Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Snow Shimmering



We opened the curtains this morning and saw drifts of snow shimmering.  I've hankered after photos of the snow glittering in early light, but have not succeeded in capturing one, the perfect one, yet. 

Let me explain.  Snow sparkles...on frigid days...in slanted light.  This means I have the opportunity to take these photos on bitter mornings.  There is a problem.  I cannot hold the camera without shivering, therefore moving...on cold mornings.  Shaky camera equals blurry photos.

Gary offered to go outside, as he didn't mind the cold as much.  For a half hour, he wandered the yard taking photos.  He was in and out of the house.  He came in to check on the results and to warm the camera, then back out.

We will have to try again as nothing he photographed did justice to the silvery shimmer of the morning.  He took pictures of our ducks, as they waited for him to stop fooling with the camera and bring out their food.



The ducks were patient and sat watching, while he meandered, snapping photos.  They were thinking, " Hey, it's cold, man is it cold.  Could you throw the food and forget about the sparkly snow?"  

He did.  We'll capture the perfect photo another day.  By "we", I mean Gary.  I'll be cheering for him from inside where it's warm.




Photos were taken by Gary.  Words are mine.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Blustery Day






It’s a blustery day.  Snow crosses the yard in sheets, acts like smoke as it curls around homes.  The sky can’t make up its mind if it wants to be grey or blue or cloudless, keeps switching.
The ducks, always serious about food, are waging war with the wind.  When it subsides, they hustle into the yard and scoop up cracked corn.  When the wind is scuttling in swirls of snow, the ducks huddle.  They put their feet into their feathers and their beaks under their wings, neatly folded packages of feathers.  They sit facing the wind and snow.
We’ve been out twice to throw food into the falling snow for them.  They’ve been appreciative, have eaten.  Now they snuggle into the storm, snow blowing around and between them as they wait for this blustery day to end.


Photos are mine.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Thorns of Frost




Thorns of Frost


Sometimes
I search for truth...
too hard.

Sometimes
I can't see what
is in front of me.

But sometimes,
I see through
the superficial.

Sometimes
I see the silver
shining.

Spines of magic,
like thorns of frost
so willing
to teach me truth,
they melt in my hands.

Sometimes...

Words and photo are mine.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Albert County, NB



I'm writing, writing lots or rather re-writing, creating revisions.  To escape from hours of bum-in-the-chair, I switch to bum-in-the-car.  We take a drive through places in Albert County, we haven't been for months.

It's a delight to travel through the interior of Albert County in winter.  The mountains and old-growth forest (at least, those trees that haven't been hacked to the horizon by clear cutting) hang onto the snow longer than in urban areas.  Coming around curves on the bare road lead to surprises of hard-packed snow and ice build-up, evidence of the hidden spaces in the hills, where shadow rules and sun can't reach.

With leaves gone and winter here, the countryside displays different sides of itself.  Little River almost disappears under cover of snow, yet seams of open water tell of the river's presence.




At the crossroads where Parkindale Road separates Turkey Trail Road from Sugarbush Road , there are farms, fields and forests as far as we can see.  The vistas are huge, invite breathing large and melt tensions away.  There is a sense of ease, of space and rest between the seasons of reaping and sowing.



A homestead tucked into the forest at Meadow, with the wind-farm in the Kent Hills as backdrop, makes me yearn for country living.  I remember the days of my childhood when the nearest neighbour was over a mile away and the woods were our playground.



Even, the Pollett River is hidden in winter's cloak.  It idles as it waits for the freshets of spring to swallow its snow and ice.




When we come home, we promise ourselves to return in summer, with blanket and picnic lunch and wine to explore the snow-locked spots of serenity we've seen on our drive.  We hope we can find them again once the leaves are full.

For now, we hold the magic places in memory and words, these delights that are just minutes away.  We comfort ourselves by saying that if we can't find them, we'll find others.   Albert County offers beauty and wonder no matter the season.

Words and photos are mine.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Writing in the Dark and Fog



A face peeks around the door,
“You’re up early.”
“I had to get up,” I sigh.
“Words?” you grin.
“Yes, words. I had to let them out.
Words were kicking on the doors of dream
and wouldn’t wait ‘til daybreak.
They wanted out—
insisted.
(They think themselves, so important.)
Why do these tyrants disappear,
when my pen comes out?”

