Pictures of Spring

strange skies

Interesting cloud bank to the west, and strangely colored clouds.

 

Ornamental cherry trees

I’ve been meaning to get a picture of this street for years. The ornamental cherry trees are stunning. When the petals fall the street looks like it’s covered in pink snow.

kissing cousins

showy

 

tulips yellow and pink

Maybe if I quit taking so many pictures I’d have time to write.

The Bluest Sky

(with apologies to Toni Morrison)

 

Bluest sky

TulipdaffodilsMagnoliastreet

Oregon view

 

Winter here is like the long dark of Moria, and we don’t have Gandalf to lead us through it. Seeing sun and blue sky after all the rains lately is cause for celebration. Have courage, wherever you are. The sun is still there, I’ve seen it!

A Prayer in Spring

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.

Robert Frost

Snow Day!

Portland is having a rare late season snowstorm, which began yesterday. My office manager gave me a lift to the park-n-ride where I leave my car during the day since the buses were running so slowly and conditions were rapidly deteriorating. The wind and blowing snow were rocking my managers SUV. She commented at one point that there didn’t seem to BE any buses. We didn’t see any in the six miles from the office to my car.

The snow was building up rapidly and only in a few spots was the pavement visible. It was pretty amazing for this area that is normally far more temperate and is one of the things the inhabitants love about it. My 12-mile drive from the park-n-ride lot took well over an hour at an average speed of 20mph. Not a snow plow to be seen, I don’t think any of the towns I pass through have any. I know, boohoo. My new-old car did splendidly though, no sliding or spinning tires. The old Mercedes I had was a death trap in snow, which I never understood. You’d think the Germans would have a handle on engineering cars that could handle snow.

I was one of the lucky ones, making it home in roughly an hour and a half from the time I left the office. Many motorists were stuck in gridlock for hours due to accidents, bad road conditions, abandoned cars.

Back at the ranch, we found this on the car:

Angel wing icicle

Well.

Just a couple more shots of the snow, and then I’m off to write. I have a new idea that’s barely forming for a fantasy story and I want to work it up.

February 6 2014 snow

February 6 snowstorm

Feb 6 2014 front & street

Ok, away I fly to take advantage of the unexpected free time and create worlds of chaos. Metaphors be with you, and all that.

the-goddess-brigid

Welcome Spring

Plum Blossom spring

Click on the pic for a little card.

Some of you folks have had a brutal winter, and you may be feeling like Mother Nature let the clock wind down in your neck of the woods, coming to a dead stop in the middle of winter.

But fear not! The wheel of the year continues to turn, and Mother Nature’s just taking a well-deserved nap. Everyone needs their beauty sleep, after all, putting a blush back in the old girl’s cheek when she rises rested and refreshed.

This weekend, January 31, is Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival. 2014 is 4712 on the Chinese calendar, and the Year of the Horse. From Infoplease.com:

Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal’s year would have some of that animal’s personality. Those born in horse years are cheerful, skillful with money, perceptive, witty, talented and good with their hands. Rembrandt, Harrison Ford, Aretha Franklin, Chopin, Sandra Day O’Connor, and President Theodore Roosevelt were born in the year of the horse.

I’m a rat, but we don’t need to go there now.

This weekend, February 2, is also a holiday for the pagan community. Variously known as Bride, or Bride’s Day (pronounced Breed, who came to be known as St. Brigid), Oimelc, Imbolg, Candlemas. This is when lambs are born (hence the name Oimelc, meaning “ewe’s milk” or “in milk”). It’s the first major Sabbat of the year for Wiccans and some pagan traditions.

the-goddess-brigidClick on the pic for more info

So Blessed Bride, Happy Spring, Happy New Year, Kung Hei Fat Choy. Have courage, spring is coming.

A Crystal Age

A_Crystal_Age_(1906_Edition_Cover)

Another of my Project Gutenberg finds, “A Crystal Age” by W.H. Hudson is an early science fiction story. Originally published in 1887 anonymously, later editions had the author’s name. One wonders why it was published anonymously to begin with as science fiction was not unheard of at that time. According to Wikipedia, utopia/dystopia literature was quite the rage at the time, not unlike today.

