Archive for January 2010

Sighting Beauty

January 31, 2010

Frozen Lake

Lake Michigan’s water has cooled from it’s summer temperatures over the past few months.  When our unusual-for-January “warm” weather disappeared faster than a genie’s puff of smoke this past week, the water turned to ice.  Overnight. 

Not thick ice, but thick enough the first day that the surface appeared as if wrapped in heavy duty saran wrap. That night we were treated to the sight of an almost full moon shining down on the ice and throwing back the light.  A sight I knew my camera could never capture but my memory did.  Incredible. 

Two mornings later, I woke to a winter snow globe effect. Fluffy white snowflakes gently falling.  With no wind (also usual for us so close to the lake), the snow covered the ice that had been building on the lake.  

I could then see that the ice-wrapped lake extended as far as I could see to the eastern horizon.  The day stayed dreary.  The gloom lifted only by those gently falling flakes and the continually changing waterscape of my much-loved lake.  I could see varying sizes of breaks within the ice where small streams of water must be draining off the land. 

Between the snow sprinkles, the ice and the difference is water color depending on the depth—all this reminded me of a very expensive piece of exquisite moiré perhaps, its ombre hues shifting and weaving into each other. 

Shifting Ice

This past week has had many challenges for my family, my friends, me.  However, seeing this gift from mother nature lifted my spirits and keeps me hopeful.  That is a gift also for if I’m at peace I can extend better help and consolation to those around me who need it.  I can deal more effectively with life around me. 

Take time this week to open up to the simple beauty that shows up in your world.  And if you’ve had a “beautiful moment” you want to share, please do.

Mussels, A Muse & Moods in a Fog

January 24, 2010

Foggy weather

Last evening we went with neighbors out for dinner.  The restaurant buzzed with activity and the hum of friendly chatter.  Its ambience of good cheer was the perfect antidote to a week of dreary skies, bad news, and January moods.  All wrapped up in a fog that reminded me of a foggy, rainy day and night in Bar Harbor, Maine and San Francisco every time I’ve been there. 

All week long I’d been trying to come up with a decent topic for today’s post.  My recalcitrant muse was being as cranky as the weather and wouldn’t come sit on my shoulder, no matter what rewards I offered.  So, while I can’t attest to my companions’ moods for the week, I was definitely ready to get out of the house and enjoy the wonderful fare at the restaurant we chose. 

Maybe I’d find my topic there. 

We all agreed that some interesting appetizers were what we needed first.  That’s where the mussels came in.  While we waited for our appetizers, we ordered three different ones—all to share, we reminisced about lazy summer days, warm evenings when we sat together and watched the moon rise above the lake. 

The fresh, steamed mussels were exquisite. Tasting savory with a sauce of tomato, garlic, fennel, white wine, cream, and hints of lemon and parsley.  Yum. Yum.  Let’s hear it for Molly Malone Mussels. Needless to say, our entrees had much to live up to—and they did.  A perfect dining experience to chase away the moodiness a dreary winter week produced. 

This morning in church a young family sat in front of us.  As I listened to the homily, my eyes drifted to the mother who was holding the youngest, I’d guess a boy about 3 years old.  The priest’s message didn’t mean much to the youngster but instead of getting antsy and cranky, he reached up with a dimpled hand and turned his mother’s face toward him.  Then he kissed her and laid his head on her shoulder. 

Charming scene.  One that caused me to remember long ago times when my sons did similar things to me.  I hope that young mother remembers these days as all too soon children grow up and the innocence so apparent in the scene I witnessed this morning can’t be recaptured though the love remains.  So another musing. 

On the way home from church the sun emerged.  For about an hour.  Now the dreary skies have returned.  But I have the memories of mussels, the beauty of a winter fog and the magic of a little boy’s expression of love to feed my creative muse. 

And my blog topic bloomed. 

I expect she won’t be so cranky this coming week.  What do you think?

Icy Shorelines & Writing Issues

January 17, 2010

Ice waves on winter beach

One morning this past week when our skies were still winter dreary but our thermometers rose higher than they’d been since before Christmas, I took my camera and drove into town to view the Lake Michigan shore from a different vantage point. 

I’m so glad I did. 

I see our lake every day whenever I gaze from my windows.  Always the view inspires me, but after a while one can take the view for granted.  This beautiful setting is a daily expectation. 

Looking at the shoreline from different perspectives in town and seeing the beauty from a different angle made me think of how we as individuals take those people and situations that reside in our daily lives for granted. It takes seeing them in different surroundings or handling issues beyond how we normally experience them to push us from our complacent stance. 

