Ideas and What To Do With Them

Tomato Juice in a glas, decorated with tomato ...

Tomato Juice in a glass, decorated with tomato slice and sprig (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is my weekly column–now you will know what I was busy doing on Saturday. There is some local lore here–Richard Scarsbrook is from Toronto now; the Workshop was held in my hometown of Kingsville;  Coopers Hawk is a Winery just a few miles away; the Mettawas is a local restaurant in our refurbished train station, and Merli’s is a quaint eatery just down the street from the library:

            A gathering of like-minded people met last Saturday to form a community for a day. A community we all recognized—creative people assembled to learn something new, to gain inspiration, and to add to our body of knowledge. We attended a Short Story Writing Workshop led by a local boy “made good” author Richard Scarsbrook, originally from Olinda. He opened the workshop with these words: “I want you to walk away with two things today: ideas, and what to do with them.”

            Before the workshop I wrote a few articles about it for the paper, and described Richard as dynamic—but only because I had gleaned the information second-hand. On Saturday I experienced the truth of the word dynamic: energetic, active, lively, vibrant, and full of life. All those words described our leader for the day, who took his cue from us in how he structured the workshop. He had a handout that he used for part of the day, but abandoned it somewhat in the afternoon after hearing what we wanted to concentrate on.

            The venue was provided by the Essex County Library Board. We used the activity room in the beautiful Kingsville Library as our “classroom”. Organized by volunteers for “Wine, Writers and Words”—it was in this volunteer’s eyes an unmitigated success. Personally I loved every minute of it—from the workshop itself to the lunch at the Mettawas Restaurant, a wine tasting put on by the affable and knowledgeable owner of Coopers Hawk Vineyard, Tom O’ Brien to an open mike session followed by the fellowship at Merli’s just down the street. It was a full day of my favourite things: writing, reading, eating, conversation, and a little wine.

            Admittedly, I have been writing this column for years so I must try and come  up with new ideas on a weekly basis—but a workshop of this sort really helps the creative juices run afresh. One of the exercises Richard provided us with was the prompts provided by  six words that he said were guaranteed to get us writing. And right he was. Apparently the words he chose are psychologically proven to get our minds in gear and our fingers working. I was surprised how each of the words brought up strong memories. The first word was childhood, which evoked in me a memory that has obviously been lurking in the background for a long time. The subject is kind of quirky, the memory not life changing, yet there it was. I will give you a taste of what the word evoked during the workshop:

            “The whole family was invited. Grandparents. Aunts and uncles. Cousins. And of course mom and dad and my brothers and sister. Even Tippy, our dog, was excited.

            We had set up the dining room table in the living room. It was joined by sundry and other tables to make it long enough to seat twenty-two people.

            I was in charge of setting the table, a job I enjoyed even as a kid. Lining up the silverware just so. Placing the glasses between the tip of the knife and corner of the plate. And since we were having company we used our tiny glasses placed in the middle of the plate to hold tomato juice. That was always the sign that we were having either a special meal or holiday dinner—we had tomato juice to start the meal.”

            That was as far as I got as the exercise was timed and we had to stop writing—but Richard said that the whole idea behind the prompt was to give us something to start and a place to go with it. So here is the rest of the story—be forewarned, it is a little….well, I will let you be the judge of it:

            “After setting the table, I found a glass of what I thought was tomato juice poured into a lovely container. To this day I do not know why I did what I did next—but I took a drink from it. It was not tomato juice at all! It was my mom’s homemade chili sauce. And she was none too pleased that I took a sip from it. Many times during my life I have asked myself “what was I thinking?” and I believe this was the first time I had this thought. How could I not have recognized that the lumpy chili sauce was not juice? I was mortified by my mistake and skulked away to my room. I think I remember this so well because I was deeply embarrassed about my stupid mistake—and it ruined the special meal for me.” I understand that this is no piece of writing genius but it is a vivid memory drawn from the word “childhood”.

            The workshop happened through the hard work of Nancy Belgue, Tara Hewitt, Brian Sweet, Joan Cope, Arleen Sinasac and to some extent me. A lot of thought and rethought, planning and replanning went into the day, and speaking for myself (and hopefully the other participants) “a good time was had by all.”

