Creative Writing

Staying in Focus: Dancing in the Rain

Daily Prompt: Do you have a favorite quote that you return to again and again? What is it, and why does it move you?

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
-Vivian Greene

I was about to choose another quote for this daily post, when I came across this one in a book I was reading and I immediately felt a connection to the message it conveys. So many of us waste time waiting for the storm to pass, for everything to be in place and perfect before we are ready to make the move to actually live our lives. Instead, we should be learning to deal with things the way they are, make the best of what we have. We are not perfect, and there is no such thing as the perfect time for anything. What we have is now, and we may miss out on many experiences if we choose to wait and see.

This is especially Important for someone like me, who suffers from a degenerative disease. I have a choice – sit back and wait for a cure to be found (wait for the storm to pass), or make the best of what I have now, what I can do rather than what I am no longer able to do. I can, in fact, dance in the rain. I can walk in the rain, too, or dance in the sunlight. I may not be able to smell a flower’s scent, but I can perceive its beauty with my eyes. I can keep up with my exercises to encourage that storm to pass more quickly. I can do even more to that end by supporting the people searching for a cure, or by participating in clinical trials. My husband and I travel as much as we are able. We recognize the fact that we are getting older and will not be mobile enough to travel with ease like we do now. So we could, literally, have danced in the rain in a downpour in Dublin, Ireland. Had we waited for the storm to pass, we would not have seen the snow covered mountains of Alaska or had a close encounter with a humpback whale. I would never had seen the remnants of the Berlin Wall, the lovely town of Kristiansand, Norway, nor gazed at the ancient mystery that is Stonehenge.

The same day I came across this quote, my son showed me a You Tube video that inspired me as nothing has in a long while. Take a minute to view this video. Go to You Tube and search for Paul Smith Typewriter Artist. Mr. Smith had no choice in his life because the storm would not pass for him, but he learned to dance in the rain with the only things available to him – his typewriter and as he says, “my finger.”

Dancing in the rain is about celebrating life, no matter what challenges we may have to face or overcome. Dancing in the rain is about finding the silver lining in that cloud and grabbing on with both hands. And when the first raindrops fall from that cloud, be ready to dance.

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Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: A Plot of Earth: Scottish Fantasy

 

Daily Prompt: You’re given a plot of land and have the financial resources to do what you please. What’s the plan?

I’m going to assume this plot of land is located in Scotland, perhaps left to us in the will of a relative, for some strange reason. (My husband has relatives who live in Scotland, so you never know). Intrigued, we fly to Scotland and discover the plot of land is located in South Queensferry. To our delight, this is a town in Scotland we have visited and it is picturesque and not too far from the capital city of Edinburgh.

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We build a lovely, snug, single floor cottage on out plot of land, with a large master bedroom suite, and a comfortable guest suite, an office for Bill and a “snuggery” for me with a view of our landscaped gardens which present a seasonal change of color and delight. Flowers spill from window boxes and there is a potters shed in the backyard, where the dappled sunlight dances on the grass beneath two large shade trees. A comfortable hammock is strung between the trees, a perfect place for reading, meditating or napping on a warm summer day. The cottage is open and airy, with a flowing floor design that lets in the light, yet snug enough to be warm and cozy in winter. When cold winds blow, the double-sided fireplace brings cheery warmth to kitchen and living room. Bookshelves line the walls of the living room, and off of it, there is a glass walled conservatory with a terracotta floor, filled with plants and some comfy lounges for reading and napping.

We sell our home in the US and rent a small apartment to use when visiting friends and family, most likely during those very long, dark winter days in Scotland. Family and friends, sorry to bail out on all of you like this, but it was a fantasy too enticing to pass up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt Burning Down the House: How Much Do We Really Need?

Daily Prompt:Your home is on fire. Grab five items (assume all people and animals are safe). What did you grab?

Remember this prompt, when your home was on fire and you got to save five items? That means you left a lot of stuff behind. What are the things you wish you could have taken, but had to leave behind?

I am a little behind in keeping up with the daily prompts because I have been cleaning out my closets, an activity prompted by one of this week’s prompts (so to speak).

The prompt I am responding to is the one which posed the question: If your house was burning down, what five things would you grab (assuming all humans and pets were safe)?