That change in our reality sphere often jumpstarts our relationship in a new way—sometimes thrilling, sometimes dangerous, sometimes sad. 

So too with writers.  Sometimes we get stalled in our writing process.  Our characters blend into the sameness of our white monitor screens.  Our plots so familiar to us grown more staid with each sentence we write. When this occurs, we need to step back and see our words and our stories from a different perspective.  We may be correct in our original assessment.  Or we could be totally wrong. 

Shifting our perspective or gaining insight from someone else, can help us add layers and depth to our story and our characters.  We can chip away at flaws once we see them from another angle.  We can immerse ourselves in the layers we’ve built with our words and imagination while allowing new elements to what is already in place.  We can add complications like weather systems, wind, snow and sleet do to change the look of the shoreline or the line of rocks. 

Pine Tree at shore

Just like my eyes were opened to the new and spectacular essence of my beloved Lake Michigan. 

What has opened your eyes to some take-for-granted person, place, or thing in your lives?

Failure and Surrender

January 10, 2010

A Challenge at the Keyboard

I had a different topic in mind for this week.  Then I listened to Friday evening’s news and heard about the death of Jean Biden, the 92 year old mother of our Vice President, Joe Biden.

In later broadcasts, in the Saturday papers, and on my computer news page, I read more about the woman and viewed once again video footage of her and her son.

I don’t know about you, and I’m not touching politics here, but one fact about Mrs. Biden grabbed my soul.  If you are a parent, especially a mother, didn’t you feel an emotional tug at the clips of her when TV cameras panned in on Jean Biden at various times during major moments in the last election?  For example, when her son was using his mom and her words in some meaningful way?

I can only answer for myself.  I did.  I reread and reviewed the time Joe Biden mentioned his mother’s comment on failure and giving up.  To paraphrase:  Failure at some point in everyone’s life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable.


I must use this as one of my mantra’s for the rest of my life.  Those words succinctly express what I’ve learned already, but I must paste them around me in my office.  Why?  Because as a writer, I fight failure with every page I write.  The publishing business isn’t easy.  Failure happens, often because of situations a writer can’t control.  But it still hurts.  The failures arrow into our souls and can fester, pushing us to reconsider our talent and what we write.  It’s the time when we must bow to the inevitability that we all will have our failures.  Just as Mrs. Biden told her son.

That’s where the second part of Mrs. Biden’s powerful statement comes into play.

We can’t give up, take our words and ideas, and throw them out with the trash of our daily existence.  We must work at continuing to believe in ourselves and our passion for writing.  Not to do so is unforgivable and denies us the chances to perfect the talents we’ve been blessed with.

I’ve stumbled often and failed.  Sometimes I’ve considered giving up.  In writing and with situations in life.  But my passion for writing, my friends and my family would never forgive me if I did so.

By accepting my failures and learning from them, I have lived long enough to see success—as a person, a professional, and within my deeply loved circle of family and friends.  To give up isn’t an option.  I’d disappoint too many I love, respect and admire.

What do you think about this concept?

Life Smoke

January 3, 2010

Lake Smoke

2010 brought frigid weather to my neighborhood.  However, our lake waters are still much warmer than the air temperatures.  This temperature contrast has produced some very different lakescapes. 

What that means is that we have been seeing a phenomenon referred to by some as “Arctic Sea Smoke.”  I notice this event especially in the morning when I first wake and glance out my window to Lake Michigan.  Sometimes the “smoke” rises quite high above the water, then you see the sunrise or glimpse puffy clouds tinged pink with a sun trying hard to break through the cloud cover. 

Sometimes the phenomenon hunkers closer to the waters with a thick consistency that makes me think of a meringue on a lemon pie.  No matter how the “smoke” looks or behaves, I find myself lost in watching it and letting my mind drift to possibilities for my characters and within my life. 

Why?  Because to make my writing interesting and to give my characters depth, I must provide conflict and more often complications.  If I do my job well, like the “smoke” or “smoke” on the lake, these problems must be resolved.  Sometimes, I might want my characters have more trouble getting through their problems and at times those problems might overwhelm them.  But like the “smoke” on the lake, the right conditions will dissipate the condition, just as the right conditions and timing will resolve a character’s problems or a story’s conflict. 

Cold but Clear shoreline

In my own life, I’ve had times when a clear vision has been thickly obscured by “smoke.”  What I’ve learned is to trust myself that the “smoke” can be worked through or waited out.  It depends on the situation.  But that understanding is a major stress reducer.  I wasn’t born with this wisdom.  I had to earn it by navigating through the “smoke” of life.  Just like I make my characters do in my writing. 

What about you?  Do you let the “smoke” in your life tangle you up and keep you from moving forward?