Productive Creativity and Creative Productivity

It’s been two years since my last post. Two entire years of an ongoing search for balance. Any and all versions of balance.

In this search, as with everything else, I fail more often than succeed. But failure is, of itself, productive.

Except, the word “productive” is problematic, isn’t it? What, exactly, constitutes productivity? If the results of my labors are largely invisible, even intangible, have I truly been productive?

“What Heisenberg discovered was that the limit to our ability to observe the universe determines the boundaries of reality. Physical reality and observability are tied together. If you and I cannot observe it, it does not exist… or is it perhaps, if it exists, it is because you and I observe it?” Evan Harris Walker in The Physics of Consciousness: The Quantum Mind and the Meaning of Life (1)

Maybe some adage applies, based on the laws of thermodynamics. Maybe I create and destroy in equal measures, so the sum of my productivity is zero. A cancellation of balances. Any and all versions of balance.

Or maybe words matter less than I imagine, and imagination matters more, when shaped into words.

“…nature is a chaos of forms and colors and shapes and forces, and the various ways in which that chaos has been untangled and made legible should never be taken as nature’s truth but rather as nature’s possibility within a human imaginary.” Rachel Poliquin in The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing (2)

Independent of my blog activity, independent of words and definitions, the yard’s wheel bugs flourish and die and flourish and die with seasonal regularity.

(Catalogued in the family of assassin bugs, wheel bugs are considered beneficial predators. They possess a long “beak” for stabbing their prey, as seen in some of these photos. The same beak can be used defensively, and people who have been stabbed by wheel bugs report the bite to be “immediately and intensely painful”.)

The first generation I followed, in the summer of 2017, never knew life without my looming camera-presence. I found their egg clusters in the winter of 2016 and photographed them through their own egg-laying.

But I largely abandoned my camera the next year, so the next generation escaped my looming camera-presence. Can I prove that they flourished, without photos? That they were overtly and conspicuously productive? Populating the live oak and pear tree, the wax myrtles and pollinator beds. Always hunting and molting, destroying and creating.

Always, in my imagination, a chitin metaphor to be used in a future poem or blog post.

When I began planning this post, my long-awaited wheel bug post, I discovered what I should have expected all along. The yard’s current wheel bugs, unaccustomed to a looming camera-presence, are difficult to photograph.

These last photos, all taken yesterday, are the result of two weeks’ searching and stalking and standing quietly under the live oak. Two weeks for a set of blog photos.

Two weeks of productive creativity. Because I did other things, during those two weeks, but I approached each task with a bit more creativity than usual.

And now, a blog post! At last!

A brief moment of imperfect balance, two years in the making. Word-shaped and shared.

Quotation sources:

(1) Walker, Evan Harris. The Physics of Consciousness: The Quantum Mind and the Meaning of Life. Basic Books. 2000. p 54.

(2) Poliquin, Rachel. The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing. Pennsylvania University Press. 2012. p 9.

Recommended reading:

Here are three of my favorite recently-read books. Have you read them? What did you think?

Poetry: Painting Czeslawa Kwoka, Honoring Children of the Holocaust by Theresa Senato Edwards and Lori Schreiner

Fiction: This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

Non-fiction: Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

Hampton Roads Writers, 5th Annual Writers’ Conference

Dragonfly July 7

I have not been writing.

I think about writing all the time. I plan outlines and schedules, every week, then discard them in favor of errands and yard work. I compose poem fragments in my head as I fold laundry, then move on to my next task without pausing to write them down.

For most of the last two years, I have been a writer who does not write.

Dragonfly July 7

I can’t claim writer’s block, because the words are there. In fact, I’m somewhat surprised by the words’ persistence. I’ve been ignoring them for a very, very long time, and they continue to clamor for attention. It’s like being under siege.

Dragonfly July 7

Over this past month, the words began to win. I looked at the HRW conference website two or three times. I read through the schedule. I printed the registration form.

I decided to submit a short story and poem to the free contests and spent a few days revising my entries. Then I decided to submit the first ten pages of my stalled work-in-progress for the optional critique and spent a few more days revising. Before I knew it, I had fallen into a routine. I was writing again. Every day.

