Friday, January 30, 2009

Castles



“The shattered wall,
the broken tower
have a story to tell –
from the touchstones of ruins
and ancient texts
we make a pilgrimage.”

–David Day




What is it about castles? The word alone conjures up images and feelings that seize my imagination. Mysterious and immense, they’re full of fragments of history and myth. How lasting, how permanent these structures of stone arches, marble chambers, great halls, secret passageways and dungeons; this realm of kings and queens, maidens and knights, giants and gods, dwarves and faeries, heroes and bards.

The drama of old tales seems close at hand while these structures remain standing, as though the structures themselves strain to share all that went on and all who went before. They seem to hold out a beckoning promise of ancient wonder to me. Still so filled with the past, still so saturated with history and myth, I could almost be transported back to the age of fantasy, romance and myth. I’d step in to find myself in the midst of daily bustling life within those enclosed outer walls. What a lovely dream come true for a girl who never gave up dreaming of a long-past time, real or imagined, when castles and dreams were born of rock and took shape in my heart and imagination.


Illustrations by Alan Lee, concept artist for The Lord of the Rings movies.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Lost Art

I was reading a blog the other day of someone who still loves writing hand-written letters. The act of putting pen to paper is considered an art form by some, but it’s a dying art. In our day of Hallmark cards, emails, and texting with short comments punctuated by abbreviations, penmanship and authorship are eroding. It wasn’t so long ago that sending and receiving a handwritten letter was a savored pleasure in life.

Throughout history, handwritten letters have recorded moments big and small, feelings high and low, things mundane, tragic, poetic, romantic. This used to be such an important part of people’s lives. Today these letters are links to the past, echoing of hurts, disappointments, joys, loves, excitements and experiences, pulling us into the writer’s life, if only for a few moments, as we realize they cared enough to put it on the page. They are gifts of the writer’s time and energy.

I’ve had some remarkable letters in my life: A letter my father wrote to his four young children. A flurry of letters between my twin brother and me while he was stationed in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm 18 years ago. A collection of letters my cousin wrote to a French nurse before being shot down over France in 1917 at 30 years of age. I treasure these gift-wrapped memories—powerful and palpable signs of love and life constructed one word at a time—and I reread them often.

I’m inspired to send thoughtful letters in 2009, reaching out to those I care about with handwritten sentiments that share a part of me. Combining solitude with good company, letter writing can allow me to go places while moving nothing but my heart.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Feast of Color



Except for the dark trunks of trees, there was hardly any color outdoors. I yearned for something to break up the white-and-black bleakness. And then a cardinal, a feast of color and light, alit on a branch.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

For the Love of a Child


Carol at The Writer's Porch has bestowed upon me a gracious and lovely recognition for my "Worry Dolls" post, the Compassion Award. I thank you, Carol, from the bottom of my heart and proudly display this on my sidebar. And I thank Corban, too, who was the subject of this post. For all the challenges he presents, he continues to make it so easy to be a good mom.

Worry Dolls

Yesterday’s post explained Corban’s recent scare and the curious resultant behavior of circling me. In order to allay his anxiety, soothe his fear, and help him re-find his center of gravity—which, as you can imagine, is more pronounced at bedtime—I did two things. Regarding the first, thank you, Reya, for the wonderful suggestion (see her comment on the “Running in Circles” post). Second, I got him a set of Worry Dolls, which we’re carefully calling Worry People in front of our perceptive and discerning seven-year-old boy.

I don’t remember when I first heard or came into contact with Worry Dolls, or Trouble Dolls, but the whole concept delights me. Originally from Guatemala, they’re made for children and come in boxes or bags of six. According to folklore, a child can express his worries to a doll and place it under his pillow before going to sleep at night. The doll is thought to worry in the child’s place, thereby permitting him to sleep peacefully. The child is given one worry doll each night and instructed to tell one trouble or fear to the doll. The next morning when the child wakes up, the worry doll is gone from the bed (I’ve got to remember to do this part!), taking that worry with it. To introduce Corban to this whole concept, I read him Trouble Dolls, a wonderful book for children by Jimmy Buffett.

We know, of course, that there’s no magical element involved here, and that this is comparable to many of the myths we have for kids. I believe intention, faith and belief play an important role in a child’s ability to deal with anxiety. And it seems, from a psychological standpoint, using Worry Dolls is quite sound; in point of fact, some hospitals use them with children to relieve anxiety. I thought this would be a good-sense way to help Corban voice his worries and fears and to promote better sleep. We’re on the second night here; two dolls down, four to go. Pleasant dreams, Corban.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Running in Circles

An image frightened Corban the other day, and he’s not even sure what he saw. Usually very independent and confident, my seven-year-old’s response to this has been an interesting one. He’s been circling me. He’s been running, walking and moving in circles around me while we’re talking, while I’m making dinner, after we eat. He’s outwardly calm; there is no hurry to his movements and motions. He doesn’t look anxious or upset. But something got into his head; something left an imprint.

He isn’t glued to me as though he’s too frightened to step away. It’s as though he’s lost his own center of gravity and is drawn by my apparent gravitational pull. He’s always been a mover, a boy with an abundance of energy spilling over into impatience; a pure intoxication of motion. Nothing has changed there. Now, though, it’s manifesting as this circling thing. I’ve become the hub with this young life revolving around me, trying to calm and comfort himself by wrapping me with this new energy. It was intriguing at first, then worrisome, then annoying (especially while making dinner). Now it’s just interesting.

But just as I have to go to my own sources to keep myself centered and balanced, I must now help Corban re-find his center of gravity. In the world around us, there are a lot of things that can impact a child, leaving him feeling unsettled and unsure, so I know this is not the last time I’ll have to help him through making sense of his world. And even though life often gets better all by itself, I’m going to give Corban a special gift to help him in this so we can return from our foray into this valley of curious behavior. I’ll write about that in my next post.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Overcoat

I was inspired yesterday at the blog of my friend, Derrick, whose posts are full of historical signifcance and wonder. It got me thinking about my own love affair with history, which began, oddly enough, with Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind.

So it was, when I was 14 years old, that I found history all wrapped up in a wonderful novel about the American Civil War. I was hooked. Enthralled, I read about places I'd heard about and studied in other, drier contexts. With sudden clarity of mind and heart, I finally grasped that history is not made up merely of facts and events, but of people whose lives and decisions are shaped, impacted, affected by all that happens around them. I was seeing history-in-the-making through the eyes of those to whom it mattered deeply. Because my beloved characters cared deeply, I began to care deeply, as well.

There is a weight and comfort and substance I feel when reading/studying history. What has gone before shapes us all in large and small ways; it is our constant shadow. The significance of history deserves a poem, and so here I share my hands-down favorite.


The Lesson

In the morning when I found History
snoring heavily on the couch,
I took down his overcoat from the rack
and placed its weight over my shoulder blades.
It would protect me on the cold walk
into the village for milk and the paper
and I figured he would not mind,
not after our long conversation the night before.
How unexpected his blustering anger
when I returned covered with icicles,
the way he rummaged through the huge pockets
making sure no major battle or English queen
had fallen out and become lost in the deep snow.

--Billy Collins

Friday, January 23, 2009

An Award For Me?

Three months ago I started this blog as a personal exercise and shared it with my family. In a short 90 days, it's astounding how many people I've met and friends I've made. One of these, Kat at Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes, has presented me with a "Superior Scribbler Award." I humbly accept this award from her, honored to join the worthy bloggers who've come before.

Daily, I'm intrigued, enlightened and entertained by the creativity and perspectives of others who've crossed my path in this wonderful world of blogging. And I thank them for allowing me to see the world through their eyes, and sometimes giving me a creative well to draw on. In that spirit, I, in turn, pass this award on to a few friends who, through their writing, have told my heart things it knows are true and who have given me a taste for possibilites that aren't found on the everyday menus of life.

Barry @ An Explorer's View of Life -- A wonderful storyteller, handling even heavy subjects with a light hand and an ever-faithful canine at his side.

Joanne @ Whole Latte Life -- Her posts are written to encourage thought and dialogue, but they go so much deeper. I'm shocked into truthfulness for a few minutes each day at her site.

Bee @ From the Desk of Bee Drunken -- A Texan in England, she makes the place she lives the place she loves and shares it generously with us through her thoughtful writing style.

Larkspur @ Garden Mother -- She shares her love of beauty, wrapping even the mundane in inspiration that is a delight to read.


If you choose to accept this award, here are those pesky rules:

  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to Scholastic-Scribe, which explains The Award.
  • Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
  • Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Red Balloon

I was in the third grade when I saw my first “art” film, a sweet masterpiece of French cinema called “The Red Balloon” (Albert Lamorisse, 1956). Short, simple, and almost wordless, this is the story of a young Parisian boy named Pascal living an ordinary life in the dull gray of postwar France. And then he finds a shiny red balloon tied to a lamppost...

