How one thing leads to another ...
I've been struggling with a project, so I've done some research and reading, and more research and more reading. And I'm starting to feel as though I'm going around in circles.
Because I am.
I'm not sure who said, "The answers are in the work," but I know it's true. I also know the hard part is starting the work.
Though I'm still uncertain, I've decided it's time to start. Anywhere. To grab at that idea that hangs like a loose thread and see where it takes me.
When I set out to write today's email, I toyed with the idea of World Jellyfish Day listed for Friday, but aside from seeing one or two floating in the water while swimming in the ocean (eek!), what do I know about jellyfish? So I decided on a nature theme to recognize Saturday's Nat'l Play Outside Day.
I gathered leaves, pinecones, pine needles, and dried flowers to make a natural mandala, didn't like what I created, and scrapped that idea.
But the leaves I collected did merit a second look, so I created the leaf pattern above. They are all from the same tree, but all so different. Much like all of us.
While the pattern of leaves on the black background was striking, I wanted more.
And that is when then the pieces (the black paper, the yellow leaves and pine needles) came together to form an idea ... and a jellyfish.
A bit abstract, but still, a jellyfish.
Be the jellyfish ...
When jellyfish were still an idea, I read a bit about them and was reminded of their bioluminescence ... they light themselves up in the deepest, darkest water.
As I discovered with my foraged materials, once we start, one thing leads to another, and then, like the jellyfish, we create our own light.
Our own bioluminescence.
It can be difficult to get started, but once you do, your light will shine.
p.s. After collecting and working with the pinecones and pine needles, my hands were covered in sap.
Even if you're not a fan of Wednesday's Nat'l Peanut Butter Lovers Month, you may be interested in knowing it's a handy cleaning agent.
Washing up with soap and water doesn't cut through pine sap. But ... peanut butter (or almond butter) does.
This post was originally published in the Waystation Whistle Sunday email series. Sign up and get a new story, every Sunday.
I'd been down that path before. It's a short trail through the woods that loops out to a field and back again.
Just weeks ago, the trail was upgraded and I found myself looking at the ground as we walked:
- at the downed tree branches repurposed as edging
- the new wooden bridge that carried us over that always-muddy section of the trail
- at the (so many) mushrooms that blossomed after the rain
- and the changing foliage ... reminding me autumn is a cool couple of weeks away
It was entirely captivating until the trail took a turn.
A hard left in the middle of nowhere
When we rounded the corner, I glanced back over my shoulder. I'd been down this path before, but I didn't remember such an abrupt turn.
But it was there, clear as could be when I looked back.
And then I saw the sun ... casting light high upon the tree trunks. And farther on, the mist ... hovering over the field.
Was I missing the forest ... for the mushrooms?
While I was focused on the trail I discovered the mushrooms, signs of autumn in the leaves, and a squirrel sprinting across the path.
But when I looked up, I saw which direction the trail was headed, the light streaming through the trees, and the early morning mist.
And all of a sudden, I wasn't sure where to look, afraid I might miss something.
And it made me think the next edition of Tinplate: Birds & Birding.
The day before I was doubting everything about it. Wondering if I should toss it out and start over. Or forget the whole thing. I was deep in detail ... ruminating over homing pigeons, plumage, and migration. All the while, losing direction ... and all sense of why I started it to begin with.
Until the walk in the woods.
I realized I'd been looking down ... for too long. That it was time to look up, to review the project as a whole, check my bearings, and see where I was.
I started Waystation Whistle because I believe in the power of hobbies, passions, and distractions to help you (and me) tell a different story about your day.
I'm no birding expert, but by watching the birds I see in my neighborhood and doing a bit of research I'm learning more and more, and I'm hoping to encourage you to make a few discoveries of your own.
There's plenty of work to be done, but for now, maybe that's the answer for all of us: focus on the details to make whatever it is the best it can be, but remember to look up, too. To check in to see where we are and where we're going ... so we can spot the turn up ahead ... and the light streaming through the trees.
And maybe a bird or two.
We never had a dog when I was growing up. There were a few cats, a snake even, but never a dog.
I can't even recall knowing any one dog all that well, but there came a day when I wanted one.
So I went looking for one, talked about getting one, did my research on bringing a dog home, and finally got one. A basset hound.
Why a basset hound? I think it was the ears. They have big, beautiful ears. Velvety ears. And they are solid dogs, well-tempered, and laid-back.
Unfortunately, they are not great about walking in a straight line, moving along from here to there ... at least not Agatha. Nope, she'd walk a few paces and stop. Sniff, move on, and stop again.
After reading the most popular and recommended books about having a dog, I understood the importance of daily exercise, and made sure we went out. Every day. We went in the woods and around the neighborhood, but it was always the same ... a herky-jerky trek from here to there.
Now, granted, I wanted a dog that was easy-going, but when it was time to get her out for some exercise, it became an exercise in frustration. For me and the dog.
The frustration, I realized, came from expecting Agatha to power walk, get moving, and do what I wanted her to do ... to go against her nature. Bassets are after all, scent hounds. Sniffing is what they do. Once I figured that out, I enjoyed our time outside.
What I learned
I learned to take myself for a walk first ... alone. And to accept what Agatha was teaching me ... to slow down and notice things.
In the coming weeks, I'll be releasing a new picture book, Things I Notice When I Walk The Dog.
It's a picture book memoir. Agatha's legacy ... and part of mine.
Think memoir's not for you?
If you think memoir is not for you, think again. People love stories and you've got some good noes.
Stories you can share in a collection or how-to book.
Remember, memoir is not an account of your entire life. It's the account of an experience or event where some kind of understanding, lesson, or insight occurred.
How did you get started doing what you do? What does someone entering the field you're in need to know? What do you wish you knew? Share it and help someone in the same position.
Have you completed a self-initiated challenge where you learned something you didn't expect?
What do you do in your spare time? Are you a mast chef, a marathon runner, or member of a band? What's that like? Let us know.
Your insights and experiences are unique. And that's why we want your take on how it's done and why it matters.
Once you get started, you'll be surprised a what you can share.
Writing about your experiences can feel self-indulgent or out of reach in the beginning, but you tell stories all the time. The challenge is putting them down on paper.
Want to ease into writing? Check out these new tools.
Some still hang
bright and red
others make like
polka dots, red on
The ones that
fill the gutter
line up like bowling
balls in the automated
Is it the imperfections,
or it it because they're not
already picked, in a bag,
in a store?
I wish it was my
We went for a walk at the Audubon center this morning. It was an overcast day in an autumn landscape. At first glance, aside from the sweeping views of the field and the river beyond, it seemed there wouldn’t be much to see. At least not when compared to earlier in the season when so many birds flitted one way then another, flowers were blooming, turtles skimmed the pond, and the grasses grew tall and green.
Today the only green offered was harbored in the pine trees on the field’s edge. And it was unusually quiet. We spotted just one crow, another (unidentifiable) small bird, and in the distance by the river, a flock of seagulls. So many of the birds have migrated, the flowers and grasses have gone dormant, and there’s a chill in the air that seeks and settles in the gap of an open collar.
But there is beauty and intrigue to be found. Close up and at a distance if you look for it.
Red berries on bare twigs. The lilt of the marsh grass. And scat deposited on the edge of a well worn path. Yep, we’re talking poop. Pretty sure it didn’t come from a dog because they’re not allowed. And with all the berries in it, it was most likely fox droppings. Two sightings ... of poop, not the fox, unfortunately.
The walk was a bit of forest bathing; immersion in the natural landscape. Even though we weren’t in the forest, we focused on the landscape, the sky, the air, plants (and yes, poop), and nothing else. No worries about what to cook for dinner, the news, or impending chores. In return, we found what we were looking for ... calm in an otherwise hectic world.
We may not be able to visit or travel these days, but if we get out and explore what's close to home, there’s no telling what we might see and share ... in a letter, a phone call, or Zoom event.
Is there a park, walkway, stretch of beach, or field where you can go to get outside? Where you can watch, listen, and let nature wash over you? Go.
It will make you feel better and give you the scoop on new things to talk about.
Helping you write stories worth sharing.
Story prompts, every week.