Category Archives: Life

Writing Goals for 2019

I have three goals for 2019:

  • Query my mage thief novel. I think it just needs one more revision. And, apparently, a name.
  • Write twelve short stories. This hasn’t historically been my forte, but I have had a nest of flash fiction ideas in the last few days, so I think one a month should be doable.
  • Write a new book! This will probably be my Dream Guild book, but it might wind up being my Mountain Life book instead. Time will tell!

I expect the non-writing front to be much like last year, although I’m hoping to get a better handle on the garden.

Wish me luck!

Recovering from the Holidays

I very much enjoy the holidays, but the time between Thanksgiving and New Years is always breathless, with too much to do and to much to-ing and fro-ing.

I made a bunch of toffee and chocolate clusters for friends and family. I went to Tacoma and Seattle three times in a week. I was supposed to catch up on work while all of my clients were out of the office. I made headway, but catch up? Not so much.

So now we have made it through the holidays, and I am happy to have things getting back to normal.

We’ll have the Christmas tree up for another couple weeks — which means, as far as I’m concerned, we still have the light and beauty of the holidays without the stress.

Living Dangerously

Last night Rob and I went to Free Solo, a documentary about a climber who climbed El Cap without a rope.

It is fascinating, because it shows a very different perspective on risk and fear and death. It’s the sort of perspective that it’s interesting to collect.

I was a gym rat climber for several years, enough that I know climbing technique and can appreciate the skill — and difficulty — involved in something like this. But as a gym rat climber, I dismissed free solo climbers as being nuts. It seemed so needless.

Having gotten a glimpse into this guy’s world, I will revise my opinion: they may not be nuts, but they have a very different way of assessing risk and whether it’s worth it.

It isn’t that this guy doesn’t see the risk. He does. But for him it is a small risk (ha!) with a very high consequence. And to be fair, he does work to make that risk as small as he can, but that doesn’t take the high consequence away.

One of his friends likened it to someone going for Olympic gold, where you would either get gold or you would die. That seemed apt.

Most people would not take that challenge, but it is fascinating to see someone who will accept the challenge, and recognize that he has a lot in common with adventurers and explorers through the ages.

The part that was hard for me wasn’t actually that he was risking his life, but that he was risking the life that others hold dear. I felt bad for his girlfriend (yes, she knew he was into this, but still!), and even the film crew — who were also his friends, and were all too conscious of the possible outcomes.

Watching their fear made it seem real in a way that his own outlook did not.

So, an interesting study on risk, mastery, and how to reflect difficulty in a specialized domain.

 

Fimbulwinter

A fourth hard freeze in a row, without an intervening thaw, has our landscape covered by delicate ice crystals. Each day they get a little bigger.

Today, for the first time, I felt that a sense of scale was needed.

This is not false scale. The ice crystals really are that big — although admittedly these were some of the largest in the landscape.

They grow very differently on different surfaces, which makes for some neat contrasts.

It is also fun to observe day-to-day changes.

Here is the day three comfrey frost versus the day four comfrey frost.

Comfrey frost, day 3
Comfrey frost, day 4

In principle they are the same, but all the ice crystals are just a little bigger, a little more compounded.

I am enjoying the frost, but I’m also looking forward to the thaw we’re expecting tomorrow afternoon. The layer of ice and the cold are hard on the wildlife.

I put the hummingbird feeder back out on day 2, and two hummingbirds are still around. I had to thaw the feeder out mid-morning today, which gives some sense of just how frigid it is, given that hummer water is usually good down to 27-28F.

Soon it will be back to rain.

 

 

Compounding Frost

We have had three days of heavy frost, without an intervening full thaw.

The frost-on-frost makes the lawn look like we’ve had a light snow.

However, instead of snow, the white is caused by millions of tiny ice crystals grown directly on the plant material. Crystals 1/4 inch long are common. Certain grasses seem to be especially good seed material for the ice crystals.

Plants that are aren’t quite as good a foundation material make for more interesting structures, since the frost can grow well on part but not all.

I especially like how the frost looks on the sword ferns.

The patterning is also more visible in slightly more sheltered areas. This dead comfrey leaf shows the wonderful variability of frost growth.

We’re expecting one more frosty morning tomorrow. With each subsequent night the frost gets bigger, but some of the definition is lost. Pretty soon we’ll be lost under a forest of ice crystals!

Heavy Frost

We had a very mild autumn, but last time we got our first truly hard frost. It went down to 27F last night, and the humidity was high enough for some fairly spectacular frost this morning.

Frosty lupin
Frosty lupin
Frosty chard
Frosty chard
Frosty stone, with the angles of the stone defined by needle-like ice crystals.
Frosty stone: I think that because it was a smaller stone, slightly elevated from the wall, it became a good cold surface for growing frost.

In addition to the lovely gallery of Jack Frost’s work in the garden, there was a special treat close to the road: a frost flower. These are formed of fine tendrils of ice extruded from dead/rotten sticks when conditions are just right. It requires the perfect combination of temperature, moisture content, and pores in the wood.

This isn’t an especially spectacular example in terms of form, but the hair-like crystals were close to an inch long.

Frost flower
Frost flower

Frost flowers can be very beautiful. This is one we saw near the Elwha River almost four years ago. It was one of more than a dozen frost flowers we saw at that location, and the most picturesque. It was the first time we had ever seen them, and the conditions at the old campsite must have been perfect to have so many in one spot.

Symmetrical frost flower (actually looks flower-like)
Frost flower taken 1/3/2015 near the Elwha River

Out and About

This weekend was a bit of a bustle.

I had a friend’s holiday open house on Saturday — in Black Diamond, almost three hours away! — so I combined that with a work visit to SeaTac and a visit to Mom and Dad.

Living out here has required some adjustments. To avoid missing out, I have to commit to doing things in spite of the drive; to avoid killing myself, I have to be sensible about minimizing trips.

It worked out well. I had a nice little visit with Mom and Dad, including a nice walk down to Titlow Park before heading to the open house on Saturday.

Cormorants at Titlow Beach

Here, cormorants hang out their wings to dry. Unlike most shore birds, they don’t have oil to keep their feathers dry.

Old Man in the Mist

It was a very misty day here, which really set the Old Man off nicely.

The “Old Man” is a plum tree that faces our house. We think he is probably almost as old as the house, so likely going on 100.

He is wonderfully gnarled and covered with lichen, and in August he bears lovely little golden plums.

Persistence

The garden has mostly lapsed into its winter slumber. The final holdout is humble borage, beloved of bees and hummingbirds.

November Borage

Borage is not flashy. Its flowers are unusual, but you have to look closely to appreciate them. However, they start blooming in April here, and I fully expect a few of these hardy plants to be blooming at the start of December.

Given the importance of persistence in both writing and life in general, I aspire to be not like the lovely lilies or roses, but like the borage.

A little odd, but giving sustenance in lean times, and enduring until the very snows.