Smoke Again

again this smoky haze
the incense of
an unwanted cleansing

Forest Fire

A thick blue haze has settled on the fields again today. We’ve shut all the windows, as the smoky air is hard to breathe. I hope you’ll pardon me if I’m boring you with all my versifying about forest fire —I find it hard not to think about it whenever I step outside.

On a positive note, two bright but very timid orioles have been snitching from our hummingbird feeder today.

On Fire and On the Move

Our air quality seems somewhat better today. Earlier in the week smoke from northern forest fires lay like a fog on the fields. Today there’s a faint gray haze and the sky’s a solid pale blue, but the sun’s colour is normal. I noticed only a whiff of smoke in the air when I was out earlier.

We’d have had a lot hotter temps this month if it hadn’t been for the smoke screen we’ve been living under, so I guess there’s one small blessing. Yet when I think of vast tracts of forest burning…

I wonder if the birds suffer in smoky air? The hummingbirds are still zipping around, busy at the feeder, especially in the early morning. Since it’s the end of the season I was able to buy a second feeder on sale and they seem happy to slurp from it, too. In just over a week they’ll be gone, so I’m enjoying them while I can.

I was out for a walk a few minutes ago and ONE grasshopper took flight beside the driveway. Can this be Saskatchewan! As soon as it landed I stomped on it — I don’t at all mind some species becoming extinct. Birds can’t eat them anyway, so…

Actually that’s not quite true! One fall morning about six years ago we saw a juvenile great-horned owl, still with his white baby feathers, sitting beside our garage. Mostly silent and observant, he opened his beak now and then to let out a shrill peep. Later we watched him run up and down the driveway devouring grasshoppers. You haven’t lived — or seen “funny” — until you’ve see an owl run. They’re so awkward, hopping as much side-to-side as forward!

poplar shoots
spring up in my driveway
bent on take-over
Birnham Wood creeping
to Dunsinane*

At different times this summer, walking along our driveway, I’ve thought of that phrase from MacBeth. The original owners planted a row of poplar trees on the west side of the property. Theses have grown tall in the last ten years and are no longer content to stay in one neat row. Shoot by shoot they are creeping toward our castle. Bob has been keeping them at bay with the lawn mower, but they aren’t giving up.

Which inspired me with a tanka on the subject. A tanka is a five line poem which, in old Japan, went in a syllable sequence of 5-7-5-7-5. Here’s what haiku master Alan Summers writes about it.

If you are interested in learning more about haiku, senryu, tanka, and other forms of Japanese poetry, courses are being offered this fall. For details, check out Call of the Page.

*The woods near Birnam in Perthshire, Scotland. In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, Macbeth is told that he will only be defeated when Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane. Later, his enemy’s army comes through Birnam Wood and each soldier cuts a large branch to hide himself, so that when the army moves on it looks as if the wood is moving.
https://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/birnam-wood

A Carefree Creature

As my response to the Ragtag daily prompt: FREEDOM
with a nod to Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day: NONCHALANT

I offer this poem about this carefree toad:

