Tuesday, April 15, 2014

7:30 BELLS: Dancing in the Company of Trees

New geographies open our eyes to new wonders, as I found on my trip to San Antonio, Texas. When I stepped out of the car, I thought I’d stepped into another world. I heard the white-tailed doves singing, breathed the heavy air, and blinked at the flat slab of the light. But the splendor of the massive live oak trees shook my heart.

We don’t have such trees where I live. Worn out before my trip, I had even stated to myself that I needed “the company of trees.”

I found the oaks enchanting company. 

On many walks, I did a kind of Live Oak Dance. My head craned up to admire them. I turned, twirled, stopped to stare upwards, enraptured. I admired their lateral branches, their audacious twists, their confident assurance of their place in the world. The bells rang and rang.

Once, as I was doing this dance, I noticed a man sitting on his porch staring at me. And I realized how strange I must look, how like a child. For a moment I turned red. Then I smiled and unabashed, continued my Live Oak Dance. I didn’t care how I looked. Far more important to me, is to live by these lines from Mary Oliver’s poem When Death Comes:

“When its over I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.” 
–Mary Oliver

And this from Henry James:  “Try to be one of those upon whom nothing is lost.” Although I might put it as: try to be one of those upon whom everything is found.

And just yesterday at the SCBWI Writer’s Conference, acclaimed fantasy author Franny Billingsley told us, “never let your apprehension grow dull.”


Apprehend the world with unabashed amazement, 

and let the bells ring out! 

7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on May 13 for a guest post with Actress and Children's Literature Blogger Little Willow, Allie Costas.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: When Two Worlds Meet by Janet Lee Carey

The wildly imaginative, award-winnning fantasy author Janet Lee Carey believes that "Eyes are silent soulful bell ringers. Being a shy person, at some point I stopped looking into people’s eyes. I missed so much." Janet shares a story about that in this month's 7:30 BELLS Guest Post.

 I met her near the beach by the resort in Mazatlan. A plump, middle aged woman with mottled brown and cream skin, selling dresses and jewelry to the tourists. Her stall was a rock wall on the edge of the resort. She’d laid her colorful goods out in the sun and greeted people as they passed by. I was drawn to her jewelry and I found the perfect blue stone earrings in silver settings the first day of my stay. I’d been searching for stones that matched my eyes a long while, but I decided not to buy them yet. I’ve learned this frugal trick – to wait. I would come back if I still thought of them after a few days.

We stood together near the beach on my last vacation day. I eagerly bent over her small portable showcase looking for the earrings I’d found earlier.
They were gone. 

“I told you you should get them when you wanted them,” she teased.
I kept looking for something blue to match my eyes. My husband found a pair I’d not noticed. He held them out. The earrings with multicolored blue stones had silverwork that swirled in the elegant shapes of treble clefs – a tiny tribute to the musician in me.

He bought them then complimented the shopkeeper on her English. 

“I learned speaking with people here,” she said proudly. “I did not go to school.” 

I looked at her face to thank her. We were both smiling. Her eyes shone dusky brown gold: the colors of sunrise when the new sun spreads across red desert earth. Warm light poured out of them. She told me her name. I told her mine. I was swept away by her beauty. I’d not looked into her eyes before we’d bought the ear rings. She’d watched me, intent on selling me something – me, being an easy pushover, intent on not being talked into buying something I didn’t want. 

Now we’d finished the transaction we could face each other in gratitude. She beamed, filling me with her warmth. She saw me and I saw her beyond the small business exchange we’d just made by the beach. We could see the wonderful game we’d just played together – and laugh. 

True eye contact can be as intimate as an embrace. Each of us is a world. Catching each other’s eyes – two worlds meet for a brief moment. 

Why have I been so afraid to look? 

I wear the ear rings still. I’m wearing them now. The blue brightness of them brings comments. People like them.

They are blue like my eyes. But I remember hers. 

I cannot remember her name. I will never forget her eyes. 

