Tuesday, May 26, 2015

7:30 BELLS:When Surrendering is Power: Cottonwood Seeds

I stepped outside this twentieth day of May into snow—a foot high drift of cottonwood seeds piled against the door. White, downy fluff danced in whirlwinds. Snagged on the bushes. Starred the meadow grass.

I’d never seen a cottonwood seed blizzard before. My first thought—what fun. My second thought—get the broom. But sweeping simply urged the cottonwood seeds into greater frenzy or spun them into incorrigible strands. Meanwhile, more and more fell from the sky.

So there I was, wielding the broom this way and that, until I stopped, struck by the ridiculous. I laughed at my absurd need to control something beyond my control.  And something so unimportant. So what if cottonwood seeds blew into my house? So what if they stuck to my shoes? Who wouldn’t want to wade through magic?

So I surrendered. I threw down the broom and danced with the seeds. 

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

730 BELLS Ignorant of the Night.

I am ignorant of the night. In the city where I lived for twenty-three years, it dangerous to wander in the night. And when I visited the country, the Farm in the Methow Valley, it was too wild to wander at night all alone on a hundred acres. 

But Goldilocks found the middle chair that was “just right.” So here on our three acres on the Nisqually River, I’ve found a safe place to walk alone at night. And I’ve discovered so much. Nights are as different from each other as days—some serene, some brooding, some tumultuous. Best of all, nights here are quiet of human noise. Only wind in the trees, the humming river, the croaking frogs, the singing stars. Reflection and meditation come easily.

I used to go to bed thinking of everything I didn’t get done. My night walks have changed that, a pause button to the day's busyness. Now I have a sense of space, of waiting, even promise. Just as light has its negative qualities—drought, burning, blinding—so darkness has its positive qualities.

After one week of night walks, I dreamed I met a wild black horse in the night. I threw my arm around its neck and we strode away, side by side, into the night. 

Last night when I went to bed, I looked at the fabric serving as a temporary window curtain. A dear friend brought to to me from Japan some thirty years ago. A dark crane flies up, silhouetted against light coming from outside. A dark crane ascending into the night.

Where will they led me, the dark crane and the black horse?

For the first time, I am learning to hear bells in the night.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

7:30 BELLS Guest Post:: "Risk is When the Bells Chime Loudest" by author Margery Cuyler

Following is a wonderful post from author and legendary children's book editor Margery Cuyler.  I had the high honor of having worked with her on several of my  fantasy novels. 

I hear bells chiming when I experience what I like to refer to as a “mandorla” experience. Mandorla is the Italian word for “almond,” and the almond shape has been interpreted by Carl Jung, Robert Johnson, and other psychologists as a symbol for the overlap of two contrasting, opposing forces that occur simultaneously. When one finds oneself standing in the center of the overlap or mandorla, one feels extreme tension, but . . . that tension of the opposites can lead to transformation and renewal. One can sense that God is present in those moments of suffering, and if one is patient, if one prays and trusts, the solution will usually emerge. 

This mandorla experience has happened every time I’ve been at a crossroads in my life: to leave or not leave a loved one who provides a safety net, to go from being single to being married, to become a mother of three even while working full time, to change jobs when a new job opportunity challenges one’s comfort level, and so on. These mandorlas that punctuate life involve risk. But risk is when the bells chime the loudest! 

 And how about the mandorla experience in a writer’s life? For me, I decided recently to leave the safe haven of writing picture books, which have defined me as an author, to writing a YA (still in progress). As I wobble into the territory of character development, I am discovering that my characters have to experience the mandorla. What is at stake for them? How do they experience two different emotions at once? What causes them to change? The mandorla is a writer’s place. Don’t all writers try to make sense of the fragmented world in which we live? Don’t our characters long for a place where they can finally settle and experience unity? Can I, as a fiction writer, reach that place of synthesis by the end of a manuscript? 

Great writers have accomplished such leaps as they’ve united the beauty and the terror of existence. Their talent and psychological insight, their characters’ verisimilitude, can surprise and shock--can teach that the tension of opposites, the mandorla experience, is the stuff of good writing. I may never get there, but at least I’m exploring new literary territory, and that’s exciting!

Margery Cuyler has been part of the children’s book field for the past 45 years. Aside from holding executive positions at Holiday House, Golden Books Family Entertainment, Macmillan, Marshall Cavendish, and Amazon Children’s Publishing, she has written 49 children’s books and has a 50th book under contract with Random House. She retired from full-time publishing at the end of 2013 and is currently consulting, writing, and doing school visits. She and her husband, the parents of two grown sons, live in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Margery also has a stepdaughter who paints pets for a living. They are really cool. For more information about Margery, visit www.margerycuyler.com

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

7:30 BELLS: A Cup Overflowing With Trees

At my old house in Tacoma, I spent wonderful “creative drift” hours watching the cherry tree outside my bedroom window. Poems, ideas, and stories came to me there. So, now that I’m living on the Nisqually River, I wondered what kind of “creative drift” hours I’d have from my new bedroom window. The window frames Douglas fir trees. So far, with the exigencies of moving, there hasn’t been much time for creative anything.

But last night, I opened my eyes and saw my cup on the bedside table. The cup was black, silhouetted by the moonlight coming through the window. The fir trees were silhouetted too, a few branches swaying. This was the first full moon since we moved here.

As I watched, laying on my side, the trees seemed to be growing out of the cup. And I wondered. If I drank from my cup, would I drink in the trees? I’ve been so thirsty for trees, and now my cup, my life, overflows with them. What would happen if I drank trees?

And so I sat up. And so I drank.  Now let’s wait and see what happens. 

But already, I feel a little taller this morning.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on May 12 for a guest post with children's author and legendary children's book editor Margery Cuyler.