nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Archive for May 2015

a sad story about grapes

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We have just experienced a severe thunder storm. I was in town for aquasize and a few groceries. As I pulled into the grocery store parking lot, I could see very dark clouds in my rear-view mirror.  We had been warned of the approaching front last evening, so I was not surprised.

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I went in to the grocery store and immediately saw some lovely grapes.  I think they were the most beautiful green seedless grapes I have ever seen.  I picked out a bag for supper and went on for the rest of my groceries. I was reaching for soup ingredients (carrots, celery, onions and turnip) when the lights went out.  Dead quiet – you don’t realise how noisy those coolers and freezers are until they suddenly go quiet.

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The store staff were so good to everyone.  They herded us gently toward the front of the store, saying the registers would continue to work for about a half hour.  I was so happy!  I would have grapes for our supper! The cashier rang up my few items. I ran my debit card and no luck. Just as I made it through, all the debit machines were down!

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With no groceries to show for my trip, I ran out to the truck and was absolutely drenched in the downpour. Not too much of a problem since I was already a bit wet from my trip to the pool for aquasize!

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My sad story about grapes is about a relatively minor problem.  There is flooding in low lying areas in the city and 20,000 homes are still without power.  We have power, so I am one of the lucky ones.  But they were such beautiful grapes!

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a picnic of grapes back in 2012

 

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Copyright 2015  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

May 29, 2015 at 7:23 am

nest of the Eastern Phoebe

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This time of year, I hear a wheezy call in our maple tree.  The Eastern Phoebe has arrived, to build a nest under the eaves of our shed.

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The Phoebe makes an appearance in the book I am writing – ‘Crossing at a Walk’.  I have just reached Draft #5 of the writing, a time when I edit for adverbs, sentence length, repeated phrases and so on.  I also work to clarify the plot and the story, making certain my characters are true to their missions in the book.  At this stage, the editing is a bit of a blur.

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Here is an excerpt from the book.  The Eastern Phoebe has come to check out the Whisper Wind Writers’ Retreat (the setting for my story). Tom will encounter three Phoebe’s in the book: the shrill ‘fee-bee’ song of the Chickadee in spring, the Eastern Phoebe with its nasal ‘phee-bee’, and the name ‘Phoebe’ carved in the covered bridge …

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 I am in our garage, cutting leaves from a sheet of copper for a new wind sculpture. I glimpse a quick flutter outside the window and hear knocking in the eaves.

I put the tin snips down on the workbench and step outside to investigate. At one corner of the garage, up under the edges of the roof, is the nest of a bird, constructed within the last few days.

As I lean to get a better look, the mighty construction worker flies out and swoops up to the height of one of our birch trees.  It tilts its black head and says, in two raspy, out-of-tune syllables, ‘phee-bee’.  The sound is nasal and cheerless, quite different from the bright ‘fee-bee’ of the chickadee in spring. 

An Eastern Phoebe! A charming grey bird with a puffed black hairdo and a dirty white throat. The phoebe sits in the tree and wags his tail. He says, again, ‘phee-bee.’

Every morning in June he wakes me.

‘What on earth is that annoying bird song?’ says sleepy Sadie.

‘You could hardly call it a song,’ I answer.

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For more about the three Phoebes, see my post for May 4, 2015 ‘spring orchestra – fee-bee’.

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the nest of the Eastern Phoebe – notice this Phoebe has found a few strands of tinsel from our Christmas tree to decorate his home!

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Copyright 2015  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

May 27, 2015 at 7:43 am

places for writers … writing desks

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‘writer’ and ‘desk’ … a likely pairing of words …  a writer may have many desks, but does the desk have a writer?

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In our home are five desks, four for me.

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the writing desk in my guest room

The desk in my guest room is the neatest, used only for addressing Christmas cards in December. A little desk, it has a lamp, a box of stamps for personalizing cards and envelopes, a ceramic dog that once sat on my desk at work, a tiny gecko bought for me in Milan by my oldest brother, a cloisonné sea-shell from my sister, and a hand-blown glass purchased with my husband in Ontario. Quite by accident, these items are all orange and green. I sit at this desk every morning, to look at the eastern sky and plan my day. I never write fiction or poetry at this desk.

