Yet A Little While

This shall be my contribution to National Poetry Month today:

Yet A Little While
by Mary J MacColl

Beyond the clouds smiles the clear blue sky,
and the sun will shine when the storm blows by.

In the frost-bound earth through the winter lay
the flowers that in beauty bloom today,

and soon from the buds on the bare brown trees
will banners of green be unfurled to the breeze.

Cloud, flower, and leaf, ye are teachers three
of the many my Father hath given to me.

The lesson ye teach I can understand;
to me ’tis as rain to the thirsty land.

I know that the sunlight will gild my sky,
in the sweet, mysterious “by-and-by”

and from chilly realms of dark despair
will spring Hope’s blossoms fresh and fair.

Then my heart will thrill like a wind-kissed leaf,
though it fainteth now ‘neath a weight of grief.

Oh, Thou who dost clothe the lilies aye,
in light or in shade may I feel Thee nigh.

May my faith burn bright and my love be strong,
though the tempest rage and the night be long.

Help me to work while ’tis yet today—
ere the twilight falleth cold and gray;

help me with careful hand to sow
good seed from whose germs no tares may grow.

May the Lord of the harvest upon me smile,
when He cometh to reap in “a little while.”

From the book, BIDE A WEE by Mary J MacColl,
published in 1880 by Peter Paul & Brother of Buffalo, NY.

I found this book in a sale somewhere, still in fairly good shape, with gold-trimmed cover edges and letters! And on the first page there are impressive endorsements of Miss MacColl’s poetry from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry W Longfellow, Joaquin Miller, and John G Whittier.

Books: The Perfect Christmas

I picked up this book at Value Village just before Christmas, and only just now got around to reading it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it very much.
This two-tale book is well written, as are all of Debbie Macomber’s books, I’ve found. The first and longer tale, The Perfect Christmas — © 2009 — is one of those non-romantic romances where two people meet and don’t like each other. However, the author does this in a realistic way with no phony melodrama, no spitting nails at each other, such as you often see in modern anti-romances. The characters and dialogue are believable, professional, and respectful. The idea of paying that much money to find a spouse is the only thing I found incredible — but I don’t live in big city USA.
Seeing as the dating scene hasn’t delivered her dream spouse, Cassie Beaumont takes a friend’s advice and hands over $30,000 to a professional matchmaker to find her a well-matched mate. Rude and abrupt Simon Dodson may be, but she has to go along with his programme if she wants results. Determined to find the man she can live with, and have a family with, she can’t afford to have Simon, the psychologist running this business, get upset and refuse to work with her.
He proposes three character tests for her — and these are real jewels in themselves! I really enjoyed the realistic experiences Cassie has and what she learns as she works in these situations Simon has set up for her. Hats off to the writer for an excellent job on this part! She passes the tests and Simon promises to deliver the perfect spouse for her. But a wrench lands in the gears…

Can This Be Christmas? is an older, shorter story (© 1998) the writer has added as a bonus, yet it’s worth buying the book just for this one. Focusing on five characters needing to join family for Christmas, this morphs into a heartwarming human interest account of strangers stranded in a train station by a winter storm. None of them want to be here, but the Christmas spirit softens each one individually and melts them together as friends.

I rarely give a book five stars, but this one deserves them all.

Truth, Lies, and Desk-ku

According to haiku poet David Lanoue in his book Write Like Issa, “Many poets and some editors of journals dislike so-called “desk-ku”; haiku dreamed up as works of pure imaginations. Such writers and readers much prefer haiku to erupt from raw, genuine sensations and feelings.”

the furious sea’s
cat-and-mouse game with the ship
the band plays on

I guess this is desk-ku, since I’ve never been on a cruise, nor at sea in a storm. I was on a whale watch cruise once and did sense the power of the deep sea below. Also, I’ve read A Mighty Tempest by Michelle Hamilton, who describes her own experience in a small craft during a ferocious storm. So I let myself envision what might go on if a wild storm suddenly swept down on a cruise ship and picture the wild sea tossing even a behemoth like that into and out of troughs. I imagine the crew trying to distract passengers from the danger and keep up morale. I remember the story of the Titanic, how the band played as the ship went down.

