Writing for fun

kookaburragreenweb

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.

 

Reducing the stress of “too many things”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, that there are so many calls on our time. It can be stressful to section up the moments into fifteen minute chunks in order to move a whole lot of projects forward one more step, yet that is what is left to us between meetings, at work. It even extends to coffee breaks and those mythical things called lunch time. Increasingly, there is a list, or dare I say a backlog, of tasks that need attention ‘when I get a free minute’. What to do about that? I have a new strategy – think about it as ‘all one thing’.

It is a bit of a mental shift, a bit of jiggery pokery, but instead of breaking everything apart, I’ve been grouping things together. A notion of ‘all one thing’ means I can put it all aside. All of it. The stress seems to come from the volume of stuff, not from the individual tasks. Previously, when I’d sit down to make some use of a bit of unexpected time, the whole list would loom in my head, all clamoring for attention.

“Me!” “No, me!” the voices would shout. “Pick me!” “Move over, it’s my turn.” The litany went on and on.

I am learning to tune the lens to smaller buckets. Work. Not work. Goals for the Day. Non Goals. It makes it much easier to decide which of the many drawers to open, and in which context. My focus is just on the thing in front of me. Yes, I sometimes need to switch to another topic, but again, it is just one thing. All a matter of perspective shifting. Useful nonetheless.

 

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

 

Organizing the images

I am using the camera in my iPhone even more than I used the point-and-shoot digital I used to carry around with me, in part because the phone is always with me. However, there’s a step I’ve been failing to take along the way that used to be part of the process. Once in a while, there would be a whole evening where the card would get taken out, uploaded and made fresh and new again. With the amount of storage on the phone, the periodic image review doesn’t happen so often. And thus, it becomes more of a big deal to cull through the images.

Have been spending time this month going over the remodeling work from two years ago. Finding some image gems along the way, and am also rediscovering just how much work got done.

  • Created a new carport
  • Designed and built a pergoda over the hot tub
  • Remodeled two and a half bathrooms
  • Installed a mini apartment. Wait. That one is worth a whole post.
  • Ripped out old carpet, refloored the downstairs
  • Kitchen remodel and exhaust hood over stove
  • New updated LED lighting throughout the house
  • New entry doors (2)
  • Major landscaping

And last summer we created a patio and courtyard. Our entire house has been refreshed in one way or another.

Once I’ve finished sorting the images, I’ll post some here. Must admit to feeling a great deal of satisfaction with the increasing sense of order and beauty we’ve added to our world.

Strong Mystery: A new book by Raven Bond

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StrongMysteryWEB

Too much fun. For the past month I’ve been editing, formatting and proofing Raven’s omnibus edition Strong Mystery. The goal was to get it done in time for him to read from it at Gearcon, a Steampunk convention in Portland. He’s a guest author there. I wanted him to have physical copies to sell at the bookshop, along with his other series novel, Wind Dancer.

I’ve been coming home from work, having dinner and then sitting down again with InDesign. Later, once I’d printed it out, there seemed to be a couple weeks of redlining (marking the print out with a red pen) and fixing before it was ready to send to print. Happily, the copies arrived this week.

This week I’ve been transferring all the corrections to the Word files so I can publish to kindle. Just a few pages left and it will likely be up…

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Refreshing summer salads I: pineapple and peppermint

Over the Salt

Pineapple and peppermint salad

Pineapple and peppermint salad by Ria Pineapple and peppermint salad by Ria

This refreshing salad is a delicious sweet treat for the summer and accompanies most vegetarian or fish dishes well.

  • Core a fresh pineapple and cut into small chunks / wedges
  • Pick some mint from the garden (about a cup) and chop it roughly
  • Combine in a glass bowl
  • Refrigerate for an hour before serving

Thanks to my sister for the recipe. Especially for the suggestion of using chocolate mint on occasion rather than peppermint. Nom.

Variations

  • Try adding a quarter cup of finely chopped red onion for a bit of bite
  • Love ginger? This one is great with a little fresh rasped ginger root (not too much, just a taste)

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Reaching for abundance

I was inspired, and encouraged by this TED talk about impending abundance in the world. For a long time, I’ve spent some time each day searching for good news, for scientific discoveries, and medical breakthroughs, or for those things that are triumphs of the human spirit. In this video, there is much to encourage us about the abundance that is within our reach. One of the threads that runs through this talk is about the wealth of energy that is available to be harnessed, if only we bring the right kind of bucket to the party (me paraphrasing). I’ve also been reading Robert A. Heinlein lately; in his fiction, from the 1960s and 1970s, he postulates a world where energy and clean power is made available; he also throws light on how this upsets established interests. It seems to me that one of the biggest challenges is one not of shortage, but of accessibility and distribution. And that’s just engineering. Very encouraging.


http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_diamandis_abundance_is_our_future.html?

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved

New year musings

New Year’s eve has always shared space with my dad; he was born at quarter to midnight, on the last day of 1933. Some time during the day, we’d celebrate his birthday, and as he did not drink, we would not raise a glass to him; instead we’d talk about books and ideas. He has a notion that it’s important to “not let people get in your head”, and to him that meant governments, teachers, and even parents. However, to a certain extent he had an exclusion category, and that was storytellers. He would happily allow a book to transport him to another time, another world, and into another characters head. He just didn’t want anyone in his own head.

He’s passed on now, and left this world in 2007. I’ve had the notion for the past few years that he was wandering in books, and whispering stories on the wind himself. He was going to write a book about the Silk Road, and never got around to it. I wonder if it may be a story that I need to write for him some time, if I can find that inner storyteller, and do the tale justice. It feels like something it might be time to start this year, even if I only write it for myself.

The story and the characters seem familiar, from many conversations we had over the years, and he shared so much love of learning and travel that I feel the part of him that lives on in me will carry him with me when I visit places he visited from his armchair and imagination.

Wherever you are dad, I was thinking of you on your birthday.

Copyright 2012 R Loader all rights reserved