Sunday Night Thoughts of Blessings

Know your blessings, cherish them and sow more...

Know your blessings, cherish them and sow more blessings. (Photo credit: symphony of love)

Kathy from Lake Superior Spirit has made a vow I wish to emulate. She says in her post today: “Once a week in October, November and December I will share Blessings, both received and given.  To consciously acknowledge some of the ordinary and extra-ordinary gifts of each day.  To focus on the many blessings which arise like the sun over our multi-colored ever-changing earth.”

In her post she says that what we concentrate on tends to come our way and that by concentrating on our blessings we will receive more. Well, Kathy, I am in. I will join you in your vow and dedicate a day a week in the next three months to my blessings too.

I do find recounting my blessing difficult though, because if you think about it, we are the recipients of so many blessings, recognized and unrecognized that it is difficult to know where to start. The bad stuff comes to the surface much too easily, and I think that the cream of the crop—the good stuff should rise to the top.

I shall keep my eye on Kathy’s posts to find out what she considers to be the blessings in her life—and I will try to be thoughtful about my own.

Will you join Kathy and me—if not in a post, at least in your heart?

Published in: on September 30, 2013 at 12:10 am  Comments (34)  

Which side are you on?

Anticipation (Carly Simon album)

Anticipation (Carly Simon album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michelle’s prompt: When you’re giddy with excitement, does time speed up? Slow down? Tell us about the experience of anticipation.

Carly Simon’s response:

Anticipation, anticipation
Is making me late
Is keeping me waiting

I agree with her totally. Anticipation: hope + expectation.

There is a good side and bad side to anticipation. Which side are you on?

Published in: on September 27, 2013 at 5:59 pm  Comments (35)  
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I have decided to answer the call…………

Live & Learn

This short film features “life” shots in Iceland, Japan, California and France.  It’s wrapped in Bon Iver’s Holocene, which takes it up a notch.

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Published in: on September 26, 2013 at 12:41 pm  Comments (2)  

Harbinger of Change

My weekly newspaper column:


Autumn (Photo credit: blmiers2)


  “Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.” ~ William Cullen Bryant

 Autumn. Fall. A new season is upon us. It is a magical time of year and envelopes the end of summer with two seemingly opposed celebrations: Thanksgiving and Halloween. But I am getting ahead of myself here—there will be time for both of these festivities—juxtaposed as they are in the coming month.

            We still have a few days left of September where two seasons meet—one fades away as another takes the reigns. The changing of seasons reminds us of the passage of time. I try not to wish away time anymore which I suppose comes from knowing I have fewer years ahead of me than behind. There is certain wisdom in this, but also a determination that the best is yet to come. Not because wonderful things have not happened in the past, but that is the past, it is the present that should be paid attention to, paving a way toward a future, uncertain though it may be.

            I have been patient to this point, not bringing out too much of my fall décor until it was officially fall, but now all bets are off. Never mind that I have had my fall wreath on the front door for several weeks, or have changed up some of the candles to fall plums and pumpkin, or have an ornamental pumpkin sitting on my coffee table. And yes, just last week I gathered a few pinecones from beneath a tree at the park and have them nestled in a wooden box. Unbridled,  I will bring out my collection of pumpkins, my silk autumn leaves (okay they are not silk but suffice to say they are not plastic), and the rest of the flotsam and jetsam of autumn I keep boxed up waiting for this glorious time of year. {I often reflect how now I use the words glorious and lovely and other words of gush that at one time I would not have gone near with a ten foot pole—dare I say that entering the early (early—did I stress early?) fall of my life I am less reserved, more liable to effusiveness? }



Fall PEEC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 I find that I am not the only one enamoured with the fall. In a way, I find others loving my favourite season a bit intrusive, making it no longer mine. But over the years I have learned to share, and in that sharing learned to appreciate it even more. I remember as a student, walking along the sidewalk to school, shuffling along in the leaves that had fallen; and looking around to see that no one was watching, then kicking them up, creating a mini-furor of colour. There is nothing better than walking through fallen leaves in the fall, the sound of the crisp crush under footfall.