The Happy Toad

by Edgar Guest

As I was walking down the road
I met an ugly, grinning toad,
who squatted in the shade and said:
“I never wish that I were dead.
Wherever I may chance to stray
I find rich food along the way;
I have no dreams I can’t fulfill;
I owe no other toad a bill.
In slimy places I abide
but with them I am satisfied.
My little children I forsook
as tadpoles in a nearby brook;
I know not where they are, nor care.
I have no burdens I must bear.
At night I never lie awake.
My bitterest enemy is the snake.
I have no taxes, no beliefs,
no cares, ambitions, hopes or griefs;
no clothes to buy, no cash to lose,
no tools that I must learn to use.
I sing no dirges, tell no jokes.
I’m just a jumping toad who croaks;
contented, placid, happy I
shall be until the day I die.”
~~~
Yet as I trudged along the road
I thought, “Who wants to be a toad?”
From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

Toad

Love for Exploring + Zest for Discovery

It hits me every now and then, this urge to go wandering. I check out a blog post, which leads me to another, then another. Hop, hop, hop. Usually leads to the joy of discovery.

Come hop, hop, hop with me now as I comment on the discoveries I’ve made:

Fandango’s One-Word Challenge today is LOVE. A great word, easy to write about. A heartening and wondrous word — but we’ve cheapened it, I fear. I recall some dear old grandmas warning about this. “Love is for living things,” they said. “Not for inanimate objects.”

When one teen was enthusing about something she really liked, saying, I just LOVE this —” a wise old grandma told her:

“Love something that can love you back.”

Love is a serious thing, a precious word not to be tossed around  and tarnished. We don’t really LOVE clothes, a car or a house. We don’t LOVE writing or running exploring. We love PEOPLE. So my title is misleading. But I ENJOY exploring, checking out other bloggers’ work.

Ragtag’s daily prompt word is ZEST. Merriam Webster defines it as:
: a piece of the peel of a citrus fruit (such as an orange or lemon) used as flavoring
2 : an enjoyably exciting quality : piquancy
3 : keen enjoyment : relish, gusto; a zest for living

P.S.: If you find big words enjoyable and exciting, their Word of the Day is ORGULOUS. And if you toss it into casual conversation, people will think you are orgulous.

As I said at the start, once in awhile I get this excitement, this urge, to explore, instead of ABIDING (Word of the Day’s prompt) here at home.

I popped over to one blog and saw a listing of a dozen different blog awards. One of them was ONE LOVELY BLOG AWARD. Curious, I Googled “One Lovely Blog Award.” Up popped ten pages of posts from people who wrote about — usually because they’d received — this award.

I checked out a few for curiosity  and landed on the Fractured Faith blog, done by Stephen & Fionnuala Black, a couple from Northern Ireland. I’ve seen their lovely icon before, as they’ve liked some of my posts. On their Home Page, in the list of their recent posts, I saw this unique Flash Fiction Challenge. An imaginative way to nudge the old muse. I don’t LOVE, but I really LIKE, your idea and am doing a pingback to your challenge. 😉

I’ve found the odd receipt but my imagination was dozing at those moments. I never derived a tale from my find like you did. I did find a wallet once — actually saw it fall out of the man’s pocket as he exited his car. I hurried over, scooped it up and located the man in a nearby store. When he discovered his loss, and saw it in my hands, he gave me a big hug. Definitely worth it. Loved the hug.

I think you can love a hug — even from a complete stranger. 😉

And now back at home, I shall abide awhile by my hallway window to watch the hummers. They may not be able to love us back but I believe they’re as thankful as their tiny brains can be for syrup provided. Then my hands had best abide in meal preparation, as it’s almost dinner time. 🙂

E-zine Haiku Competition

Following a link today, I discovered a new online magazine, Vita Brevis . For those of you who are interested in Haiku, the editor is hosting a four-day haiku competition, ending Monday night, Aug 13th.

Anyone can leave one haiku verse in the comments. Read the complete details here: Comment-a-Haiku Poetry Competition

Nature is the theme so I dug into my archives and pulled up a few that could work. I considered this one, but it’s not very aesthetic so I won’t offer it for the contest. You can read it and give a Thumbs-up or Thumbs-down.

beside the highway
three ravens process
yesterday’s mad rush

Or how about:

the zoo animals
watch the humans play

amusing monkeys

🙂
It’s probably been done before.

Finish the Story: Part 2

Another Wordsmith has handed me the challenge of writing Part 2 of the story she’s started. Read Part 1 HERE. So I took up my pen this morning and will post both parts.

With this disclaimer:
I like a writing challenge and accepted for that reason, but in truth I know little about this subject. Most of what I know about actress-wannabes comes from the song, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose? This song is sung from the perspective of a woman who has come to her senses and is heading home, leaving the broken dreams of Hollywood behind.

I’m tagging fellow blogger & fiction writer, Linda, to write Part Three of this possibly sad or possibly route-to-fame tale.

Here are the RULES —

  1. Copy the story below as it appears when you receive it (and the rules please)
  2. Add somehow to the story in which ever style and length you choose
  3. Tag only 1 person
  4. If you choose to not participate or finish the story, please comment/tag this post so that I know.

And here’s the STORY —

Casey Ann wanted to be an actress from the first time she saw Elizabeth Taylor, Vivian Leigh, and Greta Garbo on the big screen. Every Saturday was spent at the kiddie show with Rin Tin Tin and the Lone Ranger, then she would hide in a little closet in the back of the theater until the adult shows began.

