All Good Things

snowI’ve started a Good Things Jar this year and thought I’d pass the idea on. The idea came from my friend Milka. When she mentioned it on her blog a few years ago, I thought it would be a lot of fun but didn’t get around to doing it. Now that so much in the news is focused on the negative, it seemed to be a good year to start.

The idea is that you designate an empty jar as the Good Things Jar. You put it out somewhere in the house. Then whenever a good thing happens, you write it on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, you sit down with family or friends and read through all the pieces of paper as a way of celebrating the past year.

It’ll be interesting to see if there will be good things in there that are forgotten by the end of the year. Who knows, maybe doing this will get anyone who tries it to get out there and do good things more often.

snowSo far one of the good things revolved around a snowstorm that happened in early January. After shoveling the driveway for a while, we somehow still had the energy to go cross-country skiing. The snow was perfectly slippery for gliding adventures around the park.

There hasn’t been snow here since then, but we’re expecting six to twelve inches tomorrow. Snow always means the possibility of more time for reading and writing. So I’m looking forward to more good things…

Are you doing a Good Things Jar this year or something like it? Do you have any suggestions for snowbound reading?

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Resolutions, Paperbacks, and a Thank You

sunsetThis year I’ll try to keep it simple. These are really more like guidelines to remember than resolutions (except maybe for the first one).

Write More – Mostly, I need to get back into the routine of writing after revising for years. I’ll try writing a scene a day. Even as I’m writing this I know I won’t do it. Maybe I should just try to write every day instead.

Read More – I might do a Goodreads challenge for this, but I’d also like to try branching out into reading more poetry and short stories. With that in mind, I’ll start the new year off with Christy Birmingham’s Versions of the Self, a book of poetry that’s been getting great reviews lately.

oceanWalk Along the Ocean – Sometimes I go for weeks or months without seeing the ocean, which is crazy because I live on a sandbar. Life and work too easily get in the way and so I’ll have to make sure to go to the ocean more often, even if it is freezing outside. Sometimes those are the best times to go there.

Give More – My favorite nonprofits are Oceana, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Ocean Conservancy. Oceana and the Environmental Defense Fund will triple any donations and the Ocean Conservancy will double donations made by the end of the year.

Love More – A few years ago, Britt Skrabanek pledged to love more as a new year’s mantra. I thought that was a great idea and have been trying to do that too. The world will always need more love. This means loving not only those closest to us in the new year, but everyone we come in contact with.

Laugh More – I usually add this to my list of resolutions but it’s an easy one to forget. Last year I did at least go to a laughing yoga class with my mom and it really worked. If you haven’t been to a laughing yoga class, it could be something crazy to try in the new year. I promise you’ll laugh more than usual and feel good afterwards.

Ocean Echoes paperback and a thank you

The Ocean Echoes paperback is finally out! Thank you so much to everyone who supported, encouraged, commiserated, and laughed with me through all the years of writing and revising.

Wishing everyone a New Year filled with love and laughter!

All the Light We Cannot See and the Power of Imagination

hedge rabbitCreativity lurks in unexpected places. Instead of trimming these bushes into the usual rectangle or oval, someone decided they’d look better as a caterpillar and a rabbit.

hedge caterpillarEncountering these animals on a quiet side street made me wonder why we don’t do this kind of thing all the time.

The wonderful thing about reading and writing is that both are chances to use our imagination.

In All the Light We Cannot See, Marie-Laure and her Uncle Etienne turn a couch into a flying machine  to escape France during World War II:

“They visit Scotland, New York City, Santiago. More than once, they put on winter coats and visit the moon… ‘Here, try some nice fresh moon flesh,’ he says, and into her mouth goes something that tastes a lot like cheese.”

My brother and I used to do that kind of thing all the time. We’d hop from the couch to the coffee table to a rocking chair because the living room rug would suddenly turn into an ocean or a lava pit.

