Thank you, Marilynne Robinson

Last weekend I spent time with my nephew who is also a writer. We talked books and the writing process. We also talked a bunch about Marilynne Robinson, and the next morning I woke with her on my mind. I grabbed my notebook from 2003 when I spent three weeks in Iowa City absorbing her genius, and reread the notes I took.

Today, one of MR’s fourteen-year-old pearls of wisdom helped me out:

You should be every character’s advocate. You are God to that character. Typically, in one way or another, people are trying to make the best case for themselves. People are whole creatures. Villains have history behind them.

Aunt Isabel is no longer a one-note character. Marilynne Robinson for the assist!

Solar Eclipse or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Shadows

Zippy got up at 2:45 this morning to drive north to Torrington, Wyoming, so he could experience the total solar eclipse. If I could’ve been teleported back home, rather than sitting in gridlocked traffic after witnessing the eclipse, I would’ve gone with him.

I chose to stay home. When I spoke with Zippy after he arrived in the little town of Torrington, I felt pangs of regret for missing out on what he was experiencing. Why didn’t I go with him? Why didn’t I have those special glasses?

But it was too late. Peak eclipse around here was at 11:47, so I busied myself building a pinhole projector. Then while I waited, I played around with a colander.

As the peak moment approached, I watched in my pinhole projector.

NASA-approved viewing apparatus

I was momentarily confused when the sun spot appeared to be getting larger rather than smaller. Was it possible I wasn’t clear on the whole eclipse concept??? Then I realized that my progressive eyeglass lenses were distorting the image and if I held the projector farther from my eye, I could see the diminishing sun. So then I t ried photographing that projector image.

As you can see, I was nowhere near aiming my camera phone at the correct angle. The lighting was really throwing me off and I couldn’t see what I was doing. But don’t get me wrong, I loved the eclipse lighting! Rather than being the usual mid-day harsh lighting, it was subdued and trippy. I had so much fun looking at my plants in the yard. It was like being on a pyschadelic trip.

 

My absolute favorite things to look at were the crescent-shaped shadows from the maple tree. 

My brother called me about 20 minutes before peak eclipse to verify I had special glasses. When I told him Zippy had taken our only pair, my brother urged me to jump in the car and drive to his house. I opted to stay put, and I’m so glad I did. While I couldn’t look directly at the sun to see what millions of people saw today, I thoroughly enjoyed my backyard eclipse experience. The sky was off-limits to me, so I focused on all the cool details down below.

Lighting isn’t always a bright idea

Zippy and I just took Emma for a walk around our neighborhood. As we walked, we noted the bright, outdoor lights shining on the marjority of houses we passed. It was a relief whenever we passed dark houses. A break for our eyes.

As annoying as those bright lights are for me, they can be life and death for birds during migration time. (And yes, I understand that lights on tall buildings are more problematic for birds than suburban lighting.)

Photo: NASA Earth Observatory

I still wish that all people, both urban and suburban, worried less about what might be lurking in the dark, and more about the well-being of our feathered friends. Excessive lighting is just that.

 

So much more to a book

This photo hangs on the wall at my brother’s house. Here he is with the smiling Wildebeest and Zebu, many years ago. I’m not sure any of them remember the exact moment the picture was taken, but love and happiness are written all over this image. It’s no coincidence that a book’s involved.

There’s so much more to a book than just the reading.
~  Maurice Sendak

Feeling a bit like this

I’m writing the final scenes of my middle-grade novel.
I know where the story goes and how it ends.
However, that doesn’t make the process  any less exhausting.

I’ve got lots of characters coming together,
and they’re all toting individual motivations and plot lines.
Choreographing these scenes feels a bit like juggling chainsaws and kittens.

The good news is that it’s only a first draft.
I need to remember that these scenes do not need to be perfect.

Every creature fast and small

Every creature is better alive than dead,
men and moose and pine trees,
and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.

~  Henry David Thoreau

Over the past weekend, we were in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. My two sons, Wildebeest and Zebu, got into a lively debate over running ability and were finally coerced by those sick of listening to that debate into running a short race. While their uncle got ready at the finish line with his camera to capture their final steps, their father (Zippy) lined them up at the starting line. But just before Zippy shot the proverbial starter’s pistol, he saw a tiny creature on the race course:

Horned Lizard aka Horny Toad

After moving the Horned Lizard to safety, the race commenced.

 

(NOTE: Wildebeest won by a slim margin, pulling a quad muscle in the process. The two agreed to switch “lanes” and run it again, and that time Zebu won by a whole bunch. I’m guessing the Horned Lizard is as happy as the rest of us that the two of them have, at least temporarily, moved beyond that whole running debate.)