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.
You strengthened me deep within my soul, and breathed fresh courage into me.~Psalm 138:3 (The Passion Translation)
There are things that take all we have. Things that we take part in because we know that ultimately they are the things that make us better, that pull us up and out of complacency and make our lives more excellent. In the next weeks, I have the opportunity to engage with another culture and exit my American comfort zone. I am not fully prepared. I am not fluent in the language, though I have been practicing and studying the beautiful Italian words. In past trips to my husband's homeland, I have often surrendered to feelings of anxiety and negative thought patterns that paralyze me. This time, I have decided not to allow this kind of self-sabotage.
Here is my plan:
Nostalgia in reverse, the longing for yet another strange land grew especially strong in spring.~Vladimir Nabokov
There are so many reminders. Spring. That time of the year when hints of another Kingdom surround me. All the senses on overload. But I'd blocked out the beauty with my obsession on getting things done--my incessant lists. Obligations. I could feel the panic rising--how would I ever prepare to leave work to go on vacation? Wasn't annual leave supposed to be something to look forward to? My desk was stacked. How would I ever plough through it all? A row of blooming azaleas in all their frothy pinkness interrupted the anxiety. Why wasn't I noticing the beauty all around me? Why was I fretting during this resplendent season?
Life barrels by in all its ordinariness and uncanny beauty.~Journal entry, March 10, 2007
I am fortunate to have a life filled with rich correspondence. On a regular basis I hear from readers sharing their lives with me. I am humbled to be allowed into these spheres--persons from diverse age groups and ethnicities. I am often amazed at peoples' resiliency and creativity as they forge their way through life's arcs and curves; how people patch up their hearts when they've reached a dead end. I'm gladdened by the courage I witness when a reader tells me they've taken a step out of a comfort zone to perform at an open mic or submit a piece they've written. Post their art on twitter. Write a poem. Get out their paints. I'm overwhelmed with joy to see career doors open when there's been little hope, perseverance the norm for years. I weep with those who are caring for elderly parents with little margin in their days, weary from the exhausting investment of love and caring. I rejoice with those parenting young children, tackling such a huge task in this culture. I champion those coming to the close of work lives, envisioning retirement, feeling young. My readers are gracious with their feedback. They enlarge my heart with their kindness. "I resonated with what you wrote." "I feel encouraged today just knowing I'm not alone." It is comforting to know that we have connection, that we don't walk the pathway by ourselves. Just this week, I received a text from a young woman who is helping me with my latest manuscript. I'm honored that she has taken the time from her life to provide input for me. She writes, "It's a joy to partner with you." How we need each other, this life a collaboration.
Often, for me, it is important to gain encouragment from those that have gone before me. They are enduring voices that illuminate the darkness. Here are a few voices I thought you might like...
Truly we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the mouths of lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever in allegiance with gravity while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the scars of damage, to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say "Look!" and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads. ~Mary Oliver
What will I pack this time? My ninth trip across the ocean to my husband's homeland. Italy. In the past, I've packed too much. Too many pairs of shoes. Clothes I never wore. Freighted. Weighted down. "This time will be different," I say to myself. I look at my new suitcase, the color of eggplant. I place a few garments and some tolietries inside. A hat. My journal. I lift the small bag. If I had to, I could carry the luggage for miles, it's so lightweight. The "mystery" of "less is more."
I'm sometimes asked how long it takes for me to write a book. In my mind I'm thinking, "Years." My standard answer is, "Usually longer than I think it will." It can be tempting to "skip to the end." In other words, only appreciating the end product. A beautiful cover, engaging back-cover copy and an endorsement from a talented writer. The final outcome is hours and hours and hours and hours invested over an unknown timeframe. It isn't healthy to dwell on outcomes. They are best released. Far better to concentrate on consistency as one pursues any creative endeavor. When can I grab a few minutes to write a paragraph or a few measures of music? It is difficult to find large swaths of time to create for most of us. We are working full-time, taking care of children or elderly parents. We are commuting an hour to work, then over an hour to get back home. NIghtmare traffic. We have birthdays to attend, bills to pay. We must get to the gym. Where do we find any time to pursue art? Is it even possible? "I won't think about playing my violin until I retire." "I'll pull the Julia Child cookbook out when the kids are in school." "It's too much trouble to get to that theatre production. I'll have to find parking." I know. I say those things too. "I'll just watch one more re-run of The Big Bang Theory instead of writing a few sentences about the sunset I witnessed on my walk. I'm tired. Who really cares anyway?" Perhaps no one will care. But eventually I will feel worse that I didn't shut the television off and pull out my journal. Just writing a few lines can rejuvenate my tired mind and body. Art does that.