Tuesday, April 30, 2013

7:30 BELLS: Treasure Underneath

To see what’s underneath, children turn things over—rocks, pots, shoes. The underneath is where secrets and wonders hide. Children know this because they grow up looking up—at the undersides of tables, the underbellies of blankets, the undertow of clouds. Most of all, children know this because they hide underneath things, too. 

By turning life over to look underneath, I can make my writing richer, my days richer.  I discovered this in two ways this past week.  

First: I sat outside basking in the first glorious day of spring. In one corner of my terrace a small red leaf maple tree grows in a pot.  The tops of the leaves shone brightly in the sunlight, but the undersides of the leaves glowed a vibrant ruby red. Brightness is lovely, but the richness and blood come from underneath. Light is needed for both, though.

Second: On the next glorious day, I swung in my hammock under the rogue cherry tree in our back yard. As I rocked myself into a rapture of quiet, I noticed that the black-veined branches were like the leaded framework in a stained glass window, the blossoms and blue sky the colored glass. I was looking at the world from underneath, through a stained glass window of spring. When the wind rosethe stained glass window began to snow—showering down blossoms to make a blanket over me. 

The trick is to open your mind to the idea that there is an underneath--in places you might not think to look for one.  So what treasure might be waiting undiscovered beneath a blanket of blossoms? If I find out, I’ll let you know.
Look at the world from underneath
to hear the bells ring. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013


      Written in the Pastel Room of Ca 'Rezzonico Palazzo, Venice

Brilliant as sun-shocked ice,

angels leap from a Murano chandelier—

     with wings

          spun of crystal lace

          beating stars, beating snow—

     with wings

          blown with flowered bells

          ringing fierce, ringing bright—

     with wings

          incessant with swallows

          swooping joy, swooping now—

as each beat

God’s heart

an angel born

to shout the light aloft.

Dia Calhoun
June 2012 Venice

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

7:30 BELLS: How to Wake Up Each Morning

Sometime being alive, feeling alive, knowing your alive happens quietly, in delicate chimes instead of great resounding clangs. Experiencing these quieter moments requires paying attention. Looking up from the manuscript I’m working on to watch the sparrows wantonly gobble the seeds in the feeder. Pausing while folding laundry to notice how light curls in the folds of the linen curtains.

Sometimes paying attention means stopping activity. This is difficult. We aren't about stopping. We're about getting things done, checking items off the vise of our To Do lists. No one has taught us to stop and pay attention because that doesn’t tick items off the  list.

Sometimes paying attention means fully focusing on what we're doing. We become completely engaged in what we’re doing—perhaps writing, perhaps planting seeds in the garden.

Sometimes paying attention means being able to consciously shift our focus from one thing to another. I can be completely engaged in writing a scene,  then look up and for a few moments be completely engaged in watching the sparrows. Then I return easily to my manuscript. This is quite different from being distracted. This is about choosing what to pay attention to as I move through my day.

When I wake up in the morning, I don’t want my first thought be—what will I get done today? Rather, I want my first thought to be—what wonderful thing will I experience today? And when I close my eyes to go to sleep, I don’t want to sigh over what didn’t get checked off my To Do list. Instead, I want to remember how I felt most alive that day.

My To Do list will never end. My life will. I want to experience it all, live the moments the world presents to me, and the moments I choose. I want to hear even the faintest notes of the ringing bell.

Pay attention to experience the range of life . . . 
from its clamorous ringing to its most delicate chiming.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

7:30 BELLS: Cathedrals of Wind

Wind makes me feel alive—alive from my toes to the ends of my blowing hair. The broom of the wind sweeps every cobweb from my mind. In the Pacific Northwest this week, a spring cocktail of wind, rain, sun, and clouds swirled over the land. Wind makes me feel alive because it brings the world alive. Leaves blow. Flowers rumba. Usually sober pine trees rejoice in their majesty by swaying. The bamboo outside my writing window swishes—tossing light and dark from leaf to leaf. (video) The whole world is moving, breathing. My soul comes alive in the breath of the wind.

People have long connected the ideas of spirit, breath, and wind. Ruach is the old Hebrew for breath, wind or spirit. The Greek word, pneuma also means wind and spirit. In India, I believe the word Brahmachaitanya, means the Breath of God.

