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.
Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid.~Frederick Buechner (From When The Stars Go Dark)
I adore Paula McLain's writing. I read her most recent novel, When The Stars Go Dark, this week. As I read, I kept thinking, "This book does not sound like her other books." It almost seemed like a different author. I loved the writing, yet it was stripped back, entirely vulnerable, almost like she stood before the reader with no ornamentation, bare of make-up. No mascara, no lipstick. Work boots and a torn T-shirt. The plot was compelling, her protagonist working out grief and a traumatized childhood. Then an "author's note" at the end of the book explained my observation about the changed dynamic in the writing. Ms. McLain states, "Writing a novel is such an interesting mix of effort and surrender, of control and vulnerability. It wasn't until late in the stages of drafting that it fully dawned on me just why I was so drawn to tell this particular story and not any other. My troubled detective, Anna Hart, is obsessed with trauma and healing, with intimate violence and the complex hidden connection between victims and predators, because I'm obsessed with those things, and long have been. I've given her other parts of me too--a version of my childhood spent in foster care, and my abiding love of the natural world as deep medicine. What Anna knows and thinks about the hidden scars of sexual abuse, I know as a sexual abuse survivor."
I won't spoil the story for you by disclosing the end. I will tell you this, though. There is a thread of mercy that runs through the plot line as Anna finds her way. The themes in the book caused me to think about all the ways this character attempted to "fix" her life. "Fix" herself. "Fix" her past. I could identify with Anna, thinking about all my striving to make things better on my own, refusing to surrender to life's paradox, its symbiotic nature of both terrible and beautiful. Perhaps this is why I kept reading hour after hour until I reached the end. To see if Anna had figured "it" out.
All these pulls on me that cancel one another out like an algebraic equation I can't solve.~Lily King (From Euphoria)
Last night I watched Nomadland, the movie that recently won best picture at the Oscars. It's about a woman who left her home and all she knew to live in her van after her husband died. She joined a growing population of mostly senior citizens who decided to do the same thing. I'm pondering why I'm fascinated by the folk who embark on the "nomad" life. Why do they pack up and leave what's familiar to live in an RV and follow temporary jobs around the country? There's a certain appeal, I know. A dog for company and the beauty of purple mountains and russet and pink sunsets. Sharing campfires with others along the route. The rush and risk of a pioneering spirit.
Most, I think, feel tied down to the pressures of modern life--the mortgage, jobs they hate, an overwhelming sense of responsibility to maintain possessions. The yard. The cars. They want a less complicated life--a less expensive life. I can understand this. I wanted these same things when I retired. Less complexity. Less responsibility. Less pressure.
Yet one thing I've noted is that one can never totally separate from the responsibilities of life and its complications. Even the nomads must manage inclement weather and maintain their vehicles. Confront loneliness.
Books never let you down. They were always there for you.~Tatiana de Rosnay (From Flowers Of Darkness)
I want to be cool. Yet I know that's not the goal.
I've been invited to participate in a celebration of Indie authors in the town where I now live. The owner of the local bookstore, Main Street Reads, Main Street Reads has organized the event that celebrates not only Indie authors, but also Indie bookstores. I'll have an opportunity to talk about my books, along with fifteen other authors. I feel intimdated. There are many talented and creative writers represented. There's that ache to belong and "be cool." I know, though, that it's not really about me. It's about being grateful for the beauty of books, the joy of writing. I don't know what I'd do without writing. Or books. Written words are a stronghold for me. A friend. More than to be "cool," I'd like to be a conduit of God's mercy and peace. Validate others in some way.
As you know, I've begun writing blessings. Here is another I've written for me, you, all of us as we make our way and hang onto ourselves...
We are never as alone in our beginnings as it might seem at the time. A beginning is ultimately an invitation to open toward the gifts and growth that are stored up for us. To refuse to begin can be an act of great self-neglect.~John O'Donohue From To Bless The Space Between Us
I'm surrounded now by people in my life who are initiating beginnings. A friend of mine walked me through his newly purchased empty house and pointed to the wall he would tear down, and then explained to me where another one would be erected. A couple showed me where they are planting new shrubs and trees, planning for eventual shade. Another person told me of a trip he planned after many months of COVID isolation. Another friend shared she'd begun a painting she'd been thinking about for many months. "It's daunting. I don't know if I'll ever finish it."
A dear lifelong friend shared that she and her family decided to move, uprooting from a home where she'd spent the last sixteen years raising her family. While bittersweet to know she'd be further away, I felt excitement for her as I sensed she'd taken a risk to begin anew. Her announcement that she was moving came simultaneously with something I'd been pondering lately--wondering if I could begin writing blessings for people. Before I left her home, my friend gave me a newspaper article she thought I'd enjoy. In the article, I discovered John O'Donohue's book, To Bless The Space Between Us. The book is filled with blessings for various events in life. I decided I could begin to write blessings for my friends and for people I don't know, like many of you loyal readers who allow me into your lives each week. Here is my beginning...
Being a man, being a woman, being a human being--it all hangs on such fragile architecture.~ Deb Caletti (From He's Gone)
I was very young and didn't know what I was doing. I was twenty, but even then, I knew something of sorrow. Knew when someone needed the weight, the circumference of mercy. The young woman in my college sorority came into our world of parties and protocols looking just as we all wanted our new pledges to look. Creamy, flawless skin and luxuriant, sleek dark hair. Blue eyes. There was a certain wildness there too that was magnetizing. When these attributes became integrated with all the things one doesn't talk about in polite company, though we know that these unspeakables are all part of the scene in sororities--drugs, sex and alcohol--she became unhinged. Alicia (not her real name) was asked to leave the sorority. It was horrible.
One night before she left, I walked down the hallway past her room. I almost didn't stop, but when I put my ear to her door, I could hear muffled sobbing. I knocked. A timid tapping. The crying continued. I pounded then and said out loud, "Alicia, can I come in?" She didn't respond, but the sobbing increased. I placed my hand on the doorknob. I can still almost feel the imprint of that knob on my palm as I let myself in and shut the door behind me. Alicia was stretched out on her bed, the room dark except for a line of light from the hallway at the bottom of the door. I walked toward the bed and whispered her name. "Alicia." I didn't know what to say. I only knew that she must feel shame about what happened. And then treated so poorly by the sorority. She didn't deserve to be kicked out. Her only "sin" being that her behaviors became public. Probably every other woman in the sorority had similar issues (including myself), but we'd managed to keep them secret.