I Should Hate Spring (but I don’t)

The latter half of April and sometimes the first half of May often pass in a haze of antihistamines. As seasonal allergies go, losing two to four weeks isn’t bad. I know many people who are much worse off, and over the years, I’ve learned to plan for this semi-down time. I clear my schedule as much as I can, and I have a routine for the days which includes some Benadryl-free hours for reasonably lucid writing and revising.

Still, it kinda sucks to watch spring happen through half-slitted eyes. Spring is such a lovely time of year. The grass greens, the trees bud, and flowers bloom. Makes me itchy just thinking about it. Also welcome is the warmer weather and just as winter smells like wood smoke (to me), spring smells of honey suckle and jasmine.

Little really says spring like a blooming magnolia tree. Magnolia blossoms are among my favourite flowers. They remind me of, well, my childhood. I spent a good portion of it near D.C., in Maryland, where magnolia trees thrive.

The Washington Monument, viewed from the Tidal Basin.
The Washington Monument, viewed from the Tidal Basin.

Washington D.C. is probably better known for its cherry trees, however.

We spent last weekend in Washington D.C. for the Cherry Blossom Festival. I’ve been many times and I always find it charming. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced better weather or blossoms than I did this year, though. The temperature grazed seventy, with enough of a breeze to soften the spring sunshine, and the blossoms were undisturbed by rain, sleet, hail or hurricanes. Really, it was quite perfect.

Random blossomage.
One of several hundred such pictures on my camera roll…

Cherry blossoms don’t have a strong scent and I’m not one for sticking my face into a budding stalk for long enough to decipher it, but the slight perfume they do have really suits their delicacy. What really amazes me about them is their profusion. Some look like great puffballs while others sleeve a branch like a bale of cotton wool. The trees are thick with blossoms and when they finally begin to fall, they look like snow. It’s really very pretty. We took dozens of pictures. It’s silly, really, to have so many pictures of the same flowers, but we weren’t the only ones happy snapping—and that was one of the better parts of the weekend. The sunny faces of everyone else who had flocked to D.C. to celebrate spring.

Here are a couple more pictures from our stroll around the Tidal Basin. Happy Spring!

The kite-stealing tree.
The kite-stealing tree.
Not all the blossoms are on the branches.
Not all the blossoms are on the branches.
pinkongreen
Pink and green are complementary colours, which is why I love this picture.

 

Location: Imagination

Mir Diamond Mine, Mirny, Eastern Siberia.
Mir Diamond Mine, Mirny, Eastern Siberia.

I have a series of posts about Earthly locations that look quite alien. While the photographer responsible for the images I use may not have always been inspired by the same thoughts, I think there is something in all of us that responds to the “alien”. Not many of us get to travel, and so we spend our lives surrounded by the familiar. Images that expose us to the unfamiliar can elicit a variety of responses ranging from fear to wonder.

When I look at these images, I almost always imagine a location—either for a story I have read, written, or the one I have to immediately sit down and make notes for.

Continue reading “Location: Imagination”

Forgotten Landscapes and Imaginary Settings

From an abstract perspective, photographs of abandoned places hold a lot of appeal. Compositions of light and shadow have always fascinated me. Light and dark intersected by fallen beams and vines or framed by ruined archways are visually interesting. High contrast and muted tones lend ambience to these forgotten landscapes. But are the images attractive? Not always, or not to me. I’m not fascinated by abandoned places. Continue reading “Forgotten Landscapes and Imaginary Settings”

Post-apocalyptic Gardening

You know what someone needs to invent? Grass that grows to a certain length and then stops to provide a lawn of perfectly trimmed and perfectly green beauty. I’d buy it.

One of my irises, with my lovely lawn in the background.
One of my irises, with my lovely lawn in the background.

Not that I hate mowing; I don’t, not really. That hour twice a week (one hour out front and another for the curb, side yard and back) is when I do a lot of my thinking. Sometimes I listen to audio books, which has the odd effect of assigning locational memory to portions of the yard. Elizabeth Bear owns the playground. The tower and swings bring to mind Undertow, Carnival and Dust. The underside of my deck, framed by pillars, belong to Michael Swanwick. The lions from The Dragons of Babel dwell under there. Will sometimes flies over the lawn, directly over Elizabeth Bear’s territory. The slope from the playground to the forest is Stross territory. All of the singularity books have rolled down there. The strip by the creek is Halting State and part of the driveway belongs to Rule 34.

I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. I listen to a lot of books while mowing the lawn and they’re mostly speculative—which is my approach to gardening, as well. As posted last fall, I’m what I call a Darwinian gardener. It’s all about what survives me and the elements. I’m not sure which is more harsh. Probably me. But my garden does survive from year to year and it does bring me a lot of joy.

I don't know where my black irises come from, but I love them.
I don’t know where my black irises come from, but I love them.

