Writing

Happy Equinox!

Here in the northern hemisphere, it’s officially the first day of fall. Mother Nature is feeling the love, as our temperatures “plunged” into the low 70’s overnight, and even now are barely above 80°F. I simply cannot tell you how blissful this feels after months and months and endless months (in a pandemic no less) of temps in the mid to upper 90’s with 100% humidity! The windows are open and I’m finally enjoying fresh air while I sit before the computer, preparing to get in my words for the day.

I also just harvested 2 Seminole pumpkins from my garden, and a handful of sweet potatoes that I managed to tickle free from the rest of the growing vines. Yes, I’m definitely feeling the autumn vibe, even if pumpkin spiced anything isn’t on my list.

Dasher, too, is loving the cool. He raced around like a manic little thing last evening after our walk, obviously ecstatic at the cool evening that didn’t sap his energy, until he finally–unwillingly–stilled, his eyelids too heavy to stay open another sweet minute. Of course, his toy was right beside him, safe in case he woke and needed another bout of play. 🙂

With the onset of cool, I’m much more willing to start the next big garden job: ripping out the grass weeds (okay, yeah, let’s be honest, right?) along the south side and replacing it with a drought-resistant and pollinator friendly garden. Spousal unit and I will be doing the work, taking it on in three small sections. I can’t wait until it’s done and looking amazing!

My writing has been coming along. This summer saw two short flash stories published in quick succession, and right now, quite possibly the favorite thing I’ve written is in a slush queue, awaiting its chance to wow an editor. The novel edit is proceeding slower than I’d like, but I’m making progress nonetheless, and I’m very pleased with how this draft is turning out so far. It’s–dare I say it?–actually starting to read like a novel!

And with that, I hear my characters calling me, telling me they’re impatient for me to get back and finish what they’re doing already! One character, in particular–a secondary one close to the protagonist–she’s got a quick temper, and I’m starting to feel that impatience of hers directed right at me. How dare I write stuff here, when I could be writing about her?!? (Don’t anyone tell her the novel isn’t actually about her, okay?)

Happy Equinox, happy autumn (or spring, if you’re in the southern hemisphere), and stay safe out there!

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, the dog

Definitely Spring!

Yes, I know the calendar told us that the first day of spring has just passed, but I’ve been seeing so much spring around here lately, and it’s awesome, so I’m gonna share!

The plum tree is covered in gumball-sized fruits of dull, celery green, and the new blueberry bushes are awash with clusters of greenish fruit, as well. The earliest loquats are now ripe, with more changing from greenish-yellow to golden orange every day. In the veggie garden, while the recent cooler weather has not been to my sulking tomatoes’ liking, the carrots and onions are thriving!

We’ve spotted our first hummingbirds, out at the purple-flowering sage in the front, and within an hour I had both hummingbird feeders out (I haven’t spotted any takers, yet, despite the chill temps early in the mornings). And Cedar Waxwings are swarming the holly tree outside my dining room window (and every berry-holding tree in the neighborhood honestly), swallowing down every ripe berry they can coax off the branches, fueling their trips further northwards.

And finally, how about the bigger wildlife?

Let’s start with Dasher. He adores sleeping in the sunbeams, as you know. I move soft bed out into the lanai and he takes a toy (or four) out with him, a security blanket to hold in his mouth as he dozes contentedly. Here’s his toy-of-choice yesterday:

Yes, he chose to wrestle that gator into submission, and looked quite comfortable holding it helpless in his so-powerful jaws! (snort, snert!)

And then, my sister (visiting from Ohio) and I went out to Payne’s Prairie to check out the scene. There was the owl, visible high in the live oak near the entrance, and even a fluffy chic, just as big as the parent but still incapable of flight, near the very top, basking in a sunbeam! (too high up; my pics turned out terrible–use your imagination???)

We proceeded to the boardwalk, where we were met with this:

Click to em-biggen any of these photos!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s right–a momma gator and her brood. At first, it looked like only 3, then 5. Then we managed to count 7, then 12–and then we saw more underneath the boardwalk, and some on the other side… In short, I have no idea how many baby gators were there. But momma knew. A wading bird came near and she moved, threatening it until it flew off, looking for a cheaper meal. And we heard the babies give their little beeping cries now and again. While I’d been hoping to see some gators, I never expected this! And never this close!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were other treasures too–an anhinga, sunbathing so close we could almost touch it. And loads of snakes of various stripes: garter snakes, water moccasins, brown water snakes. Rails and moorhens and egrets and herons and red-winged mockingbirds and…yeah, we went back to stare some more at the baby gators. They were the stars of the day.

