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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring has sprung... sort of

Sometimes writing a once a week topic for here seems so easy. It just happens and the topic is a natural. Other times, I get to Friday, like this time, and still have no idea of a solid topic.

It's not that a lot isn't going on. My own world is wrapped up in the current WIP (work in progress) where it seems I only care about the motivations of these characters. What works? What doesn't work? Whoops went too far that way and have to back up. I come up for air, look around and the world is still out there but my own awareness of it has been somewhere pushed to the back of my mind.

Even though we are still getting a lot of rain and gray days, spring is here and the first flowers are out, not as many here in the hills as when I drive into town, but it clearly is spring with leaves popping out. Last week the hummingbirds returned about a week after the vultures. We often joke that they leave and arrive at the same time and do the hummers ride the waves of the vulture's flight?

Our kids have a cabin on Klamath Lake and the birds are flocking there in record numbers as the ice seemed to leave the lake almost within a week. Their photos are inspiring but not quite enough to get us over there yet anyway.

The man who has looked after our place when we are gone is currently involved with a full time job, which means we are going to find it difficult right now to leave with so many babies on the place. 

The lambs got their creep this week (a fenced in area where they can get COB (corn, oats, barley) that they need now-- especially those part of triplets or twins. The lambs have begun running in gangs but getting a photo of them doing it is always a challenge. This first one was in the rain and only about one third of them in the image. Another photo had them running and totally out of focus even as I tried to ignored the rain on my camera lens.

 When it's sunny, they, like their mothers, lie in the pear orchard by mid morning.

Politically it's enough to drive a person nuts as so many issues all being thrust at us at the same time. Some are things we thought we had resolved like North Dakota trying to take away a woman's right to choose. One red state after another has done this and then they try to tell us women should support the Republican party. How can we? I mean all women have a right to choose now. Nobody forces an abortion and frankly if a woman wants to keep a baby that she can't really afford or who will be born with problems, the party fighting to end abortion is also fighting to end any programs to help her raise that child. Make sense-- not!

Then there is gay marriage which seems a given to anybody who isn't using Old Testament religion as the basis for their thinking. Did Christ condemn homosexuality? Not a chance, but the Apostle Paul did, who may have been a gay himself and whatever the truth of that, used the Old Testament as the basis for his condemnation. The Constitution is supposed to not be about religion and yet only religion would say gays should not have a right to marriage with all the benefits that includes culturally and materially. 

I have said for a long time that the right to gay marriage is more important for the youth than older gays. It lets them know there is a way for them to lead a life as normal as anyone else's. If gay marriage was regarded as equal to any other, then they'd have no reason to marry a heterosexual to try and fit in. They see their life as normal for them and okay for everybody. That's  commonsense though and it's not part of this debate.

The other issue that has attracted my interest is the raising of the minimum wage. If it had kept up with inflation, it'd not be an issue at all right now. That's why when they say vouchers are good enough for Medicare and the CPI is good for SS raises, don't believe them. It's all about making these programs, these entitlements have no meaning or value-- as they managed to do federally with the minimum wage.

Anyway I actually avoid the news a lot right now, but those issues are the ones I've cared about probably the most when I do click in. Otherwise my life is back in 1865 and dealing with the political issues that were a factor then, the Indian war that Oregon was experiencing, the arguments over how to deal with a lot of the same issues we argue over today. 

One problem with writing a new work, having a WIP, is that I tend to disappear into it. I come up for air once in awhile and wonder where the world went. It's not easy to avoid that happening. In the middle of the night I'll wake and all I can think about is did that plot element work? Oh wait, it didn't and I have to remember in the morning to redo it because 'that' character would never do that. The only way I can get back to sleep is start counting breaths to force my mind from the story and to nothingness-- which is where sleep lies.

Then I had a dream that my computer caught a virus and I feared my WIP had been be lost. I am being quite careful in avoiding going to offbeat sites for research as that very much could happen. I have never seen a screen do what mine did in that dream, odd distorted shapes and no ability to control anything.

