~ 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.
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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

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