Reaching a creative goal

Few things are more rewarding than reaching a creative goal.

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Cindy La Ferle

My photo blog, Something Beautiful Every Day, began last spring as a personal challenge to share something positive every day for one year. Looking for an escape from our nation’s brutal political climate, I decided to spend part of my day putting something lovely, or thought-provoking, out into the world. So I started carrying my camera everywhere — and not just for writing assignments.

I scouted for beauty in my neighbors’ gardens, the local farmer’s market, my kitchen drawers, my bookshelves, my husband’s art studio — and everywhere I traveled. Then I posted my images with a meaningful quotation every morning.

The project, which has been featured in several lifestyle magazines, will end on March 23. After a short break, I plan to start another photo blog, or I might put a new spin on Something Beautiful Every Day. Meanwhile, I’m back to those writing deadlines!

 

Celebrating 12 years of “Writing Home”

DSCN0180My story collection, Writing Home, celebrates its 12th anniversary this month. Published in 2005, the book is now in its second printing — and available in a Kindle edition.

Written during the years I worked at home while raising my son, Writing Home has been called “a love letter to home and family life.” Some of the columns first appeared in the Sunday Daily Tribune and The Christian Science Monitor, while others were published in national magazines including Reader’s Digest, Better Homes & Gardens, Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion, and several popular anthologies.

I’m especially proud of the fact that — within the first year of publication — I sold enough copies to donate a few hundred dollars of my proceeds to organizations serving the homeless in my community. Along the way, Writing Home has been honored with several awards, too, including one from Writer’s Digest and another from Midwest Independent Publishers Assoc. But the real rewards, for me, come from the readers who tell me how much they’ve enjoyed the book over the years. Thanks to you, dear readers, it continues to sell in local stores and workshops, and on Amazon.

Local shoppers: Writing Home is now available at the Yellow Door Art Market in downtown Berkley — an absolutely wonderful shop specializing in Michigan-made art and products.

Making peace after the election

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As we gather together for the winter holidays — at office parties and in the homes of our relatives — we’ll all be walking around a huge elephant in the middle of the room. The elephant’s name is Politics.

Chances are, a few of your friends, colleagues, and loved ones didn’t vote for the presidential candidate of your choice. Can you remain cordial and keep the peace? That’s the topic of my column in the December issue of Michigan Prime, delivered this Sunday with your Detroit News and Free Press. Flip to page six to read the column in the online edition.

October memories

Sorting through my mom’s papers after she died, I found a copy of this essay, which I wrote after my father’s passing in 1992. First published in the October 1998 edition of Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion, it’s also included in my book, Writing Home.

img_1483-1Lately I’ve been thinking of these lines from Anne Mary Lawler’s poem about the seasons: October dresses in flame and gold, Like a woman afraid of growing old. 

This is a potent month for memories. Yesterday I watched while my son and the children next door tumbled like acrobats in the fallen leaves. (Is there a kid in the Midwest who hasn’t done this?) And later in the evening, I sniffed the familiar aroma of wood-burning fires, another indisputable sign that winter is on its way.

For me, the smoky scents of October always evoke a favorite memory of my father raking leaves in the small backyard of our first home. The memory is more than three decades old, but it glows as vividly as the logs crackling in the grate tonight.

When I was growing up — before environmental laws — everyone in my neighborhood raked leaves into neat brown piles, then burned them near the curb or in backyard bonfires. Dry and brittle as bones, the leaves and twigs snapped furiously when introduced to a match. In those days, October weekends seemed to drift in clouds of gray-blue smoke — the perfect prelude to Houdini’s Halloween.

Like most fathers, mine worked on weekdays, and often spent his weekends doing yard work. Long before the term “quality time” was coined by childcare experts, Dad would enlist my help raking leaves on Sunday after church.

I offered very little assistance, preferring to toss his neatly piled leaves back into the air, or to roll in what remained of his handiwork. Regardless, he seemed to enjoy my reckless company — and I enjoyed the novelty of helping him. Unlike my mom, who would have seized the opportunity for “girl talk,” my dad didn’t always communicate with words.

On those brisk autumn afternoons, with the sun glinting through bare branches of oak and maple, it was enough for us to be together. He raked, I rolled, and nothing of dire importance was ever said.

IMG_0043Still, young as I was, I felt the ancient ache and pull of October.

By then, I understood the seasons were cyclical; that the easy days of summer would return as surely as apples had ripened every fall. But I’d also begun to grasp the concept that time trudges ahead in a straight line, like it or not, ruffling the smooth texture of our days as it marches forward. I couldn’t have explained it quite this way, but suddenly I knew I’d have to “yield with a grace,” as Robert Frost once wrote, “the end of a love or a season.”

I recall watching my handsome young father in his plaid flannel shirt while he whistled and tended his banks of smoldering leaves, their acrid smoke filling my nostrils and forcing tears. I remember wishing that everything could stay the same — that I wouldn’t have to grow up or grow old; that autumn afternoons wouldn’t bleed to winter.

It was as if I had glimpsed the distant future and seen my father’s empty chair at our Thanksgiving table.

Of course, Dad had no idea that I had stumbled on a vast, disturbing truth and was forever changed by it. He worked contentedly, pausing only to watch me or to loosen the dried leaves from the long teeth of his rake. And that is the way I like to remember him: arrested in time on that golden fall afternoon, living in the moment, always whistling.

— Cindy La Ferle

Support on the breast cancer journey

butterflycollageIn my October column for Michigan Prime, the focus is on Sharing & Caring, a patient-driven breast cancer support group that meets at William Beaumont Hospital. In recent years, I’ve had the privilege of leading journaling workshops for this group of survivors — and their courage always inspires me. To read the column, please flip to page 3 of the online edition.