Have you tried Pinterest?

(Purple clematis on a blue fence – one of the first images I pinned – from dontcallmebetty.tumblr.com)

How many of you are taking advantage of Pinterest as part of your social media platform? According to Reuters and Comscore (data via Wikipedia) Pinterest had gathered 48.7 million users as of February, 2013. That number jumped up from 11.7 million users in 2012. So I assume some of you are on board with Pinterest.

For those of you who are unaware – Pinterest is a pinboard style social media site where you can collect, organize and share images of things you love.

When I was a teenager, I used to fill scrapbooks with images cut or torn from the pages of popular magazines. Pinterest reminds me of that activity – to the trillionth power, mind you. The site is most popular with women – global stats indicate 83% of users are women. Maybe some of them used to keep the kind of scrapbook I’m describing.

On Pinterest, an image is a pin – you can add pins from anywhere on the web or from your own computer – any pin can be repinned by others and it always links back to the source.

You organize your pins by topic on what the site calls Boards – Boards can be private or public, and you can invite others to share on your Boards

You can follow others and then their pins will show up on your Pinterest home feed.

The site provides a bookmarklet device that allows you easily to pin content from the web and bring it back to Pinterest.

Like all social media sites, Pinterest has its rules of etiquette. Participants are reminded to be kind when they make comments. It is best to express your own unique qualities in the images you choose to pin, rather than pinning to collect followers. Users are told to promote artists to create great works by linking back to their pages and making polite comments if one discovers an image is being used without proper credit. Nudity, porn, hateful pins or pins that encourage people to hurt themselves should be reported. The Pinterest community is evolving, so users are urged to let those in charge of the site know what is working and what isn’t.

I first heard of Pinterest, months ago, when reading a blog post by Kristen Lamb: Writers – Why it’s time to renew your love affair with Pinterest. She wrote that Pinterest was a powerful tool for writer inspiration. If you spent your lunch hour on Pinterest, you’d come away refreshed, your head full of creative ideas. After all, a picture does say a thousand words and images stimulate creative parts of the brain. She advised the linking of blog posts up to a Pinterest Board – why not take advantage of the crowd already gathered on the site to promote your blog. One suggestion that she made appealed to me – create Boards that reveal your stories or characters in images.

I did get excited about Pinterest when I first discovered it. I spent time there and got several family members hooked. I’ve let it slip a bit by the social media wayside the past few months. I have had to prioritize my time. I returned to Pinterest the other day and was once again fascinated by the Boards I had created.

I’m still in love with Izzy’s Garden. If you’re reading my novel, Disappearing in Plain Sight, and you want an idea of how I imagine Izzy’s garden, check out that Board. And if you want to know what Crater Lake is like (at least in my imagination), check out the Board – Views of the lake, and you’ll get a good idea. The Board I created entitled, Pictures of people that make me think stimulates endless ideas for stories and characters. And if my mind needs a bit of beauty, I have a Board called, Incredibly beautiful places and things to wander through.

I know that many of you probably feel the same time pressures I do when you think of yet another social media platform. Pinterest is quite beautiful – that is more than can be said for Twitter or LinkedIn. Why not give it a try – no reason you couldn’t start small. Create one or two Boards and pin up a few images.

Let me know how it works out Rolling on the floor laughing

The Nike of Samothrace

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My highlight purchase of our recent trip to Southern California was a small Nike of Samothrace statue – fifteen inches high and exquisite in detail and form. We found her in the gift shop of the Hearst Castle.

I’ll let Izzy and Lisa-Marie describe the statue for you. (a brief snippet from my first novel, Disappearing in Plain Sight, which will be available in March – shameless plug – hehehe)

With the two glasses of water in hand, Izzy led Lisa-Marie to a shaded bench across from the garden house. Lisa-Marie studied the headless, winged statue standing to the side of the small building’s French doors. “Once you look at her you can’t seem to stop,” she said and her hands itched again for a camera.

The Winged Nike of Samothrace. She is beautiful,” Izzy paused to take in the beauty of the white statue, which was five feet tall on its concrete base. “The original is in the Louvre in Paris. I saw it there when I travelled to Europe in my early twenties and I never got the image out of my head.”