Then we grew up and the rug was just a rug. We forgot that we could turn it into something much more fun and interesting.

In All the Light We Cannot See, when Werner and Jutta hear radio broadcasts like this, the world opens up for them:

“The brain is locked in total darkness, of course, children, says the voice. It floats in a clear liquid inside the skull, never in the light. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with color and movement. So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?…Open your eyes, concludes the man, and see what you can with them before they close forever.”

After hearing those words, their world is transformed:

“…and then a piano comes on, playing a lonely song that sounds to Werner like a golden boat traveling a dark river, a progression of harmonies that transfigures Zollverein: the houses turned to mist, the mines filled in, the smokestacks fallen, an ancient sea spilling through the streets, and the air streaming with possibility.”

Unless we’re constantly reading or writing, we’re probably not using our imagination enough in daily life. After reading All the Light We Cannot See, I’ll try to imagine more often. Maybe the next traffic jam will turn into a parade full of characters and clowns.

I’m enough of a dreamer to believe if we change our perception of the world, the world will change. I know that’s a silly thought but silly thoughts might be the best kind.

“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

What do you think the world would be like if we used our imagination more often?

Hiking through Words

Reading and writing are adventures of the mind. So it makes sense that they can easily be compared to hiking or mountain climbing. Each word is a step. There will be curves and cliffs, mountains and canyons.

Arizona hiking trail

Bell Rock hiking trail

You can stay on the path or wander off in a new direction. You might get lost. Just don’t look down.

Devils Bridge looking down

You can map it all out beforehand or let yourself be surprised. Remember to look back to see how far you’ve come.

Devils Bridge trail

Arizona hiking trail

No matter where you end up, you’re better off for taking those steps. Enjoy the view.

Devils Bridge trail

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharlal Nehru

“Adventure is not outside man; it is within.” – George Eliot 

The Beauty of Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

When I first heard of the most recent oil spill in Lake Michigan, my thoughts flashed back to the beauty that can be found there while hoping it won’t be destroyed.

Lake Michigan

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of gallons of crude oil discharged into Lake Michigan from an Indiana refinery last week. BP recently doubled its oil spill estimate to up to 1,638 gallons.

Lake Michigan

Every time something like this happens anywhere in the world, it feels like something has been lost. It’s not going to be the same. The environment has been altered again. And it’s our fault. And we keep doing it.

Lake Michigan

I visit my dad there often. The water along the Michigan side is crystal clear. I can see the sand at the bottom even when I’m out over my head. My dad worked on Lake Michigan freighters that hauled cars between cities in the early 1960s. He remembers when they would siphon water right from the lakes and use it as drinking water. It didn’t need to be purified.

Lake Michigan

Seven million people in and around Chicago still use Lake Michigan for drinking water. Although some parts of it look clean, I doubt if anyone would risk drinking right from the lake these days. But it wasn’t that long ago when people could do just that. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could turn everything around and go back to the days of a cleaner, healthier environment? If we could, would we take it for granted all over again?

Lake Michigan

Melting Into Words

melting leaf

Frozen gray skies melt into blue. Signs of life appear: a singing stream, babbling birds, ducks visiting the birdfeeder.

visiting ducks

ducks in the woods

Ducks don’t usually visit a house in the woods. But somehow, these ducks sniffed out the birdseed from their lakeside home. Now the springtime sound of chirping combines with quacks, reminding me how funny life can be.

frozen pond

As the snow glaciers retreat, we smell the Earth again. It smells like life. We inhale it. Slices of green delight poke through the ground, waiting to bloom. Cranberry bogs that served as skating rinks over the winter are thawing out.

cranberry bog

I’ve been revising and tinkering with the novel through the winter, but it still seemed frozen into place while I knew it needed more. Lately though, whatever was frozen has been melting into words. Whether our words drip or flood in, it’s progress. Every word, every revision, brings us closer to a finished book. It takes time but that’s true for anything worth doing. If your words were frozen over the winter, I hope they’re melting.

stream

“Spring drew on…and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.” – Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

“As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.” – John Muir

Happy Spring! Have you ever had a pet duck? Does the weather affect your creativity?