Worlds meet and bells ring
when you look into someone's eyes

Janet Lee Carey was raised in the redwood forests of California. Hearing the soft speech of the ancient, whispering trees she dreamed of becoming a writer. She is the award-winning author of eight Young Adult novels including Dragonswood, (Kirkus and School Library Journal starred reviews). Her Wilde Island fantasy books are ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults. School Library Journal calls her work, "fantasy at its best-original, beautiful, amazing, and deeply moving." 
Carey links each new book with a charitable organization empowering readers to reach out and make a difference.

She tours the U.S. and abroad presenting at schools, book festivals and conferences for writers, teachers, and librarians. http://www.janetleecarey.com

Blogs http://dreamwalks.blogspot.com AND http://LibraryLionsRoar.blogspot.com

7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on May  13 for a guest post with Actress and Children's Literature Blogger Little Willow, Allie Costas.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

7:30 BELLS: Live in the Leap--The Bells of Choosing

In Tumwater Falls Park, this great boulder lodged in a river, divides the river. And how beautiful the boulder is, how fine and wet with spray! The obstacles in our lives can be beautiful. Sometimes boulders spring up out of nowhere, and the river drives us toward them. But sometimes our spirit or subconscious presents obstacles on purpose to get us to shake up our lives. To get us back into life’s river when we have hesitated too long.

We fear boulders because they can capsize us. Three terrifying times, I’ve found myself thrown from a canoe into the river’s shocking strength. But I think our biggest fear is not drowning, but making the wrong choice. Even if you see a boulder looming ahead, you may have only seconds to choose whether to paddle left or right. So we freeze, abandon the river altogether, and cling to the boulder.

And there we sit, deluded that we are safe. But not making a choice is just another form of choosing, a stagnant and dangerous one because we’ve stepped out of life’s river. I have learned that the bells never ring when I cling to the boulder. I stop being alive.

We can try to make a wise choice by looking to see which way others have gone before us. But the solution is not always as simple as choosing the road either less or more travelled by. How much better to be like a knights in the grail legend--avoid paths and instead plunge into the forest to blaze our own path?

We can’t foresee the outcome of the path we finally choose to take around the boulder. All we know is that life changes, changes, changes, ever shifting like the river, if we are to remain alive. So paddle left, or right, but paddle hard. All we really need to know is that life is in the leap.

Live in the Leap,
and the bells will ring

7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on April 8 for a guest post with award-winning author Janet Lee Carey, author of Dragonswood.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Writing Jump Start for Your Wild Imagination #1

Here is a Wild Imagination Jump-Start to get a story, novel, poem, drawing going!

We had a Unicorn Scare in our neighborhood last night. 

Now JUMP! 
And remember, where you land is not important. Living in the Leap does.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

730 BELLS: Follow Intimations of Enchantment and THRIVE

Last week, I discovered a new way to listen for the bells. By allowing myself to pay attention to three things that converged, I felt suddenly awake and alive—at a very unexpected time and place: THRIVE , a 7:30 AM fund-raising event for the Woodland Park Zoo in a hotel ballroom.

The first thing I saw: Hundreds of people sat in circles at round tables, me among them, listening to bear biologist Chris Morgan talk about preserving wild species. The second thing I saw: Four screens flashed huge photos of bears, tigers, cougars, and other wild creatures around the room. The third thing: the ballroom lights—black nets studded with sparkling lights, like  rhinestone-studded net veils on vintage hats. Those lights enchanted me. I couldn't look away. This is rude, I thought. Pay attention to the speaker, don’t stare at the ceiling. But I’ve learned to follow intimations of enchantment. 

These three things—circles of people, huge photos of wild creatures, and sparkling nets of light—converged inside me. My mind imploded inward and yet expanded outward, and the bells began to ring as I saw a bigger picture.

Once, nets trapped wild animals, caging their power and beauty. Not here. Suddenly it seemed as though the sparkling nets above the ballroom were emanating from the circles of people below. Up the sparkling nets rose, and up, shining shields of protection. THRIVE was our chance to become sparkling guardians for the tiger, the bear, for all of the wild that remains. Circles upon circles of people had joined together to do the saving, to keep the wild from blinking out, least one day the nets fall over us and forever cut us off from power and beauty we can never replace.

