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Archive for the ‘Mixin’ It Up — A Bit of Potpourri & TEA’ Category

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Thought I’d share these beautiful blooms with you, because I can’t get enough of their bright happiness. I’ve been purchasing them from my friends at Better Together Farm throughout the summer, along with their exquisite organic vegetables and herbs.

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I like to buy two — one for my table and one to brighten Mom’s & Dad’s days.

Sometimes they last for almost two weeks. I’ll be sad to see the organic farm season close for my friends at the end of October. I’ll have to wait again until March for their superior products.

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I encourage you to take the opportunity to pass along the gift of a bouquet, whether you have the privilege to gather a wildflower bouquet or find such a great bargain as I have. It’s a wonderful way to bring smiles and cheer.

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I awoke this morning to find this happy vignette that my daughter had arranged on our rustic dining table that she and my dad built. (I’ll tell you that story some time, too.)

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For now, I’ll leave you with this beautiful poem:

Autumn Fires
by Robert Louis Stevenson
In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

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And the first stanza of another:

To Autumn
by John Keats
SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more
And still more later flowers for the bees
Until they think warm days will never cease
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

***

Here’s a wonderful resource for you. You can even search poetry by topic, such as “flowers” or “autumn.”

Do you have a favorite poem about flowers or autumn?

And what’s on your music playlist today? Mine is “Porcelain,” an album by Helen Jane Long — a lovely, wistful, piano instrumental to play in the background while writing.

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Sunflowers

“I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.” (Og Mandino)

Let’s discuss light and darkness in writing for a few minutes.  It’s been my experience that both are necessary in good fiction.  You have a protagonist working toward some achievement, stretching toward the light, hoping to make life better somehow.  You have his/her arch enemy, the antagonist, working toward the exact opposite.  Light + Dark = Conflict.  On-going conflict that reaches a resolution = a novel that will grip your readers.

I remember when I was first given permission to write about the dark side.  I didn’t know how acceptable that was, or not.  Of course, that is naive.  But I wanted to be a good writer.  Not just a good writer, but the very best that I could be.  So, I explored the dark side of my mind.  I had been taught to not think about things like that.  Like a lot of little girls, I was expected to dwell on “sweetness and light.”  Well, that is not very true to life.  Blackouts may not be pleasant, but they certainly do provide perspective and balance.  They also lend appreciation for the light.

I had read many books, but had not stopped to consider that light and darkness were most always involved in what I considered the good ones.  I just knew if the book held my attention or not — if I loved the characters or just tolerated them — if I finished a book in one night, or tossed it aside.

Take a look at the books that you love.  You may be well aware of the sparkle of the good versus the pits of blackness and despair or evil.  If you are a writer, you have probably considered the impact this has upon your writing — being able to see both sides.  If not, give it a shot.  Like a gifted painter, your art will benefit from the carefully applied highlights and depth added through the shading.

When you read, do you prefer more “sweetness and light” or more of the dark side?  Why?

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Where do you find your inspiration? As a writer, I’ll tell you, I look in many places. Nature, however, seems to be the place I gravitate to the most. If I can see a waterfall, or hear a stream, it immediately brings a sense of calm. Later, the creativity will follow, into an uncluttered, open mind. (Well, as uncluttered as it gets anyway. There’s always something that could use a little work.) ;^)

Also, I think the best writers are great readers. Devouring books is the perfect way to see how it’s done. Of course, most of us read to read. That is a term that I tossed around frequently while in writing courses these last few years. While dissecting fiction, I wondered if I would ever be able to read for fun again, rather than reading a fictional piece to analyze the techniques.

Last semester, I was in the middle of writing a paper on a book that I really wanted to enjoy and was having a difficult time muddling through the technicalities that hover in the mind of a writer once trained. I mentioned this to a professor. She said, “Oh no! I want you to just read it. Don’t analyze it. Read it. Then go back and see what stands out. See what makes an impact upon you.”

So that is what I’m also asking you — not only where do you gain inspiration for what you do, no matter what dream chasing it may be, but what books do you read that inspire you? Is there someone that you’ve read that made you want to write like them? Why?

