Freelance Writer’s Almanac – March 2014

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Freelance Writer's Almanac icon - violetnesdoly.com

Today is the first day of March. The word “March comes form the Roman ‘Martius.’ According to this site, it was originally the first month of the year (Roman calendar) named after Mars the god of war.

The flower of the month of March is the Daffodil or Jonquil.

Daffodil

Daffodil – the flower of March

March’s stone is Aquamarine  / Bloodstone (modern) and Jasper / Bloodstone  (traditional) – meaning: COURAGE.

Aquamarine

Aquamarine – modern birthstone for March

Bloodstone - birthstone for March

Bloodstone – modern & traditional birthstone for March

Jasper - birthstone for March

Jasper – traditional birthstone for March

Here’s a rhyme for March’s Bloodstone:

Who in this world of ours their eyes
In March first open shall be wise;
In days of peril firm and brave,
And wear a Bloodstone to their grave.
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Some  sayings associated with March’s weather:

“When March comes in like a lion it goes out like a lamb.”

“As it rains in March so it rains in June.”

“March winds and April showers
Bring forth May flower.”

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  • March 1-16 – Dogsled race, the  Iditarod.
  • New moon

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  • Alexander Graham Bell was born on this day in 1847 in Edinburgh Scotland. He went on to invent the telephone (The Christian Almanac [T.C.A.] p. 141).

pancakes4

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  • On this day in 1953 Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin (creator of the Iron Curtain) died at the age of 73 years.  (TCA p. 145. )
Michelangelo - self-portrait

Michelangelo – self-portrait

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  • Silly putty was invented on this day in 1950 (TCA p. 147).

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  • World Day of prayer (always first Friday)

Wind in the Willows - cover8

  • On this day in 1859 Kenneth Grahame, creator of The Wind in the Willows was born in Edinburgh Scotland. Parts of the book were written as letters to his young son (TCA p. 151).

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  • Daylight Savings Time begins
  • First Sunday in LentLITURGY

    1966 Ford Mustant

    1966 Ford Mustang (photo from Wikipedia)

  • The Mustang is 50! The Ford Motor Co. produced the first Ford Mustang on this day in 1964. It became an instant classic (TCA p. 153).

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  • Salvation Army Day

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  • Organize your home office day

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  • James Taylor (singer) was born on this day in 1948.

earmuffs13

  • Earmuffs, patented as “Champion Ear Protector” by Greenwood, were introduced on this day in 1877.

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Hamentaschen & Purim rattle

Hamentaschen & Purim rattle

  • Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim
  • Second Sunday in Lent – LITURGY
  • Full Moon

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  • Kate Greenaway, English artist and book illustrator was born on this day in 1846 in London. Her illustrated books like Mother Goose created a revolution in book illustration (TCA P. 169).

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  • David Livingstone – physician and explorer was born on this day in 1813.

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  • World Storytelling Day– On World Storytelling Day, as many people as possible tell and listen to stories in as many languages and at as many places as possible, during the same day and night.
  • Brian Mulroney, former Canadian Prime Minister  turns 75 today (born in 1939).

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  • Feast of the Annunciation – LITURGY

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  • Robert Frost was born on this day in 1874. (He’d be 140 today.)
Robert Frost

Robert Frost

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  • Coca Cola was introduced on this day in 1886

Vincent Van Gogh - self-portrait30

  • The painter Vincent Van Gogh was born on this day in 1853.
  • It is also the birthday of Canadian singer Celine Dion (1968).
  • Fourth Sunday in Lent – LITURGY
  • New Moon

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  • The English poet John Donne  died on this day in 1631 at the age of 59.

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Lots of other days celebrated in March found at Brownielocks
http://www.brownielocks.com/march.html

December prompt: light

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Christmas lights and decorations

Some of my 2012 Christmas lights and decorations.

In my part of the world December, and Christmas, take place during the darkest part of the year.  Our December days are short, the nights long. Perhaps that’s one reason lights are such a big part of our Christmas decor.

When I think about the spiritual aspect of Christmas and light, one of the first things that comes to mind is all the Old Testament yearning and prophecies about the coming of a light-bringer.