When I say that I write poetry, I hear—
Poetry is a hard sell.  You’ll never make any money at it.
Poetry is annoying to read.  I don’t understand it.
Poetry isn’t real writing like stories or articles or journalism, it just comes to you.  You don’t have to do revisions and research like real writers.
These are not encouraging or supportive statements.  They are also wrong.
Selling poetry depends upon the ability of the writer and on the available markets.  It depends upon the marketing skills of the writer or the agent and upon the whims of the time.  Vampire poetry might sell more quickly now, than nature poetry.
Is poetry annoying to read?  It depends upon what the reader seeks to gain from reading.  Is poetry more than what appears on the surface?  Is that “more” something that requires a second or third look?  Yes.  Poetry defines something familiar and concrete in a fresh way that elicits feelings and offers meaning below the surface of the words.   Naomi Shihab Nye says about poetry, “As you rub these words together, they spark and whole new combinations happen.”
Poetry is not something that flies by and drops itself whole and perfect onto the page.  There is art and craft and talent and dozens, sometimes hundreds of revisions to achieve a piece of writing worth sharing.  As for anyone perfecting a craft, a carpenter, an engineer, a hair stylist, a scientist, a painter, a justice advocate, the craft requires honing skills and doing research and work, yes...work.   The work demands dedication to learning, and to the passion inside the heart that calls out to the world to be heard, to be seen, to be known, to be shared and to make a difference. 

Reading poetry is like being in fog.  You perceive the world as limited, wrapped in grey mist.  The sun rises and burns off the fog.  You see there is another world under the veil of dampness, a world you couldn’t see before, but a world that was always there, waiting for you.  You feel surprise and gladness.  It is stunning, simple.  Poetry lifts the veil and captures that moment when something fresh reveals itself.
Writing poetry means working with what kicks at the doors of dreams, means wrestling with the relentlessness of truth, to craft words that lift the veils in our lives.



The photos are mine.  If you want to learn about Naomi Shihab Nye,
click on her name above in coloured print. 
You will go to another website with additional information.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Moments of Miracle


The only way to live


is to accept each minute


as an unrepeatable


miracle.


The words are a quote from Margaret Storm Jameson
If you click on her name, you will go
to another website with additional information.

The photos are mine; all from 
the southeastern New Brunswick area.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Snowfall


Snow fell in the tangled wood,


knit angora for the trees.



Wind and sun froze falls of melt,




buried fences to their knees.





Robins on the sumac flames,




feasted full despite the freeze.


All's well in the tangled wood.


All photos and words are mine.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Peregrine Falcon


Peregrine Falcon

Where are the birds?
We feed ducks and pheasants each day.  Our yard provides shelter to robins, blue jays, grackles, chickadees and goldfinches when they choose to visit.  Crows nest in the woods behind our street, and in a cedar taller than the house, in the neighbour’s yard.

Where did the birds go?
Today the ducks have flown away and returned many times.  They did not land and stay to eat, kept bursting skyward.  The crows and blue jays were noisier than usual.  Raucous circling in the clear sky.  So clear, it was endless blue. The chubby robins were hesitant and brief in their trips to the seed cones of the Staghorn Sumac. The cats, who spend hours on indoor chairs watching birdie TV outside, meowed and moved from one viewing point to another.  They were up and down stairs racing from window to window, and up and down from their chairs all afternoon.
Agitation and noise.  Birds flew through and paused for a moment but did not settle and feed.
Mid-afternoon I discovered why.  As I sat writing at the kitchen table, I caught the movement of a shadow across the snow.  I looked up and saw a Peregrine Falcon drop through the branches of maple, turn and wheel between the sumac and the spruce, chase up through the hill that is our yard closing in on a starling.


I stared, my mouth agape.  I’ve never seen a Peregrine Falcon before.  It was blue-grey, heavy-breasted, with a 3.5 foot wing span, swinging through the yard with feet clenched, ready to strike.  The two birds flew up and over the garage and out of visual range.  It happened in a moment.
Though I know the starling likely ended becoming supper, it was a moment I won’t forget.  Raw and powerful.  The wheel of life and death, the cycle we all share. 
And the Peregrine Falcon, it was magnificent!

Our regular birds didn't share my opinion and showed wisdom by avoiding the yard today.

