures of what's blooming in our yard.  While I watch petals pop and trees bud, I don't get overly excited about it until a gentle rain hits the blossoms.  Then, the light refracts through the drops, makes leaves and blooms glisten, and catches my eye in ways a dry day can't.  I have a penchant for shooting in the rain.  

This year, that gentle rain came on Earth Day.  Though I'd just gotten home from an informal outdoor shoot that already had me soaked and a bit chilled, I clicked on the macro lens and went outside.  

A gentle rain that comes in April nourishes the now-soft soil, encourages whatever's under the surface to continue its upward climb.  In our case, that means a lot of dandelions and spring onions and sow thistles and creeping charlies and you get the picture.  So while our yard is filled with more weeds than I'm sure most of our neighbors want to be neighbor to, it's wildlife friendly.  No bird and its fledglings will get poisoned by herbicides.  We're probably helping the bees, too.

It was refreshing to have something new to photograph right in our own yard, no need to go anywhere to find something beautiful to spend time with while the spring rain washes away the remains of winter's dreary spell.

Here's a bit of what was blooming on this little corner of the earth where I'm planted.



On possibilities in unlikely places

The Hub and I took a meander today through the hangars at Massey Air Museum, where a friend's birthday celebration was being held.  I'm not a fan of planes - I don't know squat about them except that they're convenient for getting from one place to another in quick order - but I do see the importance of preserving aviation history, which is what Massey does.  Their focus is on the rural airports of the early 20th century, before the massive LAX and MSP and BWIs of modern air travel became the norm.

It was damp and chilly out, a truly bleak day, but we braved it and took a walk through the  unheated hangars and played in the DC-3/C-47 out in the yard and - as always - I found something to take a picture of.  Then I found another.  And another and another.  Despite my disinterest in vintage planes, I found enough to keep me going.  That's what photography does for me; it lets me get lost in the moment even when I'm someplace I haven't the slightest interest in, or when I've developed a bit of boredom in a place I've been to many times.  Once I drop my preconceived notions, what's around me becomes interesting.

The same happens with writing.  It's the willingness to find something interesting that creates the finding, much like making a space allows a writing idea to grow whereas sitting still and expecting it to hit me over the head never works.  

Willingness opens the door for an active seeking, which finds new possibilities.  Every time.  

On going backward

Sometimes you have to go backward to move forward, and today I was able to take time to visit Historic London Town and Gardens, where they recreate 18th century life.  I needed to get a feel for the place and for the scale of its reconstructed buildings, as part of the current novel in process is set in the early 1700s.  

I've always loved Williamsburg but, as focused as it is on the revolutionary years, it necessarily gives short shrift to the late 1600s/early 1700s.  London Town is one of two places on DelMarVa that fill that gap (the other is St Mary's City, which covers the years up to 1695).  While London Town's imposing William Brown house kicks off the mid-century interpretation, an early 18th century style interpretation of a carpenter shop and home, plus an original 1720 tobacco barn reconstructed on the site in 1980, are also on offer.

I bought some books in the visitor center, because buying books at an historical site is something of a law, then had a snack out in the sunshine before I grabbed the camera and strolled the grounds.  The buildings (other than the visitor center) weren't open today; they open next week.  But it was nice to have the place largely to myself.  I took lots of pictures and tried to imagine, as I do at every historical site, what the town's original inhabitants might have thought and felt, how they spent their time, what conditions were like in the heat of the summer and in the brutal cold of the darkest months of the year.  As I wandered, I asked one of my characters (yes, I do that; a lot) what she thought about the chill, strong wind that belied the deep blue sky echoing the South River.  Her response was instantaneous: Our home is only a hovel but I'll be relieved to get back inside to the shelter from the wind and the warmth of the fire.  

The simplest answer is often the best one, isn't it?  The first thought I imagined my character having was a practical one.  No lofty thoughts buried in that pragmatism, except maybe to remind me that gratitude, in its simplicity, is essential to daily life.

I went backward to get a feel for a certain time and found, within that step backward, a continuous thread to tie a character's thoughts to mine.  I can make that work, and that's pretty cool.

Historic London Town  #historiclondontown



On opening up space

“If you build it, he will come.”  So says the voice that whispers to Kevin Costner in the movie Field of Dreams.  So what does Kevin’s character do?  He builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield.  And what happens? The 1919 Chicago White Sox, or, rather, their ghosts, show up.  He creates an open space and it gets filled.

Every one of my writing classes energizes me for my next step, whether that step is another synopsis rewrite, expanding the latest synopsis into a fuller outline (the current prospect), writing or revising scenes, or literally standing up and acting out scenes to get inside my characters’ heads.  I was fighting with that outline prospect one night last week when I was too tired to think.  Not wanting to retire without at least trying, though, I picked up a small notebook about the size of a 3x5 index card and jotted notes for a photo project idea I’d had in the car that day.  Yeah, I know.  Not about fiction.  But what that page did was allow me to get that idea out of my brain and onto paper so I didn’t have to worry about forgetting it. 