It starts as far back as Numbers 24:17:

“I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel…”

and continues with the prophets, like Isaiah 9:2:

“The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined”

and Malachi 4:2:

“But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings…”

Light was a big part of Jesus’ birth too.

– The wise men from the east followed the light of a star: – Matthew 2:2,9.

– The glory of the Lord shone around the angel that appeared to the shepherds – Luke 2:9.

– The old man Simeon who blessed the infant Jesus at His presentation in the temple proclaimed Him “‘A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles'” – Luke 2:32.

When Jesus grew up He was recognized as light by His disciple John – John 1:4.

– He declared Himself the “light of the world” – John 8:12.

– Someday He will be the light of a heavenly city – Revelation 21:23.

This month, let’s write about LIGHT.

  • Perhaps our piece will be an essay about or poem to the lights of the season.
  • Perhaps we will write about a Christmas memory in which light (candlelight, starlight, moonlight, tree lights) played a special part.
  • Perhaps it will be a story in which the light of realization dawns on a character.
  • Or maybe we’ll want to write about how Jesus has illumined our hearts, lives and homes.

May the lights of December take on added significance as you ponder and write about LIGHT this month.

November prompt – remember

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Langley, BC, Cenotaph after the Remembrance Day ceremony, 2007

Langley, BC, Cenotaph after the Remembrance Day ceremony, 2007 (Photo © 2013 by V. Nesdoly)

We’ve entered November–the month in which we set aside a special day to remember our country’s soldiers. In Canada we call it Remembrance Day.

We commemorate by wearing flocked red poppies in the weeks leading up to November 11th and on the day, gathering at cenotaphs throughout the country to lay wreaths, pray prayers, and honor our veterans with songs, readings, flypasts, bugle calls, bagpipes, and salutes.

But this is only one way people throughout generations remember.

In Bible times people’s memories were jogged by feasts (Leviticus 23). During the Feast of Passover, for example, the Israelites remembered their dramatic release from Egyptian slavery (Exodus 12:14). During the Feast of Tabernacles (also called Booths or Shelters) they remembered their wilderness wanderings when for forty years they lived in tents and God provided for their needs (Leviticus 23:42,43).

In the New Testament Jesus began a new memory tradition with the Last Supper. On that night His sharing of the bread and wine became the memorial feast for His death and resurrection that we call Communion. (Mark 14:22-25; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

Remembering is complex. Memories are triggered by many things: photographs, the reminiscences of others, looking through the attic, smells, songs, celebrations, food …

Memories come colored by a range of emotions from pleasure to anguish, joy to embarrassment. They may leave us with a spectrum of feelings from laughter to tears, thanksgiving to guilt.

This month I invite you to write about something you remember.

  • Possibly a memory related to the special day we celebrate on November 11th will inspire a short story or essay.
  • Maybe the season, with its colors, tastes and smells will trigger memories perfect for a poem.
  • Perhaps you’ll write about an object or celebration that helps you remember.

Whatever you write about and in whatever form, make sure your piece is full of detail and specifics. What senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, sound) were part of your trigger experience? Do your best to transport your reader to the time and place of your memory.

Happy writing as you remember this November!

October prompt: thanksgiving

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It’s October and in Canada the month in which we celebrate Thanksgiving (second Monday), that “annual national holiday marked by religious observances and a traditional meal” – Oxford Dictionary.  (I’m already making a menu in my head!)

Thanksgiving seems like an obvious thing to write about in October because of the holiday and other reasons. For farmers and gardeners fall can be a stressful time. My dad, a grain farmer, always had one eye on the sky, especially as harvest approached. Mom, listening to the weather forecast and paying attention to her arthritis, developed great instincts for when to cover the tomatoes and cucumbers to protect them from frost. What a relief and time for thanksgiving when all was gathered in!

Seasonal issues aside, gratitude (“the quality of being thankful, the readiness to show appreciation and return kindness”Oxford Dictionary) is always a good thing. And it has many angles.

We could ponder who is getting our thanks?

