That Old Thief

Good morning everyone. Cloudy, drippy day here in south-central Sask. Not rain, but the heavy mist that rolled in during the night has made everything damp. I think everyone’s wishing for a day of good steady rain, especially the farmers.

The seniors in our church decided to have a potluck supper yesterday evening and we were among the number enjoying the delicious meal. We were about 25 in all and every lady brought one large dish, so no lack of food.

Some ladies were asking me what I plan to do today to celebrate my 66th birthday. I have a specific goal — my birthday present to me: I want to work on Seasons of Gold until it’s done and ready to be published Saturday. My son-in-law has uploaded an improved cover image to KDP, so now I need to add the manuscript, then can view it all. Then let it sit a few days; there’s always some last minute, “Oh, I’d better add /change …”

Actually the whole file is put together except for maybe a few more images, and to go through and check the spacing of the lines. I don’t know what prompts Kindle Create to do what it does, but it tends to toss extra spacing in here and there. Not a whole extra line, which would be obvious, but .19 of an extra line. Enough that if you look close you can see this poem is a bit farther apart from its follower than the follower is from its follower. If you follow me. 😉

Re: images. I really like the little hand-drawn illustrations in some of my haiku books. Birds, cherry trees, all very old-Japan looking. You know the type:
Birds-abstract

However, I have often used images from Pixabay to illustrate my poems and want to use the same type for my e-book. I’m doing about one small image and three or four poems per page.

Having a sense of humor, I’d like to stick this one in, along with Bobby Burns famous words. I don’t know if I dare be this silly in a book of Japanese-style poetry, but a wry look at human nature is what senryu is all about. In fact, I suspect this picture would have given Issa a chuckle.
Eggs + RB Quote

The Ragtag daily prompt came through at 9:30 pm last night, giving me lots of time to think about a response to the prompt word THIEF. As I consider all these years that have slipped by and wondered, as so many others, “where the time has gone,” I thought of this verse, written by Scottish poet Harvey Scott:

I saw the old thief, Father Time,
Come hirpling down the road;
He had a sack upon his back,
Lost minutes were his load.
He opened it and showed to me
Not minutes, but a host
Of years, decades, a century
And more of minutes lost.
“I want to buy year,” I said,
“And I shall pay you well.”

“If this earth’s mould were finest gold,
To you I would not sell,
For I have minutes stolen from kings,
From Milton, Shakespeare, Bach.
How could you buy such precious things?
Your common gold is trash!”…
He tied his sack and said, “Farewell.
Young man, I’ve got my fee,”
For while I tried to make him sell,
He stole an hour from me!

A Story in Slivers

Yesterday we attended an all-day writing workshop in the city, put on by a national Christian writing group based more-or-less in Alberta. We heard half a dozen different speakers, mostly motivational. A lot of thoughts on the need to write, and why we need to write.

A few minor things stuck in my mind, one of them being a comment one of our speakers made to an attender who’d just finished publishing his parents’ life story. Sheila Webster, the speaker, congratulated him, then reminded him & told us all about the nudge she’d given him when he wasn’t finding the time to write this. They’d done a quick calculation and figured that if he’d only write 47 words a day he could get the memoir done in such-and-such a time.

I’m not certain of the exact numbers, but the point was clear. A writer may wish for hours to write, with thousands of words whacked out every day. However, even writing in silvers — 10-15 minutes a day — you can actually get a book finished and edited. I don’t know about you, but if I have my scene thought out and sit down to write, I can easily do 500 words in 15 minutes.

This reminds me of another done-in-slivers project I heard about one day. An older woman who sews all her own dresses was advising some younger ones, busy moms, who claimed they couldn’t find time to sew. “If you sew just one seam every day, you can get a new dress made for yourself in a month.”

Marla Cilley has made her fortune as the FlyLady, telling people the same thing about house-cleaning. In her book, Sink Reflections, she writes that no matter how disabled or how depressed a person is, almost everyone can work at a task for 10-15 minutes.

Facing the immense task of rebuilding the temple at Jerusalem after it had been destroyed by the marauding army, the prophet Zechariah says, “For who hath despised the day of small things?” Zech 4:10 A plan was made and the work was organized, each family given responsibility for a part of the wall.

Both Marla & Sheila do stress one point:
YOU NEED TO HAVE SOME SYSTEM. A ROUTINE IS YOUR FRIEND.

That’s what I need to work on. 🙂

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.”

Seasons of Gold

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

…a time to ponder; a time to write down your thoughts, and a time to share the things that impress you.

Though I wasn’t specifically thinking of these verses when I chose the title for the new book of poems I’ve been working on, they are very fitting when it comes to verses about nature, the seasons, and human nature.

The book is pretty much compiled, but I want to organize the verses I’ve chosen then set up my file on Kindle Create and insert some graphics. I’ve obtained the ISBN for both print and e-book but will do only the e-book for now.  I’m thinking the title font should be the same as we used for Silver Morning Song; otherwise here’s what the cover will look like:

GA.Rain.largest flower

My next big question: How many poems make a proper-size book?

Capturing Their Feelings

I recently purchased and have been reading a book titled Write Like Issa: A Haiku How To, by David Lanoue.

The writer talks about the compassion Issa often showed for the creatures he saw. He seemed to  look through their eyes for a moment and express, in an understanding way, how they were reacting to heat, cold, pain, etc. Be it the fly in a hot stuffy room, the toad on a chilly morning, the chicken dragging a damaged wing, he could display through his verse, without actually stating, their physical feelings.

The sparrows we see in winter puff up when it’s cold and they must feel an icy wind ruffling their feathers. Or we may see a baby bird hopping after its harried mother, crying for more food. Issa wrote a famous verse identifying himself with the hungry chick, by throwing in the words “step-child bird.” Knowing that the poet was a step-child neglected and harshly treated by his father’s second wife, we get the picture of his own hunger and longing for affection.

One of the exercises Mr Lanoue gives readers is to recall a experience shared with a some creature and then capture that in a haiku. I think we can all recall instances when a creature, especially a pet, shows some “feeling” we can identify with. One day as I was walking to the mall, I saw a salamander alongside the curb, twisting his head this way and that in obvious distress as cars swished past not far away. The traffic wasn’t steady; but every so often another car would pass and frighten him, yet the poor creature couldn’t go up the curb to escape that way. Just observing him a moment, I caught his fear and bewilderment. I could easily imagine the desperate cry of, “Which way shall I go?”

I’m not sure I could condense that scene enough for a haiku — if you want to give it a try, go for it, and leave your verse as a comment. But here’s a quick and easy scene for a verse. I don’t know if it’s a great haiku or not, but have you ever noticed how a fly is attracted to a dish or jar that once held something sweet?

fruit fly explores
the just-washed jam jar
something tells him

The Doctor Says

Hello Everyone,

I’ve been dealing with a minor but annoying skin infection this week, but am determined to start off this new month with regular posts on my blog. Thankfully my problem isn’t as serious as this haiku suggests but I’ve been here once upon a time, too, and penned this in memory:

“the doctor says”
words like a scalpel
slice through our lives

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

These last few days I’ve been occupied with gathering my best-liked haiku & senryu. I’ve chosen a few dozen — and may add a few other short verses to the mix. What do you advise? A collection of only haiku, senryu, + some tanka — or a collection of mini all-sorts? I find that choosing a title and sub-title for this collection is also a challenge!

Our weather is staying cold, with frosty nights in the minus 20-something range and frigid winds, but the sun has some power these days. We can start to believe that spring is on the way.