poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘map

Six requirements for an At-Home-Writing-Retreat

with 2 comments

I planned to attend a writers’ retreat this week, in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick. In the end, it was cancelled – too few participants. My arthritis is having a flare-up, so perhaps it is just as well I am at home. But I refuse to miss my creative writing time. So, I will do what I have done before. I will have an at-home-writing-retreat.


I have done this twice before, so I know what works for me.


For this retreat I need:

1. A room in my house where I don’t usually work, with a desk and a place to relax. My guest room is clean and quiet, ready for a session each day. Actually, quiet is not necessary … years of working in a big office with lots of activity and other people have made me immune to ‘noise.’

DSCN0923 (3).JPG


2. Six days with no appointments or outside obligations. Since I had set aside six days for the Saint Andrews Retreat, my calendar is cooperating. I will also keep my emailing and social media time to a minimum.

3. Six days with few domestic obligations. I already have reduced expectations when it comes to domesticity! To help with the retreat I have planned easy meals and each day I will do one thing to help us keep ahead of the mess … for example, today I filled and ran the dishwasher.

4. A cooperative husband. No problem, he is always supportive!

5. Goals for the week. I am in the middle of revisions for my next book in the Kaye Eliot Mystery Series: ‘Something the Sundial Said.’ I also want to work on the map I include in all my mystery novels. By the end of the week, I want to be able to send for the Proof of the book, complete with map. I also want to create three blog posts, including two new poems.

6. Physical exercise. I do stretches and bike on my stationary cycle every day anyway. This week, I’ll spent some deliberate time walking outside, taking photos and feeding my need for nature, the basis of my creativity.


Today is the first day of my retreat. I took a walk in the rain and some photos for Wednesday’s blog. I did 70 pages of revisions (17,000 words); this sounds like a lot but this is the final revision before the Proof (will get editing and a beta-read). This afternoon I wrote the draft of a poem and started the map for ‘Something the Sundial Said’ (I use GIMP to draw my maps). The retreat is underway!


Here is the first draft of the map for my book. The book is set in a fictional community in Nova Scotia.

Something sundial said


All my best,


learning curves

with 4 comments

In the last two weeks, I’ve taken a detour. Instead of working on my poetry or novels, I’ve had some fun creating a fantasy tale. The story is about a young woman who tries to escape servitude only to find herself back in a similar situation. The story takes place in the future, on a planet far from earth.




Writing the tale was fun. Creating a simple language to use in the dialogue was interesting. Finding some names for the characters and places was a challenge but very satisfying.


Making a map to describe the setting was no fun at all. I liked creating the spaces, thinking about where to put the landscape features and towns. But, I had to make a decision:

  1. draw the map by hand and risk wanting to change names or details in the future, or
  2. create the map in a layered digital format where I could make changes anytime I want


I decided to do the map in GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), a free on-line app similar to Photoshop Pro. I have never worked with GIMP before, so I have had some frustrating hours coming up the learning curve. But, I have prevailed and I now have a map to suit my story.


a map to go with the story

a map to go with the story


The story is told in poetry and is based on a world where water doesn’t behave as it does here on Earth. Instead it effervesces and tries to flow upward. Hence a water-climb rather than a water-fall. This is just a taste of the story. The main characters are fleeing, pursued by an alien species, the Gel-heads (Gel-heads have transparent skin, like green gelatin).  Windfleers are flocking birds, like large white starlings.


Terrain changes. A climb, the way rocky, tangled.

Glimpses of a water-climb.

Shouts in the valley behind them, Gel-heads

sensing the prey is near. Need for stealth and speed.


Burst from the forest to a plateau. The En’ast Water-climb

above them. Startle a flock of windfleers. Cacophony

and dithering panic. Two hundred pairs of wings swirl upward,

a tornado of feathers. The Gel-heads alerted.


Nowhere to run. The water-climb a bracket at the head of the valley.

A colossal outcrop, sheer walls of stone. Jagged cliffs where water ascends.

Shallow pool at the base, fed by artesian groundwater. The water bubbles

and leaps, each droplet climbs, then falls, net flow upward.

Rocks slick.


Copyright Jane Tims 2016


Written by jane tims

November 11, 2016 at 12:51 pm

navigation – guest post by Rob Hughes

with 2 comments

I am so pleased to welcome a guest in this post.  Rob Hughes is a former colleague and friend, now retired and keeping bees, hobby farming and trekking around the Maritimes.  In this post, Rob writes about finding your way in the landscape.  Welcome Rob! 


Rob 1

(photo credit: Rob Hughes)





In the noise of white the blurring snapped

the normal drive detached

flipped and pulled my brain on bungies

In a spin or floating


away –

disconnected, inverted, spinning somewhere –

Somewhere, in a nagual line of space.


A pinch of view, a scrap

as I groped not knowing –

a bush? Something, please – then


I see and am unswallowed, spat back out,

land again in what must be reality



I drive on frightened, woozy from the warp of time and space

The white took over.



The poem is an attempt to capture the scary vertigo that can happen when driving in a whiteout. We can lose normal visual cues and suddenly, what was familiar becomes a trip into the unknown.  While usually only lasting seconds, it can feel like dropping down the proverbial rabbit hole.   It’s a powerful lesson in how we are constantly checking where we are in the world, and how quickly our inherent navigation system can go off the rails when the inputs are messed up.


