the Coldest Morn

One of my writers group sent out a prompt this morning: “Winter’s coldest day…”

My bay is frozen flat, and white with snow. In my youth I would have strapped on my skates…

The scrape of metal on ice changes as I move. there’s the soft shish of gliding on perfect smoothness, and the scrape sound when I slow or curve, shaving ice to slow down. There’s the vibration of milky ice that welled up then froze again, and the gritty sound of snow-crusted ice.

This watery world is off limits to me most of the year. It’s too swampy for swimming, too shallow for boating,  but now it’s mine for the gliding.

I skate onto a space swept clear by wind, a curving plain with ice is so clear that the underwater world is revealed as if through a window. Only the cracks break the illusion: pale ribbons cross the ‘window,’ revealing foot-thick ice.

It’s alluring. I speed up, soar across this glassy plain, and feel like I am flying over still water. A sudden move below, and I realize the fish are moving in the  underneath. Curling to a halt, I kneel and bow to gaze between my mittened paws, peering into a world below the ice. A finny tail flicks out of sight.

The sun glows, dully shining through a high thin sky, and I take to my blades again. My mirror is edged with tall marsh grasses, faded to gold against the grey. Beneath me, flashing white, dark deep and sky blues. My face is pinked with cold air and my heart happily pushes the air into my pumping limbs.

I outrace the cold. 

>note: I searched but could not find the name of the painter of today’s image. If you recognize this painting or could shed any light on the artist, I’d appreciate it.

A Whole New Life

I’ve been posting here less often for a very good reason: after five years of under-employment, I landed a job.

NOAA logoDream Job

I’ve gone to work for a company called Earth Resources Technology, a prime contractor for NOAA.

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration is under the Department of Commerce. That’s because the agency’s sections, oceans and weather, are vital to the American economy.  Because of this, I have high hopes that NOAA will escape the worst of EPA’s fate.

Word Games

Alas, we learned today that the word “science” has been removed from EPA’s mission statement. It find it confusing that people can decide that the tradition of scientific method, patiently carried out over centuries, can suddenly be discounted.

Restoring Harmony

I’m working in the Restoration Center, part of NOAA Fisheries division, whose mission is restoring damaged wetlands and marine environments. Below is an article of the sort I hope to be creating in the near future.

Six Things to Know About Coastal Habitat Restoration

For instance, restoring habitat not only improves the fishing, it creates over 15 jobs for every $1 million invested.

So expect more musings on things of a watery nature from me. From Harsen’s Island, Michigan, to the Everglades, from the Great Dismal Swamp to Piscataway NP (where I live), the wet places have always had my heart.

By the way, I heard the first Spring Peepers yesterday!

 

Oldest Library in Europe?

Reblogging for all you book and library lovers: Never before seen images of the oldest Bodleian Library reading room. How I’d love to write there, surrounded by history!  Click through to the article for more images. 

Photograph by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0 Built in 1487, Duke Humfrey’s Library is the oldest reading room in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. Duke Humfrey’s Library is named after Humphrey of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Gloucester, a younger son of Henry IV of England. He was a connoisseur of literature…

via This Reading Room at the University of Oxford is One of the Oldest in Europe — TwistedSifter

Barbara Kingsolver on Our Post Election World

UPDATE: I’ve excerpted the end of her article; click the links to read the entire peice.

I’m relying on the words of beloved author Barbara Kingsolver’s words about what’s happened to our country and  where we go from here.  From the Guardian 11/23/16

If we’re artists, writers, critics, publishers, directors or producers of film or television, we reckon honestly with our role in shaping the American psyche. We ask ourselves why so many people just couldn’t see a 69-year-old woman in our nation’s leading role, and why they might choose instead a hero who dispatches opponents with glib cruelty. We consider the alternatives. We join the time-honored tradition of artists resisting government oppression through our work.

If we’re journalists, we push back against every door that closes on freedom of information. We educate our public about objectivity, why it matters, and what it’s like to work under a president who aggressively threatens news outlets and reporters.

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-9-49-01-amIf we’re consumers of art, literature, film, TV and news, we think about what’s true, and what we need. We reward those who are taking risks to provide it.

If we’re teachers we explicitly help children of all kinds feel safe in our classrooms under a bullying season that’s already opened in my town and probably yours. Language used by a president may enter this conversation. We say wrong is wrong.

If we’re scientists we escalate our conversation about the dangers of suppressing science education and denying climate change. We shed our cautious traditions and explain what people should know. Why southern counties are burning now and Florida’s coastal cities are flooding, unspared by any vote-count for denial.

If we’re women suffering from sexual assault or body image disorders, or if we’re their friends, partners or therapists, we acknowledge that the predatory persona of men like Trump is genuinely traumatizing. That revulsion and rage are necessary responses.

If our Facebook friends post racial or sexist slurs or celebrate assaults on our rights, we don’t just delete them. We tell them why.

If we’re getting up in the morning, we bring our whole selves to work. We talk with co-workers and clients, including Trump supporters, about our common frustrations when we lose our safety nets, see friends deported, lose our clean air and water, and all the harm to follow. We connect cause and effect. This government will blame everyone but itself.