Even without the dream, I frequently save my work as I go because i have had something go wrong in the past, what we used to call a blue screen of death, and I'd lose everything I hadn't just saved. I never felt I got it as fresh the next time as I imagined I had the first.

Photos all here at the farm. One recent visitor has been the wild Chinese pheasant, likely planted here some years back as they are not native to this region other than brought in for hunting. The above male comes around every so often to check out the grain supply for the sheep. Even before I see him, I hear him as he has quite a hoarse call. I haven't seen the turkeys yet, but our yearly wood duck residents have shown up for the smorgasbord of whatever the sheep don't eat. The small birds have their own feeder inside the area fenced off from the sheep-- generally.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Social media-- good or bad?

Almost two years ago, when I began to think about bringing out all my stories onto eReaders, editing reminded me of something about our culture. Communication had changed so totally that it required major revamps if I wanted the stories to be set in today. 

Pay phones-- virtually a thing of the past. Cell phones-- total necessity. Computers-- who can live without them. VCR is now DVD and in some of my books, even that hadn't been in homes. This all illustrates one advantage of writing historical novels-- possible technologies of the time don't change at least not if you researched it well to start.

April 2008 Seal Rock

What has triggered this thinking is what happened in Steubenville, Ohio. If you followed it, you know the details, if not, I won't go into them as they are pretty unpleasant. The part that relates to what I'm thinking is how social media played a role as it has in so many happenings especially with youth but also oldsters.

Kids today simply don't know the same world I, or even my kids, did growing up. Today, youth are connected and online, some from early childhood. Their every move is recorded and passed onto friends and family in a way that past parents could only dream of doing. As soon as they are old enough, they have cell phones and text their friends to the point they are never disconnected from their social network. How will this impact the emotional maturing of these kids?

The rape in Steubenville was compounded by tweets and instagram photos of the crime while those not connected directly to it watched and did nothing. Would the young men have even done what they did if they had not been drunk themselves and then egged on? We know the gang mentality of the young where murders have been committed, lots of kids knew, and protected the crime through some kind of group loyalty or psychoses. This rape though was discovered and its damage compounded by social media that enabled voyeurism and guilt by association (some of whom may find there is a criminal penalty to be paid).

 May 2009 Seal Rock

I worry about the impact on kids who are never disconnected from electronic media, but adults aren't immune to the influence. Some grew up in a world where it was all they knew. Some, like my generation, came to it after years of other methods. For all the good social media can do, there is a downside.

Lately I've seen several sites writing about hurt feelings from words that were only possible because of blogs, Facebook, or other social sites.  People forget that everything they say here, it all is out there and can be found by others. Some give intimate information on their lives that maybe they won't later want to have available to the world-- but it will be. 

Social media has a particular tendency to encourage more sharing of things that at one time would have been unthinkable to tell strangers-- and yet that's exactly what is happening. Old folks are as prone to this as kids.

We can now publish books, put pictures of ourselves online with no censorship at all in some places. Facebook does censor but still people in their underwear to strangers? Seriously? In some ways we can know more about strangers than we do our neighbors but do we really? How much of what we read is invented? 

December 2011 Seal Rock

We can be dragged into voyeurism ourselves if we don't have a strong sense of values that says-- I won't read or look at that. Whoa, those words went too far for me! That photo, is it what I think it is, and instead of staying and salivating, shutting down the site. 

When I began on the internet, I was in a group site where you could have private chats but also share in designated rooms. I was chatting with a guy who was flirting or trying to with me, but he also was watching something he told me I should go see. In one of the 'rooms' a couple had put up a link to their webcam where they were making love. The guy thought it was great. I thought it was wrong for them and anybody who viewed it. I didn't want to be part of encouraging this couple to degrade themselves from the egging on of others. He saw nothing wrong with it. The twenty year age difference between us might have explained part of that different way we saw it.

