Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Twitterature: take two

It feels strange to be posting this week. As Orthodox Christians, my household is in between Lent and Pascha (Easter). It's Holy Week: the time outside of time, where morning is liturgically evening and evening is morning of the next day, ever tumbling forward in anticipation of the Feast of feasts and Day of days. But we are in the world, and not in a monastery, so my husband and I take turns attending Matins after supper while the other stays home to put kids to bed, because there's still school and work in the morning. Tomorrow, we'll take a break and celebrate my daughter's birthday. Thursday evening, we'll take advantage of the coming stat and go all in. And today, I share what I read last month in the fun world of Twitterature, because it's also the 15th of the month, and no resolution worth its salt lets you take a break after the first round.

Here's what I read:

Byzantium, by Stephen Lawhead
I loved this book as much for its epic, gripping narrative, as for its compassionate eye for medieval peoples from Celts to Vikings to Saracens. As a mother with limited chunks of reading time, however, I found the foreshadowing a bit much. Must every second chapter be a cliff hanger? I've got a life to live in between the pages! Other than that, the escape was wonderful, and the novel left me wanting to dig into the history that inspired the fiction. If you like what Lawhead did with St. Patrick, you'll love this one too.

The Importance of Being Seven, by Alexander McCall Smith
I'm beginning to believe that my love affair with McCall Smith is of the on-again-off-again variety. This time around, it was off-again. I know the whimsy of Scotland Street will catch me later, but I just didn't have it in me to get into it this month. The volume went back to the library mostly unread. Perhaps I'll try again in the summer, or maybe it's time to leave Edinburgh for Botswana and the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. We'll see.

The Lenten Spring, by Thomas Hopko
This deceptively slender book is a surprisingly hard read. It's a collection of Orthodox Christian meditations for the season of Great Lent, one for each of the forty days. I picked it up around Day 20, thinking I could catch up. Not so. Each "chapter" is only a couple pages long, but provides enough fodder for hours of rumination and worthwhile - but uncomfortably close - introspection. I'm only half-way through. I believe I'll leave the second half for next year. This is a book written for Orthodox Christians, not about them. If you're a long-time member of the faith looking for an invitation to enter deeper into the pre-Paschal season, along with a sharp reminder or four of what Lent is all about, do pick it up for next spring. If you're looking for information on the Orthodox Faith, however, don't start here.

Silverlicious (and various other Pinkalicious titles), by Victoria Kann
This feels like a bit of a cop-out, but I wanted to list more than one book that I actually finished. Despite her rather trite girly-girl name, Pinkalicious is a school-girl delight with varied hobbies, creative - though groan-worthy - word-smithing, and a wonderful imagination. Kann weaves seamlessly between fantasy and reality, with simple, enjoyable, prose and fantastic illustrations. If you have an early reader in your house, check them out.

That's it for this month. Happy reading, everyone. Enjoy the feast.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Paint the sky

The Fridays just keep coming, and this one's a bit of a doozy. But the baby's napping, and the preschooler's in the bathroom with a good ten-minutes worth of toys. I'll leave him to man-cave for a least another five.

More information on the glory that is Five Minute Friday, along with a list of brave five-minute creations, can be found here.

This week's prompt: paint.

I awoke this morning to grey-painted skies. Gloom in the kitchen belying the dawn. I brewed a cup of Russian Caravan tea, and mused on the journey of its flavours: tea leaves grown in China, smoked over pine-wood campfires warming caravaners bound for the court of the czar, simulated and shipped to my local grocery store, brewed in my own kitchen. I flavour it with maple syrup from Quebec and cream from an Albertan dairy collective. Half a world of flavours, each adding its own layer of depth, light, sweetness, swirled into the canvas of my cup.

I read a novel recently that featured a painter. She described painting a scene from her own backyard, soothed by the focus of dividing what seems like solid colours into the myriad of micro-shades it takes to reproduce them. Layer upon layer, a little black, a little white, swirling to create the canvas of a plain blue sky.

Time's up.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Just beyond my screen

I'm sitting at my grandmother's table. It's a gift passed on from her most recent downsize into assisted living, and one of the first that my uncle made. The date stamp hidden in the mechanics of leaf-extension tells me it was hand-crafted in 1996. I visit it often, parting the oaken halves like Moses parted the waters in search of spilled juice, dribbled milk, and another up-ended cup of tea. Lunch with the four-year-old: always an adventure.

There's a nicer gift from my preschooler present on my table top: a little flower pot, stamped with a sparkly clover, over-flowing with wild things planted from a packet. It's the wholesome base of his goodie-bag from St. Patrick's Day: mercifully short on sugar with far more dirt than chocolate gold. The packet of wild-flowers came home damp, so we planted them right away, and I can't believe how quickly they've sprung. Did they come pre-germinated? At any rate, they've been the perfect little mix for impatient little gardeners. Specks of green within days of seed-sprinkling. I noticed before he did.

Less than a month later, those seedlings have climbed over the terra-cotta lip, springing ever taller, bending towards the light. Their colour is a balm for winter-weary eyes. Just wait, little wild things, soon your sisters will be pushing up outside. Outside, in the land just newly released from what almost felt like permafrost. Demi-frost? The prairie Persephone must have eaten six pomegranate seeds, not three. But today, on the first taste of double-digit weather (I speak in Celsius: think "no need for jacket weather"), I'll forgive her.

But my phone is chirping text messages, the baby's waking, and my clock tells me it's time to make the soup.

Thus ends my first free-write experiment.  For more information, and to view other writers' creations of magic in the moment, visit the Extraordinary Ordinary here.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Sometime Writer

The count-down widget on the bottom of Lisa-Jo's post tells me Five Minute Friday submissions are still being accepted. So here I am: writing for five minutes on a Sunday, in my proper writer's book (even though the rules mean I won't be altering my draft), while my laptop lays trapped in the room with the sick-but-finally-sleeping baby. I usually wait until I've posted my own bit before browsing what my fellow writers came up with each week, but this weekend's snuffly baby meant I had plenty of time to read on my phone, but none to sit at my keyboard. I'm glad I broke my own rule. So many gems! Do check-out the link to get the gist of Five Minute Fridays and find these gems for yourself.

This week's word: writer.

The dream started long ago. Words scribbled furiously in notebooks, empty pages in agendas, angsty poems I was certain were fathomlessly dee, as only Thirteen can believe. The first change to learn beyond English class, however, left me frozen. Thirty pages produced by the end of term for Creative Writing was too risky for Sixteen, with eyes on high school's honour roll. Could I produce that much that quickly? Would it be any good? Could my average survive the it of a mediocre grade? I didn't know, and wouldn't risk it. I switched Creative Writing for Physics.

Nearly a decade past, hundreds of pages written in emails, essays, dialectic, lab reports. But the dream lived on, That niggling desire to create, to weave with words, and through them, be known. And so I blog, intermittently, with each hit of the publish button met with twenty stats checks. Has any one read it? Was it any good I still don't really know.

But still, I write.