A PRELUDE TO MORNING SUN 10/18/2010
NO MATTER HOW DARK THE MORNING, THE SUN ALWAYS RISES.
Join me here next week on Monday, October 25, 2010
for a new scene in my story, my MORNING SUN,
a historical fiction in progress.
The photos above were taken as the sun was rising over Lake Michigan
on September 27, 2010. Chicago, Illinois.
Thank you, Jennifer, for asking and encouraging me
to share a scene from my novel in progress.
Thank you, Kelly, for also expressing an interest in my work.
Jim, thank you for reminding me to not give up.
Sisters, I hear your cheers. Thank you for being a constant force of support.
And to Tom, who is on his own journey,
for the gift of VIETNAM: JOURNEYS OF BODY, MIND, AND SPIRIT
and these words on the inside cover:
May this book be a guide and reference ...
Good luck, good writing ... I await the beauty of MORNING SUN.
Thank you to our readers who come here every week
to be part of a special community. Inspiring. Encouraging. Believing.
I am doing things I never thought I would dare to do.
THE GIFT OF HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON 09/27/2010
The subject line stated: GET IN TOUCH. When I saw the sender's name, I leaned in closer to see if it was a mistake. I wondered if I had opened the wrong file folder. It was almost 3:00 o'clock in the morning. I was not fully awake, possibly dreaming.
I opened the email:
I am hoping to have my above email address forwarded to Mia - an old friend. Came across a book the other day that she had given me once with a note written on the inside cover, and as I read it to my 8 yr. old daughter she asked me who Mia was. And so, I told her my story of a dear friend that I had lost contact with. Googled her name and found this amazing site.
For a moment I did not move. A buried wish was coming to life. I read the message a second time, and a third. I heard Gerry's voice, the return of a long lost friend. It had been almost four years since we last talked. I wrote and put an end to another day slipping away without my friend: This has to be one of the best mornings of the year ...
Gerry responded with an exuberance that was all her own. Her first word bringing back the friendship I had missed:
The gift of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Gerry emailed me the note I had written inside:
I hope you will always read it to yourself and your baby. I love this book! Again, thanks for being a great friend.
I smiled and thought about the magic of books reaching beyond the page.
Gerry and I caught up on each other's lives, emailing and talking on the phone. We went up and down memory lane, had a few good laughs. Her voice full of life. She told me about her young son and two daughters, the love and joy they bring to her everyday. I shared with her my writing dreams, how it has unfolded since our days at Cosmopolitan magazine. I became silent when I learned her life had changed since we last spoke.
Her once happy marriage had come to an end. Twenty-four years and gone. The shock and the unimaginable thereafter. I listened with a heavy heart. Her tears and endless sleepless nights. Days without electricity, bills going unpaid, the debt collectors at the door. Through it all I heard a woman full of strength and not giving up on life and dreams. She found a part-time job and hopes that one day soon a full-time one will come.
When I wondered how Gerry kept it all together, she said, "My children and a solid core of phenomenal friends. Now my Mia is back ..."
Together with Gerry at Lake Michigan.
Today Gerry and I live in different states and hope to see each other soon.
Until then I have my photograph of us at Lake Michigan. We have emails and the phone. This time we're not letting each other go.
I think of Gerry. I see her courage and remember her words to me as she moves forward in life:
It's amazing the strength you can find in yourself when you have three kids staring at you needing you to show them how to put one foot in front of the other.
On a Saturday morning in late August, my family and I were having breakfast in the kitchen. My sister-in-law, Trang, walked in and said in Vietnamese, "There's a man at our door."
"There is?" I said. The doorbell did not ring. Not a knock nor a tap. "How long has he been standing there?"
"Maybe fifteen minutes. Maybe a half-hour," Trang said in English. "He is here for the vegetables."
Mom jumped up from her chair and ran to greet the man and disappeared.
"He didn't want to interrupt our breakfast," Trang said in Vietnamese and sat down next to me.
"Does Mom know who he is?" I said.
"I don't think so."
"Each time they come, Mom is happy," Father said. "Doesn't matter who they are."
