Tuesday, October 27, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Wind Ballet. Review

Last night I used my free ticket to see the Wind Ballet.

Theater: The Field.
Seat: Front Row Center--the Adirondack chair on my deck.
Star: The Full Moon.
Choreographer: The South Wind.
Corps-de-ballet : High Strata of Moving Clouds.
Soloists: Lower Rushing Clouds. 

I settled in to watch. The clouds leaped and whirled around the moon, creating an ever-changing chiaroscuro. Sometimes they hid the moon. Moments later they rushed apart, bedazzling her in golden streamers. The fir trees conducted like a forest of maestros. The bells rang.

The tickets to the Wind Ballet may be free, but they’re extremely hard to get. (Connections in high places might help, try weather gods Horus or Zeus.)

First we need a full moon—so that limits us to twelve possible nights per year. Then we need just the right weather. If the clouds are dense—no show. If the night is clear—no show. If the night is still—no show. (Two layers of wind and clouds are ideal). And, worst of all, if you don’t make the time to go look—you won’t see the show even if there is one.

So last night was the perfect confluence of calendar, weather, and fortitude for one of the most spectacular Wind Ballets ever. I’ve seen only one more spectacular—one night on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, at the Villa Scarpariello Relais on a cliff above the sea. Come to think of it, the Wind Ballet that night was one of the prime inspirations for 7:30 BELLS.


7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on November 10 for a guest post with children's book author Jim Whiting.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

7:30 BELLS: Moon Over Metal Shed

Everything begins as a glimmer in the dark. All that’s needed is the spark, the light of some luminary—be it a celestial object like the moon, an idea, a startling image, or a numinous connection with our deeper self. Something comes forward from the unknown place.

I’ve trained for this. Part of myself is always watching now, always waiting for the spark. True, sometimes they come without watching—big blazing meteors across the sky. But what about the tiny sparks, you have to coax? The quieter, deeper ones, there and gone like dreams? Often the sparks I breath on gently, fan to flame, and feed, feed, feed, conflagrate into brighter, bluer fires than any flashy meteor.

Sometimes I’m simply walking out to the metal shed at ten p.m. to get a hammer. And then I see something like the moon shining on the metal shed and forget the hammer. Because I know some spark is arriving. Because I know I have only a moment to greet and make it welcome.

7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on November 10 for a guest post with children's book author Jim Whiting

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Ninjas and Flying by Lois Brandt

Lois Brandt is the author of Maddi's Fridge, Winner of the 2015 International Literacy Association Primary Fiction Award. I've lately had the privilege of getting to know her as a friend and colleague and am pleased to share this wonderful guest post. Get ready to fly!


On a school visit last year I read to a group of about thirty kindergarteners. As I was answering questions, a little boy in a black t-shirt raised his hand high in the air. He had pulled the neck of his shirt up to cover his mouth and nose. I thought he was just being shy, so when I called on him I asked him to pull his t-shirt off of his face so I could hear him clearly.

Instead, he raised himself high on his knees, fixed his eyes on mine, and shouted “I AM A NINJA!”

The school librarian was mortified and aides rushed in to have a little chat with our friend. I couldn’t bodily throw myself between the disciplinarians and the ninja, but I thought about it.

I loved that little ninja. I love that ability in kids to ignore reality – no, not ignore it – to change reality. Young children inhabit a space where the imagination rules and the laws of physics don’t apply.

When I was about the same age as the ninja, I flew down our town’s Main Street with a group of my friends. It was lovely. We stuck our arms out wide and whoosh! The four of us soared above the rooftops with a warm breeze in our faces.

The next day at school I eagerly spoke to my friends about our flying adventure. To my huge disappointment all three of them told me that we had not gone flying and I had been dreaming.

I wasn’t convinced. For the next few days, when my mom wasn’t looking, I launched myself off the arm of our couch. After the first splat I put pillows down on the floor, but I still believed. I knew that if I just held my arms in the right position I would fly. Then I would zoom around my house once to show my brothers, who were at this point teasing me mercilessly about my ‘dream,’ how wrong they were. After that I’d soar out of the house, free to fly anywhere in the world.

When my mother caught me jumping off the couch, arms spread-eagle, she calmly sat me down and tried to explain, once again, that flying down Main Street had only been a dream.

There is no “only” in dreams.

It’s been a long time since I flew down Main Street, but the memory of flying under my own power has informed some of the best decisions of my life. Those decisions range from joining the Peace Corps, to learning to kayak, to becoming a writer. (Writing, by the way, is a great way to fly.)

And when adult worries begin to drag me down to earth, what keeps me going, what makes the bells ring for me, is the living example of dreaming big that I see during every school visit. Children, especially kindergarteners, remind me that the only limits in my life are the ones I have built myself.

Long live the ninjas!

Years ago, Lois Brandt peeked into her best friend’s refrigerator and found empty shelves and one small carton of milk; her friend’s family didn’t have enough money to buy food. Maddi’s Fridge, Lois’ first picture book, is the result of that moment. Maddi’s Fridge is the recipient of a 2014 Christopher Award and the International Literacy Association’s 2015 Primary Book Award, among other honors. You can read more about Lois Brandt and Maddi’s Fridge at LoisBrandt.com


7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on November 10 for a guest post with children's book author Jim Whiting.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

7:30 BELLS: A Web of Art

Walking along the river path, I saw this spider web limned in sunlight. How perfect it is, suspended in mid air, the lines attaching it to the birch trees mere flashing silver filaments. How I’d love to create a piece of writing or art this shining, a piece where what is left out is integral to the beauty.

A web is a creation to catch something flying through the air. A story or a piece of art is also a creation to catch something flying, but through our minds.

I hold the hope to make something so beautiful, that someone passing by, who sees it in the right light, is caught. They look. Wonder. And then they go on, changed, carrying what caught them. Some shining silver filament they barely remember stays with them as they walk on down their path. Some faint ringing of the bells. In some small way, the story has become part of them. And they never see the world in quite the same way again.

I would like that so much--to pass along the ringing bells.



7:30 BELLS  Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on October 13 for a guest post with children's book author Lois Brandt.