Remember, Remember the 5th of November

I can’t believe I forgot November the 5th.

Have you ever had a story grab you in such a way that you couldn’t shake it? As if it touched something deep inside?

A few years ago I was seized by a powerful intrique with an image from an upcoming movie. Soon I fell under the spell of the film and its lead character.

Images, themes and lines from the film had deep resonance. The character became my muse, leading me into new creative places. I discovered an online fandom with new friends and the shared passions and ideas there. It changed my creative life in profound ways.

This year, I forgot to honor November the 5th! The immediacy of those themes of revolution have cooled as my creative work has moved into other areas. But V ignited a flame when he followed in Guy Fawkes footsteps, one that is still burning in my creative life.

Think about books, movies, TV, or even a new story or a friend’s tale. What is it that’s moving in you? What response is eager to arise?

Let me know!

thanks, Patrise

Early writing experiences

from The Children's Drawing Board

The first writing I remember was keeping a diary. Soon after I began to write short stories about horses, my earliest obsession. Since I had consumed all the horse-centered literature available in the children’s section of the library, I decided to write my own.

Those early stories drew on the young persons horse literature tropes of the day. Usually a brave and fiesty stallion evaded capture through speed and cleverness, defended his heard of mares and foals, and struck dramatic poses on the mountain side surveying his domain. I was always the stallion. (An early hint about my gender ‘issues.’)

Today, my writing falls into several catagories: journaling, which has gone online and become interactive; fantasy and fan fiction; blogging, and marketing copy. The journaling and blogging has evolved out of the form of the diary, a desire to create documentary. The marketing copy is one of my coins in the realm. And the fiction is play. My fantasy writing very much parallels the stories  I created as a 10 year old. I am playing with favorite characters and themes and sharing with friends.

What’s the first thing you remember writing? Where did you start your writing practice? How has it changed over time?

Let me know!

blessings, Patrise

Writing about imagery

I got a comment today with a link, and I debated tossing it in the spam bin. Then I went and had a look at It’s a blog that posts series of amusing and interesting photos. Poking around I found a post about Sarolta Ban, a 27 year-old  artist from Budapest, Hungary. She makes intriguing surrealist photo manipulations that I find very beautiful. Find her on Facebook or at her Flickr.

Images can make a wonderful prompt for writing. Go take a look at Sarolta’s pictures, or find another image that grabs you, and write at least 100 words that are inspired by that image!

to find images, go to flickr, photobucket or google: images and search on keywords. You’ll get lots of interesting things to look at!

Drabbling: a fun, easy writing excersize

I’ve learned a fun writing technique in my travels around the Web: the Drabble.

From Fanlore:

Traditionally, a drabble is a piece of fiction that is exactly 100 words long. <snip> The term itself comes from Monty Python’s 1971 Big Red Book, which declared the drabble a word game in which two to four players compete to be the first to write a novel.[1] Drabbles emerged within British science fiction fandom in the 1980s; the Birmingham University SF society is credited as being the organization that set the length at 100 words.[1] The form remained popular throughout the decade, and the British science-fiction publisher Beccon put out three books of drabbles between 1988-1993.

Usually a challenge for drabble writing provides a prompt to inspire the writer. Prompts can be words, photos, phrases, songs as well. Here’s a holiday drabble I wrote in response to the prompt: ‘Skating.’  I then searched for a quotation using that word for extra inspiration, and I had a character in mind.

Title: Thin Ice
Author: Patrise

Prompt: Skating

Pairing/characters: a lost boy
Rating: G

Word count: 100

“In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Flashes. Hot. No, cold! Dark, light tumbling like a stone. Roaring fills his ears. He sputters, scrabbling on the icy rocks like a mad, blind thing.

“What the…!” someone hauls him up by his collar, bundling him in a rough cloak. “Ye damn fool, on the ice, were ye?” a blurry face appears, breath redolent of pipeweed and firewhisky.”Nuh..” his mouth doesn’t work properly, he can’t recall who he is, much less form a sentence.

“Well, c’mon then, laddie. We’ll get you into something warm and dry.” He staggers after the man lest he melt into the dark forest.


The process of writing 100 words I find strangely pleasing, like carving and polishing something to it’s essential form. There are phrases and words I don’t want to let go of, but then find a more concise way of portraying.

In case you’d like to try your hand at drabbling,  here’s a three-word prompt:

  • spire
  • tranquility
  • reveal

Use these three words in your 100 word story, and post them in your comment!

Sugar in the Ground

It’s been a great year for butterflies. I’ve seen winged things in drifts coming to my butterfly bush, lantana, inpatiens and lobelia, including species I’ve not often seen. Something called the Great Spangled Fritillary paid a visit, American Copper, many varieties of Swallowtail and a profusion of the magical Luna moth have been abundant this year.

