It’s a wrap

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It is always important to know when something has reached the end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.

Paulo Coelho

Bitter arctic air has descended bringing dangerous temperatures that are forcing prairie people to hunker down in our homes. What better time to reflect on the year that has past than now? Listening to Joni Mitchell’s, the River on repeat interspersed with Leonard Cohen’s, Hallelujah serves to set the background for my year end reflection and introspection.

This year has been a rollercoaster and I vacillate between thinking about those moments when the virus retreated which were far too short along with those longer times when it seemed like it would never end. But there is something healing about making the effort for reflection. It seems right to stop and think deeply about where you have been and what the meaning of this journey has been over the course of 2021.

Flipping through sporadic journal entries made over the past twelve months reveals that I did in fact accomplish everything I set out to do to further my goals as a writer. Seems ironic as my recent mindset has been stuck in a place of agitation and frustration that I haven’t accomplished what I wanted to this year because of the pandemic.

But like so much else this year, that is an illusion. My writing practice definitely was strengthened by participating in two excellent immersive flash fiction courses this past summer. At times these generative writing activities flowed like a summer river producing some interesting pieces of work. I published one single story this year and have decided that is cause for some celebration.

And I realize that if you procrastinate and don’t submit pieces of writing that seem finished, your work will never be released into the world.

At other times, working on other projects, taking a break and laying fallow produced surprising results. So that needs to be considered as a necessary part of the work of a writer. Being creative in other ways results in a combustible spark that pays off if you don’t give it too much thought. And really working to achieve a level of focus needed to edit a piece of writing is as important as the generative stuff. Maybe even more so.

Connecting with fellow writers eases the strange world we find ourselves in. It is uplifting to know that we are not alone. My gratitude and heart felt connection to the members of my writer’s group tethers me to this craft and to them in ways I never anticipated. And taking time, of which I seem to have in abundance, for reading also connects me to the world of writers. Writing once per week here continues to anchor me and gives me courage to set my words free.

So although 2021 is ending and I am not sad to see it go, there is much that has been learned through this year, and much indeed to feel thankful for.

Happy Writing and Happy New Year!

Winter Solstice: Time of letting go

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It is a time for acknowledging hope in the darkness, while waiting for the light to return.

Lynda Monk

People in the Northern hemisphere have just finished celebrating Winter Solstice in quieter ways but still with strong interest during this powerful time. Many use this time of darkness as a traditional marker for letting go our concerns that weigh us down; releasing those that no longer meet our needs or suit our current life purpose. It is a time of inviting hope into our future as the days grow lighter and lighter.

The time of a winter solstice invites us to reflect on nature’s ebbs and flows; a mirror for those ups and downs we have experienced during this year of 2021 which seem more pronounced than past years. It seems we are being urged to listen more deeply to the rhythms of our natural world and to pay greater attention. We may be encouraged to approach those in our lives with an extra measure of kindness and caring.

As we move through these trying times, our reflections serve to help us focus on what matters most in our lives. Nature’s powerful lessons about being in darkness and then entering the cycle of light serve as reminders that difficult times move along and so will we. This message of hope demands that we pay more attention to the aspects in life that have the most meaning for us.

May you stay healthy and safe wrapped in the love of all of those who matter most in your lives.

All the best during this holiday season!

Joys of helping in your community

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I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.

Jana Stanfield

I don’t know about you but I feel like I am going through my days with a dark shadow lurking over my shoulder. We have been inundated recently by news clips shouting warnings to us that “Omicron” is coming and will be the next virulent variant in our lives. It has taken an extra bit of energy to rise above this and to keep moving forward in a good way.

The pandemic has revealed the stark reality that there are significant divisions in our community. The need to help others by following the lead of inspiring people providing support and sustenance to everyone living in our community somehow shines light in the darkest of times.

Whether it is stocking the community fridge with quality staple foods, or donating warm clothing to shelters that are doing huge amounts of work with scarce financial resources, or writing letters to pressure our government to fund safe consumption sites, there is always a small part for all of us to play in making things a little bit better.

