Purity

They are beautiful gems, shining for a brief moment before dimming in the reality of life. They are rare, and transient, and precious. They are pure moments – moments unclouded by opinion, or rhetoric, or worries. They are the moments when time stops, and the wonder of nature and life take your breath away.

I have experienced some of these moments before, so I know they exist. But life hasn’t been quiet enough for a while for me to be open to one. I yearn for just a few minutes where life is quiet down to my soul. Where I can look at the sky, and remind myself of my small (and hopefully meaningful) place in the universe.

Sometimes I feel ungrateful wishing for such things. The noise in my life is often due to children’s songs or requests for more pushes on the swing. Honestly, there are many more annoying and stressful moments, but we won’t linger on those here.

Strawberries

This week, I caught a glimpse of a pure moment riding back from the strawberry fields on the bumping “Berry Ferry.” My kids and I were slick with sweat, covered in hay and dirt. And we were each grinning ear to ear, reveling in the feeling of accomplishment after picking two overflowing boxes of rich, ripe, perfect berries.

I close my eyes now as I think of it, hoping for the mental “click” as I attempt to imprint the memory on my brain.

These moments come rarely – not because they don’t exist, but because the reality of life is too loud. The news, the chores, the responsibilities, the traffic, the things we hate to do but must… it all intrudes. And when do catch a pure moment, like a butterfly on our hand, it doesn’t last long enough. I suppose that’s what makes them so precious and valuable.

Catching some pure moments is on my must-do list for this summer. They help to feed my soul, and my writing. I hope you can pause to find some of your own.

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The Music of Life

I’m sure each of us has a personal philosophy about music and its ability to enhance or detract from an experience. Film critics often discuss how a movie soundtrack either elevates or destroys the feeling of a film. Some people would not have gotten through college without some rock and roll in the background, while others preferred the silence of the library.

For me, different situations require different musical support. When I clean my house (which I detest), I play some music from my “Upbeat and Fun” playlist. And I play it loud. It seems to give me a little hop in my step as I wipe the same counters and wash the same floors, week after week. Extra bonus if my kids pop into the kitchen for an impromptu dance party.

When I am writing a first draft, I prefer to write in relative silence. No external distractions to take me away from the getting those thoughts out of my head and onto the page, as quick as possible. When I’m writing this blog, I do have a little wiggle room- not music exactly, but right now the swish of the dishwasher is proving to be quite soothing.

I was always the silent studier- probably because I know that I am easily distracted and I need to actively work to be focused. So it surprised me to find that there is some room for music when I write. Not in my first draft, granted, but during revision.

You may have read on this blog about my second middle grade novel work in progress – it is a time travel story set mostly in 1983. At one point in revising and expanding the story, I got stuck. So I put on some 80’s music for inspiration. And it worked! Many memories of my own experiences in the 80’s came back to me, and I had fun adding lots of vivid details to the story. Who knows if they’ll all make it to the final version, but it should be a more realistic and fun story.

This past week, music proved a happy little accident. I had made revision mark-ups to my first novel, and was sitting at the computer in the kitchen in the evening entering them. And my husband fell asleep in his chair in the next room. And snored. Loudly (sorry for giving up your secret, dear). So I put on my headphones and played some Justin Timberlake and Brian Setzer Orchestra to drown him out. Before I knew it, it was 11 PM and all my revisions were done. Yay!

So whatever part music plays in your daily life – inspiration, cheerleader, soul-soother – make sure to turn it on. Whenever the mood strikes you. And have fun!

Review – The Magic Rabbit

The Magic Rabbit coverThe Magic Rabbit

Written and Illustrated By: Annette LeBlanc Cate

Candlewick Press, 2007, Hardcover Version

Target Audience: Ages 4-8, although my 3 year old enjoys it

Genre: Fiction

How We Discovered This Book: This book was among the Easter/Spring books at our library (perhaps because it has a rabbit in it, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with Easter or Spring).

Summary: Ray the Magician and his bunny assistant do everything together. When they are separated while performing on the city streets, bunny must try to find Ray before it gets dark.

What I Liked: It is a simple story, where children are rooting for the pair to get back together. There is enough suspense, without heavily manufactured “dangers.” The author/illustrator also has chosen to prepare the book completely in black and white, with the exception of some important gold stars. These illustrations really support the purity of the story.

What Did My Son Aidan Think? After repeated readings, Aidan discovered that Ray is in the background of many of the pictures where bunny is looking for him. Each time we read it, Aidan “finds” Ray, and many other hidden details in the rich illustrations. Aidan also loves the sweet ending. Aidan is now 6-1/2, so I would expect his interest in picture books to wane eventually, but I have been pleased to discover that he still loves the picture books that are of high quality in story, theme, and illustration.

Resources:

Magic and Magician’s Rabbit Activities

Teaching Activities for learning words with a silent E (with the help of a magic rabbit)

Learn Easy Magic Tricks- for kids (and beginning adults!)

Tending to Your “Flowers”

I was working in my yard, tending my planting beds and garden recently, when a metaphor came to mind. Just like gardens, writing needs tending. Irises

My planting beds of flowers and plants, are like my writing craft. It requires a lot of work to establish the beds, giving them a strong beginning. I place landscape fabric down to decrease the amount of weeds that creep in. To make sure my plants are healthy, I refresh their mulch, prune the dead branches, and weed them occasionally. My writing craft needs refreshing too. I take a few courses and workshops each year to learn new skills.  I read writing blogs, and I check in frequently with my critique partner. Chatting with Joanna really helps me identify the good “plants” to keep, and what parts are the “weeds.”

My vegetable garden is like my writing work. Based on past successes with raised-bed gardening, I decided to significantly expand my vegetable garden with a new 12 x 12 foot fenced-in area at a sunny spot at the back of my property. I also wrote two more novel manuscripts this year to add to my works in process. Both need my ongoing care and nurturing if I want to see them bear fruit this year. I’m crossing my fingers for tasty sweet corn and huge tomatoes for making sauce (and an agent, if I’m lucky!)

What this all reminds me is that both plants and writing require regular maintenance and nurturing. Just as I find time each night to water my plants, I need to ensure I making time to continue working on my manuscripts. Perhaps then both will bloom!