Tuesday, February 25, 2014

7:30 BELLS: "Make One Little Room an Everywhere"

What are the minimal conditions we need to hear the bells ring—to feel alive?  I wondered about this as I rested on the couch flattened by a virus. Do the bells only ring loudly when we stride through life? Do they only ring faintly when we become vulnerable or weak?

When I began 7:30 BELLS year ago, I equated hearing the bells ring with feeling vigorously alive. (And I do love the wild pealing!) But after a year of listening for the bells, I've learned there are shadings of feeling alive. Joy and creativity, certainly. But reflection, quiet, community, and emotions like gratitude, sadness, and courage—these make us feel alive, too.  

As the days passed on my couch, I noticed how my garage roof changed with the light, weather, and time of day. The moving sun made different shadow depths and angles on the overlapping shingles. The sheen of rain made them look like waves rolling in to shore. In the twilight, the ridge shingles strutted like rooster hackle feathers. Seeing in a new way made the bells ring.

This is as simple as noticing. As paying attention. As connecting with whatever world we find ourselves in, no matter how small. William Blake's famous poem Auguries of Innocence says this well: 

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower, 
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, 
And eternity in an hour. 

John Donne has a marvelous line in his poem, The Good-Morrow, directed at lovers. “And makes one little room an everywhere.”

The size of our world is irrelevant. If circumstances limit us to one room, the quality of attentive living we bring to it can transform it into infinity. As long as I can focus on the world outside me, be that only from a couch, one little room can be an everywhere. And from it can come poems, stories, art, love--and bells that wildly, softly, musically ring.

Listening for the bells makes
“one little room an everywhere.”

7:30 BELLS is posted ever Tuesday at 10:30 AM PST.
7:30 BELLS Guest Posts are posted on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on March 11 for a guest post by author Frances O'Roark Dowell.

Friday, February 21, 2014

POETRY FRIDAY: The Spirit of the West by my great-grandmother, Clara Calhoun

Last week, after posting my grandfather's poem, I wrote that I am proud to come from a long line of poets. To back that up, this week I am sharing a poem by his mother, my pioneer great-grandmother Clara Boyd Calhoun!


Come, come ye hardy pioneers,
     And listen to this song
As down the swiftly rolling years
     Its cadence floats along.
The East is flocking to our shores--
     With customs new and strange
The iron horse with magic powers
     Is tramping out our range.
Electric lights with wired beams
     Our moonlights are subduing--
Horseless cars like flitting dreams
     Their reckless way pursuing.
The canyons roar! but no cascade
     Makes echoing booms and quivers--
The Eastern hand with science's aid
     Would desecrate our rivers.
The Western Spirit sees with dread
     This march upon our borders;
She sadly bows her once proud head
     To time's determined orders.
Her once proud head! Begone the thought
     Aye! Proud, for evermore--
No greener laurels ere were brought
     To crown a fame more pure.
Her mountains high, her valleys broad,
     Her forests deep and grand,
She gives to all--like Nature's God
     And with a lavish hand.
She bids them come--South, East, and North
     In accents sad, but loving,
Each soul she reckons by her worth
     Her kindly welcome proving.
And yet her heart in sorrow yearns--
     Her smile is clouded o'er
As when her mood in sadness turns,
     To days that are no more.
Her gallant cowboys--gone for aye,
     Her wildings of the woods
Her softly brooding melody
     From her vast solitudes.
For still we know when all is told
     She lover her first born best;
Come pioneers and rally round
     The Spirit of the West.

Clara Virginia Boyd Calhoun
Blue Gulch, Idaho

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

7:30 BELLS: Celestial Bells--In the Beginning, there was Wind

Strong winds swept Puget Sound this week, as storm after storm blew in. I love strong, lively winds (no hurricanes, please) that bring the world alive. Wind creates movement where there was none, making trees and clouds dance. Wind creates light where there was none, carving new channels for brilliance. Wind creates sound where there was none, setting bells ringing. If I wrote a genesis story of the universe, the opening line would be: In the Beginning, there was Wind.

And maybe that’s true. There are solar winds, and stellar winds created by supernova stars. I wish my ears were strong enough to hear celestial bells ring!

I imagine the forces that blow through my life as wind. Although they have blown me down roads I never planned to take, they have also brought me alive in new ways. 
Poet Mary Oliver wrote: "Whoever made music of a mild day?"

Even the inspiration behind 7:30 BELLS came from what first seemed an ill wind. Two months before my trip to Italy in 2012, I tore major ligaments in one foot. And so I limped through Florence, Siena, and Venice unable to see all I had panned. However, I spent more time in the places I did go. Rested on benches in piazzas and museums where I had time to really look, reflect, and write about everything I saw. So my feet limped, but my heart soared. 

And so in the beginning, the wind made the 7:30 BELLS ring.

