Saturday, February 28, 2015

The real world or a distraction?

For the last month, when it gets around to writing this blog, I find myself in the middle of the week with no idea what subject. So much of what's going on in my life is either not interesting, involves my books, or is into political stuff that I haven't really wanted to discuss here. I have liked keeping this blog about life in general and not into the negatives and yet... Sometimes it is all I really am thinking about. So ahead is a little stream of consciousness about what goes through my mind in a typical day-- that is some of it.

Obama vetoed the Keystone XL, even though Democrats wanted it built. Yes, I read that. It was a lie. Most Democrats would have been ready to impeach him had he signed it. Environmentally there are plenty of concerns even if climate change isn't thrown into the mix. Considering it is going over the Ogallala Aquifer, even though it's been rerouted to not directly go over the Sandhills in Nebraska, it will be an issue because that aquifer has a surprisingly high water table. Anybody who says the technology is so good that they don't need to worry about spills, hasn't been listening to anybody but Fox news and right wing pundits.

The fear talk that is being spread by the right is amazing. One woman expressed her belief that gasoline would double for her if it's not built. Well, it should double eventually anyway as currently there is a glut of oil due to fracking. Anybody figure that will last forever? But the main thing with the Keystone XL is that its oil is intended for export. I have read, due to pressure, they were trying to get the companies to keep some of it here. Since we are already shipping our fracking oil overseas from ports along the West Coast, seriously who believes it won't go where they can get the most money for it. Fear talk from Foxies is behind the right who are so enraged Obama got out his pen and said no.

Regarding this pipeline, I read something that really upset me. There were ranchers and farmers who did not want to sell a right-away to TransCanada. The foreign corporation was planning to file eminent domain against them. Imagine this, a foreign company can file to say we need your land because we have a higher use for it than you do. And it's legal????  

If you didn't like that, and a lot of lefties and righties actually would not, try this on for size. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, that is worrying so many of us, the treaty that Obama negotiated and supports, evidently widens this right of foreign companies to use eminent domain when they want land, and they can make more $$$$s from it than you. Eminent domain has seemed unfair to me for a long time even when it was utilized by our government or our corporations (like the people who owned beachfront property and had it taken from them because a resort said it was worth more to them-- i.e. property taxes). That was bad enough, but foreign corporations could do it too? What kind of treaty is that for the good of Americans, and it's not the only problem regarding that treaty.

Is there anybody in the government who is on our side, the side of ordinary Americans? It doesn't appear that way.  

This week Obama did an interesting Town Hall on immigration where many of the questions came from Dreamers (brought to this country as children with no experience in the land from which they came if they were to be deported) or those angry he is not doing enough about saving their family members from deportation. He tried to explain to them that his powers only go so far. 
He made the point-- get out and vote for those who will make an immigration bill a priority. He suggested they ask any candidate who says they don't like what he's doing-- would you deport all 11 million here without papers? If they did, the economies of many regions in the US would collapse. Get realistic. Do something that addresses the reality not pipe dreams. 

I know there are those on the right, who want them all deported, would they really do it when they learn who these people are as individuals? Those angry at Obama don't know what he actually did on immigration, which doesn't remotely grant amnesty, and how he has to walk a narrow line to stay within the Constitution and still deal with a humanitarian issue. 

He was great on the Town Hall by the way. He knows his stuff and he doesn't back down-- on either side. In two years, we'll have a different president. However, if you want to see this resolved, vote next time! In 2014, only 30% of those qualified to vote did... And that is not 30% of all Americans, just those registered to vote. It's a disgrace.

And speaking of 2016. Who should I support? Someone who wants war around the globe but no taxes to support it? Someone who thinks trickle down works? Someone who wants to regulate our bodies but not our financial institutions? What about Net Neutrality? I thought at first it meant one thing, keeping the Internet as it is. Then I began hearing other things.  

Or not. Remember how clean air meant less control on pollution? Don't assume this is any different. Do some research. If you value the Internet as an open forum, take a look at what's going on-- or is it too late?