In reality, cruise ships nowadays have enough weather-watch equipment to avoid that kind of a storm. Passengers would be ordered to their cabins until the danger was past. Oh, well…exciting to imagine.

This thought of genuine experiences and emotions versus writer imagination brings to my mind a similar sentiment expressed by a couple of different friends: “There’s no point reading fiction. It’s just lies someone’s dreamed up.”

To which I’ve replied, “Not very many writers just dream up everything they write in their stories. While the setting itself is invented, fiction involves weaving in incidents we writers have seen, heard, and experienced ourselves. The characteristics of our heroes and villains may be over-balanced compared to real-world people, but if they behave too irrationally, the story is spoiled and the reader disgusted — unless they like fantasy.

I think of Jesus, whose parables have come down to us through the ages, and how He left his stories open so readers could put themselves in the place of his characters. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus no doubt had a real situation in mind. He didn’t tell this as a dry account, however. He didn’t explain how “Twenty years ago back in Bethlehem, A, a middle-aged farmer, had two sons, B and C. One day C decided he’d had enough of working long hours in the fields; he wanted to see the world. So he says to his dad…and then he takes his share of the inheritance and heads off to xxx where he shells out his shekels on booze and parties. Etc.”

Leaving the actual facts unsaid, Jesus invites his audience — and us today — to see ourselves in all those characters. Haven’t all of us wandered down some wrong path — in attitude if not in fact? Then something woke us up, we saw where we were headed. We sensed we were polluting our minds, bodies, lives, with garbage, and we turned around. Haven’t we all had to go back and admit, apologize, figuratively if not literally ask to be taken back into the family or friendship?

Years ago a teen wanted “freedom” from the restrictions of her Christian home. She became infatuated with a ‘leader-of-the pack’ type, the head of a biker gang, and became his girl. But those bikers worked their girls; she ended up in the pigsty of prostitution, not at all free, and was finally cast aside by the leader. One day, soon to give birth, she finally came to herself, thought of her parents, the love she once knew, and started walking. She started to hemorrhage there on the sidewalk; a good Samaritan picked her up and drove her to the hospital. From there she and her baby girl went back to Mom & Dad and were welcomed back into the family fold.

Most parents can identify with the father, anxiously watching for the return of his prodigal. Whether the child has distanced himself in fact or in spirit, haven’t we hoped and prayed they’d come to their senses, deal with their sour attitude, and get their life back on track?

If we’re honest, we can place ourselves in the role of brother B, who kept his nose to the grindstone, bearing an extra-heavy workload because C took himself off to the fun-fair for a year or two. Now here comes his long-lost brother, crawling home broke and wasted, and their father lays out the red carpet, kills the fatted calf, and is in the middle of a big “Welcome Home” party for this loser.

Some writers do spin fantasies. Even if they try to cover their tale with a realistic setting, no real human beings would react the way their characters do. In real life, if you’re harsh and demanding, often rake your friend or partner over the coals for minor faults, he or she is not going to respond with profuse apologies and promises to get it right and pay attention to your feelings from now on. Trust me. Won’t happen. Modern romances really lead you astray on this one, because real human beings will either lash back or clam up and resent — just like you would if treated that way.

When I was a girl my mom wanted me to take an aspirin for whatever “growing pains” I had, so she’d crush it on a spoon together with sugar. The sweetness masked the taste of the medicine that relieved my pain.

That’s what writers do, sort of. A good fiction writer can take real life situations, dream up a fiction setting, give various incidents a twist — so Aunt Vanilla doesn’t know this humorous bit is based on her baked beans and Uncle Shellby doesn’t realize we’re describing his snoring — and head into a story that has a theme, a point. Something to ease the reader’s pain if they’re hurting.