            I will share a few quotes I found that speak to me of autumn, that share my fervour for the season that precedes winter. Perhaps my favourite is this one from nature loving author and journalist, Hal Borland: “Autumn is the eternal corrective. It is ripeness and colour and a time of maturity; but it is also breadth, and depth, and distance.”       

            Writer George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) declared, “Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.” Lavish in her ardour for fall, I can quote the dear lady freely and feel that I will never attain her ebullience (in other words using “lovely” and “glorious” will still in no way put me in the same poetically lyrical class as this great writer).

            Rebel philosopher, Albert Camus said that “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is in flower.” And Samuel Butler declared something in the same vein saying, “Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruit.” Elizabeth Lawrence is a lady after my own heart—she believes that “Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.” I can only imagine the patience this would take if one took her advice literally.

            I hope you have enjoyed our autumn journey, and if you were not a fan before—perhaps I have persuaded you at least a little to join me in the celebration of this new loveliest and glorious of seasons. (yes, my tongue is wedged firmly in cheek here).


English: Fall foliage in Southern California

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First day of autumn

At 4:44 today

Fall magic begins

Published in: on September 22, 2013 at 12:54 pm  Comments (34)  
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Harvest Moon Haiku X 2

English: harvest moon

English: harvest moon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I search the night sky

But the shy harvest moon hides

Behind a cloud veil.


I will search later

For the exuberant moon

Free from wisps of cloud.

Published in: on September 20, 2013 at 12:18 am  Comments (20)  
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Changing the World: One Door at a Time

Elgin Street in downtown Ottawa, looking north...

Elgin Street in downtown Ottawa, looking northwards towards the Parliament Buildings from Queen Street (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My niece Krista Kreling tweeted this today. She is a kind, loving, and intelligent girl. I thought I would share this with all of you. If you do not know, there was a terrible accident in Ottawa yesterday between a train and a bus and at last count six people lost their lives.

“Saw this quote in a tweet today and it has really resonated with me. Beautiful words on the heels of a very sad day in Ottawa. “I believe in kindness. I believe that when you hold a door open for someone, you change them – just a little bit.” June Callwood

Published in: on September 19, 2013 at 2:15 pm  Comments (12)  
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Later in the day….a slower thought

English: Lascaux Caves - Prehistoric Paintings...

English: Lascaux Caves – Prehistoric Paintings. . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Turned down the corner of the page for this quote so it is not so random, but it is also from Thinking About Memoir by Abigail Thomas. I find it to be truer than true–and that truth comes to light especially when you share a memory with someone who was at the same event and find out, quite by surprise, that you remember the same thing differently:

“Memory seems to be an independent creature inspired by event, not faithful to it. Maybe memory is what the mind does with its free time, decorating itself. Maybe it’s like cave paintings. The thing is, I’m old enough now to know that the past is every bit as unpredictable as the future, and the memory, mine anyway, is not a faithful record of anything, and truth is not an absolute.”

Do you find that your memory decorates itself and is not necessarily true to the event?

Published in: on September 18, 2013 at 8:25 pm  Comments (12)  
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A quick thought……………

Cover of "Thinking About Memoir (AARP)"

Cover of Thinking About Memoir (AARP)

I opened one of my favourite books, and chose a passage at random. It is from Abigail Thomas’ “Thinking About Memoir”, and if you have not read this little book yet–treat yourself. Here is the passage:

“Living is said to be an art, and like any art it must be practiced with diligence (to paraphrase Dr. Johnson) before it can be done with ease. There is nothing we do in our everyday lives that could not be done with greater understanding.

Very few learned this while still young. Most of us spent the first half or more of our lives trying to provide for our families and ourselves. It’s only in the later, latter half that the questions come: What must I do, how shall I live, what difference will my life have meant when I have come to its end?”

I am in that latter half and I am asking those questions. A life examined is a life revealed and learned from. I do not want to repeat my mistakes. I want to make new ones.

How about you?

Published in: on September 18, 2013 at 1:52 pm  Comments (25)  
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