On that subject, check out CitizenFour, which is on HBO, but I would guess will be on Netflix and probably available as a DVD. I highly recommend it. It is about spying and how much right the government should have to get into our private lives. Yes, it is about Edward Snowden but more than just him-- the issue of invasion of our personal lives-- okay or not?

This has been the week for CPAC. I keep trying to find out how many people actually attend this convention, but so far I've had no luck. It seems less than 10,000, but it permeates our news whether we watch right or left leaning channels. The kinds, of options the right appears to be offering, are making me wonder what went wrong with the Republican party. 

Once again Trump is out there suggesting Obama himself said he was born in Kenya-- a lie but then he doesn't bother to check what he says, does he? That man is all hair, ego and ignorance. 

Or how about Rick Perry and his securing the border which happens to not be true! 

There has been some humor though--like Scott Walker, who some of the right feel is their hope.

Come on, we have to laugh at some of it, don't we? ISIS is not funny, of course, but this guy is if he thinks what he faced in Wisconsin with peaceful protestors relates at all to what the Islamic State is about. Clueless fits.

One thing is making this all better for me. I write. I highly recommend it for anyone who is following any of these issues. Sign petitions, write your Congressmen, but then let it go and write something. Write whatever comes to you, and don't worry if it's good. It will take you out of your world and into someone else's where you have more control.

I spent some time this week making bookmarks that I am giving away to those who want one. If anyone in that category reads this blog, email me with your mailing address (my email is alongside in my profile). 

Making bookmarks is fun for me as they come out of my books or my life philosophy. They are colorful, simple; and when I do them, I go into another space. It's a nice space in which to be! I do have to come back, of course, but I'm in a better mood when I do.

Above are three-- the mind behind the books, the philosophy behind them, and one taken from a cover for the book that is coming out March 21. We took them to Staples to get the pages printed on paper sturdy enough ($1.09 a page, with 5 to the page. That was cheaper than buying paper and doing it at home-- not to mention our difficulty in printing paper that heavy). 

If you have art or other things you'd like to share with others through a bookmark, it's fun, crafty, and definitely a distraction from everything else going on.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

and that's how it is

It was Thursday when it dawned on me that I'd written nothing for here. Worse, I had no idea for something I could write. The problem is I am editing a manuscript I plan to bring out March 21, one that I have to do word-for-word editing. 

Writing excites and takes me out of myself. Editing requires a lot of plodding along. I look for grammar problems. I look for logical connections that didn't connect. I try to get rid of excess words where I am repeating something that already has been said. I also look at the characters to see if they are staying true. Basically editing has many masks, and a writer who does their own, must wear them all.

Because of the work involved, it's not hard to see why the claim is made you should hire someone else to edit your books. It's a great idea for those who have a thousand dollars to spare for a good editor, even several of them each hitting on different aspects of the writing. In depth editing requires more than letting Word say how it should be. A lot goes into it and it is not fun for me. It is, however, absolutely essential.

By the time I had finished on Friday, I knew I'd changed enough bits that I likely will have to go over it one more time before I put it out in March. I want it to be the 21st because it's my brother's birthday and the first full day of spring with the equinox being on the 20th. Perfect time for a coming of age story and the trip to Oregon in 1852.

I am not sure if I told the origin of the story in here. It began with my cousin and I as girls. When the family gathered for any occasion (and there were a lot of them), she and I would go for walks. We enjoyed making up stories, each one taking turns creating the next step in it. Matt and Amy grew from one of those walks.

In my mid 20s on an old Royal upright (which I still have), I typed the manuscript for the first time. I had carried it around in my head a long time by then. I rewrote it now and again through the years as I saw better ways to tell the story. In the 1990s, I worked with a professional consulting writer, who I'd send the typed pages and she'd mail them back with red marks and notations all over them. It cost me about $1500 by the time she'd gone over the whole manuscript. It was like taking a class, and I learned so much, way beyond editing and about writing itself, that I felt it was worth it.