This morning I was to the garden early, and as I unlatched the gate a cloud of yellow Swallowtail rose from the green, followed by red cardinals and a few bluebirds. I’ve been suffering a bit of depressive lethargy lately, and I had to coax myself out of bed, but I was so richly rewarded for my slight effort!  I didn’t have to struggle or sweat for it, just show up and pay attention.

I am a child-free woman by choice, and so my maternal drives arise around my animals and, I am discovering, my plants. When I see my little veggie plot, I feel a rush of pride and worry and curiosity and love, and without hesitation set to work watering the thirsty tomatoes.

It’s time to plant the fall crops, and I have plenty of space where earlier plants have come and gone. Yellow bush beans were a huge success. My zuchinni was like a dragon that gave and gave and gave. Onions and chard and cukes have all finished for now. My garden mentor has already dug her potatoes and turned the earth, planting spinach, chard, lettuces, kale, broccolli, carrots and more. I have much to do.

I move the hose about, giving everyone a good soak. I pluck the ripe tomatoes, of which I seem to have 4 distinct types so far: orange grape, romas, Burpee hybrids that are perfectly round, and another volunteer that is medium-small but not a cherry variety. This week I made a batch of sauce — oh, my fragrant and delicious, the fire of summer went right into the freezer. Now I’m gearing up for some real canning — that will be a first in many years. It’s long since time to pull the beets, as that will free up the largest plot I have  for fall crops. The beet tops are bitten and dry but the woody shoulders standing above the soil promise fat roots below. As I rinse and trim their tops, I can see the vivid magenta inside.

As an artist, I know I feed on the lusciousness of colour, but I’m not the only one. Those butterflies, as well as the hummingbirds and bees, come to sip from brilliantly coloured flowers. Yellow buddleia, orange lantana, red and pink impatiens, purple lobelia, and all the sunny oranges, reds, pinks and yellows of the zinnias in my vegetable garden call to the sugar-seekers.

I’m holding a fat beet in my hand, marveling at the bright pink and magenta target revealed when I sliced off it’s woody top. Hot pink stains my hand, and I’m drawn into a favorite  childhood memory:

Once peach season arrived, the family would pile in the boat to go up the River Snye to the Ontario town of Wallaceburg. The river had a no-wake law– effectively, a speed limit– so our sleek and speedy boat idled  for an hour or so along the placid river through fields and orchards. Some farmers with roadside stands had a dock for river traffic, and we’d get a bushel of peaches for canning.

As we drew near the town, the blue-green water grew murky, then brown. As we came around the bend to see the first bridge the water was distinctly red. By the time we passed the beet sugar plant, the V of our wake was in  red-raspberry water, and the foamy waves were pink.  We passed the plant, and the water turned back to it’s usual sea green-blue, clear with waving river grasses and sandy bottom below.

I never saw that pink river as pollution; it was a short season, and the red beet colour disappeared before it ever reached the big river. More I marveled at the snowy white bag of sugar that came from those dark red roots we dug from our own garden.

I’ve heard it said that our colour vision may have evolved to help us get good nutrition. Think of the foods rich in vitamins and nutrients: carrots, blueberries, tomatoes, not to mention the chlorophyll that ultimately feeds us all. Those butterflies heed the signal blazed by the flowers: sweetness here!

As I pluck the warm tomatoes from the vine and imagine them bubbling in the pot, destined for jars of sauce, I’m delighted by the summer sun captured for me. And when I open that jar some wintry night and enjoy the contents. may I remember the ruby fire of  summer, and the brilliant colours of the garden calling : “Sweetness Here!”

Eating Flowers, and the Wonders of Dirt

A Perfect Dinner

Last night’s dinner was so beautiful I should have taken a photo. It was a stir-fry of zuccini, new onion and spring garlic, bok choy, thyme and thai basil, with bow-tie pasta. All the produce was freshly picked moments earlier from my own garden. The crowning touch, the brushstroke that made it ‘pop’ was when I tossed in the squash blossoms at the very end. Their dazzling tendrils or bright orange amid the green and white was the colour it needed to make a beautiful painting.

In order to acquire that dinner, I have been working the soil in my tiny plot since March. I’ve turned the clay, added compost, rotted leaves and manure, turned it again. Built beds with cedar poles from an old tobacco barn. Tenderly tucked seeds and plantlets into the dirt and watered them with encouraging words.Pulled out seedlings of things I didn’t plant.

