Circling Round Insomnia

Hello Everyone! I see we have another hoar-frosty morning in this part of the province. A bit of wind on Saturday dusted most of last week’s collection off the trees and shrubs, but a fog rolled in last night and touched them all up again. Very unusual for November.

I’m glad for another Monday morning, a new week ahead. I’ve some specific goals to meet and posts I’d like to write. And it’s December already! 🙂

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day is CIRCUMVENT

There are a lot of things one might try to get around, usually rules or taboos, but this morning I’m thinking of circumventing (getting around) insomnia. If such a use is permissible.

Sometimes I imagine counting things, or working on an assembly line. Usually I read. Not just a boring, soporific book, but something that draws relaxing images in my mind; my favourite choices are poetry and haiku. Ron Evans, a good on-line acquaintance once sent me four slim books by Peter Pauper Press, the Japanese Haiku Series, with poems by various haiku teachers and poets of past centuries — the “old masters.” I usually have one of these by my bedside, along with an old Friendship Book of Francis Gay.

Trouble is, as I’m reading I get inspired and soon have to get up, find pen and paper, and record what comes to me. Oh, well. Here are several haiku that came to me Saturday night:

her reflection on the pond
rippled by a water bug
hurrying somewhere

footprints in the snow
I gaze down the sidewalk
wondering who

the bird notes soar
and I try – but my tune
has no wings

A Book of Clouds #199: through maelstrom

Here’s a verse from poet Frank Prem that I found quite inspiring. I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.

Seventeen Syllable Poetry

199

maelstrom
blue

a ray
of light
will still
finds the path

to right where
you stand

~

Poem #199 from a series of poems drawn from the imagination and collected as: A Book of Clouds.

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Uncle Bob’s Medals

His family all knew he had some medals. He’d showed a few to the grandchildren at times, even let them take a medal or two for their classroom “Show & Tell.”

After Uncle Bob passed away his children started sorting through their dad’s things and came across his old army kit bag up in the attic and found about ten medals. Curious as to what these represented, they wrote to the Dept of Veterans’ Affairs asking for information.

One of the medals, the letter said, was awarded to all soldiers who fought in World War II, and another was for those who saw battlefield action; several others were more common, too. But several of them were among the highest honors awarded by Britain, France, and Canada for courage in battle.

All those years and they never knew their dad was a hero! Why hadn’t they probed a bit more? Like most soldiers who fought overseas, Uncle Bob never talked about the War when he got back, so his family knew nothing of the battles he fought, the bravery he showed, his part in victories gained. That part of the family legacy is buried with their Dad.

I’m glad for the ones who did talk about being “overseas.” Our understanding is richer today for those soldiers and civilians who didn’t just forget it all, the people who shared their war experiences and gave us some idea of what they went through.It changed them in ways we who’ve only known years of peace can never understand.

We owe a debt to everyone who fought to make our country the free land it is today. Let’s appreciate what we have.

poppies

LEST WE FORGET

 

Risks in Writing

My response to Fandango’s prompt for today: DANGER

Writing, as we all know can be fraught with hazards.
There are PLOT HOLES and SAGGING MIDDLES.
Our CHARACTERS may lack depth or interest.
The editor may say, “TOO MUCH LIKE one we just published.”
A reader may give us a BAD REVIEW even when we’ve done our best.

And there are editorial errors like
MUDDLED PHRASES and WANDERING MODIFIERS
that keep us from getting our message across.

I just finished a series of three cozy mystery books, written by A.G. Barnett. The series is subtitled, “A Brock & Poole Mystery.” Books in this series are:
#1. An Occupied Grave
#2. A Staged Death
#3. When the Party Died

These are police procedural mysteries, not so much danger and high tension like writer Charles Todd’s books, but quite satisfying in regard to plot and likable, believable characters. However, the editing in the first two books leaves something to be desired now and then. For example:
“He stood, looking down at the man that was waving his arms theatrically about him, arms folded.”

Edit #1: a person man is always a who.
Edit #2: Move that wandering modifier back where it belongs and snip a bit:
“He stood, arms folded, looking down (he was really tall) at the man who was waving his arms theatrically.”

The writer was quite inclined to switch to pronouns, so there were times during the first two books where I had to stop and think, “Who does he refer to?”

I’ve written an example to illustrate what I mean:
Roddy has a little monkey and he loves to climb trees. He calls him Timbucktu but he has a bad habit: he never comes when he’s called. When he’s being really stubborn he offers him a banana and he usually comes right away and grabs it.

I was happy to see that by the third book Mr Barnett, or his editor, had caught on to this problem and cleared up most of the confusion.

More Examples of Wandering Modifiers

We watched the avocets poking around in the pond with their long beaks through our binoculars.

Driving by in the car, the falling snow sifted down onto the shrubs around the abandoned house.

And one of my all-time favorites in the Muddled + Mystified Dept:
A social assistance recipient, providing information to her case worker about her two newest dependents, wrote, “According to your instructions, I have given birth to twins in the enclosed envelope.”

WHAT BRINGS THIS TOPIC TO MIND?

In the course of emptying book cases and moving books around, I came across a thin paperback written by Saskatoon columnist Bill Cameron. The title of this sort-of-memoir:
A Way With Words: A Light-hearted Look at the Agony of Writing.
©1979 by Bill Cameron
Published by Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon, SK
I really enjoyed reading it, though it may be out of print and unavailable now.

