In Stitches

March 13, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Posted in Australia, Nature, Poetry, Writing | 27 Comments
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I have been occupied with other things than this blog lately. However, I would like to share a poem with you that I wrote a few years ago. It is about the beautiful Lake Macquarie where I live, and how I saw it one day as I walked along the shore.

The poem was recently commended in the Morisset Show Poetry Competition.

 

 

Wangi Bay stretches before me,

a coarse wind-ruffled

grey-green fabric;

patches of dirty brown

rain-stirred run-off

tacked onto it here and there

like jungle-camouflage.

 

Silver sequins

tossed onto the watery quilt

tumble and sparkle among

the grey jetty stripes and squares

and the multi-coloured

ship-shaped pieces

that have been tacked on

with contrasting whitecap stitches.

 

Here and there,

in out-of-the-way places

an occasional dot

of white embroidery –

a bobbing seagull or pelican.

 

A narrow, irregular strip

of breaking waves

marks the inner border

separating the nautical pattern

from its dark green edging

of eucalypt and casuarina

and spiky Lomandra longifolia

 

Today, the lake is a patch-work quilt

that I would like to take home with me.

 

 

© Linda Visman

11th October, 2010

 

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My Rose-coloured Childhood

December 21, 2015 at 1:00 am | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Family, Growing up in the 1950s and 60s, Leisure activities, Memoir, Mental Health, Nature, Philosophy, Society, Ways of Living, Writing and Life | 9 Comments
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monday-memoir-badge

 

I sometimes wonder whether my childhood memories are as authentic as I believe them to be. There have been times when my siblings have reminded me of  an event that occurred which illustrates an alternate version of those times, one that I may have pushed aside or interpreted in a different way.

I know that people can focus on aspects of their youth that colour and reinforce a version they have become used to. Sometimes, that version is a happy one, sometimes a negative one. I know of two brothers who see their experiences in a way that makes it seem they lived in different worlds – one seeing a society accepting of migrants and the other seeing discrimination everywhere. That has to be related to how their personalities have been shaped and to their natural optimism or pessimism I think.

Of course, there are some who really have endured awful family backgrounds,  situations that could  break them if that is what they focus on. And it does break some – but  paradoxically makes others, even in the same family, stronger and more resilient.

We had a pretty good family, where we were loved and cared for, but during which we also endured some pretty tough times. I do remember those hard times, but I also remember the good times. Perhaps I have created a world that was somewhat better than it actually was, but at least it helps me to focus on the good stuff. Here’s a poem I wrote that does that:

 

 

In spring, summer and autumn,

we walked along muddy creeks,

along lake shores and ocean beaches,

over expanses of sea-side rock,

dotted with crystal-clear pools,

our bare feet tickled by weed and grass,

salt water and sand.

 

We collected driftwood and shells

and wave-smoothed stones

and carried them home

in bright red or blue or yellow buckets.

We spent hours sorting them

by shape and size and colour,

and days making sea-drift sculptures,

shell borders for photo frames and mirrors,

shell pictures and maps.

 

We strolled through wetlands,

dense with melaleuca,

wary of spiders and biting mosquitoes,

through lakeside forests of casuarinas

with their wind-eerie sounds,

and through paddocks and gullies

studded with eucalypts & blackberry bushes,

wary of red-bellied black snakes.

 

We collected sheets of paperbark

to make three-dimensional pictures,

flexible green sticks to make

Hiawatha bows

straight-stemmed

dry reeds for arrows,

and bulrushes for spears.

 

 Our Christmas decorations

were made from strips of crepe paper

that twirled across the room;

the star on top of the tree was

a piece of cardboard covered in

silver paper from cigarette packets.

 

From the huge pine trees

that bordered our school yard

(long gone now)

we fashioned their thick bark

into serviceable pistols, or dolls,

and their pinecones sawn through

created wide-eyed owls.

 

Inside, on cold or rainy days,

a sheet of newspaper could make

a ship or a plane or a hat,

or a row of dancing dolls.

A block of wood

made great cars and trucks;

large circular off-cuts from

holes drilled in plywood

made wheels for them.

