Reflections during Lent in Real Time.
The baby has arrived! Ginger called me to the back of Parnassus Books today and said - Hey, River - take a look at this!
The surprise were the boxes hidden away of Confessions of a Christian Mystic which OFFICIALLY arrives April 2. There is a sneak preview party at Parnassus Books March 29 at 6:30 and books will be available.
Me being laden with allergies that do NOT belong to me. I don't know whose allergies these are but I don't want them. This is the kind of thing people go to the doctor to get a shot. I have never been that person but I am the proud owner of a new box of Allegra because that generic stuff I took this am did NOTHING! Tomorrow I have high hopes for a different kind of day.
In the meantime - Catherine was kind enough to let me grab her and ask, Will you hold my book? And she did! And I am dancing for joy - on the inside - because today I was more like . . . a slug. That's how I'd describe me. A slug. BUT ---
Confessions of a Christian Mystic is BEAUTIFUL. I must give kudos to Hachette/Faith Words for doing an OUTSTANDING job and from someone who loves books, printing, publishing, first editions - Oh, MY. I'm a little bit over the moon about.
Mama said - It's bigger than I thought it would be. (Insert your favorite emogi here. ) For me - it was the moment where you are just glad that the baby is healthy. And then you look at the baby and decide it's the most beautiful baby in the world. Because that's the way Mother's are. All babies are the most beautiful. It's creation and new life and glory be.
And - here's another thing. You would be amazed at the difference between an advanced reader copy known as an ARC in the business and holding the REAL DEAL. It's like holding a baby doll and someone saying - this is kinda, like gonna be like your baby. But then the real thing arrives and realize, No, that was nothing like holding the real thing at all.
I started reading Confessions and was surprised at the words. The stories. The honesty. The revelation. The passion. The truth. And, yes, the beauty of it. It is an odd, little quirky work about growing up a little southern gothic girl (that means the stories that surrounded me were of a particular literary genre nature) who was born to be a southern novelist and who believed in signs and wonders.
I read a chapter aloud titled, The Dream Readers and wanted to shout with how much I loved it and how it captured this slice of my growing up, being at my Grandmother's house and the women of the family who believed in Jesus and about signs and dreams and forebodings.
Then I turned to a chapter about the full moon and watching it on a winter night, whispering prayers, being filled with a strange and wondrous Peace and I began to cry. At my own words. Again. I decided to not try to read that chapter aloud.
There's a letter to a friend about being southern and a believer that includes an entire PROLOGUE from a Novel-in-progress, letter to my granddaughters about death and faith and living, a letter to friend about Divorce, a short-short story about a man who sees a light at the window, a chapter where I imagine Death being a train we catch and the angel of Death being a bartender who pours memories and revelations in a glass - one tiny, final sip of this thing called life.
And I fell in love with this story in all it's Southern Gothic, Christian Mystic storytelling ways. In love I tell you. Which is exactly the way a new mother should be. Someone ready to whip out a photo and say - let me tell you about my baby.
I was bold and inspired in the telling. I pray to be so now in the revealing. It's time to take this baby on the road and bring her out into the world to meet you. I do so hope you love her.
God bless and keep you on this March night full of stars and wild with story.
Reflections during Lent in Real Time
I suppose if I could just sit by this window or on this porch and stare off the hill and do most of nothing - I would. A kind of general pause with no deadlines and no chores and maybe not even eating. I would enter into a kind of laziness just from the need to have a good sit and do nothing. I'd let the cows come home and the sun have it's way, rolling about the sky like it does till it gives way to the moon. It clocks out and the moon clocks in. It's the way they have worked things out.
Last night or so ago I thought I noticed that it was a new moon. Not even a quarter. It was a sliver moon but bright. So bright the whole thing shone beneath the clouds like a stone beneath the rippling water. Fading and coming into view. This was a shock to me, this moon news when I was little. I didn't realize that the moon in all its weaning and waxing wasn't literally changing size and shape each month. That like the oceans it was on the move. A trick of light I later realized. Orbits and what not and such.
