The Weather and the Seasons

Summer is ending and the back to school sales abound. Fall is on its way. We are bound by the seasons that come every year. When you think about it the weather plays a very large role in our lives. Even where we are in our lives are often described using terms from the seasons. Such as he or she is in the spring of their lives, or I’m no spring chicken, or I’ve reached the fall of mine and winter is not too far behind. When such language is used, the imagery of those seasons comes immediately to mind, making it easy to see where one is at that particular time. At this time of course the east coast is facing a hurricane, and every region of this country faces their own natural fury – tornadoes in the mid-west, blizzards in the north-east, wild fires and earthquakes  in the west. And again when something arises, once again images of weather is commonly used. Storm clouds rose all around them. she has a sunny disposition,  Through the sullen gray heavy clouds a ray of sunlight broke through, giving them at least some hope of resolution. I could go on and on, but when such descriptions are used, because of the universality of the seasons and of weather, there is no need of further explanation. All can see what the person meant.

So shortly I will be heading out again on the road. It is the time of year for me to head to my mother and father’s home. Overall when the trip is complete I will have racked up 3000 miles, be gone about a month, and hope to accomplish much when I am there. For me it is not a vacation as such as there is much that I need to fix and build for her. She after all is in the winter of her life. Her husband has been unable to help her for years and everything has fallen on her shoulders. As anyone who follows this blog knows he has dementia, and is almost reduced to a walker. I have a walkway to build, have need of cleaning the rain gutters, and whatever other general maintenance needs to be accomplished. So now I am preparing for this trip. Half way through my time there my wife will join me as it will be time for one of her high school reunions. But while there she has her own agenda as she must work with her mother who also has dementia, and then visit with her brother who is now fighting  brain cancer. But for us even though we are now entering the fall of our lives, this trip is no different from about 95% of the time off from work that we have had over the years. Almost all of ours have been working vacations, and I know that this is true with many out there. Then when we return in the middle of October we may be facing snow and icy roads, again reminding us that life, like the seasons has its time in each, and most of us have to face our winter. And when we do finally reach there we can only hope that it is with dignity, honesty, and hope. Enjoy your seasons as all are fleeting, and before you know it you too will be looking back with wonder, wishing to know where they have gone and why time passed by so quickly.

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Published in: on August 26, 2011 at 12:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Images

In one of my past blogs I spoke about the fact that any of the actors written in a story must have a history to be able to understand how they will act. It is no different for you and I. It is our history and heredity that makes us who we are. It has been said that memory is the most fragile item we have. What we remember and see in our mind’s eye is not truly as it was. But to us it does appear to be so. Yet, it is all that we have to be able to look back. My father has dementia, and lives only in the present, with one part of his distant past locked in an endless circle. Now if he watches a movie it is he who did these things. For him it is real. So what is real to us? A question I truly cannot answer, and I really do not know if there is one anyway. So with this introduction here are some images from my past. Hopefully this gets you thinking about it and then takes you back to your earliest memories.

When I was 3, I remember standing on the steps of an observatory somewhere on a mountaintop with my mother and father. Then there was the first trip for this city kid at 6 going out to the real, true country for the first time. Here we left the black top roads behind, drove on a dirt road in a jeep, turned a corner and the world opened up like I have never seen it before – with views to the ocean, even though we were 30 miles inland. I hadn’t realized it at the time but my parents were looking to buy property far out in the country and we were looking at property that day.

The first day we moved to that property and the freedom that became available to one who had been locked into a small backyard. We, my brothers and I, now had acres upon acres to discover – a boy’s dream. Then a couple of years later when we were placed on alert for possible evacuation from a wildfire. (Little did I know that years, almost 50 to be exact, we would lose everything to one of these wildfires.) The skies were obscured with the smoke and ash was raining down continually. But thankfully at the time, it was stopped before it reached us. Then the following year when we were almost killed when a military jet crashed on the property and barely missed the house. I eventually became a wildland firefighter. I still see the images in my mind of my first major wildfire and later when it went over our line like we were not even there surrounding us with fire.

Meeting my future wife and realizing that I knew almost from the first moment that she and I would be together for the rest of our lives – I just knew. The birth of our children, and then later the subsequent move back to the ranch. Then a few years later the wildfire mentioned earlier in the parentheses, that came through and destroyed everything. The time when I realized that we would have to leave, that the fire behavior was extreme and there would be nothing we could do to stop it or save anything. The drive out, the looking back, the traffic that had everything locked to a standstill. Separation from each other, and a son driving a vehicle, and he had never driven before. Then eventually returning to utter devastation.

From this fire, the eventual need to move since the county where we lived refused us the right to rebuild – nothing unusual here. It is something that government does all the time during recovery times after major disasters. Then the move to where we are now, and the changes such a thing brings. And I am sure there are so many more that if given time would rise as images in my mind. But then again as I stated at the beginning, is what I see the true images, or are they colored by me? Allowing me to make them what I want them to be, and not the true facts or true reality. So again what are your memories?  Can you say that they are the true reality , and not just,   “I remember”?