 

Making our own entertainment was normal,

a stimulus to creativity and independence.

Not for us the electronic wizardry

of television or video games,

of computers or mobile phones.

We made what we could out of what we had

and enjoyed a childhood

rich with stimulation and experience.

 

 

What was your childhood like? Are your memories pleasant or negative?

 

© Linda Visman

 

 

A to Z Challenge – W is for Writers’ Block

April 27, 2015 at 12:05 am | Posted in A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015, Poetry, Writing | 7 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE [2015] - Life is Good

.

I am stuck with my creative writing. How can I get my mojo back?

.

Writer’s Block

.

What’s happened to my stories; where did they go?

The tales I‘m well into have just lost their flow.

What should I do to regain inspiration,

When rust is corroding my imagination?

.

My stories began with energy and verve,

And it seemed I had hit on my creative nerve.

But now that my characters have lives of their own,

They won’t tell me the next bit – it’s like talking to stone!

.

I’ve set them in time, and in distinctive places;

You wouldn’t expect they’d keep hiding their faces.

Yet that’s what they’re doing; they don’t seem to want me

To finish their stories; to let them be free.

.

Perhaps they don’t like what they’re expected to do;

They’re sulking, annoyed at a detail or two.

But I can’t change the fact that they put themselves there;

I just want to help them – don’t they know that I care?

.

Where are you Carla? What on earth are you doing?

Ben, surely you want to solve the mystery that’s stewing?

Then talk to me. Tell me, what’s happening next?

‘Cause I’m puzzled and lost – and very much vexed!

.

If you won’t let me come back and live in your tales,

I’ll cry, get depressed and believe that I’ve failed.

But if you take me back into these stories I’ve penned,

I can make it all right when we get to the end.

.

Inspiration! Come back!

.

(c)  Linda Visman

.

Indulging Our Creative Side

May 17, 2014 at 2:50 pm | Posted in Australia, Family, Mental Health, Ways of Living | 6 Comments
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Creativity - intelligence having fun

I am constantly amazed – though I shouldn’t be – at the number of writers who engage in other creative endeavours.

A few members of my writing group are also artists in paint and/or drawing. Many of the writers whose blogs I try to keep up with also engage in creative activities beyond writing.

creative-writing-art-design-craft

Activities among the women include cooking, art, ceramics and pottery, dressmaking or other sewing, crochet-work, knitting and many other arts or crafts.

I haven’t heard much about the non-writing creative activities of the male writers I read, but I suppose there are many of them who are also into other areas of creation – music is one that has been mentioned.

Arts-and-crafts-icon

I have found it difficult to get much going beyond my writing during the last few years – I only began to write about eight years ago, and I am now in my mid-sixties. However I have always needed some form of creative activity to keep me happy.

I have always been a reader of course – what writer isn’t? However, I cannot draw for the life of me, nor can I paint or make music – and you don’t want to hear me sing, even though I do break out now and then.

I love to make things. Over the years, I have constructed all sorts of things for the house and garden. They include fences, chicken coops, bird cages, small items of furniture and garden beds.

Leatherwork 2 (1280x960)I learned to do leatherwork when my youngest was a toddler, and loved it. I made the usual things: key cases, wallets and bags, belts, and also bible covers. I didn’t sell them, just made them for myself, family and friends. The trouble was that the cost of the leather became too high for me to continue. With a family of five sons on my then husband’s teaching salary, the money wasn’t available for expensive hobbies.

A nice cheap activity I took up for a few years was woodwork. Mostly, I made small items from scrap wood that I scrounged or was given. The main items I created were fridge magnets, key racks and pen holders, but I also made a couple of larger items. I really enjoyed it.
Our market stall Nov 03

I also took up making rugs for the floor, using the technique that my mother used when we lived in England in the 1940s and 50s, and then when we first came to Australia. I would peg strips of fabric cut from old clothing with a tool on to a sacking base. The resulting rugs can be very colourful.
Pegged rug 2
A few years ago, concerned that all my photographs were digital, and that not many ended up in photo albums – my last album was 2003 – I decided to print the best ones to mount into scrap books. I don’t do scrap-booking as often as I’d like to, but I do at least have my sons, their families and their children, as well as some of our road trips, represented in four or five books now.