Each time I see this movie (or read the book with my children), I laugh, I cry, and I’m filled again with the impossible joy of being a child. What a beautiful and hopeful lesson this is about believing in dreams and avoiding those who would puncture them. At the end, as the balloons lift Pascal above the gray ordinariness into the air, they seem to ask him, “How high?”

Watching this as an adult, I wonder how many had passed by the balloon tied to the lamppost that day. How many never even looked up, so focused on the dailyness of their lives? I want to live looking up, noticing the balloons around me, grasping at their strings and running wildly after beauty and dreams, sometimes with fear at my back, but always asking “How high?”


"And all the balloons of Paris came down to Pascal, dancing around him, twisting their strings into one strong one and lifting him up into the sky.”

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inspiration

I was contemplating inspiration this morning when a poem of Longfellow’s nudged my memory. While not my favorite American poet, I’ve always related to Longfellow’s fascination with the sea and find it intriguing the way he used it as a narrative device to explore the nature of creativity and inspiration. Who can’t relate to a tired poet lacking, and thus looking for, inspiration? A broken oar, so useless to the rower, would inspire the poet. Well done, Mr. Longfellow.


The Broken Oar

Once upon Iceland's solitary strand
A poet wandered with his book and pen,
Seeking some final word, some sweet Amen,
Wherewith to close the volume in his hand.
The billows rolled and plunged upon the sand,
The circling sea-gulls swept beyond his ken,
And from the parting cloud-rack now and then
Flashed the red sunset over sea and land.
Then by the billows at his feet was tossed
A broken oar; and carved thereon he read,
"Oft was I weary, when I toiled at thee";
And like a man, who findeth what was lost,
He wrote the words, then lifted up his head,
And flung his useless pen into the sea.

--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Fireside

We’re driven inside today by snow and cold. It’s a perfect day for reading and sipping cocoa by the fire. Here’s a wonderful poem by Longfellow that so well reflects my sense of traveling and adventure when I open a good book.

Travels by the Fireside

The ceaseless rain is falling fast,
And yonder gilded vane,
Immovable for three days past,
Points to the misty main,

It drives me in upon myself
And to the fireside gleams,
To pleasant books that crowd my shelf,
And still more pleasant dreams,

I read whatever bards have sung
Of lands beyond the sea,
And the bright days when I was young
Come thronging back to me.

In fancy I can hear again
The Alpine torrent's roar,
The mule-bells on the hills of Spain,
The sea at Elsinore.

I see the convent's gleaming wall
Rise from its groves of pine,
And towers of old cathedrals tall,
And castles by the Rhine.

I journey on by park and spire,
Beneath centennial trees,
Through fields with poppies all on fire,
And gleams of distant seas.

I fear no more the dust and heat,
No more I feel fatigue,
While journeying with another's feet
O'er many a lengthening league.

Let others traverse sea and land,
And toil through various climes,
I turn the world round with my hand
Reading these poets' rhymes.

From them I learn whatever lies
Beneath each changing zone,
And see, when looking with their eyes,
Better than with mine own.

--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dress Rehearsal

I mentioned in my post on December 12th about Lindsey being among the handful of students at Marymount University selected to submit designs for Michelle Obama's inauguration gown. This was a project initiated by USA Today, and the girls' designs were featured in a two-page spread in that paper on December 31st. The project went through several incarnations at USA Today, including the late-hour addition of judging by Tim Gunn of “Project Runway” (who I personally think of as the Simon Cowell of fashion, but I digress).

Since her newspaper “debut” in December, the story has been picked up by MSNBC and a number of regional/local newspapers, including The Indianapolis Star and The Grand Rapids Press. She completed an internship in London (England) this last summer, and has been invited to participate in another in Malawi (Africa) this summer. She's found the river and is saying yes to its flow!

There is no question we're proud of Lindsey. We've been her faithful audience for years and years, enjoying this child full of passion and enthusiasm who is following her dreams and finding the art in the everyday. She's found a way all her own to make the world a more beautiful place.


Lindsey is third from the right. If you want to follow her story, here's her blog.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Interview

I always enjoy getting to know other bloggers: idiosyncrasies, little things that make them tick, hopes, dreams. What better way to learn about others in Blogdom than by interviewing them?! My friend, Kat, over at Poetikat's Invisible Keepsakes has interviewed me. To follow are my responses to her questions:


What made you decide to start a blog?

