Warm and Cold and Warm Again

Weed Feb 27

The yard is warm and sunny today, sprinkled with blossoming weeds. A few weeks ago it was frozen and snowy.

Snow Feb 12

This year January and February saw days warm enough for house repairs (replacing wood damaged by carpenter bees), followed closely by days too cold for anything but reading and sleeping.

Damage 3

Bee

Ice January 18

Snow January 23

Some days were strangely confused, cold with bright sunshine or warm with dreary skies.

Vulture Feb 14

Seagull Jan 8

Bird Feb 20

Squirrel Feb 20

Sapsucker Jan 12

Robin Jan 20

Robin Jan 18

Our annual writers’ weekend at the beach brought a little bit of everything.

Beach Feb 1

Beach Feb 1

Beach Feb 4

Beach Feb 4

March will likely bring a little bit more of everything, but hopefully it won’t get fountain-freezing cold again.

Town Center Feb 11

Hopefully.

Sleep, eat, read… blog

Yard December 30

When I didn’t put together a blog post in late October, I resolved to make up for it in November. After November passed without a post, I planned something for December. And when January loomed with the blog still silent, I finally admitted that I had been neglecting more than the blog. I wasn’t procrastinating. I was depressed. Again.

Yard December 30

My inertia started with procrastination, but, as the days grew shorter and shorter, depression took over. In retrospect, I knew this all along. I tried to ignore the symptoms, but in mid-October I had quit doing most of the things I enjoy. The blog was just my most public absence.

Flowers Nov 9

By November, the yard and I were weather-worn and brittle.

Flowers Nov 9

Flowers Nov 9

Off and on in November I picked up my camera, took a few photos, and thought vaguely of how I would describe them in a blog post. Each time I decided to pay bills or clean out the closet instead. (More often than not, I then decided to put off the bills and the closet, too.) So this photo of spider eggs never posted:

Eggs November 24

Nor this exquisite moth:

Moth Sept 17

I woke briefly in mid-November, when the Yellow-rumped Warblers arrived, but soon drifted back into my sleep-eat-read-sleep routine.

Warbler Nov 16

Squirrel Nov 9

Rabbit Nov 9

As December counted down, I told myself lies about how busy I was with holiday preparations.

Ornaments Dec 26 2015

I told others these lies, too, because they were easier than admitting to everyone that the holidays made me feel sad and lonely. That, despite my love for festive decorations, much of my nostalgia is tinged with grief.

Ornaments Dec 26 2015

During my lost months, I watched flocks of birds gather and move on, feeling each time as if I had missed an important message.

Flock Nov 20

Birds Nov 9

Crow Nov 9

Then, one bright and unseasonably warm afternoon, a pair of vultures paused over the yard, basking in the sun. These beautiful, under-appreciated birds sent me scrambling for my camera, something I had not done in weeks.

Vulture Dec 10

Vulture Dec 10

Vulture Dec 10

And on Christmas Eve, despite dreary clouds and a threat of storms, I enjoyed an afternoon in the yard with my camera.

Starling Dec 24

This time I felt closer to getting the message.

Birds Dec 24

In the after-Christmas lull, I slept and ate and read and slept, but there was a spark of something different in the routine. A current of ambition to do more than sleep and eat and read. As I put away our decorations, I noticed a pot of pansies that I had never planted. And all the empty bird feeders.

Muscovy Jan 3

On the first Sunday of 2016, I took a walk with my old camera. As I photographed ducks and geese and seagulls, my internal dialogue became a patter of possible captions for the photos. That evening I edited the images with extra care, eager to post them. But I couldn’t decide how to post them. The blog had been silent for so long. Now that I was ready to post again, how should I explain my absence? Should I simply resume posting? Gloss over two months fogged by recurring depression?

Merganser Jan 3

If I tried to explain, would I be able to describe depression without being depressing? (I don’t believe I’ve succeeded, but I decided to post this anyway. Too many people avoid talking about depression for too many reasons, which makes it that much lonelier.)

Heron Jan 3

I’ve lived with depression (and its frequent companion–anxiety) for a very long time. Longer than I’ll usually admit. Compared to past experience, this bout was mild and short-lived. Now I’m making changes that should help speed my recovery. Over the weekend I stocked the kitchen with healthier food, started exercising, and spent more time outside with my camera. These are, I’ve learned, my best defenses.

Seagull Jan 3

So as January progresses, along with a more mindful schedule of sleeping and eating and reading, I’ll be walking and writing and blogging. (And renewing my efforts to learn meditation. More on this later.)

Mallard Jan 3

And as the days get longer and longer, I’ll start looking forward to spring. Because spring will come. It always does.

Mallard Jan 3

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.