Tuesday, July 28, 2015

7:30 BELLS: The Best of the Bells: Our Patina Makes Us Beautiful

In celebration of my wonderful father's 92nd birthday, I want to re-post this blog from 4-29-14.  And I will only add, I'm so glad he is still here. He's one of the most beautiful people I know.

When I passed this tree, cut down by a chain saw, its ragged beauty snagged my attention. In death, the tree bares its wounded heart to the world. Tears of sap have hardened into lacey veil. 

The dead, the fallen, the wounded, the ragged imperfect—we don’t usually consider them beautiful. But there is much to be found in them. Mary Oliver expresses this well in these lines excerpted from her poem, Whelks:

“but each morning on the wide shore / I pass what is perfect and shining / to look for whelks, whose edges / have rubbed so long against the world / they have snapped and crumbled—” Mary Oliver  

This week I heard someone say—with some shame—that they are repulsed by very old people. By their wrinkles, their sagging flesh, their “decrepitude.” How sad. How tragic that American culture embraces only the “perfect and shining.” Youth. The air-brushed makeover. The new, new, forever new.

I think patina is beautiful. Patina—a surface that has formed over something, such as green color on a bronze bell, that comes from age, long exposure to weather, or from being used for many years. When I am old, I hope people will look at me and see the richness of my patina . I hope they can still hear the reverberating rings from a long and vibrant life.


The patina on the bell celebrates
a life filled with ringing

7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on August 13 for a guest post with children's book author L.L. Owens.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

730 BELLS: The Blue Bells of Morning: Embrace What You Love Now

Chicory. Yes, it’s definitely a coffee substitute. Especially if you wake up to it blooming blue in your meadow. These flowers only bloom in the morning.

I, however, am not a morning person. I’m not usually awake enough to think about bells in the morning. But when I walk out to greet the chicory in the meadow, the brilliant blue joy of them rings me wide awake. It’s better than coffee.

Last month I wrote about the daisies in the meadow—luminous and mysterious by moonlight, bold and daring by sunlight. As everything here on the river is new to me, I didn’t know the daisies wouldn’t bloom all summer. When their season passed, I mourned.

Then—what consolation!—the chicory bloomed. So now, with no clue as to the length of their season, I take care to greet them each morning. Whatever you may value—flowers, people, strength, a creative fire--embrace it while it’s here.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on August 11 for a guest post with children's book author, L.L. Owens.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Author Trudi Trueit

I'm so pleased to share this 7:30 BELLS Guest Post by Trudi Trueit, a fellow Pacific Northwest children's author.

Growing up in the shadow of Mount Rainier in Washington state, I could hardly wait for our annual family trek to the 14,400-foot peak. My parents, brother, sister and I would spend the day hiking the easy trails, feeding bread crumbs to the friendly chipmunks, and admiring the spectacular vistas. As a girl, I can remember standing in a windswept meadow of wildflowers. Gazing up at the majestic, snow-kissed peak, I felt joy pulse through my veins. I felt the bells ring within me. There, in that heavenly realm, I felt alive. At peace. At home.

Yet . . . as much as I have always had a kinship with mountains, it is not an easy journey for me. I am uncomfortable in high places. Okay, I’ll just say it. I’m scared of heights. I could give you plenty of reasons: I have poor vision and get dizzy when I have to see distance and once I was trapped on a rickety ski lift at Idaho’s Schweitzer Mountain at sunset. Yet, reasons are excuses for not moving forward. So what do I to get to my beloved mountains? I swallow my fear and get on that chairlift for a heart-pounding, sweat-inducing ride to the top. As I dangle from the thin wire a hundred feet above the ground, I tell myself everything will be okay once I reach the summit. And it is. It always is. All of my fears, doubts, and struggles fall away and all that remains is triumph.

I’ve had many similar ‘mountains’ in my life. Of course, courage is only one aspect of overcoming a fear. You can ‘gut it out’ for some things, but for most goals, you have to lay a foundation. Bravery without preparation will not take you far. When I was in middle school, I was fairly certain I wanted to be a journalist, but I was a shy girl. I knew this was going to be a problem, unless I dealt with it. I wasn’t sure my timidity was a mountain I could climb on my own, so I took a debate class in high school. I learned to write a coherent argument, to craft a persuasive speech, and to speak confidently in public without my knees knocking. To my surprise, I fell in love with debating and it opened the door for me to become a television news reporter and, in time, a children’s author, who happily speaks to student groups of all sizes.

Mountains, whether they be physical or metaphorical, are necessary. They test us. They teach us. They remind us reaching any great pinnacle requires fortitude and perseverance. This summer, I’ll be heading to one of my favorite destinations, Whistler B.C. I’ll summon my courage and get on that phone-booth of a gondola, holding my breath (and hopefully, my lunch) all the way to the top. Then, standing above the world, I’ll jump up to tap the wispy clouds and revel that, once again, I made it. Everything I will go through to get there will be worth it. It always is, you know.