In 2011, before I began bringing out my manuscripts as eBooks and paperbacks, I looked at it again. I didn't have the heart to bring it out. I was not sure if the first, which is a romance but so much more, would get me readers for the second. Even worse was the possibility that the first would be totally ignored. How do you let go of a story that is so dear to your heart? When readers ignore my work, it can be hard; but this one would be hardest of all. It has been part of my life what almost seems like all my life.

You know, sometimes a writer's first book is one they never should bring out. It's the love of their heart, and they just cannot be objective. Sometimes they have thrown everything into it and it just doesn't work as a cohesive story. I do not think this is one of those. I think it is a strong story of growth of people as well as what it took to make the westward trek.

To write this story of the Oregon Trail, I researched journals and history books. Many are still on my shelves. I had to know where they went, what they saw. I've driven parts of the trail and gone as far as the Platte River along pieces of it. Some places the land has changed a lot. Some is still there with the deep ruts to be seen.

The westward expansion, which some call Manifest Destiny, is still controversial given what it required be done with those who already lived in the country. There are some very tragic stories on both sides of it, but free land lay ahead. There was always someone eager to set out, leave behind family, and all they knew and face the risks.

I live on a Donation Land Claim and have two Conestoga wagon wheels, which most likely came west with the previous owners of this land. Part of my own family came to Oregon years later. For health reasons they left South Dakota in the early 1900s. By then they could make the trek to Oregon with cars and not wagons. When I was growing up, my family still regarded South Dakota as their homeland.  They lived around Rapid City and up in the Black Hills which was land promised to the Lakota but taken when gold was found.

Once a year my whole family would gather at a place called Jantzen Beach for the North or South Dakota Day picnics. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and my father met up with their friends from the Dakotas. There were a lot of them back then. My cousins and I liked it for all the delicious food they brought, the carnival rides, fun house, and swimming pool.

Eventually, economics made Jantzen Beach no longer profitable enough to offer a big treed picnic area with those rides and the pool. Today it's a mall. Today my family is mostly gone on to where folks go.

look closely at this one-- there are 3 lamb faces in it...

On another subject, tomorrow, the 22nd, is my day to write something for Smart Girls Read Romances. I am making my case for why an old woman can make a good romance heroine even though it's not the usual case! I use a few pictures of myself when I was in my early 60s and my husband. My argument is that old women can do what they want. Most of us no longer want to be part of a romance ourselves-- even if we enjoy writing/reading them. But old doesn't mean undesirable. See if I made my case tomorrow--  Smart Girls Read Romance

Photos are all from February 20th and this years lambs-- which is more or less winding down. We lost some and saved some. With 36 newborn lambs, mostly they are on the ground and have a mother who wants them. The problems linger for a month or so as mama and baby adjust to their role. It can be chaotic and not at all quiet (counting sheep for me would not be relaxing-- I know too much). They get separated and bawl, often from across a small field where neither baby nor mama is willing to move and would rather cry.

On the other hand, when it's sunshining, as it was the 20th, and the lambs are finding how many ways they can run and play with each other, it really is pure delight. Hard stuff is behind. More hard stuff is ahead, but this day is pure pleasure.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

some of my favorite things

One of the things I like about winter is how it offers time for dreaming and planning. Longer nights help the first and inclement weather is good for the latter. It's cozy inside, a good time for fires in the fireplace-- if the wind is right. If it isn't, the smoke drops down around our house, creeps in through the windows. I am super sensitive to woodsmoke in terms of sinus problems, so that creeping business is not a good thing.

Because it's lambing season and we can't really take off for a long week-end, my mind is wandering to where we've been and where I want to go when the last lambs are born. And because this is a day where love is the topic, I was in the mood to share some of what I love. Take for granted that I love my family. They are at the top of any list and right after family are our cats. But there is something else I love-- nature and place.  

