October 6, 2012

My Bedroom

Does not take a lot of room for “just the two of us”!

This is a snapshot of our sleeping space. In this quiet spot each of us feels safe, secure, warm and cared for, whether we are together or alone. From my side of the bed, I compose drafts, have my devotional time, or “warm up” for the day by being served breakfast in bed. Who knew a cowboy could cook so well, and be so willing?

From his side of the bed he rests, sleeps, passes the time, or heals from his decades as a roughneck, farrier, cowboy, laborer…on the premise he is “giving me space and quiet” while I write. I sleep on a rather regular 11PM to 7AM schedule and he is on a roughly 8PM-4AM sleeping schedule. In this way, we have togetherness with apartness, something we enjoy. There is freedom for us as individuals when nobody is mandating bed time or rising time.

Each of us needs serenity and quiet, and we must allow space for it in our homes. The outside world gets chaotic, and we need safety and peace when we are tired. This is my space for resting when my shoulders droop, and I feel heavy in my heart.

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Keep Writing!

Casting about for a worthwhile blog topic, I clicked around online, reading many great pieces of solitary thought, and stories about historical and inspiring characters, and many other things…but I knew I was procrastinating.  I had no inspiration of my own, yet I had the itch.

I decided to write about character development.  When humming along in a story, I do not construct characters.  They appear from the mists fully developed and with their own opinions and dialects.  My job is to “record what they say and do” which helps my story along in ways I never could have anticipated!

Gunny is one character who came into life in just that way.  Here is an excerpt:

         “Name’s Gunny.  What’s yours?”

         “William O. Barrett, sir, please to make your acquaintance,” Billy responded automatically, still staring at the food and ignoring the man’s outstretched hand.

           Gunny turned his back on the boy and turned toward the fire, pouring a cup of coffee into an enamel cup.

           “Here you go.” he said, rising and turning, holding the cup out to Billy.  Billy took it without saying anything, and took a careful sip, testing the heat of the black liquid before taking a mouthful.  The aroma filled him as much as the liquid itself.

He blew across the top of it before taking another sip.  He leaned against a large granite boulder.

           Gunny stared hard at him while he drank.  The old man’s powers of observation surpassed even his own awareness of them.  They had built up naturally over time.  His curiosity had a patient quality about it, a self contained and non interfering quality.  In the same way that Billy had assessed the red mare, Gunny now assessed his visitor, sensing more than knowing that something was amiss.  He checked the fish, and turned it over in the pan, saying nothing.

          Billy’s voice cut into the atmosphere, saying,

          “What happened to the mare?”

           This truly surprised Gunny.  His preliminary assessment of the kid did not include the power of observation as a probable skill.  Gunny did not respond.  It wasn’t out of rudeness, but was simply due to the fact that he did not know for sure what was wrong.

           In the world of horsemen silence is preferred to openly stated ignorance.  The ultimate way to display ignorance is to pretend you know more than you do. 

Gunny is a favorite character of mine, even though Billy is the real protagonist in my novel. I believe I may write another where Gunny plays a featured role.  He is an amazingly generous  person who helps to save Billy’s life and later dies at Billy’s hands when the situation is reversed.  I would love to develop a novel about Gunny’s life and times.

I like to use dialogue for character development, allowing each character to speak for himself.  Gunny is a man of very few words, but even his reticence relays much about his character.

It was somewhat frustrating to me as a writer to record Gunny’s contribution to the story.  I had to allow him time to show me, through his body language what kind of person he was.  I had to see deeply into him, and respond to the very few words he spoke to Billy.

I had no idea who he was when I first encountered him.  But as he revealed himself to me, I would laugh at his jokes, marvel at his kindness, and grieve for his losses.  I cannot fully understand how he “came to be” but to me, he is a very real human being.

October 4, 2012

Psalm 137

Psalm 137 (Photo credit: Mouse)

To be on the planet at all is a stupendous opportunity!  Each of us has the chance to improve conditions here, clarifying and identifying situations that could be ameliorated by our special attention.

How frequently I become overwhelmed with “things that something should be done about”!

It is so easy to get lost in the labyrinth of problems.  The planet is too large for me!  The old platitude occurs to me today:  Bloom where you are planted.  I have always chafed at the idea of being planted.  I yearn for lightness, airiness, freedom.  Still…

We all need the good earth to pull sap into our veins, to stay hydrated, to fully live.  My daily practice is to open the Holy scriptures before the day is fully underway.  Here is what I do:  I ask God to lead me to what I need.  Then, I open the Bible randomly to a place in the Old Testament, the story of the Jewish people, the chosen family of God.  His miraculous interactions with ordinary people all through it make exciting reading.  Though often callous and rebellious, God reached down to guide and protect them from their many enemies.

