Tuesday, April 26, 2016

7:30 BELLS:When Two Worlds Meet

A spring storm blew the cherry blossoms, those sky dwellers, onto our pond. Pink islands for the gold fish looking up. Or pink clouds.

The surface of the water is like the skin of our own small consciousness. Something falls on us from above. Something flashes from the unknown depths below. For one moment all floats, tranquil. Lovely.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. Join me on May 10 for a guest post with author Mitali Perkins.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

7:30 BELLS: When Mountains Become Breadcrumbs

On a day clear and glorious, I began the long drive home from the Teen Lit Festival in Bend, Oregon. Three Sisters Mountains graced the southwest. I saw Mount Washington, and Mount Jefferson soared in the northwest. All of them are strangers to me. I live between the Cascades and Olympic mountains in Washington state.

I drove west over Santiam Pass. More mountains rose and more, until I emerged some sixty miles south of Portland. Mount Hood, more familiar, rose to the northeast. Glancing back, I could still see the white peaks marking the way I’d come.

Crossing into Washington, old friends Mount Saint Helens and Mount Adams appeared, and soon after, my own Mount Rainier. And bells rang as it struck me: The mountains, the white bread crumbs of giants, had led me home.

We should always let mountains lead us home. Always follow what is immense, great, splendid, and utterly beyond us. Follow the wild beauty that rings the bells of our hearts. These are worthy standards to determine our way.

May the mountains always be my breadcrumbs.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. Join me on May 10 for a guest post with author Mitali Perkins.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Before the World Awakes Bells by Kevan Atteberry

I'm pleased to share this month's 7:30 BELLS Guest Post by the always irrepressible author/illustrator Kevan Atteberry.

guess my “7:30 Bells” are really more like 4:30 or 5:00 Bells; Early in the Morning Bells; when I am Up Before Most of the World Bells. I like being up early. And, if I am up early enough to see a sunrise, it’s even better; especially during the summer. I'm not sure why, but I find this time of the day—when most of the world is still sleeping—exhilarating. But it is not an easy thing to do. I have just as hard of time getting up early as anybody else. When my iPhone alarm goes off at 4:30, most of the time I am a snooze alarm abuser. 4:39, 4:48, 4:57, 5:06, etc. But those days I do actually get up when the alarm first goes off (usually the mornings when my bladder and alarm are in sync), I find by the time I’ve showered and dressed and am properly caffeinated, I am ready to take on the creative tasks at hand. I’m energized and inspired and ready to roll. Most of the time it is in my studio in front of the computer or at my drawing table. Other times (summer) when I can open the back door and listen to songs of other early risers in the yard, I might take my coffee and a sketch book to my neglected patio—or the front porch, if I want to see the city come to life—and start banging out something that I am sure is going to be brilliant.

It doesn’t have to be in front of my computer, the back yard, or the front porch. If the doughnut shop—I mean the coffee shop—is open, I am just as comfortable and productive among the hubbub of other human early risers. In fact I thrive on hubbub sometimes. The important thing is that it is early, and before most others are awake. It isn’t the same at 10:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. Maybe the being up early presents an opportunity for starting new. And the beauty of that idea is the opportunity happens every day. If I can get up for it.

Kevan is picture book illustrator and writer. He has illustrated lots of books for other writers and last year's BUNNIES!!! was his first authored picture book. He of course illustrated it, too. In May his second book, PUDDLES!!!, a companion book to BUNNIES, launches. And next year look for his I LOVE YOU MORE THAN THE SMELL OF SWAMP GAS—a book his editor has termed, "macho mushy." Kevan's biggest claim to fame is as the creator of Clippy the Microsoft Word helper.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. Join me on May 10 for a guest post with author Mitali Perkins.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Best of 7:30 BELLS: Poet Linda Robertson on the Sense of Place

Occasionally I run the BEST OF 7:30 BELLS, to share past posts with new readers. This, originally from January 27, 2015 is one of my favorites. Enjoy!