Scrapbook 2 (1280x662)

It appears that many writers like being creative in other areas of art and crafts too. What activities do you indulge in to fulfil your need for creative outlets?

You-cant-use-up-creativity

© Linda Visman 17.05.14 (539 words) Craft works photos by Linda Visman – my creations.

Why I Joined the A to Z Challenge

May 1, 2014 at 11:38 am | Posted in Family History, Mental Health, Writing, Writing and Life | 27 Comments
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

 

A-to-Z Reflection [2014]

 

My friend had been blogging almost daily for three months – and she works at a demanding job. I am retired and had written little during that same three months.

Then she said she was going to do the April 2014 A to Z Blogging Challenge, which involves writing and posting a blog entry on twenty-six days through April, with Sundays free. Each entry was to be based on consecutive letters of the alphabet.

The challenge was to begin the next day, and I wondered how she would do it, after having already done three months of daily blogging. Then I felt really guilty that, in spite of my professing that I want and need to write, I had been procrastinating about my novel and my blogging for ages. Instead of wishing I had time to write, I should have been sitting down regularly, if not every day, and making the time. But I lacked the self-discipline needed to do it – I thought.

Procrastination-thief of time

 

Faced with my friend’s dedication and wanting to do something about my own laziness, I impulsively decided to join in the A to Z Challenge. It would be a good way to develop a writing routine.

Do it now

It was the evening of the day before it began, so I had a few hours to come up with the first entry. I did it easily, and posted ‘A is for Alphabet’ the following evening. Then I wrote ‘B is for Butcher and Bicycle’ and posted it on the second day. As I like to add pictures to my post, it can take some time to complete each one, but I got it up before lunch on the second day.

I also decided I needed to plan what I should write for each letter before it came up. When I began, I wasn’t going to write to a theme, but after I’d written my third post, ‘C is for Challenge’, and begun ‘D is for Depression’, I realised that a strong theme had developed on its own. I was writing family stories.

tell me abouth the past

During April, there were several family affairs to attend, all involving being away from home for several days at a time. I had to write my blog posts ahead, so that I could just publish them from my husband’s tablet as they fell due.

Writing to a deadline was good for me, and it still is. I have just published my last post of the challenge, ‘Z is for Zed and Zee”, and I have easily managed to write them and get them onto my blog on the correct day.

What has the A to Z Challenge done for me?

  • It has shown me that I can develop a habit of writing regularly;
  • It has shown that I write well to a deadline – which is a good thing only if I create deadlines to work to.

I already know that I can work under pressure. I did it when I was writing university assignments; when, as a school principal, I had to create and write the school handover books; write submissions for funding and follow-up reports; and any number of other written tasks.

ThursdayChild

What I really need is get on with my next Young Adult novel, Thursday’s Child.  I am two-thirds through the first draft, but it has only been staggering along for the last six months. There is a difference between writing reports and assignments and writing creative pieces, and I often find it difficult to get into the right frame of mind to work on the creative.

However, now that I have established a writing practice, I must use that to get back to my novel. Instead of allowing myself to be distracted by other tasks and by social media, I must just get my backside in my chair and WRITE! That’s the only way to break the dam that has been holding back the flow of creativity. In January, I did set June as the goal to finish my first draft – so, I have a deadline to meet. That’s my new challenge.

 

A-Z survivor [2014]

Thanks to the A to Z Challenge for getting me this far! It is a big step. Now I will take the next one.

 

Did you join the A to Z Challenge? How did you go?

 

(c) Linda Visman 01.05.14  (690 words)

 

T is for Toys: or how kids through the years are entertained

April 23, 2014 at 9:16 am | Posted in Experiences, Family, Family History, History, Mental Health, Ways of Living | 1 Comment
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A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014]

 

helmsdale-children-playing-marbles c1940s

Children playing marbles, c1940s

Times have changed since I was a child – and even more since my parents were. One of the ways that is very obvious relates to the toys we played with in those our grandchildren do. It was not always what we played with, but also their relative importance, and how toys and new ways of doing things have developed over time.

