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.
A few nights ago I dreamed I'd taken a bus to an Italian city. I didn't recognize the location, but I noted an array of orange tiled roofs atop ochre-colored houses, persons greeting each other in Italian. "Buongiorno." Vespas purred down narrow streets. I heard the occasional startling honks of cars as they wound through traffic. I smelled faint traces of car exhaust. I stood on a bridge overlooking the town, the hustle and bustle at once thrilling me, as I had a hunger and curiosity to explore, yet simultaneously felt panic that I did not know where I was. I didn't know which way to go. Before I took another step, an exceptionally tall man emerged by my side and said, "I am here to guide you to all the best parts of this city." He offered me his hand. I briefly hesitated, yet had a hunch that he would be an authentic helper. I placed my hand in his and immediately felt the comfort of his warm grasp.
When I awakened, the concept of "emerging" entered my thoughts. In the dream, a "guide" arrived at precisely the moment I needed clarity to find my way. Before even a prayer for help had formed on my lips, support emerged.
In April of this year, Z Publishing House discovered some of my writing online. They approached me about making a submission. I was in Italy with Giovanni at the time I received the request. I dashed off a quick message thanking them for their interest. When we returned, only a week remained for me to submit before I missed the deadline. When I hit the "send" key, I thought about how rare it is for a publishing company to approach a writer. How extraordinary it is for an author's writing to emerge on the internet sea. (A book is submitted to Amazon every five minutes.) I thought about the myriad rejection emails I'd received over my years of writing. Even though the publisher had contacted me, I had no expectation of hearing from them again.
My study is fragrant with the heady scent of a candle burning brighter than my computer screen. The name attached to the candle is "Fearless." That's the reason I bought the candle in the first place. Its title inspired bravery, dissuading me from allowing fear to reign. I remember one of the first times in my life when I decided against fear. I'd just turned eight. My mother had purchased a skateboard for me. The wooden board had miniature purple feet painted on its shellacked surface. Initially, I didn't believe I'd be able to learn the skill of skateboarding. I'd seen boys in the neighborhood performing tricks on their boards, and these stunts looked too difficult for me. I decided to try. I fell again and again. However, there were brief times when I glided down sidewalks and felt the thrill of moving faster than I could run, when I experienced the exuberance of improving my skill. By summer's end in 1963, I'd accomplished my goal--I skated down the tallest hill on my street without falling, the neighborhood boys watching and gasping in surprise that I'd done it.
When I thought of this memory, I asked myself what helped me transcend the feelings of fear. I believe it was first a confident expectation that I'd eventually learn the skill. This positive mindset then provided the ability to transcend the fear of failure and and increased my confidence to practice each day, tolerating the messiness and uncertainty of learning a new skill.
Fast forward fifty-five years and very little has changed regarding the need for me to embrace fearlessness.
She sat in her pickup, the driver's side window down, hair blown back from her face. The first traces of tropical storm gusts stirred the air as the state anticipated the effects of Hurricane Florence. I noted a pink neon stripe zagged through the woman's dark bangs. The color reminded me of those frozen concoctions sold in gas station convenience stores, that stain one's tongue disturbing colors. I stood on the bank of the tidal creek where she had parked her truck. We made eye contact, waving simultaneously. The young woman smiled and nodded, then went back to her musing as did I, our brief connection a mercy as we awaited the storm's approach.
The woman's bright shot of pink in her hair, and her wide smile comforted me, and I began thinking of the concept of mercy as I walked. I remembered the encounter I had with my six-year-old granddaughter a few days prior. We'd been talking about how we enjoyed writing as a way to capture moments of our lives. She picked up her journal and said, "You know what I write in my journal is just for me to read." I responded, "I understand. My journal writing is the same--only for me." Then she said, "But I'll read you a page in mine." I said, "I'd like that very much." She began:
"One day I went with my mommy to visit a lady. When we got there, and I saw the lady, I realized she had a mustache. I really, really, really wanted to say something." Then my granddaughter looked up from reading and said, "I had to hold back my words. I wanted to say something so bad." She continued: "I decided not to say anything, though, becasue it could have hurt the lady's feelings. I didn't want to do that."
While on some level, the journal entry was funny, the story reflected a tenderness of heart as well. At six, my granddaughter had learned the art of mercy.
Sometimes I ask a question, and the answer comes wrapped in astonishment.
Over several weeks, a layer of melancholy seemed to cling to me that I couldn't strip off my mind, like transparent strands of spider webbing. I wrote in my journal. Prayed. "God, peel back this film of misery. Give me a key to open the door." At the bottom of the page I'd drawn a key.
A few nights later I dreamed. In the dream, I discovered a locked door with a large keyhole. When I peered through the opening, I observed a glimmering sea, the sun spangling and dancing over the water. I wanted to unlock the door, but I didn't have the key. I heard in my mind, "Turn toward grace." A key materialized in my hand. I placed it in the keyhole, and the door swung open. I awakened.
There was my answer. "Turn toward grace." But what did that really mean?
When you have something like reading--or drawing or music or nature--it surrounds you with a sense of connection to somethng great.~Anne Lamott (from Stitches, A Handbook On Meaning, Hope and Repair)
I opened the door of the library, the bottom of my jeans soaked through after walking across the parking lot in a downpour. My red umbrella dripped mercilessly, creating a puddle in the foyer. I hadn't cared that I was more wet than dry, because I had tried something new--even as small a thing as going to a different library branch--off my beaten path.
The librarian raised one eyebrow as I disrupted the peace, my shoes making lurid sounds as I crossed the faux-wood flooring over to the movie section. A toddler screamed at the same moment my shoes created a louder, more disgusting noise, distracting the librarian from his watchful eye on me. I found no movies that fit my mood. Gooseflesh appeared on my arms as the raindrops evaporated. I ran my ring fingers under my eyes, black eyeliner left smudges on my damp palms. I spied the new book section where my reward for trying something different awaited: The Art Of Vanishing, A Memoir Of Wanderlust by Laura Smith. I made my way to the checkout desk, my shoes now silenced. The librarian gave me a wry smile as I slipped the book into my bag.
Over the last weeks I'd been feeling overwhelmed--awful things happening at work--patients overdosing, a patient with gangrene from medical neglect, afraid to go to the hospital because he didn't have medical insurance. People frightened and traumatized. People coming apart. Somehow I was supposed to help them. Much of the time I didn't know where to begin. Most days I'd say, "You made it here today. That's a good start. Let's pull the session into the present. What's the next safest action for you to take today?" (I'm a firm believer in the beauty of small, incremental change). Just as I ask my patients to risk doing something different, I needed to keeping choosing to try new things too--even though I'm such a creature of habit--appreciating sameness, made delirious by familiarity. Going to a new library was a start. What was next?