Friday, April 30, 2010

We didn't see much for wildlife in the New Mexico desert, but we did find a squirrel, a jackrabbit (too far away for a decent photograph), a nicely camouflaged lizard, and a roadrunner. I would have liked to have gone wildlife hunting at night, but without a flashlight or guide and with rattlesnakes out thanks.

I did get outside to work on a few paragraphs today, but not nearly as long as I would have liked. Everything melts into the forest when I'm out there and I find words flow easier in the breeze.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I found it interesting that there is no widely accepted method of dating petroglyphs. These petroglyphs in Petroglyph National Monument, NM, were etched into dark basalt boulders that were created by six volcanic eruptions. The rocks were originally light gray in color until water, sun, heat, cold and microbes coated them with black "desert varnish. " The process reminded me of carving into scratchboard in art class.

Another little tidbit I found interesting was the mention of a severe drought that struck the Southwest between AD 1275 and 1300 causing people to relocate near water sources. I think I noticed one lake in all of the miles we traveled. But I did see a big river and streams cutting through ancient Pueblo habitat. It made me wonder where New Mexico gets their water.

Archeologists believe Ancestral Pueblos carved most of the 20,000 images between AD 1300 and 1600. Try as I might, I could not find a rattlesnake anywhere in the desert. Next time, I'll post a few pictures of wildlife that I did find.

I expect I'll be getting my article back soon, all red and bleeding from the wounds of a beaten first draft.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I had a very productive critique group meeting this morning where we welcomed a new member. Now there are three of us. Three eyes on a manuscript are better than two and meetings can still be held if one person can't attend. Hopefully, we can get the group rolling on a regular basis. Maybe, if I bust stones, I can get this article written by our "email manuscripts date" in mid-May.

I also found out I'll be reading my manuscript in the ampitheatre of Leslie University in Cambridge. I don't think I've ever had to be on stage in a room that large. This will certainly be a memorable experience. Deep breath.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Today, I'm posting the other half of the Land of Fire and Ice that I blogged about a couple of days ago. As molten lava flows outward from a volcano, the surface can harden while the lava below continues to flow. The flowing lava carves out a tunnel called a lava tube.

This lava tube collapsed and filled with rain and melting snow to form an ice cave. It is quite extraordinary that from fiery Bandera volcano, a cave of ice was formed. Arctic algae causes the ice to be lime green in color.

I'm glad I brought a fleece jacket (and shorts) when I went in that cave because it was quite cold. The woman in the top photograph lived in Washington State and mentioned there were ice caves there at the base of glaciers, but they were off limits to the public due to safety issues. Here is the story of two trapped teenagers that she told me about.

I didn't realize when I made travel plans (2 free airline tkts were set to expire) that the trip and the environment would be pertinent to the chemistry topic that I had not yet selected. Works for me!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Yesterday we returned from a week in New Mexico exploring mostly history and geology. I'll be posting some science related photographs from that trip.

These photographs are of Bandera volcano in Grants New Mexico. It erupted about 10,000 years ago. The top photograph is the cinder cone where we lingered imagining what it must have been like when an explosion of lava burst from the earth leaving a trail nearly 23 miles long. The second photograph is a spatter cone that formed when a surge of hot air rushed through lava forming a blow hole. Lava rocks have the texture of Swiss cheese and are rich in iron. They call this spot the Land of Fire and Ice for good reason. More on that in a later post.

Friday, April 16, 2010


I've been so busy (as a bee) scrambling with last minute planning that I didn't notice until today that my name is now on the PEN website. This award still blows me away when I think about it--which believe me I haven't had much time to do. I noticed today that the event in Cambridge on May 23rd is going to also include other award winners who are likely more polished speakers (not that this bothers me in any way. Eeek!).

Recently, Christina Rodriguez left a comment on my post about a first draft I submitted which made me think about why I felt this first draft was slapped together very quickly. I approached this particular first draft a little differently than I normally do. I wrote down paragraphs and kept moving forward with the writing until I was at the word count and conclusion of the article. Usually, I'll write the first paragraph and keep washing over it like the tide coming in, extending and refining it with each wash.

After the photograph session the bee proceeded to attack me, but thankfully missed its target.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

This morning, I emailed the first draft of a chemistry article about climate change that was due tomorrow. It felt like the article was undressed, like no one should see it in this condition. Pretty embarrassing. I told him to disregard grammar, punctuation, accuracy, and fluency. In other words, don't read it!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hyacinth and forsythia

I thought this photograph of a hyacinth looked a bit more interesting cropped tall and slender.

I finished that first draft of the chemistry article today! I want to look over one more research paper and make sure I haven't forgotten anything. I was hoping things were settling down, but it seems the minute I get excited about having one less thing to do, three more drop in my lap. Now doesn't that figure.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


The hyacinths are in full bloom and tomorrow one is getting the ax, vase-bound.

I really pushed it today and now the word-count is up to 1200 words. But it's still short of the 2,000 I need. I've got to keep working at a torrid pace until it's all down. Then I'm probably going to collapse.

This week I noticed my article about honeybees has been published online. I had some really great editorial response to that article from several different editors. While adding it to my writing resume I wondered how the list of clips got so long. It seems like yesterday I was struggling for things to put on that resume. How fast the time burns away.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Azalea and hyacinth

I'm amazed at the difference that one day can make. Here is a photograph of the same azalea bush that I took a photograph of yesterday. Wow! Soon the eau de hyacinth will fill the air. Love them.

Finally something is taking shape on paper. There is about a page of typed up material, but it's downright ugly. At about 330 words, it's a tad bit short for a 2,000 word article, but hey, it has to get its start somewhere.

I'm still finding this PEN news somewhat surreal, sort of like a little leaf falling from a tree in a great big forest, falling into a creek and being swept up by a current and taken to who knows where.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Azalea, lilac, forsythia

The sun has finally broken through dark stormy skies. There is life and splashes of color sprouting from the dirt. The forsythia is blooming now while the azalea and lilac wait their turn.

Ahead, I still have much to do. I started a first draft of horrid scribblings that hopefully won't be so embarrassing when I email it to the editor on the 14th. There is no way he's getting this any earlier. I have a long way to go and much stands in the way.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I am truly honored, exceptionally grateful and somewhat stunned to be the recipient of this year's PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award for Nonfiction! Last Friday, I received the call. This starving writer ate up all the glowing words of encouragement and made sure to note them. Walt later asked where the celebration was. Heck, if I know, I took down the key points.

I've entered this contest at least five other times and I still remember the sting of that "sorry" letter with no clue where I went wrong. Every year, I had to figure it out. After several years of not seeing any nonfiction winners, at one point, I wondered if it was even possible to win this award for nonfiction, but those doubts didn't stop me from entering.

In the middle of my notes is the champagne cork that I'll be turning into a Christmas ornament. I'll post a photograph after the transformation (so my editor knows exactly how I'm spending my time). And my New Year's resolution: "Burst out of the egg and shatter the shell!"