Looking out at Payne’s Prairie from a small rise.

Not headless, but looking below it into the water! See the orange beak near the top of the tail, to the left?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Spring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

goals, Magic of the Everyday, Writing

Spring Changes

This week, the sandhill cranes have been gathering into great flocks that swirl up the late morning thermals into the higher altitudes, their melancholy voices calling and overlapping into a overwhelming, bittersweet chorus as they begin their long journeys northwards. Yesterday morning, the far end of the alley, where the trees are thickest, was overrun with robins. Hundreds of them, chirping and calling and catching every bug they could find before they, too, flew off in loose groups of tens and twenties for their northern mating grounds.

My windows are open all night, and local strawberries are in at the farmers’ market. On the afternoon dog walk, we seek out the shady path instead of the sunny one. And the plum tree has burst into fluffy white bloom, promising another bumper crop come summer. Even the wee new blueberry bushes are in blossom!

Plum tree in blossom

It’s official, then. Spring is here. The groundhog was right. Despite the snow and ice still plaguing the north, the birds are flying spring up to you.

Spring is a season of change. Of renewal and rebirth. And in that light, I have some news of a wonderful change in my life: I have been accepted as an Active Member of SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America! This has been a goal of mine for a very long time, and I’m thrilled to be able to join this organization, and to nominate and vote on the Nebula Awards!

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Writing

Finally, It’s Fall

This morning I woke to a thick blanket of fog rolling up from the low spaces. It hung heavy over the earth, dampening sound as well as grasses and shrubs. As the sun rose, it shrouded the sky higher up, making distant trees indistinct and grainy, and obscured the yellow ball of the sun until just recently. Even the crows respected the fog, remaining quieter, longer.

A sure sign of transitional weather, this is the first fog I’ve seen this season. It means cooler weather to come, and a quick check of the weather proves this to be true. I’m ready for fall–real fall, that sticks around instead of fleeing at the first sign of Summer’s pushback, letting temps climb back into the upper 80s and above. I’m ready for long sleeves, and long pants, and maybe a roast or stew for dinner. Change: it’s good, and it’s time.

I’ve been writing on the novel, but my written words aren’t as prolific as they were at my residency. This makes me feel like I’m slacking, or shirking, while in reality, it’s just life slowly gobbling away my time and attention. I’m trying not to let it get me down, but (like with so much in this world, and this life), it’s hard.

To counter the sense of getting nowhere fast, I’ve re-started a daily word count spreadsheet that some of the people I went to Taos Toolbox with use. We keep it on a Google Docs spreadsheet, available to all of us, so there is a small public accountability built in. And I’ve got to admit, seeing the “smaller” daily word count building up is helping me see that I am making real progress after all.

I’m also taking one day a week to work on editing short stories that I’ve written which have been languishing, unsubmitted, unedited–sometimes only half-written–in favor of the novel. This, too, feels good. The “instant gratification” of a short story, or a short story submission, is a shot of endorphins straight to the brain. “Look, see–I am a writer! I do have submissions out!” Brains, they’re such silly, manipulatable things, amiright?

Things to look forward to:

  • I’m approaching the mid-point of the novel! Things really pick up pace after that.
  • Thanksgiving! (and Thanksgiving leftovers!) Yum.
  • Hearing the return of the sandhill cranes as they wing overhead.
  • Watching Dasher get frisky, and run and play longer in the newly cool weather.
  • Anniversary travel in early December. Even though our wedding was in September, our big trip is planned for December. You’ll see why, once I post some photos. 🙂

Well, the crows have ceased their calling, so it’s time for me to start the writing day. Enjoy fall, in whatever form it takes for you (or spring, if you’re in the southern hemisphere!). Linger in the moment, make it a good memory. Something you can see and feel and smell again, over and over, when you need it. Yes, there’s definitely magic in that.