Maybe because I grew up on a farm, land has always been one of my loves-- and that means this farm. I am fortunate enough to live where I love. But I also enjoy getting away for a few days or weeks-- and when I have dreams of doing that, it's always places in the American West. So long as it doesn't go too far east of the Rockies, anywhere can qualify for a satisfying daydream. 

There is a beach house I love at Seal Rock, well just south of it. We had rented the house about once a year-- and then one year it wasn't listed. When it returned to the listing, it had been rebuilt into a luxury home. It is obviously much more expensive but still worth it for the view it offers of a small, private cove-- great wave action and a wonderful place to watch birds of all sorts. 

It's easy to get to the beach down a trail where exploring tidal pools and taking photos is the main activity. It's one of those places that to just be is enough. Just being is one of the best parts of nature.

Another place I can imagine being right now is a cottage in Mitchell, Oregon. In the summer, its garden is full of flowers and gives a delightful sense of seclusion to the house. It's older and attached to another small cottage; so a person can rent both or just the one half. Nearby are the Painted Hills where we have taken tons of photos and I've done some painting.

It has been a few years since we've taken the ferry across from Port Angeles to Victoria, B.C.  We used to go every year. I miss it. I like Victoria and Vancouver Island. On the Pacific side are some of the most gorgeous and wild beaches I've ever seen. Victoria itself is a pleasure to explore with an outstanding museum. I also enjoy the ferry trip that connects us from here to there. I am not sure it's going to be on this summer's agenda, but renting a house there would be great-- especially if we could take the family with us. 

No daydream is complete without imagining a trip to Montana. I was first there in 1990. It was summer, and we were mostly sleeping on pads in the back of our Astro van, which made it very free-wheeling. 

I've seen a few questions where they ask-- if you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be? My answer was always-- sun on my back, sitting on a big rock on the Madison River while my partner was fly fishing nearby. It would not have to be the Madison River as Montana has many gorgeous places I could imagine being right now and feel a sense of peace coming over me.

This fall, we have reservations at Old Faithful Inn for early October, most years a wonderful time to be in Yellowstone. If we go, we will take the trailer for time in the Lamar Valley where the wolves and grizzlies roam. 

Except... then we began to remember another place we haven't since 1999-- Chaco Canyon and New Mexico. That would require taking the trailer also and meandering down through Utah, wonderful red rock parks and maybe this time getting into Hovenweep, which for some inexplicable reason, we have never done... or would Monument Valley be better? We enjoyed it very much the one time we stayed there, which also was more than a couple of years ago.

So many choices, so many great memories. I love the American West and find myself always with so many places I'd like to be that it's not tempting to go beyond it. I'm glad that everybody does not feel the same. Some of my favorite places to be have very few who feel likewise, which make them even more delightful to spend time.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

blogging or not

Last week, I was surprised to learn that Andrew Sullivan was no longer going to do a blog. That might have bothered me more since only last year had I taken out a subscription to his blog-- any chance for refunds, Andrew? Just joking. I am kind of glad I did it as then I don't need to feel my not doing it contributed to his calling an end to The Dish. The last blog was Friday.

Then I read this article by someone who had done a blog at one time.

If you blog, you've probably thought about quitting or taking a break. I certainly do. Sometimes I am convinced that I won't keep doing it and then I come around to-- but where could I share the photos we take?

Some say, as the writer above, that blogging is done. I don't believe that. People are interested in people. Some blogs are very popular and part of the daily life of their readers. I do think people may read less of them. I have never read as many as some, but right now maybe have four or five I check regularly, with several more I catch once a week or so.

Some know the exact date they began blogging and speak of anniversaries. I don't have anything like that. Partly this is true because I started a blog but then quit it, picking it back up with a slightly different name. I don't know when I began it either. I have written all my life. The difference with blogging is sharing the words.