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my desk in the loft

The desk in the loft is my official desk. This desk is oval and was given to me by my youngest brother – it originally belonged to my aunt. It has a lamp, a small fountain and a jar of simulated fireflies from my son.  I keep a few ongoing projects here, including a stack of pages where I store tidbits of information remembered from my life. If I come across a vacation memento or a scrap of paper kept from some event, I record it here. One page per year … 61 so far.   This desk is equipped for writing. Nearby is a dictionary, a thesaurus and a keyboard for my iPad. No poems or fiction, however, are written at this desk. This is the desk I clean when I haven’t written for a while.

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my messy desk in the library

My third writing desk is oak, very old, and has a leather top. This desk holds a lamp, my computer and printer, the modem, and a USB dock for e-books, iPad, camera, Bamboo drawing surface, and a small USB-driven fan for warm days. Add a wonky stack of paperwork, sorted at tax time, and a mouse with 2 square inches of space to manoeuvre. This desk is always a mess, has no space for pen and paper, and somewhere in the desk drawer is a Tamagotchi that hasn’t been shaken in fifteen years! Lots of poems and thousands of words of fiction are written at this desk … not so much written as pecked out, in three finger combinations.

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my lap desk

My fourth desk wouldn’t get a mention in a furniture inventory. It is a beaten-up plastic lap desk, scavenged from my son and re-covered (it used to have a dinosaur pattern) in a fern-patterned fabric. This is where my pen and paper writing gets done, usually in my living room chair, sometimes at our camp and occasionally outside in our yard. It has room for my rough book and a small ledge to hold a pen. It never needs tidying and slips neatly into my writing bag. It has supported the writing of poems, books, blog posts and letters. I love my lap desk.

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Do you have a writing desk or desks?  Where do you prefer to write?

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Copyright 2015 Jane Tims

 

Written by jane tims

May 20, 2015 at 7:10 am

‘Outside-In No. 2’ – bringing the outside into our homes

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I have submitted another painting to Isaac’s Way Restaurant, for their 24th Art Auction and Sale.  This event will run from May 24, 2015 to September 20, 2015.  The proceeds from the auction go to sponsor kids-in-need for theatre lessons.

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Looking for a theme for my recent work, I decided to do a series of still life paintings about the many elements of the out-of-doors we bring into our homes.  This includes items collected on walks, motifs on fabrics and metals, small statuary and so on.  My second painting in the series is ‘Outside-In No. 2’ – a still life of books, a jar of potpourri, a metal bird sculpture, pine cones and my fern curtains.

For the painting, I used Chromium Oxide Green, Burnt Umber, Titanium White, Phthalo Blue, Cadmium Yellow and Quinacridone Magenta. I finished some surfaces in the painting with Golden Polymer Medium (Gloss) to give some items shine and a smooth texture.

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Jane Tims 'Outside-In No 1' May 2015

Jane Tims ‘Outside-In No 2’ May 14, 2015 (24″ X 20″ acrylic, gallery edges)

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The first painting in the series was ‘outside-in’, currently displayed in the 23rd Art Auction at Isaac’s Way. It features a moss terrarium and dragon sculpture.  There are still a few days remaining in the 23rd auction (until May 24, 2015) so if you are local, it is a great way to own some original art and contribute to a worthy cause!  The paintings in the auction can be seen at:

http://isaacsway.ca/art/

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Jane Tims  'outside-in'  February 12, 2015

Jane Tims ‘outside-in’ February 12, 2015 (24″ X 20″, acrylic, gallery edges)

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The canvas for my next painting stands ready on the easel.  Now, to look around the house for some out-of-doors items to include in the painting!

