Tag Archives: inspiration

Retreat Goals

Despite the turmoil of the months leading up to this weekend, my goal in going is to get away from the overwhelming every day – to focus on some of my own writing. I brought with me several projects to follow up on, which will include editing, designing, formatting. I hope to finish a few things so that I might move past this block that haunts me. Another novel to be done – An Italian Son – and my first kid’s picture book needs drawings. Can I determine the style I want to use for the illustrations?

I have also a company project in tow that I want to finish editing – it is in layout format so working through the reading achieves more than one end.

I am also hoping there’s a poem or two to be had – I will try to force the stoppage in order to free some words into a composition I will be happy with – I used to be so connected to poetry. What happened? Did it abandon me or did I abandon it? I know it’s not lost forever… just temporarily misplaced.

My camera is also my constant companion – there is always visual inspiration around, especially here: the birds are welcome subjects, trees and greenery, wood structures and pathways, squirrels and other wildlife supposedly around out there somewhere. If only the rain would let up. I will go out for walks to get some fresh air and connect with nature. It’s cooler, though, and cool, wet weather is not my friend.

Sidebar…

I wrote my goals at the beginning of the weekend – it was gloomy when we arrived but soon gave way to rain for the past couple of days. We definitely need the rain and would happily send it up north to the forests. In truth, we couldn’t have a fire inside in the fireplace the first couple of nights because of the dryness here at the Creek. Finally, the rain gauge showed enough moisture accumulation and sharing alongside the fire was a possibility the last two nights of our stay. I love warm spring weather, though… Sunshine – the one from the sky – why have you abandoned us this weekend?

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Strawberry Creek Lodge – Writing Retreat – Spring 2016

Blog 1 – The Retreat

Anticipation.

It’s been building since the day we left last year, brought on and encouraged by the positive results and the lasting effects of concentrating for days with one’s own muse. More time! So in answer to that request, we extended the trip one more night on the long weekend, which gave us one more full day of retreating to write. It’s funny that we need to retreat in order to bond or reconnect with our inner creativity. It’s the way life is, though – fast paced and loud, demanding and insistent. Surely a retreat is not always necessary – it’s a mini vacation for the mind and soul. If one truly takes the time to focus on “self”, while appreciating others’ need to do the same, the results are amazing and the argument for retreating is unarguably natural medicine for the ailing spirit.

Commitment.

Planning and soliciting attendance isn’t necessarily difficult or anxiety building until you get closer to the day and unanticipated events happen to cause holes to appear in your apparent flawless and effortless planning. Life happens – things come up that you cannot possibly foresee over the course of a year. The need to have minimum numbers causes the added pressure to ensure all the seats are filled. We are all thankful that a distress call put out there attracted the attention of like-minded individuals who could make the weekend getaway. Financial strains this year had me even questioning my spending; however, the benefit to my mental well-being far outweighed any other argument. It just means more work upon returning home.

Benefits.  

Nature. Focus. Amazing surroundings. Like-minded souls sharing your love for words. Ability to socialize, materialize, compromise – or just disappear into your own world, as needed. As a writer, the solitude is a blessing and it is made even more inspiring by the beautiful setting and lodge.

No – you don’t have to go away to write, but a retreat is an experience every writer should try during their writing journey. Most will go back for more – year after year. Others will savor the experience and move on, knowing they can always go again when warranted. For me, it is a place I could imagine retiring to in order to write to my heart’s content for the rest of my life… the whole working for a living thing-money and paying bills- thing that stops me for now. Every trip produces more work and creates memories shared with writing colleagues. Fellowships are forged – friendships are solidified. The wonderful thing about Strawberry Creek Lodge is the myriad of delightful nooks and crannies where one can hole up for a time or stake out for the duration; the rooms are wonderful sleeping and private working quarters to spread out your tools and prepare to produce; the meals… the meals are marvelous. Imagine being called to the table by the cowbell at set times to enjoy amazing meals with your retreat pals. No cooking. No dishes. No cleaning.

Pitfalls.