Next, I open randomly to the New Testament, reading the pages in front of me, and finishing at least one chapter.  They are usually short.  The sayings of Jesus are in red ink in my version.  But quite often, the passages I am reading are all in black.  Both provide immediacy and intimacy for me, drawing me (small inconsequential human) to know there is a plan, has always been a plan, and I am counted.  I have a part to play.

Next I go to Proverbs, a book of 31 chapters, one for each day.  Pithy, wise, simple to understand, if I were only be able to read one book, it would be Proverbs.  Today is October 4, so I read Chapter 4.  Verse 23 is circled in my Bible:  Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.  I ponder its meaning.

Last of all, I randomly select a Psalm.  For me, the Psalms are a book of comfort and reassurance.  Once I have read a chapter, I feel refreshed and close my Bible.  The entire process is about 15-20 minutes.  If I want to, I can read more, but normally I do not.  I am a busy girl!

The immediacy of knowing God is with me, even when I seriously doubt it, as others have done since the very beginning, way before my time, and long before these books were written consoles me.  I relax, knowing it has never been just up to me to solve every temporal problem on earth.  All things work together in some mysterious way.  All we have to do is align ourselves with goodness, love, light and peace, to get a perspective of knowing when we have choices, to make good ones.  It is a VERY individual walk, yet it affects the entirety.

I must bloom today, but could not do so if I had not been firmly planted first.

Think What You Want

A strongly held opinion is not something we arrive at lightly.  Normally it is born of life experience, and grows over time to be reinforced, eventually becoming crystallized into a foundational structure for every action we take on a daily basis.  The belief has become so ingrained we operate within it, without even understanding why.

We arrive at adulthood early in life, but from the day we leave our parents until the day we die, we operate within the life structure provided to us during our formative years.  For this reason, the study of early childhood development has always fascinated me.  When I observe a “dysfunctional” adult, I immediately see a child who has had some kind of early childhood life trauma.  One can only imagine.

I  had to stop trying to do interventions on these people.  They are already lost.  Though this seems a harsh stance, it has saved me from disaster more than a few times.  I am now using my personal energy and resources to assist young families with the arduous task of rearing healthy adults who will eventually do the same when their turns come.  As a mother who has completed the cycle of launching three daughters, I have enjoyed observing them “getting it right” even among huge piles of laundry, and supper boiling over on the stove.  Their children absolutely glow.  And they have friends with kids just like them, which gives me great optimism about the future of this world.

Mom was a school teacher, one of those very gifted and energetic individuals who could bring talent from nearly any child.  When she retired she said sadly, “Give me a child five years old, and I will tell you whether he will succeed or fail in life.”  WHAT?!!  She went on to explain her opinion.  “By age five, the foundation for the rest of his life has been set.  His love of learning, his courage, his willingness to cooperate within a group, and many other things are already in place.  When he arrives in the classroom devoid of good experiences it is nearly impossible to reverse the damage.”

Wow.  This was a very heavy thought for me as a young mother.  I played devil’s advocate, sounding the depths of her position to be sure she had said something she could defend, because if it were true, it meant parents play a critical role in the general health of our entire society.  Before we finished she had explained it has nothing much to do with religion, political views, or even the public schools.  Great kids and bad come from homes.  HOMES.

Now I am a “wisdom carrier” myself, one of the “elders” who observe from the sidelines, watching  young families struggle with decisions that could break a heart, yet still must be made.  They consult me daily, looking for some hint, a clue, some guidance in the process.

A little known secret of the elders is never spoken.  I will take the risk here.  The secret is simply this:  There is no escape.  None.  You must do the work of LOVE, and it takes a lifetime to understand all that this implies.  Ironically, it is what any newborn knows from its first moments.  We are born with every tool, every willingness to learn, every good intention, and too much trust.

All we can do as parents is preserve this or mess it up.  By age five, the windows are closed.  The child enters the larger world with the evidence of our choices.  The most important work we can do in life is to rear children with their tools, their willingness to learn, and their love and trust intact.  If we get even close to right, we have made an impact on the world at large.

When you have time, watch a large group of young children at play, and without a doubt, you will be able to spot a child who glows and a child whose light has been diminished.  One will graduate with honors, and the other one will have a criminal record later in life.  Sound extreme?  Think what you want to.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are  created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable  rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  Thomas Jefferson was referring to men all over the world.  For us to return to sanity in America, we must, MUST extend these tenets to include our children at the earliest formative stages.

Be a light carrier, for the days are dark ahead.  We must martial ever resource, and this includes our foundation, the children.  They are the real wisdom carriers. If you doubt it, sit down and talk to one of them.