Izzy glanced over to see Lisa-Marie studying the statue carefully. She tried not to sound like a tour guide as she continued, “The original was discovered on the Greek Island of Samothrace in the mid-eighteen hundreds, but she was sculpted long before that, around two-hundred years before Christ. They think she might have sat in a corner of an open-air theatre on a marble pedestal that was shaped like the front of a ship. Apparently she was meant to look like she had just come down from the sky, like she was leading a triumphant fleet of ships.”

“Did she have a head or her arms when they found her?” Lisa-Marie’s head was tilted to one side, her long brown hair sweeping down to the bench she and Izzy shared.

“Good question,” Izzy said as she sat back on the bench stretching out her legs. She sipped slowly from the plastic glass of cool water and focused her attention on the statue, only stopping briefly to pluck a leaf of lemon balm from the outcropping by her end of the bench and crush it lightly between her fingers. The fragrant leaf released its pungent, lemon smell. “They found her just the way you see her. It seems to me like she is more fascinating because of what is missing. I’m not sure, but there is something about the way she is straining forward and how her dress has been sculpted to look as if it is blowing back in the wind. You can almost imagine how the wind would shake the feathers on her wings. I find her totally compelling.”

Lisa-Marie nodded silently, she could see exactly what Izzy meant.

“I had a poster of the Nike for years and then when we finished the garden house I wanted to find it again and have it framed for that wall,” Izzy gestured to the wall behind the statue. “Caleb said it would fade and moisture would get behind the glass and stuff like that.” She shrugged at Lisa-Marie as if to say, men know that kind of thing, but it sure is irritating.

“Anyway, Caleb said why not get a statue; and who knew it was so easy to order a statue online?” Izzy laughed and then continued in a quiet tone, “When we had her here, I felt like the garden was complete somehow, maybe a bit like my victory.”

Lisa-Marie pondered the statue’s fluid sense of movement and considered an angle shot from the bottom of the stairs looking up. “You know what? I don’t even care what her face was like. She’s perfect just the way she is.”

Izzy nodded her agreement. “There are lots of good replicas in museums and galleries but you know what is really odd?” Izzy paused, “The best replica is supposedly outside of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas,” she laughed and added, “Celebrating another type of victory, I guess.”

 

Anyone who has followed my blog for a while, may remember the post where I described our little side trip on the Las Vegas strip to see this statue.

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Why does this statue fascinate me to the degree to which it does – so much so that I had to include it in Izzy’s fictional garden?

I first discovered her when Bruce and I crossed the Canadian border to Buffalo in 2008 for a tour of the Darwin D. Martin Complex – a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home, in the historic Parkside neighbourhood. The Martin home is considered to be one of the finest examples of FLW’s Prairie style homes.

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Bruce has always been a FLW fan (see his blog post on another great FLW house – ORGANIC ARCHITECTURE – KENTUCK KNOB ) and we have been fortunate enough, on our travels, to tour several buildings Wright designed. The Martin Complex was in the process of being restored by the Martin House Restoration Corporation.

When we visited in 2008, the main house was still very much a work in progress, but one feature that Wright had created was stunningly restored. When you entered the front door of the house you could see right through the entire bottom floor, down a long outdoor pergola to the conservatory. There, prominently located and clearly visible from the front door was the Nike. She was stunning – overwhelmingly beautiful down that long passageway standing amid vines and greenery.

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Here is what Martin House curator Jack Quinan had to say about the significance of the Nike’s placement, “The Nike vista also carried a powerful personal message for Darwin Martin, one that is key to the experience of the Martin House. Upon passing through the principal entrance to the house, one’s vision was immediately drawn to the distant Nike, the ancient Greek personification of Victory, brilliantly realized by its anonymous sculptor as a synthesis of human and animal forms caught at the moment of alighting on the prow of a ship at sea. By placing Nike at the vanishing point of the long pergola, Wright transformed into architectural and sculptural terms a narrative of Darwin Martin’s life – the long and difficult journey fraught with loneliness and adversity that culminated in wealth, prestige, a splendid home, a stable family.”

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As I wandered over the complex after the tour, I found a plaque that summarized the significance of Wright’s use of the Nike for this particular building.

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At the time of seeing this quote, I was immersed in my own connection with the idea of story – narrative as a research methodology. Part of the trip was a stopover in Toronto to give a presentation at a Narrative Conference based on a storied DVD production of my Master’s thesis. Seeing the word narrative connected with the Nike just wormed its way into my subconscious thoughts and I couldn’t let go of it.