Some of the plot devices it employs are echoed in later books. The narrator is out on a botanical expedition in the hills near his English home when he falls and then awakens much later in strange surroundings with no real explanation of how this occurs. The fact is he has been unconscious apparently for millennia, or somehow fallen through a portal in time (my own guess, it’s never mentioned in the book) and finds himself in the far distant future. This sort of magical transportation is what Edgar Rice Burroughs used in his “John Carter of Mars” series, where Carter is mysteriously whisked to the red planet without explanation, although “A Crystal Age” predates “John Carter” by a good 25 years or so.

The story is an interesting imagining of what the far future might look like, and how people of that time would behave. But our hero baffles me in several ways. A couple of points most difficult to reconcile are that everyone in the future speaks 19th century English, and yet the written language has become incomprehensible. The narrator, Smith, likens the forms of the letters in books to Hebrew characters. Why would the written language alter so completely, but not the spoken? Language changes relatively quickly, and in the span of time that must have elapsed between the England of Smith’s day and the time he wakes to find himself in where no trace remains of any city, language would have altered beyond recognition. Even today, with only a couple thousand years between us, no one knows what ancient Greek sounded like, and there is debate about Latin pronunciations.

Anyway, when he wakes from his fall after an unknown amount of time, he finds himself covered by vining plants from which he must extricate himself. His boots are muddy, dry, cracked, as if they have aged while he has not. He begins to walk in an unfamiliar landscape, passing animals that come to stare at him seemingly in wonder as if they can recognize an unfamiliar human, an outsider. Maybe they can tell a carnivore when they see one.

Then, like H. G. Wells’s “The Time Machine” our narrator right off the bat falls in love with a young girl in a small group of humans he encounters, although the young Yoletta is vastly more intelligent and independent than the Eloi Weena. While Smith struggles to understand the peculiar ways of these people, he readily capitulates to their way of life, and strives to fit in from the outset, and makes no attempt to try to understand where he is or how he got there, or how the world came to be the way it is, or what may lie beyond the small area this family inhabits. His obsession with Yoletta drives his every action, from the minute he lays eyes on her.

He never even wonders about his own family or friends, or whether they might be concerned about him. His infatuation with Yoletta has an almost slavish quality. He indentures himself to the family for a year in return for a suit of clothes such as the group all wear so that he won’t stand out or offend them, and in so doing, please Yoletta. His new benefactors are affronted by Smith’s appearance and clothing, particularly his boots, although why is never made clear. The reader can only assume it’s a quirk of their society, the way removing hats on entering a building is with us.

The people seem to take offense easily, although are equally quick to forgive and move on. They’re so accustomed to their own lifestyle that they find it incomprehensible that Smith could come from a place where things are done differently. They’re a bit like the Eloi in that they seem to spend no time in self-examination, or question their existence or have any desire to travel beyond the confines of their small corner of the world.

Yoletta is an unusual character for the time this was written. She espouses views that are progressive, while Smith’s are utterly conventional, chauvinistic. Smith loves Yoletta because she’s beautiful, even while he knows nothing about her. Despite his attempts to flatter, compliment, and flirt with her, Yoletta treats him as she would a friend, with affection and courtesy, but clearly doesn’t return his ardor. During Smith’s first attempt to tell Yoletta how beautiful he finds her, Yoletta observes:

“There are different kinds of beauty, I allow, and some people seem more beautiful to us than others, but that is only because we love them more. The best loved are always the most beautiful.”

This is in direct contrast to Smith’s idea that the most beautiful are the best loved. Yoletta is wiser than her years suggest. Smith, on the other hand, has some growing up to do.

The writing is rich, as was the custom of the time, with poetic descriptions that would bore most modern readers, but which I still enjoy. I think modern prose can often be too stark, there’s room still for more colorful writing.

