Tuesday, February 23, 2016

7:30 BELLS: The Call of the Magnificent: Moon and Mountain

Saturday evening driving south, I saw the west side of Mount Rainier at sunset, the other side hidden. In the east, a nearly full moon rose. The mountain that rises from the earth and the moon that rises over the earth—how similar they were. On both the shadows of rugged rock. On both the wash of water color blue. The world was ringing for my attention.

Only half of each of these magnificences was visible. There’s so much of the world, of life, that we can’t see, don’t know. So much lost in shadow. Hidden by clouds. So we think nothing is there.

This is true of ourselves as well. And then something breaks through—in our dreams, our work, our beliefs, our unexpected response to a situation—and we have an intimation of the immensity of the hidden. Most of the time we ignore it until the mountain erupts in pain to get our attention.

As I drove I couldn’t look at this moment in time, these two magnificences—moon and mountain—the way I wanted to, because I was driving on the freeway.

And isn’t that the truth too? We’re so busy hurtling down the freeway of our lives that we don’t pull over for such moments. Don’t realize the importance of this witnessing and how it connects us to our greater world. Yet, we will pull over to answer the ringing phone, or risk an accident to talk on the phone while driving, even though we can always call back. The phone number is there. The person is there. What’s so important?

But the call of the sunset moment of the two magnificences passes forever. The ringing will stop, and we can’t call back.

Don’t miss it. Answer the call of any magnificence you are lucky enough to witness.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

7:30 BELLS: The Bells of Making and Unmaking

Every morning I take my beautiful woven bedspread out of a drawer and unfold it in the same ritual way across my bed. I take care to feel the texture of the cloth. To look at the colors. This ritual brings me from the honored dream world of the unconscious night back into the topside world. Even on dark winter mornings, the yellow and white flowers speak of sun. Day has come.

I keep my bedroom as a place of honor to the night time world (no e-mail, TV, texts). Gifts of deep knowing come from dreams. Many of us try to lead mindful lives. I recently heard author Murray Stein say that it is mindful to pay attention to your dreams. Yes. Only when my bed is beautifully made, do I leave the bedroom and begin the day. I transition to consciousness and its gifts.

Every night, I fold my bedspread in the same ritual way and place it back in its drawer. Like tucking the sun away for the night. I begin letting go of the daylight world in preparation for the night time one.

This ritual began three years ago when I developed a severe dust mite allergy. All my bedding must be washed weekly in hot water. Cotton can’t tolerate that. I wash the bedspread every month in expensive low temperature allergy detergent and tumble it on air fluff for hours to dry. But I decided to remove the bedspread at night to minimize my exposure. And so this beautiful, centering ritual developed out of need.

But isn’t that always the way? Rituals around life, death, marriage, eating—all developed because we have some deep need. Ritual is a form of practice, keeping before our eyes what we most want to remember. 

For me as an artist this ritual of making and unmaking my bed connects me to the larger creative world. It symbolizes the astounding cyclical rhythm of life. Out of unmaking arises new making. New life springs from the unconscious night time world and meets the rush of the conscious sunlit world. And in the great splash of meeting, they create something new, something unexpected, something the world so deeply needs from us.

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.
7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

7:30 BELLS Guest Post: Out Flew the Rice Birds by Clare Hodgson Meeker

I'm so please to share this "colorful" 7:30 BELLS Guest Post by the prolific and talented Clare Hodgson Meeker, children's book author.

“There are places I remember
 all my life though some have changed 
Some forever not for better, 
some are gone and some remain….” 

--from In My Life, a song by John Lennon

Twenty years ago, my husband and I took our first trip to Thailand. Some vacations are meant to be relaxing. I knew this would not be one of them, but that challenge makes me feel alive. It was winter. Still the temperatures soared to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the smell of raw fish and pungent spices in the open markets overwhelmed my senses. On a harrowing night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, we were locked in by armed guards who said they were protecting us from bandits. It made a great story, once we safely arrived at our destination. It was an amazing trip experiencing this exotic culture – visiting shimmering gold and bright red Buddhist temples, listening for the bell that called the monks in their orange robes to prayer, seeing tall, delicate lotus flowers with their roots in the mud, and the small brown rice birds flying over the rice fields. These were the characters in the ancient Thai folktale about reincarnation and love lasting over lifetimes that became my first book, A Tale of Two Rice Birds.

Fast forward to this past December when we returned to Thailand as part of a larger trip to Vietnam and Cambodia on a small cruise ship. We were docked at Laem Chabang for the day and paid a visit to a busy site for tourists and Thai worshippers alike. Wat Phra Yai was a small temple that housed the largest Buddha in Chonburi.

As I was walking in from the parking lot, I saw a woman seated with a stack of colorful wooden bird cages in front of her. I asked our guide what she was selling and he answered, “For three dollars, you can release four rice birds from their cage.“ The small brown birds, as common in Thailand as robins are in America, were providing her a living wage. Without hesitation, I paid the woman what she asked and opened the cage door.

Out flew the birds and up into a nearby tree, most likely to be caught again. But that moment of setting them free was thrilling, like writing a happy ending to a story. That sense of accomplishing something beautiful is also deeply satisfying.

Clare Hodgson Meeker is the author of 11 books for young readers including the Smithsonian Notable Book Lootas Little Wave Eater, An Orphaned Sea Otter’s Story.

Her new chapter book, Rhino Rescue! and More Amazing True Stories of Saving Animals is published by National Geographic and will be available in bookstores starting this month. She works from home on Mercer Island near Seattle, and teaches writing in schools through Seattle Arts and Lectures.

Author site: www.claremeeker.com
Blog: www.claremeeker.com/blog
Twitter: @ClareMeeker

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.
7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

7:30 BELLS: The Best of the Bells--Guest Post by Janet Lee Carey

The wildly imaginative, award-winnning fantasy author Janet Lee Carey has allowed me to share again her lovely 7:30 BELLS guest post from April 2014

 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. 

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

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month. Join me on February 9 for a guest post with children's book author Clare Hodgeson Meeker.