Currently I have two blogs that I maintain with some regularity-- this one, which is pretty general, and my writing blog which is specific to the subject of writing or about my books. This one is once a week and the other twice a week. In addition I have several others that are not updated unless I think of a rant, put out a new book, or video (discussion, scenery, or eBook trailer).

Pretty regularly I think about stopping them all. I even tell friends-- I'm done. Not going to keep up with it. Then I do. That day may yet come.

Blogs take time. Mine have a few regulars who comment but most who come here read and go on. Once in awhile they will comment and I find out who they are, but generally not so much. Writing even once a week requires coming up with something interesting-- even to me. Blogs take time away from writing books, which is my main interest. On the other hand, the blogs, Facebook, and Twitter are where I can actually discuss my writing-- now with the new addition of once a month at Smart Girls Read Romance. I like writing about writing. 

For that matter, I like talking about it, which is something I didn't used to know. At one time I talked very little about my writing. I am not sure if it was because I figured nobody would be interested or if I thought those who can do-- those who can't talk about it. I know differently now. Here's a video discussion that I did about my most recent book, the novella, Rose's Gift-- writing a senior romance.

It's all about finding something that is satisfying and then finding a few others who enjoy the same thing. Sort of like playing with the cats.

The photos are mostly of Raven. Blackie, almost ten and at the door in a few, has limited interest in the toy. If it lands on him, he will hold onto it. That's about it. The toy has been called the bionic shrimp since our kids were home. This is not the first bionic shrimp-- it actually was forgotten in Tucson this trip.

Raven, adopted from a cat rescue group in late fall 2013, is now almost two years old. The goal for the shot was to catch her leaping in the air with her almost gymnastic twist. She is quite athletic and really gets into the game. 

The problem is, with one camera setting, she's in motion and it's a blur. The other camera setting requires clicking the shot two seconds before she goes up. She does not alert us as to when that will be. Most of my shots were when she was on her way back down or she had chosen a different attack mode. The final one Farm Boss took, while I was in charge of the fishing pole. I have not given up on catching her mid-air but not happening this week.

Currently, in this part of the Pacific Northwest, we are enjoying a Pineapple Express. We needed it for the rainfall. And when temperatures are in the mid-50s and not much lower at night, the grass grows-- cattle and sheep love that. The frogs are croaking, our plants are beginning to swell with the potential of spring not far off. I like the heavy rains, even the winds as this one is not supposed to lead to much flooding. Of course, this is when an unexpected freeze can change everything. I am thinking positive though-- just like the land seems to be.

If you blog, do you think about quitting?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hero Worship

One of the things that I must admit that I little understand is hero worship, but before I go farther, I better define what I mean by hero. Using, I am thinking of 1 & 2-- although someone could worship a fictional character.
1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. 
2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal:He was a local hero when he saved the drowning child. 
3. the principal male character in a story, play, film, etc. 
When the recent uproar occurred over the Patriots and what the media named Deflategate, Limbaugh discussed it on his show and made a point that this illustrates how important football is to Americans. This non-story pushed from the headlines the overthrow of Yemen's government, the death of a Saudi king, Obama's trip to India, the shooting death of a prosecutor in Argentina, police overreach, climate change, oil prices falling, and just about any other story as paper after paper led with it-- including the nightly news. They did this because apparently Americans are obsessed with sports heroes.

Some claimed it was important because it was about cheating, and we all know cheating is bad. Except, that was before there was any proof of cheating. Just proof of under inflated balls, all of them belonging to the Patriots. Do other teams ever have under-inflated balls? Who knows? How much benefit does a team receive from one? That could be debated, but why would it be when there is something far more exciting to take apart piece by piece. [Experiments indicate there could be explanations other than cheating] but who cares about that-- sounds too much like science!

From the time of that game and the sports article, people weighed in on what must have happened whether they had any idea of it or not. That included a lot of aging football players. I even saw a video where a news team in Indianapolis handed two balls to random citizens and asked them if they could tell which was under-inflated by two pounds. After weighing them carefully, squeezing them, the people, even a homeless guy, guessed right-- at least they had been when I quit watching the video. So two balls that look identical, can be determined that one weighs more than the other if you handle them both, maybe at the same time, and you already know one is lighter than the other. What did that prove exactly? Well, it proved that guy could get his story on the air.

