Sunday, June 29, 2014

Off on Another Tangent

summer raindrops 2014

"Today's tangents will become tomorrow's arcs, and unforeseen connections will tie up your loose ends in a way that will make you want to slap your head and holler at your accidental brilliance." --Chris Baty

I started out on a morning walk recently under cloudy skies without a thought that it might really start raining. Before long, it started sprinkling. A light drizzle followed. Should I turn around for home? Hubby soon came along--a knight in shining armor not on a trusty steed but in the car--and offered to rescue me. But by then I had discovered something: I was enjoying walking in the rain! I turned down his offer and carried on (after all, it wasn't lightning or anything).

Well, of course I came home a bit wet, but for some reason I also returned with scenes from the classic movie My Fair Lady playing around in my head, especially the opening clip in which a sudden downpour brings together a wide variety of people and dialects: the theater-going crowd, 
the linguistic/phonetic expert Henry Higgins, and a lowly flower girl with a distinctive accent, Eliza Doolittle. Why do such things come to mind at unexplained times? I haven't seen that movie (based on George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion and filmed in 1964) for, um...50 years!

One thing led to another. First I found myself googling My Fair Lady to refresh my memory of the story. That led to a youtube link of the movie's opening which in turn led to an article on phonetics and dialects, things that played a big part in the story. From there I visited a Pinterest board that features Audrey Hepburn, the actress who played the fiesty and endearing Eliza. And THAT led me to learning more about the lovely Ms. Hepburn who exuded style, class, grace and warmth. In later life she dedicated herself to raising awareness about children in need as ambassador to Unicef. "People," she is quoted as saying, "even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone." She also said, "Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible!'" Just look at Eliza as an example of that.

Can you say tangent [tangent (idiom): "digressing suddenly from one course of action or thought and turning to another"]? I certainly went off on a number of those in this case. Was there any value in the scurrying down such a rabbit hole? Can I glean any arcs, pull together any unforeseen connections, tie up any loose ends from it all? Will I marvel at my accidental brilliance?

Maybe not. But I did enjoy my walk in the rain :-)

Any tangents you've gone off on lately? What movie classic would you choose to watch again?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

On Writers' Notebooks and Maple Syrup

photo courtesy
"It takes forty gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. Maple sap is mostly water. To make syrup you've got to boil off that water. Much of your writer's notebook is like that watery sap. You have to boil off lots of water in order to make the syrup of your writing dark, thick, and sweet." --Donald Murray

Following this analogy, does it take forty notebooks to distill down to one successful book? Oh, my, I hope not. I'm certainly on my way, but no where close to that! Let's see. A notebook for my WIP, one for character sketches, those for ideas to develop, descriptions, fun word combinations, poetry, inspirational thoughts, tidbits I don't want to lose track of but don't know what to do with, various journals. Some I work out of regularly, others I haven't made an entry in for a long time.

Question of the week: do you keep a writer's notebook? What does it look like? Do you maintain more than one? Do you have one that's sticky with maple syrup?

Want to see what others say about the writer's notebook? You might check out:
Writer's Notebook, on Pinterest
Keeping a Writer's Notebook
Never Be Blocked

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Symbolism and the Scottish Thistle

on walk, June 2014
"All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower 
wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind." --Abraham Lincoln

And I thought it was just another weed...

My walk the other day was just what I needed. Warm, but not too warm. Light breezes... jays...

...sunshine on pastures...

But it was the regal crown of a flower atop a spiky thistle stem that caught my eye.

As is often the case, something of interest sends me off on a journey of discovery (hmmmm, shouldn't I be writing?) and I wanted to see what I could learn about this plant.

Turns out "regal" is an apt choice of words. Many might already know this, but the thistle is the national flower and symbol of the country of Scotland. The Order of the Thistle is Scotland's highest chivalric order ["chivalric" (adj): pertaining to chivalry; "chivalry" (n): the combination of qualities expected of an ideal knight, especially courage, honor, justice and a readiness to help the weak" from]. Prince William as well the Queen of England and Prince Philip are knights in the order. The thistle appears on silver coins and other numerous objects including jewelry, soaps, and tea-towels.

Legend has it that the thistle was named the symbol of Scotland way back in the mid-13th century when soldiers from Norway tried to spring a surprise invasion on the people of Scotland. According to lore, the Norsemen came ashore at night, shed their boots, and advanced barefoot so the noise of their movement would not be detected. The plan backfired when those bare feet came down on the Scottish thistle--and they howled in pain waking the sleeping Scots who then subdued them. Whether or not the story is true, the symbolism of the thistle (ahem, sorry for the pun) took root and is honored to this day. 

Other facts about the thistle include that it is a biennial plant, meaning it takes two years to complete its life cycle. It reseeds easily. It's a combination of beauty and ruggedness. It has a spreading, invasive root system, hence its classification as weed.

It also attracts the cheery goldfinch and fritillary butterflies. Oh, and was a favorite food of Eeyore in A.A. Milne's The House at Pooh Corner--although Tigger found out it was his least favorite!

I'm feeling an affinity to the thistle. Maybe because my great-great-(how many greats back?) grandfather, John Young (1764-1854) came from Path Head, Scotland. And because I think it's a fitting symbol for a writer. After all, it's beautiful but tough, stubborn yet resilient. It flourishes despite all obstacles in the way. Its seeds (words?) sustain others.

Yep, I have more respect for the thistle. I might even adopt it as my signature writing flower. 

If you were to choose a plant that represents writing to you, what might it be? I'd love to hear your choices.

(and for a real treat) Explore Thistles on Pinterest