My daughter bought A Game of Thrones by G.R.R. Martin for me for Christmas. Looking at the 765 pages and the five or six volumes that follow, I was daunted, to say the least. But I found myself with a few idle days, (due to illness,) (boo) and I was able to read it. The praises of Mr. Martin have been sung far and wide. With an HBO series and untold volumes, he doesn’t need my praise. But I’ll tell you, I was inspired. I want to know history like he does. I want to design fully round characters like he does. I want to create antagonists that you love to hate and protagonists that you love to love, like he does.

I don’t want to be quite so graphic. Do you think that’s a requirement of a writer in this century? I don’t. I still believe that you can be effective without the gore and the four-letter words.  Eyes, ears, and hearts are assaulted on many fronts with access to extensive media and it is increasing.  Yet, I believe that we need more of the healing balm than ripping and shredding.    It  has to do with my views upon violence and its perpetuation.  Where do we draw the line?  On many subjects, I say, loose the boundaries.  But there are other places that I must say that I prefer the lines to be distinctly drawn.  I think that we need this as a society; not to take a head-in-the-sand approach, but to encourage innocence to flourish and gentleness to prevail.  I still hope that it can.

My youngest daughter, also a writer and the one who bought me the book, gave me the journal in the photograph for my graduation.  The embossed cover contains a Jane Austen quote. (She’s also the daughter who might chide me for being too uppity about this violence thing in the Thrones series.) But that’s okay. It takes all kinds. I appreciated reading the book. I loved it. I loved the characters. I want to know what happens to them. But I think that I will try a kinder, gentler writing style.

“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” (Jane Austen)

That’s how I feel.

Mary Stewart pulled it off in her epic series of Arthur and Merlin stories, Legacy — The Crystal Cave. She is brilliant at portraying the history, hooking the reader into a marvelous, sweeping tale, and leaves you wanting more.  She can write about the victim, but it’s more about the victory.

I think that is what inspiration is all about. Take a bit of this and a scrap of that, and work it into your own magnificent quilt.

One more quote for today then:
“Writers read.”

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The opportunity to begin again presents itself every morning and I am grateful for it.  I am excited to run into the new year armed with my recently conferred writing degree and a million ideas.  I hope that you’ll join me and see what we can discover.

In 2013, I would like this blog to be a place where we treasure words of wisdom by writers new and old.  I would like to dream here, of my perfect writer’s space.  I would like to write a little fun and fiction, and of course, sip a cup of tea, laugh, and relax.

All the best to you and yours in 2013!

Here’s today’s wisdom, which may be attributed to someone famous, but I could not find it in a quick “google.”  I will say that I heard it from my professors at the University of Oklahoma over and over again and I’m sure I’ve said it here several times myself.

“Writers write.”

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“I’m writing a book.  I’ve got the page numbers done.”  (Steven Wright)

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“Good prose is like a window pane.” (George Orwell)

University classes began this week.  That means for now, not much else will occur.  ;^)  And that’s fine.  I know it’s a season.  Diving into and digging out from under homework will be about all I do.  Good thing I love it.  So, today’s reading of “Why I Write,” by Mr. Orwell, provided some inspiration for a moment of fun.  The phrase turned over and over in my mind.  I thought about why I write and for whom.  I thought about a window pane.  What does it do?  And why is it like good prose?  Well, glass is usually clear, so maybe it helps make ideas clear.  It focuses, frames, and helps you see inside.  It enables visibility.  Glass protects from outside elements, while allowing light to filter in.  Therefore, it dispels darkness.

I like that.

So, I ambled outdoors on this unseasonably warm Oklahoma day and located a spare window pane.  ;^)  (One of the many perks of having a handy-dandy artistic daughter in residence.)  ;^)  She brought her camera out and I brought mine.  We perched the window up in the tree and started shooting.  This photo is hers, but she insisted it was a collaborative effort.  ;^)  Now that is art.  Clear, focused writing — light shining, illuminated darkness.  Looking up into a place of beauty.  Nice.  ;^)

 

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Settle back with a cup of your favorite hot tea and let’s chat about the year ahead.

