Tuesday, September 16, 2014

7:30 BELLS: Wanting the Unwanted

When the neighbors planted a cherry tree along our south fence, I barely noticed. As the years passed though, the tree blocked more and more of the squeak of sunshine in our patio and yard. Now the true is three stories tall.

In summer, my patio now gets only five hours of direct sun. No more sun loving annuals. No more potted tomatoes and basil. I loved trees, but not this one. I glared at it with dastardly thoughts of round-up and girdling.

In the last two years, symbols of trees, presences of trees have flooded my dreams, life, and creative work. I am still figuring out what this means. This summer, for boring reasons, my husband and I switched sides of the bed.

One windy night last week, I woke up at midnight. We had forgotten to close the blinds completely. Outside the second story window, back lit by the full moon, waved the unwanted cherry tree. I watched it for a long time. When I wakened in the morning, the tree greeted me like an old friend.

Now I leave the blinds half open every night. Even without the full moon, the cherry tree is back lit by street lights. The tree is the last thing I see at night, and the first thing I see each morning. I now love this tree. It took sunlight from me, yes, but it made that sunlight into something splendid that grew into my life at just the right time.

I have come to believe that many things in our lives are like my experience with this tree—relationships, jobs, tasks, places. The very thing you once disliked, can become something that makes the bells ring out, because wonderfully, everything is always growing and changing.

I need to remember this.

When the unwanted becomes the wanted,
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 October 14 for a guest post with 
explorer/author Marc Calhoun.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Recording Dreams

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I record and follow my dreams. Several people have asked since about my methods. I don't write my dreams down--too slow. Instead I speak them into the note-recording function on my phone as soon as I wake up.

Speaking dreams helps you remember more because it eliminates the middle man of writing. Writing by hand switches on a more executive part of the brain that plows right over those flitting dream memories that can vanish oh-so-fast.

And speaking your dreams allows you to ramble. Rambling also helps recall. In the middle of recording one dream, I may get a flash from another. So I interrupt the current dream with words like: "new dream coming in about a cat with wings." Then I either go on recording the first dream or plunge into the new dream. Either way, I have a quick notation I can return to for a memory trigger. Sometimes the voice to word translation is incorrect. But I don't even watch the screen as I record--again--reading is an executive function that whisks away memories. And I can always make corrections when I review the dreams later. I keep a log for a week, then e-mail myself the file and put it in a dream log.

I also find it helpful--perhaps this is the author in me--to give dreams titles to trigger memory. Sometimes I do this at night if I wake up and have had a dream I want to remember to record in the morning. First thing in the morning, before recording any details, I will list all the dream titles I can remember. Because sometimes in the depths of recording one dream, I will forget another.

Because speaking your dreams is faster, you are more likely to keep doing it. So why should you record your dreams? After six months of this, I can say with certainty that my dreams are trying to guide me. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves, says dreams are like "letters from home."

I think this is true. In my dreams I've seen characters, themes, stories develop over time. I've learned about my own personal slant on more universal symbols, which you don't see well until you watch your dreams for a while. This then provides you with more accurate information about what is going on in the landscape of your mind.

And here is the really fantastic thing. The more I pay attention to my dreams, the more helpful they've become (sometimes the scary figures in our dreams are trying to help us.) By being more aware of what is happening in my subconscious, I am better able to understand my motivations and actions in the outer world. So my entire pschye is more on the same path which makes life straighter.

 I highly recommend Clarissa Pinkola Estes' wonderful one hour audio CD on beginning dream interpretation. And Carl Jung's book Man and His Symbols.So follow your dreams and be prepared to be astounded by the world inside you.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Author Justina Chen's Heart Rings on Machu Picchu

Justina Chen, whose award-winning YA novels always dare into the deep reaches of the heart, rings us into the Fall season from high on an ancient mountain . . . .

Machu Picchu. More than a bucket list item, Machu Picchu called to my soul. For years, I had intended to visit the mystical site, perched high on a mountain. But then my life was overturned and my savings evaporated along with my ex-husband. The idea of bringing my kids to the place of my dreams felt daunting. For one, money was tight. And for another more embarrassing reason, this particular adventure required navigational skills. Serious navigational skills that geographically dyslexic me had always relied on my ex to handle.

Yet there we finally stood overlooking Machu Picchu, my kids and I, years after I had planned our visit. To this day, no one knows the why or how of Machu Picchu. What was its purpose—summer resort for emperors or grand temple for priests? I stared stared stared at the sunlit ruins of what once, irritated by that mystery. Surely some archaeologist or anthropologist had solved it by now.

Suddenly, a wind ripped the veil of clouds overhead. For one perfect moment, the sun beamed down on me along with an idea for a new novel. A girl who wants to be a photographer, but can’t see her own life clearly. A girl with a serious blind spot for boys.

The why and how of inspiration is a mystery no different from the why or how of ruins—those found on mountains and those in our lives. All I knew, standing before Machu Picchu, was that I had to accept the inexplicable.

The bells rang so loudly inside me, I was afraid that my heart would crack right open. But I did not step back. I did not close my eyes. And I did not plug my ears.

Ring away, I dared instead, as I stood before the treasure of ruins that is Machu Picchu.

Ring away, I thought, flanked by my children, the treasure of my life.

