Precious Autumn Sunshine

I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.”

-Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

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Saturday Six

Here’s what’s happening this week in my world…keep reading for how to enter a giveaway for an ITunes gift card!

1. Fact or Fiction? Today I’m on Writer Unboxed with a post called Gender Bias: Fact or Fiction about three things that got me thinking about whether men have an edge over women in the publishing and writing world. Here’s the beginning:

 Lest you think I’m a ‘man-hating feminist,’ let me assure you I am not. In fact, I like to think that in my day-to-day life mine is a pretty equal world—all things considered. But when I hear things that make me think that women aren’t equal (for whatever reason), I pay attention…

A huge thank you to my wonderful daughter for taking time (on very, extremely short notice) from her busy job to give me her insight and help in editing this piece.

2. Diary of the Fall. This week I also had my first post on the Great New Books blog! I wrote about Diary of the Fall by Michel Laub and translated by Margaret Jull Costa. It’s about three generations of diarists, and it’s an interesting book on many levels—for me it was most interesting in its structure: nonlinear in nature and very short chapters. I hope you’ll take a look at the post, here’s an excerpt.

Lately I’ve been fascinated with nonlinear stories—in fact I’ve been searching them out. That’s how I stumbled onto Diary of the Fall written by Michel Laub and translated by Margaret Jull Costa.

This story of three generations of men—all diarists—is told through the eyes of a single narrator: a forty-something (unnamed) man, who relives and retells the story of a dangerous prank he and other Jewish thirteen-year-olds at an elite school in Brazil play on their one non-Jewish classmate, João. At João’s thirteenth birthday party, the boys decide as a group to drop João during a ceremonial “13-bumps” tradition, and João is seriously injured in “the fall.”

3. That giveaway. I’m putting together a new play list for the WIP I’ll write during NaNoWriMo. If anyone can guess what I’m writing about based on this playlist, you’ll win a $10 gift card from ITunes. Here’s a screenshot of the songs I’m listening to in repeat while I’m in planning mode.

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click to enlarge

Not that this will necessarily help you with your guess, but my favorite song so far is “Cool Kids” by EchoSmith. (I never was one of the cool kids, by the way, maybe that’s why.) Seriously, leave a comment and if you guess correctly (or even close!), I’ll send you that gift card.

4. It just goes on and on. We’re still in the midst of one of the most prolonged and beautiful falls I can remember. In fact, we’re just about “at peak.” The colors are dazzling and distracting and stunning…I can’t think of enough descriptors, so how about another photo?

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This sugar maple next to a neighbor’s house is what I’m talking about…dazzling right?

5. King Tide. I missed the lunar eclipse but caught the “King Tide,” the year’s highest astronomical tide, and it was something. I stood on the tiny piece of remaining shore on Cousins Island Beach and let the water wash over my sandaled feet. Yes, it’s still been that warm here…in Maine…in October. It’s amazing and wonderful.

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This is all that was left of the beach during King Tide!

6. Can’t break the habit! MEH (My Engineer Husband) and I gave up cable TV a few years ago—actually right around when I first started blogging. Now, instead, we binge watch TV. (No, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me either, except that we no longer have a cable TV bill.) We’ve gone through Rescue Me, The Guardian, The Mentalist, Castle, The Mindy Project, and now we’re about to wind up Chuck. Any suggestions on what we should start next would be greatly appreciated. Clearly we like an eclectic mix but tend to like quirky and shows that have (at least some) humor and a lot of mystery.

How are things in your corner of the world? What are you writing and watching and listening to? Don’t forget to guess what my new WIP is about, and you could win that ITunes gift card.

Cheers,

Julia

“Precious Autumn Sunshine…”

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This is the tree I see out my office window

“I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

A tree on Bowdoin College campus (where Nathaniel Hawthorne went to college)

A tree on Bowdoin College campus (where Nathaniel Hawthorne went to college)

I find myself thinking of the Hawthorne quote again and again as I go through fall this year. The foliage started turning very early, and we’re having a particularly mild fall—we’ve barely had a frost and usually have had a hard freeze by now—so spending my daylight hours in the open air (to borrow Mr. Hawthorne’s words) has been quite enjoyable. Leaf peeping season is in full swing. And boaters are enjoying the long fall to get out on the water as much as possible.

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This sundial is on the Bowdoin College campus. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also graduated from Bowdoin College. He and Hawthorne were classmates!

Our long fall has lead to a wonderful season for photography. This post has some of my favorite photos of fall and the coast (in no particular order). I hope you enjoy looking at them even half as much as I enjoyed taking them!