I certainly could have posted a more beautiful photo to wish you well for the new year.  I’m just drifting a bit to the philosophical side of the path on this January One.  Yes, there is a great deal of brown in the picture and the trees are bare.  It’s not spectacular.  But there is a bridge — and we’re crossing over into the unknown.  And there is a curve on the path that leads to the unseen.  That’s what I’m thinking about as I wish all the best for your 2012.

I walked this exact path today.  It’s one of my favorites.  Yes, there is brown stretching as far as the eye can see.  But occasionally, there are great patches of blue.  The water laps a soothing rhythm at the edge of the lake shore and soon — I am surrounded by beauty.  That is what I hope for you — to be surrounded by moments of surprising splendor in the midst of the every day brown.

Oh, there have been days that I’ve walked this path and spied a rattlesnake sunning its coils about a foot from my ankle.  Oh, yes.  This is Oklahoma.  I’ve walked it with my daughter and heard a grrrrrrrr in the bushes that most definitely sounded like a bear.  Our pace to the car picked up considerably.  (We later decided it had to have been a wild boar.)  (Do they growl?)  I don’t know — bear — wild boar — none too great to meet up with in the back woods.

I’ve walked this path with a friend and listened to her ghost story and nearly jumped out of my skin when an armadillo rustled in the leaves.  I mock-punched her (my friend, not the armadillo) in the arm for scaring me out of my wits.  Then, we laughed all the way back to the car.

Two of my daughters walked this path and watched a cougar pass in front of them — not twenty feet, they say. (Well, one says bobcat, one says cougar.)  Once again — who cares which?  It was a bit too close for comfort.  But it was an amazing moment they will never forget.

So, why do we keep walking this path?

Well, it’s Oklahoma.  And this is where we live.  I can’t stay holed up forever.  Sometimes it’s a little wild out there.

There was also the day when a hawk “accompanied” me the entire 3 1/2 miles around.  It would fly and perch on a tree top.  I would walk.  It would fly and perch.  I would walk.  It would fly and perch.  I can’t explain why.  It really happened.  It was just there and it was peaceful.

I’ve seen a blue heron, Canadian geese, wild ducks, woodpeckers, cardinals, blue birds — all on the same day.  Chirping, warbling, whistling, honking songs created a bird symphony to accompany my steps, which lightened considerably.  Those are the spectacular times.

The spring puts on a wildflower show that you wouldn’t believe.  I’ve photographed pink wild roses, towering golden yucca, and masses of Indian Blankets and Indian Paintbrush.

I’ve learned to appreciate all of the seasons.  Each one holds unexpected bounty.  I’ve experienced the heady, summer fragrance of wild honeysuckle.  I’ve trudged up an incline in the snow, determined to get some exercise and chase off a touch of cabin fever.  I’ve even ran (okay half-jogged, walked, half-jogged some more, walked some more, crawled — just kidding) the entire route in the pouring rain.

Some days I’ve struggled to walk a mile, much less 3 1/2.  But there have been a few that I’ve mustered up enough energy to circle it twice.  Either one brews a certain sense of accomplishment.

The sunsets are amazing.  The water reflects amethyst, sapphire, and diamond flames.  Talk about rich — it’s like a private art-show in the sky.  Except it’s not exclusive.  All you have to do is look up.

So, there’s a trade-off.  I walk.  Nature puts on a show.  Sometimes it may seem a bit perilous.  Sometimes it’s breathtaking.   Mostly, it’s soothing … and always — the sun comes back up the next day and sets again that evening.  And I can participate in as many of those as I choose to.

That’s kind of how I see the new year.  I know right off the bat that it’s not going to be all sunsets and roses.  There may be some rattlesnake moments.  Maybe not.

But I’ll keep walking.

That’s what I wish for you.

One foot in front of the other.  I hope that this year soothes you, dazzles you, takes your breath away in beautiful moments and goes easy on you with the lions and rattlesnakes and bears.  Oh my.  And the wild boars.  And the armadillos.

