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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“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

Magenta is the New Red

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That’s it: the InkJoy 500 RT!

These days you’ll find me in revision and editing mode. The manuscript I (almost) finished during NaNoWriMo is now just about at first draft stage. I’m doing a read through, and while I do I have my favorite editing pen close at hand: a magenta PaperMate InkJoy 500 RT. No, this is not an endorsement nor an advertisement, and I’m not being paid a penny for saying what I’m about to say.

Still, I’ll say it. I’ve always been a red-pen kind of writer (I can thank Professor Drechsel for this: Newswriting 101). In fact, editing with a red pen was one of my regular habits—like writing at one particular table in one particular coffee shop, listening to the same set of songs prior to and during writing, and wearing a special pair of socks while writing (okay that last one is untrue, but rule of three and all…).

Anyway, last Christmas my son’s lovely girlfriend gave me a pack of PaperMate InkJoy 500 RT pens (assorted colors), and I got particularly attached to said magenta pen. Not to be mistaken for the InkJoy 550 or 100, mind you—something that came up when I tried to replace my favorite pen and I accidentally bought the 100s (this is when I also found out that the RT stands for retractable, thank you kind Staples associate for this key piece of information).

But why was I in need of replacing my favorite pen, you might ask. No, it didn’t run out of ink. I actually left it somewhere quite on purpose, in a particular circumstance. I’m not trying to be overly mysterious or dramatic here, just trying to pique your curiosity enough that you’ll head over to read the whole story on Writer Unboxed… let me add that it involves Nathaniel Hawthorne, probably my favorite author of all time.

Please head over to Writer Unboxed and read: I Left My Heart At Authors Ridge!

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

"Easy Reading is Damn Hard Writing"

Yesterday morning’s sky glowed beautifully pink. Every time I see a sunrise or sunset like that, I think of my grandmother who used to say this old weather lore every time she saw a pink sky:


“Pink sky at morning, sailors take warning;

Pink sky at night, sailors delight.”

I’ve often wondered whether there was any truth to this saying, and yesterday, after a quick look at wikipedia I discovered maybe so—because weather systems usually move from west to east, pink (or red) clouds “result when the sun shines on their undersides at either sunrise or sunset.”

Most quotes or sayings probably have origins in reality. On a roll, I decided to do some research on a quote that I only recently came acrossattributed to Robert W. Service—that I really like and can relate to:
“It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.”

Robert W. Service, from wikipedia
The reason I like this particular quote is that I often let small, daily concerns take up too much of my time and energy, and then when I look up, I realize I’ve frittered my time away with unnecessary worry or stress. In the process, I have let go some of the larger tasks at hand. In essence, I choose to let the grain of sand wear me down. But I wondered…is that what Service meant, too?

A little research revealed that this quote is from a larger poem:

“Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out, it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.”

After reading this, I surmised that is probable that Service was thinking along my same lines. But I also learned more. For example, I’m embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of the name Robert W. Service until I read this quote! You probably already know this, but it turns out that Robert William Service was a writer, considered the “bard of the Yukon.” He wrote many things, including The Cremation of Sam McGee. I’ve read this ballad a number of times, so I was especially surprised I didn’t recognize the name.

Another thing I learned is that although Service might have shared my annoyance with the grain of sand, he possibly did not find writing difficult! In fact, quite the opposite, as evidenced by this, that he supposedly said about writing: “For it came so easy to me in my exited state that I was amazed at my facility. It was as if someone was whispering in my ear.”

Although writing often feels like second nature, I would never describe it as easy. This feeling is shared by most writers I know, and it brings me to my final quote, one I love, attributed to Nathaniel Hawthorne:

“Easy reading is damn hard writing.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne, from wikipedia
Interestingly, Nathaniel Hawthorne spent some of his youth in Maine. He also attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where he and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow were classmates and became lifelong friends. On a recent campus tour, the guide pointed out the corner dorm room that Hawthorne had lived in. Legend has it, the guide shared, that every student who’s lived in that room became an English major. I wonder what Hawthorne would say about that?

What are your favorite quotes? Are there some that have special meaning to you? Do any apply to the writing process? I’d love to hear!

Cheers,

Julia