On Creativity

Jasck-smileI’ve been listening to a book on creativity and writing by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. The book is called Big Magic.

One line so delighted me that I had to stop the playback and transcribe it. Here it is:

“Possessing a creative mind… is something like having a border collie for a pet.  It needs to work, or else it will cause you an outrageous amount of trouble. Give your mind a job to do or else it will find a job to do—and you might not like the job it invents: eating the couch, digging a hole through the living room floor, biting the mailman, etc….

I firmly believe that we all need to find something to do in our lives that stops us from eating the couch.”

The book is a good listen, in the author’s own voice.

Here, you can listen to Ms. Gilbert talk about some of the same aspects of creativity in her TED Talk:

 

Watching a Writer Work

Watching paint dry1_sm
Here’s Moonlight and Captain Jack keeping me company in my office while I work. I’m pretty sure they think watching me write is a lot less interesting than watching paint dry. At least with paint, you can walk across it and then track it around in artistic ways. Watching a writer work?

Zzzzzzzz…

Gorilla Watching Cat Video

I can’t figure out how to embed this (short) video, so I’ll just have to give you the link, at TheAtlantic.com:

The commenter noted that the girl seemed to be ignoring the magnificent creature beside her. I actually found it rather sweet that she was sharing a video in such an unstudied way—just one friend to another.

Moonglow

Last night’s supermoon lunar eclipse was gorgeous, even viewed from our suburban Boston driveway. It gave me a reason to bring out my Meade ETX-90 Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope, which is a compact 3.5 inch reflector that I don’t use as much as I would like. I don’t have equipment for taking pictures, so I’ll show you some that other people took.

The thing that most struck me was how much the reddened Moon, with its dark, patchy maria, looked like pictures of Mars, especially from the days when astronomers had only modest ground-based telescopes—but even now, with the Hubble.  I’ll show you one of those, below the moon shots.

The other thing, as I peered through the lens wishing I could see the Apollo lander equipment, was that twelve men walked on that world over forty years ago. It’s high time some more men took that stroll—and some women, too. And maybe for some to go there to stay.

The third thing was, this was an anniversary of sorts for Allysen and me. It was the last supermoon eclipse, in 1982, that got us started dating!

Here (if the code works) is a slideshow the Telegraph put together on short notice. Our view probably looked most like the one you’ll see from Paris, here.

And here’s a shot of Mars, from the Hubble Space Telescope. Reminiscent, no?

And what the hey, in keeping with the theme, here’s a picture of Moonlight:

  

Curse You, Skunk Baron! [PHEW!]

He looks innocent, doesn’t he? All doe eyed and mild mannered. Well, at 2:45 a.m. Sunday morning, when I took him out for a late-night pee, he wasn’t so mild mannered—not when he saw Philippe LePew in the bushes in front of our house. He vaulted over the side of the steps and dove after it, nearly yanking me head over heels with him. (Thank God for retractable leashes—and that he was on the leash.)

As I yanked him back, I saw the flash of white and black in the bushes, and I knew my night—which just hours before had been a pleasant gathering of friends for movie night—had just taken a serious turn for the worse.

Going inside was out of the question, even though it was cold and raining. I leaned on the doorbell, rousting Allysen out of bed. She began a long series of trips up and down the stairs, bringing me all the supplies: bucket, rubber gloves, old T-shirt, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, dish detergent, vinegar, Nature’s Miracle, towels, etc. (Forget tomato juice; it doesn’t work.) Here’s the recipe we used (it’s on a refrigerator magnet that we got at the animal hospital):

1 quart hydrogen peroxide
¼ cup baking soda
2 teaspoons dish detergent

Mix it up, lather it in, and wait 20 minutes. I especially liked the waiting part, standing in the cold rain in bare feet, in shorts and t-shirt, trying to keep Captain Jack from shaking it off all over me. Then around the house to the hose, to wash him down. Repeat. We were soon out of H2O2, so I switched to vinegar and baking soda.

Eventually I toweled him down and poured Nature’s Miracle skunk treatment all over him. By the time we got upstairs it was 4:30 a.m., and Allysen had set up sleeping arrangements for us in the living room—Jack in his crate, me on the sofa on multiple sets of sheets, and a fan in the window. (No way was I going to risk taking skunk essence into our bedroom.)

