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

Friday, June 5, 2015

Announcing this Summer's 7:30 BELLS Guest Post Authors

I'm so pleased to announce a wonderful line up of 7:30 BELLS Guest Post authors. Join us here on the second Tuesday of each month to learn what makes them feel alive, what makes them ring and resonate.

June 9, 2015
Author of books for teachers, children, and her first teen novel, 
FLYAWAY, is out now.

July 14, 2015
Author of 94 books for kids, 
including her middle grade novel, STEALING POPULAR.

August 11, 2015
Author of 84 books and stories for young people,
including the middle grade nonfiction, THE GREAT CHICAGO FIRE.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Make Sparks fly up from Obstacles in Your Path

In late afternoon, when the light slants on a big boulder just under the river, the flowing water turns molten--like a stream of black glass. Sparks fly up, as though fireflies dance on the black glass. This made the bells ring for me not only because it was beautiful sight, but also because of my recent reading about consciousness and unconsciousness.

Our conscious mind is only the tip of the iceberg. Without our knowing, our unconscious mind makes many decisions for us. (Hardly surprising, I suppose as consciousness is the new kid on the block. Like the body, the psyche also has an evolutionary history.) So the more we can make conscious, the more we can understand about our whole self, the better off we will be.

So how do we make more of our mind conscious? There are many ways, art, dreams, meditation, but the afternoon slant of light on the river suggests one clue. The river is like our unconscious, dark, ever-flowing, submerged. Only when the river bumps over the boulder--the obstacle in its path--does the water turn molten black and create sparks of light on top. 

Could the same be true for us? Does our collision with the obstacles in our lives bring more to light, more to consciousness? Does it help us understand more about ourselves, others, and our world?

The next time you encounter a boulder in your path, perhaps it's an opportunity for discovery. Make the sparks fly up from whatever impedes you.

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, May 26, 2015

7:30 BELLS:When Surrendering is Power: Cottonwood Seeds

I stepped outside this twentieth day of May into snow—a foot high drift of cottonwood seeds piled against the door. White, downy fluff danced in whirlwinds. Snagged on the bushes. Starred the meadow grass.

I’d never seen a cottonwood seed blizzard before. My first thought—what fun. My second thought—get the broom. But sweeping simply urged the cottonwood seeds into greater frenzy or spun them into incorrigible strands. Meanwhile, more and more fell from the sky.

So there I was, wielding the broom this way and that, until I stopped, struck by the ridiculous. I laughed at my absurd need to control something beyond my control.  And something so unimportant. So what if cottonwood seeds blew into my house? So what if they stuck to my shoes? Who wouldn’t want to wade through magic?

So I surrendered. I threw down the broom and danced with the seeds. 

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

730 BELLS Ignorant of the Night.

I am ignorant of the night. In the city where I lived for twenty-three years, it dangerous to wander in the night. And when I visited the country, the Farm in the Methow Valley, it was too wild to wander at night all alone on a hundred acres. 

But Goldilocks found the middle chair that was “just right.” So here on our three acres on the Nisqually River, I’ve found a safe place to walk alone at night. And I’ve discovered so much. Nights are as different from each other as days—some serene, some brooding, some tumultuous. Best of all, nights here are quiet of human noise. Only wind in the trees, the humming river, the croaking frogs, the singing stars. Reflection and meditation come easily.

I used to go to bed thinking of everything I didn’t get done. My night walks have changed that, a pause button to the day's busyness. Now I have a sense of space, of waiting, even promise. Just as light has its negative qualities—drought, burning, blinding—so darkness has its positive qualities.

After one week of night walks, I dreamed I met a wild black horse in the night. I threw my arm around its neck and we strode away, side by side, into the night. 

Last night when I went to bed, I looked at the fabric serving as a temporary window curtain. A dear friend brought to to me from Japan some thirty years ago. A dark crane flies up, silhouetted against light coming from outside. A dark crane ascending into the night.

Where will they led me, the dark crane and the black horse?

For the first time, I am learning to hear bells in the night.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.