I don't think it matters so much because of what happened or did not. Time might tell what that was. It's hard to believe an equipment handler or ball boy could somehow get around and deflate all those balls without it being captured on film by someone. Some say that has happened, but the NFL is not discussing what was discovered-- probably until after the Super Bowl.

Isn't it surprising to anyone that the refs, who handle those balls between each play, never said they noticed. It turned out that the sportscaster from Indianapolis, who claimed an anonymous source, who was supposed to be a Colt, who took the ball off the field because he noticed something strange. But then he spoke out and said he had not. He just wanted a souvenir. That story didn't get much coverage though. I read someone saying that [if the team had been anyone but the Patriots, who were often hated already, this would have been a non-story]

Why it is a story, I think, is not so much because years ago Patriots took videos of hand signals during a game where 80,000 people saw the same signals. Some say that is why this is a big deal-- they are proven cheaters. I personally doubt that. I think it more likely goes back to Tom Brady, the man who seems to have everything, talent, physical beauty, strength, and a gorgeous supermodel wife. This looks to me like a favorite American pastime-- build up heroes and tear them down. It's not so far from the mentality of the Romans with the gladiators-- with a thumbs up or thumbs down and no basis on any actual event as to which the mob goes for.

For those who don't follow football or even know who Tom Brady is, here's an article I saw recently on him, his approaching old age (he's 37), his philosophy, why he believes his body can keep going, and the impact of this latest event on him-- interestingly enough written by a NYTimes writer who usually follows politics. (I have to say a lot of what I have seen happening with this deflategate seems a lot like politics.)

Americans, probably all humans, love to create heroes. Supposedly this starts when we are children, and these heroes provide us examples we can then follow and use to grow up and become... or try to become. So this is why it's so horrifying to adults who worry about the impact on children when they find out their hero had clay feet (something we don't yet know about Tom Brady).

To consider this concept of hero worship, I went back to my childhood to try and remember if I had such a hero. I had those I admired. Annette Funicello quickly comes to mind. Mickey Mouse Club, the first one, was popular when I was a girl, and she was the one who stood out. She was cute, bouncy, and the boys went for her. Spin and Marty in particular was a little series I loved and both those boys wanted Annette. I wanted Spin, of course, which might have impacted why I admired her. I was nothing like her for looks but wow, Annette.


But I didn't hero worship her. I didn't want to be her. When she later had her nose done, it didn't cause me to lose faith in her (or get mine done). When she went on to make silly beach movies (probably why she had to have the nose job), I didn't feel she had disappointed me. I just didn't watch them. So she wasn't a hero to me-- other than that she got Spin (who I already did understand was a character in a show not a real person).

As I searched my memory, there was nobody who I hero worshiped (although I did hope to grow up and marry Clint Walker, who played a character called Cheyenne-- but I gave that up when I found out he was married). But to consider someone a hero to me, to want to be them, there were none, not movie stars, singers, athletes, spiritual leaders, or politicians. So if they were caught doing some despicable act, it'd have not hurt my life or my own goals. My life and goals weren't based on someone else-- someone I really didn't know.

Was my life damaged by having no such heroes? I don't know. I've often thought I'd have liked to have a mentor and not just for writing but for art, for life. I never had that either. I have had this or that one I've learned from, but a mentor or hero is more than that.

Political leaders can easily become heroes to people. In my case, I might like what they do politically but that's where it ends-- no political heroes ever. When I found out Anthony Weiner, who I used to like for how feisty he was in standing up for progressive values, was a bit of a pervert, my life wasn't turned on end. I'd long since figured people aren't perfect. I'd probably have voted for him again even though it appears he hasn't given up his peccadillo for sexual misadventures. He's not my husband; and if he's doing his job, I don't really care what he is doing online-- his wife maybe should. I might think it's stupid, but it doesn't break my heart, cause me to lose my own goals. When it's not hero worship, it's pretty much-- so what. No, Obama wasn't a hero to me. I have liked what he said he would do. I hoped he'd be a good leader.