Linda M. Robertson and I met near this bell in the Cape George Colony. She was walking down the road toward the beach and I was walking up the road. We smiled at each other. She asked, "Did you see the sea otters?" And friendship blossomed. We were both poets, had both had lived and loved the Methow Valley. Robertson's beautiful, fine press book, Letters to Julia: 1898-1899 is set there, as are my books Eva of the Farm and After the River the Sun. 

I'm so pleased to share her resonating essay: Sense of Place.

At the edge of the Salish Sea, there hangs a large bronze bell. Shapes of fish and stones are cast in the metal, as well as the words: “Our simplest wisdom is to follow the sea-bright salmon home.”

The idea of “home” makes me think of place. I am a writer that cherishes sense of place. It is place that makes me feel alive, that rings and resonates in my work. Place provides me with vocabulary, with narratives, with inspiration for image-making; with a landscape to discover and chart as I build word-cairns, poems. My poems act as time-capsules; they bring people, incidents, and places of the past into the present.

I don’t consider “place” to reference only outer landscapes. My poems and prose also illuminate emotions, visual art, and dreams. I have written about “the places of goodbye,” as well as spiritual journeys: “Walking the Edge of Heaven.”

In the essay “The Art of Finding” poet Linda Gregg recalls the landscape of her youth and writes “The elements of that bright world are in my poetry now…They are present as essences. They operate invisibly as energy, equivalents, touchstones, amulets, buried seed, repositories, and catalysts…” She refers to this recalled landscape as her own “resonant sources.”

As I reflect on the landscapes that continue to be present as “essences” in my work, I think of San Diego, where I was born and lived for the first 20 plus years of my life. My memories pulse with broad beaches, fishing boats, shorebirds and the sea’s salt-songs. I think also of the shrub-steppe eastern slopes of the North Cascades in Washington state—a remarkable place I called home for nearly 30 years.

In December I completed a Low-Residency MFA program at Chatham University, Pittsburgh. My Thesis “The Missing” is a manuscript of 51 pages of poems. As I review the work I crafted over the past three years while I was living and traveling in the US and the UK, I see how sense of place pervades the manuscript. No matter if I was writing about personal struggles, dreams, a painting from the 15th century, my son who died too soon at age 20, or my elderly parents—place is often present and resonant. The southern sea and the northern mountain world are with me as I sit at my desk and write. This poem, the final one in my manuscript— written while in England as I wrestled with change of place and home, is an example:


Later I will say
the hills conspired: crowds
of balsam root and lupine
hindered my passage; my shoulders
bound by snow-thrift clouds.
Not one clock struck
the hour. I leaned
the broadest yellow pine, the flags
of prayer, where a male grouse
stood sentry. The maple tree
sheltered the bird-bowls sheen
a last offering. The distances before me
inscribed with raven wings.

In my writing, I find truth in the I Ching’s: “There is no going without returning.”

Linda M. Robertson is a recent graduate of Chatham University’s Low-Residency MFA program. Publications include “Letters to Julia: 1898-1899” by the Methow Conservancy, Visions of Verse, The Methow Naturalist, Mirror Northwest. A chapbook, Reply of Leaves, was published by Magic Mountain Press in 2002. Linda lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest and England and hopes to publish work from her manuscript The Missing in literary journals.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month. Join me on April 12 for a guest post with author Kevan Attebury

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Old Moon Bells

From the first appearance of the waxing crescent, I count down the days until the full moon rises in all her shining glory. I hope for a windy evening so the clouds make flashing ruffles –dark and light—around her, while stars peek in and out. 

Then the days pass, and the full moon wanes, rising later and later each night.

During one of those nights last week, I couldn’t sleep. Outside the window the old moon shone, keeping me company through the dark hours. And bells inside of me rang as I realized the old moon has her glory, too. But it isn’t celebrated, it isn’t seen. We sleep, dreaming.

The old moon is the true queen of the night. She needs no adulation. I had the feeling of being held in the arms of something old, wise, and watchful. Something that could hold every part of me, whether deviled or winged, adventurer or mystic, lion or mouse.

