Another day, another story!
Lots of news from the road and now that I have finally found a plug and set up somewhere that Seattle security will probably ask me to LEAVE and stop acting like I work at the airport -so I'm down to - fast and furious. Expect errors and detours. Gotta talk fast before their on to me.
If you saw the last few posts on Instagram or Facebook you know that I'm up to something. That something is what part of The Thread I'm holding onto. For many years, many, many years actually I have desperately had the overwhelming and powerful desire to get my MFA. But circumstances of various orders and gremlins and minions kept me off that path. VERY SPECIFICALLY - I have desired for ten years to get my MFA from the Seattle Pacific University Low-Residency program.
Last year as I was teaching one Saturday for the A Novel Idea program one of the incredible students showed me his recently published novel. When I opened to the dedication there was my name and some of the most beautiful words anyone could ever write about me and my teaching creative writing. Something about it hit my like an inspired rock. That day I picked up that thread that is my true life and applied without any knowledge of what to do but take the next step. And the one after that.
My acceptance into the program was one of the happiest days of my life and one of the defining moments of my life. The continuation of me taking the next step and the following one has been the result of a tremendous outpouring of support of all kinds from my family and special friends. (And more on that later and back to that special student in another blog.) And a shout out as well to my Parnassus Books 'family' for your enthusiastic support and understanding.
On other fronts some people have asked, River, when you're already a published author, have received accolades from readers and blessedly from some reviewers ( I tell my Mother all the time, 'You know, some of those novels were called 'masterpieces' by reviewers and that's not easy come by. (I jokingly add that she is not impressed but she has made this part of my life possible in more ways than one.) So in spite of that and Because . . . because . . . there is this thing, the thread. That cannot be ignored. Call it intuition. Call it spiritual inspiration. Or just call it the itch that will not be denied.
Let me offer the words of William Stafford as my greatest response.
The Way It Is
There's a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn't change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can't get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time's unfolding.
You don't ever let go of that thread.
So that's my answer and I'm sticking to it. (Just had to answer some questions about baggage claim as I am potentially breaking some rules by setting up behind the unmanned info desk and airport model so that I can bogart power for the laptop from the only available plug in. The trick is to act like you belong, know what you are doing, and are very busy. Wearing glasses helps too. )
So - here comes that shuttle and I want to share with you a lot of things. I want to talk about the nice people I have met on this journey and the people on the plane and the mother in front of me that I wanted to hit with a magazine because she might just have gotten frustrated with her daughter and pinched her lips together to make her quit talking. Since I couldn't see through the chair in front of me I just leaned forward and asked if I could offer her a pen and paper for her daughter to draw or show her pictures. And she said - NO, she's just tired and should be asleep. - Then she loudly told the little girl that she was being a DISTURBANCE and bothering everyone on the plane and I decided I didn't like that woman and I haven't prayed for her but that might be a good thing to do. I did lean forward again through the crack and say NO, SHE is not being a disturbance. SHE is not bothering me.
And I prayed for a different lady on the plane who was nice (without her knowledge) and another (ditto) but - - (had to just stop and give out some information on shuttle locations. I'm getting really good at this. I could be Airport Answer Girl. PS - you can just make up anything. It makes people happy to get an answer from anyone.)
Update sidetrack - I stayed at a cheap by the airport kind of hotel for the night. I must! Share my hotel room view with you but it is on my Instagram if you check. The people at the desk were delightful in spite of the room or my lack of sleep. I made it to a Thai restaurant next door for dinner last night and brought the rest back to the desk clerk and asked her if she had had dinner or liked Thai food. She said she had never tasted Thai food. So, I gave her that food (I hadn't eaten off of for the record) and said you are in for a treat! And the reason for this is that as the world seems to get increasingly crazy, as politics in this country seem to be dividing us at the rate of insanity, I have determined my only way to combat this is to perform extra acts of kindness everyday of my life. To operate from a place of being absolutely determined to become more human, more understanding, more accepting. To offer to hold a screaming toddler for a mother to do her banking, or help someone load groceries when I'm already sick of dragging my bags around. I'll let people in in traffic and do a million other things that might normally cross my mind that I am too busy to do. The only thing I know to do to combat this tidal wave of hatred is to step up my kindness game.
So - off of rant and back to the moment -
She was still on duty this am and said it was one of the best things she has ever tasted. it was yellow curry chicken and potatoes.
Gotta dash. More soon as I can but I want you to know I started the day out celebrating the journey by doing Elaine's dance to the tune of Patti LaBelle's Neutron Dance. :)
Keep it real. Hold fast to your thread.
Sometimes you have to listen to your inner instincts. The small voice we hear that whispers, this way, follow me. For some it is the voice of God. For others their sixth sense. For me I’d say it’s a combination of both considering they are one and the same.
Fifteen years ago I moved to Nashville following that voice. That’s the short and simple version of the story but it was that clear. Nashville. No other place on a map filled with other places, many options. I knew no one in the city, had no relatives in the area, and no particular job. It was the city where I had to be. I’ve never regretted following that voice but never more-so than last Monday when the celestial heavens aligned.