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The iconic leaf on the water, as MEH (My Engineer Husband) says

 

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Sunsets have been spectacular as the sun shifts south…

 

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Another view of last night’s spectacular orange juice sky and water (no filter!)

I think orange would be a good word to describe the season for me right now. What signals the turn of season in your corner of the world? What color? Are you spending time outside enjoying the changes?

Cheers,

Julia

Wasting autumn sunshine

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I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.

When Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote those words, it is believed he was living in Lenox, Massachusetts, where he wrote The House of the Seven Gables. So I’m guessing he spent a lot of time inside, writing, in addition to being out in the open air.

I immediately thought of his words when I was driving home from Starbucks this morning, passing the red and gold woods infused with autumn sunshine. The sun hit the trees just right and not only did the trees blaze, but the sky around them glowed, too. All I had with me was my iPhone so I rushed home to get my camera… I wanted to be outside, but—more importantly—I had a blog in mind.

When I found the camera, tucked on a shelf in my study, the battery was dead. A year ago this would never have happened. A year ago I was taking more photos, putting more photos in my blog, spending more time on social networking in general. I looked back at my autumn post from last year, “Amidst Swirling Words & Leaves,” and not only does it have three photos (taken with a real camera) but it also has a full poem (Longfellow) and I made a special trip to nearby Bowdoin College to take the photos.

Times change. I’m outside a lot less (sorry Nathaniel), the camera battery is not charged, the garden is ill-kempt, the house is unclean, meals have been reduced to the speediest possible, and my blog has taken the backseat. I’m still writing, but I’m focused more on fiction.

I’m writing every day, and I’m loving it. So let the camera battery remain uncharged (I can always use my iPhone if I have to…which is what I did for the photo accompanying this post), let the Twitter account collect dust most days, let the blog take the hit with fewer postings, because my mind is swirling with words…and stories.

What are you up to this fall? Are you enjoying the weather outside? Taking photos? Or are you (like me) happily (inside) at your writing station?

Cheers,

Julia

Amidst Swirling Words & Leaves





Yesterday MEH (My Engineer Husband) and I went “leaf peeping,” which is to say we went out for the sole purpose of looking at the changing fall foliage. In this small and excellent adventure, words became a central part—as they often do for me. Because it’s funny how we use words without thinking (and when I say “we,” let me be clear, it’s the universal “we”). In other words, words and expressions become second nature to our daily life—yet others may have no idea whatsoever what we’re talking about.

And so it was with leaf peeping, which (it turns out) is a bit of a New England colloquialism, something I found out when I told Arizona writer friend Melissa Crytzer Fry we were going out to do some of the aforementioned leaf peeping. Thank goodness for Google so Melissa could figure out what the heck I was talking about. Otherwise she may have thought I was peeping through the leaves to spy on neighbors (although if you recall previous posts, I do that too…).

But my story doesn’t end there. Our leaf peeping travels took us to nearby Bowdoin College where once again I found myself thinking of words. This time older ones, because some years ago Bowdoin College graduated some pretty noteworthy writers: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Turns out these two great literary men (along with Horatio Bridge and Franklin Pierce) were good friends and graduated in Bowdoin’s class of 1825.

Bowdoin College’s Massachusetts Hall 

As we strolled and took photographs, we walked the paths they’d walked. And in addition to the leaves, we peeped the original three buildings that comprised the Bowdoin campus during those long ago years: the chapel, Maine Hall, and Massachusetts Hall (that now houses, appropriately, the English department). While we walked, I thought about words these early writers might have used to describe what we were seeing, and when I got home to my computer, I was delighted to learn that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote a poem about autumn.

Autumn

Thou comest, Autumn, heralded by the rain,

With banners, by great gales incessant fanned,

Brighter than brightest silks of Samarcand,

And stately oxen harnessed to thy wain!


Thou standest, like imperial Charlemagne,


Upon thy bridge of gold; thy royal hand


Outstretched with benedictions o’er the land,

Blessing the farms through all thy vast domain!


Thy shield is the red harvest moon, suspended

So long beneath the heaven’s o’er-hanging eaves;

Thy steps are by the farmer’s prayers attended;

Like flames upon an altar shine the sheaves;

And, following thee, in thy ovation splendid,

Thine almoner, the wind, scatters the golden leaves! 

And while not all the words in Longfellow’s poem are in common use today—Samarcand, almoner, wain, as examples—the verse is clearly English. Still, the language has changed enough over time that I had to read through it more than once and look up some of the words on Google—just like Melissa when I told her we were leaf peeping—to fully grasp its meaning.

This photo reminded me of the descriptions
in Longfellow’s poem.