“For a long time the sky had been overcast with multitudes and endless hurrying processions of wild-looking clouds – torn, wind-chased fugitives, of every mournful shade of color, from palest gray to slatey-black; and storms of rain had been frequent, impetuous, and suddenly intermitted, or passing away phantom-like towards the misty hills, there to lose themselves among other phantoms, ever wandering sorrowfully in that vast, shadowy borderland where earth and heaven mingled; and gusts of wind which, as they roared by over a thousand straining trees and passed off with hoarse, volleying sounds, seemed to mimic the echoing thunder.”

It’s a short book, more of a novella by our standards (133 pages all told, including all Project Gutenberg’s added notations and licensing and so on), definitely worth a read even after all these years.

UPDATE: 1/20/2014 – Erin Johanson was kind enough to mention it’s available on Amazon for Kindle for free as well here. (Thanks, Erin!) Project Gutenberg has all their offerings in multiple formats, including MOBI, which is what the Kindle uses so lots of ways to find books!

UPDATE 2: Changed to “The Time Machine”. Thanks, Ralfast.

Writing to Write

twilight sky

 

As Jane Austen famously said:

I am not at all in a humour for writing; I must write on till I am.

Having trouble getting into the groove here so I thought I’d warm up with a blog post. Maybe it’s the terrible weather we’ve been having. Almost every day for the last three weeks now has been totally foggy until late this afternoon when I got some photos of the late afternoon sky (above). I thought I was immune to the dreary weather here by now, but maybe it’s dragging me down after all. That’s the brightest sky we’ve seen in weeks.

I’m not making any resolutions for the new year, I’ve given up that idea entirely. For one thing, I never remember what they are. Even if I did I doubt I’d be able to keep them. My whole focus outside my soul-sucking job is my writing, and I have to be sterner with myself about taking the time to write, and not allowing myself to be distracted, magpie that I am.

I am revamping the vamp novel, Revenants Abroad, and hope to get it out there this year. I am seriously considering self-publishing, but have more to learn about the whole process. I’m at the point where I want to be done with this one and move on to either it’s sequel, or another story. Got a few hours left today so I’m off to try to do some work on RA.

Festival of Carols

Winter-solstice-Stonehenge-300x200

The annual tradition of the Festival of Carols begins tomorrow on Portland’s classical station, KQAC. They play the most beautiful Christmas music composed through the ages, so many pieces and arrangements that you’ve likely never heard. It’s four days of non-stop glorious music so if, like me, you’ve had all  you can stand of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” or “Do They Know It’s Christmas” and need some real music, tune in online at allclassical.org and go to “Listen” at the top of the page.

Also tonight at 8:00PM PST on their program Club Mod, Robert McBride will be featuring some music by one of my favorite composers, Morten Lauridsen. Club Mod showcases modern ‘classical’ composers. Lauridsen is a particular favorite of mine, and it doesn’t hurt that he hails from this area (Beaverton). If you’re not familiar with Lauridsen, check here for a small intro.

Edmund Stone’s movie music program “The Score” will feature music from movies about Santa Claus on “A Right Jolly Old Elf” today at 2PM PST (and will repeat next Sunday at 2PM PST).

Check out all their programming. And no, I don’t work for the station, but I am a long-time supporter. I’ve listened to a lot of classical stations around the country (sadly there aren’t many left) and I think they’re one of the finest. They’re also commercial-free (apart from the old-style mentions of supporters by the hosts) which is LOVELY.

Happy Holidays, Blessed Solstice, and Merry Christmas! Click the picture for an animated card.

Christmas card 2013 for blog

Well, Here We Are.

Half-way through December with the holiday-that-shall-not-be-named right around the corner. No, I’m not ready.

I relieved myself of the pressure of NaNoWriMo about two weeks in when, as I told someone on Twitter, work exploded and I lost the will to live. The job stress led to panic attacks and the last thing I had energy or time for was trying to keep up the word count everyday.