Today, I had a heated conversation with a friend. Because he was telling me what he got out of my new book, Confessions - and I was telling him what was in it and the two were not exactly the same. Then I realized the differences in what people have said who have read it, where their focus has lead them to the well of what's inside them. How different people have pulled a cup up from those same words and found the flavor something different. Each one of them. This is what I love about words and storytelling. We bring to the page our own story. We read something and walk away from it more of who we were to start with. The best in literature strengthens who we are - even when we are learning something new like the power of light and shadow and the meaning of penumbra.
I have reader friends who tell me that they love my fiction and can't wait for my new novel. And read friends who say they enjoyed the last novel but what they really love is when I tell stories from my past, my childhood or my everyday. Or as one well-known author told me recently - "You know, you've got some thoughts about God in this book and I really like those parts a lot. I think you should write some more stuff about God. I'd like to see what you put down. I'd like to hear your thoughts." Which is kinda funny cause some people think the whole thing is about God.
Have I mentioned lately that I'm writing a book set in Nashville that has bourbon and bullets and dead bodies? Yes, well I probably have a time or two. That novel that's just two weeks away from being finished. The same two weeks as last year. But I'll tell you this, I'm getting closer all the time. And an early reader just told me she was absolutely captivated (at least that's the words I heard) by the story, the characters, the setting and the mystery of it all. That was good to hear being on the wings of this new book coming out. Because I shock myself in the telling of other stories. Of stories from my life. Stories of my faith. Because It seems to me fiction is my native tongue. Normally, it's what I read, the place I find the deeper, universal truths.
But then that wind picks up, I watch the trees bend and sway and blow and realize as I watch them - there is room for everything. That life has a way of making room for some of this and some of that. For the sun to roll around in that lucky ole sky all day and the moon to light our way by night. For us in spite of darkness to walk in the shadows of that bright light and pluck our way all the way home.
Reflections during Lent in Real Time
I'm still crushing on my recent read - Shoot for the Moon about the Moon landing. It covers the life of everyone involved. All the things that went wrong and all the things that went right and how many people it took to pull that together. It also in a real WOW kind of way factors in the times they just didn't know what to do because they had never been at the place before. No one had done it. Sometimes they just had to flip all the switches. And then flip them again. And hope that it worked.
I have a new respect for training. For the hours upon hours that go into learning how to reach for the controls when you go into a headspin unexpectedly and you are out of control at a dizzy, crazy speed. That happens in our lives sometimes and we don't know what to do either. We just keep reaching for some switches hoping that something will help right the craft. Sometimes it's a friend, a phone call. A good book. A moment or a day of quiet. Sometimes it's prayer and sometimes - the old SWP - Steering Wheel Prayer. One where you reach the bottom of your know how and hit don't know what to do next so you just lay your head over on the wheel and say God? And then you proceed in your language with whatever words you have left to offer. If I had been flying to the moon, been in a crazy spin, had the computer spiting strange codes to me that had never been seen I'd have put my head down on the controls a lot.
So, I've also been thinking of Pilots and checklists. Before they can be a 'go' they have to go through the checklist. I have checklist in my life but I don't always engage them. Have you prayed in your centered way? Reflected? Shut up. Stared out of a window thinking nothing? With no agenda? Just staring? If the answer is no then I am going to be flight spinning out of control by five o'clock on the 2nd day. Snappy. Short. No window time. Where the answers on how to handle the alarms going off in my head come to me.
What's yours? What is the thing that gives you training for your life? That helps you find your balance when the storm comes. Because whether the storm comes to our lives or those around us it helps to be the guy on Survivor Island that says - hey - I got a feeling - everything's gonna be alright. Or the Julian of Norwich Prayer - All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well. It's good to offer that to your self and to a friend.
We're all coordinates in a universe full of stars. Our very beings part of the wonder. And I watch as people and their stories criss cross each other in surprising unexpected ways and there is something that happens in the moment that is important. When someone follows their gut instinct to the bookstore and Ann Patchett just happens to walk in at the same time and they have this off the cuff visit about all the book they are reading and the person didn't even realized until after Ann left - she was talking to her literary hero. In Quality time. A gift from no where. not sought or asked for. Just bam - universal alignment.
