Monday, August 30, 2010

Good Morning, Maple

For the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling with a WIP. I’ve also been hosting a steady stream of house guests. The most recent visitors were my two nieces who live in Maine.

A few days ago, we were out in the backyard doing somersaults and cartwheels (Well, they were doing the gymnastics. I was the delighted audience.) when my 6-year old niece suddenly stopped mid-tumble—butt in air, head between her legs.

“Wow,” she said. “I never looked at the sky like this before. It’s beautiful. Try it, Aunt Mis.”

Sure, I wanted to uphold my status as her favorite aunt, but I was also curious. So I walked out onto the grass and mimicked her position. And do you know what? She was right. The sky really was beautiful.

All three of use stayed in that position, just looking at the pure blue sky for quite a while—until the blood rushed to our heads.

My niece reminded me that sometimes looking at something from another point of view or even turning it upside down or inside out can help you appreciate it in a whole new way. Inspired by her lesson, I decided to try approaching my WIP from a brand new angle. And do you know what? It's working, at least I think it is. I won’t know for sure until I finish this revision. But I’m very optimistic.

As I was thinking about this blog and my tree, I realized that in a whole year of writing about it, I’d never photographed it from the driveway side of the house. All my photos have been from my office window or the southwest side of the house, where the front door is. And so for my final blog before we embark on the 2010-2011 school year, I photographed the tree from a new angle.

And do you know what? I discovered something new about my maple. More about that next week.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Good Morning, Maple

This morning, you see my maple tree photographed from a slightly different vantage point. There’s a good reason for that. Plip, plop, drip, drop. Rain.

It’s been a hot, dry summer here in New England. Oh sure, we’ve had the occasional late afternoon thunderstorm, but today is the first genuine rainy day in months. The rain began around noon yesterday and it hasn’t let up.

What that means is that it's a dark, cloudy morning. When I tried to take a photo of the tree through my office window, the flash kept going off, resulting in a burst of light in the foreground and the outline of the window screen in the background. No tree at all.


So this photo is taken out the front door. It isn’t far from the office, but you can still tell that it’s not the same view you’ve been looking at all year long.

This is one rainy day I’m really looking forward to.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Good Morning, Maple

As you can see, not much has changed with my maple tree, so this week I’m going to digress a bit—okay, a lot—and talk about the Versatile Blogger Award.

Last week, Robin Gibson, a.k.a. Bookmuse, graciously nominated Celebrate Science for this fun award.




Here’s how it works:


1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.

2. Share 7 things about yourself.

3. Pass the award along to 5 bloggers who you think are fantastic.

4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about the award.

So that means I need to start off by sharing seven things that might be of interest to you. Hmm . . .

1. Two weeks ago, I met three incredible nonfiction authors—
Deborah Heiligman, Elizabeth Partridge, and Susan Campbell Bartoletti—at the SCBWI Annual Summer Conference in LA. I also had a chance to catch up with the equally fabulous Tanya Lee Stone.

2. I’ve just returned from four days “off the grid” on a tiny island in Penobscot Bay, Maine. No plumbing. No electricity. No writing. The scenic views were to die for. So was the biodiversity.

Look at this photo I took of an adult bald-faced hornet chewing its way out of its pupal home.

3. Next week I’ll be hosting my two nieces for a week of fun “in the neighborhood.” That’s what they call our suburban home. They live in a rural area and are delighted that two girls exactly their ages live right across the street from our house.

4. I own first editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. They were gifts from my great aunt.

5. Even though it’s been a hot, dry summer, the butterfly garden I started last year is coming along nicely. Hooray for native plants!

6. Since June 8, I’ve really focused on writing (as opposed to speaking engagements and promotion) and been incredibly productive. It’s such a great feeling.

7. I love broccoli and asparagus, but I hate peas. (That one was my husband’s idea.)

Okay, so now here’s my list of five blogs (in alphabetical order) that I think are definitely worth checking out:

Classroom Book of the Week
Kate’s on hiatus for the summer, but bookmark this blog and check back in September.

Deborah Heiligman’s blog
Writing tips and all sorts of fun from the uber fabulous author of Charles & Emma

The I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids) blog
These authors are also taking a break for summer. But fall will bring all kinds of new information and insights.

A Life in Books
The blog of author Loree Griffin Burns. If you haven't seen her new book The Hive Detectives, you're really missing out.

The Picnic Basket
Here's a chance to get some wonderful books--for free--and then let the blogosphere know what yuou think. Deb Sloan features wonderful titles and a smattering of interesting info about authors and kidlit happenings.

See you next week.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Good Morning, Maple

Each week when I take a look at my tree and decide what to write about, I try to choose a topic that can be supported by photos. Sometimes that’s easy, and sometimes it’s not.

For at least a month now, there have been a variety of interesting spider webs strung from branch to branch or even leaf to leaf, but because the threads are so thin and the spider is often hiding, I haven’t been able to capture a photo with a visible web. Not even with my camera’s “bug setting”.

This week after a few failed attempts, I noticed a cool contrast when I snapped shots of nooks between branches with the macro lens and the regular lens. So here are a few pairs for you to enjoy. In each case, the first image is taken with the normal lens and the one below it is taken with the macro setting. The result is a change in focus.




Lo and behold, when I took a close look at my final pairing, I was stunned. Without even realizing it, I had photographed a spider web in just the right way. Can you see it? Sometimes posting it on the blog removes some of the detail.

I wish I knew exactly how I did it. I’d like to say I worked hard to capture the image and finally succeeded, but that would be a lie. The truth is that it was serendipity.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Good Morning, Maple

I hope my maple tree’s enjoying the summer as much as I am. This is its busiest time of the year. Its leaves have to soak up enough sunlight to make food to fuel its summertime growth as well as the long, cold winter when the leaves are gone.

We’ve had a hot, dry summer and I’m sure that’s been a challenge for the tree. My maple also has to fight off insects and the damage I cause by cutting off branches that hang so low they threaten to whack visitors in the head as they walk up our sidewalk to the front door. Sorry, tree.

The tree also seems to suffer another kind of damage, and unfortunately, I can’t explain what is causing it. I’ve been studying this “tear” in the maple’s bark for a while now, and I’m at a loss.


At first, I wondered about a lightning strike, but then I discovered to other tears farther up the tree. It seems impossible that the tree would be struck three separate times. I know lightning can strike tall objects multiple times, but the location of the damage makes me think that a lightning bolt probably isn’t the culprit.




So I have no idea what's to blame or if the damage is harmful to the tree. My neighbor thinks maybe that’s just how Norway maples grow, but I'm not convinced of that. After all, the tear allows insects to infiltrate the bark much more easily. That’s never a good thing.
If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.