Cape Cod Scenes, Reading Adventures, and Neighborhood Turkeys

“Live in the sunshine. Swim in the sea. Drink in the wild air.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Summer rushed on by in a whoosh of heat and humidity. We try to capture it in pictures, to somehow hold the light, but it still dissolves into the past with a chill. Now that we can feel that chill in the air, here are a few scenes to warm us by.

Cape Cod can get pretty overcrowded in the summer so instead of reading on the beach, this is my usual warm weather reading spot:

That way, I can look up from my books and watch the squirrels, chipmunks, hummingbirds, and neighborhood turkeys while trying not to think about all the yard work that I should be doing.

I’ve made a dent in my summer reading list while adding a few from my book club. The ones that I didn’t get to over the summer will have to become cozy autumn reads. Of the ones that I did read, I highly recommend Swimming Lessons and The Art of Chasing Normal.

A huge thank you to Millie Thom, D. Catalini, and William McCaskie for the latest reviews of Ocean Echoes. I really appreciate it whenever anyone takes the time to add a review. Millie Thom writes exciting Viking/Saxon adventures set in the mid ninth century. Check out her books here. Her blog includes modern day adventures while seeking out those special places where history can be felt and imagined.

It’s about time to announce the winner of a signed copy of Ocean Echoes. And the winner is…BJ. I’ll get that right out to you.

I’m sorry I haven’t been around for a while. Every time I tried to make it back, life had a way of getting in the way. I’ve missed everyone and will look forward to catching up with you!

What was your favorite summer/autumn read? Do you have any neighborhood turkeys?

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It’s About Time to Stop Dreaming and Start Doing

Cape Cod oceanI’ve been off dreaming again. I can’t seem to help it. I start dreaming and then before I know it, months have gone by and blizzards have turned into heat waves. Now it’s already time for fall shadows and golden light.

Cape Cod oceanLike you, I’ve been dreaming of a better world. A world without violence or hate. An unpolluted world with clean water and clean air for all. I know, I’m dreaming again.

Lately, I’ve also been thinking, “Why bother?” Why bother trying to do anything  when everything is such a mess? Why bother writing or reading or dreaming? Why bother signing petitions or joining conservation groups or marching in the streets?

The answer to all of that is – because we have to. Dreamers are the majority, but we’re not heard often enough. Sometimes we need to stop dreaming. If we did everything we can, every day, to make the world around us better then it would be.

I haven’t been out in the world much lately, except to go to a day job that gets crazier with every passing day. For the past few months, I’ve been attached to my computer while trying to use every spare moment to work on my novel Ocean Echoes. The e-book should be published soon and that’s a terrifying thought, but it’s about time to stop dreaming and start doing after all.

I’ve missed everyone more than I can say and I’m looking forward to catching up with you again.

How’s everything going? Have you been dreaming lately? What do you dream of?

Memorable Characters in David Copperfield

David CopperfieldCharles Dickens once said of all his books, David Copperfield was his favorite. I had to read it just for that reason.

It’s known as one of his most autobiographical novels. The story travels through the main character’s life from childhood into adulthood while showing the choices he makes and the ramifications of those choices.

It’s the story of a relatively normal life in early 1800s England and because of that we get to be immersed in all the sights and sounds and expectations of the time.

The best part of his life turns out to be the people he chooses to spend it with. All kinds of characters appear and disappear and then appear again. They truly color his life and make it worth living.

London

From the eccentric aunt who yells out, “Donkeys!” whenever a donkey dares to wander into her yard to Mr. Micawber, who distributes IOUs as if they were real money, to the infamous Uriah Heep, who’s always described as slimy, the characters bring so much to the novel and the reader never knows when they’re going to appear. Whenever I’d start to get a little bored with the story, another character would wander back in and I’d be entertained again.

LondonDavid Copperfield was first published in 1850 and the story takes place from the 1820s on. In some ways, it was ahead of its time, mostly because Aunt Betsey Trotwood speaks out against the way women and children were treated. I loved that character’s spunk.

She takes care of Mr. Dick, who has been working on a speech for years and makes kites out of his drafts because his obsession with King Charles the First keeps slipping in. He flies the kites as a way of diffusing the words and clearing his mind.

And then there’s Uriah Heep. He’s one of those people you love to hate and he’s described perfectly with passages like this:

“His damp cold hand felt so like a frog in mine that I was tempted to drop it and run away.”

“I found Uriah reading a great fat book, with such demonstrative attention, that his lank forefinger followed up every line as he read, and made clammy tracks along the page (or so I fully believed) like a snail.”

I think my favorite Dickens novel is still A Tale of Two Cities because it’s more story oriented, but the characters in David Copperfield have stayed with me long after reading it. Recommended to anyone who wants to spend time with some memorable characters.

Have you encountered any memorable characters lately? What made them memorable?  

Cape Cod Whale Watching

whale spoutWe saw the spouts from far away: distant puffs of water, an array of fountains spurting out messages to anyone who ventured near. We crept closer.