I can't remember a time when I didn't love to write things down. I’ve kept journals for years, but there were actually two reasons I started a blog. In September of this last year I was going through Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way again, and I set a goal to write something thoughtful each day. My blog posts, incidentally, are a pretty fair representation of my journaling.

My problem has never been putting words to paper; my issue has been sharing it with others, actually letting people read what I've written (a throwback to a mean-spirited grade-school teacher). Facing my “monster,” I decided to brave it and post my thoughts on a blog as a daily exercise. Initially, it was only going to be for me; then I expanded that to family, which was my second reason for starting it. Spread all over the country, this has become a way of staying connected with my far-flung family and of re-tying the threads that time and distance keep trying to unravel.

What began as an exercise soon took on a life of its own as I've met friends in Blogdom—those who have similar passions and interests, as well as those I don't have as much in common with but who intrigue and enlighten me daily with their viewpoints and perceptions of the world.

What is your fondest memory of when your kids were growing up?

My three children are each eight years apart. (I know! What was I thinking?!) Lindsey was in high school before Corban was born. Because of that age span, it's hard to choose one favorite memory that incorporates all three of them. Of all the places we've gone, things we've seen, adventures we've enjoyed, and family time we’ve shared, there is one thing I've enjoyed with all of them—read-aloud time.

This has been a constant in our family from the beginning, an undercurrent, a continuous cadence. As a young mom, armed with Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook, I set out to pass on my love of books, reading, and words to my children. This might seem a tame choice to an observer. After all, there are no fireworks to report; no ribbons, parades, applause. There is only that soft and lovely time spent close to my children imparting a love of books. My fondest memory? It’s when my children are with me, all at ease on a down comforter of well-being, opening a book together.


If money/time/political situations were no object, where in the world would you like to travel?

Eighteenth-century Scotland. What? No time travel allowed? Oh, sorry. I'm not much of a traveler. I detest tourist-crowded places and the commercial sameness that seems to infect so many places today.

Having said that, I’d love to visit Scotland and Ireland. I not only have genealogical roots there, but enjoy immensely novels and historical fiction set in these locales. The history, lore, castles and myths all intrigue me. They seem the perfect destination for someone, like me, who is drawn to wild, remote places of extraordinary beauty.


If Fahrenheit 451 were a reality and you could only save one book, what would it be?

This is a cruel question to ask a serious reader! Only one book? I can't do it. I gave this a lot of thought, and I just can't do it. Like in Fahrenheit 451, my air vents are big enough for at least three books, so here are the three I would risk saving:

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare – Reading Shakespeare aloud, giving voice to his words, is, as Frank McCourt so well put it, “like having jewels in my mouth.” I would save this book for the sheer beauty and expression of language.

The American Heritage Dictionary – Ever the optimist, we’d need a plan to rebuild from a book ban of that magnitude. With a dictionary in hand, we'd have a sure source of words, meanings, definitions, pronunciations—all things we'd need to turn people back into readers and writers. Before we can have readers and writers, though, we need thinkers. And for people to use their minds in this way, they’d first have to stock them. This would be my re-stocking tool of choice.

Bible – Unlike the downriver vagabonds in Fahrenheit 451, I could not memorize this book, so I would risk hiding and saving it. It includes so many of the things I enjoy—poetry, history, genealogy, wise quotations, prophecy—and I can read it over and over and always get something more out of it. But mostly I’d choose it because it has a power to show people who they are, what they've become, and what they can be (a true mirror, which fans of F-451 will understand).


If you could be any age, which age would it be and why?

I can easily identify certain times in my life when I made point-of-no-return decisions that closed some doors while opening others. What would be different in my life today if I could relive those moments and choose differently?

Although worthy of contemplation, I don't want to go back and have to repeat anything, and I certainly can't go back to remake decisions without irreparably altering my present, which I would never want to do. I love my life and adore my family. Over the last two years, some pieces of my life have come together in interesting ways, resulting in a happier and more complete me; more content and appreciative. It’s taken years to accomplish what Thoreau calls ‘making a whole of the parts’. I’ll stay, hopefully with more wisdom and grace, right here at 47.



Would you like me to interview you?

1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by e-mailing you five questions (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

I will post a list of those who have agreed to an interview so everyone can follow along.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Encore!

We're currently in the midst of our second blizzard of the season. This picture was taken of our shoreline along Lake Michigan. The snow fences are erected each Fall in a vain attempt to keep the beach sand in place.


Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hill and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse at the garden's end...

...And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, January 12, 2009

Storyteller

Garrison Keillor is one of my favorite storytellers. I've been a huge fan for years and years. As author and host of “A Prairie Home Companion,” his national live broadcasts gave me a taste of the old-style radio variety show my grandma used to talk about. Listening to Keillor, I understand now why people, once upon a time before television, gathered around their radios to be entertained.

When I couldn't get enough of him on NPR, I bought the recordings of his stories. I needed more frequent installments of his 'News From Lake Wobegon' than he was providing. His stories of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota were full of small incident, ever about family—the Bunsens, the Tolleruds and the Tollefsons—and always moderated with passion. I followed their sagas faithfully. My favorite stories were 'Tomato Butt', 'Ronnie and the Winnebago', and 'Thanksgiving'.

Garrison Keillor is also an author and, although I've tried to read his books, something gets lost in the translation from audio to print. It's a rare book I prefer to hear on tape or CD, but Mr. Keillor's books fit this bill. His stories need his distinctive voice. He brings life to old places and makes them lovely to pass through.



One more spring in Minnesota,
To come upon Lake Wobegon.
Old town, I smell the coffee,
If I could see you one more time.

That long, long time is always on my mind,
I'm just a stranger with memories of days of long ago.
Could it have been forty years since then?
What happened to us? I'd like to know.

That yard, that tree—you climbed it once with me;
We talked of cities we'd live in someday.
I left, old friend, and now I'm back again.
Please say you missed me since I went away.

One more time, this dance together,
Just you and I, now don't be shy.
This time, I know I'll hear the music,
If you would hold me one more time.

--Garrison Keillor

Friday, January 9, 2009

Bookmarks Galore!

I have a special friend who trades books back and forth with me. She's an elderly woman of remarkable character except for one thing... She marks her place in a book with used envelopes. Although that's certainly better than bending the page corners over, I always tell her it makes me wince. She just laughs; she knows I'm a bookmark snob. I collect them, all kinds. Some are whimsical, some gloriously beautiful, some cultural, some creative, and some--like the ones from my children--heartbreakingly special. I keep them all in a little drawer in my desk, which is where I was poking around just a bit ago.

Today I started yet another book, bringing my current reading stack to five. With another book on the way (see Surprise Twist post), I had to dip into my bookmark reserve. Looking through them was a trip down memory lane. The one in this picture was given to me by my wonderful Aunt Cecelia, who loves to read as much as I do. I'm using this one to mark my place in "Sophie's Choice," a book I'm re-reading after 20 years. It's one of those special, haunting stories that stays with the reader long after the last page is turned. This wonderful bookmark will mark my place in a story that 20 years ago marked my heart.

Surprise Twist

Who doesn't love a good suprise? I was informed this afternoon that I was December's contest winner at MyBookList. I wrote several book reviews for them last month on their site, and it seems I was chosen to receive a signed book called "Jack with a Twist," by Brenda Janowitz.

I know nothing about this story or author, but I almost never turn a book down, especially when it's been pressed into my hands as a reward for something! It's also a book I probably would not have purchased on my own. Yet, that's how I've stumbled across many wonderful gems in my reading years; I've found them left in my path unexpectedly or they were sent as a gift based on the giver's taste in literary fare. What a nice thing it is to be surprised by a good read. I'll keep my fingers crossed and all of you posted!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Dove Song


I heard a dove sing or say
His homely tale this very day;
His voice was buried among the trees,
Yet to be come at by the breeze;
He did not cease, but cooed and cooed;
And somewhat pensively he wooed;
He sang of love with quiet blending,
Slow to begin and never ending;
Of serious faith and inward glee;
That was the song—the song for me!

--William Wordsworth

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Wanderlust

Wanderlust isn’t nipping at my heels most days, and I’m not a great traveler, but I’ve been sensing this desire for a little adventure. It started with this picture of a gypsy caravan. It reminded me of that children’s book by Kenneth Grahame, “Wind in the Willows,” where Toad takes to the road in just such a caravan. I have no destination in mind, which is, I think, the fun part. It’s about climbing in and, as Toad says, seeing what there is to see. Where have your wanderings led you lately?

‘O, pooh! Boating!' interrupted the Toad, in great disgust. ‘Silly boyish amusement. I've given that up long ago. Sheer waste of time, that's what it is. It makes me downright sorry to see you fellows, who ought to know better, spending all your energies in that aimless manner. No, I've discovered the real thing, the only genuine occupation for a life time. I propose to devote the remainder of mine to it, and can only regret the wasted years that lie behind me, squandered in trivialities. Come with me, dear Ratty, just as far as the stable-yard, and you shall see what you shall see!'