I bought a poster of the statue and when I got home I took it to an expensive little shop and had it framed. It now hangs in the entrance to the cabin – the first thing you see when you walk through the door. As close as I can get to that unbelievable feeling of seeing the Nike down that pergola at the Martin Complex.

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This statue has become an icon for us on our various trips. We ran into a wonderful replica in the State Capitol Building in Boise, Idaho.

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Of course she showed up on the strip in Las Vegas and again in the gift shop at the Hearst Castle. She follows me around and I look for her everywhere.

Early on in my blog writings a commenter asked how a writer could find such inspiration in the Winged Nike – after all, she is headless and armless – no head to think with and no hands to write with. I still don’t have an answer to that question. I just know I can’t write without her. Maybe it’s like what Izzy says about falling in love with Caleb – Sometimes the complicated twists and turns of life, the endless questions of why this choice and not that one, can be understood and answered that easily – we’re just looking in the wrong spot.

Gardening in the Wilderness

I’m going to shift gears a bit today and write about my garden. This is partly due to separation anxiety. I love my garden and I’m going to leave it for three weeks. I’m leaving at a time when there will be many wonderful and appealing things happening! Well – I love my kids and my grandkids more.Image

Gardening in the wilderness presents lots of challenges among the many, many rewards. Clearing for garden space is labour intensive – the ground is uneven and filled with roots and stumps. We aren’t immune to visitors who can cause havoc.

Billy Bob the bear wandering the garden paths

Every garden space has to be regularly augmented with soil we either need to provide through composting or bring in by the truckload. Building garden structures to set off the limits between garden and wilderness takes time. Perennial plants are far more expensive now than they used to be and forget about buying flats and flats of annuals like the old days. Way too costly. We also don’t have the time we used to have to grow all our annuals for the vegetable garden and flower baskets from scratch.       

Ahh – but the rewards and how we go about addressing these issues is worth noting. We have become very tolerant of working around stumps – they provide a nice contrast to tended beds and when we consider how hard it is to remove a stump – we pat ourselves on the back and tell each other how really great that old stump looks! The visitors may cause havoc but they sure did lend themselves to great pics.

Looks like a guy in a bear suit but it’s Billy Bob going after the huckleberries

Composting is good for the soul so it’s good to be motivated to actually do it. We love every single garden structure to such a degree that we immediately forget the work involved. Not buying so many perennials really has its advantages. Sometimes we have ended up with a backlog of plants in pots and no cleared areas to put them in. Not the best way to go about clearing – though that has advantages too – we’ve ended up concentrating on gardening when we didn’t think we had the time and loving the results. Lately we have been dividing our own perennials and asking for bits of things from other people’s gardens. Ask and you shall receive is a pretty good bet with most people who love gardening – they also love sharing! We’ve really become adept at looking around for bargains – this time of year you can find perennial prices just slashed. Annuals may be showy and nice but they are a lot of work for the amount of time you get to enjoy them – we concentrate more on the perennials that give quite the pay back year after year as they mature.

A garden in the wilderness has to look a bit wild so the contrast between the borders of the true wilderness and the cultivated areas blend and blur. Though we sure don’t want to see deer wandering  through the garden – it can be picturesque.

My garden is the template for Izzy’s garden(check out my board – Izzy’s garden –  on Pinterest  http://pinterest.com/francisguenette/ )  in Disappearing in Plain Sight – though I was able to make her garden at least three times the size! Oh – the freedom of fiction. But fiction can cross the line into reality just as truly as reality can cross the line into fiction. After reading about Izzy’s garden we wanted garden art for our own garden.  

I’ll miss this garden over the next three weeks. At the same time one of the great things about gardening in the wilderness with a partner is that someone will keep an eye on things. I look forward to the changes I will see from the perspective of not looking for a while.

(Bloggers note: I use the word “we” pretty loosely in this blog – the hard labour work in the garden as well as the actual building falls, almost exclusively, to my husband Bruce – I am the partner who wanders the garden trails enjoying what I see and pointing out what needs to be done – not a bad gig – I don’t think I’ll trade spots with him! But I do want to thank him!)

A husband and a granddaughter – pretty cute