The official thanksgiving celebration began when America’s pioneers paused to thank God for food, protection, health, survival etc.

We could ask, what is thanksgiving?

One leper returns to thank Jesus - by William Brassey Hole

One leper returns to thank Jesus – by William Brassey Hole

One aspect of it  surely is paying attention so that we see the many good things—from the fresh smell of rain to the tinkle of a baby’s giggle— that litter our pathway. It’s also expressing our gratitude. The story of the one leper who returned to thank Jesus after he was healed comes to mind (Luke 17:11-19). So does the story of the widow who made a room in her her house for the traveling prophet. Later when her son died, Elisha willingly came to pray for him (2 Kings 4:8-37).

We can contrast thankfulness with what it isn’t.

A sense of entitlement surely inhibits thankfulness. Henry Ward Beecher expressed it well: “Pride slays thanksgiving. … A proud man is seldom a grateful man for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves” – (quoted by Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts, p. 177).

We can see that it’s possible to look at all of life through gratitude-tinted glasses. Cultivating an attitude of thanksgiving is the point of Ann Voskamp’s popular book One Thousand Gifts. In it she writes: “In memory, the shape of God’s yesterday-heart emerges and assures us of God’s now-heart and reassures of His sure beat tomorrow … it is thanksgiving that shapes a theology of trust”  p. 152.

This month I invite you to write about gratitude / thanksgiving.

  • Perhaps you will write a story of someone who wasn’t thankful.
  • Perhaps your writing will tell of a kindness for which someone (you?) gave thanks in a unique way.
  • Perhaps you will write a poem that lists the many and diverse things for which you are grateful.

Whatever shape your writing takes, I hope the time you spend counting your blessings will be yet another item of thanksgiving to add to your list.

August prompt: rain

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Rain on roses in June

Raindrops on roses – in June

Here in the Lower Mainland of B.C. we haven’t had a drop of rain for all of July. This is a record for the first calendar month ever without any rain recorded at the Vancouver weather station!

By now lawns that aren’t watered are looking brown and thirsty. Forest fires are a very real threat due to the tinder-dry conditions. Still most local weather forecasters echo the bias of sun-lovers saying, when predicting showers, “Our luck has run out,” or “Not a great forecast,” even after such a long dry spell! That’s testimony, I guess, to how rain is no novelty   around here.

The Bible’s first mention of rain is not a happy one. The forty-day rain that  flooded the earth resulted in mass destruction of land and people. Only Noah and his family survived that flood – Genesis 7 & 8.

Noah's Ark - artist unknown

Noah’s Ark – Artist unknown

Most of the time, though, Bible writers view rain as a blessing. No doubt their views were influenced by rain’s scarcity in the Middle East. And so its coming is usually reason for celebration.

God is generally credited with sending rain (Job 5:10; Psalm 65:10; Amos 5:8). And He sends it indiscriminately on good and bad alike (Matthew 5:45).

Moses, when talking about Canaan describes it as “…a land … which drinks water from the rain of heaven” (Deuteronomy 11:11) and calls rain one of God’s “good treasures” (Deuteronomy 28:12).

Rain is also used as a symbol in the Bible.

  • Isaiah describes the way the rain and snow fall from heaven and water the earth as a picture of the way God’s word goes across the world accomplishing spiritual purposes (Isaiah 55:10,11).
House of Sand - Gutenberg project

House Built On Sand – Gutenberg project

  • The prophet Joel equates the predictability of the rainy season with how faithful God will be to restore His people from waywardness and spiritual drought when they repent and return to Him (Joel 2:23).
  • In one of Jesus’ stories rain serves as a test to show the foundational integrity of two houses—one built on sand, the other on rock. It’s a parable that pictures how important it is to build our lives on truth (Matthew 7:24-28).

What does the mention of rain conjure in your mind? Perhaps you experienced the spring floods in western Canada this year and rain has become a symbol of terror and destruction. Or maybe your experience is of a dry climate where rain is welcomed with dancing and celebration.

This month, I invite you to write about rain.