Actually, I haven't had a political hero since... hmmm, never had one. Which is probably lucky because they almost all end up with clay feet. 

Should children be encouraged to have heroes, where they try to mimic what they do? Where they build their life goals around them? How about fictional ones-- or even historical? Personally I'd say no-- especially if they aren't someone in their real life like a relative or older friend. Even then it's risky. Humans are not perfect and mostly will always let down others or themselves one way or another. Having anyone, as a hero on a pedestal, is leading to disappointment. It's unrealistic.

By 71, I am unlikely to have a hero, even as fascinated as I am by human nature. Maybe I am too cynical. Where I have created a lot of them for books, I have never seen any of them as perfect and sure never wanted to know them in real life. They were fictional and intended for the equally fictional heroine.

So tomorrow is the Super Bowl, which is the ultimate time for those who have heroes. Some will be cheering for the Seahawks. Others the Patriots, although less since so many have decided that they cheated even if they aren't sure how they did it. Me, I will probably go somewhere. It's a great day to shop or go to the beach. Love Super Bowl days for how it empties out the roads, restaurants, and shops. :)

And finally, I came across this Friday. Because we all deserve to laugh and not take ourselves too seriously-- yes, I mean that-- check this out:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Nature at its finest

When it's winter here in the Willamette Valley, one of the things we like to do is head for William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge south of Corvallis. When going, you never know what you will see, but that's part of its appeal. Of historic interest at the refuge is the Fiechter House, completed in 1857-- thought to be one of the oldest homes in Benton County. 

The refuge was named for William L. Finley, an early conservationist who persuaded President Theodore Roosevelt to set aside the first national wildlife refuge west of the Mississippi River. It is because of farsighted people, where the government purchased the land, that such places for migrating and wintering wildlife exist in a time of dwindling habitats. 

There is an interesting history attached to the place, be sure and read the link under Fiechter House. It involves a killing which might have been accidental, of course... or was it? It was assumed to be at the time but would definitely arouse my suspicions as a fiction writer ;).

Many of the trails are blocked during the winter to offer the birds a protected space. They did, however, build a boardwalk that goes out to offer views of the larger of the two ponds. It was from that gazebo where we got photos of the swans which were across the pond. 

The big thing we hope for is the remote chance we will get to see and hear thousands of geese take off. It's a sound you don't forget. It is not just the beauty of these birds but the energy that makes this a wonderful place to sit and for a time just watch them as they fly off and back. This time, because we saw so many at the other end of the second pond, we had hopes we'd get lucky. We were also then ready for when it happened with our cameras. 

What makes them suddenly arise as one? Often, we have seen one or two lift off but the other birds don't go. Then suddenly it happens. Is there one leader who determines it?

When they take off in a flock, often one or two realize they don't know where their mate is, and they will turn back. I guess they get as pulled in by the excitement of that liftoff as we do in watching them. After awhile small flocks will come back and settle into a different spot on the shallow lake. These birds are not ready to migrate, not yet but one day, this practice will benefit them, I guess :).

This time, besides taking a lot of photos, we were able to make a video with our phone. It was mostly to capture the sound of their wings beating the water and air as they rise. I hope you can access it. In me, it arouses emotions of gratitude every time I am there to, for a tiny moment, share the world with these beautiful birds.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

this and that

In a Pacific Northwest winter, we know we have to take our great days when we see them roll in as often the weather forecast had no clue what was coming. We've had a lot of foggy, gray days but sprinkled in there have been some with beautiful blue skies. If we had more rain and less fog, I'd be more pleased. This is a region that needs quite a lot to make for a good summer. The mountains have been low on snow levels. They say that early winter snow is the best for summer river flow as it takes longer to melt; so even getting snow up there now won't be as good.

