Monthly Archives: October 2007

Happy Halloween: Cormorants Bob for Fish

I write a weekly newspaper column about my community, and that means I have to keep my eyes open. I don’t like writing the same old stories that are written every few months, so I have to be even more alert, and I have to be ready to go when the story shows itself to me. The hardest part for me is locating my camera and car keys. Most stories don’t wait for absent-minded writers to make three or four trips from room to room on a scavenger hunt for glasses, pen and paper, keys, and camera.

Looking across Horseshoe Lake one day, I noticed activity in the water. I grabbed the binoculars and spotted divers. That became the story that appears in today’s paper: http://www.tdn.com/articles/2007/10/31/southcountynews/news05.txt

A few days ago, I saw hundreds of Canadian Geese in a field north of town, next to I-5. I could have missed a good story that day because even though I had my car keys (hey, I was driving!) I didn’t have my camera. Big mistake for a writer! I dashed home, grabbed my camera, and drove out the dirt road that parallels the freeway, where I photographed the geese and took notes. I was lucky that day, but I’ll lose some good stories if I’m not prepared in the future.

This morning presented the perfect picture of Halloween, with orange leaves stacking up at the edges of the patio and walkways. Fallen leaves rested on the tops of autumn-red Barberry bushes, waiting for the strong November winds to fly them to new homes. Crisp leaves, safe for now, had funneled down through the sharp green swords of dwarf Pampas Grass, near the plant’s thick base.

The surface of the small lake I see from my desk through the top of the Pampas Grass is covered today with a misty Halloween fog. As a dozen low-swimming Cormorants, their necks sticking out of the water, swam in font of me, I reached for my camera to capture the eerie scene of black-hooded creatures swimming through the fog. I focused the camera. Twelve Cormorants became three, then six, then four, then eight. They bobbed, dipped, surfaced, and submerged again, staying underwater sometimes for more than a minute, acting out their own version of bobbing for apples. Snapping the shutter, I thought they just might bob into my next column. Happy Halloween.

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Filed under birding, Halloween, writing

Love Letters

Today, I found love!

Well, let me clarify that. A couple of friends and I bought a box of old love letters at an antique store four years ago. The letters, written in the early 1900’s, had been carefully saved in an Old Spice box for over 100 years. Since we bought them, we have been searching the Internet to find relatives of that loving couple who would cherish those old letters. Today, after much persistence, we finally made contact with a lady who is part of the family of those two long-ago lovers.

If you want to leave something special for future generations, write. It doesn’t cost any more than ink, paper, and time, and it might bring great joy to someone 100 or more years from now! 

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Filed under Family History, Family Memories, writing

Ahh, These Things Soothe My Spirit!

I’m so excited! This has been a good week. If you read my “about me” page, you saw that my story Blind Sighted was slated for inclusion in a Chicken Soup book that had to be canceled. Blind Sighted was the first story I submitted, so I was proud that it had been chosen and disappointed to learn that the book wouldn’t be completed. Dahlynn McKowen of Publishing Syndicate, and co-author of that book, assured me that she would try to place my story in another title. Two days ago, I received the email I’d been hoping for, the permission form to use my story Blind Sighted in the upcoming title Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories to Soothe the Spirit.Another piece of good news this week as that I walked out of the realty office with three, not two, signed leases (see “Please Re-Lease Me” posted October 13, 2007). Join me in having a great day.

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Please Re-Lease Me

It’s a good day. We leased another office space. This is the same building I set up shop in a few days ago to have some peace and quiet for my writing.

It’s disheartening to fix up a neglected building and then to only be able to lease the spaces that have an outside entrance. We’ve waited months for new tenants for the inside spaces, and we’re signing two this week!

When we first considered purchasing the building, I remember being met by weeds, debris, and cigarette butts outside, and dark, narrow hallways inside. Only a few of the light bulbs were good, and the fixtures had yellowed. The white paint on the walls had turned greyish-brown from time and neglect. Doors and mouldings were dark brown, dragging the mood of the place down even more. On the first floor, a long, narrow hallway led to the back of the building where it took a right down another small, dark, and narrow coridor and three more offices.

All of the leases had expired; everyone was paying month-to-month rent, if they were paying at all. A tatoo shop had moved out upstairs, leaving thousands of staples in the walls and a door that looked like someone had put a fist through it; we had never seen the massage therapist who hadn’t paid rent on one of the units for several months; previous tenants had abandoned old office furniture and equipment to save the $11 landfill fee.

Over the next couple of years, we invested thousands of dollars into the building to give it a new personality. The front was stuccoed and attractive arches were added. The entrance was remodeled. The downstairs hallway was widened; the spooky hallway in the back was eliminated, creating a large suite of offices with an attractive double-door entrance; doors and mouldings were painted light colors; light fixtures were replaced; pictures were hung; rest rooms were added.

The building is now light, clean, and attractive. We kept one good tenant, and replaced others. We were picky, feeling that some prospective tenants don’t belong in our building.

After the remodel, we became impatient waiting to fill the spaces. I guess we believed the statement from the movie “Field of Dreams:” “Build it and they will come.” We were proud of what we had accomplished, and thought we’d see the results sooner. No one told us how long it would take for “them to come.” Patience is such a hard thing to learn.

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Four Walls…Four Different Walls

Every day, I planned to write. Every day, other demands got in the way. Writing had become something like dieting…I never got past the “good intention” stage.

I longed for a place where I could be completely alone, with no telephone, no responsibilities to anyone except myself, and no email to distract me or to add to my daily burdens. One morning, I surprised myself with the answer. We own an office building thirty minutes away with several empty spaces; one could be mine.

I decided on an upstairs unit with a large window overlooking the street, but before I could put my folding table in place, someone had rented the space. Don’t get me wrong; that’s good news because renting the space pays better than writing at this point in my career. I thought to myself, well, I didn’t want to carry my table and office chair up the stairs anyway. My second choice was a tiny office on the ground floor at the front of the building.

I moved in Monday after going to water aerobics. I got out of the gym at 9:15, and found reasons to avoid starting work until 12:30. I ate breakfast, bought a birthday gift, dropped off the laundry, purchased an office chair, ate lunch, and could finally think of no more excuses to avoid the new office. What was I afraid of? The quiet? The backpack full of papers from my writing drawer, papers I hadn’t taken time to look at for months?

Finally, I went into the office and locked the door behind me. I suddenly felt free. No one could barge into my thoughts. Today, my thoughts would be mine. There would be no interruptions. As soon as I had built my chair (with three nuts and bolts left over!) I wrote for thirty minutes. Next, I organized the bag of papers. By 5:00, the end of the pile was in sight. I stayed another half hour and could say, “I finished the project I set out to do today.”

Ah, what a good feeling…like taking a long, deep breath. I can’t wait to go back and breathe again.

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