Writing for fun

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Kookaburra by Ria Loader 2016

My latest joy is writing a set of children’s stories set in an imaginary place in the Australian Bush. The characters are Australian animals, the situations are ones that friends anywhere might encounter, and everyone gets along. It’s comforting to write for the child in all of us. My first story will come out in a few weeks. It is the story of The Big Race.

The stories are meant to be read out loud. Along the way, I’ve picked up pen and ink and watercolor again. It has been as much of a creative renaissance as a storytelling exercise. At the beginning of the year, I said I wanted to be able to tell better stories. This has taken me to a much more fun place than anything else I’ve done in years.

I get to play with color and character, with finding the right images to illustrate my characters. It is very much my hope that people will enjoy the stories and the world.

Telling children’s stories

 

The best defense is a good offense . . . in this case, that means telling stories. In my particular case, those stories turn out to be cute animal stories about a mythical place where a very diverse population of animals meet and get along. Children’s stories. It wasn’t part of the plan, but this story telling genre has a lot going for it. How is this a good defense? It’s more like an antidote to the lack of civil discourse in the world. If there is no place where people get along, then why not create one?

The stories are short at between 750 and 1000 words, occasionally a little longer. That means a single story might take a day to write. In the past month, my response to the unfortunate tone of the discourse in the news has been to write more stories, and read less news. It has also meant picking up pen and ink and doing a lot of drawing, something I haven’t done in years. The whole endeavor is a lot of fun.

Am working on turning the first story into an illustrated children’s book (see the image above – KoalaDreaming – it is one of the illustrations for the first book).

At a mythical place in the Australian Bush, a group of animal friends get together for adventures and fun. The first adventure is a Big Race. The critters get together to race along the flats; there is Kookaburra and Kangaroo, Koala and Flying Fox, Wallaby and Emu. What fun they have.

 

Creating a meditation circle

makingCircleThis is work in progress in the lower garden today. The plan is to put in a celtic knot walking path, that is an endless knot that can be walked for contemplation purposes. Not unlike a labyrinth, the pattern will be a peaceful destination and walking meditation oasis. The first step is digging out and leveling the twelve foot circle from the right spot in the yard.

We’ll move on to putting down weed cloth, surrounding it with basalt stones, and then the center pattern will be marked out with sand, stones and decorative rocks. I am planning to add solar powered rope lights to delineate the path for quiet nighttime walking. Can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

 

Making a garden transformation

2016-05-01 17.21.39There were several steps to our recent garden transformation.

  1. Create a mood board in pinterest for inspiration
  2. Share with our landscape person to get help with clean up and structure
  3. Add focal elements and features to match our taste
  4. Get plants, pots and trellises
  5. Acquire some additional garden sculpture
  6. Replace old chairs on our deck

Admittedly, we had some landscaping help with the beginning of the task. Weeds were cleared, weed barrier put in place, gravel and river rock added, and a rock or two were migrated from various parts of our property. All things that appeared beyond either our energy, or our collective ability to lift.

When we bought the house eleven years ago, there were many plants already in place. Some of those were to our taste, though others were not. We struggled with a rhododendron just inside the gate that failed to be lovely. Whatever wee beastie that was eating it made it look like it had mange. The fern next to the farm-style water spigot managed to hide it, but had gotten a little unwieldy, and grass seeds had propagated. A pile of gravel left over from another project had half migrated to the area, along with bulbs left by the squirrels. In its favor, the sweep of the path down to the lovely magnolia, provided a good structural element. However, none of that was helped by the state of disarray. Enter the landscaper.

Sadly, while good work was done in cleaning up and preparing the space, we failed to connect on the design having some variation of scale and a focal point. We wanted a suggestion of a river bed on the downward slope between the path and the fence, curving down to our fabulous tree. We did get some of that, however, all the scale was knee height or below. The space was crying out for some focus, some greenery, and some love. This brought us to this weekend.

2016-05-01 17.23.42 HDRDuring the week, I ordered a couple of garden sculptures online. A couple of metal cranes, some temple pagodas and a nice little cairn of rocks. We put those to one side and started moving around existing materials like pots of grasses, bamboo poles, a peaceful statue and some bricks and rocks. Turned out we really could move that stuff ourselves. One of the pots was too large, but round. When turned on its side, it rolled nicely. That let us get it into place without doing ourselves a mischief. It moved in front of an electrical outlet standing in the middle of the yard (it needed hidden). We placed some more pots to frame the statue, scattered a wandering path of black river rocks and headed for the craft store for inspiration.