Our creek is not fed with snow melt, as we are in the Oregon Coast Range, which gets very little snow. What makes it keep its flow is rain that recharges the springs which feed it. These hills are full of springs-- when all is going well. I won't worry yet, but I am also aware it could be another dry summer which is a bigger deal for us toward the end when we want to irrigate as well as to be sure enough rain falls to recharge our well.

Most of my work right now is going into writing and editing the books-- hopefully. I finished the rough draft for a novella and its first edit. I learned something interesting, for those of you who might want to write. I love every story I write, think they are wonderful-- until I begin the edits. That's when what-the-heck-was-I-thinking comes into play. It's when I think-- nobody will want to read this book because there isn't enough drama, sex, angst, etc. You name it.

Where I liked this romance of an older woman and man, as well as the family they had created from their friends, this isn't the kind of romance that romance readers likely most want. Novellas can be slice of life stories and that's how I see this one. It doesn't begin where many romances do, and there is no huge violent moment in it. It's a simple, plain story of love in old age. 

It was an enjoyable writing experience, as having a book that doesn't have to do something, and where I can let it unfold with grace, lets me get into the experience with no expectations for where it's going. I liked these people and how romance in one's 60s can be (a good word for it is surprising)

Will readers be attracted to it? I won't know for awhile; but considering my other novella, A Montana Christmas, also a slice of life story, didn't set reader's hearts on fire, I won't have expectations regarding this one. Sometimes you write a story because it came to you or in the case of this one, belongs in the bigger story of a family. This was one such. 

Ranch Boss created this cover from the elements I wanted as a way to give a feel for the book. I really like what he did. It's nice to have novellas look a little different than full length novels.
Monday I saw my orthodontist, the one who did the root canal in the summer. I really like him, had worried about this visit, but was relieved when after a thorough exam, which included a CT scan, that there was no infection. The bone has been regenerating below the tooth as it should have. The probable reason for the tooth discomfort is the nerve right below it and how close the tooth is to it-- Plus my habit of grinding my teeth. I have no idea why some people do this but during the summer I came to realize how often I grit my teeth. Not good for teeth or pain in the long run. 

He has recommended Botox to retrain my muscles. He injects it into the muscles along the jaw and in the hairline that control the grinding and at a low enough dose that I am not aware of it at all as far as feeling any different for facial expression.  Anyway if it works, I will definitely write about it here. Due to tooth grinding, I cracked one tooth and have worn down others. During the day I can remind myself to stop that (and fully understand how often i do it), but at night, that's where the Botox comes in. We shall see.

My dreams have been particularly intense lately. I woke from one Wednesday morning and remembered the story, which was about a school that was misusing students. There was a man who was trying to fix the situation. Twice in the dream he said-- Seeking power was for children. Winning is what matters. I awoke unsure of his exact wording, but that is the gist of its meaning. I used this thought in my [Rant] this week because although at first it might seem the two sentences are contradictory, they are not when you think about it.

The problem with our world is totally blowing it with understanding what power can really gain. So often those who seek it don't really win anything. They see the power as a goal but at the best, power is a tool. The goal is to win.

Win what, you might ask. That is the challenge of life. What makes a win for you? Using someone else's criteria won't cut it. Misunderstanding what makes for winning is, I think, at the heart of a lot of human problems. People seek power for power's sake and where does that leave them? I think there should be more teaching of philosophy in school to get students to think of a bigger picture of what life can be. Of course, that's not happening in our current situation with partisan politics controlling or trying to control everything.

Anyway, for me, my world is one of writing, reading research material, editing, letting cats in and out as they aren't fond of cold gray days, and enjoying the stream of dreams as I try to remember and use them in one way or another. 

After another editing job for the first in the Oregon historical series, I will be starting what I used to call the fourth Arizona historical... except what does that make the novella? 3½?