Thursday, December 24, 2009

T'was the Night Before Christmas - News Editor's Copy

T’was the night before Christmas,  So not politically correct - suggest
"It was the eve of the celebration of the winter solstice holiday"
 when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. Can we back up this claim?
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.  Don’t back into it. Be positive.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
What does this mean? Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick. Verified?
Faster More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, If it’s reindeer, let’s say reindeer!
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! On Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!" ←Too many dashes.

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, There’s that word again.
With the sleigh full of toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, Not pc -  try "fur-like apparel"
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack. Let’s say “Sales Associate”

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! This needs work - “sparkling eyes”, “a merry dimple”, stuff like that. Just keep it simple.
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight, Archaic. Use “Before”
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!" Bold Face Caps, and stet the "Christmas" this one time.

Clement Clarke Moore, 1779-1863

Finally, here's a silly video of me and my takes a minute to open, but hang in there. It's fun, and you can make your own.

Have a wonderful, delightfully-caloried holiday, everyone.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Trying to Live a Good and Simple Life - We Are All Maldivians

I've been very grumpy this week. All this talk of the fiasco of Copenhagen, our Canadian leaders' truly shameful attitude (and, yes, I did email the Prime Minister), the sheer nonsense that comes up in TV news analyses - it's enough to make a vegetarian humanist weep. I wonder what Helen and Scott Nearing would have to say about it all?

I think of myself as unconventional. I've never followed the crowd. I question everything. I hate rules, despise conformity, baulk at authority, and generally consider myself politically left of center. This, despite the fact that my daughter once accused me of being too conservative. (What was she thinking?) I am painfully aware of the environment and very uncomfortable with people who aren't. I try do everything in the Greenest way possible. I pursue all these ideas acutely aware that I could be perceived as a crank, if I say too much. Naturally, I prefer to live around like-minded people.

How, then, have I survived two years in what appears to be a very ecologically insensitive town and how did I get here? Was I hoodwinked by the country setting? Did I assume I had found my rural idyll?  Sadly, this place seems to be filling up with affluent retirees who've brought their city thinking with them. Now wonderful old country houses are being pulled down and replaced with brick, center-hall, four bedroom, rather ugly buildings, complete with granite-countertops in the kitchens, and with monstrous-sized SUVs - usually two - parked in the driveway, which are used for the five minute walk to the supermarket. I wasn't expecting people to be using horse and buggy here, of course, but the vehicles are preposterous.

The new people aren't friendly, either. They've brought that city reserve with them. Don't make eye contact with strangers, and certainly don't smile or speak to them. Fear traits, right? I have become more restrained myself, after being snubbed a few times, and am now somewhat surprised when an original local greets me on the street as if he or she knows me. I can't believe this place is changing me for the worst.

The first year I was here, the local council shot down the suggestion of permitting wind turbines in the area. Too noisy. Too ugly. I started to rethink my move about then.

If I came here to experience a Greener, more simple way of life, I've failed miserably. I could just as well be living in the heart of a rich neighborhood in any major city, but without the benefit of museums and art galleries.

I could look for another town here where undoubtedly there are people more sensitive to the global mess around us, but I'm beginning to think it's time for the Grand Tour again. I mentioned this to a neighbour, who almost sniffed as she commented that I must be a Gypsy. Perhaps I am. I think Gypsies are probably very Green. I'm pretty sure they don't live in new-brick, center-hall, over-sized houses, with granite-top counters in their kitchens, and SUVs in their driveways.

When I first moved here I was overwhelmed by the prettiness of the countryside, the fine old houses, the diminutive proportions of our shopping area, the friendliness of the people. Could this have changed so much in two years?

Sadly, I think it has.

Look, I'm not opting for some off-the-grid settlement somewhere in the back country where folks can grow their own weed without fear of reprisal. I just long for a town that prefers a simple, sustainable life, away from urban grandiosity, where they're proud of the fact that they don't have a mall or a fast food franchise in their driving vicinity, and where I can say that I don't own a car and not have eyebrows raised. I'd like to live where people know and care about what's going on in the world.

All this leads me to confess that I'm planning to move again. It will take a while. I'm a slow, methodical planner when it comes to my relocations. It could be Australia. Pretty laid back in Australia, in more ways than one, and actively trying to be Greener. I'll have to be responsible for an inordinate amount of carbon emissions to achieve this, but I'll try to make up for it in other ways.

Not that it matters where we live, really, in the long run. Unless we're very young, which I'm not, we won't be greatly affected here in the developed world by continuing ignorance. We'll see the rest of the world's problems on the nightly news, tut-tut, perhaps, when we hear that the Maldives has sunk beneath the ocean. And we'll regularly be reminded, if we really listen, that our children and grandchildren are in for a very rough time in a few decades. As the President of the Maldives said in his speech at Copenhagen, in the end, "...We are all Maldivians..."

