~ from cats, dogs and nature to the flowering of body, mind and spirit ~

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Blessed Rain

As I sit out on our porch, giving thanks for the rain, I'm reminded of some lines from one of Carrie Newcomer's songs:

The Blessed Rain it falls like Grace,
Without regard to wealth or race ...

Friends and family tire, I think, of hearing me remind them of the blessings of rain. But I can't help it. I've always loved the rain, but after living in the Sonoran Desert for over four years, the blessings of rainfall are more resplendent than ever. When the monsoon season arrived, I would sit out on our patio with each Blessed Rain. I still do. Here in the Ozarks, now, after a half-day deluge, the foliage is absolutely dazzling!

You can listen to the song "We Were Sleeping," which contains those lines, HERE.

May we always feel blessed by rain and, perhaps, let our Love fall like the rain, with grace, and without regard for wealth or race.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Stone and Flora

We hope to create a lush haven in the area of our small stone terraced beds; many more hosta are needed, as well as other shade-loving plants. The steep hill to its far side needs a hardy ground cover.

Most of our small property consists of this steep, rocky slope; very few places are level, and nearly all areas are in shade once spring has done its dance of leafing.

We will take our time and do our best. It's been many years since previous owners provided much in the way of TLC to either house or property. May our efforts be blessed.

I am, however, inspired by today's post "April Showers" over at the Vicki Lane Mysteries blog, showing areas of her farm in North Carolina bedecked by lush greenery!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Cycles of Spring

I've been delighted this spring, witnessing the cycles of growth all around me in yard and woods. First were the daffodils and forsythia, then came the flowers of vinca vine and redbuds; several trees leafed out quite early, including our broad-canopied mystery tree near the front porch, while others remained externally dormant. Soon appeared wild sweet william near the cultivated tulips, and now emerge the pastel wild geraniums along with the dogwood whose large white petals are now dancing in the breeze instead of the small purple ones of the redbuds.

Having spent most of my adult life among coniferous forests in Colorado and Maine, I'd little idea of how the deciduous trees pulsed into life in their own rhythms. The hickory, walnut, and oak trees are leafing out last, our heavy weekend rain giving them a burst of energy!

So many more plants and trees to become acquainted with!

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Mountain Utopia

There's little doubt that my naive impression of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado as a sanctuary has been partially influenced by the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by James Hilton, along with the classic black and white film based upon that story. I can't help but believe that paradise on earth is possible when I recall the breathtaking scenery provided by the many roads I've driven and trails I've hiked in the Rockies; the Mystery evoked runs deep.
big stock.com

Early in the story of Lost Horizon, when the frenetic young protege named Mallinson (portrayed as Conway's brother in the movie version) is railing against the circumstances they're in, Conway responds:
"If you'd had all the experiences I've had, you'd know that there are times in life when the most comfortable thing is to do nothing at all. Things happen to you and you just let them happen. The War was rather like that. One is fortunate if, as on this occasion, a touch of novelty seasons the unpleasantness."
When Mallinson then responds that, "You're too confoundedly philosophic for me. That wasn't your mood during the trouble at Baskul," Conway replies:
"Of course not, because then there was a chance that I could alter events by my own actions. But now, for the moment at least, there's no such chance. We're here because we're here, if you want a reason. I've usually found it a soothing one."
Who of us hasn't found ourselves in that kind of a situation at one time or another? How did we handle it? What did we do? When I was Mallinson's age (at twenty-something), I confess that I often reacted as poorly as he does throughout Lost Horizon. I'm grateful that my innate temperament led me toward introspection and, as I've aged, I've become a lot more like Conway.

When Conway sees Shangri-La, shortly after his above comments to Mallinson, I'm right there with him in astonished awe.