Trudi Trueit knew she’d found her life’s passion after writing (and directing) her first play in the fourth grade. Since then, she’s been a newspaper journalist, television news reporter and anchor, and freelance writer, but her favorite career is what she does now—writing for kids and tweens. She’s published more than 90 fiction and nonfiction titles for young readers, including Stealing Popular (Aladdin MIX) and the Secrets of a Lab Rat series (Aladdin). Look for her new title for tweens, The Sister Solution (Aladdin MIX), this fall. Visit her website at www.truditrueit.com.

Photos by Bill Trueit.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on August 11 for a guest post with children's book author, L.L. Owens.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Sharing the Tree and Me

Sometimes, there's simply a moment, one moment when the season is right, the light is right, your attention is right, and you behold something wonderful. That moment came yesterday afternoon in the hammock, when the shadow of this cedar tree aligned with mine. I seemed to be the tree, with gentle branch fingers. I stretched out my own hand. Then the tree seemed to be me.

Usually I want to fully inhabit a ringing moment like this. Usually I do. But this time, knowing such a unique convergence might not happen again, I reached for my camera. This was a moment to share. And sometimes, that urge to share the wonder makes the most beautiful ringing sound of all.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on July 14 for a guest post with children's book author, Trudi Trueit.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Sunlight and Moonlight

In the field southeast of our house, daisies grow wild. Last night as I walked through them in the moonlight they shone—luminous, white-skirted, acres of them kicking up a can-can in the windy moonlight.

Enchanting, yes. Bells, bells, and more bells.

Then, the next morning, I walked through the field in the sunlight. Dazzling, bright, the daisies still kicked up their skirts in the wind, but now I saw their golden hearts revealed.

There’s a time to be luminous and mysterious. A time to be bright, bold, and flash your heart at the world. Sunlight and moonlight together, two things we never see at the same time, create the whole story. Look and keep looking, at every hour, in every light, for parts of yourself you can’t see all at once. Then knit them together in the wind to see your whole rich story.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on July 14 for a guest post with children's book author, Trudi Trueit.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Make a Secret Place

Secret, secluded places—like this bench under the little red maple—always make the bells ring for me. Why? Because they’re an invitation to step away from my usual world. An invitation to enter a place of reflection. An invitation to enter a mystery.

I placed this bench, facing the river, under the little red maple. I made a place that I knew would invite me into the state of mind I want. We need to find or make such places in our lives. For some people it’s the inside of a church or cathedral. For some, a library corner. For others, mountains. If you don’t have a river, fill a beautiful vase with branches and set it in the window under changing light. Place a chair in the right place and just watch.

Once you have found or made a place in your life that holds the invitation to mystery, make regular time to be there. Reflection, creativity, meditation are practices, disciplines that brings great rewards. Musicians practice. Dancers practice. Doctors practice. Scientists practice. I know I need to practice putting myself into the place of mystery.

So find your bench. Make your place to enter mystery. And then do it.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on July 14 for a guest post with children's book author, Trudi Trueit.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: The Art of Waiting by Author Helen Landalf

I'm so pleased to share this month's 7:30 BELLS Guest Post by Helen Landalf, author of books for children and teens. 

My husband loves to photograph birds. He leaves the house in the early hours of morning to find a spot at the beach, by a lake or under the cherry tree in our backyard. He waits, camera in hand, until a warbling call alerts him or a flash of movement catches his eye. Then he lifts his lens to frame the sky, hoping to capture the perfect moment when an eagle or heron, a blue jay or sparrow, spreads its wings and takes flight.

Some days he is successful, and his camera brims with images of soaring birds. Other times, he comes home empty-handed. But even when he has nothing tangible to show, he’s satisfied in knowing that he has practiced his art. He was there, camera ready, waiting.

I, on the other hand, tend to approach my creative work as a task to be accomplished. I hunch over my laptop, worshipping the god of productivity: this word count must be met, that chapter must be completed. Even on days that refuse me the gift of ringing bells or fluttering wings, I force my ideas onto the page, and a writing session that produces no progress can send me into a spiral of despair.

But I am learning from my husband. Instead of pushing, I’ve begun to wait for a flicker of inspiration to dance, like a bird, on the edges of my consciousness. I’m careful not to move too quickly, for fear it will fly away. With patience, it ventures closer, perhaps rewarding me with a chirp or two. If I sit long enough in silence, the bird warbles and the bells begin to chime – faintly, at first. But when I continue to hold my mind open, the bells peal, the bird bursts into song, and my heart soars as I catch my story in flight.

The true art is in simply being there, receptive.

Helen Landalf is author of the YA novel FLYAWAY (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011), as well as two picture books and five nonfiction books for teachers. When she’s not writing, she teaches dance and Pilates and hosts international students in her home. On weekends, she often goes bird watching with her husband, Steven.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on July 14 for a guest post with children's book author, Trudi Trueit