Friday, April 28, 2017

Spring Fever

Spring in the Chicago area: early yesterday morning, the fragrant air hovered at a balmy seventy degrees, but by ten o'clock, the temperature had plummeted to forty-three, where it still remains this morning. And while the sun is shining brightly as I write this, clouds and severe thunderstorms are due to roll in by late afternoon and linger for days. A good time settle in for an extended period of reading and writing.
Like the weather, my moods and focus seem also to swing from one place to another. Rapid fire distractions ricochet me like a pinball through the day, making it difficult to get work done in any reasonably logical way. A variety of partially completed tasks litter my desk, not the least of which is the next section of revisions for the new novel, so in an attempt to establish some order (and to actually complete one thing) I've decided to tackle this blog post.
Clearly, the transition of seasons falls into the "limalesque" arena, but where to go from there? A photo I took of flowers acquired in the rough, woodsy area at the bottom of my property fits the spring fever theme, but then . . . what to write about?
Three minutes of brainstorming yielded the following possibilities:
Those flowers--are they jonquils, daffodils, or narcissus? Shouldn't I know the difference? The flowers showed up unbidden, and if I hadn't gone to the bottom of the garden to take care of storm-damaged branches, I never would have seen them.  How much else to I miss literally right in my own back yard? (Topic #1)
I picked a handful of the blooms and put them in a vase where, without any help from me, they arranged themselves like stars in the firmament. Rushed for time, I snapped a couple of photos, hoping to capture their sparkle and subtle pattern. The photos failed miserably. The intricate, overlapping pattern they formed might be better interpreted in a drawing, but could it be done in words? (Topic #2)
Hmm, there's another thing I've been meaning to explore in a blog post. Crossing that threshold from visual art to writing has re-oriented my perceptions, and the single most difficult challenge is how to convey in words those colors, textures, and patterns that are the language of the non-verbal world. (Topic #3)
And as for that whole pattern thing, I could write posts on patterns every week for years and never run out of new material. Patterns are arguably the key to the universe. Their importance in science, math, and art is undeniable, but how and where do patterns occur in writing? (Topic #4)
Each of the above topics makes me want to delve deeper into the nooks and crannies of the subject. More than enough to keep me occupied throughout the rainy days to come, as long as I don't get too distracted.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Thing of Beauty

I plan to have a salad for dinner this evening. The lettuce I bought is pictured above. This photo doesn't really do it justice: the beautiful rosette pattern of the leaves, their sheen and rich color, the lack of blemishes, tears, or wilted edges so common to ordinary heads of lettuce set this particular specimen apart as a thing of beauty.
This afternoon, I indulged myself at the bookstore (yes, again), purchasing two non-fiction books, Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren, and Stoned, by Aja Raden. The first title is a scientist's memoir, remarkable for its wonderful writing as much as for the information imparted. In one of those lovely happenstances some people call coincidence (I don't believe in coincidence), within the first pages of the book, the author talks about looking at leaves. Really looking at them. How are they shaped? What shade of green are they? Are they large? Small? You get the idea. Clearly, I got the message to study my dinner with Zen-like attention.
The second book, Stoned, is about jewelry and it, too, is receiving accolades for excellent writing. In the first few pages, Raden argues that "the history of the world is the history of desire," and humans naturally desire beautiful things.
Ah, therein lies my conundrum. I want to keep the beauty of this perfect, fascinating plant. But that's impossible. I can't keep it sitting on the kitchen counter. Like all living things, it will ultimately spoil. The leaves will wither. Its perfect symmetry will be lost forever.
Yet, shredding the plant, ripping off the leaves, and tearing them into bite-sized pieces fills me with angst. Shoving them in my mouth and eating them smacks of absolute savagery.
However, it's nearing the dinner hour. I've duly recorded this lovely lettuce in a photo and with words. Savagery is rearing its ugly head, and this thing of beauty can not remain a joy forever.