Look, I don’t generally do book reviews on my blog. It just isn’t my thing. But if you’ve missed me at all in the blogosphere, know that it was in pursuit of relearning to love reading and battling my way through painful transitions of my own. This book gives me hope that life is worth living. Maybe you need a reason to keep on going too.
So, I offer to you Becky Chambers’ A Closed and Common Orbit and a link to my Goodreads review.
But, honestly, I suggest you just read the book instead. Any review is going to be a pale, anemic attempt to recapture the absolute brilliance of Becky Chambers’ writing. It’s actually a travesty that I tried.
WARNING–this is BOOK TWO of a series. You can read it without the preceding work–A LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET–but you will deprive yourself of joy and context if you do.
In a previous post, Another Woman’s Life, we met our intriguing heroine dumpster diving at a Goodwill depot center. (Wait…no… that makes it sound like she was doing the diving when actually I was in the dumpster…Sigh. Go read that post, it makes more sense.)
The words hewn from my mind are forced into uncomfortable arrangements.
Sentences with broken backs and incomplete endings.
Things that dangle.
A worrisome focus on grammar and clean lines—syllabication truncated to succinctness.
When all I want to do is run through words like a child through a field of flowers.
Wild and untethered,
I would pluck the verbs that please me best and make of them a bouquet. Smell the deep earthiness of adjectives that bite the tongue when you speak them.
Crush the scented mint between lips full of prose.
Using adverbs sparingly so as not to overpower the taste.
And with great pleasure.
Carefully measuring synonyms by the spoonful.
But harnessing words is tricky business.
Bringing them through the slip stream of consciousness and pinning them to the page is not unlike stabbing a butterfly after the ether withers them.
Do they become inert things no longer filled with life?
Pretty facsimiles of something that once breathed?
If words are not my playthings, then what toys do I have left?
How to describe what lurks in the folds of my mind?
If I cannot use them with abandon, are they orphaned?
Are they lost forever in a void of never-has-been-ness?
A not-being that sucks my soul into a black abyss.
Am I then become wordless?
I am driving back home Sunday, through a raging storm when the call comes over the radio:
“Beep Beep Beep…please be aware that a tornado watch is in effect for West Michigan counties from now until 8:00pm tonight.”
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a tornado–I’ve been lucky not to–but the minute you know it is a possibility, you start seeing potential tornados everywhere you look. They become tornados of the mind. This is one of those imaginary journeys…
TRIGGER WARNING: The following people might want to avoid this particular post: those with delicate constitutions, the humor-impaired, vegans who didn’t reading the title. You might find this a tad offensive. Actually, anyone with any sense of taste whatsoever might want to give it a pass. It’s that bad. If you choose to consume my unfiltered thoughts, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I was complimented recently on my writing, it came via someone with a tenuous Facebook connection. It’s the first time anyone who wasn’t a friend or blood relative (and therefore obligated to like my writing or at least lie to me and say they do) told me they found my writing funny. (But funny in a good way.)
It made me feel, just for a nano-second, what it must be like when famous people get recognized. It was awesome and I thanked him…and then felt like a total fraud because I haven’t given two thoughts to my blog in months!
Memory is the golden shore where summer waters lap. Where sanded children shriek like gulls, And mothers shade their eyes and search The ever distant beach for tears or missing faces in the surf.
There the castles build and fall, where triumph tragedy becomes. And sticky mouths suck greedy gulps of sugar-saturated pops— Rainbow colors melting down.
See criss-crossed marks burned into skin which will no permanent memory make To keep from repeating the mistake of measuring the sun by an SPF span. Boiled-lobster faces whine and belated zinc is applied in futile effort to rewind time.
Gritted bodies, tired, worn but happy with a day’s respite, Ride the chariot once more toward the sinking orb Which threatens little from its perch on the lip of the world, Leaving a flip flop token of remembrance behind.
You’ll find no ribboned concourse marking childhood’s end. It is fleeting, passing, and no trumpet heralds its demise. So, measure well those steps you take on burning sands They will the hourglass wind down and scorch tender flesh In haste to reach Lethe’s waters.
“This siege is going on longer than I would have imagined. Supplies are running low. I may have to eat the squirrels in the yard. Hope I can get better with the slingshot, just in case survivalists storm the brigade.”
I attend the Meijer Garden’s Orchid show every year, if I can. This year I was exceptionally lucky in more ways than one–in having child care and in running into the nicest couple who helped me take even better pictures (with much less swearing at my camera) than usual.
To Vicki and Lou, many thanks! You may take credit for any of the flower images that follow!
It is hard to narrow down my choices to just a few special interest pictures. I took over 350 shots and did stop to tweak a few digitally. (Which sounds much worse than it actually is.)
You’ll notice that there is a yellowish cast to many of the photos. I blame the lighting that is intended to enhance the floral display, but plays havoc with getting a true color capture.
Sometimes it is hard to capture an image for more reasons than lighting. (Operator incompetence springs to mind, for example.) So cropping is the next best thing to actually getting a good shot the first time.
I was struggling mightily with my Canon EOS (I can only assume EOS stands for Exceptionally Obstinant System) when Lou offered a few hints. And then, when I still couldn’t manage to get my camera to ‘point and shoot’ for me, he fiddled with about a half-dozen settings until he figured out the problem. Honestly, I can’t tell you what he changed, but it was like he put the fear of Kodak into the thing, because it stopped hiccuping afterward. Yay Lou!
I tend to prefer a nice crisp image. I liked centered shots, but sometimes, the size or arrangement of the flowers made this nigh impossible.
How do you center on a flowering bush, for example? I chose to close crop the surroundings so that you could ‘feel the profusion’ of the yellow flowering orchid with about the longest name I’ve ever seen.
The next image, I only snapped one photo. Fortunately, I got most of the massive bloom in focus. But shooting from a distance and trying to avoid all the other glamorous contenders makes photographing them a challenge.
I particularly liked the name of the next flower–though I took about 8 shots, none really captured the drama of the beauty which was a cross of a Victorian Bride and a Speciosum.
I aimed for the mystery implied by the name, instead, my picture is more of a question unanswered. It was like photographing a herd of children–each face looking in a different direction.
How can you not love the pinkness of the Vanda Princess Mikasa? There should totally be a Japanese Anime character in a frilly pink frock to go with this.
The next flower I had to finesse the shot from an angle, because taken head-on, you got a lot of background noise in the way of giant tags dangling from other flowers. You could try to move the pesky things, but then you ran the risk of damaging someone’s priceless petals. I am many things, but a bud abuser is not one of them.
How many pictures is too many? I suspect you will judge for yourself. Perhaps you glide past them in quick processional to get them over with? (As if you see things like this every day!) Maybe you do.
I, however, get a two hours span once a year. That means every single flower deserves its moment in the digital sun.
The orchid show runs through Sunday, January 26, so I am racing to get these online in time to lure you down the garden path to orchid indulgences.
How can you not when such tongue-twisting temptations abound? A quick search on the internet will tell you some of their secrets.
The unpronounceable Phragmipedium Kovachii below, for example, is particularly tricky to produce. It can take 8 years of growth from seed before this shy flower blooms. That does tend to increase one’s appreciation knowing how rare these pink petals are.
Sometimes it can be hard for a particular lovely to stand out in a crowd.
But it’s worth it to single out the bloom, or blooms, that catch your eye. Even if you have to crawl around getting the perfect angle.
How the displays are set up can make a huge difference. One of my favorite arrangements was actually incredibly hard to shoot–due to the small size of the dangling flowers and the driftwood base that was their platform. It was phenomenally crafted, but annoying to photograph.
Petals so fragile and delicate could be easily overlooked:
In fact, if I hadn’t run into Lou and Vicki, I might have missed the tiny sparkler that was easily overshadowed by its surroundings.
Other arrangements were difficult to capture because of the number of branches or direction of growth. Such was the case with the Oncidium Cheirophorum.
It was a beautiful plant–but with blooms so far apart as to appear a bit drunken and in danger of falling over–unless you cropped the focus to one spray of blossoms.
Such as here:
It just goes to show, you don’t always see the whole picture no matter how well a subject is photographed!
I’ve always loved looking at the world through a lens. I don’t know why. I just do. Maybe it is because I can crop out the messy bits that just don’t fit; I can focus on what I find beautiful and take it home with me.
I’ll throw in a few more favorites before toddling off to bed. I can’t show them all, you’d never stand for that sort of nonsense, but I’ve tried to capture the essence of the show.
The confused blooms that seem made up of many colors and patterns:
Some I could not put a name to–either because my snapshot was blurry or the flower was an orphan without parentage delineated.
There are vendors providing all sorts of sales regarding orchid paraphernalia, but one stood out as an artistic eyeful: