Tag Archives: Spring

Happy are Those Who Struggle

A thoughtful and beautiful post on spiritual struggle couched in an examination of The Lord of the Rings. Stephencwinter’s blog has many great posts like this. You should go check them out!

Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings

If Sauron were leader of the Fellowship, setting out from Rivendell in possession of the Ring, what would he do? Gandalf knows that it is a question that Sauron has asked himself. Sauron knows that the Fellowship left Rivendell and that they possessed the Ring. He knows something of each member of the Fellowship and that there are hobbits among them. And Gandalf knows that he fears that the Fellowship will go to Minas Tirith and there one of them will wield the Ring, assail Mordor with war, cast him down and take his place. Boromir counselled  that they should go to Minas Tirith but not that one of them should wield the Ring. He hid this desire even from himself.  And Gandalf and Galadriel were tempted to wield the Ring as well. Remember the occasions when Frodo offered the Ring to them, first to Gandalf at Bag End in…

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Language and Perception

One moment last night can be described in similes; otherwise it won’t go into language at all. Imagine a man in total darkness. He thinks he is in a cellar, or dungeon. Then there comes a sound. He thinks it might be a sound from far off-waves or wind-blown trees or cattle half a mile away. And if so, it proves he’s not in a cellar, but free, in the open air. Or it may be a much smaller sound, close at hand-a chuckle of laughter. And if so, there is a friend just beside him in the dark. Either way, a good, good sound. I’m not mad enough to take such an experience as evidence of anything. It is simply the leaping into imaginative activity of an idea which I would always have theoretically admitted- the idea that I, or any mortal at any time, may be utterly mistaken as to the situation he is really in.
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Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than a minority of them- never become even conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through?
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-C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
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This could pass without comment, and for the most part, I will allow it to do so. I read this passage, this morning, for the first time. I am sure subsequent readings will reveal other facets, but for now, two things strike me.
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One moment last night can be described in similes; otherwise it won’t go into language at all.
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Someone whose writing I greatly value and respect feels the same restrictiveness of language that I do.
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Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than a minority of them- never become even conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through?
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Yes. Just… yes. If I could remind myself of this constantly, I would, and if I could teach others one fundamental rule for interacting with each other and the world, it would be this.

I am not dead yet, and a Liebster Award

Sorry for dropping off the map. I still have many posts I want to form for you, and many things others have posted that I want to read, but I may still be quite slow in catching up. Life = crazy at present.

Until I can get my act together, I will gladly accept the prompts of Evan, who has nominated me for Liebster Award. If you have forgotten what that is, see here. I will not nominate anyone new today because my brain is mush. But thank you, Evan!

