Summer’s Last Swallowtails

In the final weeks of September, one of the butterflies emerged with damaged wings. She couldn’t fly, so I kept her in the caterpillar habitat and gave her fresh clippings from the butterfly bush every day.

Swallowtail Sept 21

Sometimes I took her out of the enclosure and carried her around the yard, letting her sample marigolds and lantana and salvia.

Swallowtail Sept 27

When she died, a day or two before her two-week birthday, she had undeniably lived longer than she would have lived in the yard. But was it enough?

Swallowtail Sept 21

Was nectar enough, or did my butterfly regret her flightless wings and unfertilized eggs?

What does a butterfly, or a caterpillar, need from life?

Caterpillar Sept 28

Do they yearn for sunshine and plentiful food? Do they crave happiness? Do they grieve?

Caterpillars August 27

There’s a poem hiding in these questions, but it’s so well hidden that I can’t find where it starts. Not today, anyway. Not with a rainy cold front outside and a miserable cough inside.

Caterpillar Sept 21

My last swallowtail caterpillar molted into a chrysalis yesterday. Now I have twenty-five chrysalises ready for winter.

Caterpillar Oct 15

It’s an interesting idea, sleeping through winter. What if I could simply set my alarm for “spring” and call my blankets a chrysalis? On days like today, cough and all, it seems like a good idea. But what about snow? And holidays? Would I be sad, in the spring, that I had missed them? Would you?

Chrysalis Oct 16

A Writing Conference and an Air Show

Last Thursday afternoon, a rumble of jet noise lured me away from preparations for the opening night of the 2015 Hampton Roads Writers Conference.

Air Show Sept 17

When I realized the jets over our yard were Blue Angels, I dropped my pens, notebooks, and folders and ran for my camera.

Air Show Sept 17

My fascination with jets, helicopters, and rockets traces back to childhood. My father worked for Sperry Rand, and later for United Space Boosters, Inc., so the space program loomed large in my life. We lived close enough to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (in Huntsville, Alabama) to make field trips with school and 4-H, and when my father relocated and remarried, his new position took him to Titusville, Florida. There, during a summer visit between 9th and 10th grade, I got tantalizing glimpses of Kennedy Space Center and the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Books, television, and movies fed my aerospace fascination as I finished high school and moved on to college. Somewhere along the way, I discovered the Blue Angels.

Thursday’s flights over our house were practice runs for the Blue Angels’ appearance at the 2015 NAS Oceana Air Show, which overlapped the writing conference on Saturday but not Sunday, so I didn’t have to choose between them.

Air Show Sept 17

As usual, I arrived at the conference full of energy, eager to spend a few days in the company of writers. By Saturday afternoon my energy was dwindling toward exhaustion, but it was a happy and inspired kind of exhaustion. Here’s a list of the sessions I attended:

  • Mastering Dialogue – Princess Perry
  • Friday Keynote Address – Ellen Meister
  • Bringing Your Book to Market: Overview of Self-Publishing – Dr. Chris Kennedy
  • Copyright and Wrong: The Basics of Intellectual Property – Melissa Edwards
  • How to Give a Great Reading – Ellen Meister
  • Psychic Distance: How Close Are Your Characters – Ellen Bryson
  • Saturday Keynote Address – DeWitt Henry
  • Hit the Ground Running: Storytelling through Action, not Exposition – Heather Flaherty
  • The Business of Poetry – Renee Olander
  • Marketing Your Work – Michelle Garren Flye
  • Breaking Down Backstory – Ellen Bryson
  • What Is Paranormal Romance and Why Is It Selling So Well? – Vanessa Barger

I can’t pick a favorite from these sessions. They were all brilliant. I came home with ideas for each of my various works-in-progress, and my contest entries were returned with very helpful comments from the judges. (My fiction entry won Honorable Mention!)

Award 2015

I slept late Sunday, of course, but woke to the sound of jet noise as the Air Show moved into its final day. I hurried through feeding the cats, who were outraged that I had slept past their breakfast time, while my husband gathered our gear. Then we were out the door and on our way.

Air Show 2015

Air Show 2015

It was a beautiful way to end a perfect weekend.

A Hummingbird and a Publication Note

Hummingbird June 11

The honeysuckle has been in full bloom much of the summer, but hummingbirds are rare so far. I’ve only seen one a handful of times, and each of those visits has been brief.

Hummingbird June 11

Last summer was our first hummingbird summer, so I don’t have a feel for “normal” hummingbird activity. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens as the summer wears on.

Hummingbird June 11

Publication Note:  My poem “Doppler Effect” posted at vox poetica on June 19. Many thanks to editor Annmarie Lockhart!

A Writing Conference, a Publication Note, and Summer

Iris May 7

I recently registered for the 2015 Hampton Roads Writers’ Conference. (September 17-19 in Virginia Beach) This conference is one of my favorite events each year, and I’m already counting the days.

In other writing news, my poem “The Tracking” was published on May 12 at vox poetica. A version of this poem won first place in the Barbara Dunn Hartin Memorial Poetry Prize contest at the 2014 Hampton Roads Writers Conference, and I’m delighted that editor Annmarie Lockhart accepted it for publication.

Dragonfly June 11

And in news only vaguely related to writing, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my camera. Despite summer’s growing heat and humidity, the yard is hard to resist this time of year. Everything is blooming, the baby rabbits are thriving, and birds are everywhere.

Hover Fly May 12

Rabbit June 12

Robin May 15

Thrush June 10

In mid-May a dove decided to nest in the front petunia basket. Now her two nestlings are ready to fledge.

Dove May 18

May 18

Dove June 11

June 11

The yard’s most curious visitor, lately, is a very bold squirrel that follows me around as I take photos. If I sit still for a while, he sidles closer and closer until he is within a few feet, pretending he is burying something nearby. His jaw quivers nervously as he mumbles and grinds his teeth, but he comes back time and time again. It makes me wonder if he was raised by a rehabilitator, if he somehow equates humans with food and safety, yet also with peril.

I’m trying not to encourage the squirrel’s behavior, but I can’t resist photographing him. He’s very handsome.

Squirrel June 11

If he hangs around much longer, I might write him into a poem.

Poetry Publication Note

My poem “The Calculus of Parting Lovers” posted at vox poetica on April 7. Many thanks to editor Annmarie Lockhart!

(And, because I can’t resist adding photos, here are two recent images from the yard….)

Dandelion April 10

Speedwell April 10