Published in: on August 20, 2011 at 8:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Fences

The fence between our neighbor on the east and us fell down due to age. We had tried to maintain it to make sure all of the life that  fence would be used. But finally due to rotten posts and the winds it came down. So the neighbor and I planned on replacing it ourselves as money, time, and weather permitted. Originally most of the work was to be accomplished last summer, but it never came about because of other issues. So it was delayed until this year. In the area where we are presently living the standard 6 foot fence is cedar with pressure treated 4×4 posts. Yet because of the amount of moisture in our area the fences only last a few years and then the process must be done again. So this time I suggested that we set the base with cinder block and use metal poles. It is a way that I have used in the past, and nothing short of a hurricane or tornado is going to bring it down. Yes it is a little more expensive in the short run, but over the life of such a fence it will be much more cost-effective. And it will still be here when we finally are able to leave and get back to the country and get away from the city.

So how does fence building apply to what I have generally talked about in the past here? It is because like many things we do, I realized that I could apply what is being done to build this fence to what one does when they write a book. When you start building a fence, you need to know things like the distance the fence will run, the grade so that you can determine if you are going to run a level fence, one that follows the grade, or one that steps as the grade falls from the high point. In a book you need to know approximately how many words it is going to be, if the story is going to run in a nice slow arc, or are there going to be rises and drops to keep the reader on their respective toes, and just where your story is going.

Then you build a materials list so that you can approximate both the cost, and time involved for the fence, and then start assembling the materials as you monies allow. At this stage in your story you are assembling your actors, their locations, and what is it that they are trying to succeed in or overcome. You are looking at the atmosphere of the world your people are living in, and why the situation has become as it is. You begin to live in that world and see it through your protagonist’s eyes. You are now beginning to lay that materials list for your created world.

Once everything is gathered, now is the time that you begin to do the physical labor and build that fence. And if your fence is one that will run  level, then that first row of block that you put in is critical. It must run level not only for each individual block, but also from block to block. It takes 2 to 3 times as long to set this first row than the rest that sit atop this row. But if it isn’t done right, your fence could fail later. Now if this doesn’t apply to writing, or probably just about anything that one does in their life then somewhere I have missed something. Now you have laid the groundwork for your story, and now you begin the actual writing. Because of the strength of your research, and understanding of the world you are creating and the strong foundation, and with the world firmly locked in, you can feel confident about it.

Once the base is in, with the poles set, and the concrete hardened, then the rest of the fence can be hung creating a beautiful final product that one can be proud of, knowing that it should last a lifetime. And then when one finishes the story, what follows is the editing and polishing to get the story exactly as it needs to be, and one that the writer hopes that many will enjoy over time. And that is why this one is on fences.

Published in: on August 13, 2011 at 9:50 am  Leave a Comment  

A Legacy

In a sense this week it is about the writers, authors, who has been the ones that I have read consistently over my life. When one looks over the list one sad fact becomes apparent almost immediately, and that lies in the fact that either they have passed away, or because of age are no longer writing. So we can no longer look forward to another wonderful story, or series, or the finishing novel to a series and that can leave us with a loss of the richness and fullness of their worlds. Yet with their loss they have left us with a legacy as they through their worlds have inspired a whole new generation of writers who then could continue the world building, the story telling, and the entertaining that is so important in our lives.

When I was a child my favorite authors were: Walter Farley, with his Stallion series of books, Jack London, I especially loved While Fang, Albert Terhune, and his books on Collies, and finally Jim Kjelgaard who wrote the Irish Setter series, and my favorite Wild Trek. Of course there were others but these I consistently came back to. Then as I became older, heading towards my teen years I expanded into Westerns, and Science Fiction, and later Fantasy. Luke Short, Max Brand, And Louis L’Amour come immediately to my mind. I read everything they had in print, and to be truthful I still reread Louis L’Amour over and over again. Of course these are authors who mostly wrote Westerns.

Finally I shifted almost exclusively into the Sci-fi genre, with fantasy thrown in now and then. So now my list of favorite authors become much longer. Marion Zimmer Bradley, Andre Norton, Anne McCaffrey Arthur C Clark, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Robert Silverberg, and James White. Of this list most have left us and so only what is out there is available, and even some of what they wrote is out of print. So I salute all of these many writers, and authors who I really never met personally but had always felt that we could have been friends. Yet I know from personal experience that writing is a solo event. One that can be lonely, and does many times require solitude, and so many writers are introverts. Introverts that are quite happy to remain anonymous if allowed. But it is the nature of the profession that when one does become successful that you can no longer remain as you were, but must now allow your fans access to who you are. So in the end you lose some while you gain some. After all it all is compromise in one form or another and to become successful you give up your solitude. Yet the stories demand to be told so that a new generation can be inspired to continue to tell stories as these authors have done for me.

Published in: on August 6, 2011 at 10:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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