Perchance to Dream

image copyright Fred First

I dream of color, of images in words and light together on the page. In Fragments has been realized a hope that goes way back. In an old journal, the only journal I ever kept during the early 70s, I found the other day a note to myself that spoke of the wish to write to an image. Funny. I didn’t have very many images then that were very good, and I’d never written outside those private pages about anything. And would not until thirty years later, on the virtual pages of Fragments from Floyd.

So here we are, literally thousands of pictures and hundreds of thousands of words out there now before friends and neighbors, old and new, close and far flung. Perhaps that should be enough. But I can’t shake the idea of an in-my-hands book of my words and my color images between full-color covers. And it is doable. And not expensive.

Color printing these days, at least at affordable, profitable prices, is done overseas. I spent some time in Barnes and Noble yesterday, and Korea and China seem to be sources for some nice looking softbound books chiefly of images. Close to home, take for example Blue Ridge Country Impressions, text by Cara Modisett, who I know as Blue Ridge Country Magazine’s editor. This book is printed in China, published by FarCountry Press of Helena, Montana. All of these similar books (sigh: look at these!) are about 80 pages at a cost of $9.95. Amazing price, very good quality.

But these are apparently 1) financed by a publisher who agrees to put up the money to get the project going, and who 2) gets the finished book into the larger distribution systems so that 3) an initial order of maybe 5000 has a chance to be put before readers and so that 4) the cost per book is low enough at this volume that some profit is made even at this low price for the book store, the publisher, the printer, and alas, the author. It must be pennies on the book for the latter. The publisher (like FarCountry) also does the considerable detail work of getting files to China and shipment of the finished books back here–no small logistical headache (or expense!)

I have book two in mind. It will contain color images. Actually, it occurs to me that I may have books two and three in mind. Book two might be chiefly images with not much text and doable in the relatively near term while I work on book three that will also have color images as well as black and white and require considerable research to produce perhaps 25 thousand words and maybe two years off.

So what am I doing blogging with all these projects to dig into? Well, the blog is where I think outloud even while I keep up the daily discipline of writing, delve through my image archives and remember forgotten images and impressions, and share the journey with a few friends who come along on this field trip with me each day.

November Woods

image copyright Fred First
I recently read a short “review” of the book (a couple of sentences) that described the book as “breathy, ethereal, out of the body prose”. I don’t think this was a compliment. But I never expected to please everybody. Just myself, mostly. But even so, I’ll resist the temptation for a breathless description of this image from a year ago.

What I’ll do (completely unrelated to this image) is suggest that, when you’ve done with using your eyes here, go here and listen to Colleen Redman’s WVTF essay (airs today) on–of all things–blogging!

Colleen came reluctantly into this medium. I think it’s safe to say she’s here to stay. And we’re the better for it.

Leonids: Time in the Dark

This is a timely selection from Slow Road Home. Tonight you can begin to look for the Leonids to zip past, a few or many, depending on which experts you listen to. But maybe it is more about just going outdoors. At night. With expectations. Happy hunting!

I left a warm bed, got dressed in every piece of clothing I could lift and carry, and stood outside in the dark for a half-hour this morning. With my neck craned, spinning slowly in circles, I waited in the cold to see the grand show of the Leonid Meteor Shower. My toes are still numb an hour later, and I need to find a good physical therapist to do some mobilization on my stiff sky-watcher’s neck. Was it worth it? Yes indeed.

The light of a setting full moon and the wet haze in the predawn air hid the weakest stars. But it was dark enough. In thirty minutes, I saw perhaps 200 meteors. Most were zips at the edge of vision. Some were spectacular, lighting up the valley in less than a blink, like a photographic flash. Others left persistent trails across the sky in the way an artist would lightly dash a perfectly straight line on black canvas with a luminescent pale blue pigment on a fine-tipped brush. One split into two, each fragment sizzling off to die dark death, extinguished in the protective shield of atmosphere.

“Give me a performance!” I demanded for my efforts. Dazzle me with special effects. Entertain me. The predictable shower of stars fell, and on with the show. But before it, and after it, one spectator huddled against the cold of the dark side of the planet and knew moonlight and starlight, creek sounds and the stark silhouette of limbs against the heavens. These features do not come to indoor venues.

Will I make a habit of bundling up each morning to stand silent under a quiet sky where stars keep their places or not? No, I can’t promise I will do this. But I have remembered again what night is like, and cold, and things moving out there beyond my vision and understanding. This, and another cup of hot coffee, is easily enough for me.

More about the Leonids this year can be read here.

Watch Ma! No Hands!

I think I’m frustrating myself unnecessarily by thinking that on day two I have to have mastered Dragon Dictation’s speech-to-text program. It is something I’ll have to do almost exclusively, ultimately, as my wrists cooperate less and less with the thousands of keystrokes associated with writing and editing, sending emails and processing photographs. I don’t think it will ever become a tool that I use exclusively as someone who is totally disabled would be required to do but over time I’ll need to begin using it more and more frequently to extend the life of my wrists some months or years into the future. There’s never a good time to take time away from writing for wrist surgery but with this software, that’s at least conceivable without me giving up everything I want to say and show through the weblog and in other ways.

So far the process of trying to think my words rather than type them has been very frustrating. After four years of developing a rhythm and relationship between the brain and the fingers (that’s as automatic as the process of reading entire sentences and not single words) the process of having to think through every word that comes next in sequence is very unnatural and awkward. Perhaps over time though this way of thinking about communication will make me a better speaker as well as a better writer. We’ll have to see about that.

This program is not working so well so far to enter data directly in the blogger edit window but works very well using what’s called a dictation box that is the designated text entry program for this software that seems to respond quickly and accurately even after only one day of training. I can pretty well speak as quickly as I want and the program is able to keep up with me.

This will be especially helpful if I can use it to dictate my evaluations and other paperwork from my physical therapy job. Of course I’ll have to train it in all sorts of special terminology but that should only be a matter of time to bring it up to speed.

I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to use this program to write more creative things. But then I thought the same thing about using the keyboard versus using a yellow legal pad almost 5 years ago when I first began to attempt to say what I felt through my fingertips every morning.

With exception of a few edits, this was all spoken onto the page. Not fancy, not good, but legible and that many fewer keystrokes spent from the limited future reserves of them! Dragon Naturally Stammering may eventually become Naturally Speaking. Right now, it ain’t natural at tall!

Light and Dark

image copyright Fred First
Somehow, this yin and yang play of light on shadow seems fitting this morning.

In reading back over SRH for final edits these past weeks toward a second printing, I realize I used some terms or phrases more often than I would have thought. One such phrase when trying to express my feelings from this very time of year is “changing of gears” or something to do with the term “transmission”, this in the sense of the altered rhythms so palpable as days shorten past a unknowable magic number of hours into the pace of winter.

For the most part, on most chill mornings as I fire up the woodstove, I think it’s a beneficial change in focus that comes along starting about now, a healthy introspection leading slowly in the coldest days to a more accurate accounting of what’s been stored up, and of what remains.