Dragonfly July 7

My registration packet is in the mail, and I’m still writing. Every day. I don’t know if my renewed focus will last, because I went through a similar surge last year after returning home from the conference. But, for now, the words have won. I am a writer who writes.

Dragonfly July 8

Treasures from Home, Part Two (The Red Chairs)


These chairs belonged to my grandmother, and they dominate my memories of visiting her house. The red chairs seemed stern, like Grandmother (we weren’t allowed to call her anything less formal than “Grandmother”). Sitting on them reminded me that I was expected to be still and quiet during our visits.

Despite the chairs’ lack of comfort, I admired them. They were, for me, irresistibly exotic. Ornate to the point of absurdity, designed for beauty instead of utility. Only now, when it’s too late for curiosity, does it occur to me that the chairs were different from the rest of Grandmother’s furniture, which was all very sturdy and practical. So why did she keep them? What did she see, when she looked at the chairs?

I never asked Grandmother about the chairs, just as I never asked about the years she spent as a single working mother. I never asked how she managed to raise a daughter, alone, during World War II and the decade that followed. How she managed to raise a daughter, alone, while working full-time.

Time hasn’t softened the chairs, which are so uncomfortable that even the cats refuse to sit on them, but it has softened my memories of Grandmother. She wasn’t a kind, cozy grandmother, but neither was she as stiff and disapproving as I imagined. Her truth, like the chairs’ truth, is an unsolvable mystery.

But now the chairs have come to me and I have the opportunity to create a new truth for them. I keep them in our living room, one on each side of the room. As I sit between them, they remind me to be still and quiet, to listen more carefully, and to understand that some stories are told in silences, rather than words.



Like most of my enduring interests, this one started with a book.

The Dragon's Handbook

I don’t remember exactly when The Dragon’s Handbook came to me, though I have vague memories of tugging on Mother’s purse in a used book store, begging for “this one.” Because of its odd shape, the book never fit comfortably on a shelf with my other books. So I propped it against my mirror and treated it more like a piece of art than a book, making it an integral part of my room’s decor.

While The Dragon’s Handbook held some of my favorite illustrations, my favorite stories featured horses and dogs. The Black Stallion series, 101 Dalmations, and Lad: a Dog. King of the Wind, Lassie Come Home, and Where the Red Fern Grows.

Then I found The White Dragon on a library shelf. Its cover featured a much fiercer dragon than Barbara Rinkoff’s Culhane, and I was suddenly ready for fiercer stories. I read Anne McCaffrey’s entire Pern series, and, from then on, I devoured any book with a dragon in its pages.

Books 1

The horses crowded closer together and shared their shelves with dragons. Today, dragons lurk in every corner of my office.

Dragon 3

Dragon 2

Dragon 1

I suppose this might explain why my favorite flowers are snapdragons.

Snapdragon April 1

Snapdragon April 1

And why I take so many pictures of dragonflies.

New Dragonfly 4s

Halloween Pennant

It certainly explains why my first complete manuscript is a literary fantasy. There’s a dragon, of course, but there are also hounds and horses. Because I couldn’t resist combining my two loves: my younger preference for stories about animals (especially stories that made me cry) and my teenage quest for adventure and magic and peril…

Dragon Oct 24

Botanical Garden Oct 24

Hooded Mergansers

I saw my first-ever hooded mergansers in January of this year:

Mergansers Jan 15

Since then, I’ve seen them everywhere. At the Virginia Beach Fishing Center, prior to boarding a whale watching boat:

Merganser Feb 3

At Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge:

Merganser Feb 6

And, most recently, at First Landing State Park:

Merganser Feb 22

(In the photo above, the male seemed to be keeping watch while his mate foraged. She is partly visible in the background, captured mid-dive.)

Reviewing these photos, it’s hard to explain how I missed these lovely birds in the past. Is it possible that they were rarer in previous years? Has some imperceptible fluctuation in our weather pattern drawn them here in larger numbers than usual? Or are they like an unfamiliar word, more likely to be noticed in the days and weeks following their first recognition?