Me sleeping on the sofa and Jack in his crate was the sight that met our daughter Lexi when she passed through early Sunday morning. What have they done to make Mom that mad? she wondered.

Amazingly, the next day, the skunk smell was almost entirely gone. But Captain Jack hadn’t forgotten. The next few times we went out, one thing was clear: He wanted to find that skunk and teach him a lesson he wouldn’t forget!

Fortunately, Philippe the skunk had moved on.

How to Tire Out a Border Collie If You Don’t Have a Herd

Captain Jack considers my socks from the hamper and his pillow from my office to be his flock, his to move about the house as the need comes over him. It’s cute, but it doesn’t really serve the purpose of tiring him out.

This might. 

Click picture to biggify

This is our new 1-Running-Dog Bike Tow Leash, attached to my recumbent bike. It weirded him out pretty good for the first few minutes, but now that he’s gotten the hang of it, he really seems to like it. We live near a bike path, so we can get going without worrying about car traffic, at least for the first mile. I’ll have to get some video of it. When he breaks into a gallop, I feel like Roy Rogers on Trigger, with Bullet racing alongside.

I also have to say I like our town. In the space of two minutes, yesterday, I passed a young girl on a unicycle and a guy on a Segway. The Segwayist yelled to me and Jack, “Man, that… is… cool!”

I  had to agree. But I’m already starting to see signs of Jack getting into shape. A vigorous forty-five minute run just leaves him wanting more. 

Buried By Snow on a Snowy Evening

My friend Rich Bowker has been posting a series of snow poems by actual poets. I thought I would add my own stanza to the ouvre.

Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the snowdrift though
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods swall’w’d up by snow.

—Robert Frosty

The ground is down there somewhere. Way down.

Another foot or so predicted tonight and tomorrow, after the foot or so we’ve had over the last couple of days. It’s getting really hard to pile it any higher.

Captain Jack’s enjoying it.

Something interesting

My snow blower continues to work, off and on, coughing and sputtering. I believe it’s running way too rich on the bad carburetor (new one still en route from China), and after few hours it quits and I have to feed it a new spark plug because the old one is fouled with carbon. I only have so many new spark plugs on hand to feed it. (Like, that was my last.)

The bike path transformed

We will remember this winter, I think.

Captain Jack: Lost and Found

Today was going to be a big work day for me, because I’ve got some big ebook launch and promotion coming up in the next few days. Things worked out differently, however.

Our neighbor Marc borrowed our border-collie mix Captain Jack for a hike in a reservation a couple of towns over. Marc is one of Jack’s favorite people, and usually Jack obeys Marc better than he does us (kind of the way a child might listen to a favorite uncle while ignoring a parent). This time, though, he ignored Marc and went tearing off after another dog. And got lost. Lost, lost, lost. Eventually Marc called me, and I went up to help search for him. We were getting nowhere, and a ranger who had been alerted searched without success. It was getting on toward dark, and it was already cold out. I was remembering my first border collie mix, Sam, who had once gotten lost in the same reservation and who had stayed lost for a couple of days, before turning up at our home miles away in Cambridge. I didn’t want to relive those couple of days. Or worse, never see our buddy again.

And then Marc got a call. (Aren’t cell phones great?) An acquaintance he’d run into (who was walking her own dog and learned from him about the missing Jack) had just snagged Jack on the border road, where she’d seen a driver trying gently to herd him off the pavement! We were soon reunited, Jack unharmed but shaken, and Marc and me and all the family heaving deep sighs of relief.

During the course of all this, we were on the phone to the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, the state police, and the police of a couple of neighboring towns. Without exception, the dispatchers were helpful and sympathetic—and happy for us when we called back to say that Jack was found. They’ll probably never read this, but if they do, thank you! Thanks also to all the other dog owners in the area who helped us look!

We even capped it off by watching the second half of the Patriots/Ravens game, which was really exciting even for us non-football-fans. Go Pats. Go Jack!

No, make that “Come here, Jack!”

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