Taking Flight, Again

baby_pheobes

Last year, Phoebe, our winged resident, built her nest in one of two Arroyo Craftsman lights framing the front door. Each year, I marvel at why she chooses the busiest location to tend to her nest, as she has a hissy fit — tail flicking, stressed alarm calls — each time the screen door opens and closes. Despite the coming and going disturbances, she keeps showing up each year to tend to her latest brood.

Peering around the corner from my summer office, the screened-in porch, I watched the building take shape. My front door, with its lopsided entrance, one light adorned with twigs and branches, the other naked, winked daringly to keep my distance.

It reminded me not to leave behind my work utensils on the commute from kitchen to porch.

Computer, check…glasses, check…phone and headphones, check…cloth napkin, check (have been known to spill while groping for the teacup in a computer trance)…

With loving care, Phoebe folded the natural bedding round and round until the little nest fit her perfectly. Then she sat, shimmying from side to side, watchful eyes aimed at the porch. One day, her peeping took on a fevered pitch and she was done sitting — hatched — five tiny, translucent bodies with open wide beaks peeking over the top of the nest.

Then came a soaking rainstorm. In the early morning hours, the summer sky opened to a deluge of windswept water. When the riot subsided, I tiptoed out to the porch, arms full of work paraphernalia, focused on not slipping on the slick deck. Stepping into the safety of the porch, I noticed the silence. No mother/child chorus. No movement above the light. Dead quiet.

Right about this time, my writing ebbed.

For months, writing had flowed out of me like nobody’s business. Notes filled notebooks and pages piled up. Then an insightful editor told me to put the breaks on the floodwaters and get cranking on publishing.

In the meantime, I continued along my work trail. Work thrived. Writing limped.

Even blog posts that used to spring out of nowhere, where nowhere in sight.

Waiting.

A few weeks ago, right on schedule, Phoebe came back and laid her eggs — one, two, three. All fluff and beaks, these minis flourished.

One morning, the birds stood up, peered around their nest, and like a toddler about to throw one chubby leg over a crib gate — they were ready. Thinking the birds would jump ship, I went around back to enter the porch. But they held tight.

The next day I was leaving for the BlogHer conference – 3 insanely hectic days in NYC. I dreamt about gardens and flight. The stark contrast of my lush home in the woods to the rush of city lights and throngs of people, couldn’t be harsher. But I enjoy the freedom of travel and look forward to the change of scene; always thankful I have a refuge, this haven, to return to. My nest.

Returning, I walked out to the porch this morning and the peeping started, reaching an all-time high. Then, in a blink of any eye, the babies flew over to the power line that connects us to the rest of the world. There they sat, tails flicking like mom’s. Once safely ensconced in my writing porch, I watched them fly into the woods, one by one.

Settling down to work, I click on my computer and instead of opening my Inbox, I stare at a blank white page. Maybe I could write something today? How do I know?

‘Cause just like that a post took flight.


Photo note: I tried hard not to disturb Pheobe and her babies. I didn’t dare take photos. This photo of sleeping newborns is from Shutterstock.

The Sun Sets, The Mood Changes

mirror_house

Often places and objects that transform, reveal a visible pace of change. This shack, called the Lucid Stead, is an installation created by Phillip K. Smith III on a 70-year-old wooden residence in the California High Desert. It wears its heart cleverly on its sleeve, as you can see right through it. While quietly changing its mood as the sun rises and sets, it settles into its surroundings.

It endures. It thrives. It fascinates.

This reminds me of another house I’ve written about, the Mondrian House. I revisited it last month on a brisk morning, pausing to watch it live, breathe and shake off the difficult winter. The house cautiously takes in the ocean air, while gazing out over this Aquinnah landscape:

aquinnah_landscape

The homes we take for granted rise and fall as we do. Taking with them bits and pieces of the past, present and future with variable degrees of wear and tear.

As the sun sets and the mood changes, a big birthday rises this week. There are no clear aging guidelines, only ones derived from instinct. It’s not really the age I feel. I could remodel, but that doesn’t seem authentic to me.

silver_ponytail

I’m summoned towards nostalgia for the freedom of the good old days, while looking out over the changing landscape and seeing things as if viewing them for first time, with fascination.

Photos: Mirror House: Steven King Photography, Landscape: Ronnie Citron, Water image: Gabrielisak Photography

The Poetry of Ikebana

ikebana

I watched this short video about Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement, three times.

Years ago, when I was a teacher, I met a poet, Skip, who insisted children read poems three times to unlock the meaning. He asked them to experience a poem these three ways:

– Read it silently.
– Read it aloud, focusing on the sound of the poem — listening for rhyme and rhythm.
– Read the poem aloud, again, as if it is a blooming flower.

