Here’s one of my early great blue heron shots, from 2010.
It’s not bad, I know. The point is not this picture is great or abysmal… just that it’s not my best. I went looking for one of my earlier shots and this is the one I can bear to post. Herons were shiny new photographic subjects for me, and I remember the day I took this one, and I remember it was a happy experience.
This week, I took some shots I’m quite pleased with; they’re still on the camera. I also recently, in my pursuit of the best damned heron shot I could manage, knocked “Full heron in flight” off my personal list:
Usually when they take off I’m not quite ready. This time I knew.
So… I can go for a better heron flying shot, but in some ways I can consider that a Thing I’ve Done.
I’m no ornithologist, but in many ways, I have these birds sussed. I chase them around the beaches and I know when they’re too busy looking for food to care if there’s a human around, and I can usually tell when something’s got them thinking about flying off. I can see if the sun’s so bright it’s going to wash out their white bits or if it’s too overcast for the camera to pick them effectively out of the grey of the sea. I got adolescent heron pee on my hat and my camera bag this week (thank Chaos for the hat) scoping out the newest crop of high-flying fishers.
There’s plenty of room above my best heron shots for me to keep improving at this. I am no pro. The bar has lots of room to go up. In my writing, I pursue this like a fiend–the ever smaller but oh so satisfying slices of ‘did that better!’ and ‘Oooh, so pretty!’ The things I wrote in the Stormwrack universe today blew my mind with joy. You’ll like them too.
But photography’s a hobby. It’s part of my day to day practice of making myself happy. The heron’s a familiar challenge, and getting pretty good shots of them has become easy. And while I’m not giving up picture-making or bird-chasing, because I really enjoy it, I also recognize that I am in a space where I need some challenges that come with a heavy dose of the unfamiliar. I need to take up some things that I know nothing about, am interested in but also daunted by. Things I–at least to some extent–suck at.
Which is a long-winded and literal but also metaphorical way of saying I’ve been very engaged lately in looking around at my life, and the herons in it. The things in it that are familiar, and comfortable, and easy. And I am considering ways to reframe some elements of that life so that they are uncomfortable, at least in the short term, and harder, and with any luck, even more gratifying.
It’s a good process, not entirely fun–because who wants to run toward discomfort? And, thus, it’s not been exactly painless. But even beginning has made me look at the familiar with refreshed love and an intense, electrifying sense of awareness.
As I mentioned in this post, I’m trying to get back into the habit of telling you all a little something, now and then, about my actual life. Part of what makes this tricky, for me, is that this presupposes that there’s a nice clean boundary between my work and some ephemeral rest.
Frex: I’m buoyantly happy with the writing I’ve been doing lately. Happy! Personal thing. Joy of creation. Bubbling thoughts of protagonist angst. Intriguing plot challenges. Delighted . . . with the fiction writing. Which is kind of my main job. And yet it’s a job I perform in a lovely cafe environment, with twelve ounces of latte within easy reach, in the company of people who aren’t quite my friends though I’m awfully fond of many of them.
Or, hey: I want to go to Vancouver Aquarium with Barb sometime soon as a birthday outing. And OMG, they’re charging $27 to let you in the door now, plus I think they get rights to your genetic code. We’ve both agreed it’s worth it, especially as they have penguins, holy crap, peeeeenguins!! now. (If any of you has a 2 for 1 coupon you won’t be using this summer, let’s talk).
So, you know, outing with one’s mother, to a nice tourist attraction, to celebrate her getting older. Personal, definitely. Except you all know I’m going to do the same thing with the experience that I do with things like the California Academy of Sciences trip and the Burke Museum trip, which is to say Learn Science Fakts! Mutate the Life Forms! Write more stories like The Gales! and add funky Stormwrack details to the trilogy-in-progress and write the museum ticket off my taxes!
Plus, also, prettifying my blog with pictures from the exhibits. Is that work? Is that play? Who cares, because look! Fossil!
I could go on. Perhaps I even should go on, because I’ve tried before, quite a few times, to blog about the blur between all the various allegedly separate areas of my life. All of those previous posts have ended up in the bin. Whereas this one seems to be going pretty well.
Want to help? Is there anything you all would actually like to know?
Since Blue Magic came out on April 11th, a lot of my blogging energy and other kinds of attention have been drawn to just that–writing about the book, guest blogging about the book, travelling around promoting the book. This has, in turn and inevitably, meant the amount of personal news–your basic chatty stuff about my life–hasn’t been getting the kind of play it usually does here at Planetalyx.
I do prefer for my site to have a mix of all these things: writing talk, stuff about TV and film, foodporn, random this and that, the billion photos and things about what’s going on with me.
And, now that I’m done touring, I’m hoping to get back to that more balanced mix. I have things to tell, oh yes, and pictures to go with them. Here’s one of me and my cousin Alicia in San Francisco, for example, chilling out and having fun. (Also, all the new clothes I plan to tell you about? Came from Desigual, the store named on the bag A’s holding.)
Despite the piles of busy and the myriad distractions, I have done a pretty decent job of keeping up with the lives of those friends of mine who are still blogging. I’m hoping to keep that up, and expand on it. To start and continue some hey, how the hell areya? conversations as summer progresses. Doesn’t that sound nice?
So hey–how the hell are you? What are you doing this summer? Anything in particular you want to talk about?
It’s almost five in the morning and I am about to embark on the final, getting-home leg of this round of travel. This is the last bunch of not being home for a good long time, and I am looking forward to it. Blog entries and Writeathon words should start happening again regularly just as soon as I’ve had a day or two to lie around like a basking reptile, recovering.
This past five days have been incredible, delightful, wonderful fun and I am just plain grateful to have had the chance to go out on the road, see some old beloveds and new sights, do a little more Stormwrack research and read my work to people who are passionate about fiction.
And to those of you at the UBooks reading who pledged to donate to the Writeathon and thereby enter the Stormwrack naming rights contest… I’ll be in touch!
Here’s a little snippet from one of The Gales, about the island nation of Erinth, a place inspired, more than a little, by Catania:
Sindria, capital of Erinth, was a city of black marble and volcanic glass, a dark architectural foundation layered in color and light. The carved urns and stone window boxes built into the structures all burst with bougainvillea and daisies. Fruit trees nodded along the avenues, laden with oranges, lemon trees and sun-burnished golden plums.
The title of the story this comes from is “The Ugly Woman of Castello di Putti.”
As mentioned, I am posting these island snapshots because I’m giving away naming rights to one nation on the world of Stormwrack to the person who contributes the most to Clarion Westin my name this summer. I will also have a draw for naming rights to a landmark, animal species, sailing vessel or city on Stormwrack. It’s your choice. Anyone who wants to qualify for that one need only donate something, even if it’s the minimum.
And you can do it in person! Just show up either at my reading at Borderlands Bookstore on Saturday June 23rd at 3:00 p.m. or at the University Bookstore in Seattle on Monday the 25th at 7:00 p.m. Give me cash and a way to contact you, and you’re in the running.
To win, you need to 1) give money; 2) tell me so and 3) give me some contact info.
Finally, links: there’s a Buffy essay up now, called “Real Vampy Love Bitches of Sunnydale“. (This is the “Lovers Walk” essay and, yes, it’s out of order. My fault, I’m pretty sure. I wrote it, but then I was travelling and sick, and Something Ate It.)