Fresh Season–Happy Autumn!

It’s here! The autumn equinox today heralds the next season. While we won’t see the transition clearly here in Florida (just more rain and humidity with the added adventure of flash flooding), I’m glad for the “change” in season. 

It’s perfect timing for a “fresh” start, something I feel a bigger need for this year after losing my father. Also, I like my routines. I’m a creature of habit—to a point. I do like shifting things around and creating new routines. New seasons are a natural time to do this. They’re a natural transition with the hope for something better in the coming months. And during autumn, I’m also looking forward to the holidays. So, as I prepare for what’s ahead, I plan with the same eagerness as I do a vacation.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t do my new year’s sort and toss. Or maybe because I didn’t have a chance to “spring clean,” or maybe it was triggered by sorting and packing my father’s house. Whatever the reason, I’ve been itching to make some changes. This month I’ve been reorganizing my home and office, sorting, tossing, and giving away. I feel I’m lightening my load and files.

Egrets at the pond.

Egrets at the pond.

Not only have I been captivated by memories, I’ve found projects ideas that got buried during moves. Several are intriguing. One is a middle grade novel for Christian girls that I started for my niece when she was 8 or 9. (She’s just celebrated her 32nd birthday. But, the basic plot is still feasible, and the ideas are churning for updating the characters and events.) Another is a proposal for an elementary nonfiction book on swans. Hmm. I’ve certainly spent plenty of time photographing them in the past. I now spend mornings watching egrets and ibis in my backyard. Perhaps it’s time to act on a “bird” book.

Swan on Higgins Lake, Michigan

Swan on Higgins Lake, Michigan

I’ve spent time in the past few weeks reading words I wrote nearly a decade ago (sometimes longer) and I’m amazed that “I wrote that!” It’s even fun to see comments from my first critique group on some of the manuscripts, too. Then there are the handouts and promo pieces I used during the first school visits I ever did. Fun to reminisce but also viable ideas for future articles.

So, I’m excited that autumn has arrived. I recall how much I always loved the bright, sunny days and crisp nights for hay rides and hot cider when I lived in the north. Now, I know I have only a few weeks more of rainy season to suffer through. In the meantime, I’ll make fresh plans for new projects and ride the excitement of change; this autumn heralds a change in season as well as a transition in my life.

What are your plans for autumn? Do you set goals? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts: Subtle Seasons; Good Morning Season

In Search of the ‘Perfect’ Journal

Questions continue about writers and journals. Since it’s a tool for your writing, it can be used in whatever manner helps you. Some writers simply keep a notebook to collect quotes, ideas, intriguing names, and record bits of dialog or scenes. I have one of those, too, which I take with me to the park, pool, and beach. Other writers think of a journal as a book with entries to collect thoughts and ideas or recollections.

Along with dwelling on the purpose and content of the journal, new writers ask me what kind of journal to use. Again, it’s your personal preference. Whatever works for you.

Any notebook will do for your writer’s journal. You can use a spiral notebook or composition book from the school supplies section at your favorite store or visit the bookstore for a selection of blank books. The variety is impressive, from lined or unlined sheets to various sizes (and
shapes). The important thing is that you feel comfortable with the book so you’ll enjoy writing in it often.

You might even prefer to use your computer to journal. Many writing friends insist this is the best method because of the “search and find” features on most word processing programs. I prefer a portable, handwritten journal. If this is your choice, too, choose a writing instrument with as much care as the journal itself. Do you want to hear the scratching of a pencil or marker on the page or feel the glide of a gel-ink or fountain pen? I like the feel of smooth, thicker paper and the fast, flowing ink of a Roller Ball. But, I also prefer different colors to help me designate different days at a glance. The choice is yours.

Whichever method you choose, be sure to keep the first few pages blank. Record favorite writing exercises or prompts on those opening pages. You’ll be able to quickly find writing prompts whenever you want to write during unexpected spare time. Each time you complete an exercise,
you’ll gain something more from it. Draw from these completed exercises, just as you’ll glean from experiences recorded in each journal entry in developing writing ideas.

An NF book is born

I learned why woodpeckers would bother drilling on glass or metal. It’s a way to mark territory–or make their presence known. This makes a lot of sense; it’s only been a few months since I heard the glass tapping and that’s about the time I noticed many more woodpeckers around here. Tapping on glass is incredibly loud (I’ve heard it coming from a neighboring building) and it reverberates. What a way to “notify” other woodpeckers in the area.

I also discovered some interesting facts. I had no idea that these birds have a long, sticky tongue they use to extract insects, spider eggs, and insect larva from the holes they drill in trees. The Northern Flicker, a type of woodpecker, actually spends much of its time on the ground collecting ants with that sticky tongue.

Woodpeckers have feet designed to allow them to walk up and down tree trunks. Unlike other birds, they have two toe claws in the front an two in the back to prevent them from tipping back or falling as they drill into trees. They use their stiff tail feathers as further support and have muscles in their necks that serve as shock absorbers as they hammer into trees and branches. There is even a sap-sucking woodpecker which drills into a tree and extracts the sap, instead of feeding on insects. This type of woodpecker actually damages, even kills, trees.

Incidently, what I thought were red-headed woodpeckers are probably either ivory-billed or pileated woodpeckers. All those I’ve seen have had a cap of red on the crown; however, this is common with most species, except the flicker. The red-headed woodpecker has a fully red head and neck. I’ve definitely seen those when I lived in Michigan, but thought they were the males while the red-capped birds where the females.

So, now I’m eager to observe the next woodpeckers as they hammer out a meal. And I’m gathering more information about these birds. Perhaps I have an article based on this “wondering.” Certainly I have the seeds (and a bit of the research done) to begin a children’s book on these interesting birds.