Ikebana is more than the creative expression of putting flowers in a container. It’s a disciplined Japanese art form that brings nature and humanity together. Steeped in the philosophy that being close to nature provides relaxation, the living branches, leaves, grasses, moss and seedpods produce natural shapes and graceful lines.

“In Japan, flower arrangements are used as decorations on a level with paintings and other art objects … The remarkably high development of floral art in Japan can be attributed to the Japanese love of nature. People in all countries appreciate natural beauty, but in Japan, the appreciation amounts almost to a religion.” ~ Ikebana International

Like poetry, watching this video three times made it bloom for me.

Spring is a tender time. There’s a youthful vibe in the changes and order of nature as life pops. What’s blooming for you?

Photo: Shutterstock

Desert Light

nm_sunrise3

“My first memory is of light — the brightness of light — light all around.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe

It struck me the minute I stepped off the plane. That light! After spending hours in airless airports, I thought I landed in a foreign country. At first glance, the Albuquerque landscape seemed barren, thirsty dry and dramatically not green, like my east coast home, that had finally begun to recover from the depths of winter.

Georgia O'Keefe

Georgia O’Keefe

Unlike Georgia O’Keefe who came to the desert of New Mexico on a vacation and felt an immediate affinity, I landed in the desert for a conference. Inspired by O’Keefe’s enthusiasm for brightly colored paintings of the earth, sky and mountains, before dawn each day of my NM trip, I grabbed the down jacket I hoped to retire for a few days, and stepped out onto the balcony to watch the sunrise over jagged mountains. It was easy to imagine O’Keefe’s desert abstractions as the day crept in. The sunrise was dramatic, but nuanced, as it revealed colors in contrast to the dusty groundcover. Moments before sunrise, coyotes, dogs and rustling creatures I could only hope were elusive roadrunners, sounded a wake-up call in unison.

Santa Ana Pueblo

Santa Ana Pueblo

I knew it would be dry, but was it supposed to be bone-dry?

As drought bakes California, we tend to forget climate change is also ravaging other areas of the west. Changes in New Mexico’s climate are taking a toll.

“In this parched state, the question is no longer how much worse it can get but whether it will ever get better — and, ominously, whether collapsing ecosystems can recover even if it does. The statistics are sobering: All of New Mexico is officially in a drought, and three-quarters of it is categorized as severe or exceptional.” ~ LA Times 

After the last conference session, I decided to see what was beyond the Santa Ana Pueblo. I wanted to catch a glimpse of a roadrunner and was told by a conference attendee who lived in the area, the highly adaptive bird can survive on very little water. But it’s been unusually dry, even for NM, even for roadrunners, which is why they have been spotted along the path leading to the Rio Grande River behind the pueblo.

Rio Grande River

Rio Grande River

adobe_shadow_smI hiked the path down to the river slowly because the heaviness of the high altitude was beginning to take hold. Dry heat is deceptive. While I didn’t spy a roadrunner, I did stop to catch my breath and marvel at the Rio Grande in all its muddy spring glory.

Unlike other places I visit for work, New Mexico is a wistful dream I can’t seem to get out of my head…and I don’t really want to.

Photos: Ronnie Citron
Painting: Georgia O’Keefe Museum

Come Write With Me In Vermont!

barns

Just close your eyes and imagine the writing possibilities of riding out a snowstorm snuggled in a 1809 farmhouse next to a crackling fire, while peering out upon acres and acres of powdery landscape. Nestled in the quiet hollows of the Green Mountains, with the demands and distractions of life falling away, I enjoyed an incredible writing opportunity — a few days at an intimate writer’s retreat in Vermont.

It was pure writing heaven. I even went snowshoeing each day when I needed a brain boost. With the ‘ol heart pumping goodness to my muscles, I rediscovered how my writing gets a mega-boost from outdoor exercise.

While I was readying my book for the next phase of its publishing path — to meet and greet publishers, I met the writer-in-residence of Where Words Count, Marie White Small. We became instant friends. And when she read an excerpt from her soon to be published novel, Stony Kill, I was captivated by her literary voice and compelling subject — a family experiencing a child’s senseless death due to irresponsible gun owners. Marie is also a writer’s workshop leader — and she invited me to teach a blogging workshop at the retreat!

wwc_retreat_smWhether you want to create a “blog-to-be” and need to demystify blogging, or already have a blooming blog and want to juice up your writing, I would love you to join me!

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the food. Chef Aaron cooks up a gastronomic feast. Each meal served was inventive and indulgent, using locally-sourced ingredients to the max. Think New England comfort food with a gourmet twist. Even cocktail hour was a scrumptious event.

Here are all the particulars for the So You Want To Blog? workshop. And please let me know if you have any questions.

See you in Vermont?

Photos: Ronnie Citron