Subtle signs of spring…and hope

Photographs by L. Meyer

As I sit down to write this post, I can see snowflakes fluttering down from the sky, once again. April has been a challenging month, cold bitter temperatures arrived along with large amounts of snow that didn’t melt for a number of days. Raging active case counts have accompanied the third wave of the coronavirus causing more restrictions, more isolation, and fear. Political theatrics play out around our world as covid deniers, flat earth proponents, and anti-climate change crusaders take up air time.

So seeking the hopeful emotions that accompany the changes brought by the spring season seems to have been more elusive this year. Robins arrived on time to a landscape covered in snow and ice. But they remained, unchanged and unharmed in spite of it. Nesting activities continued as per usual. The wild rabbits living in a nearby park changed colour even though their food sources were buried once more and nature’s backdrop was once again painted white. Perennials in my garden seem to have survived the frigid temperatures with no lasting ill effects. Proving they are hardy prairie plants. Which persevere.

An annual journey out to the valley to search out and photograph early spring crocus yielded results similar to years past. Waves of relief accompanied what was actually framed in my viewfinder as I prepared to click the shutter. Although the telltale indications of spring have been slow to come given the disruptions around us, the signs albeit subtle, now gently surround us. Stirring the soul. Providing fresh energy. Giving us hope. Where it is needed.

Stay healthy and safe!

Time distortions

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Time has become a stand in for all that we cannot control. It is both the breakneck speed at which things are changing, and the burden of how much is staying the same. We are scared this might go on forever

Arielle Pardes

Have you ever stepped back and reflected on your internal perceptions of time during this pandemic? It occurred to me this week following a recent zoom call that our experiences of time fluctuate in ways that they have never before. During recent weeks I feel like I have been on a bizarre see saw where time has been moving too quickly and at others much too slowly. Certainly human emotions are known to distort our perceptions of time and it makes sense given that the virus continues to wreak havoc with many aspects of our lives. Stressors disturb and then time distorts.

Losing track of time is wonderful while we are on vacation or when we become engrossed in a creative project. Losing track of time due to constant distraction and the ongoing struggle to maintain focus is a different story. I have been working recently on revisions and edits of a number of pieces of fiction and realized that I am stopping and starting more than what I would consider typical for my normal work habits.

It is disconcerting (putting this politely) to realize that no matter how much effort I give, that it has been harder to stay focused, be productive and just get things done.

Studies are currently taking place across the globe to examine the ways in which the pandemic has altered our sense of time. Researchers offer that stress impacts perceptions of time as does not having clearly defined timelines and pathways to move forward with our future goals. To try and imagine that this current situation may become our new reality is beyond what most of us can fathom. But we have adapted to things so far and will likely need to continue on this path for the foreseeable future.

Knowing that some of these impacts are from pandemic stressors helps a bit. So is remembering that is okay to struggle with focus and concentration. Owning and acknowledging strong feelings about what is our current context and being okay with that, helps too. Finding a workable schedule and trying to set goals regardless of how small they might be and not self shaming when you don’t meet them may be the best you can do.

Enjoy those moments when your creativity sparks, writing flows and things seem just like they always have. Making sure we nurture our social connections, are mindful of our own self care needs, and taking time for daily movement breaks can help us navigate those tight corners.

Time is really the only thing we have right now and understanding how we may be experiencing it differently might be helpful as we move through these challenging days, weeks, and months ahead.

Stay healthy and safe!

Found Poetry – another window into creativity

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Found poetry is the literary version of a collage. Poets select a source of text or texts – anything from traditional texts like books, magazines and newspapers to more traditional sources like product packaging, junk mail or court transcripts – then excerpt words and phrases from the text to create a new piece

Found Poetry Review web-site

In an inspired moment driven by one of our ingenious members, our writer’s group celebrated “April is Poetry month” with a playful activity to create found and blackout poetry. Using aging books that eventually would find a resting place in a recycling bin, we cut, glued, and redacted words with a black Sharpie pen and emerged with new creations. Fascinating. Fun. Stimulating. And in the creative spirit of our writers group, affirming our quest to be open to whatever the muse provides.

Intrigued by both the process and the results, I began to search the internet to see what I could learn about found poetry. It is a thing. Has been since the 1760’s when Benjamin Franklin’s neighbour was inspired to create fiction from the news broad prints of the day. Annie Dillard has done it. William Burroughs was quoted about his passion for it. Austin Kleon published a book of poems, “Newspaper Black Out” and performed a Ted Talk about the subject.

From 2011 – 2016, The Found Poetry Review, a literary magazine published hundreds of found poems as well as articles on the craft of found poetry. Teachers around the world use the techniques to share the possibilities of poetry and creative writing with students. And many writers use these and other techniques to springboard writing when stuck. I subscribe to the theory that writer’s need to practice and warm up prior to producing anything worth moving forward.

So this fits perfectly into that tool kit of ideas you may wish to draw upon when stuck, discouraged, or simply want to become primed for words to begin to flow when you sit in front of your computer or pick up your pen and put it to paper. Bonus – it is also perfect for anyone who doesn’t take the time to play enough in their day to day lives. Warning though, you may become so immersed that time flies right by.

Here is the poem that I created from the random page selected for this exercise:

hopelessness covered most of the night

fear would reveal nothing

it quivered, heavy, breathless,

and twitched

in spasm

in light of the morning

hope,

rose like a miracle.

Take some time this month to celebrate the poets in your life!

Stay healthy and safe!

On writing in Coffee shops and other public spaces…

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If you can’t sit in a cafe quietly and be ignored, how can you observe human nature and write a story

Evangeline Lilly

Do you miss those random opportunities to overhear conversations in public spaces? To wonder about the people that you are able to observe. I definitely am looking forward to a future where we can once again gather with our family and friends. Where we are able to move about our daily activities without nervousness and fear.

And I really miss those snippets of life where we happen upon conversations between strangers and are able to absorb the body language and nuances of language that are observed and overheard. Oftentimes these translate into dialogue or story ideas. At times, the necessity to write words down would become urgent following these brief human interactions in day to day life.

Character sketches and those tiny seeds that are planted in our imagination somehow become triggered and released when we are in the company of others. Fragments of those worlds inhabited by other people often gain a foothold once we have momentum in our writing process. It is a sub-conscious process that is barely noticed until it is no longer possible.

Last month during a flash fiction workshop, our facilitator read from recently published works. They came into being from these slices of life that were a part of our pre-pandemic world. A brief interaction on public transit, an overheard discussion while waiting for a friend in a cafe, and spending time in public spaces alone but with others. In our current reality, at best my imagination plays a guessing game where I wonder about the facial expression underneath a mask.

Lattes and cappuccinos can be brewed at home but feeling a part of the world and telling the stories that were once all around us lies off in the distance. For now, I am relying on memory of those moments and will relish the time to come in our future when we are able to safely be around others in public spaces. For now I will write words about our human story as they come and take the time to imagine that I am once again alone in a coffee shop.

Stay healthy and safe!