Tuesday, September 30, 2014

7:30 BELLS: The Dragons of Bells

Ancient mapmakers who didn’t know what lay beyond the boundaries of a kingdom wrote, Here Be Dragons. Now substitute the word dragons with bells.

Sometimes the bells of our longing, the harbingers of what will bring us more alive, ring only faintly, at the edge of our hearing. We might hear a haunting sweetness on the air and look up to listen. But the sound fades, and we’re suddenly uncertain if we heard anything at all. So we shrug, and return to whatever we were doing. But the bells’ calling leaves behind some strange restlessness or yearning.

I once thought such bells rang faintly because they weren’t important. But over the last few years I’ve discovered the opposite is true: faint ringing is the ringing I need to heed most. The bells are only faint because I can’t clear away the obstacles in my life that are stopping me from hearing them. Obstacles like the towers of distraction, fear, numbness, and especially, strategic thinking placed before heart thinking—all the many reasons we stay safely at home. Sometimes it is wise and necessary to stay home. But doing that all the time leads to the death of whole-hearted living.

So follow the ringing that come faintly on the wind. Follow the bells which call you out of your comfortable dwellings of body and spirit. Follow the bells until you stand beneath them in all their bronze glory and hear the now clamorous ringing that compelled you to find them. If you do, you will find that boundaries of your kingdom—your heart, your life, your soul—have been pushed outward.

We will never discover all that’s waiting for us. There are still bells waiting, calling, and that’s the joy of life. But take one step at a time. Bell by bell. Find your new dwelling and hunker down with a cup of tea. Until that faint ringing stirs on the edge of the wind again . . .

Oh, and be sure to tell the mapmakers that your kingdom is bigger now.

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.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Poetry Friday: Self Portrait

Self Portrait

Tree still standing—
     after rain,
     and many axes.

Tree still singing—
     of rain,
     and many axes.

Everything essential
for a life alive.

Dia Calhoun
September 2014

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

7:30 BELLS: Equinox Bells—The Marriage of the Cosmic and the Personal

Last week I walked the hills of my childhood, beginning at the craftsman house in West Seattle on Wright Avenue where I lived from age five to eight. The first tree I ever loved stood in the big, wonderful yard. When I lived there the tree had a flat top, its crown lost to a wind-storm.

The day we moved to a house five blocks away, I threw my arms around the tree and cried. I took a piece of its bark which I treasured for years. The new house had only flighty ornamental cherry trees and a pocket handkerchief of a yard.

As I grew up, I often climbed the hill east of Lincoln Park to a set of hill stairs that connected two streets. I loved the view of Puget Sound, the Olympics, and below, the old tree I loved. The flattened top made it easy to spot.

Last week, as I stood again outside the Wright Avenue house, I saw the tree had grown a new crown: a little tree springing from the flattened top. I wanted to sneak into the yard and throw my arms around my old friend. But I left, cut through Lincoln Park at the end of the street, and climbed the hill to find the hill stairs. On the way, I discovered Solstice Park—a park established after I grew up. 

Sunset on June 21, 2011 at 9pm Credit: Jason Gift Enevoldsen
Three stone markers—one for the Summer Solstice, the Winter Solstice, and the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes—point toward the horizon where the sun sets on each of those cosmic occasions. Because the fall equinox was only days away, I stood on that stone. In years, too, I stand at the Autumnal Equinox of my Life. 

Looking out, I saw important markers of my life. Puget Sound. The Olympic Mountains. My elementary school. The Kenny Home, built like Independence Hall with its high cupola. Lincoln Park. Both neighborhoods of my childhood. And I could see the first tree I ever loved with its new crown.

The bells inside of me began to ring. I felt a rush of insight as the cosmic markers converged with my personal ones. And a rush of rightness. Everything was here. Everything had always been here. For forty years I’ve been trying to return to the first tree I loved—to what I love most at the deepest spiritual and psychic level. This marriage of the personal and the universal has lately become the theme of my life. I believe we all need this kind of deep connection to the world, in whatever form it speaks to us, to find strength and meaning. 

Someone wise once said that human beings are the universe becoming conscious of itself. Yes.

As I looked down at the worn words on the stone marker--Autumnal and Vernal Equinox--it struck me how they are the same stone. I feel that in many ways. Spring has burst forth in this autumnal moment in my life. And like the old tree of my childhood, new growth is springing from the old.

I aspire to a crown of green.

When the cosmic and personal converge,
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 October 14 for a guest post with 
explorer/author Marc Calhoun.

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.