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.
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...
Something is always broken.
Nothing is perfect longer than a day--every roof has a broken tile, every mouth a chipped tooth.
Something is always broken. But the world endures the break:
The broken twig is how we follow the trail. The broken promise is the one we remember...
Something is always broken.
Something is always fixed.~Alberto Rios
I didn't like going to church when I was sixteen--wanted to sleep past noon and not bother to put on a dress. But my dad would gently shake my shoulder on Sunday mornings. "Come on, get up. Time for church. Don't be late." I could smell the sharp scent of Old Spice when he leaned over my pillow to wake me. He was already dressed in his dark suit, his tie neatly knotted at his neck. His pristine white shirt. I'd been in church since an infant, swaddled in a soft blanket and whisked to the nursery. And I was in the pew most Sundays since the cradle. I even went to church as a college student, when I didn't have to. When my dad wasn't there to rouse me from sleep. I'd walk to the nearby Presbyterian church, the older women making sure I always had some treat to take back to my dorm room. Those ladies hosted a party for me when I graduated four years later. I don't think I ever truly appreciated how kind they were. How merciful.
Yesterday I stood in church singng worship songs, surrounded by other believers, enfolded in God's grace. I thought about all the churches I've belonged to through the years. There was the season when I attended the Spanish-speaking church before my children were born. My late ex-husband was fluent in Spanish and wanted to practice his language. A beautiful congregation that invited us to countless authentic Mexican potlucks that filled my craving for spicy food and gracious fellowship. I lived in Hawaii for three months as a college student and attended a church where a lei was placed around one's neck when you entered the sanctuary. All through the service, I smelled the scent of plumeria wafting through the sanctuary, the worship as sweet as the fragrance. I've attended numerous Bible churches in California, Oregon and Illinois. I met one of my best girlfriends at a church in Antioch, Illinois. I belonged to an Anglican church in South Carolina. I've been to numerous Christmas Eve Midnight Masses at St. John The Divine in Charleston. And there was the time I attended an Easter Mass in my husband's hometown in Cremona, Italy. I understood very little of the homily. But I knew the word "pace" when I shook the hands of other believers and felt the "peace" of Jesus transcending the language barrier.
I felt as though my personality was not fit for a normal life in this world; I was always slightly at sea. Today I'm on terra firma. Will it last?~Anna Quindlen (From Lots Of Candles, Plenty Of Cake, A Memoir)
Anxiety is a spider at times, rolling me up in her viscous, delicate web. I am trapped in second-guessing myself, wincing at my sensitive personality. Berating myself for my reactions to things that "shouldn't be such a big deal for most people." Broken cars and worrying if I'll ever jump through all the travel hurdles of flight cancellations and hordes of people when I travel solo to Italy. Most people would be jumping for joy that they were going to Italy. Right? Then pummeling myself for being such a tech wimp. I just don't get "the cloud." It's like trying to read maps before GPS and the friendly voice telling you where to turn. And so it goes (or doesn't go) in my brain.
I yell stop. I quit thrashing. I have tools to slice through the silken strands.
First, I declare a few "reset" days. I cancel things that feel like too much "work" for my personality. I lean into the reality that I need swaths of alone time for regrouping and beginning the task of cutting myself free.
I had come to love the cinema...the way you could just sit on your own in the dark and forget who you were, just let yourself feel what the film was telling you to feel for an hour or so.~Matt Haig (From How To Stop Time)
The movie began...I am the last man on earth. I wanted to find out the man's story. I hunger for story. I am hooked in just a phrase or sentence. It was the best of times. It was the worst of times... Call me Ishmael. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. Once upon a time...
First lines pull me forward. I try my hand at the art of first lines with my own books. (I would never compare my attempts with those great masters I quote above.) I will always remember that it was a sunny day. Emily King wakes up this morning believing she needs to do something different. I live on an island and drive over a bridge every day to work. I saw him through the sliding glass door, his back to me. First lines emit the mood, release the first whiffs of the story line's fragrance. First lines and first scenes can be entirely pleasurable, whether they reflect joy or fear, melancholy or delight. Humans love stories, because we all have one.