I picked up my camera on the table and walked to the door leading to the backyard, where Mom's garden flourished. Mom was on bended knees with a bundle of fresh Vietnamese herbs in her hand. She looked up from her conical hat and talked to the man who had heard about her garden, her little Vietnam in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Their conversation was an exchange of smiles and laughter. A nod of the head to reveal an understanding. I imagined the memories carried them back to their villages in Vietnam, back to the times before the wars, to the moments when the sun was bright and beautiful. Like today. Here in Grand Rapids. An uncertain journey had found its way to a new life.
I later learned the man was a restaurant owner who preferred to serve the freshest vegetables available in Grand Rapids. He thanked my mom with a bow and purchased five bags of Vietnamese herbs, spinach, and lettuce. For now they will not worry about the coming winter.
I left my shoes behind and walked to Mom's garden, her heaven on earth. I stood for a moment and took in the breath of the morning air, my visit home. I dipped my toes into the soil, felt the roots of Mom's passion and love for the things that grow green and vibrant.
My father joined me in the garden, where he helped Mom plant and nurture the seeds during spring and summer days. I followed him to the vines wrapped around the fence. He showed me the large melons that did not have an English name, the melons he had served in our soup. He said, "Your mom loves these melons."
I nodded and understood. I said, "It's good to be home."
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EVERY PIECE AND TWEET TELLS A STORY 09/13/2010
Whispering hope at Sacred Cake.
I was stuck on a scene for a novel, had been stuck for days. My work in progress. I thought I had something decent. But when I came back I saw the undeniable truth stare at me:
These words and sentences do not work.
I dropped my head in frustration. I asked, "Why?" No one answered in the silent room. The muse refused to return. I was alone, left to figure things out on my own.
For a while, I sat at my desk and tried to fix one sentence from that now disjointed scene. Switched words around, wrote new sentences, removed and reinserted a comma. I toiled and turned. Nothing was working; everything was flat. I screamed without a sound.
I clicked away, clicked on Wednesday Writings, clicked on Thursday Treasures, clicked on Tuesday Travels and there on the page, I saw the bird and the sign.
I remembered Jennifer Valentine from Sacred Cake, remembered her unexpected tweet to me on August 29, 2010:
@FourDaysAWeek I think your site is lovely. Uncluttered. Simple. And I can tell you follow my sister! Lots of leaping!! :)
Jennifer was responding to an earlier tweet of mine:
Spent days tweaking my website. It matters to me the way it all appears and navigates (even if no one visits). Love or crazy?
It was our first conversation on Twitter. Until that day, I never thought Jennifer knew I was here.
I clicked on the sign: FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER. I went to Sacred Cake's shop. Another sign appeared. EVERY PIECE TELLS A STORY. An assemblage of beautiful jewelry photographed with words unfolded before me. Printer's Blocks rested on a dresser. Whispering Hope hung on a door. Something was stirring. I saw the beautiful, Chocolate Truffle earrings set to words and music, pages from a newspaper and books. I purchased the earrings and felt something lifting.
I returned to the scene in my novel. A day and a few hours later, the sentence that refused to show itself to me in its best light, appeared on the page.
Thank You, Jennifer Valentine,
for being the sign and voice in a silent room
that helped bring back my muse.
After a stroll at Sacred Cake, the scene in my novel finally came to life.
And those Chocolate Truffle earrings, love them.
Welcome to Sacred Cake. A place of calm, where vintage assemblage jewelry becomes a poem that you can wear; and you may discover beauty in something you overlooked before ... something beautiful and functional to add charm to your home, something that makes you smile, or stirs your spirit. My wish is that you leave here with feelings of inspiration and an uplifted heart.
CROSSING PATHS AT THE SHADOWCLIFF 08/23/2010
A man reflects at the Shadowcliff. Photo by Sharon Dryden.
I saw him in the morning. A man with a long, white beard and wearing a skirt. He had been hiking across the Continental Divide. He came to rest at the Shadowcliff in Grand Lake, Colorado. I came to write. He and I, two strangers, on different journeys. We met with our glances and exchanged a smile. Across the sunlight.
Our lives crossed paths, where the sun and the shadows danced. I saw how far we had both traveled to arrive.