Mr Cameron points out to wannabe writers that the biggest danger is not saying what you mean. He gives a number of humorous examples showing how reporters and others have strayed from Say-what-you-mean clarity. (To keep things straight, I’ll post his comments in green.)

This snippet from a tourist brochure gives visitors to SK a curious picture of travel here:
“If you pull off the highway…and the first car to pass waves and the next one along stops and chats, you’re in Saskatchewan.”

“Cars that wave? Cars that stop and chat! And all this time, I thought it was the people of SK, not the automobiles, who are friendly.”

According to Cameron, this once-upon-a-time General Motors press release “set off chuckles and cackles all over the newsroom.”
“Some 800 employees…were furloughed for a short re-tooling period.”

“I presume furloughed is a weasel word for laid off. More important, I hope it was the factory which was re-tooled, not the workers.”

Even the universe is somewhat amiss, according to one news item:
“Ranging in size from dust particles to giant comets, interplanetary space is full of debris.”

“Nonsense. If space was full of debris there wouldn’t be any space, and Armstrong and Aldrin could have walked to the moon.”

An editor must read the news article carefully before committing it to the printer. As this Canadian Press headline from the 60s demonstrates:
“Alberta Catholic Women’s League delegates passed resolutions calling for tighter legislation against abortion and pornography at the group’s annual convention.”

“To suggest, as this does, that abortion and pornography go on at the annual convention…not only doesn’t say what the writer meant; it’s close to slander.”

Then there’s the famous one about Yogi Berra…a line that has been picked up by more than one gag writer since its original appearance.
“After he was hit on the head by the pitched ball, Berra was taken to hospital for X-rays, which showed nothing.”

I understand there are grammar checker programmes available now that will go over our writing and zero in on these zingers. Have any of you others bought one already? I’ll think I will be ordering one shortly. 🙂

The Long and the Short

Another writer wrote yesterday that the two-word tale, “Cut short,” is considered micro-fiction. I found this idea fascinating and started to consider a number of similar micro-fiction possibilities.
Like “Guillotined.”
Or the more polite, “Corporate shakeup: head dismissed.”

I suppose “Paid in full,” would count, too.
Or the more detailed, “We finally own our car, dear.”

Then I imagined an announcement telling that Kellogg’s cereal sales were down: “Snap, Crackle and Pop caught in crunch.”

In contrast, the gentlemen in my tale below, vying for the chess championship, are loquacious types. Not into brevity. This scene is my response to Fandango’s prompt for today: OPPONENT.

For those fond of unique words I’m also tossing in Merriam Webster’s word of the day: FUGACIOUS (fleeting)

The Gracious Rivals

The eager audience began a hearty applause and media cameras whirred as the two champions appeared on stage. An ornate chessboard had been placed on a low table in the center of the circular stage, with a comfortable chair for each player. This match could take hours — days even.

Everyone fell silent as the two players approached each other and bowed courteously.

“Esteemed opponent,” said Zakaruscu, the older of the two, “It gives me great delight in meeting you for this game. I expect to be defeated today by such an admirable adversary as yourself.”

“Honorable rival,” Lo Chan replied, “It is my highest pleasure to match wits with you. Your prowess is notorious. Though I dare to challenge you and hope to play the man, you will undoubtedly be the winner.”

“Oh, worthy contender, I know you for a passionate devotee of chess. You’ve defeated many a great player and I’m certain you will put my skills to the test. Though I shall play to the best of my ability, I can easily see that you will emerge the victor in this game.”

“Oh, highly respected competitor,” Lo Chan countered, “Though I do hope to gain the victory in this match, I am certain your advanced years will give you a tremendous advantage over my lesser experience.”

Zakaruscu bristled. “I’m not that ancient.” He unclenched his teeth and took a deep breath. Onlookers noted his fugacious smirk. “Au contraire, I’m sure your youthful intelligence, fresh from the cradle, will give you a decided advantage.”

“Fresh from the cradle!” Lo Chan glared at his opponent in a most disrespectful manner. “Though I be your junior, I plan to tax your skills to the utmost in this match.”

“I’m certain that you shall, creditable competitor. However, I shall do my utmost to prove your abilities insufficient to overcome my mastery of the game.”

“I believe you shall find yourself soundly trounced, my renowned fellow pro.”

From off-stage someone yelled, “Three-minute commercial break! And after this, could you two sit down and start playing chess.”

The audience gave a rousing cheer.

The Birch Tree

by Edgar Guest

Out of a jutting rock, wind blown,
a birch tree braves the world alone.
A crevice in the granite first
captured the seed; a wave immersed
that tiny embryo. The sun
warmed it — and thus was life begun.

Scant food the passing breezes give
and yet that tree contrives to live!
Cruel the clutch of granite gray,
yet the brave roots from day to day
into the great stone deeper creep,
a surer hold on life to keep.

Twisted and bent some limbs appear,
but still undaunted year by year
those roots in cheerless channels sunk
courageously support the trunk
and green against the lake and sky,
a birch tree catches every eye!

Man thinks he knows what nature wills.
But much he plants the winter kills,
while far away from human care
and on a cliff by storms swept bare,
denied the commonest of needs,
a birch tree silently succeeds!

Cliff

From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

Ragtag Community Prompt for today:  COLOR