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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

IWSG February 2017 - Reading as a Writer

It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  To read other members, click here.

This month, its all about the question: How has being a writer changed your experience as a reader?

In high school, I took a creative writing class taught by a poet during which we had to keep a writing journal we passed in every couple of weeks for grading. We’d get it back with comments in the margins. 
During a study hall one day, I was writing my journal and I happened to look out the window to see bare trees, which led to a little poem that started something like this: “The spindly fingers of the leafless tree stretch into a sunless sky…

I didn’t give the poem another thought until I received my journal back from the teacher after the next grading cycle. Beside that first line of the poem she’d written: “I wish I wrote that.” Given that I remember it all these years later, I guess you could say I was tickled.

That little story sums up how writing has changed my experience as a reader. I constantly stop, reread, marvel and think, “I wish I wrote that.” 

Take this gem from the book I’m currently reading, Mother of Pearl, by Melinda Haynes. At the top of page two, I had to stop because of this:

He had never known such colors. Never dreamed brown was such a rainbow. He’d always thought of brown as brown, the color or burnt toast or worn-out shoes. But after months on end he’d learned to parcel out the values into new shades fast approaching the limit of his imagination—Ten-minute Tea. Steeped-Too-Long Tea.  Barely Tea. Wet Bark. Sun-Baked Bark. Old-as-Sin Bark. Old Soggy Leaves. Just-Dropped Leaves. Fresh Wet Leaves. And these were just the browns. He had yet to go on to green, which he was just now beginning to see.  Mother of Pearl by Melinda Haynes.

It strikes me that in order to write about colors that way, the author had to see them that way, somehow, somewhere, and then translate it into words. Oh, yes. I'd be over the moon if I came up with something like that.

How brilliant one must be to create even a single paragraph remotely resembling the one above. I respect that talent. I strive for that skill. And yet, even if I never make it, it’s all good. 

At the very least, reading good writing feeds my soul.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Take What You Get, Keep the Rest

In what has become an annual eccentricity occurrence, I took myself out for some January sunrise shots.  I’ve decided I torture myself this way because it’s the month when dawn syncs with my biorhythms. I wake up naturally, just as the first smidge of light brightens the horizon, which allows me enough time to splash water on my face, bundle up and drive across town. 

Last Monday, I headed to the beach, forgetting the angle of the sun this time of year means from that location, I wasn’t going to see the sun come up over the water. Still, standing at the edge of the parking lot, I shot a few pictures of the lighthouse amid the brightening sky.  I was the only one there, although one lonely set of footprints between two snow fences testified to an earlier visitation visitor.

The temperature wasn’t as bad as it’s been in previous years when I’ve been inclined to head out on similar foolhardy missions—during the coldest hour, on one of the coldest days of the coldest month of the year.  Yet, before long my fingers were killing me numb, and I skedaddled back  returned to my car to thaw them in the blasting heat before driving toward the harbor.  It was the MLK holiday, but there was no day off for our long-delayed harbor dredging project.  Across the water an engine grumbled, and as I beat my hands on my sides trying to keep them warm watched, a long barge slid into the grey harbor. 

The tide was mudflat low, brown and ugly.  Deciding the only way I was going to get out of the trip whole would be to feature a neglected boat perched by the jetty in a black and white composition, I climbed a stone wall and framed a shot.  As I did, I noticed what looked like the top of a tug boat moored at the mouth of the harbor.  My sister loves tugs, if I caught it right, say just as the sun cracked the barrier beach behind it, I’d send the picture to her. 

The picture I got? Let's just say I'm not sending it to her, and I'm most certainly not posting it here.  Ah, well. (Sorry, Con.)
Here’s the truth.  You know the photography is all for the writing, right?  So what does it matter if I completely blow it don't get what I want? Regardless of how the picture comes out, I can always summon the images. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Window Wisdom?

As I write this, I sit at what I call my winter desk, my laptop on a table in the warm front-of-the house, overlooking our yard thick with last night's snow. Years ago, I sat at this same table in midwinter discovering the richness gleaned from a practice of regular writing.  Similar to the first time I watched a golf match on HD and realized the gallery was made up of the faces of individual spectators verses an indistinct blur, every day I witnessed details I’d been missing. 
We had some trees removed from our yard recently and my view form this spot has changed.  I notice a pine leaning in the lot across the street, its top branches caught on a towering oak.  Now at night, I see a light far off in the woods and wonder to whom it belongs.  For all I know these things have been there for years and would have remained invisible to me, if it weren’t for this shift in outlook. Our thermometer registers eighteen degrees, but warmed by the heat from a cast iron radiator I look out knowing while writing from this vantage point has become customary, it’s still possible to see things with fresh eyes.  

Across the street, our brand-new neighbor stands in the street shooting photos of his of his house after the snow, the first time he’s seen his home draped in white.  In my mind, he’s focusing on the same thing I am--how with a change in perspective, there’s always something lovely to see.