Before the windy weather hit this week, a friend and I were comparing our writing styles. The word that emerged for my style was breath. I like breath in my work. To me that means movement, spaciousness, life, energy. I want a style where the wind can dance in the words, a place where the light can get in—prose that lets the reader breath and dance, too.

As a person who meditates, I love to watch the air move through my body. Sometimes--rare, wonderful moments--I have felt as though the world were breathing me. As though I've joined with God’s breath. Then, without any roped being pulled, the bells ring in a cathedral of wind.

I would like my books to be Cathedrals of Wind.

The wind of the breath of the soul rings the bell.

Thursday, April 11, 2013



       A poem for Comfort, (Conforta)--
       the old abandoned cat at Villa Scarpariello Relais in Amalfi, Italy

I give you food—
     a bowl of milk,
     a plate of meat—
beneath this gold Italian moon.

So little.

I give you words—
    a hum of warmth,
    a croon of love—
beneath this gold Italian moon.

So little.

I give you memories—
    a light for days of darkness,
    a feast for days of hunger—
beneath this gold Italian moon.

So little.

    across a sea,
    across a distant land,
far from this gold Italian moon—
Claudia loves you.

So much.

Dia (Claudia) Calhoun
Amalfi, Italy
June 2012

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

7:30 BELLS: An Abundance of Blossoms

A carpet of pink blossoms—definitely a magic carpet—appeared before me on a walk this week. Here, in my own neighborhood, I suddenly found myself glimpsing a magical realm. But I hesitated to enter it, fearing to disturb the beautiful path.

But the glorious blossom path beckoned. It seemed to whisper: Beauty is meant to be experienced. Be willing to step fully into the world. Don't let the world be so precious, you’re afraid to live in it.

As a writer, I understand this. I have to be willing to step into the world of my novel, to experience it--even if that means crushing a few petals underfoot. My work can’t be so precious that I fear to cut and edit. I must trust that I can rewrite and re-imagine. I can make more beauty. The world can make more—and it does, every spring. There is an abundance of blossoms.

So I walked down the pink blossom path with wonder, with joy, and with faith that the very act of walking down it would lead me to worlds more beautiful, and more magical, still. And I heard the bells ring—a chime on the wind as delicate as the blossoms themselves.

Embrace the abundance of beauty and the bells will ring.

Friday, April 5, 2013



Where will I hang my hammock
now that the old land is poisoned?

it in the dance.
        it in the poem.
        it in the bells.
it in the breath.

in the wind of imagination
I swing,
every hour golden.

Dia Calhoun

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

7:30 BELLS: The Artist as Bell Ringer

In response to the 7:30 Bells posts of the last weeks, I suggest thoughts on how artists can support the ringing bell of their creative power. All artists are Bell Ringers. I took this photo of the leaning church tower last spring on the island of Burano, near Venice. If the tower falls, the bell will no longer ring.

How do we support our bell and bell tower so we can keep ringing, keep creating, keep sending our poems, stories, and paintings, ringing out across the waiting land?

1. As a Bell Ringer Artist, learn to maintain the bell and the bell tower. We so often forget the simple things that form the foundation for our ringing. Is the sinking ground beneath your bell tower causing it to lean? Is the mortar crumbling between the stones of your bell tower? Are your bell-ringing ropes frayed from wear or neglect? Are you taking care of your body, your body that holds your creativity? Do you need more rest, more exercise? More sleep? More quiet? Decide what you need to keep the foundation firm and the bell tower soaring.

2. Keep your bell clean of pigeon poop--negativity and unskillful criticism.

3. Keep rust off your bell. Like any fine instrument, it must be played regularly.

4. Keep weedy vines from growing over your bell tower—the bell needs an unimpeded view of the world to ring resoundingly. The bell can not be constricted, but must be free to swing to its full reaches.

5. Polish your bell by learning more about your craft.

6. Prioritize your bell ringing schedule. A bell has scheduled ringing times—for celebrations, holidays, holy days. A bell also rings unexpectedly—for weddings, funerals, emergencies. And sometimes a bell rings for pure joy. Know when, how often, and how hard to pull on the rope that rings the bell. Too much ringing will break the rope or crack the bell. Bell Ringer Artists must decide how to prioritize the bell’s ringing. Which creative projects are most important to you?

Support the gloried weight of your ringing bell,
and your art will reverberate across the land for years to come.