So while we are training, practicing our spins and staying cool, great things are making room for us. Good things are coming into our lives. Arms wide open. We need to be ready to receive - the unexpected.
This morning the wind howled up on this hill. Rattled and blew things around. I picked them back, they were blown back again. It proceeded to talk. I wanted to hear. To sit and simply write you, this blog, be here but other duties called. And Mama was not pleased because stormy weather and be like that moon landing. Highly likely something will go wrong and we will not be equipped to handle. But we are.
Lenten Reflections in Real time - Day 7
Today has been most sublime. Not all days have gone as such but this morning I woke at 4:45. But felt awake so I thought - I'll check the time. 4:45 indeed. Think I'll go back to bed. Which I did for all of five minutes. Maybe. Then I was up again. Because in some Bizarre dance of planets aligning I slept well. So, I felt READY and WORDY and gonna go worky outty. And all that.
Working out at 5 am is not particularly my goal because that is my time with the Divine if I make it. Which means I stumble to the coffee pot, make the dark brew as the dog Kevin calls it, and then sit somewhere. By the fire in the winter, on the porch in the Summer and say - Hey God. And if God's in the mood to talk I listen. Or try to at least be thankful for sunrise and birdchirp and still be alive when me and cousin Deb frequently say, Man! and the other will say, I know! all meaning can you believe we made it this far and that we aren't - gone on to the other side. Or that we weren't stupid enough to get into more trouble than we got into.
So jumping into some Zoom Zoom class that teaches high stepping round up is not my 5 am style. It's more librarian. Shhhhh. Let's just approach the dawn tip-toeing quietly shall we. Let us not startle the good earth awake.
Then I was able to write on some of this and some of that, on the novel and some interviews for Confessions. And then drive to the radio station in the studio and Interview the beautiful Kerry Madden Lumsford who is one of my favorite people on the planet and as soon as I got off, I was able to jump on the other shoe and being the interviewed guest for Shellie Rushing Tomlinson who is one of my favorite people on the planet and I think - I am ever so blessed to be in the company of good friends. Even on the radio. We simply conversate for the most part. Except Shellie go the giggles because of something I told her off the air and then I got the giggles and if you listen to the interview you will hear some giggling. Praises be indeed. Laughter is indeed good medicine.
I wanted to go downtown to a meeting but I felt like it was time to come home so Mom got a beer and got a glass of wine and we sat on the porch and talked about God and Guinness and old times. And Willie Nelson and some other stuff and the wind blew, picked up, banged the chimes. And coming home was the right decision for all the right reasons. The other thing will be there. Later sometime. Another day. When she has gone away. That may be forever or a day. And, I know that.
The dog pushed his sticky, matted self against my leg and I petted the part of him that is most pettable. His nose. Yes, I realize many things but Kevin has to be heavily medicated to be bathed and shaved. Medicated as in put out. Shaved and brushed in his sleep. His wolfy rescue wildness has not rubbed off. He loves me dearly but there are parts of his body I cannot touch to clean. And he is really serious about those. He takes it personal.
Glory be and glory days and I wish you had all been up on the porch with us. Felt night fall one thread draped around our shoulders at time. The soft snuggle down of evening.
Wishing you well from this hill. On this amazingly simple and simply impossible day of being kept in the company of friends.
Lenten Refections in Real Time - Day 6
Every year it happens. A day that there is magic in the air. Where my spirit lifts off. Where the breeze finds my face, I close my eyes and dare to say - Thanks to the great Divine for my being alive.
Today's that day. The first day that my soul feels the kiss of Spring. It happens every year like an unwatched clock. Always an unaware dance. Slips up on me.
This morning I popped into a cafe for a bite, to work a bit and meet a friend and talk Books and the upcoming Confessions Tour.
The old men were talking. Every city I've ever lived in or city I've traveled to internationally - has a spot, a cafe, a coffee shop, a corner - where the old men talk about the trouble in this world. How they'd deal the cards if the deck was theirs. How they'd call the shots. Tell 'em all where to go if it were up to them. They tell stories of where they've been and what's happened. And, I love to hear them tellin it.