Springtime is feeding time for whales off Cape Cod. They spend the winter in the Caribbean, where they don’t eat, so when they arrive in the spring they’re hungry. The whale watching boat wandered into a feeding frenzy of humpbacks, finbacks, and dolphins. We could see their slick bodies arch above the surface as they dove through the waves. whale surfacingFinback whales are the second largest animals to ever live on Earth. The only animal larger than a finback is a blue whale, which can grow to about 100 feet long. Finbacks are a close second, reaching up to 80 feet.

Humpbacks work together to capture food. One humpback will create underwater bubbles in a donut shape to disorient krill and fish. The prey ends up in the middle, surrounded by bubbles. Then another humpback will surface with an open mouth for a feast. A few daring seagulls might dip in for a fish before the mouth closes. The humpbacks take turns creating bubbles and eating. DSC04012_3Whales can be recognized by their unique patterns. Naturalists onboard keep track of the whales while recording their activities and health conditions. They name the whales and know their habits and companions, so it’s a continuing saga to see what each one is up to.

whale watching boatOn a cold day in May, we saw a humpback teaching her calf how to feed, repeating the steps while the calf mimicked them. A young adult whale showed fresh cuts on his skin from a recent fishing line entanglement.

A hunting moratorium went into effect for humpbacks in 1966 whales archingwhen the population fell by 90 percent. Since then, the population has recovered to around 80,000 worldwide. In April, fisheries managers proposed that they be removed from the endangered species list.

whale tailNorth Atlantic right whales haven’t been so lucky. Today, only about 400 remain in the world, according to the nonprofit organization Defenders of Wildlife.

A hushed quiet and a sense of peace came over us as we watched the whales glide through the water. We could hear their muffled sighs as they came up for air and feel their struggles for survival.

Back in the 1800s when a whale beached, people would run out with knives and buckets for the oil. Now we run to the beach to save the whale. Maybe things have progressed at least a little.

Hyannis Whale Watcher boats cruise by Sandy Neck while going out to Stellwagen Bank where the whales feed. It’s much easier to take pictures of the houses and lighthouse than the constantly moving, appearing and disappearing whales.Sandy Neck, Cape CodSandy Neck, Cape Cod

Humpback whales have been known to sing continuously for up to 24 hours. Whales in the same region all sing the same song and that song gradually changes from year to year. I wonder what their songs will be into the future.

Have you ever been on a whale watch? What do you think of whales?

Earth Day, Every Day

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“A human being is a part of the whole that we call the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. This illusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for only the few people nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living beings and all of nature.” – Albert Einstein

I went for a walk along the ocean a few days ago. I’ll usually look for any trash to pick up along the way. Sometimes an entire trash bag can be filled. Too easily. This time, I could only find one bottle cap and a tiny ribbon from a balloon. That gives me hope.

How did you celebrate Earth Day? How will you celebrate it throughout the year?

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 

Books as Traveling Companions

Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors so when the time came to choose a traveling companion for a trip to Arizona, I chose her words. Her novel Animal Dreams takes place in Arizona and her descriptions became the perfect background music.

Arizona canyonsI read this description while on the plane and couldn’t wait to get out there:

“The canyon walls rose straight up on either side of us, ranging from sunset orange to deep rust, mottled with purple. The sandstone had been carved by ice ages and polished by desert eons of sandpaper winds.”

canyon wall

Once I finally stood near the canyon walls, I made sure to notice the colors threading their way through the rock and all the layers representing centuries of creation.

After hiking up a steep path, ancient cliff dwellings came into view. From down below, the dwellings couldn’t be seen at all. They blended in with the canyon to the point of invisibility. Everyone figured they built their homes that way for protection against potential enemies. Later, I read this passage and saw the cliff dwellings all over again but in a different way:

“The walls were shaped to face the curved hole in the cliff, and the building blocks were cut from the same red rock that served as their foundation. I thought of what Loyd had told me about Pueblo architecture, whose object was to build a structure the earth could embrace.”

cliff dwellings

Tucked away in a crevice between the cliffs where sunlight acted as a calendar, petroglyphs told their own tales. They spoke of the people who lived there high above the ground, of hunting parties, and of women with Princess Leia hairdos.

petroglyphs

DSC03868_2

Kingsolver describes petroglyphs as a record of progress through the generations:

“There were antelope, snakes, and ducks in a line like a carnival shooting gallery. And humans: oddly turtle-shaped, with their arms out and fingers splayed as if in surrender or utter surprise. The petroglyphs added in recent centuries showed more svelte, self-assured men riding horses. The march of human progress seemed mainly a matter of getting over that initial shock of being here.”

Now that I’m back home, I can revisit the red rock canyons any time with a turn of the page.

(And the Twitter goat club will be happy to hear there’s a goat in Animal Dreams.)

Related Post:
Writer…Uninterrupted – during Vacation

Do you choose novels based on setting? Have you ever taken a favorite author along on vacation? 

