- Ten best books read recently
- Ten tv shows I’ve been watching
- Ten books about writing
- Ten things about my job
- Ten favorite things around my home
- Ten meaningful quotes
- Ten reasons I love purple
- Ten historical oddities
- Ten world building things
- Ten favorite characters I’ve made up
My daughter and I were looking out over the patchwork landscape of the California high desert, green and gold and orange…all quickly turning brown in the hot early spring.
“One thing just rolls into the next,” she said, observing the way the colors and textures shifted from one slope to the next, with no clear lines between one section and another. “I think it’s a metaphor for life.”
“Look,” I said. “A lizard just ran across the path.”
“I think that’s a metaphor for life, too.”
She’s just fourteen.
There are probably a lot of metaphors that can be drawn from California’s desert landscape. The persistence of life, and even beauty, under such inhospitable conditions.
How potential can lie dormant through the harshest seasons, to be awoken with the merest sprinkle of encouragement.
That, from a distance, something can look barren and empty, but getting up close reveals a remarkable diversity of life and beauty.
The Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve lies about an hour north of Los Angeles, near the city of Lancaster. For us, it’s a two hour trek, and one I wish we’d taken a couple weeks earlier in the season. Because of the severe, ongoing drought, the California wildflower bloom has been sparse the past few years, but this winter there was just enough rain that hopes were high, and early signs indicated a bountiful crop of orange poppies, bright yellow goldfields, purple lupine, and more.
Unfortunately, high winds and heat played havoc on the flowers, and by the time we were there in late March there were no rolling carpets of color like you might find in photos from other years, if you do an image search for the poppy preserve.
But it was still beautiful, just more subtly beautiful than expected.
My story “The Piscine Gifts” has been reprinted by Nin Harris in the debut issue of Truancy, a venue for “less conventional” folk and fairy tale fiction. Some good stuff to be found in this zine, so check it out. You know, that story is over ten years old now and I think it still holds up pretty well. The title, though, could use improvement.
Also, while I’m sharing publication links, I recently reviewed a storytelling app for the fairy tale news site, Once Upon A Blog. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to do some more reviews for them in the future!
i. I loved this photo that I shot with my iPhone last week; you can’t even tell that it wasn’t supposed to be blurry, thanks to the grunge textures I put on it. (I use Snapseed for most of my in-camera photo editing.) The composition seemed to call for a quote, so here you go.
ii. As promised, there was a new City of Bridges post last week. I am tempted to not link to it, because I don’t think it’s all that interesting. I couldn’t even come up with a better title than, “At the Gatehouse.” But there you go. I do rather like the chraracters introduced…
iii. Also in personal-project-type-links, I started a Tumblr to focus on crafty-things. Part of the impetus was to get some solid experience working Tumblr (for professional reasons), but I also thought it’d let me do more WIP progress type things, without cluttering up the blog pages or scaring away my Facebook friends. So far, it is reminiscent of LiveJournal back in the day, but different, too. The “blog community” thing is there, but there’s more reblogging than commenting. Anyway, we’ll see how it goes. The Tumblr account is Making Artifacts, if you’re interested in visiting (it does not require an account to view). Right now, it’s mostly crochet, because it’s my current obsession, but art journaling has made an appearance, as did a recently-finished cross stitch piece.
Welcome to February!
Green is something special in California. Oh,sure, we have “green all year” because people can water their lawns and gardens to keep them vibrant, and there’s no white blanket of snow to cover them up.
But in the wild hills that frame our developed landscape, green is a rare and fleeting thing, dependent on the rains that come only for a few months in the winter. The flush of fresh, spring green only lasts a few weeks or a month before sun and heat turn the running grasses into waves of gold. And that’s in a good year, when three years of drought haven’t left the hills parched and stuttering for color. There’s only brown, in years like that. Brown and flames.
But we’ve had a couple of good rainstorms in the past six weeks, and the hills – which never die, they just go dormant – have responded with a burst of enthusiasm. “Seize the day” has never been a more appropriate rallying cry, when the hills are green like this.
And maybe, if we’re really lucky, and if there’s a bit more rain, there will soon be wildflowers.
These photos were taken at the Quail Hill open space land preserve in Irvine last weekend. It’s that spot along the 405, just south of the airport and the university, where a few grass-covered hills rise like an anomaly from between the condos and mini-malls. I’ve often wondered, driving by, if it was an area open to the public. Thanks to FunOrangeCountyParks.com, I found out that it is indeed!