All this made me realize that whether by distance of time or geography, words can take on different meanings or at times make no sense at all. Yet as writers this is our purpose and daily endeavor: to take words and make them meaningful, to help them take on a life of their own, and to ultimately help others feel the things we felt when we wrote them.

All in all it was a wonderful day amidst swirling leaves and words: “the golden leaves,” as Longfellow said. And as Hawthorne penned (and I can’t disagree):

“I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend almost all the daylight hours in the open air.”

What are some words and phrases (whether colloquial or from another time or language) that you’ve labored to understand? Do you think by exploring and stretching they make you a better writer—like I do? As for autumn, is it autumn where you are? Or do you live somewhere that you don’t experience the changing seasons at all?


Cheers,
Julia

Picture Perfect (Video) Day on the Coast of Maine

(Sunday, November 6, 2011, 11:30 a.m. EST, 50 degrees F)


Incredible. To have this weather in November is spectacular. The view from the overlook was phenomenal today. And it was a little surreal to watch the two Great Danes on the beach. (I truly thought they were ponies as we pulled into the parking lot!) An absolutely stunning day that words cannot do justice.


Meanwhile in the garden… we are clearing up the garden beds, going through a rushed fall clean up following last weekend’s surprise snowstorm. Almost every trace of the snow is gone now so today we’re tidying up: raking beds and some leaves, planting some daffodils, putting up a new mailbox (our old one was rusted through), mowing down the mint, pulling carrots, and putting away trellises, bean poles, etc., etc. Later today I’ll make a big pot of chili that we can eat for several meals this week, and then I’ll get some editing done on the WIP while MEH (My Engineer Husband) writes code to display graph overlays on a scientific instrument.

Here’s what the perennial bed looked like in July, what seems like yesterday!
This is how the perennial flower bed looked after we finished cleaning it up.
(That really WAS yesterday!) Later today we’ll plant Daffodil bulbs in this flower bed!

Canada Geese Take Flight on Casco Bay

(Sunday, October 23, 2011, 7:32 a.m. EST, 40 degrees F)



This morning we timed it to get to the beach overlook a little after sunrise. A few weeks ago I was there at sunset, and the sun reflected oranges and yellows on the water. It was beautiful! It was high tide, and I was hoping to capture the rising sun on the water and the same effect as I observed a few weeks ago.

Unfortunately it didn’t work out quite the way I planned, and although the video is beautiful (and I love the flying Canada Geese!) it wasn’t quite the finished product I was hoping for. As always, I do my best to plan and predict how the “video shoot” will go—to do that I always check the tide table the day before—and decide whether I want to take a video at low-, mid-, or high-tide. Then I check the time of sunrise and sunset.

But still, sometimes I can’t pull off a video I’m pleased with. And that’s how it goes in writing, editing, and in life too—no matter how much we plan and try to make things happen a certain way, reality often intervenes.

Today it was the non-reflective water, a guy sitting nearby in his truck playing loud music (at sunrise! I don’t think you can hear it on the video), lots of cars going by so it was hard to squeeze in a video when a car wasn’t going by (we stayed there for 10 minutes to get about 40 seconds of video), and finally the battery going dead on the video camera so I had to stick with a piece of footage I was less than thrilled with instead of trying again.

This week with my WIP it was the same way: I planned and thought I could predict how things would go. I had everything all set up on the dining room table. But when it came right down to it, I was distracted and had lots of things to take care of in my house and in my life. So the editing of my manuscript had to take a back seat.

This afternoon I’ll sit down with my notebook and try to make a realistic plan for the upcoming week—building in room for distractions and unexpected things that may need my attention. Then tomorrow I’ll sit down and try a little harder.

And meanwhile…. Autumn continues to wane, with the leaves “past peak,” we’re starting to see a lot more bare branches, a reminder that winter is just around the corner!



Indian Summer on the Coast of Maine

(Saturday, October 8, 2011, 3:44 p.m. EST, 80 degrees F)

 

This week we had two nights of frost—a definite shock to my system. But today’s temperature was back up into the 80s—hitting 87 degrees at one point!

This seasonal confusion can only mean one thing: Indian summer. NOAA defines Indian Summer is “an unseasonably warm period near the middle of autumn, usually following a substantial period of cool weather.”

But here’s the thing…even though the temperatures can almost fool me into believing it’s summer again, I know it’s too good to be true. Several days ago I blogged about winter coming….today I’m taking a video of the beach looking like it’s summer. Later this week it will be fall again. Then perhaps we’ll have another dip into winter before switching back to fall once again.

Such are seasonal changes in Maine, one step forward then two steps back. On one hand, it gives us plenty of time to prepare for the next season—on the other hand, we get almost enough time to get used to one season before it changes again. Of course this can only go on so long before the inevitability of winter settles in.