Early this spring, it resembled a graveyard. Lumps of dirt with twiggy bushes that could be homemade crosses or tumbleweeds blown up from Texas. It was a harsh winter. I actually wondered if Mother Nature had out done me and decimated my garden. Turned it into the post-apocalyptic environment I so often read about. It’s fun in fiction—not so much outside my front door. As an aside, when I mentioned my perfect lawn idea to Husband, he told me that that’s how the zombie apocalypse would get started—with the invention of a product that halted lawn growth. Apparently that would get into our water supply and tamper with our brains.

Anyway, as the days warmed, green things popped out of the soil and my garden stirred to life again. I was amazed. Now that my irises and lilies are actually blooming, I’m properly stunned.

The first lily.
The first lily.

I did go in and trim everything back. I dutifully weeded and I finally dug out the Mums that should have been dug out last year, sparse and woody things they’d become. So I have a couple of bare patches that need to be filled—with something other than another split lily or iris. I’m thinking daisies. Daisy bushes are lovely and big and the flowers very pretty. But I don’t know if they’ll survive the winter. I could look it up. I could research a plant that lives from year to year, but then I wouldn’t have the fun of digging out a dead carcass next spring.

Yeah, I did say fun.

Back to the lawn. It’s been raining on and off for close to a month now and the grass that looked dead at the beginning of April, no matter how many stories tracked through, is now so lush and green, I’ve been walking around with my nose in the air. Who has the prettiest lawn on the street? I do. Absolutely. I also have to mow it more often, though, as it won’t look pretty for long if I neglect it.

The herb garden. We put flowers in the front. Not sure what that purple thing is.
The herb garden. We put flowers in the front. Not sure what that purple thing is.

Behind the house I have a herb garden. There is a carpet of cilantro across the patch at the moment. It’s a good thing we like cilantro. The thyme and oregano are well enough established that the newcomer has grown around them. And in the middle I have a hibiscus bush that is taller than I am. We planted that on a whim a couple of years ago and the thing won’t die. Not that I want it to? But it just seems so out of place in my northern yard. I am looking forward to it flowering. Under that I have a blueberry bush that produces one berry a year. I’ll try and get a picture of this year’s prize fruit.

Up on the deck we have our tomatoes and peppers in. I fenced them before the cats decided I have set up outdoor litter trays. Now I just have to remember to remind my daughter to water them regularly. We both tend to forget. We do get fruit, and quite a lot of it, but tomatoes that aren’t watered regularly tend to be ugly things. Striped and split.

And that’s my gardening report (ramble) for this spring. I’ll leave you with this picture (below) I found yesterday which inspired my imagination. I have two creeks in my yard, one at the edge of the forest and one at the edge of the property. None of them are as pretty or mysterious as this one. This one is all secret and I want to write a story about what’s going on in this crack in the earth. Maybe I’ll plot that one out next time I mow the lawn.

Moss Creek, Desert Island, Maine.
Moss Creek, Desert Island, Maine.

Is it live or is it Memorex?

Sunrise

A portion of the internet was stunned and disturbed last week by the image above, which features a televised sunrise at Tiananmen Square. News sites reported the fact that the smog in Beijing had become so dense, this was the only way people could watch the sun rise. The story made me sad. As a writer who favours speculative and post apocalyptic settings, I could feel words crawling across my head. Or, that creeping sensation might have been something like fear. I couldn’t imagine living in a cloud of smog, relying on a screen to tell me the sun had risen and set. But I could imagine writing about it. In fact, I already was. My current project is a short story with an eerily similar theme.

The image stayed with me all weekend, poking and prodding. I recalled a recent read: Wool by Hugh Howey. Residents of a giant silo sunk into the earth watch the sunrise on a screen and take it as truth that the shining orb actually does arise from the toxic horizon. When they start to question that truth, their society falls apart.

Disturbed, I wondered if the sunrise televised to the viewers in Tiananmen Square was real. Were they looking at the sun as it rose that day, or the sun as it rose a month ago? Had someone recorded a perfect display of colour that would come to define the beginning of every day in Beijing? How many people actually, actively watch the sun rise? Could I tell the difference between a real and a fake?

This morning, I watched the sun rise through the trees crowding my back yard. It looked like a line of fire along the horizon, burning its way up and across. I took several pictures. Then I came inside and checked my morning news feeds, which generally consist of geeky concerns. If the world disappears one day, well, I’m done for. No preparation will save me. I do like to know what’s up with the next Superman movie, however, and if Gearbox has released any new Shift Codes.

Imagine my surprise when I saw an article on Kotaku calling bullshit on the televised sunrise story. With a sense of relief, I clicked through. The screens are advertisements–not of a dystopian future, but of China, today. There is a tourism logo in the corner and the sunrise picture appears all day, every day, as part of a montage of images aimed at tourists.

Still, I find myself reluctant to breathe out and start plotting the story inspired by the original report. The idea of a televised sunrise obviously touched a nerve, and I doubt I’m the only person left disturbed. Probably because it could have been true. It almost felt true, and it was a sad, sad reminder of what we’re doing to this beautiful planet of ours.

My own sunrise this morning.
My own sunrise this morning.