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Copyright  2015  Jane Tims  

Written by jane tims

May 18, 2015 at 7:10 am

places for writers … writing workshops – part two

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Sometimes the ‘place’ experienced at a writing workshop is the local area, the community where the workshop is held.  I wrote this poem in 2014 after a writing workshop at WordSpring in Saint Andrews (New Brunswick) …

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'oak leaves and acorns'

‘oak leaves and acorns’

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encounters

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on a windy night

in Saint Andrews, a toad

out of place, hop-toddies across

the street

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also, on Prince of Wales, a deer

pauses on the sidewalk, stares

up the hill, and I hesitate

before driving on

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in the Algonquin, a light

switches on, in the room I know is mine

and a couple huddles on the hotel porch

their attitude more suited to summer

than a night when leaves skip

mottled across the street

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Previously published in ‘writing weekend’, June, 2014,  http://www.nichepoetryandprose.wordpress.com

Copyright  2015  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

May 15, 2015 at 7:51 am

places for writers … writing workshops – part one

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St. Thomas University workshop ‘Understanding Our Stories’, facilitated by Deborah Carr, 2015

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For a writer, spring is often a time for attending writing workshops. Last month I attended part three of a workshop about writing life stories. In the next couple of months, I plan to attend short courses as part of the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick’s WordSpring weekend, and a workshop about nature writing ( http://www.natureofwords.com/writing-workshops/write-in-nature/ ).

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Partly because my current fiction project ‘Crossing at a Walk’ is about a writers’ retreat, I have been thinking about the spaces where writing workshops are held. I have attended workshops at hotels with comfortable meeting rooms and lovely gardens. I have also been at workshops in huge community auditoriums and cosy private homes. One year my writing group went to a retreat at the Abbey in Rogersville in eastern New Brunswick and experienced simple dormitory surroundings in a very spiritual setting.

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Some of the rooms have been so noisy or full of echoes thinking is impossible. Some spaces are quiet, meditative.  Auditoriums can be freezing cold. Workshops in summer can be stifling and hot. I remember one July week at the University of New Brunswick during the Maritime Writers’ Workshop … every writer in the poetry workshop had an electric fan. Our instructor shook her head and said, ‘Those poets, they want to carry their own space with them!’

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I think the most variable aspect of space in the writers’ workshop is the ‘chair’. Some are comfortable, built to allow both body and mind to relax.  At one workshop the designer chairs were so flimsy, I spent the entire time worrying I would fall to the floor!

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Although I have attended many workshops on writing, in many different spaces, I continue to benefit from these experiences and to learn more about the craft of writing.

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  1. Every workshop facilitator or leader offers a unique perspective on approaches to writing. It is rare for me to leave a workshop without some new technique or method for improving my writing.
  2. Writing workshops cover a variety of themes. I am a writer of poetry and fiction, but I have received some of my most valuable training from workshops about writing screenplays and non – fiction.
  3. Learnings can be so simple, obvious even. For example, it seems I have to be reminded, over and over, to try techniques such as writing from the perspective of various characters.
  4. Workshops create an opportunity to meet other writers. Meeting old and new friends and renewing past acquaintances is a constant source of inspiration for me.
  5. The workshops I attend contribute to my own history of being a writer and demonstrate my interest in the writing community and in improving my skills as a writer. Even retired, I continue to build my resumé since publication and grant applications are an important part of my writing life.

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Hot or cold, noisy or quiet, on chairs designed to break backs or to summon comfort, the workshop space itself can be a source of experience and inspiration. A lot of those chairs, cold spaces and pinging echoes have found their ways into my writing. For some reason, the places I encounter on the drive home from a workshop also make it into my poems.

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Have you attended any writing workshops and has the workshop space influenced your writing for better or worse?

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Copyright  2015 Jane Tims

spring orchestra – downy woodpecker

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'female Hairy Woodpecker'

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sticky tongue, tail prop, zygodactyl feet

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beneath the key of chained song (chick-a-dee

whistle, robin melodic and whitethroat

mnemonic, wheezy phoebe, junco click) –

grubs mumble, coil in rotting wood

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beneath low woodwind, blazing brass and string –

jagged percussion and drum roll, Downy

Woodpecker excavates sugar maple

stump, black jackhammer

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beak throws wood chips, heaps sawdust and splinters

dapper shudders, black and white, a grey smudge

bright head-bars, a red blur, tap a stammer

steady stutter, busyspeak

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Copyright 2015  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

May 8, 2015 at 7:33 am

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