A Tale of Three Trees

As promised, today I will reveal the winners of Halfway to Happily Ever After by Sarah Aronson and Every Shiny Thing by Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison. See this post and this one if you’re completely confused by that statement.

     

     

Before I get to that, in honor of the first day of summer, here is a photo (the one on the left) of three trees I pass every day. Okay, yeah. You can only see the the trunk of the tree at the far right. So, the photo at the right shows the tree you couldn’t really see in the left photo (though some of the foliage in the left photo belongs to that tree). Yeah. I know. The knot holes give it a creepy look. So, let’s call it Creepy Tree. Despite its appearance, squirrels and birds by the score are drawn to it and to the one across the street from it. The latter tree seems like a happy tree, with its fuller access to the sun’s rays.

 

Happy Tree. Even the branches seem like a smile.

The tree in the foreground of the picture on the left (same tree in the photo at the right) reminds me of a brush, so its nickname is—you guessed it—Brush. Brush is a haven for birds. I’ve seen cardinals dart into it from time to time, though they usually live in one of the larger evergreen trees nearby.

   

Brush has reached a lovely height.

Brush is a place that many birds visit, but don’t live in. Sort of like a Starbucks or a library—a place they go to hang out in or work. But Creepy Tree and Happy Tree are the homes squirrels and birds return to after a hard day’s work.

Creepy Tree is less creepy from this side of the street (the Happy Tree side).

What makes some trees more habitable than others? It takes a squirrel or a bird to know best, since trees are their domain. But as I asked myself that question, I couldn’t help thinking about stories—places we find ourselves inhabiting, even if the settings are completely made up.

There are some stories we visit. We might read them once and move on. But there are stories we call home—the ones that draw us back to their pages again and again. We become citizens of their well-drawn worlds, and gladly tread their well-worn paths.

In what story worlds are you a citizen?

Speaking of well-drawn worlds, time for the book giveaways. Thanks to the random number generator, the winner of Halfway to Happily Ever After is

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Nancy Hatch!

The winner of Every Shiny Thing is

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Marian!

Congrats to the winners! You know the drill. Please comment below to confirm.

Author photos and book covers courtesy of the authors. Tree photos by L. Marie.

What Do You See?

What do you see in the photo below? (This is not a trick question.)

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When I asked two people that question, both said, “Two trees.” One added, “One with pink leaves, one with white leaves,” for extra credit points, I guess.

Now look.

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It is one tree, or at least two that became so interrelated as saplings, that they are now one tree. Changes your perspective a bit, doesn’t it?

You’re probably waiting for me to correlate this image with diversity—the fact that we’re all different, yet we’re part of the same “tree”—humanity (humani-tree, I guess). When I began this post, I thought I was going to do that. But something else more obvious struck me: I walked by that same tree year after year, and never noticed that what I thought was one tree is really two until last week.

Observant much? Yep. That’s me. But sometimes, I get smacked in the face with something that’s always been there, waiting for me to finally take notice. Like a beautiful sunrise or a sunset I’ve been too busy to stop and admire.

Life surprises us in delightful ways, occasionally. Which is good, because lately, I’ve had enough of the bad surprises, like when I learned that a teen I know has to deal with cancer yet again—this time a much more aggressive phase, or when I heard of the sudden death of a friend’s mom. And there were other surprises that sent me reeling in the last few weeks. Even writing has been frustrating.

The blows we take in life can change our perspective too—toward the good or the bad. The choice is ours, of course. Unfortunately, I haven’t always chosen a good perspective. I struggled with that recently. Lately, I’ve felt like cracked clay. But breath-catching moments, like when I finally noticed the tree above, also are soul-sculpting moments. What do I mean by that? Moments when I feel my soul expand like clay taking shape on a potter’s wheel. In those moments, I’m reminded that beauty still exists in the world. And good surprises.

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So, yeah, in the midst of a sobering week, I celebrated the fact that this tree surprised me. I also celebrated my birthday last week. Because I posted an author interview (and arranged for others), I didn’t post my usual birthday giveaway. But rest assured—there will be surprise giveaways in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a couple of photos of craft projects I’ve been working on in my spare time to unwind after a hard week—making doll furniture and crocheting friendly looking dragons (a change from the T-Rexes I had to crochet for a kid’s party weeks ago; patterns for fiercer looking dragons are not free, however). To make the doll sofa (it is about 7″ wide and 5″ tall), I watched a tutorial on a great YouTube channel—My Froggy Stuff. The sofa was made out of cardboard and a fabric remnant that I paid $1.49 for at Michaels. The pillows were made out of felt (39 cents at Michaels). The dragon came from a pattern that can be found here.

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How have you been surprised in a good way lately?

Clay on the wheel image from somewhere on Pinterest. Other photos by L. Marie.