I pondered on this for a bit and decided, also assuming, of course, that I am already wearing clothes, on the following:

  1. If they aren’t already on my face, I must grab my glasses so I can find my 4 remaining things.
  2. My laptop. It holds all my writing –  books, poems, blogs, ideas and outlines for future books and blogs, important phone numbers, my journal, my pictures and my music. Can’t leave without it.
  3. My camera bag. I take my cameras with me everywhere I go. It is through the lens of my cameras that I build my world view.
  4. My purse – money, credit cards, medication, health insurance, ID, cell phone, house key. (Oops! Guess I won’t need that anymore.)
  5. This is tough, but I’ll have to choose one hat from my collection. Guess it will have to be the hat I purchased in Ireland. A memento of my first visit to Europe and the most expensive hat I have because I wasn’t good at converting the euros to dollars yet.

The follow-up prompt to this was leaving so much behind, what else would you go back for?

When I really thought about it, I would like to have my gold charm bracelet, which my parents bought me when I  graduated  from high school and is now covered with charms which represent the most important events in my life and some of the jewelry my husband has given me over the years.

Secondly, I‘d like to save my scrapbooks. I put a lot of work into them.

Finally, I would have liked to save my plants. The people and animals were safe, but my plants too numerous to move out whilst the flame were spreading – but, after all, they are living things.

Beyond that, I realized I could get along pretty well with what I had here, with some extra clothes and toiletries. It would hurt to lose my books, but my eBooks are stored in the cloud and I could easily retrieve them.

So, I asked myself, why do I have all this stuff lying around if I really didn’t need it? And so I decided to clean house. Now, I’m not ready yet to pare down to these few objects unless my husband finally agrees to sell everything we have and go live on a cruise ship, but it is interesting isn’t it, what little we do really need in the great scheme of things?

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Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt:Verbal Confirmation: To Be or Not, I Think

Daily Prompt: to be, to have, to think, to move — which of these verbs is the one you feel most connected to? Or is there another verb that characterizes you better?

“To be or not to be,” wrote the British bard, so perhaps that is the answer to the question. Then again the French philosopher Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am,” making thought a key to existence. However, his quote includes I am, a form of the verb to be, so it is hard to choose which one, to be or to think, takes precedence.

Certainly, from a mindfulness point of view to be is the goal. Not to have this or that, not to have our minds mired in thought, or to move aimlessly about, but to be in the moment, aware of the now, present and accounted for. To be one with creation, with the universe, with all there is. To be alive certainly beats non-being. In fact, recently, my son and I had a conversation about not-being. He said he really couldn’t fathom that state – what it would be like not to be. It’s not something we care to think about so, “to be” seems a likely choice as the verb that I’m most connected to.

That is not to say that to think lacks importance as a characteristic. It’s just that we have to achieve the state of being, before we can think, have or move. At least, I think so? 🙂

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Autumn Blues: A Bittersweet Transition

Daily Prompt:

As a kid, were you happy or anxious about going back to school? Now that you’re older, how has your attitude toward the end of the summer evolved?

A Bittersweet Transition

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Ah, the end of summer. Always a bittersweet time for me as a child.  Until I was in my teens we spent our summers in a cabin near a lake.  It was the mid  1950s to the  early 1960’s, and those were our halcyon days.

On sunny days we went fishing, swimming and hiking. We took walks in the early evening to the clubhouse to watch movies, play bingo and buy penny candy. On rainy days we would color and draw, or lay on the cots on the porch and read the day away. I read everything from the Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, to the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, and the Hardy Boys (the last two compliments of my cousin, Ricky).IMG_3809

We kids, which included me, my sister, Mary Lou, my brother, Steven , and cousins, Ricky and Susan, and our moms stayed at the lake all summer and the dads would come up for their 2 week vacations and every weekend.

Toward the end of August we would make a trip home, to pick up our uniforms, buy our black and white saddle shoes and our school supplies. As much as I loved the easy pace of summer, the warm days, time to just lay in a hammock and rock back and forth, catch fireflies in the evening, and toast marshmallows in the outside fireplace, something inside me would awaken as we walked past aisles full of pencils, erasers, crayons, pencil cases, lunch boxes, and the icon of my school supplies, the black and white composition books. I still have my first three composition books from kindergarten.IMG_3806

To me they epitomize how I felt at the start of a new school year. The  new composition book is fresh and clean, ready and waiting for the school year to begin. On the first day of school, I, too, will be fresh and clean, my black and white saddle shoes shined and my uniform crisp and tidy.  These images spell new beginnings to me, a whole new year of learning and growing, a fresh start, a chance to get off on the right foot and fill that composition book with perfect penmanship.