Community based non-profit organizations serve as our moral compass to a roadmap of helping. They also serve to educate about the multitude of unmet needs that have grown larger and larger. Learning about how an individual can help the most may be an eye opening experience. And it dispatches the sense of alienation and isolation that the political machine uses to divide and conquer.

Even with the sensation that another wave of Covid is just around the corner, finding a way to help others provides a sense of well being that is much needed right now. After another year of loss, anxious anticipation, and at times feelings of hopelessness, the timeless art of helping others to help yourself serves everyone in our community. Caring for others as you care for yourself always works – even at the most challenging of times.

Stay healthy and safe!!

Alert: Make time for people in your life…

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Be grateful for every second of every day you get to spend with those you love. Our time together is short and so very precious

Brad Turnball

Since March, 2020, the globe has contended with a pandemic that has shaped our lives in forms that at times seem unimaginable. Many of us have followed the public health rules that have kept friends and family members safe. But an unintended consequence of these critical efforts to stay healthy and keep others that way as well is that we have become isolated.

Isolated in ways that are not beneficial. It seems that many layers of our lives have become insulated in ways that inadvertently prevent us from life affirming connections with those people that we love and care about. Even if we stay in touch, it is likely sporadic at best.

A recent life threatening medical event for one of my family members has shone a light on how easy it is to carry on from one day to the next without mindfully nurturing those connections that pre-pandemic seemed so essential and easy to take for granted. Realization of this fact has loomed large in my life this week as the stark reality hit home that I have not seen some of my family members for well over a year.

And staying in contact through technology which was easy to do in the beginning of the pandemic has waned over time. It’s just easier to avoid taking the time to set up a Zoom meet.

Many months into our challenges with Covid-19, I am realizing that I have indeed, found it easier to stay home in my little world than to be intentional about how I can connect with those I care about in safe ways. Which can be done. It just takes effort and the will to make it happen. Before it is too late.

It seems that now is the time to choose to find pathways to be more connected with those I love and care about and not just when a crisis comes calling. I am tired of a virus running my life. If I need to mask, social distance, be vaccinated, open windows, take rapid antigen tests, no problem. If public health guidelines preclude in person contact, then I need to do a better job at reaching out through some technological medium.

But sticking my head in the proverbial sand and unintentionally becoming distanced from those I care about the most, is now over and done. I just wish I would have understood this was happening in my life months ago.

Stay healthy and safe!

Breathe first, write second

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I wish somebody had told me that I could slow down and take writing at my own pace. If you feel like you’re getting left behind…take as much time as you like

Danez Smith

Writing prompts are a curious tool in a writer’s tool box. They provide an inspiring jumping off point and the associations created in your mind may lead the way forward to a surprising piece of work. But if you rush to respond to the prompt by putting words immediately on the page, you may find yourself fumbling and then faltering.

It can be off-putting to say the least.

During this year’s Flash Nano, I discovered that if I let the prompt roam around in my mind before sitting down and attempting to write, I was able to turn over story possibilities until all of a sudden an idea would affix itself to what needed to be written and then words would flow with ease.

I experimented with this throughout the month of November and also learned that I could apply a similar principle to other pieces of work. Spending some time in mental preparation would invariably lead to a much better result. This is much the same as what athletes do prior to a big game event. They spend hours in mental preparation by visualizing what will transpire while in a state of relaxation in order to achieve a better result.

Writers often place an inordinate amount of pressure on themselves rather than letting the process of creating a piece of art unfold in the mysterious way that it does. Forcing words on a page without preparation may work for some but it definitely doesn’t do anything for me.

Even in a free writing situation, I have discovered that it seems better for me to relax first and consider what I want to explore during the writing session. I seem to need that tiny bit of preparation for the words that I need to write and the stories that I need to tell to move from my mind to the page.

So in addition to completing at least one piece of flash fiction every day for 30 days, I was able to learn more about what my brain needs to produce a creative piece of work during the month of November. Definitely a win/win this year!

Happy writing!