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life, Travel

2018 Brings Me the Flu

Ugh. Yes, I caught this terrible flu. I’ve been battling it for nearly 2 weeks, and am feeling better, but still not 100%. This is why I’ve been so quiet for so long here–I’ve been busy sleeping, and drinking water and Emergen-C and echinacea tea, and sleeping. I’ve done a lot of sleeping.

Captive manatee snoot.

Just before the flu, however, my sister came to visit (fortunately, she did not catch the flu; only I was so lucky!). Since the weather was cool, the manatees had congregated thickly in the rivers around the springs, where the water spouts up from underground at a lovely 72°F (22°C) year-round. Sister-dear wanted to see manatees, so we went in search of manatees. Ironically, Manatee Springs Park did not have manatees; by the time we arrived, they’d already headed back to the ocean, as the unseasonably cold temperatures had begun warming up. We did find some at Fanning Springs, though, and later, we got really great views of some injured/rehab manatees at Homosassa Springs. 

 

We also visited our old favorite, Payne’s Prairie State Park. It’s been flooded since Hurricane Irma dumped so much water here last fall, so only the boardwalk and a narrow band of land before the boardwalk is open. Fortunately, that still left us with plenty to see.

Mama and her young foal wading for breakfast. Baby really didn’t like the cold water on his legs.

 

 

 

 

Joining the stallion

 

 

 

Why the trail is closed at this point…gators basking at the end of the boardwalk.

My sister is fascinated by armadillos. They were out in force at Payne’s Prairie, and completely unbothered by our presence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then we went to the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo, where, despite cold weather, many animals were more than willing to greet us.

 

Caracal in her pen.

Lemur, blessedly quiet, basking in the sun.

Peacocks wandered the grounds, looking otherworldly with their shocking colors.

Riches of gold, emerald, and lapis.

Magic of the Everyday, Nature

Happy Height of Summer!

If you’re anything like me, you don’t always register the seasons according to what the calendar says, but rather listen instead to some “interior logic” of your own. So, in my mind, the 4th of July holiday marks the height of summer–and by the same measure, the long slow slide into the dog days, and then into fall.

But we won’t go there yet. Especially now that I’m in north Florida, the cooler weather of autumn is a lo-o-ong way off yet. We’re firmly mired in the sweat and heat and sticky humidity of high summer.

Just now, the first plums from my tree are ripening. (First and last will be pretty close–my whole crop this year, thanks to that late double-whammy frost, will be 6 fruit. Yes, just six–assuming the birds and squirrels don’t steal any.) The tomatoes have given up under the crippling heat and humidity, and the potted fig tree struggles to get enough water to hold onto its ripening fruit, despite my attempts to water it twice a day. Sleeves are not something I want on my clothing in any form after 9 am. Even the dog, a dedicated sun-worshiper, gives up around 10 a.m., and lays panting inside on the relatively cool tile floors. I wipe up puddles of drool, just wishing I could automatically redirect them to the poor, gasping fig tree.

Into all this yuck, spousal unit and I joined up with friends and went out into the Gulf flats around Steinhatchee for scalloping. They’d gone last year, but this was my first time. I was excited to try scalloping and found it was oddly fun and totally relaxing.

Two small, flat-bottomed boats with captains headed out to the shallow scalloping grounds. The season is short enough–just six weeks–so reserving a spot early is always recommended. We were early, but there were already a few boats there. By the time we left, the area was teeming with small craft, and heads and snorkel tubes thickly dotted the flat waters.

Once at our destination, the shore a barely visible line floating a bit above the horizon line due to humidity, we donned snorkel gear and were handed a net bag. I popped overboard into the grassy waters, through which I glimpsed sand and the occasional small fish, and found myself in chest-high water.

The object was to swim along, eyes trained downwards, and look for the scallops moving up higher to feed. The small bivalves shoot water out to “swim” to new locations, and they filter water through ferny, gill-like fronds of bluish-white or orangish-tan. Sometimes the sunlight filtering down would reflect off their blue-black “eyes,” which somehow (they don’t really have eyes, or even brains, so how they manage this is pretty astounding!) sensed creatures coming near and caused the scallop to snap shut and maybe try to shoot away. A few lively ones would chatter even in your hand, snapping their clamshells repeatedly (they were shooting water, trying to dart away).