Meanwhile in the garden, the zinnias have now been hit by a heavy frost, so their colors have faded to brown, but the tree leaves are starting to change colors in earnest. So we continue to have color in the garden!

First Signs of Fall on the Coast of Maine

Sunday, September 4, 2011, 8:20 a.m. EST, 70 degrees F




It’s hard to believe what a difference a week makes: last week Hurricane Irene was looming and this week the water was as calm as calm can be. (However, the overall stillness of this week’s video is broken by the cars going by and a guy—out of camera view—arguing with his dog about going up the hill, away from the beach, to his car. I want to make sure to point out it’s a dog, lest you think he’s talking to a child—like I first did!)


“Pepper Pete,” as MEH (My Engineer
Husband) has nicknamed the potted
pepper plants, continues to produce
beautiful green and red peppers!

Fall is in the air. Not only are the leaves changing on some trees, including the ones within camera view, but the days are getting shorter. We hear crickets at night, the birds are flocking and starting to migrate, and school starts on Tuesday. Labor Day weekend is generally regarded as the end of tourist season in Maine, and even though we’ll still get some “outer-staters” coming in, things will start to quiet down and eventually wind down to winter.


Still, that’s a ways off, with leaf peeper season starting soon. Our peak season, when most of the leaves are at their height of color, may be earlier than the average mid-October; if you want to follow along, the state of Maine has a website with the weekly foliage report, starting on September 14.

The sadness of “late blight” on the tomatoes:
ultimately the whole plant will die, but
it’s a race between the blight and first
frost at this point!
Meanwhile in the garden….we still have as many tomatoes as we want (although unfortunately most of the plants have developed something called “late blight,” which will ultimately rot the fruit), pole beans, Swiss chard, lots of basil, winter squash, carrots, turnips, and kale. If the season lasts long enough, we may get a second crop of potatoes and hopefully some beets—it’s not been a good year for us with beets and our first planting didn’t produce even one!

What are the season changes bringing to your part of the world, if any? Does fall bring changes to your writing and household routines?


Cheers,
Julia

In Celebration of Season


This week marked the beginning of Spring. And, in celebration, today’s Wednesday Word is season. As with many words, season can function as either a noun or a verb, depending on the definition you are using, and what you are trying to say.

(1) season: One of the four natural divisions of the year—Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter—in the North and South Temperate zones. Each season, beginning astronomically at an equinox or solstice, is characterized by specific meteorological or climatic conditions. American Heritage Dictionary via thefreedictionary.com

Here in Maine, it still feels a lot like winter. Granted, the temperatures are warming, birds are returning, and the snow is receding. We no longer have perilously high snow banks on every corner, that just last month created hazardous driving conditions—but we’ve had snow fall twice this week. And if you comment to a neighbor about the warming weather, they are likely to issue a standard Maine response:

“Don’t get used to it.”

Too early to garden, but not too early to dream, that packet of arugula seeds is still on my kitchen windowsill. And before long, they will be planted in my vegetable garden. By early summer, we will eat tender arugula, tossed with fresh tiny green onions and balsamic vinegar. And then winter will be a distant memory.

All summer long we’ll harvest vegetables: spinach and lettuce, beets and kale, beans and tomatoes. Finally, as the days shorten and autumn begins, we will enjoy pumpkins, squash, and hopefully a melon. A bounty will remain for us to can and freeze—before the season changes again.

And, that we can get used to.

(2) season (verb): To make or become mature or experienced. – Collins English Dictionary via thefreedictionary.com

I have been blogging now for seven weeks—every day of each week—45 consecutive postings. Although still a newbie, I am becoming a more mature blogger, I’m finding my legs. As I read and watch others around me, I am gaining more understanding and knowledge of this new world I’ve entered. I no longer stress out at the thought of writing a daily blog; I actually enjoy and look forward to it! And as I learn and change as a blogger, my blog site is maturing and changing too—which brings me to the third definition of season.

(3) season (verb): To improve or enhance flavor; to add zest, piquancy, or interest to. – American Heritage Dictionary via thefreedictionary.com

In honor of this definition of season, I am adding zest to my blog with some changes to its appearance. The photos in the heading represent each of the seasons—but also the natural beauty of everyday things that inspire me and my writing. I hope you will let me know what you think—the heading, my blog, and my writing continue as works in progress.

Cheers,

Julia

p.s. Are there ways that the changing seasons inspire you? Where are you in your blogging journey? How have you seasoned as a blogger—and what landmarks or seasons can you identify along the way? And, please let me know what you think of the new wordsxo appearance and contents. How am I doing?