Loving Life and Visiting Friends

flowerThere are so many things to love about life that it can be overwhelming when we stop to think about it.

When Britt Skrabanek asked me to be a life enthusiast, my mind whirled with all the possibilities. Britt is one of those easy to love people and her Life Enthusiast series reminds us of all there is to love. If you’re up for an adventure, let’s hop on over to Britt’s site for my Life Enthusiast guest post. While you’re there, I highly recommend following Britt if you haven’t already. Her posts always make me smile. I’ll close comments here and will hope to see you there for some fun while we stop to inhale the flowers.

Snow Days and Catching Up On Old Resolutions

snowy house

I’m hoping for more snow. It’s much more fun than rain and dreariness. I love to read while glancing up every once in a while to see the snow fall. I love the excitement of wondering how deep it will get and the silence that comes along with it. Snow is magic. It changes everything, if only for a little while.

Besides, if we get buried in snow maybe I’ll be forced into staying home and that means more time for writing and revising. I love all the possibilities of a snow day so much that it makes me wonder how anyone could ever curse the snow away.

My new year’s resolutions will pretty much be the same as last year. I’m used to recycling resolutions but with some of them I actually accomplished the opposite this time around. Instead of moving more (a scaled down version of exercising more), I moved much less than usual. The only resolution I did keep was to eat more chocolate. When combined with moving much less, the results could be called pretty scary.

And so in a final attempt to move more often while finishing everlasting novel revisions, I’m going to take a little extra time for those things this holiday season. I’ll be back to my regular Wednesday postings in mid-January with more Cape Cod photos and maybe even a few alpacas or goats. I’ll also be doing some new things here like author interviews. Until then, I’ll be on Twitter @SheilaHurst11.

Wishing everyone a new year filled with laughter, happiness, and snow days!

snow, photo by Sheila Hurst

Do you love or hate the snow? What are some of your new year’s resolutions? Is there anything else you’d like to see here next year?

View from a Park Bench

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Whether we choose to stroll or run through life, a park bench is the ultimate stopping place. Sometimes we need to sit and breathe and watch as life continues to scuttle on by.

On this day, a tiny dog trotted by while wearing a backpack. Other dogs on leashes dragged their owners along as they chased squirrels up trees. Girls in frilly dresses joined in on the fun and chased more squirrels up trees. I started to feel sorry for the squirrels but in a flash they were back to find food among the fallen leaves. Off in the background of it all, the trees gave out a last gasp of color and glowed with all the stored up energy of summer.

Boston Public Garden

Boston Public Garden fall leaves

squirrel photographer

“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” – John Muir

On an unrelated goat note, thank you to Britt Skrabanek for this post and thank you to the Goat Club for making me laugh. Anyone can join as long as you like goats and really, who doesn’t?

Boston Marathon Sadness

Johnny Kelley finishing the 1940 B.A.A. Marathon

Johnny Kelley finishing the 1940 B.A.A. Marathon (Photo credit: Boston Public Library)

The Boston Marathon has always been known for bringing out the best in people. It’s known for runners and participants in wheelchairs struggling against Heartbreak Hill and conquering it. It’s known for Johnny Kelley, who competed in a record 61 Boston Marathons and ran his last full marathon at the age of 84.

It always felt like such a small town event even though it was in the city. People spent the day cheering each other on. Strangers smiled at each other.

It’s very sad that now it will be known for something else, something horrific. People around here say it will never be the same. Maybe that’s true, but I hope it’s not. I hope the spirit of the event and the people will rise above this. I hope strangers will continue to smile at each other.

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” – Kurt Vonnegut

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s  words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many  helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Mister Rogers

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