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.
Some of us make highly visible, elaborate contributions to the whole. Some of us are part of the ticking mechanics of the world, the incremental wealth of small gestures.~Katherine May (From Wintering, The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times)
He loves teeth and finding ways to keep them. My dentist. Two days ago this humble doctor performed surgery on my mouth. Before he began, he told me that he prays over each patient that he sees. This small gesture before surgery caused my heartbeat to slow. During surgery I drifted in and out as the IV sedation flowed through my veins. I heard bits and snippets of the conversation between my dentist and his assistant. "That looks perfect. Just perfect." "We have done just what she needed doing." "Wonderful outcome." It was as if their hopeful declarations blended together to create a chorus of goodwill.
The experience reminded me of the beauty of small gestures that often go unnoticed by me--that happen every day. The postman whose smile is bright white and always tells me to have a good day. "We must stay positive," he says. I always feel better after I see him at the mailboxes inside my complex. Then the kindness of strangers. The driver who lets me merge, then waves and smiles. My husband who brings me hot, fragrant coffee (with just enough cream) and places it by my bedside. The unexpected text. "I'd like to invite you for a glass of prosecco to celebrate the next chapter in our lives." The snail mail from a friend. I recognize her handwriting and it's as if I'm with her. The homemade blueberry muffin served on a pretty plate. A Will Ferrell GIF that makes me laugh. The librarian's friendly greeting.
These wants are often astonishingly inaccurate: drugs and alcohol, which poison instead of reintegrate; relationships with people who do not make us feel safe or loved; objects that we do not need, cannot afford, which hang around our necks like albatrosses of debt long after the yearning for them has passed. Underneath this chaos and clutter lies a longing for more elemental things--love, beauty, comfort, a short spell of oblivion once in a while. Everyday life is so often isolated, dreary, and lonely. A little craving is understandable. A little craving might actually be the rallying cry of survival.~Katherine May (From Wintering, The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times)
I don't often write in the evening. Mornings usually entice me more gently into my study. I could not resist the sky outside my window, the light diluted into an ephemeral pink glow behind the line of trees on the horizon. It will soon be dark. I've lit a candle and classical music plays from an app on my phone. These small pleasures never seem to disappoint. Writing, my loyal companion, wax dripping from the candle, the fragrance of jasmine as it burns. The setting sun. Chopin.
My heart is not entirely light, though. I received word that a beloved friend is not doing well. She is exhausted from care giving. She is spent, her family support sparse. Perhaps I turn to the page as a way to assuage my own powerlessness to offer her any practical help as we live in different geographies. Tonight I imagine that she might be looking out over the landscape of her life wondering if things will ever change. I would walk behind her and place my hands on her shoulders and tell her that she is loved. That she is not alone. That her longing to rest, her craving for retreat is no insignificant matter.
I never know who reads my blog posts, but I imagine there may be others that feel like my friend and long for relief on some level. I offer you this blessing...
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...