I don't recall when I first read and/or viewed Lost Horizon but with every re-reading over the years, I yearn less for the fantasy and instead find myself creating a personal paradise, first within my heart and mind, and then outwardly to hearth and home. I have more patience with my own discomforts or mistakes, and with the circumstances beyond my control whether they be people or events. Even reading the novel now, considering our current American political situation, I feel somehow comforted. My gratitude, and the desire to assuage someone else's anxiety brings me spiraling back to Shangri-La, a fantasy template for my own novel's imaginary town of Chantilly Lace.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Panorama of Spirit

The Rocky Mountains are my favorite range, its peaks and accompanying valleys never fail to fill me with awe, and have done so for as long as I can remember. The Rockies are the panorama of my spirit.


Nevertheless, I left the Rocky Mountains in my late twenties after a decade of living along the Front Range, a decision driven by my desire to escape from the circumstances surrounding a bad marriage's end. But, even though I then built a wonderful life in Maine, filled with good friends enjoyable activities, and steady work, I missed the West and Colorado terribly. Thus it was that four years later, I returned to Colorado with a dream and high hopes. That dream took me to one of my favorite places: Cripple Creek. To my mind, it's not the most fetching of towns--too exposed and spare of trees for my personal preference, sitting in an ancient caldera and stripped of forest by decades of miners--but there's an intangible something that pulls me in whenever I'm there. Maybe a past life?  

By the time I moved to Cripple Creek in 1994, a lot had changed from the days of my family vacations there (we had been visiting Colorado, regularly, since I was a toddler). It had transformed from a sleepy little relic of Gold Rush days into a chaotic harbor for limited-stakes gambling, one of three Colorado towns approved to do so in 1991. These were not places within Native American reservations, mind you; they were, rather, an experiment designed for and directed toward "boosting economies and preserving the past" -- or were supposed to be. I lived just outside of town, an adventure in and of itself, plus worked for one of the hotel and casino ventures in Cripple Creek for an exhilarating and often daunting eight months.

So what happens when gambling is made legal in a small town in the modern American West? That's just one of the questions addressed in my Chantilly Lace series of novels, the first book of which is to be released this winter. While the town of  Chantilly Lace is a synthesis of several places (some in Colorado, others around the country), Cripple Creek was definitely my initial inspiration for it.

My personal hopes and endeavors quickly fell upon hard times, not once but twice, however, those experiences have not in any way dissolved my peculiar bond with Cripple Creek or tainted my adoration for the Colorado Rockies.

Isn't it strange how a place, a particular landscape or part of the country, can keep us held in thrall no matter what the external experiences may be?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Stories As Potential

There was a good program by Tom at OnPoint this week titled "A Fictive, Failing Dystopian Future," that, in spite of the title, wasn't depressing to me (and provides a list of new books in that genre). Fiction has its own cycles and patterns, and that includes times when authors are writing dystopia, apocalyptic, or, conversely, utopia fiction. It depends, to some extent, upon what writers want to emphasize based upon their perceptions of the world. Again, I found the conversation quite enjoyable.

I've read books in those sub-genres, depending upon where I was in my own life journey (mostly I was reading them in my late 20s, early 30s), though I still want/need them to end on a note of optimism. My all-time favorite remains Stephen King's The Stand (loved both the book and the movie, that fall into the apocalyptic fantasy category). However, I tend to write my own stories into a stronger potential for a positive present and future. It's my antidote, of sorts.

For instance, Earth Maiden, the second full-length novel I actually completed (although it is the first I published; the first one is still sitting in a drawer) is a futuristic fantasy with an optimistic outcome...eventually. In hindsight, it does lean toward a utopia vision.

The novel I'm working on now is contemporary, not futuristic, but is also one with a foundation in the power of community and compassion, and the importance of women's roles in government for harmonic lifestyles and peaceful resolutions to problems. The imaginary town in my novel is not a utopia, though that is what the young protagonist was seeking, but is, instead, my vision of what might be possible in a non-patriarchal society.

