Tuesday, February 26, 2013

7:30 Bells: Passion Makes the Bells Ring

Re-re-re-reading Willa Cather’s The Song of the Lark about the development of a young girl into an extraordinary artist, one sentence reverberated with me. This was something Thea’s German piano teacher, Wunsch, told her about art. Although I’ve been re-reading this book since I was twenty, this was the first time I understood what Wunsch meant.

“But the secret—what makes the rose to red, the sky to blue, the man to love—in der Brust, in der Brust it is, und ohne dieses gibt es keine Kunst, gibt es keine Kunst!”

With my three years of high school German, I loosely translate this as: “But the secret—what makes the rose to red, the sky to blue, the man to love—in the heart, in the heart it is, and without this there is no art, there is no art!”

Passion. Wunsch was talking about passion, passion for life is the secret of great art. What I feel when the bells ring, what makes the bells ring, is exactly that—passion for life. For me it is the most exhilarating feeling in the world.

A few years later, when Thea is a struggling vocal student in Chicago, she attends a performance of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. She comes out of the concert, her heart ringing with the beauty of the music. But the world—the traffic, the hurrying crowds, the ugly a man who propositions her—all conspire to rip that passionate ringing of her heart away. I understand that, too. Cather writes Thea’s response:

"All these things and people were no longer remote and negligible; they had to be met, they were lined up against her, they were there to take something from her. Very well; they should never have it; They might trample her to death, but they should never have it. As long as she lived that ecstasy was going to be hers. She would live for it, work for it, die for it; but she was going to have it, time after time, height after height. She could hear the crash of the orchestra again, and she rose on the brasses. She would have it, what the trumpets were singing! She would have it, have it--it!"

I agree. Sometimes you have to fight, work, intentionally make room in your life so the bells can ring, so you can hold on to the ringing.

LORE OF THE BELL: Hold on to your passion for life to make the bells ring.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Share the Love Giveaway: Win Books for Yourself and Your Favorite Library!

Valentine's Day may be over, but Online Author Visits is still celebrating with their Share the Love Contest that gives you the chance to win books for yourself, and the library of your choice! The lucky winner gets to choose 3 books from among works by an incredible pool of OAV authors, which includes Janet Lee Carey, Deb Lund, Martha Brockenbrough, Joan Holub, Suzanne Williams, Lisa L. Owens, Claire Rudolph Murphy, and Trudi Trueit--and me! Also, a collection of books will go to a U.S. library selected by the winner.  For more details visit onlineauthorvisits.com

Why do I love doing online author visits? Here's the answer:

Imagine an author scribbling in her attic day and night, with ink stained fingers, with only her characters for companionship. Now imagine — voilĂ ! A laptop loaded with Skype appears on her desk. She looks up. What? There's a world out there? With real people in it who are reading my books? She looks through the screen at a classroom of eager kids waiting to ask her questions. She blinks. She hopes she has remembered to change out of her pajamas sometime in the last few days. A little girl says, “I love your books. I’m so excited to see you. I want to ask . . . Why did Eva like to write poems?” The author smiles, forgetting the pajamas, forgetting the ink-stained fingers, forgetting the hours of lonely toil, and begins to answer. 

That's why I love online school visits.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

7:30 Bells: What Makes You Come Alive?

This weekend I visited a real Enchanted Forest--the Hoh Rainforest in the Olympic National Park in Washington where my husband and I celebrated our 23rd anniversary.  Walking through the Hall of Moss with its immense trees, I felt the same as when I’d watched the swallows in Siena fly around the Dumo. Here again, though in a different way, the ancient—the immense old trees—joined with the ephemeral—the red maple leaves. Here again, this joining of the ancient and the ephemeral made me feel as though I were standing in the Forever Now.

Something about this makes me come alive, makes the bells ring—this time in my own backyard. Now I know. What makes you come alive?

LORE OF THE BELL: Learn what makes you come alive—listen for it, watch for it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

7:30 Bells: Light in the Cracks

Two converging events this week made the bells ring.

First, I watched this Ted Talk: Four Lessons in Creativity by Julie Burstein

At the end of this amazing seventeen minute talk with incredible photos (near the 16:27 second mark), Burstein holds up this 100 year old Japanese tea bowl. It was broken at some point in its history.

Burstein says: ". . .but the person who put it back together, instead of hiding the cracks, decided to emphasize them, using gold lacquer to repair it.  This bowl is more beautiful now, having been broken, than it was when it was first made.”

Second, I heard the song Anthem by Leonard Norman Cohen, a singer-songwriter, musician, poet, and novelist from Canada. Here are the words from the verse:

               Ring the bells that still can ring 
               Forget your perfect offering 
               There is a crack, a crack in everything 
               That's how the light gets in. 

As I look at the golden cracks celebrated in the tea bowl, as I hear the words of Cohen’s song, as I look at my own life and books, I wonder. The crack in everything is how the light gets in, but maybe it is also how our light gets out.

LORE OF THE BELL:  Where you are broken, seize the opportunity to ring more beautifully still. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

7:30 Bells: Swallows in Siena

Siena dusk. Summer. The swallows flying so fast and thick in the sky I could scoop them up with a net. On the hill, the marble duomo begins to shine in the light of the rising moon. The Now--the ephemeral swallows flying—and The Past—the thousand-year-old duomo—merged and showed me what eternity meant. And exaltation.

How the bells rang!

This past week, I wondered if there was any point in writing if few listen. Dark winters are always hard . . . I was born for summer. So I watched this video from my trip to Italy last June. I thought it might lift my spirits to remember a time when the bell rang wildly. 

It did.

When the bell tower stands in shadow, when only silence seems to come back across the hill, I remember that it's more important for the bell to ring than for the bell to be heard.

LORE OF THE BELL: It is more important to ring, than to be heard.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sun Daisies and Italy!


My dear friend, the amazing artist and author Lorie Ann Grover, made this for me! I love the combination of two places I love--Venice and the Farm in Methow, Washington (represented by the sun daisies) that inspired my novel Eva of the Farm, and the upcoming companion novel, After the River the Sun.

Thank you, Lorie Ann!