Her Christmas Tree

December 27, 2011

December 25th was my mother’s birthday. I wrote this poem for her after Christmas last year. I post it now in her memory.



By Cheryl Spanos


Decorating the Christmas tree for Dad

I unwrap ornaments

Felted angel, painted sled

Ones I had made when I was young.

Each a memory Mom had wrapped

Carefully preserved in tissue.

Touching them like holding a part of her

For one brief moment, having her back.


Later, at the cemetery

Hanging ornaments on the pine near her grave

Crystal snowflake, golden dove

Tinkle of wind chimes and glass bells

Each a tribute left in remembrance.

Even on that windswept hill

Overlooking the frozen lake

Mom has a Christmas tree.


Character Development: Memorable Moments

December 22, 2011

I was driving to my early morning dog agility class, trying to remember why in the world I signed up for a 7:30 a.m. class, when I remembered how grateful I’d been for this jaunt just a few months ago.  To understand how unlikely gratitude might be used in the same sentence as any morning decimal with starting with a seven, I should mention that I am not one of those people that bounce out of bed, bright and chipper, even on vacation.  Nor do I have a coffee habitat to induce caffeine to jump-start my brain cells.  I roll out of the sack, grope blindly for my glasses and stagger bleary-eyed to the bathroom.   I kid you not, a scalding shower is the only reason I’m able to put on clothing and reasonably tackle my job responsibilities. 

However, this last September, changed my attitude.   One particular Saturday morning, the road was empty of traffic. When I glanced in the rear view mirror, my senses were flooded with the pink and orange and blues and yellows of a magnificent sunrise bursting through the cloud cover of Mount Diablo.  The beauty was beyond postcard worthy.  Even as I committed this spectacular natural phenomenon to memory, I knew that this was a one of a kind event.  The clouds were perfectly positioned, the air quality crystal clear.  The reflection of light illuminated the mountain in a red glow that seemed to radiate life itself.  I realized I would never would have witnessed nature at its finest hour had I not been slogging my way to dog class.  I knew this was an unforgettable experience. 

It occurred to me that listing memorable moments could be a useful tool when developing characters for a novel.  In the case of my memorable moment, think about how much information it revealed:   my appreciation of the natural world, the activity I was about to engage in, you could infer a love a dogs and, of course, my natural sleep patterns.

Exercise:  Create a memorable moment for your protagonist and see what it reveals about his or her character.