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.
The best things are nearest: breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of God just before you.~Robert Louis Stevenson
I bent to tie my shoelaces, fingers stiff with cold. I had forced myself to go outside on the blustery, winter afternoon. I didn't hold out much hope that this walk in the frigid air would restore my motivation. For the past few weeks, I'd felt dulled regarding continuing to write, my love for the practice diluted. "Why bother?" I asked. I knew the answer already. "Because you love words. Because you love beauty. Because you enjoy encouraging others not to give up on their artistic pursuits. Because you know that the process of creating things brings healing and joy." I had grown fatigued and lonely, though. When I get lonely and tired along the artist's trail, I go back to nourishing locations where I know I'll find encouragement. I went back to Julia Cameron. All her works have inspired me, but I return again and again to her Artist's Way trilogy. This time I opened up the third book in the series: Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance.
The first page I turned to, I read a sentence I'd previously underlined. It took courage to allow myself to pursue something that I loved. Tears leaked from the corners of my eyes. The validation of that sentence felt like God's kiss on my cheek. It can feel easy to quit. I kept reading.
To win one's joy through struggle is better than to yield to melancholy.~André Gide
We held our lanterns against the foggy morning, arms linked, our feet articulate along the pathway of our friendship. We hadn't seen each other for a few years--her irises still two perfect cerulean circles. Her smile a glowing center of affection.
Time pressed together as we spoke of the last years--grazing, grinding, rasping events and losses that could have devoured us, but didn't. We described each other as "bad ass" women and laughed. As we meandered down our historical trail, there was no doubt in my mind that we both had earned the title, and as I listened to the struggles my friend had transcended, a thousand rays of hope coursed through me with each heartbeat. Neither she nor I had yielded to melancholy.
When it's over, I want to say: All my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.~Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets, died this week. Her voice resonates with me as often her poetry reflects a deep connection with nature and love's resilience as we travel this side of eternity.
This week, too, I watched a BBC Masterpiece Theater production about the Brontë sisters, To Walk Invisible. The film reminded me that art is not magically produced inside a perfect environment. Art is created alongside the messiness of life and feeding the dog. Amid heartache and dreary weather, self-doubt and loneliness. Charlotte, Emily and Anne often stole out to the lavender-tinged moor next to their home for walks and to work out their insecurities and longings regarding submitting their novels and poems for publication. When their works were eventually published, each wrote under a male pseudonym. For years, no one knew that their work was created by a trifecta of female genius. The sisters were hidden. Invisible. Yet they kept writing, and this gorgeous literature manifested inside a life of poverty and the disconsolation of a brother who could not transcend the demise and disease of alcoholism. I wondered what the Brontë sisters could teach me about not giving up on creating art.
Light rays streamed into the living room like a golden river. I stood amidst the beams, astonished. Delighted. Then I felt it. The pain brought me out of my reverie. All week my back hurt from an injury I sustained attempting to practice good exercise habits. The promise on the DVD cover stated, "Aging Backwards." The promise shattered on the first workout. Now aging forward, my best laid plans foiled.
The beauty of that light seemed to penetrate the architecture of my mind as I considered my response to this unexpected event. What if I received the pain as an opportunity to slow my pace. What would that look like?
I could walk without much discomfort. As I moved down the street, I was tempted to bemoan my decelerated steps. I prayed, "God, what does this slowdown mean?" In the chilled air, I heard leaves rustling, the intermittent cries of seagulls. When I reached the amber-colored waters of the tidal creek, I placed my hand on the trunk of the ancient oak, a friend. I could feel the ridges of its bark, even through my woolen gloves. As I looked out over the landscape, I noticed a hawk gazing, too, in the top branches of a pine tree. We two creatures shared a certain kinship in our musings.
Already, in just a week, I'd lost steam, lost enthusiasm for the new beginning that January can offer as the seasons tick by. My cold symptoms had worsened. I couldn't stop coughing. I couldn't sleep. I'd missed three days of work. The doctor pronounced severe bronchitis. "We've been seeing so much of this. Expect the cough to linger for a few weeks," he said, as he wrote me a plethora of prescriptions. I knew I did not want to be sucked into the frigid maelstrom of negativity, self-pity and overwhelm. It was tempting. I prayed, "God give me a dream--something--to calibrate my perspective, to regulate my emotions."
In the dream,I seemed to be magnetized to a clothing store in a trendy mall, its color palette a soothing blend of grays and turquoise. The name of the store was W.E. (this stood for World's End). I was at once captivated by an array of finely-made clothing hanging in artistic displays. A crowd of women perused the gorgeous clothing. I was about to join them, when a sales clerk greeted me. Her brown eyes sparkled as she said, "I've got the perfect styles for you. Give me a minute to select them, and I'll bring them right out." She vanished behind a curtain. Her bright smile seemed to leave a trail of glitter as she turned on her heel. I inhaled and noted the store smelled of eucalyptus, yet I felt strangely wary of the atmosphere. Almost too perfect.
The woman returned and placed several outfits on a rack. I glanced at the price tags. Expensive, silky fabric. I could tell the garments would fit me perfectly. Each piece of clothing was based on a Christmas theme--red, gold, green, silver. I simultaneously hated and loved the pieces. Christmas was over, yet they were so pretty. The salesperson beamed, "Don't you just love what I've chosen for you?" Somehow I felt as if I teetered on an edge of endings. I'd celebrated Christmas. I didn't want to go backward, although there was an inclination to do so--to overspend and buy the clothing, and then join the crowd of women vying for the dresses on display. To stay in that store, just because it was beautiful and expensive, its fragrance intoxicating. My ambivalence was almost palpable. I declared, "I want to move forward. I don't want to be in a store named "World's End." I could almost see the the woman's cherry-colored lips formed in an "O" of surpise as I ran out of the store.