I recall a time when I was worried about a situation that needed to be addressed somehow. It seemed someone(s) must see the light before too much damage was done — but I could hardly go and educate the attitude-riddled parties involved. Then a story seed dropped into my fertile mind and expanded into a somewhat exaggerated illustration with the point snugly wrapped inside.

My take on the gossip after a minor accident in our community, and how you just can’t believe everything you hear, became Brother Ed’s Accident in Silver Morning Song. Poor Brother Ed had a simple incident when hauling cattle, and thanks to the arrival of a helping hand, the problem was easily solved. But when he got to church the next Sunday… When I asked another writer for a critique, he told me, “This exact thing happened to me after I had a minor accident; the gossip had us dead and dying and what-not-all.”

One local farmer read that story and said he didn’t believe cattle could ever be rounded up that easily, I told him, “I’ve seen it done.” I also researched stock trailer doors online to find out if they might occasion pop open. Yes, it has; a horseman once lost a good stallion that way.

Writer integrity is the key phrase here. Realistic fiction, like all other writing, is a blend of personal experience & emotion, eye-witness accounts, stories heard, and a LOT of research. It shouldn’t be dismissed as “Just a bunch of lies.”

Writer’s Clock

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“Oh, what a beautiful morning!
Oh, what a beautiful day!
The suns is so cheerily shining
and snowbanks are melting away.”

(With apologies to the original songwriter.
And thanks to Pixabay for the ClipArt Vector)

A week ago spring came back to our land and has settled in so pleasantly. Today I even saw half a dozen Canada geese overhead. Mind you, they were going south, and might have been some who wintered over down by the dam. But still, it’s the principle…

It’s been a few days since I last posted — not that I suffer from WRITER’S BLOCK so much as WRITER’S CLOCK. That is, not enough time to sit down and write everything I’d like to, especially now that the days are so spring-like and the house needs a good cleaning.

Our cats definitely have spring fever and want to be out…in…out…in…out… all day long. Our lawn is slowly appearing and the gravel road by our property is nice and firm for walking on now, though the driveway is still slushy and spongy.

Wandering the internet for awhile this afternoon, I discovered another online haiku journal, the Wales Haiku Journal. Interesting! In fact I even dared submit a few of my newest verses. Perhaps with a nod to my gr-gr-gr-grandmother Jones from north Wales. Having a Jones from Wales, John Smith from London, and John Turner, an Orangeman from Ireland, among my forebears, I feel very standard-issue. 🙂

This past week I’ve been working quite a bit on my book of haiku, have transferred it to Kindle Create and set it up. I’m inserting some pictures now. Soon, soon…!

Monday night I hit the silliest glitch: I could not insert the copyright symbol. I tried every which way and listened to a couple of instruction videos supposedly explaining in detail how to create a Kindle e-book. Alas! They both slid through the front matter in a few sentences.

I enjoyed watching the one young fellow wave his hands around, though — in real life he must play a piccolo. Several times he said, “I’m sure you’ve all worked with this type of program before and know all this,” and I wanted to yell, “Would I be listening to you if I had?”

Note to wannabe self-publishers: If you’re doing your book on Kindle Create — and it really does work well — it’s best to have the Title page, Copyright info, Dedication page, and Preface or Foreword, all written up the way you want them, as well as the actual book pages, before saving your e-book document as a pdf that you will transfer to Kindle Create.

At any rate, I discovered that it’s really very simple to add that little © — once you know how. 😉 Actually, so many things in this old world are so simple once you know how!

This includes tossing out. As part of my spring cleaning urge, yesterday I opened a cupboard that I haven’t looked in seriously for a long time — and bravely threw out all those 5″ floppies and 3.5″ hard disks I squirreled away about 7 or 8 years back, when I got my new computer. You know the rationale: “A person never knows when this new flash-drive system might break down and we’ll need to go back to these…” NOT!

I hope you are all enjoying lovely days, too, dear readers.