Tuesday, April 29, 2014

7:30 BELLS: “Pass What is Perfect and Shining”

When I passed this tree, cut down by a chain saw, its ragged beauty snagged my attention. In death, the tree bares its wounded heart to the world. Tears of sap have hardened into lacey veil. 

The dead, the fallen, the wounded, the ragged imperfect—we don’t usually consider them beautiful. But there is much to be found in them. Mary Oliver expresses this well in these lines excerpted from her poem, Whelks:

“but each morning on the wide shore / I pass what is perfect and shining / to look for whelks, whose edges / have rubbed so long against the world / they have snapped and crumbled—” Mary Oliver  

This week I heard someone say—with some shame—that they are repulsed by very old people. By their wrinkles, their sagging flesh, their “decrepitude.” How sad. How tragic that American culture embraces only the “perfect and shining.” Youth. The air-brushed makeover. The new, new, forever new.

I think patina is beautiful. Patina—a surface that has formed over something, such as green color on a bronze bell, that comes from age, long exposure to weather, or from being used for many years. When I am old, I hope people will look at me and see the richness of my patina . I hope they can still hear the reverberating rings from a long and vibrant life.

The patina on the bell celebrates
a life filled with ringing

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 Costa.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

7:30 BELLS: After Great Wind, Stars on the Grass

April weather in Puget Sound is as capricious as a blackjack wheel. We’ve had ferocious rain, tree-toppling winds, and days when glorious sun teases of summer then plunges back to winter.

Changing weather and seasons inspire me with the strength and boldness of their strong opinions. They are who they are. They have no fear of the ever-changing nature of life.

This morning I stepped outside to see if it was warm enough to write outside. I saw that last night’s wind had stripped the tree of its cherry blossoms. I grieved the loss. 

Aren’t the cherry blossoms evanescent enough without the wind hurrying them along?

Then I looked down at the lawn. The cherry blossoms shone like fallen stars on the grass. How bereft they must have felt to be torn from their fellow blossoms on the branch. How surprised to find themselves neighbors of strange blossoms, blossoms blown from branches far enough away to be foreign countries.

Like many of us uprooted by a force beyond our control—such as losing a loved one, a job, a way of life, or a long-held dream—the cherry blossoms have to learn a new way to be in the new world they now find themselves in. It isn’t easy. But how splendid, what an adventure, to live on the grass when you have spent all your life on a tree.

After a great wind, new wonders present themselves, if we have imaginations flexible enough to see them. We must find the strength to let go of our old ways of being, the strength to accept some discomfort. Most of all, we must dare to live as boldly as the ever-changing weather and seasons. To be who we are becoming.

After great wind, 
new bells ring

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 Costa.

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 Costa.

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 Costa.

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.