If you click on words in colour,
you will go to another website with additional information.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Landscape of Words




Today was special.  Today was a celebration.  It was a celebration of one year ago, when I had stepped through a door I had kept closed all my life. 
One year ago, I began to write a blog, and put my writing out into the world.
Opening this door opened me to my vulnerabilities.  What if no one wanted to read my blog?  What if they read it and despised it?  Or worse, dismissed it as mediocre and trivial?  I was haunted by “What if?”
Hugging my insecurities, I walked into this liminal space and began to write.   Began?   No, that is not true.  I had been writing since I was eight--journals, stories and poetry.  The space I had entered was the mystery of exposing my words and thoughts to readers.
The year of blogging reminded me of the essentials of writing: opening lines, engaging the reader, showing instead of telling.   I battled my urges to pepper everything with adjectives and adverbs.  I struggled to use fewer words.  Reading through the blog entries, I recognized that I had to learn and re-learn these elements.  The war with my words was constant.
As I honed my skills, I felt naked in front of a crowd of readers.  Though I knew a score of my readers, the rest were strangers.  They were readers who followed the blog privately, who showed up in stats as numbers and countries.   Why were the numbers important?  People were reading my blog.  But, it was like standing blindfolded, reading to unseen listeners, whose numbers and positions varied according to the day.  A mystery.
Blogging made me examine the roles I had: woman, wife, mother, step-mother, grandmother, friend, lover, gardener, retired person, volunteer, writer – yes, writer.  What could I learn from these and the other roles I had played in my life?  I squeezed my self-concepts to wring out the opinions and perceptions that weren’t valid, that were cultural baggage.  As much as possible, I flushed those.  What was left?  What was I about?  What was my purpose?
I found intensity.  When I cooked, I noted smells, tastes and sounds, fed my body and nourished my mind with textures and images.  When I gardened, I touched the soil, yanked weeds, planted new life.  The physical experiences gave way to emotional responses, each informed the other.  When I made love, I revelled in the joy and reflected on the spiritual connections in loving.  I focused.  I observed.  I gained a clear point of view from which to write.  Embraced what was mine.
I searched for ways to connect with readers, to find words to tell my truth so that it touched the “Ah, yes!” in the truth of others.  I wanted to connect, to find places where we were the same, all part of the human family.
Writing forced me to observe, and to study what I observed.  Writing gave me the tools to talk about it. 
What were my values?  How did I spend my time?  Was that activity achieving what I wanted?  Needed?  What drew me closer to discoveries of myself?   What enabled me to see that self in others?
Answers came.  If I wanted to be a writer, I had to write.  If I wanted to touch readers, I had to tell the truth, to be open and bare, to be vulnerable.  If I wanted to hone my skills, I had to start where I was, be who I was, and I had to work.  I had to accept and befriend my insecurities.  If not, the door would have remained closed.
Yesterday, my mother responded to a question from her cousin.  “What’s Carol doing these days?”
Mum’s answer: 
“She’s learning to write.”
Yes, I’m learning to write.  I’ve been learning all my life.  The journey through this landscape of words is endless, so today I celebrated.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Choices, Yes or No



Choices are challenging.  Today I say both yes and no to my fabric recycling course.  The yes and the no each feel right.

The course is in the fourth week of six.  We explore ways to re-purpose fabric and clothing.  We share patterns, ideas and finished pieces, help each other to solve problems.  Together we reclaim sweaters, coats and kilts, turn them into useful pieces and save them from the landfill.

I make slippers from a wool sweater.  The sweater is no longer new, no longer lovely, and no longer useful.  I wash and dry it, shrink and felt the fibres into a close-woven thickness.

Following the instructions from a free online pattern (http://www.homemade-holiday-gifts.com/felted-slippers.html ) I cut the sweater into soles and tops, sew them together using a blanket stitch.  The ribbing from the bottom of the sweater becomes the cuffs at the tops of the slippers.  Though they won’t be prize-worthy at any County Fair, they make me smile.



I make a second pair.  These have crocheted bands around the ankles.  Thicker and cosier, pair #2 has additional layers of wool on the soles.  Double wool = double warmth.  I say yes to my class and to the opportunity to create something new out of something old.

The group decides to veer from the course outline, and spend the remainder of this morning, plus the two weeks that are left working on a quilt.  The finished blanket will be donated to raise funds for a school-lunch program.

I am all thumbs at quilting.  I have tried but it is not one of my skills.  I do not enjoy quilting.  

I believe in compassion and charity and have contributed my work life to causes that help others.  