1920s doll& pram  Mum didn’t talk much about her childhood, and she died before I was able to spend real time with her, so I don’t really know anything about her actual toys. However, I can guess that she would have had dolls, perhaps a pram, and I know she would have had books.

Dad could tell me about his childhood activities. His toys, like Mum’s, reflected society’s gender expectations. What he had would always have been his preference1920s pedal car B anyway, as he loved making things and anything to do with machinery. When he was seriously ill as a four-year-old, his older cousin, also named Ernest, bought him a pedal car and hung it in his bedroom for when he was well again.

Along with other young boys, Dad played marbles and collected cigarette cards featuring famous sportsmen and historical figures. The cards people collected when I was young were put out by a clothing manufacturer, Stamina (no longer existent, and cigarette cards were still available, though not as widely. They are the same thing as the Pokemon or other cards that kids of today collect and play with. And toy cars, dolls and prams still bring joy to little kids.

When Dad was a bit older, his father traded poached game animals for things like Meccano sets and parts, and electric components to make crystal radios and speakers. Dad thus got a good grounding in skills that would serve him well in later years.

Crystal radio set 1930

Crystal radio set 1930

Meccano

Meccano parts

He would also make things for his younger brother and sisters out of cereal boxes and whatever he could find. Before he was able to buy himself a bike, he found parts to create one. It had no brakes, only a piece of cloth for a seat, and wonky wheels, but it went hell-for-leather down the hill!

When we were young, we made billy-carts out of old pram wheels, a wooden box and planks of wood. Like Dad’s bike, they had no brakes, but they could be steered with ‘reins’, and if you were going too fast down the hill, you could (hopefully) steer into the long grass at the side of the road.

My sons made billy-carts too, and I was glad they did, because it showed creativity and initiative and a willingness to take a chance. All our generations suffered bruises and scrapes, but that was all part of the enjoyment.

Three of my boys & their billycart

Three of my boys & their billycart

We were also good at using whatever was available – for example, sticks became guns or swords or bows and arrows. A sheet became a cubby-house or the sail of a ship, or a cloak.

My 5 boys with their bikes in 1982

My 5 boys with their bikes in 1982

My boys had bicycles, though I never did – my parents couldn’t afford them. Instead, Dad made wooden scooters for me and my younger sister, as well as other toys, also from wood. My little brother got a bought pedal car at three years of age, but that was to help him exercise his polio-affected ankle. Dad also made him a metal scooter when he was a bit older.

Books have always been an important part of all our lives. Dad loved to read, as did Mum – as I did and most of my children, and as my grandchildren do now. Books are valued possessions. Dad didn’t own any when he was a child, and had to rely on the local library. When he was older and able to buy them, he and Mum had a small collection.

stack of books 04I didn’t own books either until my ninth birthday, when I received two. The library was a favourite place to go – when there was one. My children always had books, though not nearly as many as their own children have now. Things like that are much cheaper and more easily obtained nowadays, as well covering a much wider range of genres and interests.

Radio provided entertainment for my parents and also for us until we were teenagers. Then we got television. That took up some of the time we used to fill with toys and other activities, but we were restricted in when we could watch it. We were always encouraged to go out and create our own entertainment.

My children watched TV, but we also restricted their viewing. We also travelled and engaged in other activities. My grandchildren don’t watch nearly as much TV as many of their their peers, but they do have access to a lot more educational programmes than we had. However, my kids are also keen that their children reap the benefits of an outdoor life.

The biggest apparent difference between the toys of my generation and those of children now is the access to electronic devices that didn’t exist in earlier iPadyears. Although traditional toys are still a part of most children’s growing up, and the quality of those toys is much better, many children begin to use electronic devices at a very early age. That is what they want – easy and portable access to creation and adventure in other worlds and realities rather than in the real world. But perhaps that’s not too different to reading books and make-believe play; it’s mainly the format that has changed.