How far we have come. How far we have to go.

Pay attention to what enchants you, 
and the bells will ring

My thanks to my friend, author Justina Chen, for inviting me to the Zoo event, and to Lorna Chin for hosting a table.

7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on April 8 for a guest post with award-winning author Janet Lee Carey, author of Dragonswood.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

7:30 BELLS: Glory Crowns the Unsanctioned Life

As I walked along a bluff overlooking Puget Sound, the growth pattern on this haloed fir sent me a gifta sudden insight into my life. In its early years, the tree’s lower branches grew rigid and regular—in the usual pattern of well-ordered trees. 

Look higher. In later years, the tree burst into life at its crown. How thick and verdant the branches grew—pushing up toward the light, leaning out toward the wind as though to shout . . .

At last!
I don’t care!
This is me!

Here I am!

. . . to the water, to the world, to all the other straight and proper trees.

No longer will I lace my branches into a corset. 

No longer dole my sap in sanctioned drips, but spill over and up—my stickiness, my pitch a glorification. 
I will grow as I will—in the roar of light from the throat of life. 
I will burst forth unsanctioned. 
I am the wild-hearted, unbridled creative life—the wayward ringing of the bells.

Looking at the tree, I saw my truth. This is who I have at last become. The tree crowned with the knowledge that living is all that matters.

Watch for the world to reveal your truth

7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on April 8 for a guest post with award-winning author Janet Lee Carey, author of Dragonswood.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Revival by author Frances O'Roark Dowell

An enchanting 7:30 BELLS Guest Post is by the perceptive and evocative Frances O'Roark Dowell, author of award-winning novels for middle grade readers.

On those occasions when my spirit needs reviving, I like to go out and look at art.

On Friday I went to Duke’s Nasher Museum, five minutes down the road from my house, to see the paintings of Archibald Motley. Most of the paintings on exhibit were from his time spent in the bars and clubs of southside Chicago in the 1930s and ‘40s, the Bronzeville many of us know from the poems of Gwendolyn Brooks.

Motley’s palette is electric, pulsing reds and blues, and ecstatic faces and serpentine bodies crowd his canvases. These are characters that will not be spending Sunday morning in church because they’re spending Saturday night at the Sunset CafĂ©.

They are looking for ways to celebrate after a great migration and a long week of work, and their faces say, I have wiped the dust of Birmingham/Greenville/Little Rock/Macon off my feet, and now I’m going to drink and dance all night.

The paintings, like the people in them, practically leap from the walls. The vibrant blues that Motley employs vibrate on the canvas. I like how noisy the paintings are, how you can almost hear the trumpets and trombones. 

To witness someone else’s imagination at work feeds my own imagination. To receive stories without words (sometimes my mind is too weary for words) ignites the storyteller in me. What happens next, I wonder as I gaze upon a crowd of Motley’s people pushing past each other on the street? The woman in the blue dress, what’s going on with her? What’s her apartment like? What did she leave behind when she shut the door on Fayetteville or Baton Rouge?

I am fed by the images and fed by being in the presence of creative genius. “Look at this!” Archibald Motley calls to me from across the room. “It’s important! It means something!”

Look at this, I remind myself as I walk to my car, the bells ringing. Look at that. Look at all of it.

And arrive home revived.

Great works of imagination
make the bells ring

Archibald Motley video documentary

Frances O’Roark Dowell is the bestselling author of over a dozen books for young readers, including Dovey Coe (winner of a 2001 Edgar Award and the William Allen White Award); Where I’d Like to Be; The Secret Language of Girls, Chicken Boy (an ALA Notable Book and an NCTE Notable Book), Shooting the Moon (winner of the Christopher Award and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award honor book), The Second Life of Abigail Walker, which was named a 2012 PW Best Book of the Year, and most recently, The Sound of Your Voice, Only Really Far Away, a Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books 2013 Blue Ribbon Book. She lives in Durham, NC, with her husband, two sons, and their dog.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me in April for a guest post with author Janet Lee Carey, author of Dragonswood. 

Regular 7:30 BELLS Posts run every first, third, and fourth Tuesdays.