Tuesday, December 29, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Rest and Restoration

My heartfelt thanks to all of you who have shared in the ringing of 7:30 BELLS this past year. The bells are quiet today for a time of rest and restoration, but will ring out again next week. I hope you will join me then to begin another year of sharing and practicing what makes our hearts, minds, and spirits ring and resonate with the radiance of being alive.

All my best,
Dia Calhoun

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

7:30 BELLS: The Radiance of Rain

Rain, sun, wind, clouds—then rain again. In other words, we’re having weather here at the river. Inside, evergreen boughs and shining Christmas trees echo ancient traditions of winter solstice—they encourage the sun to turn, to return, to please please hurry back to those starved for light.

Outside, on my walk during a sun beak, each tree is jeweled with raindrops. Maybe this inspired the idea for Christmas tree lights, but the trees and the rain knew it first.

I once thought of higher spiritual ideas as jewels that existed “up there.” We had to work hard to get to them. Climb ladders of theology, follow stone-inscribed precepts, fast ten thousand days in the wilderness, read every spiritual text. But in the ringing radiance of rain on the branches, I know I was wrong.

Wind has taken its toll in the woods. Many branches twist on the ground. I see broken limbs, split trunks, trampled leaves. But every piece of green, not only those in the high treetops, is jeweled with raindrops. The imperfect, the fallen, the broken—we're all radiant.

The jewels lay on every part of our lives, every part of ourselves that has been broken, beaten, every part wounded or scarred. They even shine on the mundane of dirty dishes and downloads that fill so much of our lives. We just have to see them. Pick them up, turn them in our hand. Maybe we don’t know right away what they mean. But keep collecting them, keep fingering them in your pocket until you do.

Outside, I knew the weather was changing again when the wind rose. The trees danced alive, showering drops of jeweled rain to the grass, to the leaves, the weeds, the indomitable cherry tree already budding.

And that’s how I’d like to be. And that’s what I’d like to do.

Welcome, winter solstice.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on January 12 for a guest post with children's book author Erik Brooks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Winter is a Phoenix that Rises in Spring

Only days from winter solstice, I huddle near the bonfire. Here in the country, no yard waste truck weekly whisks away a sedate container of leaves. Acres of trees wantonly toss their leaves on our property. And even moderate winds bring down branches. So we rake and we rake and we endlessly rake. And light bonfires in autumn and winter.

Like this one. With dark falling at 4:00, the molten gold embers hold my eye. Then the beauty of the lacy ash. The wood being consumed.

Our life being lived and consumed creates our own circling seasons of fire, ash, and fire again. Living is combustion. We are the fuel. Poet Wendell Berry wrote, “Practice Resurrection.” And I think, stepping nearer the bonfire, what is winter but a phoenix that rises in spring? Every spring.

Even so, come winter solstice, come soon.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on January 12 for a guest post with children's book author Erik Brooks.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Hearing Bells in Small Moments by Suzanne Williams

I'm so pleased to share this month's 7:30 BELLS Guest Post by children's book author Suzanne Williams.

The only actual bell I possess is crafted as a Welsh woman in traditional garb. I was given it by my homestay family in Cardiff, Wales during my very first trip to Europe at age seventeen. (My high school band – I played clarinet – did a five week tour of Europe during the summer between my junior and senior year.)

The bell has a very sweet sound. I keep it on a tiered shelf in my home office along with souvenirs from many other trips. Partly because of that wonderful first trip, and partly because my adult daughter lives in Oslo, Norway, I have since made many more trips to Europe, and to other places as well.

I think the novelty of the things we see and do when traveling is one of the reasons those experiences stick with us and make us feel so alive. We break away from familiar settings and our normal routines when we travel, and we meet new people, too. But though I’ve experienced many lovely moments during trips abroad (and also during trips closer to home), some of my most joyful moments are everyday small moments.

I might be driving in a car not far from home, for example, when I come upon a stunning view of snow-capped mountains (I live in the Pacific Northwest), or a row of trees with brightly-colored fall leaves, and a feeling of awe and a profound sense of well-being washes over me.

Some of the small moments that bring me joy are ones I experience alone, such as when meditating, writing in my journal (or on a story), or reading something that is deliciously well-written, fascinating, funny, or insightful.

But my most joyful small moments are usually ones that connect me to others. These include daily walks with my husband and our small dog, coffee after yoga with gym lady friends, lunches out with my two sisters, and holiday dinners with extended family. Also, phone calls with faraway family and friends (including my amazing co-author, Joan Holub), get-togethers and meetings with other local children’s writers (like Dia!), and simple pleasant exchanges with acquaintances and strangers.

More often than I would like, I fail to take advantage of (or am oblivious to) the numerous opportunities I have each day to be joyful and alive. (The downside to things we do habitually.) Still, I am grateful for the times when I do remember to savor those small moments – to listen for those ringing bells.

Suzanne Williams is a former elementary school librarian and the author of over 60 books for children, including the award-winning picture book Library Lil(illustrated by Steven Kellogg). Together, she and Joan Holub write the Goddess Girls, Heroes in Training, and Grimmtastic Girls series. Suzanne is online at www.suzanne-williams.com

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on January 12 for a guest post with children's book author Erik Brooks.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Clarity from Muddy Waters

A twenty degree morning. Frost lays like snow on the grass. Across the yard, the sun illuminates the trees on the far side of the river. In another hour, the river is a path of light flowing through the dark, winter wood.

The path doesn’t show crystal blue waters that let me see straight to the bottom. The Nisqually River, sprung from glaciers on Mount Rainer, runs high and muddy from recent rain. So the path of light is brown—softened by foaming epaulets of white lace.

But I need light cast on my muddy waters. The sun is telling me, “Look here. Look deep”. So much churns in the brown river—leaves, branches, dirt, old roots, and old bones. Things need to be seen and sorted. Some saved, some tossed, others made into something new.

“Mudlarks” once waded through the tidal Thames River in London—people looking for treasures. Treasures they could turn into coins, which they turned into bread. Sometimes they found dead bodies and bones. They always found filth.

That’s one risk of looking into our own muddy waters. Seeing our own filth that we’d rather ignore. The hope is that in the muddy, swirling depths we will find treasure that provides sustenance of whatever kind we need. 

All artists know that light is born from the mud. We search the muddy waters of our dreams, unconscious, imaginations. This is true not only for artists, but for everyone who wants to understand more about themselves and their world. For everyone who wants clarity.

The first step is simple: look for sun shining on a muddy river, ringing a way forward through the dark, winter wood.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesdays of every month. Join me on December 8 for a guest post with children's book author, Suzanne Williams.