I say no to this one and to the remainder of the course.  There are others for whom this quilting project is a thrill.  I leave the project to them and sigh in relief.

Saying no is not easy for me.

Doing work because I cannot say no or because I feel guilt is stupid.  I don’t need to accept every project or charity that comes to me.

If I take care of myself, I have energy for the volunteer work I can do, for the tasks and people I love…because I can switch off the “yes machine.”

Finding balance in my life means letting go, means saying, “No thanks” when the fit isn’t right.

Photos are mine.



Friday, February 3, 2012

Tidal Fog


Fog hangs.
A sliver of lights
winks and shines
above the surface of the river.

The tide comes in.
The mist grows,
sinks to the river and rises
creeping over the marsh.
The city disappears.

Swallowed by fog,
my world ends--
at the bottom
of the street.

And later
presents itself
like a magician's trick.

Photo is mine.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Quilt Squares



My fabric recycling class is making a quilt, a donation for charity, creating quilt blocks from reclaimed kilts.  For class this week, my task is to take home one reclaimed kilt and cut a minimum of twenty quilt blocks, each 6 ½ inches square.

Why kilts?  Once kilts are cleaned, the pleats removed with a seam ripper and the fabric pressed, a kilt will yield four times as much fabric as a skirt for the same price from a Thrift Store.


 
I have the prerequisites:  cutting mat, rotary cutter and quilting ruler.  These tools are leftover from a “Learn to Quilt” class I took years ago.  These classes taught paper piecing and quilt block design – activities at which I did not excel.  The patience and precision required resulted in tears, wasted fabric and a suspicion that I am not cut out for quilting.  It was not a success.

In the fabric recycling course, quilting sneaks up on me.  There was no hint that the fabric recycling course would morph into a quilting class.  But, not wishing to admit my history of failure, I agree.

Sure, I’ll take this home to cut into squares.

Twenty squares are requested.  How difficult can it be? A question which proves my memory selects what it wants to forget.

The fabric is plaid, grey and cream with a navy stripe.  I think a lighter colour will be easier to see.  I choose it rather than the reds and blacks that my classmates take home.

It is easier to see.  But the lines of colour in the wool are not even.  The lines squiggle as they move down the length of the fabric.  This squiggling fools the eye and makes measuring 6 ½ inch squares difficult.

I measure the squares and measure again and again before cutting. I hear the voice of the recycling group’s instructor nagging in my head.

The quilt squares must be exactly 6 ½ inches square.  Nothing else will work.

I wonder.  Will my squares be acceptable?  I shudder remembering my lack of production at quilting class.

In two hours, I cut five squares at twenty-four minutes a square.  This is taking longer than I imagined.  Visions of the quilting class flash through my mind.  I re-visit the face of the quilting instructor; eyeballs rolling, eyebrows arched and mouth twisted.  I sigh.

My husband wanders in with two glasses of wine, to investigate, offering to keep me company.  He sips, watching me.  I talk to myself, measuring, not sipping wine, and wondering if straight edges and right-angle corners are possible.  He offers help.

Cutting squares of fabric can’t be different from slicing wallboard with a T-square and a knife!



Seizing the chance to escape, I show him how to use the cutting mat, the rotary cutter and the quilting ruler.  He asks questions, observes that the rotary cutter is like a pizza cutting-wheel, observes that it seems simple.

I get up.  He sits down.  He fiddles with the fabric, studies the lines in the plaid and notices the unevenness.  He calculates how much wool is needed for twenty squares and begins to cut.  I sip my wine.

He doesn’t talk to me, keeps his head down, mutters numbers.  I sip and put my feet up.  He cuts.  Success, four squares. 

Four 6 ½ inch squares – exactly square.

I turn on the propane fireplace, move to the rocking chair, sip and relax.  I think.

This isn’t hard after all.




My husband works like a machine producing squares.  Four more; the pile grows.  He cuts strips of wool and cuts the strips into squares.

I turn on music, start to hum.  Smiling at him, I offer to fetch him another glass of wine.

No thanks, I need to concentrate.

I pour myself a glass.  This isn’t bad!  Fireplace, rocking chair, music and wine.  He works, produces squares, no fabric wasted, perfect squares.

An hour passes.  On the table, there is a cube of forty-five squares, twice the minimum.  Success!

Well, this cutting task hasn’t been difficult.  Perhaps I’ll offer to do more squares next week.  I'll have to buy more wine though.




All photos are mine.