  1. What is it that inspires you to practice your art?
    It’s hard to put into words. Sights and sounds, but more than that. Thoughts and paths of reasoning, but more than that. I write and I sculpt because there isn’t a way to capture or communicate these things and art and writing are as near as I can come to doing so.
  2. What is the one story or image you long to capture above all others?
    …you’re kidding me, right? The closest I can come to answering this one is to say that there is a feeling, or a series of feelings, that cannot be captured, as mentioned above, but I’d like to come close. As far as writing is concerned, I’ll just be content if I can open a window for others to see some of what I see. All the books I really love make me feel like I am looking through the window of another person.
  3. If you were able to choose your last words right this second, what would they be?
    Wishful thinking, or what I would actually say if I died right now, because I imagine there’d be a few expletives in the latter. How about “Run, you fools!”
  4. You have to choose one song, right now, to listen to for the rest of your life. What is it?
    In all honesty, I’d rather have none at all, because one song for a lifetime would get reaaaaaaaaally annoying after, at most, 50 listenings. It would have to be something instrumental, to lessen the sheer irritation. How about Bear McCreary’s theme for the Battlestar Galactica/Admiral Adama? Or, better yet, Roslin and Adama’s theme. It is a beautiful piece of music and, while shorter in some respects, has more variety in it.
    Here:
  5. Where do you want your work to take you?
    My job-work? Creative work? Yard work? I hope my job continues to pay the bills and be relatively enjoyable and fulfilling. It had better not try and make me move, either.  My creative work takes me lots of places, but I don’t see it as a vehicle, if that makes sense. I hope my yard work takes me on the path of having a great yard with lots of wildlife.
  6. In your opinion, what is the purest form of creative expression?
    You are making the Art History major in me militant. There is no “form” that is pure in that way. What is pure creative expression depends on the person, not the medium. ;)
  7. Wh0, in your tangible life, has influenced your path in writing the most? You don’t have to name names if you don’t want to.
    Probably my brother, from his own creative story-telling gift. He started telling me stories when I was a tyke and never stopped.
  8. Same question, except rather than just with writing, your entire life.
    So, Evan, how long did it take you to eliminate the only-sort-of-impossible questions until you had those perfect ten unanswerable ones? ;)
  9. You can spend the rest of your life in your dream location. Where is it?
    In this reality? The Smokey Mountains. In any reality? I’d like to try Middle Earth at certain periods and places too numerous to be easily named.
  10. Why is it that you do what you do, both in your art and in your life? Why do you keep going in the face of more immediate gratification, rather than just give in?
    There are a lot of things, from my family, to the beauty I see in the world and a few solid friends, but the linchpin is my faith. When that linchpin is removed, as it once was, the only hope I see for the universe, myself, or others, dies and all motivation within me dies with it.

I didn’t mean to lie

I really was intending that to be my last post for a while, but the in light of the news I got from the doctor today, I felt that I owed it to my blog-friends to pass on some good news. Whether you have been praying or sending good thoughts, thank you.

The tumor has shrunk so significantly that they were unable to do a biopsy on it today. It is less than a quarter of its original size and did not show up on an ultrasound. My doctor and nurses were so happy that some of them cried a little.

I am grateful to God for His mercy, for my physicians, and for the progress of medical science!

For now, treatment will continue as it is. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are still in my immediate future, but this is a great triumph, and I wanted to share it with all of you and thank you, again, for your thoughts and prayers.

Love and blessings!

Ok, my break starts now, for reals.


Ballooning Part 2

It has certainly taken me long enough to post this. It has been months since my successful flight in a hot air balloon, but I have been dragging my feet in sorting through the pictures. Anyway, I wanted to give you guys some beautiful shots before I take an internet break (for those of you who talk to me through e-mail, I will still check it. I just may be slow in replying).

Every time I say I am going to take a hiatus, people seem to worry, so in advance, let me assure you that everything is fine. The coming month is going to be a busy one, and I need time to read, write, and do odds and ends around the house and with my family. I will probably be gone a month, maybe two.

When I come back, I promise to post pictures of more masks including the ones I am currently working on.

On to ballooning!

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

For those who missed out on the first failed ballooning attempt, there are details here. We had one more failed attempt (making, I think, three for my dear friend) but finally, luck was with us! The basket was very large, made to hold at least eight normal-sized people.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Here is the balloon which was called, if I remember rightly, Spirit of Africa. The first stage of inflation is done with a fan.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Once the fan has blown up the balloon enough to where the flames won’t burn it, the spurting fire thing is used.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

I found the colors quite beautiful.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

My fear of heights made takeoff a bit nerve-wracking. There was someone on board with a worse fear of heights than I have, though, and that helped calm me down.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Once I was over how high we were, I found the flight soothing and I enjoyed the patterns I began to see below. Balloon flight is very smooth.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

This is some of the countryside relatively near where I live. There are some farms left, though not many, some large estates owned by people whose wealth is beyond my comprehension, some forest, and encroaching subdivisions.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

On the whole, it is pretty, though it makes me a little sad to see how it is changing.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

One of the real farms! Those red-ant things are cattle. We flew over horses and deer (who really did not like the roar of the balloon’s blowtorch thingy) and a blue heron in flight, but my shots of them did not come out well.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Looking up into the balloon!