What a comfort. What a liberation.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.
Join us on April 12 when author Kevan J. Atteberry shares what makes him ring, resonate, and feel alive.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

7:30 BELLS: The Secret of Change

For thousands of years bells have sounded not only for joyful events, but also as warnings. The faintest bell, the shortest ring is the true trigger of internal revolution.

I used to think that changing your life or your self involved colossal effort. Knock down the entire house of your life and build a new one. But who can do that? It’ so overwhelming that we just repaint the shutters blue and call it good.

Some, knowing that, suggests making small changes, one by one. Dust one piece of furniture every day and after two weeks it will become a habit. That can be useful, but it seems backwards to me.

For me, habits, behaviors, and ways of being in the world are paper chains. One thing links back to another and another, down and down, until the chain vanishes in the lunar unconscious. A lot of what is fundamental to us is built on things we have no conscious knowledge of. Minding my dreams for three years has taught me that.

Consider this quote from Carl Jung:

“The archetypes have this peculiarity in common with the atomic world, which is demonstrating before our eyes that the more deeply the investigator penetrates into the universe of microphysics the more devastating are the explosive forces he finds enchained there. That the greatest effects come from the smallest causes has become patently clear not only in physics but in the field of psychological research as well. How often in the critical moments of life everything hangs on what appears to be a mere nothing!” Carl Gustav Jung The Phenomenology of the Spirit in Fairy Tales (italics mine)

Minding my dreams has given me a glimpse of the secret of true change. Whatever I want to change I trace back down the chain as far as possible, then cut that link. All the others will tumble. This disrupts the entire chain of events that ends in some unwanted habit or way of being.

If the lights are dim in your house, you don’t need to knock the whole house down to fix it. Just follow the faulty wire—through the light fixture, into the ceiling, across the wall, along the studs, down and down to the sub basement until you behold the gremlin or root gleefully twisting the wire.

Get rid of it. Make peace with it. Sing to it. Do whatever is needed until light shines out in every room in your house. “A great effect,” a great change, “coming from the smallest cause.” You don’t have to deal with every link.

The monster or gremlin or root will certainly return—it’s used to being there. Gradually I become more tuned to the slightest dimming of the lights. That’s my warning bell and now I KNOW what to do. I stop the chain at its source.

As I pay attention, the gremlin grows weaker and weaker, takes over less often. You might find that you have to follow the chain farther back. Beyond the gremlin lurks something else, something you couldn’t see before because the gremlin blocked the view.

It is all forever unfolding, if you just listen for the faintest warning bell, just listen and watch. 

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.
Join us on April 12 when author Kevan J. Atteberry shares what makes him ring, resonate, and feel alive.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

7:30 BELLS: Cut Off the Branches That No Longer Ring

Sometimes what once made us feel radiantly alive—a friendship, a job, an idea, a project, a religion—doesn’t anymore. What once rang fades to a tolling dirge. Often I have trouble recognizing this, trouble letting die what needs to die. This had value once, I think. This rang, once. So I attempt CPR and try to force life back into it.

But if you don’t let die what needs to, there’s no room for something new to grow.

The question is, how do you learn to recognize when something’s time has come? When do you pick up the knife?

Pruning is an art that has to be practiced, like any other art. Often the guiding principle is to open the tree up to as much light as possible. I once read something helpful, I don’t recall where: “Cut off the branch that has no singing left in it.”

Translating this into my own symbolic life language, I’d say this: Hold the knife with care. Give thanks to what once sustained you but no longer does. Then, with intention and respect, cut off the branch that has no ringing left in it. Let it die. Let yourself mourn. And then walk on.

New branches will grow. New buds will bloom. New bells will rise and ring, because you’ve purposefully shaped your life to let in new light.

Spring bursts from winter. 

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.
Join us on April 12 when author Kevan J. Atteberry shares what makes him ring, resonate, and feel alive.