There’s a great loop trail there, about 2 miles long, with only a mild incline if that sort of thing bothers you (they bother me way too often). It is incredibly well-maintained, and while we passed a number of families and joggers and other ramblers out enjoying the fine weather, it was by no means crowded.
I don’t have much in the way of historical info about the spot, except that it was once part of the Irvine Ranch, a vast agriculture conglomerate of the 19th and early 20th century that was mindfully parceled out and developed into the city of Irvine, with great swaths of land designated for open spaces and wildlife preserves. There is a cellphone audio tour of the walk, which talks about the biology and wildlife and so forth, including the manmade pond which was created to nurture fairy shrimp. You can listen to it here, if you’re curious: http://apps.guidebycell.com/gbc/http/Podcast.jsp?phone=9497435943
This is the point in the blog post where I would normally tie my photography and other worldly observations into some commentary about my writing process. And while I have more than once inwardly compared my creative drought with the California drought (they have both lasted about three years!) I don’t think it’s worth going on too much about.
I will say that there will be a fresh City of Bridges post tomorrow! It’s not the greatest thing I’ve ever written, but after a year and half I figured it was time to get it out there, regardless. It’s not sign that my personal drought is over, by a long shot, any more than the green hills shown here are a sign that California’s long drought is over.
But with any hope….there will be wildflowers.
I’ve been busy with my hook lately – crochet hook that is. A few months back, I was inspired to whip up a couple dolls that represent the characters a friend and I play in an online RPG:
These are based on the patterns from the book Creepy Cute Crochet, by Christen Haden, though I have modified the details. It’s the same pattern I used for my wizard a few years back:
I have always liked trying to make portraits of my characters and there was something particularly enjoyable about doing these tangible versions, and I’m looking forward to making a few more – with my City of Bridges boys, perhaps. In poking around for different patters – something with arms and legs, I think – I’ve happened upon some really amazing crocheted characters that I thought I would share with you.
Most of these are going to be fantasy, with this exception. Because Star Wars:
I love the scarf!
Lord of the Rings from Geek Central Station
(These have crocheted bodies with crazy detailed costumes from felt and, I think, polymer clay.)
The next group is actually knitted, not crocheted, but I had to include it because it’s pretty awesome.
Also, check out this amazing jacket she created, depicting scenery from The Hobbit!
Okay, so much for the obvious fandoms. Chances are, you can find crocheted characters for just about any fantasy fandom that’s out there. Like this one, for the 1980s BBC show, Robin of Sherwood:
I have to figure out how to do that mini-Nasir hair.
But not all fantasy crochet dolls are based on fandoms. Checks out this lovely lady, a commission from a writer depicting one of her characters:
(She makes my poor Ophi pale in comparison.)
I’ve specifically been focusing on people for this post, but there are zillions of dragons, unicorns and other creatures that have made their way into crochet-representation. Perhaps I’ll do some posts on those later! But here’s a few that cross the line between people and creatures that I thought were really cool.
As a crafter, looking at all these amazing dolls inspires me for the next time I try to make one on my own. As a writer, it makes me think about how strongly people respond to characters that they read about or see on the screen, and want to bring them into their own world. If you can inspire someone to produce fan art based on your work – whether it’s writing, drawing, or crocheting – then you must be doing something right!
The most popular post of the year was A Contemplative Photography Lesson Plan, from January, but at a mere 26 hits I can hardly call it popular. The Playdate post from 2011 was actually the most popular page on the site with 50 hits, no doubt all those people looking for paper doll knights. I wonder if anyone ever actually downloads and uses them? I don’t think I have anyway of telling.
Not surprisingly, search results landing on the site were low, too, with not very many interesting terms to put on the “how did you find me” list for the year. “Companion artifacts”, “enchantment writing”, and “the mystical and/or spiritual backgrounds of the sequoia trees” have caught my eye, and may inspire actual posts some time this year. (Of course, if I write a post about sequoia’s I’ll have to go take a trip for photos, right?) Apparently, a lot of people have been looking for my sister Natasha by googling me too. Go figure.
The above photo was taken today, with an iPhone 6, on a midday walk with my daughter and the family dog. Let’s hope the entire year is filled with such gorgeous colors!