Floating in the salt water, I spotted blobby, rubbery-looking growths of new coral; gray hued-spider crabs busily eating with their tiny mouths, their outsized legs splayed out around their bodies; small starfish galore, both flat, star-shaped ones and others wrapped tight around thick grasses; various fishes; a horseshoe crab hiding beneath a mound of coral; a quite large hermit crab occupying a lovely conch shell; and so much more.

Despite the snorkel mask and mouthpiece, water still sneaked into the system now and again, lingering in the airtube and rasping ominously with each inhalation and exhalation. Husband said it creeped him out, sounding like looming death in his ear. I found it oddly appropriate, to my mind turning me into the Darth Vader of the Scallops, one by one bringing them  to the Death Star of the boat. He confirmed that I’m weird, and that writing is obviously my calling, which only endeared me to him more. Thus is life good.

And fresh-caught scallops are tasty!

So, a Happy High Summer to you all! May you always be the Seeker, not the Sought.

Magic of the Everyday, Nature

Summer Solstice 2017

This year is continuing to fly in a whirlwind of activity that I only notice as certain dates approach, then disappear. Like tomorrow, the summer solstice here in the northern hemisphere.

Really? The longest daylight hours, already? How is this even possible?

And yet, it is. We’ve been having plenty of rain lately, and not as much pure sunshine, but even so it’s easy to tell the skies are bright far later into the evenings. The four plums that were pollinated after our very late frost are red, but not quite ripe. The four-o’clocks are a blooming mass that continues to spread. The pineapple is growing visibly every day! And my garden has some interesting visitors:

I got to see this caterpillar start weaving the chrysalis around itself!

This caterpillar is now a chrysalis!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The caterpillars (there are a few tiny ones left) and cocoon on the dill plants (which I bought for them to save my parsley; it’s working!) are Eastern Black Swallowtails. The caterpillars devouring the passionflower are Zebra Swallowtails, Florida’s state butterfly. There are also two nearby cocoons for the zebra swallowtails which I can’t photograph well. I hope to see some unfurling of new wings as the butterflies emerge.

Happy beginnings of summer to one and all!

Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life

April Update

I’ve been missing again–sorry. Life has taken a rather “full to the brim” tack, keeping me jumping.

First there’s been an injury to my knee–no surgery, thankfully, but it still hurts, and limits my motions and actions. I’m not good with this. 😦  Unfortunately, I’m learning.

A rare moment of peace in the sunshine, as Karla waits to steal the bone from Dasher.

Then we did a 2.5 week dog-sit stint. Karla is a pup, bouncy and active and big and strong; basically, all the things Dasher is not. They get along fine, mostly, but Karla sometimes forgets that Dasher’s “no” really means “no,” not “pester me until I give in.” And Dasher sometimes needed reminding that he really does need to share the toys, not need to possess whatever Karla wanted (and vice versa!). We also don’t have a fenced yard, and the dogs wouldn’t walk well together, so it was double dog-walking with a sore knee. Let me tell you, two weeks of this wore me out!

On top of this, the day Karla went home, I discovered termites! Not in the house, fortunately, but far too close by! They swarmed out of the raised garden’s vertical posts, blossoming up and out like endless dandelion seeds, their wings glinting white in the morning sunlight. Kinda pretty, actually, in the way a nuclear mushroom cloud from afar can be pretty. Formosan termites are destructive invaders, and I’ll be happy to see them gone!

Anyway, it’s not all doom and gloom. Strawberries have been ripening in my garden, and the hummingbirds are back. The feeder is filled, and I’ve already seen them hovering there, sipping their fill. Also, my hibiscus are blooming once more, including the expensive true tropical I bought last year. It really suffered through winter, and I wasn’t sure it would make it, which made me very blue. But it’s popped back vigorously as recent temps have soared, and put out its first bloom. To top off the good news, yesterday it poured, raining for hours. We needed that rain so badly! Yay.

On the writing front, I’ve managed to keep writing most through all of this, but ran into a snag with the ending of the final Jessamin book. I needed a bit more oomph–action–going on. It was an easy thing to sketch out once I realized it, but it took me two days of struggling to write to realize what the problem was! I only needed to backtrack two scenes, restructuring them a bit to fit the new layout. It’s going well, and is sooo much more satisfying already.

On that note, I need a bit more “action” myself–on to writing fiction! Happy April, everyone, and if you’ve been having the terrible winter, Happy Spring, as well.