Ring away, I told myself, lifting my eyes from the rubble to the clouds. And so the bells rang. And as I listened, I knew what I was hearing: the sound of my heart being knocked open to love again.

Justina’s fifth novel, A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS, was inspired by her trip to Machu Picchu and was named as a Top Romance for Youth by Booklist. Her novel, NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL, was a Kirkus and Barnes & Noble Best Book of the Year. She is the co-founder of readergirlz as well as a story strategist to executives. Please visit her at www.facebook.com/AuthorJustinaChen and follow her on Twitter @JustinaYChen.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday
 of every month. Join me on October 14 for a guest post with 
explorer/author Marc Calhoun

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

7:30 BELLS: From Bell to Bell Marks the Way

When we leave an old path in our lives to stumble toward a new one, we long for clear signs that we’ve found the right track. Personally, I hope for a signpost with a big, flashing green arrow that’s inscribed: TURN RIGHT HERE. My mind understands such familiar signs. When we’re forging our own path though, instinct and intuition are often keener guides. But they can be subtle and harder to read, especially because we haven’t been taught to trust them.

Nor have we been taught to bear the discomfort of holding uncertainty for any length of time. We want to know RIGHT NOW. Following instinct and intuition require looking at everything more closely. Quiet helps with that. So does extensive solitude, reflection, and paying attention. All of these are contrary to the instant and shallow forms of connection our culture now values.

That means I’ve had to work very hard, and displease some people, in order to hear where my intuition and even my dreams are guiding me. (I’ve been recording dreams for five months. If you’re any good at understanding metaphor, watching your dreams over time is eye-opening. Themes unfold, characters develop . . .)

Because I’ve been tuning myself to heed subtle signs, yesterday a tiny marker at last affirmed my new path. I saw someone else’s way open from the work I’ve been doing—as though sound waves from my own ringing bells, from my own struggle to find a new path, nudged another person’s waiting bell and made it ring with such sweetness that I wept.

That tiny marker was brighter and bigger than any flashing green arrow. So my new path is clear—at least, for now.

You’re on the right path when
your ringing bell inspires someone else.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday
 of every month. Join me on September for a guest post with 
award winning author Justina Chen.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Fall Bells! Line-up of 7:30 BELLS Guest Posts for Fall 2014.

I'm delight to announce the Fall Bells--writers who will share what makes them ring, resonate, and feel alive in 7:30 BELLS Guest Posts on the second Tuesday of each month this fall.

September Bell: Justina Chen 

Award-winning YA author of five books, 
strategista, speechwriter, and storyteller,
Justina Chen's newest novel, A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS,
is just out to terrific acclaim.

October Bell: Marc Calhoun

Marc Calhoun is the author of two books
 about twenty years exploring the Hebrides--
Exploring the Isles of the West: Skye and Tiree to the Outer Isles, 
and Exploring the Isles of the West:: Firth of Clyde to the Small Isles. 
(Published by The Islands Book Trust)

November Bell: Martha Brockenbrough

Award-winning YA author, journalist and grammarian, 
Martha Brockenbrough's YA novel Devine Intervention 
is a rare cocktail of wild imagination, humor and heart.

Join us the second Tuesday of each month this fall
for these exciting writers' 7:30 BELLS Guest Posts.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

7:30 BELLS: Thriving in the Wasteland

Twisted and battered, this aspen grows in a barren lava field in the Central Oregon Cascades. How deeply its root must grapple down through the now cold fire rock, seeking water. Some would say this tree is a survivor, to exist in such desolation. Survival implies scraping by, managing. But as I stood looking at this tree in awe, I saw much more than survival.

I saw a tree made uniquely beautiful by the circumstances in which it found itself. A tree that had become elemental and fierce. If this tree lived in a gentle canyon by a gentle creek, straight and tall in the company of a dozen other straight and tall trees, it would not have made the bells ring in my heart. This tree thrived as itself.

So embrace the desolate rock. Embrace the wild wind. Let them sculpt your heart, self, and spirit into a beauty all your own. Grapple deep. Drink from whatever underground spring you can find. And thrive.

Difficult times can 
sculpt us 
into something uniquely beautiful.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday
 of every month. On Thursday I will be announcing the lineup of "FALL BELLS" 7:30 BELLS Guest Posters for September, October, and November.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

7:30 BELLS: Falling over Rocks Makes the White Joy Fly Upward

I sit by the giant stone steps of Greenwater River, beside the trail near Greenwater Lake. The river roars over the stone steps, tossing frothy white banners. People say froth is unessential, probably because it is ephemeral and ever-changing.

I disagree. I disagree because as I watch the whitewater, the bells inside me ring wildly.

The lacey banners that crest the rocks are more than gilding. They make the river beautiful by bringing it alive. I especially love the exuberant white droplets flying up in bursts and bounces. Even though the current flows over the same rocks, the droplet patterns are always different. They are like the tracery of our lives. All is movement, all is change. The froth makes visible the ever-changing nature of the world and our lives. And it is helpful for me to remember that bumping over hard rocks makes the white joy fly upward.

So this is my best hope of eternity: ever-changing like the flying droplets, ever the same like the flowing river. Duality conquered.

And all this is brought to us by froth, thank you very much! So get thee to a river. Open a bottle of champagne beside it and celebrate each ephemeral bubble.

Ephemeral effervescence the bells ring