2016-05-01 17.22.44 HDRBags of tumbled blue and clear glass followed the meandering path of black rocks, pooled in a couple of places and burbled down the hillside, catching the light as if it was water. Now we had our suggestion of a creek bed. It didn’t need to be exact.

That left us with an area on the other side of the courtyard that was now empty. We 2016-05-01 17.21.24cleaned up, sweeping up leaves and detritus. Making use of a couple concrete pavers, plus a couple of rocks, we built up a tumble of stones in the middle of that area. A peacock statue that was living in the entry foyer of the house migrated outside to sit upon the rocks. After a trip to the garden store, a maidenhair fern and a lacey green plant joined the peacock. A blue fescue moved alongside, together with a couple strands of solar powered lights.

We are looking forward to a lovely summer in our restful courtyard.

2016-05-01 17.20.55 HDR

 

Jolly rumble

This is a favorite song for the season. May Day is upon us and while others may think about labor unions, for me it is a time to think on summer. Long lazy days on the deck with a cool drink, the company of good friends, my sweetheart beside me. Love the version of the song I posted below too.

…Hal-an-Tow, jolly rumbelow
We were up long before the day-o
To welcome in the summertime
To welcome in the May-o
For summer is coming in
And winter’s gone away…

thQFOLLFQY

Tomorrow is the first of May and we will be, indeed, awake long before the day to welcome in the summer. We will turn off the lights and the electronics and light the house with candles.

Last year at this time, the cherry blossoms in the back yard were faintly visible as the sky was backlit with the city lights below the cloud cover. Raven and I sat and held hands as we talked about our days. Conversation wandered gently from observation of the sky to expressing our love and gratitude for each other, enjoying the light of the candles, and being on the cusp of summer. Good times.

I am looking forward to celebrating again this year, though I think french toast with maple syrup and nutmeg eggs would be a good starter. Later on tomorrow  we will picnic in the park and watch some children weave a May pole with brightly colored ribbons. May Day for us is a day to be frivolous, mischievous and to share silliness with friends. It is part of the seasonal wheel that is the cusp of spring/summer.

(Quote above is from the song Hal An Tow.)

Made with love

Making things with my hands is a simple kind of magic, the kind of magic that is all about love. I especially like crocheting as it moves along so quickly, and is something you can do while visiting with friends and family; it is something I’ve been doing since I was about eight years old.

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Tiny blankets for little people – Photo by Ria

We would gather on a weekend around a pot of tea. The adults would sometimes drink beer in the late afternoon. Someone would bustle around in the kitchen, making snacks like scones, cookies or even toast fingers with butter and jam to go along with the tea. Just two families with the parents, the kids (three from each family), grandparents, and often an uncle or aunt extra who dropped by for a visit.

The hand work would come out when we were settled. Almost everyone worked on something. One uncle would focus on some leather repair, sharpening knives from the kitchen with a whetstone and oil, or mending socks. Someone would be knitting. Nan had her tatting, and a few of us learned to crochet, embroider, and make projects with beads. My mother was almost always working on a dressmaking project, taking up a hem or measuring for a new garment; my cousin Gail would be practicing dance with swords, with her father playing music to accompany her. Weekends were for visiting and projects; to this day, I feel most productive when I am making things.

I still get the most pleasure from planning and making things for people I know. There’s something a bit old-fashioned about a hand-made object, especially one that is not easily found in a store anywhere. One of a kind things feel special, especially as they represent time, creativity and attention to all the tiny details.

This last weekend, I made little afghans for tiny people. I guess you could call them crocheted baby blankets too, made from brightly-colored soft yarn, and around two feet square, or thereabouts. Making them reminds me of the gifts from fairy godmothers in stories, made with luck and love in mind; the good fairytale godmothers, that is, and the luck all good. I like variegated yarn for this. The colors progress through a sequence, making a self-pattern without needing a join. The colors are bright and harmonious. The size is just right for a baby stroller, and light enough that a small child can snuggle up with it when they grow older for a nap or to watch tv. I tend towards acrylics for practical reasons. You can throw them into the washer and dryer over and over with no harm to the piece.