This morning I sat at my table, opened my laptop as my ears picked up the end of a story.
"So, I sent it back," he said, "I told 'em - This one didn't stand up to a snake killin'! So they sent me a new watch." There is appreciative chuckles and do-tells.
I wanted to ask him to take it from the top. Start over. Tell me about the snake. Were you under the house? Down by the creek? Up a mountain? Were you protecting a woman or a baby or an old dog? Did you kill it like my Memaw when a tassle of barefoot kids were screaming as a water moccasin chased us hard and fast around that sand yard. She came down three times on his head with her cane pole and the power of a mad Memaw. Mashed snake head flat and picked him up with the end of the pole and slung his dead into the woods. Did you kill it like that? And just how did that watch get in the way? What did that snake do to stop time?
But I didn't ask. I let the old men talk. You can't interrupt a good tellin'. Not on your first stop anyway. If I was there ever day I might end up being the only woman at that table. Trading talk, slinging stories. But I'd try not to make it habit. The old- men - they gotta talk about tigers and hunts and being wild once upon a time. Once. upon. a time.
Today, good is raining down.
I overheard a woman talking on her phone.
"Uh, huh. Shut your mouth. No, she did not."
I stopped writing. Turned my ear toward her.
"When he said, what he said, what I told you he said, when he said it - there was lightning in the sky. Swear. Swear on my dirty pride."
Now, i made that last part up. The dirty pride. That part is all me. Cause words play off my tongue sometimes. I wrote her words down. But I can't find them.
Today it rained down good things.
The sunshine called me. I found Percy Warner like a creature homing. Like old cat, Jake. I'd been babysitting him for a year till my sister moved again. Then she picked him up and took him to the new neighborhood. Jake walked three days through the woods. Braved coyotes and wilderness to sashay right in the back door and say - , I've back and mean to stay.
The sunshine called me out of my routine, my to-do list, that kiss of Spring - it's some kind crazy intoxication. It is. Me, these old, black boots have wed to my feet. No walking clothes. I. did. not. care. I walked. In the mud. Climbed those stairs.
My favorite new addiction. Sara's playlist on Spotify. She named it, Bookstore Vibes. Bear, the Parnassus Books official baby lover and dog greeter is the Image.
I took Sara's playlist on a little walk. And watched the people running by in gear made to run by with. And people like me called from the cars, staring at the sky in wonder, wondering how they got out of the house, away from the screens, like waking up after hibernation. Sometimes, we find we are fully, strangely awake. The pieces of our life, clinking into place. Right where they belong.
I left the park and popped over to St. George's to invite them to the Confessions book party. (Have I told you the whole wide world is invited?) I ended up aimlessly wandering the back halls and because I am a Trinity Girl I found the chapel. This is a part of my silent world.
A friend recently told me - "Knowing you like I do, I was surprised by your book, Praying for Strangers."
This person knows me more as a bourbon drinking Southern writer. Surprise. Yeah, I get that. It surprises me, too. Not the doing. Not the praying. Not the strangers. Not the stories. It's the telling of it that surprises me. I keep my faith cards close to my chest. Or - did. And, now here comes Confessions blowing down the aisle. Here comes the truth and the Amen.
Today, good is raining down.
Trinity girl in the chapel. Lit a candle for my Mama cause today that was on my heart. Said a prayer. Started to back away but then - there are those other lights. Candles flickering in the dark. Lit by hands outstretched, reaching for something. Answers, faith, love, remembrance. I thought about them, too.
The Church bells ring out in the courtyard. From somewhere down the hall, little kindergarten kids march to a gather in a hall where soon bagpipes begin. I run my fingers over prayer beads. Read St. Patricks prayer. Let tears find me fare-the-well. Sometimes, my spirit lifts off, soars in spite of me. My arms rise to my side and I walk the stairs like a two year told, balancing between here and there, fearless and full of faith.
Johnny Swim sings, Ring the Bells.
Good is raining down.
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