You might want to create a fictional piece where where rain plays a haunting part in the setting (like W. Somerset Maugham did in the short story “Rain”).

Maybe you’ll write about your feelings for or against rain, or what rain symbolizes to you physically, emotionally, or spiritually in a poem.

Or you might want to write about a true life experience when rain saved—or wrecked—the day.

pit, pit, pit, pat, pat, pit, pat…

No, that’s not rain. It’s the sound of my fingers on the keyboard, dancing up some literary rain!

July prompt: flowers

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Jesus, teaching about flowers - Artist unknown

Jesus, teaching about flowers – Artist unknown

It’s July and the season of flowers where I live. One look through my photo collection will show you how much I like them (maybe it’s because I’m named after a flower!).

Not many flowers are mentioned in the Bible, though, but there are a few.. For example:

  • The shape of almond blossoms was to be part of the decoration hammered into the golden lampstand of the tabernacle – Exodus 25:31-36.
  • Grape blossoms and pomegranate buds are part of the sensuous imagery of the Song of Solomon – Song of Solomon 7:12.
  • Mallow and broom are mentioned in Job 30:4.
  • Several Bible writers mention the flower of the grass  and flower of the field as reminders of how brief and fragile our life is (1 Peter 1:24-25; James 1:10-11).
  • And finally, we have the lily. Lots of lilies:

– The lily shape was to be the inspiration of the design of the Sea (a huge ceremonial basin that was part of the temple furnishings – 2 Chronicles 4:5).
– A scented lily, dripping “liquid myrrh” was the image the Shulamite used of her beloved (Song of Solomon 5:13).
– A growing lily was the example Hosea used of what Israel would be like after returning to God from her backsliding (Hosea 14:5).
– Jesus referred to lilies as examples of life lived completely free of self-care and dependent on God’s care (Matthew 6:28-30; Luke 12:27-28).

This month let flowers prompt your writing.

Perhaps your main character will be named after a flower, or your story will be set in a garden. That doesn’t mean it has to be a story of sweet innocence. Lots of nefarious things can happen with only flowers looking on.

Perhaps your essay will tell of flower-growing memories, or of how your black thumb makes you feel snubbed by flowers.

Perhaps your poem will take its inspiration from a specific flower becoming an ode to that flower, will make that flower iconic of other things,  or will expand on a flower painting or photograph.

Let the flowers of the Bible and July inspire you and your writing. Happy blooming!

(Check out my Pinterest board of Bible flowers)

June prompt: seed

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The Sower by Van Gogh

The Sower by Van Gogh

It’s  springtime where I live and time to plant seed.

The Bible first refers to seed way back in Genesis when God created plants and described their seediness:”Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself…'” (Genesis 1:11). God’s blessing and favour was seen in seed reproducing abundantly (Isaiah 30:23).

Bible writers sometimes referred to literal seed. They used seeds to describe the look of manna (“… it was like white coriander seed… – Genesis 47:24), the beginnings of the kingdom of heaven (“the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed … which indeed is the least of all the seeds” – Matthew 13:31), and the tiny amount of faith needed to perform miracles (“‘I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed … nothing will be impossible for you'” Matthew 17:20).

Seed is also used as a metaphor, often for the word of God and its unstoppable spread and growth (Isaiah 55:10-11; Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23).

Finally, Paul talks about how our post-resurrection bodies  will be as different from our earthly bodies as plants are different from the seeds out of which they grow (1 Corinthians 15:38,42).

This month, let’s write about seed.

  • We might write about the physical planting of seeds in our current garden or the gardens we remember from our childhood. We might write about what we did with various non-garden seeds—how we blew dandelion parachutes into each other’s faces, or stamped on puffballs to raise clouds of spores.
  • We might compare the look of a particular seed to something it resembles.
  • We might go metaphorical and write about what germinated from an act of kindness (or cruelty), how someone’s gift of money or help was a seed to our success, or about the process of God’s word germinating in our hearts.
  • Or we might riff on how a seed action produced a result entirely unlike itself.

Hopefully this prompt will be the seed of an idea that becomes a story, personal anecdote, essay or poem.

Happy writing!