10,000 Feet Above Sea Level





Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Stories and the Mind

I have many traditional books on writing (regarding plot, dialogue, outlining, etc.), as well as those by authors written to encourage creativity, however, one of my favorite recent books is Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. It's fabulous!

Rather than being a step-by-step guide to writing, Cron takes us inside the way our minds understand story, and I'm finding it quite inspirational since I'm into the editing process for my latest manuscript. Cron refers often to the work of Steven Pinker and Antonio Damasio, but presents it in the form of how to write a great story. She begins each chapter with a meme showing the "Cognitive Secret" followed by the "Story Secret," and I'll be copying some of those and posting them on my wall, for sure.

This reflective approach to how we understand stories is a relatively recent passion of mine. I also wrote about this perspective, coming from the fairytale angle, in "Writing for Shimmer."

Writing is an ongoing learning process for me, one that I thoroughly enjoy. When I began writing my first novel back in the early 90s, I thought it would be easy because I was an avid reader, especially in the genre that I chose to write. And it went pretty well, I think (even though that particular manuscript is stuck in a drawer and never made it to the self-publishing stage). What I learned, however, as do many people who think it should be easy to write -- after all, I'd read thousands of books by the time I was in my 30s -- was that I didn't fully understand the nuance of flow or the structure of story (along with much more).

What keeps me returning to the writing path is the pure delight I feel when my thoughts and imagination are transferred to a form that I can share with others. Plus, I like the result, I like my own writing. But then, I'm a reader with broad, eclectic taste in fiction and non-fiction, including a lot of self-published books that don't make it into the mainstream. In many ways, this enchantment I feel toward reading and writing across a wide spectrum returns to how I perceive more through essence than detail or structure. And, while the latter is necessary and gratifying, the former is where the well of my creativity emerges these days.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Mountain Essence

Even as I sink my roots into the Ozarks of Missouri, home of my birth and ancestors, I can't help but fantasize about the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. We vacationed there often, from the time I was 3, and moved there when I was 18; I ended up living along the Front Range and up in the mountains for 12 years. I adore the Rockies. If money were no object, I'd have a vacation home there right now. The next best thing is revisiting the mountains via memories, photos, and books. 

Is it any surprise, then, that my latest novel (the manuscript is finally complete in draft form) takes place in a fictional little town high in the Rocky Mountains? 

A curious trait of mine is that I remember the essence of past experiences more than the specific recall of details. This is where photos and books are the perfect resource; they provide the visual and I can then sense the location and imagine events. Indeed, one of the books I inherited from my dad is A Portrait of Colorado, published in 1976; it provides a delightful blend of photos, paintings, and essays. For instance, see that old mining shaft on the cover of that book? I swear I've been there because it evokes a sense of the mystery and history that was a part of my time in the Rockies.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

On Not Knowing

I follow the moving and evocative Brain Pickings, and today's post is one I am compelled to share. Both the reflection on Inspiration, and the reference to how damaging Certainty can be, spoke to me in Maria Popova's How Our Certitudes Keep Us Small and the Generative Power of Not Knowing, using Polish Poet and Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska's words as a doorway. Beautiful!

Meanwhile, back at the homestead, hubby and I spent the weekend outdoors cleaning away massive amounts of dead leaves and tidying up the neglected beds with an eye toward where to settle new plants in a couple weeks. Because our house is on a steep, rocky hillside, and surrounded by wild, tangly woods -- which I do totally love; once the trees leaf out, three sides of the house are snuggled in a green nest -- our challenge is to find resilient, hardy plants that thrive on limited sunshine.


At the end of an earlier post HERE, I had included photos from the back deck, that were from August and January. Below is one from this past weekend (taken from same spot); I delight in how our view continues to change through the seasons in our new home. While the trees are still bare from winter's hibernation, the fields across the bottoms have become verdant and magnificent, rather than brown.
April 2017

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Sharing a Tale

This short piece from a novel is such a delightful tale-beginning that I am compelled to share it; please pop over to read BLUE by Marie Cartier. Not only is the story marvelous, but the message it is sharing is vital.
Maine Coast; an hour from where I used to live

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Intentions

One of my intentions for this year is to provide more posts on my HolistiCARE blog, so I invite readers to pop over there for a visit once in a while if you are curious. I will be mentioning specific remedies or methods, as well as educational resources, about those modalities in which I've been trained.