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

And my best shot of that lovely flame. It is loud, and close, but really beautiful. I would not recommend a balloon flight in hot weather, though. It was cold when we flew, and that was the only reason I could bear the heat above me.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

We had some beautiful clouds that day.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Every time we went over water, we saw the balloon’s reflection.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Even with the blur, I find this shot lovely.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Sycamores are as dramatic from above as below.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

I think the trees below look almost like moss and lichen. Beautiful.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Even the horrible subdivisions with their monster houses and boring yards look nice from this height. Great patterns. Notice the interrupted sidewalk.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

The skyline, of course, was gorgeous. All those tree-covered hills fading in the distance to meet the sky, and echoed from above by the clouds.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Mmmmm

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

And so, in failing light, we landed. We landed in enemy territory (people who are hostile to balloons) out of necessity, but fortunately no one was home. The team and our pilot broke down the balloon quickly, and we called it a night.

I am very glad my friend gave me the opportunity to do this. I hope you enjoy the pictures!

Farewell for now. I’ll be back soon.


Phoenix

Be-kind-rewrite’s Inspiration Monday nudged my muse in a terribly melodramatic way. Apologies in advance for the levels of angst, but the prompt was “can’t stop crying” so it was bound to be either angsty or filled with onions.

In the Center is a thing that weeps. In the darkness surrounding her now, her feathers and her tears are light. Her children return when their fires burn out. It’s over their corpses she weeps, folding them beneath her wings like eggs.
And there, against the mother flame, their life returns only for them to leave again; flying off into the void, bringing heat and light, but leaving her in the Center with her tears.
We have light and life because she can’t stop crying. Yet I have to wonder if one day we will learn the meaning of life without pain.
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Geographic Confessions

I am not a cartographer.

In high school, my geography teacher did well by her students. I know that there are seven continents (if you include Antarctica, which I do), I have a general idea where most countries, seas and oceans are, as well as the locations of many land-features such as the Alps and the Mohave desert. Our final assignment in geography was to create a relatively detailed and accurate map of the world with certain features labeled from memory.  It was very hard, but rewarding.

You are probably wondering where I am headed with this ramble. As with most things I ramble about, it connects to writing.

Most people who read fantasy are familiar with the attendant maps. Some  even read while referencing the maps to see where they are. A friend recently confronted me with the lack of… I don’t know a word for it. Directionality? He did not have a good idea of the layout of the story’s geography, and it bothered him.

It has been bothering me for a while, too. I have a general idea of the area and the world, but I need more. Like a student in a life-drawing class, I need to understand the skeleton of my subject before I can draw it convincingly.

I need maps.

I need maps that only I can make, and I am not a cartographer. I have been putting it off because I am afraid of backing myself into a corner, making a map that is somehow “wrong.”  What if it is, unconsciously, too like Earth? What if it is too off the wall and ceases to make sense? What if the rain-shadows aren’t where they are supposed to be (yes, I think about things like that)?

But the truth is that I need the framework. The better I know the territory, the world, the more convincingly I can write the characters’ interactions with it. Flopping about in vague mush isn’t going to get me anywhere. Is the story in the Northern or Southern hemisphere (getting my head around Southern-hemisphere mechanics is daunting, but tempting), how many continents are there? What influences the weather-patterns? Where are the trade-routes?

What is an author to do?

In looking for a starting place, I came upon this blog:

http://www.fantasymapmaker.com/free-fantasy-maps/

This lets me know that others have already blazed this trail. There are already tools, such as Campaign Cartographer 3 by ProFantasy. Personally, I really like playing with this free fractal map generator: http://donjon.bin.sh/world/

There are resources for cities and dungeons, too.

But it seems to me that these are only places to start, and most likely other writers out there have discovered other useful resources. And so, I give a shout-out.

