This Thursday’s Child—Sand and Light.


What bird dropped the seed that sprouted in such an unlikely place? Who in the town is old enough to remember the tree when it greenly shaded parents and toddlers? How many children trudged away from the shore and paused here to grudgingly dump sand from their beach toys?

I’ve only encountered this tree today, a gnomon marking by bare branch shadow tracings the passage of hours to years. Storm winds, abetted by little boys’ digging hands, have made arches of the exposed buttressing roots. Yet the tree stands.

After some hours, we returned, and found the color palette changed. Sun-silvered water had gone gunmetal, rendering the tide line subtle against the sand while the black branches clawed a rosy sky. No longer far enough above the waves to cast a gilded path, the sun had melted to a gold puddle on the horizon line.

On the advice of a writer friend, I downloaded some Kindle editions of writing craft books by John Gardner. Although my friend advised me to start with one particular volume, On Becoming a Novelist came up first in my Kindle contents.

It took me a little while to settle into reading Mr. Gardner’s style, but the man had some common sense advice. I started jotting notes. When I came to a passage where Mr. Gardner compared flow/rhythm in two books by Herman Melville, Omoo, and Moby Dick, to my surprise there were graphics on my screen.

Mr. Gardner had taken a quotation of text from each book. Above the words, he had used the accent marks that are frequently used when scanning poetry for meter. Below the quotation, he’d written in musical notation—quarter notes for single syllable words, and sequences of eighth notes for longer words.

This might be just what I need, to get my novel manuscript ready. I’ve copied my manuscript, but increased the line spacing to four, rather than the usual two. It’s played havoc with chapter header centering, but I’ll be the only one working with the copy.

Given that music, Irish music, is a major element in my novel, I think trying to use this tool will be highly appropriate. It’s going to take a lot of time, paper, and ink, because with the alterations, the manuscript is now at 600 pages. I’ll also be printing pages from the standard format copy for the members of my critique group to use.

Mr. Gardner preferred Moby Dick over Omoo, because he said Omoo plodded along in 4/4 time, and Moby Dick was far more complex in its rhythm. Now, I wonder if I can get my tale to dance along in an agile 6/8.

This Thursday’s Child—The Twisted Trunk.

This Thursday’s Child—The Twisted Trunk

I spotted this tree in the city of Holland, during a trip to see the tulips of Festival fame. It has endured much, and reacted in a unique way. I wish I knew who owned the property on which it grows.

I’d like to tell him about the Moulthrop family of woodworking artists in Atlanta, Georgia. They’ve developed ways to make award-winning turned wood art from entire tree trunks.
I have a feeling that the grain of this tree would be amazing.

The tree reminds me of a verse in Ecclesiastes— “Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?” (Ecclesiastes 7:13)

I have physical evidence of such crookedness in my life, and the goals I set out for seem to have more curves in the route than I’ve planned for, but in his timing, I’ll get where He intends me to be. In the meantime, He’s supplied me with an imagination, and book plots that can use a twist or two, just to make life interesting for the characters.

This Thursday’s Child—The Monarch

This Monarch queen emerged from her chrysalis in Sept 2008. I’d sheltered her through the last caterpillar stage, photographed her becoming the chrysalis, all the way through emergence, and carried her out onto my porch to her freedom.

I waited, she waited. She walked about on the bouquet. I took photos, shot after shot. What I wanted, most dreadfully, was the classic wings open pose.

She’d spread them part way, but not be standing at the right camera angle. I’d rotate the jar that held the bouquet. She’d move out of the angle. An impetuous red-headed three year old stopped by to see what was consuming my attention. I told him not to touch her. His father soon followed to provide more supervision.

I waited, she waited, they waited. I changed the batteries in the camera. The father and son left, and the Monarch gave me the fully spread pose I claimed to want, while looking straight into my lens and denying me the splendor of her wings. By this point, I was not amused, and if butterflies could speak she was probably shouting, “We are not amused.”

To top it all off, my reflexes weren’t quick enough to catch the moment of her first flight.

Yesterday, I took one of the photographs earlier in the shoot sequence and submitted it to a Canon photography contest.

This Thursday’s Child—Such Variety

This moth was so willing to be photographed that it stayed on the door even when I stepped outside to capture the pattern on its wings. I haven’t had much success looking up its species. The chestnut brown is a rich color, particularly set off as it is with the white line.

Literary character Elnora Comstock might have gone out with a lantern to attract the Yellow Emperors she collected, but this looks more to me like it might be one of the many varieties of a sphinx moth.

I don’t have room for physical collections now, but in digital form, I’ll keep this one around for a while.

This Thursday’s Child—In Mid Air

There’s a sculpture park and garden in my home town that has a large greenhouse. Every winter, they have a tropical butterfly release, with multiple species.

Usually guests jostle their way through almost elbow to elbow. Older adults seeking a few hours respite from a Michigan winter scarcely slow the enthusiastic rush of grade school field trips, no matter how many teachers and chaperoning parents attempt to corral them.

As short as I am, I frequently find my shots blocked by heads, elbows, and shoulders. Sometimes my camera amazes me. This was one of those shots. If I remember correctly, this is one of several varieties of Postman butterflies that was released that year.

I caught a flicker of motion, aimed the camera into the shadows of a plant, and pressed the button. The flash lightened the background nicely, catching this fellow in flight. The details of his antennae and coiled proboscis weren’t things I expected to see when I downloaded that day’s shots.

He’s almost sufficient consolation for the Blue Morpho that eluded me as my battery gave out.

This Thursday’s Child—So Close

Camouflage— sometimes it amazes and other times it doesn’t quite work. This moth, for instance, sheltering under a portico. It’s safe from a breakfast-seeking bird, but the morning sun has pointed it out to me. Does the creature perceive color enough to be aware that the blue gray in its wings could blend with the mortar?

The problem is that it has landed on the beige brick. It’s really fully exposed. I’m not a bird, so I want nothing from it but its image.

In some ways, I’m invisible. It can be comforting to think so. It’s safe to sit on the margins of a group and observe, rather than participate, but is that fully living? Probably not. The fact is, that although I deem myself invisible, I’m really no more camouflaged than this moth. God sees me as fully as though I’m standing in a spotlight.

He’s no more out to prey on me than I would munch this moth; I believe his thought is “There she is,” but he does want something from me. Not any image I can make for myself, but his image, pervading me.

One of these days, I hope very soon, it will all come together. The elusive, subjective concepts of flow and hook will drop into place in my mind, and I’ll be able to apply them to my novel manuscript.

I do understand the concept of laying a stone wall. When doing so, each next stone laid must cover the gap between the stones below it. This picture is a good illustration.

What I’m not as certain about is how the wall building fits into writing. Should I be viewing these stones as sentences, or paragraphs to achieve flow, whatever that is? Or does flow come from sonority, which would be a result of word choice?

If flow comes from all three levels, words, sentences, and paragraphs, where do the gaps come in? What’s a tip-off that flow, if it existed, has faltered?

If you have some hints, please leave a comment. Thank you.

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