These days there are more ways than ever to help find your way around. People still get lost.  Map reading might be in danger of becoming a lost art.  Let the GPS take care of it.  Nice, but you might get disconcerting voice commands to turn here, or there, even when the maneuver is patently impossible.  The trouble is that those devices are not thinking.  Most of us know of hapless travelers sent into the backcountry mire on a short cut.  You could be better off with a map!


Rob 2

Ski orienteering in Odell Park, Fredericton. (photo credit: Jenny Hughes)


For years I have enjoyed turning navigation into adventure, exploration, exercise and fun all at once through the sport of orienteering.  There are lots of drills to help with how to visualize terrain, choose the best route, and then memorize it, so you can concentrate on navigating through the real world without having to refer back to your map every twenty seconds.  It’s a lot of fun to locate landscape features along a route deep in unfamiliar forest.


Rob 3

Rob (right) and team-mate Steve finishing the E2C, a 24-h rogaine held annually in Nova Scotia. (photo credit: Halifax Search and Rescue/Orienteering Nova Scotia)


After orienteering for some years, there came a sort of craving for more… a kind of classic addiction response, presumably.  Enter rogaining.  Yes, it really is a word, and the internet is there to prove it.  It’s a perfect fix for navigation junkies.  I have made some great map and compass buddies in this sport, in which teams of 2-4 spend up to 24 hours seeking control locations in the backcountry, sometimes covering the distance of two marathons in the process.   No electronic devices, just map and compass.  The sport has a kind of quirky mystique that draws aficionados from all over the globe to the biennial world championships, often held in spectacular settings.


Rob 4

The logo of the International Rogaining Federation. It depicts the sport well – day and night, up and down, footsteps…. (credit: International Rogaining Federation)


Spring in the Maritimes is marked by an annual pilgrimage to take part in the Eco-Endurance Challenge, held in Nova Scotia in April or early May and organized by Orienteering Nova Scotia and Halifax Search and Rescue.  This is often a very difficult and wet rogaine, but popular with hundreds of local map heads.  Who knew finding your way could be so addictive?


5. Dawn forest scape at the 2009 Australian Rogaining Championships held at Wandering, Western Australia.  A memorable navigation challenge!

Dawn forest scape at the 2009 Australian Rogaining Championships held at Wandering, Western Australia. A memorable navigation challenge! (photo credit: Rob Hughes)


Copyright 2015  Rob Hughes

Written by jane tims

May 6, 2015 at 7:00 am

spending time out-of-doors

with 10 comments

Do you spend enough time out-of-doors?  Some researchers believe if you haven’t seen a ‘fractal’ today, you aren’t as well as you could be!

The word ‘fractal’ is relatively new.  My desk-side dictionaries, a Webster from 1979 and an Oxford from 1998 do not have this word.  According to the on-line Oxford Dictionary, a ‘fractal’ is a curve or geometrical figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole.  The word ‘fractal’ comes from the Latin fractus meaning ‘to break’.

In nature fractals occur frequently.  All fractals are self-similar – the ‘whole’ has the same shape as its parts.  For example, the tributary of a river has the same sinuous shape and properties of the larger river.  Also, the leaflet of a finely-divided fern has the same shape as the whole frond.

Bracken fern with fractal leaf patterns... the leaf is divided into leaflets... these are divided into sub-leaflets... and these are divided into lobes...

Benoit Mandelbrot is the mathematician credited with first describing fractal geometry.

Other fractals in nature include mountains, branching patterns of trees, the dendritic  form of root systems, patterns of vessels in the body, frost crystals and snowflakes, even the clustering of galaxies.  Just go on a walk outside to find lots of your own examples of fractals.

fractals in branches of Balsam Fir...

When we do not include nature in our lives, we miss these fractals.  If experiencing fractals in nature is necessary for human wellness, as some suspect, this is yet another reason for getting out-of-doors, examining the patterns we see in trees and other wild plants, taking in the scenery of landforms and horizons, and catching snowflakes on mittens.

fractals in tree branches and fractals in clouds




winter trees on morning sky

each a watershed, dendritic weave

brooks and rivers

backwaters and waterfalls


the trunk a river

not flowing to the sea

but into earth toward

unsalted water, deep in the ground


the roots the mirror of river

knowledge gathered

drawn, divided

to fine corpuscular thread



© Jane Tims 2005

Written by jane tims

November 20, 2011 at 9:26 am

a map of my grandfather’s farm

with 3 comments

“My grandfather’s farm was like a community itself, a miniature village of buildings.  They included the main house, the big barn and various out-buildings.  In my memory, there were about eight buildings in all, each with its own purpose, and its own sights, sounds, smells, tastes and stories.” (August 1, 2011, on my grandfather’s farm)

a farm near Moncton ... like a village of buildings

Below is a map of my grandfather’s farm, as I remember it. 

The buildings were in a setting of the spaces around them – the orchard, the pastures, the barn yard and the garden. 

Some of the buildings, the barn, the house, the mink pen, the garage and the bird loft, I remember very well.  Other buildings, the wagon shed, the machine shed, and the shed beside the pasture, I remember only a little.  Since my brothers and sister don’t remember these last three at all, or remember other configurations, perhaps these buildings are part of a manufactured memory.   

a simple map of my grandfather's farm (not to scale)


an apple tree like the one I remember, with a branch made for sitting and reading


Written by jane tims

August 27, 2011 at 7:49 am

%d bloggers like this: