Ever-Changing – a poem

This past week, to highlight the autumn equinox, I had planned to upload a couple of poems celebrating autumn or fall in general. But after reviewing some of the poetry I’ve written, I came across another poem and felt compelled to share it instead.

In the spirit of the changing season, where the beauty and abundance of the summer gives way to the leaner, more mercurial nature of autumn, with its changing leaves, frantic, scurrying animals, and more reflective feel – here is my poem “Ever Changing”.

As I read through it, it felt oddly appropriate – not only for the season, but also for the world at large right now. I do hope you like it.

EVER CHANGING

The times are changing and so are we,
changing like the seasons
in the sea of Space and Time,
changing like the tides
ebbing and flowing,
pulled by the moon on high.

The times are changing and so are we,
changing like the seasons
in Time’s boundless sea,
trapped in a cycle,
never having leave to rest,
except in the embrace of Death.

The times are changing and so are we,
changing like the colors
of pearly dawn and smoky dusk,
our hues forever changing,
blending and melding,
with those changing with us.

Copyright © J.S. White

Probably Not the Blog You’re Looking For…

When I first started the blog, I had an idea of what I wanted it to be – something quaint, simple, and thoughtful. Something that didn’t rely on lists of Do and Do-Not’s, 10 Best Techniques of whatever. I wanted something personal and friendly, almost like a conversation with someone in your local coffee shop. Or a meet-up with a friend. Something that, at the very least, was consistent.

Well, here we are – halfway through my first real year of blogging – and I would consider this blog neither quaint nor consistent.

Rambling? Yes.
Simple? Probably.
Thoughtful? I like to think so.

The truth is, I had something of a chance of heart at the beginning of August, after celebrating First Harvest. I don’t want my blog to be just another author’s blog out there, giving out tips for writing scenes, or developing characters. There are far better and more qualified writers with blogs out there for that. I’m not that person. I don’t have a four-year degree in English or Creative Writing. I don’t have a dozen published novels or e-books out there for you to check out. And I may never have them and that’s okay.

I write because it makes me happy when I do. I write because I try to connect with people, places, and things that interest me, and writing helps me process and internalize those things.

There was a large gap in my usual posting because my concept of what I wanted this blog to be had changed and I was unsure how to move forward. Now, I have a better idea. It’s my hope that updates will be more consistent (there’s that word again) moving forward. There will be some difference in content, but the style of writing similar to previous posts.

There will be thoughts on seasonal things and nature, something I’m getting increasingly close to and aware of these days. There will be posts of poems and short fiction still, just as before, but there will be more personal non-fiction as well. Less emphasis on writing nuts and bolts, technique, but hopefully more actual writing.

If you’ve followed me this far, I hope you will remain. If you plan to leave after this, that’s fine…I understand.

Here’s to a new start and a better blogging journey…

Looking Forward to the Fall…

In the North Carolina piedmont, the fingers of autumn are starting to creep into the everyday.

Spider webs, both large and small, are draped over every bush, hedge, between tree branches, in little hidden corners of the porch. In the humidity, there’s a suggestion of coolness – a welcome reminder that the heat and stickiness of summer will soon end. Harvest decorations are popping up in the yards and porches of neighborhood houses, along with the macabre decorations of avid Halloween enthusiasts (a cousin of mine is one of them, she decorates as soon as the school starts every year).

Dove season – a tiny little window of recreational hunting that only lasts for two weeks – started on Labor Day. Incidentally, dove season usually coincides with the harvest of corn in our area, which makes for better hunting as the fat, little birds are eager to snatch up any fallen grains in the newly cut fields.

This year, however, the fields are still ripe with corn, the tall stalks beginning to brown. Less corn means less complacent doves, which means a rather disappointed husband for me. Still, there’s still turkey season and deer season to be had, so hope isn’t lost for John – who fancies himself a hunter, but who really uses hunting season as an excuse to cut his phone off and sit around in the woods for hours at a time.

And for me?

I’m enjoying the promises of cool weather in the whispers of wind through the trees. The scurrying of small mammals as they hurry to fatten up and line their nests in preparation for winter makes me smile. I think of setting out pinecone birdfeeders drenched in peanut butter and bird seed; of gathering little piles of acorns and bundles of sticks like I did when I was a child…just because.

I think of the warmth of family gatherings and sharing hearty foodstuffs like roasted vegetables, ham, and attempting to bake fresh bread (a new goal of mine this year).

Like so many people, autumn is my favorite time of the year. And this year I have a feeling I’ll enjoy it even more, because I plan to really be present and celebrate the season.

The craziness of last fall and winter made it difficult to really be present mentally. My focus was definitely more on those things out in the world instead of those in the local, natural environment. This year I plan to change that. I want to celebrate the season more fully, both in my everyday life and in my inner life.

I plan to crochet more. I plan to bake homemade bread for the first time (and then a second, and a third). I plan on sitting out in the autumn sun more, soaking up its energy and breathing in the cool, crisp air.

I plan on acknowledging how, regardless of how technologically-advanced our society has become or how crazy the world still is, I am still a part of nature and that it still has important, timeless things to teach me.

I’m looking forward to the Fall…this descent into reflection and the gathering up of things.

I’m looking forward to sorting through my thoughts, my feelings, reflecting on my place in the world, and what kind of seeds I want to sow, not only in the coming months, but in the days after the darkness of fall and winter have passed.

Enough – a poem

I don’t remember your laughter
or the sparkle of your eyes
I don’t remember the strength of your arms
as you picked me up, brushed me off
when I fell and scraped my knee.

I don’t remember your tussled black hair,
tangling in the wind.
Even your voice is a mystery,
I don’t remember the sound.

But I have pictures
nestled in a cardboard box
in the attic, gathering dust
of you, of me, of us.

I remember your presence.
I remember warmth
and I remember love,
the kind of love I like to think
was just for me.

And that was
and is
and must
be enough

Copyright © J.S. White

Necessary – a short story

The landscape was awash in tones of red and burnished gold, rays of light stretching from the horizon across a vast rocky plain until they touched the research station’s meter-thick, leaded glass barrier. Outside the barrier, perhaps two thousand meters across the plain, the great maw of a vast canyon remained in shadow, a black stain on the ravaged surface of the planet.

Ru’man Kreylur blinked twin eyelids against the glare of the ruddy sun and, feeling a touch of whimsy, imagined its radiation seeping through the glass barrier into his body. There was warmth and there was pain as his body changed, molded, mutated, into the smaller and softer body of a human.

There was a huff of annoyance behind him. “You can go blind that way, you know. Parents used to warn their children all the time about staring into the sun.”

Ru’man smiled but did not turn. The image of himself as human faded and he was once again looking out over the rocky plain beyond. His reply was light-hearted, playful. “Is that what happened to you, Dr. Brennan? Did you stare too long at the sun? I can hardly imagine you as a disobedient child.”

A chair scraped. He heard the soft footsteps of his companion cross the room and stop next to him. Ru’man turned to face Dr. Elizabeth Brennan, took in the filmy blue color of her pupils; the pupils that used to be brown. He saw the burn scars covering one side of her head, glossing over the small audio implant where her ear ought to be, then down the column of her neck until it disappeared into the neckline of her shapeless tunic.

She did not look at him, her eyes gazing sightless out the same barrier he had been peering from moments earlier. The ruddy light of the earth’s sun gave her a youthful, flushed glow.

“You know better than to ask such ridiculous questions, Ru’man.” She chided. “Now are you going to tell me what’s got you preoccupied? Or must I resign myself to getting no work done today?”

Ru’man’s smile broadened and he touched his colleague’s shorn head, his sensitive finger pads delighting in the light fuzz of new growth. Dr. Brennan pursed her lips and removed his hand. “You know I dislike it when you do that.”

Chastised, Ru’man turned back towards the barrier and folded his hands behind his back. “I was thinking about when my people first arrived here. How different it all looked before the Wars. I was imagining I had been created as one of you…that I looked like you, thought like you. It’s one of my favorite distractions.”

Dr. Brennan did not answer but reached out to touch the barrier with one hand, her five digits splayed across the reflective surface. Ru’man noted that she had kept her small nails clear today. It was foolish perhaps, but fact that Dr. Brennan had left them clear and uncolored pleased him.

Over their years of working together, Ru’man had come to take pleasure in a great many things Dr. Brennan did or did not do. Unlike his own people, humans were infinite in their idiosyncrasies. They never ceased to amuse him.

“The barrier feels warm today, but not as warm as yesterday.” She frowned, withdrawing her hand. “Is it evening already?”

“It is. I thought we could work during the earth’s nocturnal cycle instead of the day for the remainder of our stay here. In this manner, we can conserve energy otherwise lost while the dampeners are in place.”

“That would be advantageous,” Dr. Brennan agreed. “We could stay at the station longer before the others retrieved us. Maybe even another week.”

“Precisely…though it wasn’t the only factor I considered.”

He refrained from touching her head despite his overwhelming desire to do so. Instead, he returned to his workstation and sat down, clearing his breathing passages as he went. He did not wish for her to become angry with him again.

From his place across the room, he watched as the sun’s red tones bled from his colleague’s face, returning it to its usual, mournful pallor. She spent too much time within the Conservatory, too little time outside the walls and too little with her own people.

“We were unable to use the dampeners because of a minor systems failure yesterday. Your species is more vulnerable to gamma radiation than mine, and it was only when I noticed how unwell you became that I remembered. It disturbed me and I wanted to ensure it did not happen again. ”

“That was thoughtful of you.” Dr. Brennan said after a moment’s pause. “Thank you.”

“I will always try to be thoughtful of you, even when my superiors do not,” Ru’man said, fighting the urge to clear his passages again. The environmental controls weren’t to his preferences, the air within the workspace too moist. To take his mind off the discomfort, he moved data pads about, shuffling them into a more efficient order. “Courtesy and manners, you know.”

Following him, Dr. Brennan sat down at her own workstation, picked up the case of tiny, pin-like audio chips, selected one, and slipped it expertly into her audio implant. Instead of getting back to work, she paused and looked over towards him. Her glazed eyes seemed to consider him.

“You know, Ru’man, it’s quite interesting. Manners are a product of culture. What’s seen as rude in one culture might be nothing more than polite discourse in another. In the same way, if you remember the Histories, an act of peace to my people was seen as an act of war to yours two hundred years ago.”

“Yes, quite an unfortunate misunderstanding,” Ru’man said, looking away from her. The Histories were something he didn’t like to discuss. He enjoyed working with Dr. Brennan; she was intelligent, practical, and endlessly fascinating. Yet, whenever the Histories were brought up between them, there was always a sense of tension in the air, one he found far more uncomfortable than the too-moist air.

“It would have been quite beneficial to both of our species had things gone differently, Dr. Brennon. Don’t you agree?”

He chanced a glance upward. Dr. Brennan was running her hand over her shorn head and looking away from him, back towards the leaded barrier and the glowing red sun beyond it.

“My people are in the minority now, Ru’man. It is only necessary, I suppose, that the manners and morals we once held as ideal are supplanted by those in the majority. That is certainly the opinion of many a historian, but that doesn’t mean I must agree with them. Or with you for that matter. I hope that won’t be misunderstood.”

It was Ru’man’s turn to be silent. He blinked his twin eyelids and tried once more to slid into his fantasy of molding, mutating into a human, but it seemed hollow somehow. False and vulgar.

He looked towards the landscape outside, with its blazing sun and shadowed canyon, at the planet which, having birthed the human species from the soup of creations eons ago, now held them in a decaying repose.

“It may be necessary, Dr. Brennan, but I find it regrettable. I am Su’ulian, not human as you are, and I often fail in understanding much of what there is to know about your people. However, I would give you every courtesy I could manage as I find you infinitely worthy of courtesy.”

For the briefest moment, Dr. Brennan’s face was flushed with red, as though the dying sun outside the barrier had not fled beneath the horizon. The slender column of her throat moved as though she needed to clear her breathing passages as well, but the moment passed, her usual expression returned, and Ru’man was left wondering if their conversation was over.

Uncertain, he picked up a data pad of atmospheric readings and tried to return to his work, but Dr. Brennan broke the silence once more, surprising him.

“Thank you.”

“No thanks are necessary,” Ru’man replied quickly and scrolled through the data pad. A different sort of discomfort was pulsing inside his chest cavity.

“No, it is quite necessary.” Dr. Brennan argued. “You are my dearest friend and I want you to know that.”

Ru’man Kreylur felt a rush of warmth flow through him so strong that he almost glanced up and gave himself away. His twin eyelids blinked and blinked again as he bent over his workstation. It was inconceivable that Dr. Brennan’s words have such an effect on him, but they did.

To be Su’ulian was to be polite, impartial, indifferent…but in that moment, Ru’man had never struggled so hard to remain that way. Against his strongest instinct, he met Dr. Brennan’s cloudy gaze and gave her his best imitation of a human smile.

“I believe I feel the same.”

Copyright © J.S. White

Image property of Lewis Moorcroft
(https://lewismoorcroft.art/galleries/landscape/the-time-we-first-met/)

The WHY Behind Writing

Why do we write?

Is it simply to express ourselves and nothing more?

Is it therapeutic? Does it help us work through our problems or relieve our stress?

Do we write to turn a profit or to become a household name like Stephen King, or J.K. Rowling?

Do we write to express our opinions, illuminate the fallacies of the world, or implore the world to change its ways and seek peace and understanding?

Or perhaps we long to usher in a new golden age of literature.

There are as many reasons to write as there are writers, and there are just as many reasons or excuses that we use to dissuade ourselves from writing.

I was browsing through my Instagram feed and I came upon a post by an author and businessman who I’ve come to admire. Simon Sinek is his name. I became aware of him after reading his book Leaders Eat Last for a business class I was attending at the time. He speaks beautifully and simply about how our work and daily life needn’t conflict, that fulfillment at work needn’t be a dream of the few. In another, earlier book he wrote before the one mentioned above, he explains that in our life (whether professional or otherwise), if we can get to root of our WHY – the WHY behind what we do, then it doesn’t matter what it is we choose to do, we will find the enthusiasm and the drive to be successful and fulfilled.

My own reasons behind WHY I write are evolving even as we speak.

When I was a girl, reading books and dreaming all the things a young girl dreams, I wanted to write to bring my dreams to life. I could not live them and so I decided to live vicariously through my characters, to live a thousand lives in a thousand different lands. When I grew older, my girlishness turning into the contradictions of adolescence, my reasons morphed into a desire to give voice to the longings and emotions I suddenly felt so strongly I could burst with them. As I practiced and grew older still, I would write for the sheer joy of creating, for the freedom it gave me. In some ways, I still do.

But now, as I come upon my mid-thirties (I will turn thirty-five in October), I find my reasons are changing yet again. Now I long for connection.

With my worlds, my words, my writing, I long to connect to the deep well of humanity’s experiences. To find friends where others might only see enemies, hope where there appears to be nothing but despair. To connect with the emotions and dreams that churn deep within our collective souls. And perhaps, in connecting with others, I will connect with even deeper parts of myself.

So, in the spirit of connection, dear readers, I ask you the same question I have been asking myself these days.

What is the WHY behind your writing?

It doesn’t matter what you answer might be. Your reason can be singular, or your reasons might be legion.  So long as you know them when they speak to you, so long as you listen to their promptings, and do not silence them…that’s what matters.

On Japanese Authors

My love of Japanese writers began with Yukio Mishima and Yoko Ogawa. I cannot remember which I read first – Mishima’s “The Sound of Waves” or Ogawa’s “The Housekeeper and the Professor”. However, there is one thing they share with many other Japanese authors I’ve read over the years and that’s an appreciation of the ordinary.

So often, writers are told that stories need conflict. Add more conflict and the readers will come. That may be true. In fact, it is true. A story without conflict is not, by itself, very interesting.

I would argue that conflict need not always be sword fights, explosions, or murder plots. Life, as so many of us know from first-hand experience, is rather dull. Routine. Unexciting. But life is also full of conflict. Ordinary conflicts over parking spaces, misunderstood emails, missed birthdays, unmet expectations, et cetera.

Japanese authors seemed to have distilled the ordinary into something quite poignant and beautiful. So many times the protagonist, or narrator, is never even named.

The drama and beauty of the story is told through the slanting light through curtains, unsaid words over lunch, a pain in the stomach or a lump in the throat when our true feelings don’t come out properly, or at all.

From reading stories like Mishima’s “The Sound of Waves”, or Ogawa’s “The Housekeeper and the Professor”, or Murakami’s “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage”, I’ve personally learned that a life, any life at all, is a good story, an extraordinary story. A priceless and beautiful story.

Conflict in fiction doesn’t have to be huge to be effective or to move along a story. It can be as simple as an unspoken confession, or one spoken a day too late. Conflict doesn’t need to flash, bang, or roar to be meaningful or world-shattering. Or move the reader to tears.

Remember that.