Thursday, June 30, 2011

photo free-write: thunderstorms, and what comes after


Photo free-write is regular feature on revisions blog. Each post includes a photo that inspired me in some way and the story, memory or reflection it prompted. These entries are as un-edited as I get here.

Thunderstorms are one of the best parts of East Coast summers. A Pennsylvania girl until I was 24, I was shocked when a friend who had moved from Southern California told me there were rarely thunderstorms where she grew up. What was summer without the frenzy of booms and bright flashes of lightning in the afternoon or evening? One time I drove to the airport to fetch this same friend when she returned from a trip to visit family, and not 10 minutes from our apartment a thunderstorm started, and the rain became so thick that I had to pull over until it slowed. In the parking lot where I stopped, water flowed like a shallow stream around car tires. And then, like that, it was over.

What I love most about thunderstorms is what comes after. The air that had been thick with humidity just minutes earlier is torn in two, like a veil. End even with sticks and leaves strewn about, torn off trees by winds and rain, a dead calm comes around. If we’re really lucky, the sun will start to show, giving us a rainbow or gleaming drops on green grass. It only lasts a minute, but if you’re still long enough to catch it, the moment is like a meditation. I guess you could say that thunderstorms remake us.

(photo by Melissa at boo21smom and, spotted on Poppytalk summer color week. She says, “The photo was taken on a road outside of Fredericksburg, VA during a thunderstorm in early June.”)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

summer vacation

At the beach

lazy mornings
sand in unexpected places
long walks on the boardwalk
salt water taffy
soft serve ice cream
crashing waves
that tired-from-the-sun feeling
lots of reading
sun sparkles on the ocean waves
warm salty air
dunkin donuts
nieces and nephews
chatting over coffee
lingering over dinner

August 5 can't come soon enough...

(Photo of Ocean City, NJ by izik)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

on writing well

This is one of my newest used bookstore purchases. It's a first edition, published in 1976, and since a few revisions have been published, including a 30th anniversary edition a few years ago. Some examples are outdated, but that only makes the read more fun. I can feel good things coming from my study of his principles already.

Here are a few notes so far:
  • warmth and humanity are what all good writing should express
  • learn to control your material (this is the basis for the whole book)
  • care deeply about words
  • simplify; cut out the clutter
  • you will learn to write by writing
  • unity of thought and style is important
I'd love to hear your thoughts. What is your favorite manual for what you're learning? And what are the most important principles for your craft that you've learned so far? Or are learning now?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

summer reading

Those of us who read the books we read, fiction or non-fiction, because we want to get into another character’s brain — I think we’re voyeurs, and that’s what we’re looking for in our books. -Nancy Pearl, NPR interview

This morning I wanted to share with you this short spot from NPR about good summer reads. All of the books sound fabulous, and the cover art and titles alone make me want to rush out and buy a few of these.

The quote came at the end of the radio interview, and I totally resonated with the idea of wanting to get into somebody else’s brain or life. (A few months ago, helping a friend pack up her things for a move, I happily busied myself wrapping photo frames and packing books, allowed passage into new territory in this friend's life.) Thankfully, Ms. Pearl's observation encourages me to channel my voyeuristic tendencies into reading a few of these books instead of romping around facebook.

On my summer reading list: The Chronicles of Narnia (already finished the first two books), hopefully some E.M. Forster, and I've been meaning to read Silent Spring. Hopefully also some poetry.

What are you reading now, or this summer? And what are your goals in reading? Purely educational, escaping into a new story, getting into someone else's skin?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

staggered by their own luxuriance



I meant to post this yesterday in celebration of the first day of summer, but the day got away from me. The photos are of the peonies I bought for my desk at work yesterday (hence the faux wood desktop in the background). Few things will encourage coworkers to stop by and chat like beautiful flowers (and pending deadlines -- but that's a different kind of conversation!).

The poem below is one of my favorites. Enjoy!

Peonies at Dusk

White peonies blooming along the porch
send out light
while the rest of the yard grows dim.

Outrageous flowers as big as human
heads! They’re staggered
by their own luxuriance: I had
to prop them up with stakes and twine.

The moist air intensifies their scent,
and the moon moves around the barn
to find out what it’s coming from.

In the darkening June evening
I draw a blossom near, and bending close
search it as a woman searches
a loved one’s face.

Jane Kenyon from Constance (1993)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

on courage, wishing and flirting

You must do the things you think you cannot do.

You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give.

It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'

What one has to do usually can be done.

-all Eleanor Roosevelt, via this post

I am going to be a bit more vulnerable with you than I’m in the habit of being. I feel ok doing this because I think I know my audience, and if I had all the time (and money for plane tickets) in the world, I’d probably sit down for coffee with each of you and spill about this anyway. So here goes.

Do you know what came to mind when I read each one of these quotes? I had some quick flashes about my dreams for my writing or challenges I’m facing in my professional development and habits, and about running a marathon. But the biggest challenge in front of me right now is this (don’t laugh): flirting. Ok, you can laugh now, because I did just now when I went back to read the quotes. Especially the one with the word “horror.”

Flirting comes easily to some people, but I am not one of those people. If we were together having that coffee, I could tell you some of the reasons for this, but writing them here is a little too self-indulgent, I think.

Instead, I will tell you about how I’ve been thinking about my openness to new things and new people, and how I want to be sure that as I age I stay flexible. Play will be important, I think, and yet doesn’t come naturally to my use-all-time-efficiently attitude toward life. Flirting is a kind of play that I’d like to learn.

Oh yeah, and there’s also this huge looming question of marriage, one that’s at times as heavy and tiresome as the June gloom we’re experiencing here in L.A. It makes me want to get back in bed and close the blinds until the sun starts to peak through and I can run outside and soak it all in — because I don’t know what the answer to the question is, and however hard I try I just cannot figure it out myself. Some trusted friends have suggested that flirting, while not the answer, could help my outlook. It could help me to bear with the gloom. The beach can still be fun even if the sun isn’t shining.*

The quote that stuck out the most is the one about energy to wish and plan. I’m such a planner (see the part about using time efficiently). Wishing, like flirting, seems frivolous; I’d rather pursue the possible, the concrete, the lasting. Are you making the connection with me? When it comes to my desire to be married, I just want to find the person and get it done. But it’s very possible that planning isn’t all there is to it, that I need some of that energy to wish and flirt and play and grow into it in some very intangible way.

Thank you for reading this very rough, journal like entry, and for having this virtual coffee date with me. And since we’re pretending to be curled up in oversized chairs (those are my favorite kinds of coffee shops) with steaming cups of coconut mochas or dirty chai lattes (I have a story about that to come), tell me what you think. What helps you to flirt and play? What do you think of when you read E.R.’s quotes about courage? What do you need courage for?

*Being single and desiring marriage isn’t all gloom. I enjoy my freedom, my friendships, and my work. But it’s still a very real question, an unfulfilled desire that has real weight in my life.