None. Unless, of course, you count the fact that you won’t want to go home and you might attempt to kidnap Brenda, our awesome host/cook, because you never want to have to cook again… ever…

As a dedicated writer, invested in your passion – you will utilize every moment possible to focus on your words; be kind to yourself with rest and relaxation; socialize at appropriate times; connect with your inner creativity and nature. For those who couldn’t go – there is sadness in what life brings – but there is always next year.

A Writing Retreat. It is not something that is necessary – but it is something life-altering to those with a serious passion for word creativity. The retreat is a great way to immerse yourself in the beauty of solitude away from every day distractions to focus specifically on writing. It’s a recharge for the creative battery.

See you next year – keep on writing!

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Introspective Perspective

Random thoughts while driving…

The meeting was set for 1:00 pm on Saturday in the quaint coffee house, Pebble Ridge, in Rocky Mountain House. My new author is from Red Deer and it would be a short drive west for him to finally meet to discuss his book project.

I started out from home at 8:00 am, filled the tank, and got a cold drink to go. I couldn’t understand why I was so thirsty so early, but realized it might have been the consumption of wine the evening before… Rested and raring to go, it was easy to rise and pack and hit the road early. Although another route was more direct, I chose the longer way to enjoy the journey. It’s not always about the destination – although that can be important – how you get there, too, makes all the difference sometimes. For one – heading west always feels right and, for two, taking the Cowboy Trail is a good choice because it feels right, too. I’ve been this way before a few times lately (highway 16 west to highway 22 south), but I love the drive – the feel of it relaxes me and sets my mind free of city encumbrances. Driving alone, however, is open game for thinking – good and bad. If I don’t want to think, I play music to drown out the persistent voices, the constant thoughts, the never ending discussion between the realist and the dreamer. The radio station fades away and I play the soundtrack from Cavalia or Maroon 5.

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A robin poses for a close up shot.

A bumblebee buzzes around the windows looking for in or through or whatever. Sunshine sits in the Miette Hot Springs parking lot looking like a big yellow flower in a meadow of concrete – tasty temptation for the timid little bee. I roll my driver’s side window up and two seconds later it attempts to say a closer hello. A robin hops nearby on the pathway along the trees, and I mega zoom in on it – magnifying its feathers and bright eyed curiosity. I sit contemplating my move. I remain there for about an hour, reading, calming frazzled nerves that poke in and out of the relaxing peace. I cannot explain the diametrically opposed pieces of my mind. Happy. Sad. Inspired. Depressed. Peaceful. Anxious. The parking lot fills up – it’s time to move on.

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I could see the same view day after day and it would still humble me, overwhelm me with its magnificence.

When I drive the mountain roads I cannot believe the feelings that wash over me. I often wonder if those people who speed by in fast cars, neglecting the stop at look outs, ignoring points of interest, not even slowing down to enjoy the wildlife – I wonder, if they ever feel the emotion I do in the mountains. Perhaps, they did the trip before and it’s no big thing. Perhaps, they are too focused on the end point to notice the points of interest along the way. My emotions run the gamut – my mind stops, starts, and suspends itself in the magnificence of my surroundings. I am soothed by its beauty, overwhelmed and humbled by its magnitude. I cry at the thought of leaving this world and never seeing such beauty again. Then, I admonish myself for silliness and return to revel in the moment.

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Distant waterfall cascades down the mountain.

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An eagle flies o’er mountain high…

At a roadside turnout, high above the river below, I stop along the guardrail to take in the vast panorama. Mountains with snow covered peaks, shimmering shale rocks, greenery of all shades. A distant waterfall cascades down the mountainside. The telephoto lens brings the river from the valley floor and the highest shimmering rock face to me as if in reach. Out of the corner of my eye I see it – circling, circling, circling… Soaring on upper air currents, the large bird covers the sky in wide spread wings, so high it is even a speck in my lens. I am not sure of the species of raptor, but the bird is magnificent. The words to the sound about love lifting us up, come to mind and ring in my head, prompting tears to spring to my eyes, again.

