My hope is to offer encouragement to writers as well as to those who simply love to read. You will find snippets of things I am working on and special announcements here.
When I walked into the cabin, my son-in-law asked, "What do you think of the lighting?" As my eyes scanned the vaulted ceiling and honey-colored pine walls, I noted a soft, amber glow from the various lighting in the home. Melded with the natural sunlight pouring from the windows and sky lights, the effect was breathtaking. I exclaimed, "It's gorgeous." My son-in-law explained he had installed specialized light bulbs that re-created the effect of gas lights. As I finished my tour through the mountain home, I feasted on light. All week as I enjoyed a respite in the quietude of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the light drew me in, almost as if it carried melodic sounds. I could look up at the sky lights, perfect rectangles of blue, welcoming daylight. I could stare at the flame in the firelight on a chilly evening and allow its glow to lull me into tranquil calm. And when I walked pathways outdoors, the sun streaming through autumn red and gold leaves, created delicate patterns of shadow and light.
A good friend explained to me that he believes many people in our culture are afflicted with "FOMO"--Fear Of Missing Out--that somehow choices persons make about how they use their time, could leave them missing important and meaningful experiences in their lives. I am intrigued by this term, because I can identify with the fear myself. However, this year when my health took a nosedive and I was diagnosed with cancer, the fear dissipated. In my pre-cancer life, I often felt as if I was one lap behind in life's race and out of breath--relationships, writing, work, exercise--the list went on and on. Do more. Be productive. You'll miss out if you don't. Then cancer. My focus changed. Had to change, or I might not survive. During the months of chemo, I had never experienced such physical weakness, depression palpable. I could do nothing more than lie on the couch some days. I would rebound a little, but then I'd be hit again with another chemo treatment and faced with the difficult side effects. The experience was like living on a spare "energy" budget. I had to say "no" to almost all outside activities. I had little strength for anything but basic living. I felt free to stay at home with no reservations, because that's all I could do. And many days home was a sanctuary where I could rest and write and read and think and pray on the days I felt better. A haven. Margin. I had no fear of missing out on anything, grateful to be alive.
I knew her as Mrs. Wyld (pronounced "wild"). I never knew her first name, but most nine-year-olds don't know the first names of their teachers. Each day she wore matching polyester suits in various shades of earth tones--browns and golds, beige and olive. Her skin was pale and her short, immaculate nails were always painted in clear gloss that sometimes glinted in the sunlight that poured from a line of windows in the fourth-grade classroom when she wrote on the chalkboard. Mrs. Wyld's hair was styled in a bevy of ash-blonde curls that waved to her shoulders. A pair of wireless glasses perched at the end of her nose, and every so often she would push the glasses up with her index finger with a sigh, almost exasperated. She was strict too. She allowed no funny business. She was intent on teaching her students proper grammar and making sure we knew how to do long division. She always gave us ten extra minutes for recess.
Mrs. Wyld, though, had one flaw. And it was a major one. She was a shamer. No one was immune from her sarcastic barbs. I dodged many of her arrows, because I was a pretty good student, so when we had to go to the board and write sentences or "show our work" for a math equation, I usually did well. Frequently, students were the victims of her censorship. "James, how come you got that wrong? We've been working on diagramming sentences for weeks. You're a disappointment to me." Then James would hang his head and slink back to his desk. Mrs. Wyld didn't shame every day. She would sometimes go weeks without any toxic statements. The class would almost get lulled into a false sense of security. But it never failed. She would always strike again.
This week I watched a movie, Collateral Beauty. Will Smith plays a successful advertising executive who is sidelined by grief when his six-year-old daughter dies. He is rendered almost silent by sadness, speaking to few people, separated from his wife, and letting his business go. He begins writing letters to "time," "death" and "love." His colleagues find a creative way for him to receive responses from each of these concepts, and he begins to find his way back from the anger and helplessness. At one point he is challenged to consider the theory of "collateral beauty." In other words, pondering the idea that there could be a possibility of finding beauty in something as ugly as the death of a six-year-old.
Is it possible?
God might be found in brushing the dog. God might be found in scrubbing the sink. God might be found in doing a load of laundry...God is in the concrete facts of our life. The leap of a young dog is a joyous prayer.~Julia Cameron (From Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance)
It is a brilliant day, blue and fresh. The River Birch tree branches just outside my window are bobbing softly, a gentle breeze caressing their leafy arms. The sun is not too warm. Yet I feel as if I'm suffering an anxiety hangover. Just yesterday a very different weather picture filled my window, the River Birch boughs bent mercilessly by tropical force winds as Hurricane Irma marched across the southeast. I'd spent the last few days preparing for her arrival--calling forty plus clients at work, alerting them to the clinic's guidelines in case of evacuation. I heard their fretting and sighs of concern, the maelstrom of "what ifs." Who could blame them? This hurricane season has been pummeling millions of people all over the south. Finally, though, all were called, and I could move on to preparing my own home. There is always ambivalence regarding evacuation, but there was no mandatory order from the governor to leave, so Giovanni and I decided to stay. We packed up the important documents, moved my car to higher ground in a downtown parking garage, lugged all the outside furniture inside the garage, all the potted plants as well. Anything could be a projectile. Then we waited.
The winds came and flooding commenced all over the city, the storm surge higher even than last year's Hurricane Matthew. We were fortunate, with no damage, and only about thirty minutes without power.
And so why do I feel as if I'm standing on the edge ready to fall into an abyss? Perhaps it's because there is another hurricane brewing in the Atlantic. I heard that it might be heading our way. But if I stare into this chasm too long, surely I'll be sucked into more anxiety. I must begin walking backwards away from the edge. But how?