Her parents never asked where she was for hours on end. Their motto was, “Children were better when they were invisible.” So, she learned how to be invisible. She secretly put on plays in the woods behind her house and practiced facial expressions in the mirror as often as she could.

The day she turned eighteen, she bought a one-way ticket to Hollywood. As soon as she stepped off the Trailways…

PART TWO:
…she looked around the bustling terminal and wondered, “What do I go now?” Followed by, “What am I doing here, anyway?” And, “Where will I live?” The questions stunned her for a moment.

She took a deep breath and headed for the café she saw across the street. She still had enough money for a few lunches and one night in a cheap motel room, but she needed to see about getting a job. Everything would fall into place as soon as she signed a contract.

Casey slid onto a stool at the counter and a waitress about her mother’s age came to take her order. She asked for a pop for starters. When the waitress brought her drink, Casey asked, “How do I get to the MGM studio from here?”

The waitress rolled her eyes and nudged another waitress rushing by. “Hey, Jean. Another one.” She turned back to Casey. “I hope you’ve bought a return ticket, dear. This is a tough place to get started. Every day dozens of sweet young things get off those buses, dreaming of fame and fortune. The sharks soon chew them up, spit them out and leave them bleeding.”

Casey gasped. Jean, passing again, saw how shocked Casey looked and stopped. “I was one of them, too,” she told the young girl. But I’ve survived.” She winked, then grabbed several bottles of pop from the cooler.

Casey looked around the busy restaurant, the waitresses run off their feet. Survival, yes, but… she wanted so much more from life than this. Jean leaned toward her and whispered, “I still haven’t lost my dream. Listen, why don’t you…

 

Linda has written Part Three here.

The Journey of a Blog

From 0 to 2000 Followers

I’ve had one eye on my stats lately, watching the number of Followers slowly creeping up to 2000. I wanted to mark the occasion but while I was busy with other things this week, my newest followers vaulted over the magic number. Still, here’s my planned celebration and a few historical notes.

Fireworks.pink cropped

2000+ Party

I’m Too Tech-Dense to Blog!

Back in January of 2012 a friend and fellow writer was talking about her blog, and the usefulness of blogs in general as a platform for one’s writing. I already had a website, set up by someone who knew what they were doing, and was enjoying posting on it. But I told my friend, “I could never BLOG. Not me! I could never figure out all that tech stuff.”

She said, “Blogging isn’t hard at all.”

And I said, “Well… Okay. Tell me how and I’ll try setting one up. If I can manage it with my limited technical smarts, anyone can.”

So she rattled off instructions, I wrote them down, I came home and started my blog. And it actually WASN’T hard. And now, 6 ½ years later, over 2000 readers have clicked my Follow button. Who’d’a thunk it!

I’m thankful for all those votes of confidence, and I really appreciate those of you who have stayed, liked my posts, left comments, and helped me to become a more dedicated writer. To those of you who make up my readership today, thanks so much and bless your dear hearts. 🙂

Faces.jpg

Through the years I’ve learned a lot about blogging. Here are some things I wished I’d known when I started out:

#1. For my first blog address I picked christineevelynvance, which made a too-long web address. It’s getting tough to find short-and-simple names; the easy ones were taken by bloggers years ago. And so many wannabes only posted once or twice, then quit. But newcomers who choose themotherofjosephsabrinaandcrystal or theavidreaderofhistoricalromances as their web address aren’t doing themselves any favours. Fine for a blog title, but for a web address, stay as simple as possible. Be creative if necessary. I called my last blog “Waverations.” Simple; easy to remember.

My second blog, set up to divide my longer prose from short anecdotes and poetry, was “Swallow in the Wind.” In time I merged it with my first. My third blog was “Tree Top Haiku”, which is still going — when I get over there. After trying to keep up with three blogs for awhile, I saw the error of my ways.

#2. You don’t need a separate blog for every genre. Keeping up several blogs can be mega-stress. (Plus I got leukemia, so was dealing with that for several years.) My first blog fell by the wayside and I started “Christine’s Reflections”, with my domain name as the address. Two years ago I renamed my first blog “Friday Tales” and posted flash fiction when I was doing the Friday Fictioneers challenges.

Waverations I set up as a private site to try out new themes without messing up the look of my active blogs. It has morphed into this one. I applied my domain name to this and had the folks at WordPress beam the Friday Tales and Christine’s Reflections subscribers this way.

#3. Use proper categories and tags from day one. A subject all its own — I’ve written about it HERE — and the reason why I felt the need to start over from scratch. Now I’m in the slow process of reblogging all those past posts into this blog. Tree Top Haiku will stay as is.

Over the years I’ve tried to “share the love” by letting my readers know about other great blogs and posts. I could — and plan to — do more of this. Which is why I got enthused about the new “From the Heart” blogging award. You can tell your readers about other interesting sites without putting any obligations on those bloggers. (In fact, my brain is concocting another idea along these lines as I’m writing this. 😉 )

Since I started out, my husband has also gotten enthused and now has his own blogs, one in English and one in French.

And now…here’s my virtual Happy 2000 cake. Cut yourself a piece (it’s zero-calorie, no preservatives 🙂 ) and celebrate with me.

Birthday cake.rainbow.jpg