The trip wasn’t totally about doing everything I love, but it encompassed some of the ‘musts’. I already mentioned the Highway 22 South route – well, 11 West is a dream and being in Rocky Mountain House with a free night ahead of me meant I couldn’t pass up the chance to see things I love and traverse the route with such beauty. My travels now include limits, however. Due to health issues, there are limits I never had to consider before, but there they are, forefront in planning and executing events. Accepting I have limitations both angers and frustrates me. In moments of appreciation, I think of all the things I’ve done and all the things I still can do. I digress and say thanks – at peace with the body’s changes. With those thoughts, I decided I would explore some different things/places amongst the wonderfully familiar, while taking time to clear my head and rest my back and knees.

For the most part, driving is easy until I log too many hours in the Sunshine saddle – then the back begins to remind me of its chronic pain. I need to stretch and walk a bit to loosen up the muscles and work the knees. Refreshing road weary eyes is always a good thing, too. My stops are frequent because of the awe I feel – lots of pictures return home with me – but, I temper my attempt at each stop depending upon my ability. Many times, I am the best darned truck window photographer! Since I stopped at Athabasca Falls last year on the reverse trip, I decided I would stop at Sunwapta Falls this time. However, I couldn’t proceed past the parking lot because, although only a .1 km hike to the vantage points overlooking the water, all of the pathway is a downhill grade and that is a no-no for the knees. Acceptance of limitation. I listened to the roar of the water rushing below, thankful for my sense of hearing and sight.

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A decision to stop for the day to rest weary bones offered me opportunity to stay in a place I never stayed before… another new experience.

The need to keep in motion produces undesirable effects. The conundrum being more movement = activity = weight loss, but more movement = pain = exasperation! The pills I am on to manage pain help with numbing it so I can sleep and I don’t get overtired, sometimes. Depending on the activity (and the weather) my pain is what it is – constant. At times, it is excruciating, forcing me to just take things easy. Doctor’s orders are movement, keep active, but my body’s response is anything but accommodating. I most likely will need double knee replacement surgery, but the weight loss is a must in order to proceed in that direction. The weekend needed to be modified with extended rest to recover bothersome knee pain. The prior long weekend retreat tired me out – 2nd floor rooms in a lodge meant stairs multiple times per day. I mentioned this concern to my doctor on a previous visit. I took it very slow. Writing, yes. Stair master, no.

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6th Bridge – the sounds of birds and rushing water soothed. When the small parking filled, I escaped with pictures to remember it by.

It was exciting to travel familiar roads, but also intriguing to discover new ones. I took some time to discover 6th Bridge where I sat for some time reading. I took some pictures of the water and the bridge, then vacated when it started to get busy. Bikers, hikers, and other sightseers. The road to Miette Hot Springs was awesome – winding, curving, bordered by cliffs, rises, and lots of trees. It took me deeper into the back country. Again, I parked and listened to the birds, did some reading, and took pictures. As before, I backtracked and headed to the highway and proceeded east on 16. East is not good. It means leaving behind something as profound as the images of the Rockies in my mirror that soon fade from sight. My mood soured despite respite in the glorious mountains. How can one feel so inflated, yet depressed? So inspired, yet so empty? So determined to do better with renewed vigor – all the while, feeling overwhelmed with all that lays ahead… Prospects and potential paralyze – how can that be?

The comfort I take in all of this is my ability to see the beauty, appreciate the wonder, realize the potential for danger or recognize opportunity, and even laugh at myself with good humor, as necessary. The feelings described above hit me every time I leave the mountains to return home, leaving me to wonder why I never moved there if such a connection rips my very soul by their separation from my view. I concede – I was fearless in my youth and have become jaded in my aging even though I would certainly consider the move – looking around the little cabin I rented I surmised – “I could live here.”

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Amazing colors… there’s probably shiny things and a squirrel in there, too 😉

So to end this blog about perspective and its inward retrospection while getting away – I leave you with a tip while driving throughout the Alberta countryside. Be aware that if Main Street is blocked off in Small Town, Alberta – and there are people pulling lawn chairs to the curb side – it could mean there is a celebration you are not privy to. I wondered why that little girl waved to me… All I could think was how lucky I was I had such a beautiful, bright truck! Sunshine was in her glory parading by the locals… oh, look, what a beautiful tree!