But not to worry. We would return to the lake for a few precious weeks, which included the celebration of Regatta Days and the Labor Day weekend. Days filled with games, competition and barbeques.  Although at home my uniform hung ready, my books and supplies packed, all I needed was a little more time, time for swimming and fishing and rocking in the hammock, sweet and slow.

Bittersweet, those last precious days of summer, as they marked the end of one thing and heralded the start of another. I miss that transition now, but perhaps I can recapture the feeling with these:

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(I don’t have a pair of black and white saddle shoes, but guess what? I looked on the internet and they are now designed by Ralph Lauren and sold at Nordstrom’s!) Anyway, back to the black and white composition book. It sits there ready and waiting for me to make that first entry, forge a new beginning, and write….the first lines of a new poem…

September

A month of fresh starts… a new school year… new pencil cases and clean lunch boxes…the smell of chalk …the polished sheen on my new black and white saddle shoes…and the blank pages of a composition book beckoning me to record the endless possibilities that lie ahead with the precise point of a newly sharpened pencil…(more to come)

Staying In Focus: Weekly Writing Challenge: Build Your Own: Envision

 

Daily Post:Weekly Writing Challenge: Build You Own:  Choose  a place:  scenic countryside

Choose a first line:  In my dreams I envision a place.

 

During my cruise around the British Isles last year we took bus rides out into the countryside of Ireland, Scotland and England. These photos and your prompts come together in the following poem:

 

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Envision

In my dreams I envision a place

A village nestled in the countryside

Far removed from the rush about pace

Of everyday life.

I sit in my garden, sipping my tea

And the villagers nod as they pass

Some stop by to chat with me

On happenings, this and that

The summer days are slow and warm

The sheep graze on the hill

And if this was the place where I was born

I know I’d be there still.

– pc 2014

A recent daily prompt was to imagine building a  magic tunnel. Where would it lead to? I didn’t finish it because  the appliances in my house, specifically the air conditioner and the freezer both bit the dust on the same day and thre us for a loop. The topic, however, meshed nicely with the  writing challenge.

Of Hedgerows and Tea

Another outcome of my cruise around the British Isles last summer is that  I know exactly where my tunnel will lead. It will lead directly to a small English village located in the pastoral countryside, but not too far from London. This quiet little village will be my refuge from the complications and stresses of everyday life. It will be where I go to rest, to write, to find my muse and refuel my imagination. Once this is achieved, having London nearby will provide for cultural and leisure activities. It’s not far from South Hampton where the magic cruise ships await to whisk us off to see the world.

I plan to have many good years there, but the inevitable will eventually happen and my cottage in the village will become my final.refuge. As I grow older my capabilities will decrease as the PD robs me of movement and other things too scary to contemplate at this point in my life.  So I will spend my remaining days in the garden, sipping tea and finding joy in just being.

However, as we have allowed for the possibility of a magic tunnel, the door  to  a cure for PD is open, we have all the money we need to live comfortably in our cottage , to take cruises whenever we are bitten by the travel bug, and we will live well past 100 healthy years. Now that is my kind of magic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Back to Life: Let’ s be Real

Daily Prompt: After an especially long and exhausting drive or flight, a grueling week at work, or a mind-numbing exam period — what’s the one thing you do to feel human again?

After a grueling day or a mind numbing experience, my first thought is to go home. Home is a refuge from the world. Close the blinds, lock the doors and the world fades away, at least for a little while. Ideally, here is what I would do next: Change into my exercise clothes and do some yoga or tai chi, focus my attention inward, stretch the muscles, concentrate on the moves, blocking out intrusive thoughts. A nice warm bath, some candles, soft music on the iPod, most likely Enya, would follow. My next level of escape would be meditation, provided the preceding events have chilled me enough to focus my attention. Lastly, a good book and a good night’s sleep.

But let’s be real for a minute. More than likely this is how it would pan out:  I would go home, and spend the evening reading, while devouring something dreadful for me like ice cream or donuts or a slice of chocolate cake and a frosty glass of milk, or maybe brownies or an Entenmann’s crumb cake, or… you get my drift, which is in the direction of the nearest grocery store…

Staying in Focus:Daily Prompt: Adult Visions: Making it Look Easy

Daily Prompt: As a kid, you must have imagined what it was like to be an adult. Now that you’re a grownup (or becoming one), how far off was your idea of adult life?