We refuse to disappear.

We keep our commitments to fairness in front of the legislators who oppose us, lock arms with the ones who are with us, and in the words of Congressman John Lewis, prepare to get ourselves in some good trouble. Every soul willing to do that is part of our team, starting with the massive crowd that shows up in DC in January to show the new president what we stand for, and what we won’t.

There’s safety in numbers, but only if we count ourselves out loud.

 READ MORE

Finding the Right Words… Part 1

Dear Readers,

Since the election on November 8 I have started and bailed on 4 posts, unable to wrap my head/thoughts/words around the election of the 45th president. I’m going to do my best to weave those aborted essays into something coherent, so I can move on. Here’s Part 1. The verse is from a poem by William E. Stafford

How I Became a Liberal

If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.

Alas, I am one of those out-of-touch ‘elites’ who, despite my rust-belt roots and my current bank balance, delights in a healthy planet, education, real science, and a sensitivity to and celebration of other cultures. How did I become so solidly Blue?

1968presidential-electionMaybe it’s because,of this:  in 7th grade Civics our teacher used the presidential election to get 35 moody 13 year olds excited about politics. We had to join a campaign team – either Republican Richard Nixon or Democrat Hubert Humphrey.

I was born into a family that voted Republican. We were part of Detroit’s white flight to the suburbs, landing in a WASP suburb famous for redlining. Black folk were domestic workers and I never met any Jews until I went to college.
In that very white, very Republican Michigan suburb, every kid in the class wanted to work for Nixon. That’s who our parents talked about as the good guy. I got stuck on the Humphrey team. As our classroom campaigns rolled along we became engrossed in the real Presidential race. I worked hard to get Hubert elected, most of it falling on deaf ears. I remember my disappointment when he lost.

This was also formative: Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In was a revelation. Here were people that felt my tribe. Before long I was itching to join anti war protests and fighting with my dad.  He threatened to vote for segregation candidate George Wallace that year.

Reblog: What a Buck in the Marsh Taught me About Respect on the Morning After the Election

Dear readers: last night Stephen Colbert reminded me that all the beauty OF the world is still right here IN the world. In that spirit I’m re-blogging my neighbor’s beautiful post from today’s morning walk:

Earthy Blessings: What a Buck in the Marsh Taught Me about RESPECT on the Morning After the Election

I am fortunate that I have the flexibility to walk the woodlands and visit the marsh this morning. Where else would I go on such a troubling day? I went into this election, determined that no matter the outcome, I would continue to do my best to live as salt and light in a world that always needs both. As an unashamed follower of Christ, I have and continue to attempt to live in accordance with what matters to Him…treating people with love, treating the Creation with care, and recognizing my dependence on the Spirit to help me to know and name my blindness and shortcomings.
But this morning, I have to admit that that determination comes hard. I am chagrined to realize who made up the voting block that has elevated our president-elect. I am sickened with grief and foreboding for what this outcome will mean for the earth, for the Creation, its creatures and all the humans who depend upon it for life, as the party elected will not hesitate to exploit it full measure and never look back.

bringlightI was thinking these thoughts, and wondering whether I had anything at all to say in this space this morning, anything gleaned from the natural world around me, as I walked along the boardwalk, when I heard the crashing and say the dried cattails waving wildly. I had seen possible traces before of deer in the marsh, but was never quite sure. “How would they maneuver through the muck?”

But there he was….. Read the rest at Earthy Blessings

How to “Not-go” to that Dark Place

“You have to not-turn to anger, not-turn to resentment.”

That advice comes from a man who spent 26 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, to kids who find themselves entangled in the juvenile justice system. He’s helping them know themselves through writing, and to learn to manage their chaotic lives and hopefully survive the system.

Stay

I was intrigued by his negative verb:  ‘not-turn.’

What is the parallel positive equivalent? My friend pointed out that ‘not-go’  is really ‘stay.’ But stay where?

I think when we’re anxious or angry or stressed, the place we seem to be in isn;t a good one. And we don’t necessarily wake up to what’s happening until we’re already reacting. If we wake up at all.

Mindfulness

So where is it we’re supposed to stay? That’s where the mindfulness comes in. In my own story, it has taken me many years to become aware of the vicious self criticism that undermined my sanity. It operated without my awareness, defeating my confidence at every turn. I looked in the mirror and I looked terrible. I created something and it was pathetic. I offered myself to people and awaited harsh criticism, because that’s what I lived with all the time, inside my head.

Clearly I couldn’t ‘stay’ there!

I’ve finally learned, imperfectly, to ‘not-turn’ on myself, ‘not-turn’ to the excoriating self-talk. In order to do this, I had to learn go back to before it was activated, so I could halt the process before it got underway. Which was tricky when I believed that self-critical voice to be a true part of me. That voice seemed so real when I began this quest. Which is why it was so difficult to gain control over.

I am Not My Thoughts

Through meditation, particularly mindfulness techniques and body centered methods, I learned to be with myself in a way that allowed me to observe the self-talk arising. It’s a process of recognizing a mind pattern and realizing that it’s ‘not-me.’