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Photo Blog Challenge Wrap Up

January 2015 – 30 Day Photo Blog Challenge Wrap Up

So it is now going on into the early morning hours of February 1st and I am contemplating the grand finale for this challenge. I found that trying to focus on my own work allowed me a chance to express a little bit of suppressed creativity. I love my words. I love my camera. And to combine them into compositions in answer to the prompts in whatever manner happened was worth the time invested. I found as I went along, the challenge was something that I love do anyway – I am always watching for that perfect shot, that one time chance, that image that evokes a feeling and can be related by words, as well. Although this is a “wrap up” there will be no real end to this for me as it is as natural and as inevitable as sun rise. There are a few prompts on the list that I will admit to passing over, either because they deluded me in attempt or they didn’t spark an interest. Prompts are like that – they either “speak” to you or they are silent. I like to think that I can respond to anything, and I guess I can if I don’t really care what I “say” – however, I enjoyed the posts that happened when least expected. It’s like the moments in life that you either catch on “film” or you commit to eternal memory. So I always look up to the sky for inspiration and light or down to the ground for that unusual shadow or circumstance. I think as I go and realize an offering when it is handed to me. Like spaghetti falling onto the counter, tempting a game of pickup sticks. Synchronicity at work is the greatest compliment to my creative impulse.

Day 26 – Close Up Blog - Jan 26 - image close up>>> The rocks lie below and if you don’t pay attention to them, take a look next time. What do you see? Perhaps, it is just a haphazard arrangement of sizes and colors with no apparent pattern? Do you question the missing spots and wonder if you’ve “left no stone unturned” in your evaluation? Or is it just there, tempting those who might glance down to see something in what is apparently nothing more than a rock gravel parking lot… Interpretation is, after all, up to you and your muse.

Day 25 – Strangers >>> have nothing of note for this prompt so I pass on this one. I have mentioned before that I am not a portrait photographer and think less of imposing upon others around me. I am okay with people watching in order to study habits and characteristics for my writing, but taking pictures of people without their permission would be just creepy. That would be how you would interpret this as “strangers” the noun. Pass.

Horses

Day 24 – Animal >>> Well we all know where this might go given the opportunity… which happened to present itself on a recent drive. Horses will always warrant a stop along the road. It brings back April memories of seeking the wild horses that run west of Sundre.

But, if I keep close to home, the little pest that is poking at my leg to pet him is always around even though he might not be the most willing photo participant at times. He is quick and takes to looking away just as you click the pic. I am going to wrap up Day 20 – In My Bag – by saying that if I had it open on the floor like this box, I can tell you I would have a cat in the bag right quick. So, although I did not really fulfill the Day 20 prompt as best as I think I could, it is another one that gets a pass. So here’s my animal… Squishy in a box ready to ship off. Any takers?Squish

That only leaves Day 21 – Faceless Self Portrait and Day 30 Self Portrait… really nothing has changed enough from Day 1 to insert any other self-portrait here. I embrace creativity, yet have specific things I stay away from – particularly me in a photo. The Day 1 photo was one of those – ah ha moments – it was there on a day out to Elk Island Park and was something to recognize in the moment. It spoke to the challenge and to me and to what I would attempt to accomplish. It really addressed Day 21 as well because with that camera up in front you are, in essence, faceless. What I am going to finish up with, however, is my beautiful Sunshine – it usually makes it into all my photo days because without it I wouldn’t be traipsing all over snow-covered back country roads. The truck is a blessing and has helped to fulfill many adventures already. Memories that will stay with me forever; and isn’t that what life’s all about. This challenge has given me some great opportunity to share, to explore, to create… and for that I am truly thankful.

Sunshine makes winter tolerable

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Too soon for a Celebration…

I am posting this in celebration of my attempt to complete this 30-day challenge – how’s that for stretching it! But, really, I do celebrate “sunshine” in many ways and pay tribute to the sun and its many creative aspects. I used it to silhouette, highlight, shadow, brighten, distort, cause to shine… and on and on…

Day 27 of the Challenge = Celebration 

Blog - Jan 27 - image celebration

You just have to click on the pic to see it in a bigger size 🙂

Oh, yes… and the day is what you make it, but so is sundown.

