My hope is to offer encouragement to writers as well as those who simply love to read. You will find eclectic snippets here—news of projects I’m working on, comments regarding books I enjoy, favorite authors, quotes, and reflections regarding my own experiences. I especially like to write about my dreams—those parables in the night seasons. Symbols and metaphors delight and intrigue me. You will find them here.
We make our way, and effort and time give us cushion and dignity. And as we age, we're riding higher in the saddle, seeing more terrain.~Darin Strauss (From Half A Life)
I wasn't sure I'd be back to the page before October. Didn't know if I'd have bandwidth to write after making it to Italy. All the trips across the ocean beforehand add up to this one.
Previous trips have found me here in the boot feeling anxious, fretting, embarrassed and ashamed regarding my poor Italian. I haven't been able to shake off the shame. Unable to relax and enjoy the beauty. This time around, I have more margin, the pace gentler. I don't have to cram everything into a two-week time period and then get back on the job. My language skills are somewhat improved. I've begun to open my mouth and try to form the syllables of this melodic language.
And there is the succulent light of the Italian countryside, the mix of sun and shadows that creates a benediction. In the house, there is a view from every room. Plowed fields, homes painted ochre and gold. Coral. Purple Crepe Myrtle blooms stand contrasted against lemon-colored walls. The moon is full now, and a few nights ago Giovanni and I drove on a black-topped road that wound through cornfields. The breeze like cashmere on our skin, that glowing orb of moonlight like God's face lighting up the night sky.
The particular shape of the doorknob, which had left an emotional imprint in the hollow of her hand.~Tatiana de Rosnay (From Flowers of Darkness)
Sometimes it's daunting to remember the elements, the ingredients of beauty. Yet each day we can find some bejeweled additives when we look. Here's an excerpt from my book, On A Clear Blue Day, entitled Doors:
The night of the festival, downtown was packed with people. I had to park at least four blocks away from the event. I groaned, thinking I should have anticipated the lack of parking and worn more sensible shoes. I faced a lot of cobblestones. I walked gingerly in my heels and began to notice details I'd failed to observe on other occasions when I walked more briskly in the neighborhood.
The evening light possessed a translucent quality. Silvery wisps of cloud as well as violet brushstrokes streaked the sky. A light wind blew and lifted the bangs from my forehead. I noted the homes had much character. One was painted yellow with cherry trim. The front window held box planters filled with curled ribbons of ivy and red geraniums. A gas flame lamppost glowed as the early evening began to inch toward nightfall. Another house contained an elaborate iron fence that curved around the perimeter of the property. The iron work was so delicate and intricate that I stopped and placed my fingers through the iron bars, wishing I could push open the gate and enter the magical yard.
As I continued to slowly make my way to the festival, the variety of doors on the homes captivated me. Some were massive, polished and shining--decorative knockers taking prominence in the middle of the wood. Others were painted in more muted shades of gray or ochre. Some were painted lime green. One was a startling shade of orange. All extraordinary.
Watching someone you love asleep is what I thought.~Barry Lopez (From Embrace Fearlessly The Burning World)
They sat in front of me in church. A mother held her sleeping child, a blond boy about three years old. His head rested on her shoulder. His mother gently patted his back, her lovely fingernails painted sky-blue. Watching them sharpened me with calm, as my week had felt more filed by dread and anxiety. I'd had a disappointing appointment with my dentist, and I'm a faithful flosser. Then sometimes I can also tend toward performance-based thinking. I am never enough in this mindset. There is always more to accomplish, more striving to be better, to learn more. This thinking is not my friend. Sometimes, too, I become overwhelmed by environmental detritus--the plastic bags floating on the surface of ponds, fast food boxes left in the park, cigarette butts in front of Target, broken electric gadgets sitting on curbs, candy wrappers blowing in the wind. I try to do my part and pick up the debris, yet the consuming culture gets me down. And surely I'm right there, too, in the consumption. When I looked at the little boy and his mother, I felt something shift in my thinking. "Go deeper, move toward the things you know help strengthen you so that you can be at peace to care for yourself and your world," I coached myself. "Move toward simplicity, movement, intimacy with God. Submerge yourself in nature. The joy of reading. The beauty of the Scriptures. Be honed by those things."
I go for a walk. It's a little cooler. A white egret stands regally at the edge of the pond. They rarely appear in this more populated area. I watch the bird for several minutes and let its beauty take hold. I sit down in my chair and read the book I quote from at the top of the post. The late Barry Lopez loved the earth and was honored for his environmental and humanitarian work. He writes, "We've become, it seems to me, a chronically distracted people, yearning to be relieved of the misgivings and anxiety we feel, thinking we no longer have time to go deep." His words enlivened me and provided incentive to keep caring for other people and our world. I read the Scriptures. Here are a few passages that may provide solace as you move through your own sphere of influence, your individual landscape.
Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.~Simone Weil
We stayed for hours. The South Carolina Aquarium sits on the edge of the Charleston Harbor. From its balconies one can peer out over the horizon and observe sailboats drifting across the blue waters, gaze upon white cloud banks. Feel an ocean breeze upon your face, inhale the tang of salt. My grandchildren and I moved from the structure's terraces into its lavish walls filled with the glory of God's creatures.
We stood mesmerized as sunlight poured into a large tank, highlighting brown spots on a giant sea turtle's face as she swam elegantly through the water. Sharks, too, with their pointed snouts, gray and stealthy. And beautiful. Schools of angel fish, yellow and black markings like artistic brushstrokes. Orange coral. We feasted together at this dazzling table of ocean delights. We didn't hurry, perhaps one of life's greatest luxuries.
It was easy to fall in love with morning when it started off with such a simple but delicious feast.~Pat Conroy (From A Lowcountry Heart, Reflections On A Writing Life)
I wake up groggy, halfway stumble down the stairs, already anticipating my first sips of hot french vanilla coffee, a luxury, the bold stimulant increasing my alertness. Yet what conjures even more wakefulness is the morning light easing through the blinds, luxuriant, brilliant. Even when morning skies are gray as concrete, there is still that silvered finish that speaks of God's grace and faithfulness. And when the skies flare streamers of crimson and amethyst, there is pleasure in being alive, placing my fingers on the inside of my wrist and feeling life's pulse.
It can be easy to overlook or minimize the good in the world, as we are so often bombarded by the negative in this culture. Not that we shouldn't be concerned and active regarding our role for such a time as this. Sometimes it helps to increase my courage to act when I move my focus to the good that parallels the frightful.
Here are some things I've experienced lately...