If you know any good resources for creating maps of other worlds, let me know in the comments. I will do a follow-up post including them. If you, like me, are intimidated by this problem, at least we can commiserate and then encourage each other. If, on the other hand, you are an amateur (or professional) cartographer, I would love to get your input!


Roaring Farce

I mentioned, in my last post, that there was another quote from The Four Loves that I wanted to post. It requires a little introduction.

Lewis is discussing good and bad forms of patriotism. He compares the overtly harmful ‘we are superior and therefore we crush lesser peoples’ to the more insidious ‘we are superior, therefore we are obligated to help lesser peoples by ruling them.’

I am far from suggesting that the two attitudes are on the same level. But both are fatal. Both demand that the area in which they operate should grow “wider still and wider.” And both have about them this sure mark of evil: only by being terrible do they avoid being comic. If there were no broken treaties with Redskins, no extermination of the Tasmanians, no gas-chambers and no Belsen, no Amritsar, Black and Tans or Apartheid, the pomposity of both would be roaring farce.

The Four Loves, by C. S. Lewis (the emphasis is mine)

Honestly, I stopped dead when I read this, and I re-read it several times as I let it sink in. The idiotic arrogance of such twisted “patriotism” has been clear to me from an early age, but because of the horrors associated with it, I had never thought about the farcical angle.

I think Lewis is on to something. Pride, greed, lust, gluttony, sloth, wrath and envy… which of these, if stripped of its monstrous consequences, is not simply ridiculous?

Alas that, for now, we cannot laugh for long without weeping.


From The Four Loves

“Say your prayers in a garden early, ignoring steadfastly the dew, the birds and the flowers, and you will come away overwhelmed by its freshness and joy; go there in order to be overwhelmed and, after a certain age, nine times out of ten nothing will happen to you.”
The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis

I’ve been busy, and I will probably be taking an internet hiatus soon. I recently finished The Four Loves, by C. S. Lewis. As always, when I read him, I was overwhelmed by his ability to express himself. Over all, I found the book fascinating and enlightening. I also wish I could get in touch with the man and debate some things with him, but ah well.

The above quote is something that struck me, when I read it, for I’ve had just the experience he is talking about. My relationship with God effects every single aspect of my life, even the ones that, on the surface, would seem to have nothing at all to do with spirituality, religion or faith. Prayer effects the taste of an apple and the sound of my cats’ asking for breakfast.

There’s another quote I will share, soon, but I figured I would go ahead and post this one.


Hamlet Statistics

I am puzzled by something.

I do not have a super-popular blog (and to be honest, I like it that way. If I got too popular, I might flee), but I get at least a few hits every day. Naturally, my main-page has the lion’s share of hits, but I have noticed that nearly every day since it went up, my post Ay, madam, it is common gets at least one.

Out of curiosity, I looked up my all-time statistics, and while I was not surprised that the above post was second in the number of hits, I was a little shocked by the numbers.

So, since I started this blog on December 27, 2011, my main page has received 2,572 hits.

Since its publication on January 15, 2013, “Ay, madam, it is common” has received 454!

The next highest ranking post, from October 18, 2012, has only 210.

Being of a curious nature, I can’t help but wonder why. The relatively high rank of The Hobbit read-along post isn’t surprising. It was a social effort, and with the movie coming out, a lot of people have been searching for Hobbit-related ramblings. Many of the search-terms that lead people to my blog are Tolkien-related (a fact that surprises no one).

The other is more of a mystery. The phrase I used in the title has, according to my stats, only led two people here (or one person twice?) and as far as Hamlet quotes go, it isn’t one of the more iconic.

The subject of the post is practically universal for writers, but it seems strange to me that, even so, the traffic to would be so significant and consistent.

Has it been linked somewhere without my knowledge? Why is it so often viewed, and by whom? I want to know!

Sadly, it remains a mystery to me. I would appreciate any insights, even if they are simply wild speculation involving alien cacti and the feline mafia.


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