Now I have a place to ‘not-go.’

for more on mindfulness I recommend the books and videos of Pema Chodron and Eckhart Tolle

*featured image from the installation Lyon Art, the Abode of Chaos

 

 

Mighty Hunter

There’s a big red tailed hawk sitting in the oak tree on the edge of the bay.  I’m across the road, but from here I can see her cock her head, look from one side to the other. She’s rosy in the morning light, and fluffed up in the cold, looking like a small chicken, kind of sweet, or at least innocuous. But she’s there watching my neighbor’s big bird feeder that hangs about 15 feet away. This beautiful bird, soft feathers, warm breast, and bright eyes, is a ruthless killer.

If you haven’t read Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk, you should. Especially if you’re a fan of raptors, or someone who’s grieved a parent. But it will forever dash your romanticism about the noble hawk.

The book is Helen’s personal saga of raising and training Mabel, a goshawk. The process of training this fierce creature to come to her command after hunting is not for the squeamish. Mabel eats frozen dead chicks at home, but her preferred meals involve lots of fresh blood.

So I understand the calm, focused, vigil of this bird. She keeps glancing right, eyeing that bird feeder for her best moment to grab breakfast. I know the folks who live in that house; if they see the event, they will exclaim in horror, ‘oh the poor little birdies!’ But I’m cheering for the hawk; it’s worth knowing she will, for one more day, sit somewhat sated in the afternoon light, preening those ruddy feathers.

PS Helen McDonald writes about the return of the wild boar

 

 

I’m a Winner!!!

Although four days ago I want at all sure it was possible, I just validated this years novel at 50,631 words and got all the fun NaNoWriMo winners goodies: Congratulations video, a purple bar, and badges, banners and a certificate!

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 7.35.06 PMBut the best reward is, of course, having done it. When it got boring, I wrote. When it got scary, I wrote. I even wrote in my sleep and found a subplot. (turned out to be a red herring, but actually a necessary one!) When it got hard, I wrote more.

At 60 years old, overweight with a bum knee, I can’t run a marathon, but for the 4th out of 5 years I CAN WRITE ONE.

This year’s story is a continuation of last year’s Only the Rust Remembers, a dystopian post climate disaster adventure story about three unlikely companions. The civilized world has contracted into what is now Ontario, and has rebooted the heavy industry around the Great Lakes.

In Book 1, it’s 2173 and in Gary, IN a blast furnace explodes, catapulting 2 of our 3  heroes on an unexpected journey. In Book 2, the three of them set sail on a steam tug boat across Lake Erie. But one of them is in the brig! Will they escape the Security Forces that are hunting them? Will they find Tayya’s grandfather who holds the secrets to the past? WIl Hal ever speak to either of them again?

You will have to read it find out!

I learned during this NaNo is that there is a Book 3 to this story. Tayya will need to return to the rising revolution she left behind in Salt City. Garez and Hal may not be so eager to go back. So stay tuned, the epic will continue.

And, I have made a commitment to the path…. of EDITING! The beauty of NaNo is that it’s a big crazy push to wrote a Rough Draft, ROUGH being the operative word. It is not suitable for anyone to read. Before I have a First Draft I need to essentially rewrite each one of these chapters, polishing and clearing up problems with grammar, plot, and continuity as I go.

The good news is that three chapters of Book 1 are already revised. And now that I’ve invested so more into these characters I’m committed to seeing them through to the end.

Thank you to all my Writing Buddies*** this year, for all your encouragement! I am so proud to have so many successful NaNos in my local writers group!!! We will have lots to celebrate on December 7th. 

***

Cheryl Holloway and other members of AWWG

Guest Blogger at Cheryl Holloway’s Author blog

I’m honored to be featured today at Cheryl Holloway‘s blog here:

How to Succeed at NaNoWriMo

Please go read, and give Cheryl some love. It’s the second year I’ve been invited to do thisand I’m honored.

Cheryl interviews indy authors of all types and genres, and I’ve discovered interesting writers and books. So she is a big help to authors who want to share their work. And she is a very reliable blogger – I know I will have something interesting to read at least once a week.

Cheryl writes romance, and heart-touching short stories. She’s written biography and young-adult fiction. Essentially, she understands people very well. And, she makes a great writing buddy! This is her first NaNoWriMo, so share some encouragement and share the blog too.

girl-writingBut there’s something I’m avoiding: 

Something that came up while I did this interview: I have yet to complete the rewrite of one of my NaNo novels. I’ve edited and rewritten about one half of last year’s. But the previous two stories (3 years of writing) languish unimproved. Were they terrible?  I don’t think so. I know the stories were interesting. But I have some blocks there – am I reluctant to see just how bad the rough drafts really were??

So, before NEXT YEAR’s NaNo, I will have at least one solid draft of a complete novel. There, my commitment to you!

But wait! Here’s more good news:

I have been submitting Short Stories to contests and journals, in search of prizes and publication. So far, no results. I only started in August, and the first one is a tiny one. I’ll hear about the second one much sooner – in 2 weeks! And I have a third story almost ready to go.

So I am floating my balloon out into the literary landscape.

But for today, it’s NaNo time! And I have  words to go before I sleep.