Beauty to Behold

Recently some good friends of mine told me they’ll be taking a much needed family vacation to the Caribbean. This will mean leaving me behind, no matter how much I make puppy eyes at them and beg them to take me. I’m pretty sure I could fit in someone’s suitcase if they leave all of their clothes behind.

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Since I can’t go with them, I decided to take a vacation on the grounds of my apartment building. Every day I have a front row seat.

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Let me show you the sights to be seen.

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I’m not responsible for the care of the flowers and trees. If I were, they would be dead by now. I lack a green thumb.

Still, the sunny day made a yard vacation worth the trip. And the sunshine remained, unlike yesterday. That day I left home, so sure of the sunshine as I ran out to run errands that I neglected to check the weather. A mile away from home, however, the clouds abruptly darkened at the north. Within fifteen minutes, you’d never believe the sun existed as hard as the rain fell.

But today, there was beauty to behold and sunshine to set it off. But after awhile, I adjourned inside to watch Fantasia 2000, which featured Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. If you have a spare 12.15 minutes, enjoy this performance by the YouTube Orchestra. (Who knew YouTube had an orchestra?) It’s beautiful. (You can watch the Fantasia segment on Vimeo. Just click here or Google Firebird Suite—1919. When you see it, you’ll know why this piece of music seemed appropriate after my tour of the flowers.)

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From the Firebird Suite segment of Fantasia 2000

And speaking of beauty, I have three books to give away by three wonderful authors. You remember them:

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If you’re thoroughly confused about what I just mentioned, click on these interview posts:
https://lmarie7b.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/check-this-out-surviving-santiago/
https://lmarie7b.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/check-this-out-julia-child-an-extraordinary-life-in-words-and-pictures/
https://lmarie7b.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/check-this-out-skyscraping/

Huge thanks to the authors for donating signed books and other swag! After consulting the random number generator, I have three winners. The winner of Surviving Santiago is . . .

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Nancy Hatch!!!

The winner of Julia Child: An Extraordinary Life in Words and Pictures is . . .

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Marilyn Warner!!!

The winner of Skyscraping is . . .

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One of the authors I’m featuring: Lyn Miller-Lachmann!!! (Yes, authors who comment are eligible for the drawing too.)

Winners, congratulations. Signed copies will be coming your way! Please comment below to confirm, then please email me. Thanks for commenting!

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I’m ready for my closeup.

Author photos courtesy of authors. Book covers from the authors and Goodreads. Flowers, tree, and chair photos by L. Marie. Puppy eyes photo from jinglegraphicdesign.blogspot.com. Fantasia 2000 image from pinterest.com.

What I Learned from Birds

It was a rainy Saturday. And I was not in the mood for the phone call I had to make to the cable company. Grrrr. My cable box had broken three weeks ago. A replacement had been sent and I connected it the television. Yet something still wasn’t working, because the television screen remained blank.

So there I was on hold for an hour and totally frustrated when a flash of red outside the window caught my eye. A male cardinal peered at me from a branch of the lilac bush close to my window and soon began his song. I was too disgusted at the time to appreciate his serenade. But once my phone call ended and I was calmer, I recalled how the cardinal sang though raindrops fell.

That was unexpected. I wish I could have taken a picture of him. Unfortunately my phone was occupied at the time. Grrrr. The cardinal had left before my phone call ended.

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Cardinals, particularly the males, are my favorite birds, because they’re red. And the northern cardinal is the state bird of Illinois. Yet in the pouring rain this bird sat in a bush and sang. He reminded me that even in the midst of a storm, I can choose to sing, rather than complain.

Here’s a video by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on the cardinal’s song:

While I searched for videos of the cardinal’s song, I found videos and articles on another bird—the male bowerbird. You can find these birds in New Guinea and Australia. But the thing I found most interesting about the male of the species is the fact that he decorates his bower to win a potential mate.

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On this BBC Worldwide video, Sir David Attenborough discusses the habits of the Vogelkop bowerbird, which is found in New Guinea.

I was impressed by this bird’s decorating sense and his persistence as he arranged and rearranged items in his bower. Obviously he had a plan in his head for how things should look.

The arranging and rearranging aspect reminds me of the drafting and editing phases of writing. The plan is the outline we follow as we draft. When we draft, we arrange. When we edit, we rearrange to make a pleasing product and win potential readers.

This week, I have some arranging to do in my WIP. But soon, like the bowerbird, I’ll rearrange. I hope I remain as single minded as this bird and not allow distractions to steer me away. But I wouldn’t mind a distraction like the cardinal. He can sing to me anytime!

What, if anything, have you learned from a bird or another animal?

Cardinal from birdsgallery.net. Vogelkop bowerbird from bernardvanelegem.com.