The first memory that came to mind when I read this prompt was how, as a child thinking how easy my mother had it. She would wake my sister and me up at 6:00 am.  We’d wash, get dressed, eat breakfast, then lay down on the couch, for maybe five to ten precious minutes of rest, until she would rouse us again, point us in the general direction of the bus stop, and once we were safely on our way, she’d lay back down in her bed, all cozy and warm, while the bus whisked to school to face tests, oral reports and gym (three things that terrorized me at school) .

I think that misperception is the most common one children have about adult life. It’s the autonomy the child believes the adults have that they envy. Unlike the child who is told when to go to bed, when to wake up, when to go to school etc. it seems adults can do as they please. This misperception occurs because the child can see the person or persons (mother, father, teacher; etc.) who wield control over him, who restrict his autonomy with rules and regulations. What he does not see are the people who restrict the autonomy of his parents, like managers at work, doctors who want them on a restricted diet, the bank that wants the mortgage payment paid promptly each month.  Adults certainly have less autonomy than I thought they had as a child. And a lot more responsibility carried on their shoulders.

My mother was a stay at home mom. She had to be her own manager and we would come home after our day in school to a clean home, supper on the stove, clothes washed, folded and ready to be ironed after she helped us with our homework.  We put little thought to how all that was accomplished while we were otherwise occupied. We’d kiss her goodnight, then snuggle down in our beds, all cozy and warm, to the hiss of the steam iron as she tackled this chore long into the night waiting for my dad to come home from work around midnight. She had no more autonomy than we, she just did what had to be done. The thing is she loved taking care of her home and family. Maybe the need for autonomy diminishes in proportion to how much you love what you do. Taken from that perception maybe mom had it easy, after all.

Staying in Focus: My Eye Upon the World

I didn’t get this polished and finished for writing 101, but wanted to share it anyway. The topic was to write about my most valued possession.

If I had to choose my most valued possession, I’d have to say it is my camera. Not that my camera is an expensive, professional piece of equipment, by any means.  It is a digital camera, a Canon Rebel XSi and I have several lenses for it including  a large telephoto lens. It takes excellent pictures. I consider this camera. or any camera that I’ve had over the years, my most valued possession because it is my eye on the world. It is through the lens of this camera that I define my world, from the big picture the smallest details. It captures those fleeting moments my eyes fail to see and it preserves memories in the pictures I take, giving me a visual record of my life, from childhood to senior citizen.(Now that is  a lot of pictures! ) My camera is the first thing I grab when it starts to snow, or a butterfly alights on a nearby bush. IMG_8548a Photo05_3I keep it close at hand to catch the light from the setting sun as it paints the color of the houses across the street a rosy glow.

a path of gold from the sun to me

a path of gold from the sun to me

It was my camera that witnessed with me my first sunrise at sea in the waters off the coast of Alaska.  It caught the plume from a humpback whale, and the play of light over the ocean off the coast of Scotland. From majestic mountains to a close up of a flower petalIMG_0015 - Copy, from cloud formations to bubbles in the sky, my camera and I make art where we find it, preserve memories as they happen, inspire my poetry and essays to Photo01_1 Photo01_2 - Copy Photo02_1 - Copy - Copyshare with my readers. I first became interested in photography when I received a Kodak Brownie camera for Christmas when I was seven or eight years old. My family began taking road trips when I was twelve, and each summer we travelled the USA, Canada and Mexico. My little camera got a lot of use. In my teens I had a rangefinder camera, but it wasn’t until I was married that I received my first SLR from my husband for Christmas. I still believe that camera, a Canon Rebel G,took the best pictures of all. I was leery of all this digital stuff taking over the world, but now I wouldn’t go back for anything. Digital cameras are amazing. Within minutes of returning home from vacation, I have my photos downloaded into my laptop, uploaded to Facebook, WordPress and Snapfish. I can run off albums using Photoshop Elements 10, make calendars and books on Snapfish, and have 8 x 10 s framed and displayed before bedtime. I haven’t really explored photography using smart phone or my Kindle Fire HD-X tablet but I imagine technology will nudge me in that direction sooner or later. Someday when I may have forgotten much of my life experience, someone might slip a book of my photos on my lap and the pictures in it may spark a memory here and there. My camera, my eye upon the world, is valuable to me because it  has helped me leave a legacy, a story in photographs of one who lived and what she loved. Here are a few more reasons my camera is my most valuable possession. IMG_0003 IMG_0004 IMGa IMG_0003aIMG_256a5IMG_2893IMG_3067stonehenge

 

SURPRISE!

SURPRISE!

 

 

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Writing 101:Hone your Point of View: Staying in Focus: A Case of the Shabbies

The neighbourhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years. Today’s prompt: write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

A Case of the Shabbies

Our neighborhood has a bad case of the shabbies.  Our street is not only a dead end that is its name, Dead End. Well, they sure got that right. We all pay our rent, mostly on time, yet Mr. Dregg refuses to paint or repair anything. Leaking roofs and sagging porches abound, and the tired grey paint is mostly peeled away. Inside, however, we keep our houses neat and clean, with what pride we have left after life has taken its due, says Mama. Mrs. Pauley’s is the neatest, She is a quilter and a master at all needlework. Her beds are draped in the most colorful quilts I have ever seen, and pictures in embroidery and cross stitch cover the walls like paintings in an art museum. Best of all, she makes clothes for my doll, Sally Mae. I know I’m getting a little old for dolls, but Sally Mae has seen me through some tough times and I’m not ready to move on without her yet.

Right now, I’m sitting on the front stoop, watching for an unfamiliar car to, wait, here it comes. I hide behind a nearby hedge. A sleek black car is turning onto our street. The car moves slowly down the street and stops in front of Mrs. Pauley‘s house. Mrs. Pauley is the nicest, kindest person I know. She brought up six boys, all who have moved to faraway places like Sitka, Alaska and the Philippines. They never come to visit, they just send e-mails asking for money. Now that Mr. Pauley has passed awa,y they are knocking at the wrong door if they want money. Mrs. Pauley doesn’t know an e-mail from an elephant and until today she was short the rent money. The front car door opens and a man steps out – it is despicable Dregg. The driver comes out next. He is wearing  a three piece suit with a silk hankie in the jacket pocket and not a drop of sweat on his brow, unlike Dregg whose face glistens with sweat, not to mention his armpits. Phew! Gotta stay downwind of him.  My guess, Dregg brought a police lieutenant to frighten Mrs. Pauly even more. Lastly, a grim-faced lady in an ill-fitted business suit joins the two men. Social Services for sure. They approach the house and Mrs. Pauley answers the door. I can’t hear their exact words but I’m not an idiot. I know they have come to take Mrs. Pauley away to some awful place. Well, not on my watch.

As they enter the house I jump from the hedge. I run into my bedroom. I push my unruly red hair into a wide-brimmed straw hat and pull on a pair of white gloves. I glance at myself in the mirror.  Instead of my usual summer shorts and a tee-shirt, I’m wearing the full-skirted summer dress that Mrs. Pauley made for just this occasion, socks and patent leather shoes. I’m pretty sure I look nothing like the real me, Tallulah Banks. Mr. Dregg may have seen me maybe twice in his life. I just hope Mrs. Pauley remembers her lines.

I pick up an envelope from my dresser and Sally Mae, dressed in an outfit identical to mine. I leave the house and skip happily down the street. I enter the house allowing the door to bang loudly. That is Mrs. Pauley’s cue.

“Sally Mae,” she says, “I’ve told you not to let the door slam when you come in.”

“Sorry, Granny,” I say keeping my face turned away from Mr. Dregg. If he recognizes me, the jig is up.

“Just try to remember next time, dear. This is my granddaughter. She and my son are moving back here to live with me.”

I catch the look of surprise in Dregg’s eyes. “Your rent is behind 2 months, lady.” he says. “You’re out of here today.”

“Oh, Granny, I almost forgot. Daddy says here is your money from grandpa’s insurance”. I turn to look at Lieutenant Suit and try my best to look sad.  “I miss grandpa so much. Daddy says he’s tied up with paper work but will be home for dinner.”

Mrs. Pauley hands Mr. Dregg the envelope. This should cover the last two months plus two in advance so you know I can pay now.”

“Well, Mr. Dregg, let’s leave these two ladies to their visit,” says Lieutenant Suit. “I see no cause for eviction.  She has not only paid up but paid ahead as a gesture of goodwill. I suggest you accept it in like manner.”

Mr. Dregg scowls at us as he leaves the room and we hold our breath until the car turns off our street.

“We did it, Mrs. Pauley!”

“But what about three months from now? How will I pay?”

“Mrs. Pauley, you have enough quilts and needlework in this house to pay your rent for at least a year and, in the meantime, all the girls at school want Sally Mae clothes for their dolls. So, where do you keep that sewing basket?”