I suppose that wherever kids are, they will find something to play with. Whether it be creating a toy from almost nothing or receiving elaborate and expensive ones from their parents, whether building crystal radios or using an ipad or a Wii, what is important is the fun, the search for adventure, the learning, the exercise of creativity and initiative.

It might also be whatever will keep the kids occupied and out of their parents’ hair.

rocking-chair-ipad

What were your favourite toys when you were a child? What did your parents have? Do you think children get as much out of their toys as the kids in your day or your parents’ day did?

 

© Linda Visman 23.04.2014  (1,076 words)

 

Book Promotion Downsides

October 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Posted in Mental Health, Promotion, Psychology, Writing | Leave a comment
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Creativity-Logic conflict

I wish there were not so much time and energy involved in promoting my book. I am not someone who enjoys this type of activity and would rather get back to what I want to do.

I use up the energy I should be using for my writing in trying to get noticed, both locally and on-line. Having to do that distracts me from my writing too. Instead of allowing my creative left brain to come to the fore, my practical right brain has to dominate. Ideas bog down, words have to be forced out, and frustration overcomes me.

Then, frustration leads to a loss of drive and apathy takes over – if apathy can actually DO anything. I suppose it is rather I allow myself to fall into apathy. Then nothing gets done; not the writing and not the promotion activities.

I find myself in this roller-coaster ride of enthusiasm-activity / apathy-inaction much too frequently. Being a sufferer from depression is no fun when there are so many things you want to do. The things that I don’t want to do drive me onto a downward slope that I hope won’t go too deep before I can pull out of it.

It is actually my writing that has helped to get me back on the level many times over the years. Before I began writing stories, poems and novels, I kept a journal. In there, I poured out my feelings, and often worked out how to climb from the pit. Those pits were deep, very deep at times.

I am grateful that the lows are nowhere near what they used to be, and that I can come out of them quite quickly. I use positive action to overcome the apathy, and I have a husband who is very supportive in this, getting me to act when all I feel is negativity.

I still keep a journal, and it still helps. However, the focus is on what I am doing in my writing life now instead of mainly on feelings. I actually wrote this entry in my journal before making it into a blog entry.

I just wish I didn’t have to do all the distracting, energy-sapping work that goes into producing and promoting what was an idea, but is now a physical entity: my book.

Fighting the Black Dog

September 19, 2011 at 9:20 am | Posted in Mental Health, Writing and Life | 1 Comment
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The less exercise I get and the less I exert myself to do something constructive or creative, the more likely I am to fall into a depression, even if it is only a mild one. The black dog is always looking for an opportunity to sneak in.

The more regularly I exercise, the better I am. And when I speak of exercise, I don’t mean just going for a 15-minute walk. I don’t count it as exercise unless it has pushed me in a way that tests my strength and stamina, my heart and lungs and muscles.

My exercise, apart from aqua aerobics when I can get there, is not in a gym, using state of the art machinery. I get mine while doing constructive things around the house.

I have always loved doing physical work, inside or outside the house. I was mowing the lawns as a ten or eleven year-old girl, even though I had an older brother.

I have enjoyed moving furniture and re-arranging rooms ever since I had my own place to do it in. I have dug many a garden, some of them large ones. I have made garden edges and footpaths; constructed henhouses and yards for our fowls and ponds for the ducks. I have built outdoor bird aviaries, planted – and sometimes cut down – trees and shrubs. And I have mowed many a yard over the last fifty-plus years.

There is something so positive about doing these sorts of activities, that depression is pushed aside. It finds it hard to compete with the satisfaction I obtain from a strenuous job, especially if it is well done.

Yesterday, I spent a total of about seven hours moving large bookcases (we have an awful lot of books) and cleaning the rooms they are in. This afternoon, I have spent an hour and a half mowing – with a motor mower you push – and sweeping the paths. I feel great. Two days of good physical activity have sent those lurking feelings of depression packing, at least for now.

More sedentary, but creative, activities can do something similar. Among other things, I write in many genres and do scrap-booking. I also help others with their writing. All these activities stretch my mind and take me away from the black thoughts.

Sometimes, it is extremely difficult to make the first move. One’s whole being is repelled by the thought of coming out of the darkness of depression, as I know only too well. But if one can overcome that inertia, then the rewards are worth it. They may not seem so at first, but repeating the exercise will strengthen the light of positivity, however weak, that is always struggling to show itself.

With a mixture of physical, mental and creative activities, I know I can drive away the black dog of depression.

But I need to keep at it. When I sit back and do nothing for too long a time, that dog will come sniffing around again, trying to bring me down.

© Linda Visman

Entitlement or Responsibility?

August 3, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Posted in Philosophy, Social Responsibility | 2 Comments
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The choice of TV stations and free-to-air programmes, as well as of pay TV, has certainly expanded considerably in the last couple of years. Then again, this is like many other aspects of our society. We have access to so much, and for such little cost, that it is almost, if not literally, obscene.

There are so many people in the world who struggle to keep body and soul together, or to have any kind of personal freedom. And yet most of us in western society have everything we need, and more, so easily and so cheaply. And it is usually based upon the exploitation of cheap, exploited, overseas labour in third-world countries.

We have also come to expect this as our right, and that is tragic for our greedy and selfish society.

We are not learning – or indeed, teaching our younger generation, that it is a good and positive thing to work for what you get. It should not be handed out on a damask-covered platter.

How will our young ones learn responsibility if they are given whatever they want? How will they even know the satisfaction and sense of achievement that comes with doing something for themselves?

How will they learn to exercise their imaginations if they are spoon-fed with computer games and movies and wii games, with instant communications and instant gratification, with advertising and political exploitation.

How can they stretch their creativity if they cannot make something from almost nothing, to fulfil their needs, or even for their entertainment?

I fear that there is coming a time when creativity will be stifled – if it has not already arrived. The exceptions will be those few who are given the opportunity to stretch themselves by caring and discerning parents, and those who have the strength of character to go their own way, against the pressures of conformity.

These are the ones who give us hope for a future that is not robotic or constrained by the bread and circuses of those who rule by giving the masses what they want.

We should hold back on giving our children what should be earned, and on allowing what they should produce from their own creativity.

 

© Linda Visman, August 2011

Where’s That Word?

September 8, 2010 at 9:21 am | Posted in Writing | Leave a comment
Tags: , , ,

Too often, although I know so many words, I can’t bring them to mind when I want them. I feel like I’m reaching into a thick, rich alphabet soup, trying to find the one or two words I need out of the millions that are swirling around. As you do with a real soup, you aim for a particular bit, a juicy bit of meat, or a rich slice of vegetable, but it keeps eluding your spoon. It wants to stay there with all its fellows, warm and comfortable.

Little does that word know that if it would only allow itself to be caught, it would grow and multiply – not be consumed. That’s the difference between chicken vegetable soup and a soup of words. Oh, I do wish those words wouldn’t constantly hide from me! I want to have them as friends. Show them off in my stories and poems, or in my cryptic crosswords. You’d think they’d like that!

Other words sometimes jump out of the soup as I stir it. A bit like a fish jumping for an insect, or maybe even for joy. But they aren’t the ones I need right then. They just don’t fit into the line, or the sentence. They don’t have the right meaning or the right cadence. Not like the one I’m really looking for and can’t find. It doesn’t matter whether I scratch my head, chew my pen; or rack my brain for the most suitable word – or sometimes, even for the simplest of words – it doesn’t come.

Right now, I want words for waves – water waves, that is. The kind of words that ripple or roar, tinkle or crash, drip or cascade. Words like ripple, wavelet, comber and tsunami. But that’s as far as I can go. There must be more, but I just can’t think of them. They elude me. I know they’re there in my head. I’ve used them before. You’d think I could find them again, but, oh, no, they’ve gone on holiday somewhere.

I suppose I’ll just have to do what I always do – bring out the thesaurus. And, if I can’t find the words I need, then that award for the best poem or that delightful short story, full of wonderful imagery, brought to life by the apt use of just the right words, will go to someone else’s piece – again!

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