Yesterday after harvesting I had a few new plants to put in. The clouds thickened into a wet dark grey mass, and rain fell in fat drops, pelting the large leaves of the zuccini plant with an audible “thwap!” I dug faster as the surface began to run with rivulets of muddy water. Thunder and lightning ensued. My dogs cowered under a nearby tree, rather put out by my behavior. At one point they were barking at me. I persisted: If I buy a plant it must go in the ground within 24 hours.

Finally, soaking wet but triumphant, my two new heirloom tomatoes, two New Mexican peppers and some new herbs were in their new home in earth.

Earth. Dirt. Soil.

We walk on it, it feeds us, it is the raw material from which some say we are made. Our words diminish its value: “dirty,” “soiled;” or celebrate its humble power: “earthy,” “grounded.”  Here’s a paragraph about this stuff, from Annie Proulx’s amazing novel That Old Ace in the Hole — a book I whole-heartedly recommend to anyone who loves beautiful language, touching characters, and the interactions of people and place:

In his mind’s eye he saw the panhandle earth immemorially used and tumbled by probing grass roots, the cutting hooves of bison, scratchings of ancient turkeys, horses shod and unshod pounding along, the cut of iron-rimmed wheels, the slicing plow and pulverizing harrow, drumming hail, the vast scuffings of trailed cattle herds, the gouge of drill bits and scrape of bulldozers, inundations of chemicals. What was left was a kind of worn, neutral stuff, a brownish dust possessing only utility.

This year, with my first kitchen garden in 10 years, the soil is my canvas. (LOL, for those wondering where the “art” was in “Art•Spirit•Nature, this may be the explanation!) And I am learning to grow and eat close to home in healing ways that are beautiful and nourishing to all, not just myself. I hope you will enjoy this art as much as the painted kind. If you’re in the neighborhood, come over and help me eat it!

Green Fire: the force that through the green fuse* feeds the world

In the buzzing radiance of the  garden, everything I see is alive. My neighbors looked up from tending their plants as my dog runs a woodchuck into the woods. “Good dog! Protecting the garden!” they cheered. (NB: no groundhogs were harmed making this blog.)

Every plot in this community garden is different: Here edges made with locust logs, for their rot resistance. There, someone has used tree branches for trellising. Another has tomatoes suspended by adjustible twine to lend support as they grow. Some still rich bare earth, others bushy with green. Some weedy, with bolting kale waving yellow blossoms. A hill of strawberries, crinkled leaves all jaunty, and such treasure beneath the green!

My half-plot is all the way down the end, so I admire the changes as I arrive, tools in hand. It’s the first vegetable garden I’ve grown in 10 years, and my first experience with a community garden. I took on a half, since at 12 x 15′ it’s already bigger than my last successful city garden. I learned long ago that bigger can be too much, and I really want this to succeed.

My nearest garden neighbors are in Afghanistan, and their strawberries are burgeoning with fruit, even though many of us gardeners have been harvesting by pints and quarts. I taste a few, crushing the warm sweet berry on my tongue as I survey the changes from two days ago.  I see that since spreading home compost I have hundreds of tiny tomato plants coming up, and two fast growing squash-pumpkin-gourd-melon things. Plus, peach pits!  My french breakfast radishes are popping out of the soil, asking to be plucked. The little beets are crowding more, and I thin and thin until I have a nice pile of beet greens for supper. More potato plants are crowning through the soil  and my own tiny strawberry patch has 2 ready to eat gems. Next year, sweet abundance!

garden harvest for May 15, 2010
mmm, organic goodies

While I am admiring the potatoes, my neighbor K warns me about potato bugs. She takes me to another plot to see them. At first glance, they are roundish and orange with spots and might remind one of the beneficial ladybug. But no, I look closer: these fiendish beasties are actively chomping the leaves in a voracious manner! She shows me how to pluck them (less pleasant that picking berries, alas) and I squash them with a plank. MY potatoes.

I spend an hour or so puttering: pulling weeds, harvesting , setting up a field washing system so less grit goes through my drains at home. I transplant one mystery gourd to a nearby untended plot — if it’s pumpkin, gourd or melon, I don’t have the space — and feed some of the feeble looking plants more top dressing  of composted manure. My dogs have come to rest in the shade outside the gate, and the birds swoop overhead and chatter on the fence. I sow some new seeds: Russian Kale and climbing beans. I stow my tools and admire the box of greens and reds I take home.

*Link to Dylan Thomas poem The Force that through the Green Fuse drives the Flower

All creative work builds on what came before

Here is an amazing video by Nina Paley made from photographs of sculpture taken at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Nina is a big supporter of the Organization of Transformative Works, a nonprofit organization run by and for fans to provide access to and preserve the history of fanworks and fan cultures.  With the rapid evolution of media culture, the spectrum from plagarism to derivitive to inspired is blurry, evolving as well.