Happy New Year from Miss Cynthia in Oklahoma.  I hope that you have many moments of TranquiliTEA to cherish.

(Take a moment to say, “Howdy,” and leave a comment below, okay?  I’d love to have more conversations with you this year.  Let me know you stopped in, won’t you, Friend?)  The tea is always on.

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Social media use is increasing, providing the way for additional voices to be heard across the globe.  It gives more people a platform to stand on and send their messages out to much larger audiences.  With this many people in the mix, it stands to reason that there would be conflicting opinions.  Here’s my observation:  it appears to me that Christmas has become an excuse for an all-out brawl.  A war of words is taking place on my “live-feed” at any given moment.  I don’t like war.  Of any kind.  And if it’s taking place on my page, well, I am the powers-that-be on my page.  I can stop it.  Or not.  What is this all about?

Surely not holiday consumerism and mass commercialism, which I mention briefly, to be able to include this year’s Shopping Hall of Shame.  On Black Friday, a woman doused fellow shoppers with pepper spray for going after the item she wanted.  That just about sums up what I see as the pervading spirit of the 2011 season.  It’s looking bleak out there.

We’re not all Cindy-Lou-Who.  It takes some momentum to adjust my attitude to be able to enjoy Christmas, too, since my daughters are all grown and my house is often empty.  We all have our reasons for the season.  Some celebrate like we live in Who-ville and some, well, this year, especially, seem to be giving the Grinch a run for his money.

We all have choices.  We can celebrate in a big way, a small way, or not at all.  That’s fine.  I don’t want to be a cookie-cutter version of you and I’m sure you don’t want to be a cookie-cutter version of me.

Another choice is how much we use social networking and the internet.  If I don’t like what’s being said, just sign off, you say.  I don’t have to be using social networking as much as I do.  Being a full-time student and professional writer, I spend chunks of each day at the computer.  My logic is:  I’m here anyway. I can feel like I have a bit of a social life and keep up with what my family and friends are doing.  I can come and go as I please on the social sites.  You can, too.

So, why is it “bugging” me this year?  At first, I wondered if it was just me.  Was I extra sensitive to all of the arguing? There sure seemed to be more of it going on than usual.  Maybe it was the financial climate.  Maybe it was the President. Maybe it was the previous guy he succeeded.  Maybe it was the barometric pressure.  Maybe it was just that more people than usual were in really rotten moods.  Whatever the reason, I feel like I’m seeing much more arguing, bad attitudes and general Scrooge-ness.  Literally – I’m saying mean people.  There.  I said it.  People can be mean.  It’s a choice, like all of the others.

There are those who do not want to celebrate at all.  And they are offended by the ones that do celebrate and vice-versa.  There are those that pit Baby Jesus against Santa.  (One post even went so far as to equate Santa with Satan, because they are spelled with the same letters.)

Don’t get me started.  Oh, wait.  I already have.

First of all, do a little exploring.  Educate yourself a bit.  The Santa Claus story did not originate to give Baby Jesus a bad name.  (Just to help you get going – think about it:  Santa = Saint = Saint Nicholas = St. Nick.)  Santa.  Okay?  Not Satan.  The Santa Claus story started the same way many seasonal traditions did.  To bring a bit of hope to the world.  Same with stockings and gift-giving and carols and eggnog and sleighs and candy canes.  It’s to bring hope to a world whose tank is running on empty.

Now I don’t know about you, but I sure could use some hope this year.  It’s been a long one and the flames need to be fanned.  Just a spark.  I just need a spark of hope.  Even if you don’t believe in Baby Jesus or grown-up Jesus or any Jesus in between, don’t you have one thing you have hope for?  If you don’t have hope, what do you do?  I don’t know.  I need hope.

The way I see it, it’s all about hope.  The lights shining in the darkness.  That’s hope.  The visions of sugarplums.  That’s hoping for something sweeter.  The decorated trees – most of them are fashioned after evergreens.  That’s hope – something green, signifying “life” in a field of dead, brown branches.  Hope.