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Challenge – Day 11 and Day 12 – Creative License

January 30-day Photography / Blog Word / Freeing the Creative Spirit Challenge

Day 11 and 12 – Something Blue and Sunset

Day 11 and 12 Blog image - Blue and Sunset

The sky was the hue of winter Alberta blue…
If we are fortunate enough during the winter in Alberta, we have many of these days where the sky is crisp, clear, and blue – when sunshine is always a welcome addition, and a highway drive is warranted on a weekend afternoon. By contrast, I shot some pictures on January 1st at Elk Island Park and you will notice the grey winter day where sky and horizon blend where air and ground meet. The kind of day that dawned bright on Sunday was opportunity to obtain clear shots of the Alberta blue skies to fulfill that day’s challenge. The vantage point shifted from the apartment catching one of 3 jet contrails tracking across the sky in a short time span, to the countryside as the sun made its way beyond the day, and back again, to capture similar shots the next evening. The amazing properties of working with light are the shadows cast and the deep blue of snow in the sheltered areas; it’s the background it provides to many objects silhouetted; it’s the variance of color that reflects on sky, trees, snow, and other objects. Something blue… The thing about winter afternoons in early January is that no matter how bright they are they begin to fade by 4:30 with dusk bringing its own lingering beauty to the countryside.

To close out any day, the sky is my view and it paints magnificent scenery for me to appreciate from my 4th floor apartment. This vantage gives me a clear shot of the sky and its many colors as I witness many a sunset. Combining the prompts made sense but would have certainly created a huge challenge had the sky been overcast and grey, or if it had been white with snow. Treasures along our sightseeing journey:

  • Jets with contrails streaking across a clear blue sky always remind me of my mother and I feel her watching with me, commenting on their intrusion.
  • Horses pawing the snow-covered field searching for frozen shoots.
  • A companionable silence while driving a snow-covered country road.
  • Millions of stars in a dark velvet sky.
  • Using GPS and a little bit of intuition to connect with the right secondary road.
  • Arriving home with a loved one after a memorable day.

The day is what you make it… so, remember to always appreciate the little things along the way.

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Challenge – Day 10 on 11 – I will catch up…

January 30-day Photography / Blog Word / Freeing the Creative Spirit Challenge

Day 10 – Childhood Memory

Typically, this is not a place I venture unless invited by something that spurs a memory. I have pleasant and memorable times stored inside to do with my childhood. But what would I take a photo of today? The thought of this challenge sparked many ideas and ‘what ifs’ throughout the day. I was on an early trek with a friend and stopped on my way home to review the prompt for the day so it would be in my mind as I drove home – perhaps, something would come up that would suit the assignment. I thought of a lot of things.

As I drove through the country, where it was quiet, I thought about coyotes. Today was the ignorant and cruel coyote hunt and I just happened to be driving in the county where this would be happening. I am not a fan of hunting – sport hunting or food hunting when unnecessary. The Alberta market produces plenty of food for us and by buying it we support the market. I understand hunting for necessity and if I were living in the back woods I may concede…. maybe…. Then again, I could be a vegetarian, too. The sport of killing off as many of anything as you can turns my stomach. I thought of coyotes and thought of my on farm experiences. Now as most of you know, I was born in Edmonton and, by rights, am a city girl with a country heart. I remembered with a smile the time I squealed at my mom to roll up the truck windows because there was a coyote in the field…. way … over… there… Needless to say, no coyote ever threatened us in an enclosed vehicle, and none came out to humor me with their picture.

I talked with my dad today, too, and the conversation involved cousins. I don’t really know my cousins and mostly hold the feeling that just because we are related, it doesn’t mean we have to be friends. The talk wasn’t about anything to do with childhood memories, specifically, but related wholly to memories as it involved the passing of my dear mother and the thoughtlessness of sharing information among st family members. Again, it was something that just happened – how was I to take a picture of that?

As a family, we don’t have a childhood home that I could drive by. I don’t have a doll or teddy bear or other memorabilia that I packed around with me all these years. In fact, most memories just stay in the treasure trove safe and sound. It was coming down to a find “another archive” moment, or “just make an excuse moment.” Then it happened.