It opened up space for thoughts about fiction to bubble to the surface.  I turned that page and wrote at the top of the next: “TGR ideas for plot structure” and started brainstorming.  (TGR is the acronym for the novel’s working title.)  It only took a couple of minutes of staring at the grey lines on the page before I started scribbling.  Ten minutes later, I’d covered four of the small pages and had a clear picture of what scenes I needed to write next, and new thoughts on how to work the storyline.   

I finally put the notebook down, satisfied with what I’d written, happy I’d taken an admittedly brief length of time to do something creative.  It was proof one doesn’t have to dedicate hours upon hours to create something, that some days all that’s needed is a commitment to creating and a few minutes to act on it. 

Opening the notebook and writing titles on the pages seemed to be all it took to jot one idea down and open up space for each next idea to make itself known.  

So tonight I’m raising my cuppa’ to acting upon creative commitments and opening up space for new ideas to grow.

What actions allow your imagination to thrive, and how do you make and keep your commitments to yourself and your creativity?

A sneak peek at a few filled spaces  

On not seeing the forest for the raindrops

We were blessed with our first rainfall in a few weeks while I was driving to the garage this afternoon.  My Suzy-Q, a 2006 Hyundai Elantra sedan, just got a new transmission (woohoo!) and I had to drive our van, which we lovingly call Green Hornet though Green Monster would be a more accurate moniker seeing as how it's not nimble or quick like a hornet.  It does lumber down the road with weight and persistence, so maybe 'hornet' isn't so far off the mark, after all.  Anyway, I needed to drop in at the garage to pay the balance on the transmission so The Hub and I could return later, after the shop was closed, to pick her up.  

When the rain began, I could see just fine using the intermittent wipers, but as the rain set in the wipers couldn't do the job.  The rubber wasn't swiping the rain off the windshield to give me a clear view; it was smearing the water around instead of cleaning it off of the glass.  Seeing where I was going felt like using the bottom of a water glass as a windshield: it's not smooth, and no matter how long you hold that glass upside down there's still water clinging to and distorting the bottom.  

It was hard to see through the raindrops.  They kept distracting my eyes, calling attention to where my attention least needed to be.  I needed to have my eyes on what was happening ahead of me, but my eyes kept getting distracted by the raindrops -- they were bright, and my eyes kept getting distracted the same way an autofocus camera wants to focus on the thing closest to the lens.  

When our mechanic met me (at my car with an umbrella in his hand!), the first thing I asked him to do was put in new windshield wipers because I couldn't see a damn thing.

I posted yesterday about seeing the gold, taking chances, and going for the good stuff while it's there, yet only 34 hours later I was getting distracted by something (or, rather, hundreds of little somethings) that kept me from having a clear vision of what I should have been focused on.  The risk in losing focus is that when the time comes for decisions to be made, whether the many small decisions we make every day or the major ones that come along only once in a while, being distracted means -- for me, anyway -- that I can't refocus quickly enough to trust my decision making progress.  Living in focus needs to be a habit so there's less time living in the quandary and more living in the joy.  

Focus is on my mind these days, as I try to establish new habits in how I spend my time.  There are so many distractions that aren't nearly as important as the thing I should be looking at, yet those are the things I end up focusing on.  When I can't see the forest - that thing full of potential growth come spring, that thing that guards and treasures and hides the life that shelters within it -- it's time to step back, refocus, and improve my vision.  

How's your vision today?  What challenges you and, more importantly, how do regain your vision when you discover you're not focusing where you want to focus?  Please share in the comments!

This road leads through a wooded area.



On awakening and taking chances

The drive from Cow County into downtown Baltimore for the second day of a conference was uneventful even if nerve wracking.  I'd planned an early arrival so I wouldn't have to rush and would avoid the heaviest part of rush hour, but the volume of traffic careering around me down the narrow triple lanes though I was already going 10mph over the speed limit was disconcerting. 


I got in early enough to drop off my car at valet parking and get settled before the breakfast session roundtables opened. On my way upstairs, I spotted the golden light of sunrise on the water and the buildings across the way, and decided I'd best take the chance to go back out and snap a few shots with my phone while the light was good.  I was glad I did. Not 20 minutes later the grey had taken over. 


The reflections in the water were pretty with an implied serenity that belied the realities of a city readying to unleash its daily hurry.  A water taxi pulled in from across the harbor.  It was fun to watch the city awaken.   


The morning had me thinking about chances and how we choose whether to take them, and which ones we deem worth taking.   Decision making in my world rarely comes with a 2-by-4.   And sometimes the chance isn't really indicating that the easy, perfect looking  road is the best one; sometimes the chance is telling me to recommit to staying on the same path but with renewed vigor.  Maybe not to give up something I like for something that looks perfect for me, but instead to stretch and take action that will turn something I like into that perfect-for-me situation.  It is, too often, hard to determine which is the better road while I'm still standing within the quandary.  

That, in itself, can be problematic, because sometimes you only get but so many chances to grab the gold before grey takes over and your chance has passed you by...