Let great winds blowing over you
lead to new beginnings

Regular 7:30 BELLS Posts run every first, third, and fourth Tuesdays.
7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on March 11 for a guest post with author Frances O'Roark Dowell.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Poetry Friday Valentine: My Grandfather's Poem to his Wife Drusilla

With Poetry Friday falling on Valentine's Day, I want to share a poem my grandfather, Bryan Calhoun wrote for his wife Drusilla Jane on their fortieth wedding anniversary. I am proud to come from a long line of poets. My great-grandmother, Bryan's mother Clara Calhoun, was a poet, too.


'Tis forty years this morning
Since you became my bride,
Down life's winding pathway
We've traveled side by side.

You gave me joy and comfort,
You banished all my fears,
I thank you, oh m' darling
For all those glorious years.

To me you step as spritely
As you did when first we met,
That long gone day on the mail box
Is a memory I won't forget.

I loved you then m' darling
And I love you the same today,
I'll love you all the tomorrows
As we journey along life's way.

Kiss me once m' darling
And brush away the tears,
I thank you again m' darling
For those forty glorious years.

Bryan Calhoun

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: The Magic of Horses by Newbery Honor author Margarita Engle

I am so excited to share this month's 7:30 BELLS Guest Post by Margarita Engle--
extraordinary poet-storyteller.

Nature entrances me. The beautiful sights of nature are as inspiring as the ring of bells. Every aspect of wilderness and agriculture helps me believe in miracles, breathe more deeply, and write more fervently. I studied agronomy and botany, but of all the plants and animals in the world, horses are the ones that invariably cause me to gasp with astonishment. Ever since I was little, even the sight of the most ordinary, swaybacked old mare in a thorny pasture was enough to set my sense of wonder galloping. 

On the few occasions when I’ve been fortunate enough to see the truly astounding freedom of wild horses, it has been an experience so powerful and exhilarating that I’ve come away feeling transformed, as if my imagination had become part of a centaur. Even the scent of a stable is enough to send my mind exploring. Undoubtedly, this is because I associate horses with profoundly nostalgic childhood memories of Cuba.

As an adult, I’m not a skillful rider, even though I’ve taken lessons, and briefly owned a horse. It is the daydreaming nature of childhood that makes horses so magical. I have attempted to explore the Cuban roots of my passion for nature in general, and horses in particular, as part of a memoir scheduled for publication by Harcourt in March, 2015. Fueled by the sight of a lone pinto in a pasture a couple of miles from my semi-rural California home, I continue to explore. Every time I drive past that horse, I imagine creating a written herd, so that the pinto will no longer be lonely. With bells ringing in my mind, I set pen to paper, writing the old-fashioned way, outdoors.

Imagination and memory ring together

Thank you so much, Margarita Engle, for sharing this. (And I always love to find another author who loves to write outdoors!)

Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of The Surrender Tree, which received the first Newbery Honor ever awarded to a Latino.  Her young adult verse novels have also received two Pura Belpré Awards and three Honors, as well as three Américas Awards and the Jane Addams Peace Award, among others. 

Margarita’s next verse novel is Silver People, Voices From the Panama Canal (March, 2014, Harcourt).  Books for younger children include Mountain Dog, Summer Birds, When You Wander, and Tiny Rabbit’s Big Wish (March, 2014, Harcourt).

Margarita lives in central California, where she enjoys hiding in the forest to help train her husband’s wilderness search and rescue dogs.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me in March for a guest post with author Frances O'Roark Dowell.
Regular 7:30 BELLS Posts run every first, third, and fourth Tuesdays.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

7:30 BELLS: Behold and Bring Forth. Then Let Go.

Do you see the flying stone figure grappling forward from rock and root? Do you see the chisled face reaching toward the waterfall, the wing bursting out behind the ivy?

I did. 

Here, I thought, is a poem. Here is the root of all poems, stories, art—of anything trying to emerge into this world.

The only attention the stone figure needs to emerge is mine. Mine to behold it. Mine to encourage and coax it out into the world. Wherever it flies then, whatever become of it in the world, is its own adventure. Let it go.

More and more, art is like that to me. All that matters is the 
creation, because that's where the life and ringing happens. Every artist struggles to learn this. (Great athletes do, too, in a different way.) Bring forth your best. Learn to let go of what you've made and your expectations for it.  In this season of the Olympics, literary awards, Superbowls, remember: No gold medal, no award, no review, no trophy matters. They may be sweet icing, but they have nothing to do with the essential. Only the joyously skated program is essential. Only winged bursting forth. 

So behold and bring forth. Then let it fly. Turn your best attention toward beholding the next winged figure, wherever it awaits, whether in stone, paint, word, cloud . . . .

Behold, Bring Forth, Let Fly!

7:30 BELLS is posted every Tuesday. 
Join me on February 11 for a 7:30 BELLS Guest Post by Newbery Honor author Margarita Engle.