Then, somehow I heard about Pitch Wars, about 24 hours before the deadline to get in on it. So I scrambled and put together a pitch and sent in the first five pages of the WIP, Revenants Abroad. Alack and alas, I was not chosen by any of the mentors I sent it to, but did get some really amazing feedback on it from one. Another was not as helpful and actually suggested I table the whole thing since paranormal/vampire stories are a tough sell right now. Well, maybe they are, but they’re still being published. I mean, really, what ISN’T a tough sell? Agents and publishers are all hoping for the next Harry Potter.

blacksmithBut as I said, I got some really thoughtful, helpful feedback from Julie Sondra Decker. I mean, A LOT of very specific detailed critiquing of those five pages. I was amazed and incredibly grateful. She gave me a lot to think about and  that need reworking right in the beginning but things I need to take another look at throughout. And she was right. I look at those opening pages and think, “Geez, how did I not see that before?” So while I wasn’t chosen as a “mentee” it was still worth sending it in. Not all mentors responded, only two of the four I sent RA to did, so I realize how fortunate I was.

One thing about the mentors involved is a very high percentage of them were only looking for Middle Grade or Young Adult, so clearly they were not going to be interested in my manuscript. Since I found out about the contest so late I had very little time to read through the mentor bios and pick out four who might be a good fit. I may have chosen badly in haste, I’m not sure.

So, back I go for another round of revisions. I’m undecided about participating in PitchMAS now, but may give it a shot anyway.

And if nothing else, I found a number of excellent new people to follow on Twitter.

Now if I can just get the job situation squared away, maybe I can get back to focusing on writing.

What Would Dickens Say?

The season of commercial excess is upon us, unfettered, in all it’s foul glory. Like a juggernaut, the exhortations to ‘Buy! Buy! Buy!’ come fast and furious now, and no matter how much we may bemoan the crass commercialization of this season, most of us will dutifully heed the call, in some measure. Stores opened on Thanksgiving Day this year to begin the buying frenzy, an unprecedented move that horrified and outraged many.

Scrooge would be so proud.

I caught part of “A Christmas Carol” on tv this afternoon and thought how little things have changed since Dickens’ time. Employers demanding people work on Thanksgiving… can working on Christmas Day be far behind? Sure, there have always been those who had to work regardless of holiday – emergency services like police, firemen, nurses, doctors, military. When I was in the Navy I stood watch on Christmas Eve, although I admit I don’t recall if I ever worked Christmas Day itself. If I had to, I did. We were very flexible with our festivities. I remember a large gathering at the house I rented off-base with three others while in Okinawa. Our whole group of friends gathered at our place to exchange gifts and share a meal. It was one of the loveliest Christmases I ever spent. I don’t remember what day it was, likely not Christmas Day itself.

Since that time I’ve never worked on a major holiday, but my current boss would probably like for us all to. The child labor that Dickens campaigned against and the atrocious working conditions of his time may be (mostly) gone in the First World, but they are alive and well and being exploited on a daily basis around the world: Mumbai, Shenzhen, Sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan…

Scrooge learned his lesson on putting money above all else, but that attitude is encouraged and expected at all US businesses. It’s all about the bottom line, profit, keeping the shareholders and Board of Directors happy. My boss allows no mention of “Christmas” or any specifically Christmas-themed decorations (when I left last Tuesday I noticed a large tree in front of one of the buildings on campus strung with holiday lights, and thought “that’s gonna chap her ass…”) so we are having a ‘Winter Celebration’ in lieu of a ‘Christmas’ or even ‘Holiday’ party this week. I wonder how she’d feel if she knew she had a pagan in the office. I want a Yule tree, and a Yule log, and lots of holly and ivy and mistletoe, and lots of wassailing…

I have to think Dickens would be none too pleased. We’ve learned nothing, we haven’t evolved one bit since his book was published in 1843. Cash (or credit) is still king. The rich get richer.

In the meantime, enjoy what I consider the definitive version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “Scrooge” from 1951, starring Alastair Sim. Just wonderful. And whatever you’re celebrating, have a happy.

 

Wæs Hæl! (Be you healthy!)