I'm also hoping to start growing some fresh food-herbs now that I'm living in a moderate climate. I've never had much of a "green thumb," but perhaps the Ozarks will be kind to me in that respect. If it is, I will post the uses of those herbs that do grow, and how I incorporate them into our meals. I'm a modest, non-adventuresome cook, but this may turn out to be a curious journey nevertheless.

Spring is right around the corner, and a new season awaits. But meanwhile, I enjoy the ability to see the sunset for a while longer; once the trees get their leaves, the sun only peeks through.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Characters

A delightful aspect of creative writing in fiction is the ability to develop characters -- those I love and even those I don't, though, granted I don't do a lot of backstory on my villains. I write women's fiction these days, and, to be honest, the evil forces I'm most interested in are those in our own minds.

While my protagonist and her friends are modern young women (the story takes place within the last decade), I go several generations in their backstories and the history of the town. Several of the characters are elder women (the middle generation), and it is this interweaving of her-story that emerges.

The origin of people and place is at the old turn of the century, from the 19th to the 20th centuries. Here are images of three of those ancestral characters, although, as with other images, my characters are not identical to these -- the images have simply provided inspiration and a visual touchstone.

Vianne

Bertha Rose

Kisaiya
Another fun feature of creating extensive backstory is that I already have the bones of at least six more stories I could easily conjure to take place across the past hundred years!


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Settings

I've turned my attention to my three-quarters finished rough draft manuscript of my novel; here are a couple buildings and a yard scape that have inspired specific settings in my imaginary town high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. I'm changing them in the story, so that they fit my characters and events, but the images give me a visual reminder. Could you live here?
The back garden of a wealthy local matriarch in my fictional town.

House where the veterinarian lives.

Shop with upper apartment where my protagonist lives.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Notes from the Past

It's funny what appears sometimes. Here I am, diving back in to my fiction manuscript, and I want to file an article I had clipped from last year, one that I had simply stuck into my pile of papers. I pull out the folder and it falls open to reveal an old newspaper clipping from 2003.
What's funny about this is that my protagonist has a "father issue" and this is one of the few artifacts I have from my own father who always seemed to disapprove of whatever I was doing in my life, including writing (I wasn't writing the "right" material). Attached to the article was a note from my father:
My father died a little over five years later, in 2008; finding his handwritten note along with the article made me feel closer to him. And, even though he never said he was proud of me, maybe he was...just a little. He was encouraging me, and I take that as a good sign.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Please Don't Feed the Frenzy

Please don't feed the Frenzy. 

It's a creature that can quickly turn fierce and frightening. 

We've all seen the signs, at various times in our lives, that say: "Don't feed the [insert name of animal]." Whether wild moose in the mountains or chipmunks in a campground or bear cubs in the woods, the instruction is for their safety and ours.

I'm suggesting we consider taking this advice into our current lives, when many of us are anxious, angry, and/or frightened, or when we may feel self-righteous. Please don't feed the Frenzy.

The Frenzy can quickly turn on us if we feed it, making matters much worse. The Frenzy feeds on chaotic energy and emotions. It can drain us of love, compassion, integrity, and clarity. The Frenzy can tear apart truth, vitality, and potential creative action. If this happens, who will then take care of our loved ones or people in need or the animals or the wilderness or our beloved planet?

Please don't feed the Frenzy.

In the classic 1956 sci-fi movie Forbidden Planet (a loose adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest), an arrogant man thought the Frenzy was a monster "out there." In fact, the monster was self-created -- it was a manifestation of what Freud called "the Id," the primitive, unconscious mind. When I imagine the Frenzy, I picture the monster from this movie, and it's not a pretty sight.