I was making supper – spaghetti and sauce with meatballs. Ray was on his way over. I put the desired amount of pasta in the large pan to boil and tucked the rest of the package back into the cupboard. I was not diligent in replacing it flat or with the closed side to the back. As I let the package go, the spaghetti noodles started sliding out onto the counter, spread haphazardly in front of me. Despite my yelling “stop it” they continued to pour out (stupid noodles). There they were in front of me and there was my answer. I just shook my head and laughed at the absurdity.

Day 10 challenge - pick up sticks 2 Day 10 challenge - pick up sticks 1

If you never played Pick Up Sticks as a child, I believe the game is still around. If you cannot find it, just make do with some renegade pasta. The day is what you make it, despite being waylaid, delayed, off course, and late…

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Day 8 – Routine, routine, routine…

January 30-day Photography / Blog Word / Freeing the Creative Spirit Challenge

Routine… sometimes I am consumed by it and others times it allows me to breathe easier… Day 8 blog image - Routine

The concept of routine can be diametrically opposed to a creative mind although it guides our everyday life. The familiarity keeps us in a place where we feel at home. We can feel confidence in that knowing. On the other hand, the repetition can be a detriment to free thinking. After doing something for a number of days, it has become routine, habit, the norm… but it also drains on the thought processes, to a degree, forcing me beyond what I expected to be easy, comfortable, and second nature. That expectation can cause disappointment and frustration until an idea bleeds through, prompting an attempt. It does not matter with a challenge to what extent you push yourself, it just means that you are at least making an effort. I appreciate routine. I loathe routine.

For the photo today, I decided to go for the #TBThursday and posted a find from another day – one that I found while taking a break from routine. And I added the special effects that I love to do to alter the already interesting shot. A throwback adheres to the routine of collecting favorites and remembering them when times are strained. A throwback is a tribute to something that was while you are considering in the moment what is. It is a comparison. It is unique. The directional finders above are indicative of my journey, which can go in any direction depending on the wind, with precision or precariousness. As long as I move forward, routine is fine.

The day is what you make it… follow along or change it up if you don’t like routine.

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January 7th, 2015 – 30 day Photo / Blog Word / Freeing the Creative Spirit Challenge

January 30-day Photography / Blog Word / Freeing the Creative Spirit Challenge

Day 7 – Change to Come

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of…” ~ Jim Rohn

When I checked the list today to confirm my challenge, I just accepted the words as I would any other normality in my life. As I look ahead, I see 2015 as one of increasing magnitude in all areas of my life; hence change to come is inevitable and so appropriate. I have claimed over the years that I am not afraid of change… but, as I grow older the ability to implement some changes just takes a little more time. I know that moving ahead and leadership involve change all the time, whether in life, love, or business. Again, as with the other challenges that were not so obvious (i.e. clouds) I was moved to think of the options during the day. I came up with a couple of choices while assessing my own life – move to a bigger residence, move to sharing a residence, perhaps own instead of renting… hoping to focus more on my own writing while still coordinating the publishing dreams of my authors and valued clients.

Then! Oh, the humor hit me. Change to come. Change the channel. Change one’s attitude. And as I counted change for the set up shot, there in front of me was the pile of paper on my desk that might be change for everyone in Alberta. And the weather changed… swirling and blowing to just hit everyone. There are many changes in the works and I hope this little composition finds my readers well and entertained, sympathetic and supportive.

The day is what you make it… embrace the changes.

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January 5, 2015 – 30 day Photo / Blog Word / Freeing the Creative Spirit Challenge

January 30-day Photography / Blog Word / Freeing the Creative Spirit Challenge

Day 5>> After Dark

Day 5 - 30 day challenge After Dark

The darkness can be your friend where you can hide from the bright lights that act as spotlights upon your every day move. Is the darkness a mask that conceals the truth? Our minds never turn off the memories. After dark, when other things around us slow down, recollections can be much brighter in our minds.

SONNET 43

“When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright are bright in dark directed.
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me. ”

~William Shakespeare

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