People build friendships through the Internet, and I am the first to say it can be done. I have met people this way who became real time friends. I also know those who were defrauded by people who created identities aimed for that purpose. Some do it out of loneliness but others are grifters who make money off the loneliness of others.

My main thought here is how easily people say mean things, things they'd never say to someone in person because the internet makes meanness easy. It makes possible to encourage someone who is degrading themselves or others, an act that person would never do in person. 

To many people the internet is an alternate reality, a different level of relationship which can become a trap. It is a fact in our world where we do our business online, learn the news, talk to friends, share our experiences. That genii is out of the bottle, but it does take a sense of ethics to use it wisely for ourselves, not become part of things that are wrong because they don't seem real-- not make it the center of our lives.

Especially for the younger generation, it is a constant battle to stay connected enough without it becoming crippling to their physical reality-- or as happened in Steubenville, get them into serious trouble.

March 2013 Seal Rock

And for oldsters, I think it's just good to keep it in perspective. Use it, don't let it use us. Understand that what we write, either in a blog or comments, goes beyond the immediate and can be found for years to come. Nothing out there is really private to those who know how to hack.

Photos are the ones I mentioned of four long time friends at a vacation spot we have enjoyed over the last five years. Sometime I will take the time to find the photos of us through the years-- we go way back-- although not quite to childhood. I came across a few of them when looking for petroglyph photos. Hard to believe it's even us ;). Today we use social media as this couple are the only ones with whom I chat  now using Skype (with MSN messenger going down). We could use the phone, do get together now and then, but we enjoy the convenience of typing, connecting and onward to our days. The internet isn't a bad thing. Social media isn't harmful unless we lose control of it.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

The genesis of creativity

A feeling is coming over me that-- miracle of miracles that I can detect this-- I am about to offend believers in fundamentalist Christianity. So I warn them right now-- come back next Saturday, you will be happier.

This week we had a delightful break at the Coast. Three nights with friends at a rental house that the four of us have had four times since 2008 (We have taken a photo like the one below each time and I will post them all sometime). Along with such a wonderful time of sitting and watching the ocean (I learned when there that I can watch the waves and birds for hours and not find it boring or too much), we had a lot of great conversations and good food.  

One of the conversation is about to morph into this blog as I woke up last night thinking about miracles, magic, magick, mystery, muses, or... the mundane.

At the house, i was sitting on the sofa watching the ocean waves and birds while Diane was painting and I brought up something I'd been reading. Mark Burnett, the producer of The Survivor (to me an icky show about profiting from manipulation), who has now put out a mini-series on the History Channel, The Bible, claimed miracles happened on the set proving God had his hand in the production and wanted it made. 

That he would say such a thing irked me for two reasons. One I've heard that talk throughout my life. When a shooter kills a bunch of people, often one of those who didn't get shot credits it to a miracle. When a hiker is lost and crews find them-- miracle. Miracles are thought to prove God's hand is on that person's life which is generally thought to mean they were spared because they were still needed here (what does that say about those who weren't spared?). This is the talk of a personal god, the kind who gets involved in productions of TV series because everybody knows He can't adequately publicize himself. 

This ignores what happened to those who did get shot, the hiker who didn't get found, the person the bear did kill. It ignores the one who needed a new car but it didn't suddenly appear (God takes great interest in providing material goods to his beloved). Well not totally ignores as then the spiel is-- it was for their own good that it (loss/disease/disappointment/etc.) happened. Always these things are miracles whichever way it goes.

In a week where a lot of talk was over a new Pope, religion is a topic of conversation anyway (good, bad, or no change for the Church?). I might forgive a reality TV show producer for claiming God blessed his new project by miraculous signs that he was looking for, but what really irked me is this supposedly creative person (I'll reserve judgment on that one but certainly successful), wouldn't understand how creativity works and his supposed miraculous events relate more to that then to some divine intervention.