Frankly, when I see someone post on their social media page that they are sick of “Christ” being taken out of Christmas and so everybody else can go jump in the lake with their “Happy Holidays….”  Well, that just kind of puts a damper on the whole charity thing.  They just blew out their own candle.  Lights shining in the darkness.  Remember.  Lights.  Shining.  “This Little Light of Mine” and all that jazz.

Maybe these people never heard that if you want to get someone’s attention, you don’t shout.  You whisper.

I’m pretty sure that if Baby Jesus had his own social media page today, he would be friends with all kinds.  Yep.  All kinds.  All colors.  All sizes.  All shapes.  All predispositions to all types of lifestyles.  When I read the story, it said he walked among men (and women.) He didn’t stay in his manger, surrounded by angels in shiny white.  He sat with women of ill repute and fished with quite the motley crew and went in houses and boats and trees with an assortment of questionable characters.

I have a social media page.  I hang around with all kinds of people there.  Yep.  All kinds.  All colors.  All sizes.  All shapes.  All predispositions to all kinds of lifestyles.  You may be one of the people I call my “friend.”  That’s why I added each one to my friend list.  I wanted to be friends.  That doesn’t mean that I have to embrace every single thing about you. Nor does it mean that I want to blast the things you like and allow you to blast the things that I like.  So pin a rose on my nose.  We’re friends!  Friends.  What does that mean to you?

If I’m friends with someone, I’m kind of hoping that they’ll accept me just the way I am.  Height, weight, stray gray hairs, shortcomings, opinions, failures, successes – all of it.  Maybe, just maybe, I can share something that will better your life.  Hey, I can hope.  And, if I don’t cloud my judgment with offense, you might have something to teach me, too.

I’m thinking that Jesus and Santa and Rudolph and the Grinch and Charlie Brown and Frosty the Snowman are all carrying the same message.  Uh-oh.  Here’s where I’ll lose a sleigh-full of Christian friends.  “But you can’t lump them all together!”  Yes, I can.  What’s their bottom line?

Hope.  All of them.

Hope.  So, “follow” whomever you please.  I don’t have to bash you over the head with a Bible or a stick or a club or a social networking page to get you to follow me.  On my page, I think I have 288 of the most opinionated “friends” on the face of the earth.  So, we’re alike.  See?  Not different.  We’re alike.  We all have a horn to toot.

Mine is hope.

Hope is good.  Get some.  Then, spread it around.  One of the seasonal songs calls it spreading Christmas Cheer.  You can call it what you want.  Holiday Hope.  Grinch-y Goodness.  The Good News.  You may celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or nothing.   But whatever you celebrate, adopt a touch of kindness and carry a gift of hope.  But if you must argue or post your anger or narrow-minded bigotry (Whew!  I said it!)  — I think you’re not only taking the chance of extinguishing someone else’s light, you’re diminishing your own.

Every time I see an ugly message or another argument on a social networking site, I keep going back to the title of a song that is not a holiday song.  It’s called, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?”

Why can’t we?

Well, I think we can.  I’m going to climb down off my soapbox now and shine my little candle.  There’s a great deal of darkness.  And my candle is pretty small.  It’s flickering and it’s not burning like a bonfire right now.  But it is a light.  And it is saying something, too.

Hope.

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Words.  They can be very powerful.  Choose yours carefully.

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Seize the Day! (Did you enlarge my photo? It's very cool.) ;^)

It looks to be a glorious day in Oklahoma to seize.   ;^)   Just a brief note ~~ I wanted to read more about the term, “Carpe Diem” (originally from a Latin poem by Horace.)  One explanation says, “to pick, pluck, pluck off, cull, crop, gather”, but Ovid used the word in the sense of, “To enjoy, seize, use, make use of”.  (Wikipedia)    (I like Wikipedia, okay???!!!)   ;^D

So ~~ Go pick, pluck, pluck off, cull, crop, gather, enjoy, seize, use and make use of your day.   ;^D

I’m going to.


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