Naoko presents the Red Knit Cap Girl and hope.
It was a morning in May when revisions to my historical fiction, MORNING SUN, weren't going well. The words weren't forming, and the new scene I was trying to write failed to come to life. Doubts were setting in, and I wondered if my dream of writing a story worth reading was out of reach.
I turned to the Internet, browsing to escape the darkness descending around me. I was searching for something, maybe hope. I clicked here and there, going to both new and favorite places.
I stumbled upon a photo of Naoko offering a hand. In her palm was a little girl wearing white boots, a scarf, a knit cap, and red coat. She was the Red Knit Cap Girl, and she released her bird of hope. I followed them and discovered Naoko's Stoop, where a bunny and the Red Knit Cap Girl were flying in the air to a wonderful world of childhood joy and imagination. Together they showed me how to let go of my doubts. To play. Not worry. Enjoy the sun. The scene in my story will come. For a treasured moment, my fears of failure subsided.
I was going to be okay.
Later that same morning I contacted Naoko to say thank you, to express how much I loved her Red Knit Cap Girl, her friend bunny, and the bird of hope.
Naoko didn't know it then, but her art saved me from believing my MORNING SUN was dying in silence at that hour. I purchased three of Naoko's prints (Hope Bird, Messenger, and Follow The Wind), which are now hanging on a wall in my home. Each framed art reminding me to trust my journey and dreams.
Today it is with honor to present to you Naoko's illustrations and share with you, A Moment With Naoko Stoop. In the spirit of Naoko's Red Knit Cap Girl, her friend bunny, and red bird, I hope you'll fly with us. Share your thoughts, wishes, and dreams. Here at four days a week.
A MOMENT WITH NAOKO STOOP.
*Click on each image for a full view of Naoko's illustrations, which are also available at her Etsy shop.*
WHAT IS A STOOP?
A stoop is a small staircase leading to an entrance of an urban apartment building, according to Wikipedia. For me, it's also a symbolic icon of Brooklyn, New York, where I live and a place I love.
I ADMIRE YOUR COURAGE TO FOLLOW YOUR DREAM. IF THERE'S ONE ADVICE YOU CAN GIVE TO OTHERS HOPING TO MAKE THE SAME LEAP, WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
I didn't make a big leap one day : ) Although I started to paint two years ago, I was in different places for a long time, feeling something could be better. It took me a while to just look at myself and be open to the creative voice in my heart. Later I followed that voice, and I think I am still on the way. Probably, I am not the only one.
WHEN YOU ARE NOT CREATING ART, WHAT IS YOUR NEXT MOST FAVORITE THING TO DO?
I'd be walking in Prospect Park, which is a gem of Brooklyn, or exploring vintage stores and strolling through the neighborhood for nice, fresh food.
THIS WEEK'S TREASURE
*Continuing the journey and celebrating Naoko's illustrations at THURSDAY TREASURES.*
BIRDS, BEAUTY, AND ON MY KNEES 06/07/2010
In the beauty of the moment.
I wanted to photograph a bird in flight, but I live in the city. There are no mountains to climb, no perch to lean from, no high spots to see a soaring bird up close.
I went to the garden of a nearby church, where the birds were singing in the morning. I stepped inside and saw three birds fly above a fountain in the center. I tiptoed closer to the birds, hoping to catch one in flight. I snapped my camera at a rapid pace, missing each time.
The birds flew away. I thought about leaving, giving up. Then another bird flew across my path.
I tried again, caught a blur of the bird flying towards the white flowers and grass along the walkway. The little bird sniffed the flowers, then hopped up and down the walkway as if asking me to come and see. I followed the bird and began to understand.
I surrendered to the moment and got down on my knees. I snapped my camera. This time, the bird did not fly away. I took more pictures and thanked the bird.
I walked out of the garden, smiling on a beautiful day.
A week later on my two-mile walk to work I ran into an old friend on the street. We crossed a bridge, taking us closer downtown to where our offices were located. I noticed a large Canadian Goose up ahead. We were running late for work, but sometimes in life we must make time for the treasures along the way.