Of course, believers would say I am about to be blasphemous (which is why I warned them away and take no responsibility for them being offended). I would be blasphemous if I believed God/god/deity had anything to do with his claimed miracles or that now the series is getting very high ratings which is shocking everybody-- supposedly -- or at least those who don't know how many claim to be Christians in our country. (on that link, check out the clip at the bottom for the trailer and the level of acting in the show-- more special effects than great acting was my take if that is the 'best' it has anyway).

My conversation with Diane, while i was sitting on the sofa watching the ocean to possibly photography the perfect ocean wave/pelicans/eagle and she was standing at her easel tweaking her painting of that ocean, was more my thinking on how creativity works than that a shyster might once again be scamming a bunch of people with his piety (seen it before, haven't we). 

When we are into a creative work, when we have put together the pieces that can make it happen, then is when the muse (which is a word I like but don't mean by it a being necessarily but the energy wave that comes with creative work) can bring into play more elements. Things happen that we didn't expect. 

Creativity doesn't happen when someone is not doing the work. It happens in the midst of it and the lucky accidents keep adding to what is possible. It's serendipity and those who do creative work learn to expect it.

When I carved, in stone I always thought the sculpture was inside and just needed me to carve away what was getting in its way. Then later working with clay, the same thing. A blob of clay that I would begin kneading to take out the air bubbles would begin to reveal what it was intended to be. If I had waited to work that clay until I had a plan, I'd likely have never sculpted.

Now it's true of my writing. I know the gist of where I am going but once I have set characters into that setting, as I am into the middle of it, lots of cool things come along that I enjoy very much. As the writer, I don't take credit for all this happening. I also don't know from where it really comes; however, I see as enriching for me as the creator and for what will come from my work. 

As an example with the story I am currently writing. I knew because of when/where the events were taking place that grizzly bears were potential in the area even though later they disappeared from Oregon (they're returning now into the northeastern corner or so I have been told by locals). Way ahead of where I was writing, I began thinking how the bear would impact the story. By the time I got to where it was going to happen, the events were just there. Nothing I originally imagined but far better. 

If someone wants to write, paint, sculpt, etc., and they think they are not creative, my advice is just start. It is in the doing that the chances come along that enrich the work, that can seem like a miracle but in reality is just a product of doing and being aware.

To me creative work always involves lucky accidents, recognizing a meaning beyond the obvious, and running with it. The fact that someone wants to make that into a miracle to bless their life or work over someone else's offends me. 

In the link above, there is a trailer to the movie Burnett created. It's worth taking a peek at what he considers the best of the shows. Farm Boss laughed when he saw it but his laughter also is likely blasphemy to the true believers-- where's a good lightning bolt when you need one or was god also laughing? 

Someone who is supposed to be doing God's work and has the hand of God on that work, wouldn't you expect the work to be superior and not enhanced by gimmicks and emotional tricks? Maybe not from the producer of The Survivor... 

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Being in the now

mating damsel flies
dragonfly with sun bubble
You are not "in the now"--
You are the now.
That is your essential identity-- the only thing that never changes.
Life is always now. Now is consciousness.
And consciousness is who you are. That's the equation.
Eckhart Tolle

Probably living in the now is one of the more complex of human concepts even as it seems it should be obvious. We so often live in the past, in the future and the now is something to get through.

The problem is when we don't live in the 'now', we miss our only opportunity to experience anything. Whether we are enjoying something that happened or anticipating something we want-- or don't want, it's easy to lose track of what we actually have.
 dragonfly possibly recently emerged from the stream where they live most of their lives with a few glorious months flitting around with that beautiful color and wings

As I go through the photos looking for images I can use either for trailers, covers, Pinterest, or the blogs, I am easily carried back to moments when each photo was taken. Sometimes that's enjoyable. Sometimes it's depressing. I don't suppose it hurts once in awhile to do that as part of our 'now' but it can get tricky if we put too much of our value into what we accomplished or did not.

As a painter, sculptor, photographer, and writer, I've learned that all I really care about is what I am working on right at the moment. All the past photos are nice. Glad someone liked that last painting, but it's the one now that I struggle with and see as the thing of most value. I suppose that is because the creating of it is the now and it's not the product at all-- even though there is a product involved.

