Welcome all dreamers, fantasists, bibliophiles, and romantics. Join me Mondays and Fridays for speculation about other worlds, exploration of the human heart and soul in fiction and fact, sojourns in history and science, advice and tidbits in the realms of story, and thoughts on everything in between...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Trick to Life, Fiction, and Stargazing

My sons’ great grandmother sent them a book with all sorts of neat space experiments and projects called, The Klutz Guide to the Galaxy. It’s an awesome book. The very first activity we decided to take on was building the telescope that comes with the book. Last night, we tried it out for the first time, and in doing so gave me the inspiration for today’s post.

The telescope is an ingenious contraption of plastic lenses, cardboard, and folds. Deconstructed, it fits in a bag slightly larger than a quart sized Ziploc and lies almost completely flat. Constructed, it’s about the size of two soda cans stacked on top of each other and can extend to almost twice that length. My sons adore it.

Since we had cloud cover last night, most stars and planets were not visible, but there was one bright star right above us. The boys naturally argued over who got to use the telescope when and for how long, but mostly, armistices were achieved.

However, to spot a single star in the tiny view of a telescope takes skill and a good bit of patience, neither of which my sons possess in great quantities. Frustrations soon prevailed, and they were on the brink of surrender when I had an idea. Rather than looking at the star while the telescope was extended to its full length, I adjusted it to its shortest and widest view. From there, it was much easier to capture the star in our sights and slowly extend the telescope to enlarge the image. The boys found this trick delightful.

As I searched for a topic for today, I remembered this moment and it got me thinking about the concept as a general principle: looking at something from a wider view to be able to catch the details and put them in perspective.

As a writer, this is particularly useful. To really see how well a story works, a wider view is necessary to glimpse the full structure, conflicts, and resolutions. Focusing on the details first can obscure the essential bones of a story.

In life, looking at a wider view first can give needed perspective to decision and can make struggles less overwhelming. When your child stays up half the night screaming because he doesn’t want to learn to sleep in his crib for the first time, thinking just of the moment can bring a parent to tears of overwhelming frustration. But, if you think of it in terms of a necessary step for his proper growth and development and that it’s just one night in all the thousands he’ll have in his life and in yours, the moment gains perspective and drops in significance. A single hardship can drive one to despair, but looked at in the longer view of life, which is ever changing, it can become a season which can be endured.

So today, let me close with something akin to an Irish blessing. May your stars burn bright, may your views be wide and full, and may all your days be filled with little joys.


  1. Um, were you thinking of anyone in particular with that crying in the crib analogy? Me, maybe, and my reluctant solo sleeper? Tee-hee. You're totally right. Perspective makes all the difference! I'll remember that next time I crib-train...and in my writing.

    1. Actually, I nearly cried every time I crib trained one of mine. It's such a difficult experience for mommy and baby and daddy, for that matter.