|alisa anton | unsplash.com
"I think of myself as an artist of the everyday, someone who looks for what is bright in our tired and at times shabby days. I want others to realize that this type of seeking is available to them as well, no matter where they are and what situation they happen to be in.
What I want in my quiet life is to be a persistent witness to splendor.
When people read what I write, I want them to feel the way they do when, looking at a photograph, they close their eyes for a few seconds and breathe the light of the image in as a blessing."
When I read these lines from Shawna's latest book, I feel my heart connecting. The words speak to me, they echo my heart, they are me. I breathe them in like a blessing.
"It is strange to think how our dreams change. When I was growing up, I cut out pictures of yachts and planned to live on one of the most elegant. It took growing up to make me realize I could get seasick even at a movie which showed a boat rocking. I dreamed of being a Red Cross nurse, too, without knowing that I suffer so over a bruised paw that I would never have been worth my salt. In emergencies, I am fairly good, but as a nurse, I would have worried the patients to death. ...
Now my dreams are more fitted to an adult life. I dream of travel, but do not wish to leave home. I would wish to get back in time to feed the dogs and look at the moon rising over the swamp. For the truth is I get homesick if I even go away overnight, so what would I do in Calcutta?"
~ Gladys Taber, Reveries at Stillmeadow, Hallmark Edition 1970
I found it interesting to read these lines, because it's true, sometimes we do hold onto dreams that would never have worked for us. At this stage, I don't believe I'm holding onto to any old dreams that should be released and made peace with. Still, it's nice to read the insightful musings of another woman to clarify one's own mind about things.
"A lot of the Dales farms were anonymous and it was a help to find this one so plainly identified. 'Heston Grange' it said on the gate in bold black capitals. I got out of the car and undid the latch. ... I walked around the outbuildings shouting as I always did, because some people considered it a subtle insult to go to the house and ask if the farmer was in. Good farmers are indoors only at meal times. But my shouts drew no reply, so I went over and knocked at the door.
A voice answered 'Come in', and I opened the door... A dark haired girl in a check blouse and green linen slacks was kneading dough in a bowl. She looked up and smiled. 'Sorry I couldn't let you in. I've got my hands full.'
'That's all right. My name is Herriot. I've come to see a calf. It's lame, I understand.'
'Yes, we think he's broken his leg. ... If you don't mind waiting a minute, I'll come with you. My father and the men are in the fields. I'm Helen Alderson, by the way.'
Outside, she turned to me and laughed. 'We've got a bit of a walk, I'm afraid. He's in one of the top buildings. Look, you can just see it up there.' She pointed to a squat, stone barn, high on the fell-side. I knew all about these top buildings; they were scattered all over the high country and I got a lot of healthy exercise going round them. They were used for storing hay and other things and as shelters for the animals on the hill pastures.
I looked at the girl for a few seconds. 'Oh, that's all right, I don't mind. I don't mind in the least.' "
I've been smiling to myself about this essay by James Herriot. It's the reader's first glimpse of his first meeting with Helen Alderson, and we the reader already know she'll be his wife one day. So I love how the simple story unfolds. James meets her in the kitchen. She says she'll go along and show him where the injured calf is. She says it's gonna be a long walk. And, then, there's that last line when he looks at the girl for a few seconds and replies: 'Oh, that's all right, I don't mind. I don't mind in the least.'
In that short but full sentence -- which I love -- we get a clear picture that 'of course he doesn't mind'.
"Sharon Palmer, my wife, gets the first look at everything I write, and reads it with an artist's eyes. When I asked her how she edits my stuff, she said, 'I ask three questions: Is it worth saying? Is it said clearly? Is it said beautifully?' "
I don't normally get stuck on an author's acknowledgement page (and I do read them all). But I was caught with something the author wrote. Mr. Palmer mentioned how grateful he was for his wife's editorial skills, that she is his first reader and that she reads his work with an artist's eye. When he asked her how she edits his stuff, she said she asks herself three questions: Is it worth it? Is it said clearly? Is it said beautifully?
I love that -- it's my new editorial standard.
By the way, her questions must work -- for his writing is worth reading, it's clear, and it's beautiful. PS. quote added later... I really need to sneak in a proper quote of Parker Palmer's so you can see for yourself:
“The only way to become whole is to put our arms lovingly around--everything--we know ourselves to be: self-serving and generous, spiteful and compassionate, cowardly and courageous, treacherous and trustworthy. We must be able to say to ourselves and to the world at large, 'I am all of the above'. If we can't embrace the whole of who we are-- embrace it with transformative love--we'll imprison the creative energies hidden in our own shadows and be unable to engage creatively with the world's complex mix of shadow and light.” ~ ibid
"Maybe it's because of a painting's rich palette, or the pattern of its brushstrokes, or the peace of a landscape view, but our response to art is often one of calm. Art can create a focal point for thought, inspire feelings of well-being, foster compelling conversations, and inspire us to create something ourselves. ...
When we were young, creativity came naturally to us, arising from our curiosity, our sense of discovery, and our readiness to make things without knowing or caring what the end result would be. 'Look what I made!' was always a joyful announcement. ...
Many of us lose touch with that spontaneous drive as we get older. But losing touch doesn't mean that the urge to create and feel that warm place inside us isn't still there. We just need to make time for it. ...
Let your imagination loose, and let your curiosity and sense of discovery rule."
~ Susan Evenson, Creative Healing Educator. Excerpts from Introduction in Drawing Calm: Relax, refresh, refocus with 20 drawing, painting, and collage workshops inspired by Klimt, Klee, Monet, and more
I took this book out from the library the other day, so I have not gotten too far past the introduction page, but already I'm sold. If you go to the link, you'll get to see a couple of the author's inside pages. I'm going to be putting this book on the 'get my own copy' list. One reviewer said she was not artistic but was able to do the projects. That's encouraging as I'm not wanting anything too complicated. Just something fun and when I'm finished I can wave my work with a joyful 'Look what I made!'
On that note, I'm away to my day. Here's wishing you a beautiful weekend!