Last year we got some of the best photos we have ever had of a praying mantis in our garden. Most likely it happened because of disturbing the wood storage area with new fencing (keeping in the cats). Whatever the reason, she (big bottom says it's a female and possibly ready to lay eggs) posed in a fantastic way. Many insects run from us but praying mantises do not in my experience anyway. They are not only the now but in their own power.

I literally cannot tell you how many years I wanted praying mantis photos as once one landed in my hair when we were at a renaissance faire. I was delighted, able to put it in a safe spot. Since then I have looked for them but this time, without wanting it, there it was. I think such small moments are the main benefit of living in the now.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Rainbow treasure trove

The rainbow treasures will soon belong to you.

Anybody pay any attention to those fortunes you get inside Oriental cookies? Have you ever had one that actually came true? I am not sure when I got that one but it dropped out of my purse last week, and I put it on my desk as inspiration. So far no rainbow treasures that I can think of. I haven't even seen a rainbow recently.

Of course, I have been buried in writing. When I edited the Oregon Trail story, it was really an epic effort as I still believe in that story even though it first began when I was in my teens. My cousin and I would go for walks during family gatherings and we'd tell stories. It was one. Here I am now almost 70 and it's still a story I believe in even though I had to tweak a few things this go round.

Pioneers heading west were hoping for rainbow's end. They had a dream of a new life and were willing to take great risks to get it. I think we all have such dreams even if we don't go traveling around trying to find a rainbow's treasures. 

I've actually driven through a rainbow, with the light all around me-- no treasure if you count treasure as gold. On the other hand if treasure is a great memory, then I still have that one, of being surrounded by colored light and then driving out the other side. I keep wondering, when we are driving and see one if we went the right way, might we again drive through it? So far not. When it happened, we were on a bridge over a river and that might have been what allowed it. 

I've been close to their end several times and never yet seen a pot of gold. I suppose the myth came because if humans are searching for pots of gold, they likely always keep moving ahead-- never really attainable.

We have had a very gray winter in my part of the Pacific Northwest. It's the kind of winter that sends those who came from warmer states back home. It's not that we get the blizzards or snow that some areas experience, but we just have one gray foggy or rainy day after another. It feels like a rain forest only it's not. It is also not the only kind of winters my area can get.

Other than living one year in Arizona, I have lived all my life here in the Pacific Northwest, on the ocean side of the Cascade Mountains. I know it about as well as any region even though there are other climate types that I've come to love also. We do get rainbows, but it takes sunshine to create them and it's been in short supply this winter.

So I thought I'd pull up a few of my old rainbow photos through the years from here and other places, some in the sky, some in waterfalls, one in a geyser. I've seen many full rainbows but haven't successfully photographed them with the whole entirety of the bow and sometimes a double or triple. Even when I have seen the whole thing often I've only been able to capture part of it.

Finally because I was doing this blog and because I like to look through CanStock for images that I didn't take myself or couldn't take for assorted reasons, here is a rainbow on what looks like an alkali desert, maybe eastern California in Death Valley but hard to say.

Oh and for those interested in the lambing. 41 so far, most twins or triplets. I will tell you that having a lot of lambs and new mothers around is not restful whatever the imagery suggests. They are always getting lost or separated and then complaining to each other. Farm Boss has had to pull three so far which is three more than last year but they all were successful as in mother and big lamb are doing fine. 

We also took one into our kitchen, after being found as a reject, nearly dead in the barns until Farm boss brought him in to tube (using a thin tube that lets the lamb replacer go into his stomach when a lamb cannot suck) and bring back to life. So far it looks, after a lot of back rubs, cooing to it, and reiki, as though it will make it-- but now we have to find someone with children interested in raising up a lamb. 

When our daughter was young, she sometimes took weak ones into bed with her to warm them up. She said the only problem is once she brought them back to life, the mothers wanted them back. I doubt this one will as she had triplets and probably couldn't manage more than two.

not everyone is pleased