“Snowpocalypse!” or, a cold storm and a warm hearth

So named by the ever-subtle Washington Post, :Snowpocalypse was slow to begin. Warm wet snow fell lackadaisically all afternoon, not bothering to stick until after dark.

On Thursday night I paid a visit to the grocery store, a ritual performed by every adult in the metro area, and found our local store devoid of milk, bread, eggs and any fresh poultry, so I bagged a small frozen turkey. Turkey and fixings leftover would make good food to have in a power outage.  This proved to be a good assumption.

My intrepid friends came to help us eat the turkey, but by mid evening the snow was getting thick and we sent them off in their 4wd in 8″ of silvery snow. L and I finished the dishes and watched a bit of news, non-stop coverage of the storm by breathless reporters who apparently had rarely seen the stuff. We congratulated ourselves on being cozy and well prepared. Then the lights went out.

Now I was raised half-suburban, half country and I’m no stranger to bucket flushing and card playing by lamplight. But it seems mellow mid-Atlantic weather and urban life has made me soft. True, we supplement our heat with wood, burning a true cord each  year in our fireplace insert. It’s not one I’d choose, but it does have a blower that circulates hot air around the firebox. When there is power, of course.

It gets so quiet when all the machinery of a house wheezes to a halt. No fridge, no furnace, no fans, no pump. And the snow stops the outside world as well: no airplanes, helicopters, no local traffic and no highway whine. Despite living in the woods, the traffic noise is notable when absent.

It was dark as tar and quiet in the house. The world of snow outside was glowing, although from no moon nor electric light. The night air seemed luminous, filled with snow crystals, and all the limbs and leaves are coated in white, the ground a reflective blanket.

Well, at nine-thirty on a Friday night  there was no better thing to do than to go to bed. With two large dogs and two quilts, one down-filled,  I  was completely warm and snug.

In this house, no power means no stove for cooking. But we are on the ‘city water’ so we can flush and wash up. Neighbors with wells are not so lucky. When the lights go out, so does the water. But some of them have gas cook stoves, so we each have our advantages.

We kept the fire burning and by morning had good coals for cooking. But one important thing I overlooked: ground coffee! But soon there was hot water, and a strong cup of tea. Later my aunt told me a mortar and pestle would serve to grind beans, and voila! my survival was now assured.

All day long it snowed. Every few hours I’d re-dig my path out to the cars parked at the edge of the drive. The cell battery died, so I shoveled out to the car to plug it in. After a nap, there were over 4 more inches to clear in order to fetch the thing back to the house.

I had pretty severe internet withdrawl, but it was lovely to sink into uninterrupted reading. The quiet is so deep and soothing. I  picked up The Grey King by Susan Cooper. I did the Sunday crossword in the Post, since the Sunday sections were delivered Friday. I wish I had the Sunday paper, but I give our fearless R. a pass for this one! Sometime early Saturday they gave up trying to plough our road.

Today the sun came out. It was DAZZLING. I shoveled us out to the rutted road, not ploughed but less than the 32″ that lay on everything else, and the dogs were ecstatic. They hadn’t been able to run since Friday, and one took off in each direction, galloping down the road.

As I hiked out toward the county road I could see numerous loblolly pines bending low. Near the corner several were half-fallen across the road, explaining why no plough had been through. Even the county road was snow-covered. I could see the trees leaning on the electric lines, but they weren’t broken.

The latest weather forecast called for lows near zero Farenheit. This house has been cold at the extremities for two days, and we were more and more huddled by the fire. I’ve been leaving faucets dripping to keep the pipes from freezing. Another day or two of this and we’d be in danger of that.

So I called the automated system at our electric coop, again. This time I pushed a few extra buttons, and left a message about the trees leaning on the wires. Not long after this I was out shoveling and lo! one of their trucks! Two guys with chain saws were making their way down my road. I waved madly at them. My saviors!

So now, all these noises! There goes the microwave: whirrrrrrrrr. The furnace is rumbling and I hear the water moving through the radiators. I’ve thrown on a load of wash. The blower on the fireplace is helping warm the main room.

And hah! Friends just stopped by with their cooler full of food. They have no power yet and were asking for fridge space.  I’ll go one better: roast their pork loin and help them eat it, and let them take warm showers.

It’s getting cold outside. The snow makes otherworldly sculptures out of a flower pot, a deck chair, a chimenia, and they are turning that dusk blue colour. The sky is a vague peach glow with icey aqua blue above.  And it’s warm around my hearth.