I gave the camera to my friend. Unafraid, he walked up close to the Canadian Goose. He took a series of pictures, remembering how much he loved photography. On this bright, sunny morning, we stopped to see the beauty all around us.
How about you? What moments are you surrendering to this week?
THIS WEEK'S TREASURE
*Picture Hope by photographer Stephanie C. Roberts at LittlePurpleCow Productions and Shutter Sisters.*
A DREAM AWAKENS 05/24/2010
A portrait comes to life. A dream awakens.
At the office a reader is disenchanted by the limitations and confinement of her eleven-year-old profession. She hears a neglected voice; this time, it refuses to go away.
She picks up a black marker and puts it to a blank sheet of paper on her desk. She begins to draw, her fingers moving without judgment. The lines begin to form ...
A portrait comes to life. She remembers she was born on the day of the convincing storyteller. She looks at the portrait. She adds a barrette with a smiling skull to her thick mane of hair. She is becoming ... reinventing herself for the new story she will tell. A dream awakens.
Thank you, reader, for sharing with us your journey and beautiful portrait. I love the skull! So unexpected and daring. -Mia
THE SPIRIT CHILD by ELINOR GELLER 05/17/2010
Last week we met Elinor Geller. This week Elinor takes us to another plane where awesome beings and angels live. She presents her animated short, THE SPIRIT CHILD, winner of more than fifteen awards, including Best Animation, BBC Big Screen, 2008.
THE SPIRIT CHILD
BEST ANIMATION, BBC BIG SCREEN, 2008
by Elinor Geller
Orli resides in a cemetery on the earth plane. It is a home she loves and where she plays with her friends. She is unaware of her spiritual form and other planes of existence beyond her cemetery home.
One day Orli stumbles into a monstrous darkness. There is no light, laughter, or joy. She meets awesome beings and angels, who reveal her real place in the world. When Orli refuses to stay with them on the spirit plane, the angels must come to a compromise.
A magical transformation takes place, where many surprises await Orli, her friends, and all the spirit children.
*Continuing the journey with Elinor and celebrating her creative works, pet sketches, and inspiration at THURSDAY TREASURES.*
CONNECTING WITH ELINOR, DISCOVERING JOY 05/10/2010
Together with Elinor and Gryffle.
One of the great joys at four days a week is connecting with and meeting people following their dreams, creating the life they seek.
Recently I had the wonderful pleasure of discovering Elinor's amazing works online. I reached out to her from where I lived in America to where she lived in England. I asked if I may feature her talented creations here with us. She said, Yes!
Today it is with honor to be able to share a conversation, an UP CLOSE WITH ELINOR GELLER, with you. Enjoy and be inspired! Next week, we'll have more from Elinor.
UP CLOSE WITH ELINOR GELLER.
Freelance Artist: Illustrator, Animator, Filmmaker, Writer, Graphic Designer
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME AN ARTIST? AT WHAT AGE DID YOU KNOW?
I've always enjoyed drawing picture, and art in general since I was a child. Art was always my favourite subject. My life just seemed to naturally develop in the artist direction. That, plus very supportive parents enabled me to actually call myself an artist. I've probably always been one, but I've only felt confidant enough to say, "I am an artist," in the last year since I've been doing pet sketches.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TODAY?
In relation to the pet sketches I was first inspired by Vinnie the English Bull Terrier, the family pet, who still does inspire me. Add to that my Welsh Terrier, Gryffle, and any animal I happen to meet. Apart from that I love movies, reading, and all that imagery filters into my drawing, I believe. The one person who probably sticks in my mind the most is Tim Burton, more for his illustrations, character designs than his films (although I love those too).
HOW WOULD YOUR FAMILIES AND FRIENDS DESCRIBE YOU?
Hard questions! Probably as hardworking, quiet, a bit introverted, individual, hopefully stylish, and occasionally a bit annoying, if I'm honest.
WHAT'S ONE THING MOST PEOPLE DO NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU?
Although they do know I love musicals, they probably don't know I love singing and dancing -- can't do either even though I try my best at home (my husband will endorse that).
*Join us next week on May 17, 2010 at MONDAY MUSINGS and THURSDAY TREASURES for a special feature of Elinor's selected pieces, including her award-winning animated short.*