I could say so much more, but won't. I'll just repeat what I often say to fellow struggling writers: We're all in this together.

I'll try to be less irritable next week. I prefer to be more uplifting with my blog. But, oh, Copenhagen? What a cop out...

Post Script: received Saturday morning -

"On behalf of the Prime Minister, thank you for your correspondence regarding the Government's climate change strategy. The Government of Canada fully appreciates that Canadians are eager to share their suggestions and opinions on this issue. You may be assured that your message has been carefully reviewed. As the Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment, will also appreciate being made aware of your views, I have taken the liberty of forwarding a copy of your message to the Minister. Once again, thank you for taking the time to write."

P. Monteith, Executive Correspondence Officer for the Prime Minister's Office.

What a relief! Now everything will be fine...

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Break from the Novel and a Sculpture of My Gran

No writing in a week, and I'm not apologetic. It's been a hunkering down time, watching old movies, reading, messing around with polymer clay. What? Polymer clay?

I finally did a sculpture of Gran. This is Gran in one of my early paintings of her, and below that is the three-dimensional 6.5 inch (16 cm) sculpture I finished yesterday.

I knew I needed a break from writing. I don't have a block about it at all - I know exactly what's coming next - but I simply wanted to step back and take a breather. I've been writing this current novel very quickly - 2/3 completed in three months. So I can afford to relax for the holiday season, I think. I'll putter, do some more sculptures, write when it's imperative, but I won't be sitting down each day for the sole purpose of finishing the book. My friend, Judy, who's read all seventeen chapters to date, will just have to wait. Hope she doesn't forget the plot.

Have a great weekend and stay warm, guys, if you're in this Hemisphere. Relax indoors with hot chocolate or a nice Scotch. Remind yourself that it's not officially winter for another ten days. Then reach for the Scotch again...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Too Many Creative Ideas. Can You Commit to More Than One?

It's snowing today in my corner of Ontario. We broke a two-hundred-year-old record last month by having no snow at all. People were golfing. It couldn't last.

It's odd how much we are delighted by the first snowfall of the season, like children, as if we've never quite seen it before. I'm happy to see it, but in six weeks I'll be back to my usual bored and grumpy state. I rather like the idea of Sydney, and Vancouver, where you can go to the snows in the mountains if you like that kind of thing, have a bit of fun, and come home again, leaving it all behind. We don't have that choice here. Naturally we have less rain, and it's usually spectacularly sunny, brighter because of the reflection of the snow.  But today is gray, the sky colorless, the bare trees dramatically stark against it.  No wonder there are so many poets in the Northern Hemisphere. You gotta do something in response.

I've been tweaking Summer Must End this past week, with little new work. Two-thirds through now, so time to back track and see if it's properly coming together.  I have to admit that I did some more outline work on my new idea, too, tentatively called Uncharacteristic Behavior. I'm not fickle about my writing usually, devoting myself to one book at a time, but this story keeps coming to me, and I have to get the ideas down as they present themselves. It's a psychological, paranormal, thriller, it seems. It certainly is heading that way. The ending hasn't come to me yet, and that's a good thing, because then it would be impossible to put to one side, as the characters would begin babbling at me. As it is, I have a rough draft of an outline, and pretty well know where the plot is going. I have some characters, but not defined yet. It's like painting. You sketch out that first idea, with a vague idea of what you want to produce, but it's not until you lay down the paint that the image comes alive. So, I'm "sketching" right now, in between work on the current book, and will begin "laying down paint" next year.

I've asked the question before, but it's worth repeating. Do you involve yourself in more than one project at a time? Do story ideas buzz around in your head that have nothing to do with the work-in-progress? Would you put aside one novel, to work on the second?

For me, this surprising arrival of new ideas has to do with the number of years when I wasn't devoting myself to writing. It was all in there, waiting to come out, but I busied myself with painting, and travelling, and making a living, and it all became locked up in my brain. I can't help wondering how many other plots are waiting to emerge, now that I'm writing full time.

On top of that, I'm suddenly keen to do some small sculptured clay figures. I've ordered the supplies already. I guess that physical creative me is feeling neglected. I'll put up a picture of my first one - my Gran character, I think - when it's done.

And so I'm a total bore in all other aspects of my life. I'm spending little time checking in with my blogger friends, and I miss them. I stare into space a lot, can't be bothered with people because they interrupt my flow, and I'm generally antisocial.  I'm reasonably extroverted when I'm not creating, so this hermit life can't continue indefinitely. I think I'll just hole up here for the winter and do what I must, so that in the spring that livelier me will be back.

I certainly wouldn't want to be so self-absorbed and contemplative for the long-term. I haven't quite outgrown partying yet.

Quotes to Consider

"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, Either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing." ~Benjamin Franklin

"Well behaved women rarely make history."~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”~William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894), theologian, teacher, pastor

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." ~Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd U.S. president

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), essayist, poet, philosopher

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
~ Wayne Gretzky