Yes, we evaluate and take conscious action where called to. But we also live a whole life in gratitude at the same time. Breathe. Push. As in giving birth to new life. Make change happen, yes. Live our integrity and truth with compassion and empathy. Ground ourself in our blessed, sacred universe. Find clarity and do what we can.

But, please, let's not feed the Frenzy.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Healing Our Wild Hearts

During this past year, I've often struggled to have faith that humans are worthy of the gifts of our magnificent planet and universe. The vicious comments to and about other people, from all points of view and all sides of the political conversation (if one can even call it a conversation, which I doubt), have triggered my tendencies toward melancholy and misanthropy. And, if it weren't bad enough that we treat each other badly, we destroy other species and the planet that provides so abundantly for us.
Winter in the Ozarks

Whenever I could manage it, I have always chosen to live "in the country," whether that was our new home here in the southwest Missouri Ozarks, or in the woods of Maine, or the mountains of Colorado. Even these areas, though not wild, retain enough residual wildness to soothe my soul when I am unable to visit true wilderness areas.

I worry that this next administration of our government will harm our environment even more than we've already done, by prioritizing short-term gains over long-term losses. I would like to think that humans can control our greed so that we do as little harm as possible to others and our planet, but, sadly, most people when given free rein will think short-sightedly only about themselves, whether farmers or corporations or the average worker buying as much stuff as they possibly can.
Winter Woods in Maine

If we further allow our country to invade, harvest, and destroy even our wild places -- national parks, forests, and refuges -- our souls, the wild magic within each of us, whether we know it is there or not, will die along with our resources. There have been multitudes of books and movies about what could happen, yet many of us see them as entertainment rather than warnings, pretending they couldn't possibly happen.

I may not visit those wild places very often, but I am deeply comforted knowing they are there -- for their own sake as part of the Divine Whole, but also in case I need them. If they disappear, where will we go to heal? Where will our hearts be able to feel a sanctuary of natural wilderness even if we cannot see it with our eyes?

Summer in the Rocky Mountains
I was blessed to grow up visiting these wilderness places each summer; they became a part of me, places I always knew were out there healing us through their vital existence. Further, I was blessed that these visits were journeys across our amazing America, from sea to ocean, from mountains to deserts--these were road trips. The insightful naturalist and author Terry Tempest Williams writes about this eloquently in her latest book, The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America's National Parks:

     To be an American once meant unending possibility, and the land reflected that possibility. Always the next bend--the next ridge--the mountain range descending into the depth of canyons carved by water an wind and time.
     Now, we say we have too little time, not enough time for road trips. We used to visit our national parks most often by car. Families took time and experienced the gradual approach to the park being visited. Anticipation was part of the journey as was the wildness of a family spending time together for hours and days, traversing the states. Today we arrive by plane. We miss the trek across the vast expanse of this nation. I sometimes wonder whether these special landscapes now appear as "pop-up parks," a spot of entertainment and commerce instead of an unfolding geography.

This past weekend, I pulled out some books by an author I used to enjoy but had yet to read her four most recent novels. I had paused in reading her books because I felt like she went into a darker mental space than I cared to visit anymore; Nevada Barr writes about the intersection of wilderness (national parks) with humans-gone-wrong in her mystery series. I found myself wanting to read her stories now, though, for the very reason that her protagonist somehow always finds her way through to the other side, to where she still has faith in beauty and love and how wildness can help us to heal.

I wish more people would travel, would make space in their lives for experiencing the wonders of our natural, wild places. Unlike our ancestors once thought, the beauty and resources of our world are finite and we need to treasure them. Many people forget that our bodies and minds careen into the wastelands without the nourishment provided through our souls, our wild and divine hearts that are revitalized through our connection to our sacred earth.
Grand Canyon

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