Hidden Colors

frozen ocean

After months of snow and ice, we feel like we’re living in a black and white movie. We become color deprived. The ocean is frozen and icicles are everywhere.

sand icicles

But somewhere underneath it all, the colors are waiting. Maybe if the sun doesn’t melt the snow, the colors will.

marsh flowers

castle

flowers

ocean

marsh

Whether you’re enjoying the beginnings of spring or fall or an everlasting summer, I hope your colors are shining through.

Snowbound Reading through the Decades

snowWhen the snow is up past your knees and you can’t open the door, then all you can do is stay in and read. That’s why I love the snow.

I’ve been wandering through the decades with a chronological short story collection and I’m stuck in the 1950s for now. The collection begins with a story published in 1915 and goes up to the end of the century. I’ve seen farming communities replaced by city life. Writing styles have become more rushed. Now I’m stuck in suburbia surrounded by themes of society’s expectations and restrictions. I’m looking forward to the 60s.

My favorite story from the 1930-50 era is “Resurrection of a Life” by William Saroyan, published in 1935. The character remembers being a newspaper boy in 1917, roaming the streets, shouting disastrous headlines. It beautifully shows what that might do to a young boy. Not only does he see the coldness of the city, but he repeats and sells stories of war.

“There he is suddenly in the street, running, and it is 1917, shouting the most recent crimes of man, extra, extra, ten thousand huns killed, himself alive, inhaling, exhaling, ten thousand, ten thousand, all the ugly buildings solid, all the streets solid, the city unmoved by the crime, ten thousand, windows opening, doors opening, and the people of the city smiling about it, good, good, ten thousand, ten thousand of them killed. Johnny, get your gun, and another trainload of boys in uniforms, going away, torn from home, from the roots of life, their tragic smiling, and the broken hearts, all things in the world broken.”

DSC01831_2We see and feel the city, the people bustling by, and the boy there in the middle of it all. While others think of war as abstract, he breaks it down to individuals. He sees their faces caught up in something large and monstrous. Toward the end, he still manages to find beauty in it all:

“And all that I know is that we are somehow alive, all of us, in the light, making shadows, the sun overhead, space all around us, inhaling, exhaling, the face and form of man everywhere, pleasure and pain, sanity and madness, over and over again, war and no war, and peace and no peace, the earth solid and unaware of us, unaware of our cities, our dreams, unaware of this love I have for life.”

Sometimes I take a break to read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. It’s a great one so far.

Are you snowbound or enjoying the sunshine? What have you been reading lately?

Climbing Up a Sleeping Bear

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Tackling the dune climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore feels like mountain climbing. But these mountains made of sand are tricky. With every step up, climbers sink back down again by almost the same distance.

Sleeping Bear Dune ClimbersBecause of this, it takes a while to climb up the 100-foot bear but it’s worth it for the views of Lake Michigan and the surrounding sand dunes. When it’s time to go Sleeping Bear Dune Climbershome, another reward is to bounce or roll down the dune to the ground below.

The highest point in the park is 450 feet straight up from Lake Michigan. Anyone attempting to climb that dune might be forced into crawling, but that’s forgotten once the top is reached. From there, it’s easy to see why Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was named the “Most Beautiful Place in America” on ABC’s Good Morning America.

According to the National Park Service, the Chippewa Indians once used the bear-shaped dune as a landmark. The bear rose about two thousand years ago and has seen its share of changes. It no longer looks like a bear. In the late 1800s, it was covered with trees and shrubs, giving it a dark shaggy appearance. For now, the bear has gone into hibernation and his sand dune looks more like a cave. With all the wind-swept changes, the bear may rise again or disappear.

Sleeping Bear Dune Lookout

Because these dunes feel so much like mountains, I was surprised to learn that Adelie from Artfully Aspiring had gone sledding there. I’ve been known for a few sledding feats, including barreling right into a raging polluted river, but I don’t think I’d be brave enough to sled down steep mountain dunes like these. Though you never know. If I find myself there again when there’s enough snow, I might be tempted.

Instead of sledding there, as a teenager I climbed up and bounced down the dunes while listening to Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon.”

Sleeping Bear Dunes View

Do you have a favorite National Park memory?

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?

Winter Ocean

winter ocean

There’s a certain beauty to a winter ocean. It’s a desolate beauty: one that makes you feel.

winter ocean

winter ocean

The wind is strong enough to push you along. Flying seems possible with open arms. Once the cold sucks all the air out of you, a warm numbness takes over. The sand blasts your face. No matter how tired you might be, a visit to a winter ocean will always wake you up.

snow art

It’s not the one sunbathers worship. It doesn’t comfort. As raw and brutal as nature can be, it challenges. In meeting that challenge to walk along its shores, you’re rewarded with a new appreciation for life. The beauty of a winter ocean leaves you breathless.

winter ocean walk

Have you ever walked along the ocean in freezing temperatures? What kind of beauty takes your breath away?