He led the way to the stable-yard accordingly, the Rat following with a most mistrustful expression; and there, drawn out of the coach house into the open, they saw a gypsy caravan, shining with newness, painted a canary-yellow picked out with green, and red wheels.

Wind in the Willows--The Open Road, Kenneth Grahame


Artwork by Tre Zieman

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Sit a Spell

I had a great conversation a few days ago, and I’ve been pondering it ever since. In our busy lives and world, people communicate through electronic exchanges of texts and emails, but it seems many have forgotten how to receive. Ours is an age of chattering, not listening. I look around and see people just trading monologues, with mouths open and ears closed. Maybe we've gotten so busy we just don’t have time for a long chat anymore. Is the art of good conversation dying?

We know conversation is central to our relationships. It involves discussing things of consequence, thoughtful listening, honest exchanges. It can enlarge our understanding and sweeten our imagination. It engages the mind and the heart, and can leave both participants satisfied and even enlightened afterwards.

There are those with whom I have ambling, relaxed conversations, and there are those with whom I communicate in staccato-like bursts of energy, packing so much into so little time. Good communication can be as stimulating as a cup of full-octane coffee to me (and just as hard to sleep after!). But mostly, I love the fact that good conversations start in one place and move us on to other fabulous places we would never go on our own. How lovely is that? Care to sit a spell?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Maxfield Parrish

I bought a wall calendar years and years ago that featured Maxfield Parrish's images, and I fell in love. There is something about his use of light, brilliant color and detail that gives his images magical luminosity. He had a unique process of creating the glowing, almost three-dimensional feel of his oil paintings, which need to be seen in person to really be appreciated.

Painting until about 1960 (six years before he died), Parrish left behind a prolific body of work. His distinctive and original style helped shape the Golden Age of Illustration. His work even resulted in new art terms. Fans of Parrish's work will recognize the phrase "Parrish blue,” as well as references to his famous mountainous
“Parrishscapes.”

Through the years, spending a few minutes with his images has served to refill my creative well, spark my imagination, and fire my inspiration. It's hard for me to describe exactly what Parrish's art does for and to me. His colors caress. His images tug at my senses and leave me with something that feels like yearning. When I look at them, I cannot put a name to what they make me wish for. With his fantastical settings—some even featuring literary characters—it's like looking through a window to another world. Maxfield Parrish has become my master of make-believe. And in his images, lullabies linger for me in that special place between asleep and awake where dreams are born.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Today's Lesson


Yesterday is history;
Tomorrow is a mystery;
Today is a gift;
That is why we call it the present.

These words have been attributed to many people--including Joan Rivers!--but it seems Eleanor Roosevelt can be thanked for originally coining them. While watching "Kung Fu Panda" recently with Corban, I heard them again. What a terrific lesson for young and old(er) about valuing each and every day.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My Toolkit

At the turn of each year, with the balance of 365 days stretching before me and when all things seem possible, I review some of the tools in my life that have helped keep me organized and on track. I was thinking this morning of favorites in my online toolbox for 2009, and I came up with this list of six:

Visual Thesaurus is an online thesaurus and dictionary that uses an interactive map. It’s a great tool for those who, like me, think visually. They even add (drum roll, please!) a Word of the Day!

OneLook Dictionary is an amazing compilation of 973 dictionaries. It’s a one-stop shop for your word-search needs. It even offers reverse and wildcard searches on words.

Time & Chaos is a supremely easy and effective time management software. There is a free downloadable trial version for anyone who wants to check it out.

LibraryThing is an online tool for cataloguing your books, and it allows you to share your titles with others.

MyBookList is an online reading journal for library patrons. Check with your local library to see if they offer this. It’s free, and it has replaced my handwritten book journal, which lists all the books I’ve read, along with short notes on what the book was about and if I would recommend it to others.

Simpleology is a free online multimedia course and workshop designed to teach people to set and reach goals. There are great tools to plan and organize your day, as well as terrific desktop features that I continue to use long after I’ve completed the course.

My definition of a timesaving online tool is something that doesn’t take me long, but takes me far. These six things have had a positive impact on my life and productivity, and I share them with you in that spirit, looking forward to a wonderful and productive year.

Please feel free to share what’s in your toolkit for 2009!