I like to present them like rolled up flowers, tied up with string. They make a fun package to give to friends who are expecting or have had a new child. Reds, blues, greens, purples and spicy orange and pink. Rainbow colors to delight a child’s eyes.

Top 10 for relationships

A chum posted a cute image about relationship advice on facebook. It made me think about what my top 10 pieces of advice would be. This is the first thing I came up with.

Learn to say “I’m really sorry” and mean it. Especially when you are right.

Then I started thinking about it some more, based on relationships and friendships that go back more than 20 years.

My top 10 pieces of advice for a good relationship?

  1. Display affection
  2. Give appreciation
  3. Listen, not just hear
  4. Budget the luxuries first
  5. Make and eat food together
  6. Love who they are becoming
  7. Be silly together
  8. Snuggle | cuddle
  9. Be curious about their dreams
  10. Spend time together | time apart

Moment by moment

One of the things 2013 taught me was to live moment by moment, day by day. Early in the year, my beloved of 23 years had heart failure. Each day, we would say “one more day”, but not in a grim way. We would look for something fun, comforting, playful, or funny to focus on. Sometimes, that was cuddling on the couch, or playing with the kitties. One of our lads is just out of kitten days, at 1.5 years old. He likes to play fetch, just like a puppy. He brings me a toy, waiting for me to throw it in the air for him to try to catch. When he catches it, he bats it around for a bit, and brings it right back, jumping up to place it in my hand, or next to me on the couch. This provides us with quite a lot of fun, and can go on for half an hour or so. It always brings a smile, and some lighthearted fun.

We had ups and downs throughout the year, along with moments of success, and those of frustration. However, love kept us going. Even when the doctors got challenging, and one even needed to be fired, we kept coming back to that set point of living for the moment, enjoying simple things like good meals, companionship, and the stars found in each others’ eyes.

Growing the love

poppies in a fieldIn the English-speaking world, we grow up with stories about true love, magical love, divine and destined love. We read about friendships that last a lifetime, and we are introduced to the idea of looking for redemption or completion through our relationships. Sometimes, we are even fortunate enough to see evidence of those relationships around us. We see examples of old couples who still appear to glow, whose faces light up when they see each other, who continue to be in love, in love forever.

Yet we see as many situations that do not play out as they do in storybooks, and we ask ourselves why? And perhaps we should be asking ourselves, why not? In a storybook, there is usually an obstacle or two to overcome, and this adds interest to the story, and makes it resonate with us. However, we seem to be a little lazy in the stories of our own lives. We expect perfection, right away. We walk away from anything that becomes uncomfortable, or challenging, and in doing so, we often walk away from the opportunity for love to grow.

A good friend of mine said something years ago that has played out to be true for me. “If you are willing to look deeply into someone, you cannot help but love them.” By this, he meant that willingness to love was the pre-requisite for love. I have come to believe we have within us the ability to cultivate love, and to also cultivate an expectation that we will see the good in people. That makes it much easier to both find love, and to keep it growing when we have found it, whether that is friendship or a deeper kind of experience.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved

Thankful Thursday

I cannot remember who suggested it first, back when our tribe connected on another social network, but the idea of Thankful Thursdays has stuck with me. The idea is that once a week, on a Thursday, we’d think about the things we’re grateful for in our lives. And then we’d post that for everyone to see. We didn’t do it every week, and it was likely once every month or so for each of us. It was a voluntary acknowledgement of what we were celebrating that week, something like this:

Thankful Thursday

The top 15 things I am grateful for this week

  1. being more in love with my spice/spouse every day
  2. friends who live around the world, and keep in touch by various means
  3. family who support each other, and who are demonstrative, affectionate, eccentric and opinionated
  4. that my sense of curiosity and wonder appears to be intact
  5. our wonderful kitties, Tempus Fugit and Morpheus
  6. a terrific house, with interesting objects and art everywhere I look
  7. flexibility – having a body and brain that are bendy
  8. the thousands of books that share our home
  9. my tribes, communities, extended family and kin
  10. having a great job where I can play with different ideas every week
  11. always having a plan b –  being prepared
  12. embracing happiness and writing about it
  13. making art, making love
  14. abandoning certainty
  15. knowing I am loved and cherished

Try your own list. Make it some random number of things like 3, 5, 7, 10 or some number that is personally meaningful. Go on. You know you want to.

 

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved