My Bliss Meter by Janine M. Donoho

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet me admit that vortices of ‘why bother’ have been known to draw me into their gyrations. With a throbbing knee keeping me from decades-long walking meditations over the last month, my outlook has swung wildly into Danger-Will-Robinson-red before bumping into cautionary yellow.

Even so my thanks-o-meter has begun to migrate into the sweet green zone again as I enjoy moments of gratitude so richly textured that the sky actually opens and celestial beings pour through—although decidedly not of the religiosity variety. Instead my unnatural immobility focuses me on what registers with both normal and extrasensory perceptions—an indulgence and a categorically unscientific way of viewing the world. It does speak to an integrated brain, however.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Today I’m enthralled by the fire in our soapstone stove. Within the temperature registers a balmy 60+ degrees Fahrenheit rather than the double-digit minuses outside. Our basking hounds sigh and groan, adding a joyful dimension. Beside me are stacks of books to read. Bliss.

Travel stickersA handwritten letter from a best friend included these inspiring stickers of maps you might expect to see on old steamer trunks—along with beautifully rendered birds. Then there’s my Wacom tablet, which required a year of scrimping to buy. The tablet works brilliantly with Corel Painter 12—a promise of exhilarating skills to gain and visions to liberate.

Can I even joke about the uninhibited delight I find in MSOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA writing programs? Especially when compared to typewriters with carbon copies and the ancient Commodore 64 on which I wrote my first novel, losing chapters at a time when the system burped. I simply love my artful pens, too—gifts received with each published novel. Another two for CHOSEN BY MIST (Book 3 of MISTBORN CHRONICLESand SOUNDINGS (Water Elemental) will be joining the medley of five this month. What writer can resist a fabulous pen?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally this Tuesday I look forward to getting both cortisone and hyaluronic acid injections into my aching joint. By the end of next year, I may while away the winter months recovering from a more permanent fix. Exuberant dancing, extreme hiking, and other endorphin-crazed activities could fill my life again. On, on!

Another gift? Some communities translate well into electron clouds, especially when you connect with those wild ones who will howl at the moon with you. They can loft you into the stratosphere when other means fail. So thank you to those unconventional, big-brained creatives on Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. You expand my horizons from isolated to ecstatic herd member.

Let’s start a conversation. What gets you over the bumps and pegs out your gratitude meter?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Smoke in the Valley by Janine M. Donoho

Yes, we really can see Canada from our porch…

We’re beyond dry in our high desert and enjoying the dog days. Have been playing with the cover for SOUNDINGS even as smoke from the Okanogan and Wenatchee Complex fires fills the valley, spilling over into our Highlands. Simply cannot express my appreciation for the firefighters who pit their all-too-mortal bodies against these flames. Thank you will never be enough for what you do.

The last of our porch garden.

Naming Names by Janine M. Donoho

The map is not the territory. This quote by scientist-philosopher Alfred Korzybski haunts me. While he intended it to clarify the difference between object and representation, I think it’s bigger than that. For me, it also speaks to authenticity and human displays of facade. That this aspect often comes from imposed societal shame has been known to drive me to distraction.

Now for a confession. As a relatively shy person who functions as an introvert with variable social skills, I appreciate and understand the art of camouflage. That means teasing out the authentic, yet less obvious aspects of self. Joy of joys, it also can equate with glorious attire to complement that facet.

Lynn Margulis ciphered this philosophy into confusing names for actual organisms. Along the lines of ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’, can we encapsulate the true nature of anything within a given title? We’re both biologists and writers who crammed nomenclature into our heads. The reasoning? If you’re going to communicate with others, you need to be speaking the same language.

It does seem reasonable to label traits in concrete terms. Many indigenous peoples do so. Of course, given names such as Johnny-sh*ts-while-running, which described a boy with diarrhea, can run afoul of starchy missionaries. For some reason, changing to Johnny-doesn’t-sh*t-while-running failed to help.

While many plants and animals such as Douglas-firs garner names according to who ‘discovers’ them, Interior Salish people called the sugar they harvested from these firs ‘tree-breastmilk’. I tend toward this approach. Also Greek and Latin from which we borrow heavily for scientific classification reflect descriptive specificity. For instance, Leptarrhena pyrolifolia harkens back to Greek leptos for ‘fine’ and arrhen, ‘male’. ‘Pyrola-like leaves’ describe its leathery, bright green foliage. Some call this plant Leatherleaf saxifrage. Beats calling it Fred’s weed, after all.

Connotations and denotations in the English language can help–or play havoc–with naming choices. A few choices fit brilliantly. Could Darth Vader, dark father, be anything other than a villain? Other skillfully tagged scoundrels include Shere Khan, Cruella de Ville, Captain Hook, Sauron, Hannibal Lecter and Voldemort. Oh, and let’s not forget the inimitable Satan. The same can be true for characters of heroic proportions: Luke Skywalker, Gandalf, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, Atticus Finch, Emma, Sherlock Holmes, etc.

So while this writer does not mistake moniker for character, I do try to bring my readers into story with a well-chosen term. Even so, when names come to me, they often surprise me with their richness of meaning. In SOUNDINGS for instance, Margo means pearl, Zoe, life, and Morrissey, choice of the sea. Since this novel of my ELEMENTALs ties into water, these labels take on deeper significance. In WILDFIRE Althea, Thea for short, means ‘healer’. This works, too, when she’s confronted with Bramden Youngwolf Hayes, my wounded Fisher King. Then in CALLING DOWN THE WIND, Rue, whose mother regrets her birth, turns the name on its head by becoming an altogether different woman than the label predicts.

So naming matters, even as we remind ourselves not to confuse it with true essence.

Next Newer Entries

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27, 2015
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