While others across the nation had carefully plotted their path for many years I lived oblivious, caught up in the daily rapture and apocalypse of my own life. It was only a few weeks ago that I actually realized the eclipse was headed my way. Or that I was headed toward it. Then I began to feel a bit unsettled. I blamed it on the news, the rolling tide of my emotions. On deadlines or fatigue. On just being me - artistic and emotive, passionate.
Plans were in the making all around me. All of the big events, major parties, bands and eclipse watching gala's. Glasses sold out, were recalled, sold out again. I never bought any. I bought Guinness. There was that small instinctual voice again. Alone, it whispered. So alone it would be. I would sit on my porch, watch and wait with expectation. Experience the unknown of what would come.
I woke up Monday saying Eclipse Day! As if it were Christmas morning. I was giddy. Such a silly word but I felt silly not melancholy. I worked on a short story about a woman waiting for the eclipse. The refrigerator man came to repair the fridge. I looked at my watch. I told him that it was about to penumbra was coming. I told him he could take a Guinness with him. I might have been hinting.
My house is circled with trees. Large Oaks of every kind, Elms and Hickories. I love the light passing through the filter of their leaves. The sun on their bark, the fog that moves through their limbs in the early morning dawn. I have a relationship with these woods.
I sat on my tiny, front porch, watched the shadows shifting forward, opened a beer. There was the singing of the cicadas and the birds. Dogs barked off in the distance down the hill. It was the middle of the day but night was falling, the shadows lengthening. There was the slightest of breezes and I felt the coolness on my skin as the day gave pause, began to bow to the passing of the moon.
I watched this approaching night for the hours it unfolded and then at the speed of atoms splitting, totality crashed over me. It was as if the keys of a thousand doors were unlocked at once and forever. And it took my breath. I whispered Jesus, Jesus, Jesus - not in fear or even in prayer - but in awe and wonder. A word of praise and thanksgiving to have lived in this moment in time, to have lived in the path of this happening and to be experiencing it in such an immediate and profound way.
I stepped out into the open beneath the dark sky where stars had appeared. Fireflies lit up the grass everywhere as if they had been standing by waiting for their orders to lift off. There are few moments in life this powerful and profound.
Day began to slide out from under the moon again, sweep across the yard, shadows being chased away by light until the fullness of day returned. The sound of the crowd miles away at the Riverfront irrupted into cheers.
Late that afternoon I watched the Nasa coverage, the interviews with people from all nations. This moment so exciting, so breathtaking. So unifying.
The following day I was in Parnassus Books greeting customers Visitors who had traveled all these miles to be right where I was all along. Sharing stories of where they’d been, how they’d watched. One man from Texas looked at me and said, “Totality is everything.”
"Yes," I said. “90% isn’t good enough,” he continued, adamant about this. He was preaching to the choir. “No sir,” I said. “Its totality or nothing at all.”
Another couple had traveled from Tampa. The man told me that they had run from the clouds farther up in Kentucky. Ended up pulling off of the interstate and watching from a field behind JC Penny. The woman said it was perfect. Her eyes were still filled with the wonder that I had felt. “An Indian man from New York and his family stood next to us,” he said, “and he watched the whole thing with his hand on his heart. He told me afterwards that in his religion this was a spiritual experience.” He smiled at me, tired from so many miles but so fulfilled. “I told him, buddy in my religion it’s a spiritual experience too.”
Another man told me, “You know, for just a minute we all stopped fighting. It wasn’t about politics or arguing. We were all in the same place. Suddenly we were all on on the same page.”
Eclipse books were on sale. People were buying them up. Opening to the pages for their next pilgrimage. Marking the trajectory. “Argentina,” one woman told me, “I was born there and haven’t been back in thirty years but I’m going for this.”
I realize that the world has scoffers, people who fall into the category of - What is all the noise about? Big deal. Sun, moon, eclipse - I get it. And those that say, Well, that was an interesting show, now let’s get back to business. But there’s another group. The ones who were deeply affected when those celestial bodies aligned, who felt an awakening of bold Illumination. When for those few minutes we became one people, looking heavenward, eclipsed by the vastness of the universe, our politics as small as those distant stars in the horizon. When all the pleasure and pain of simply being human traveling through this vast corridor of time was the greatest miracle of all.
(Note to reader. These blogs are written for your pleasure and to keep the well of words pumping. They are not proofed, corrected, or improved. Read at Your Own Risk. Comma queen buddies - you might as well go ahead and faint now.)
35,000 feet plus some.
My head against the window watching the clouds from the last seat. rear seat. last seat tot the left. corner pocket. No transfer, no connect. I’m rushing into a three hour seat and wait for the right shuttle bus to carry me to another shuttle bus bound for Anacortes where I’ll sit and wait again for the San Juan islands ferry that will eventually land me into the waiting arms the amazing musical genius of, Susan Osborn and Orcas Island.
I’m no newbie to this. It’s my third rodeo for this gathering which readily explains that box of red wine traveling in my suitcase. A long across the entire country travel in a day can be rusty work. And overtired is trouble. It's where the gremlins of regret snatch and bite and find their entrance to worry my mind to hell and back. AT some eventual night's landing I'm planning to raise a boxed glass to God and celebrate the Kindlings tribe. The gremlins can take a hike.
This is a journey I planned to fast and pray for. Very specifically. As the Kindlings enter a new season with the founders if not stepping down trying to step aside there are questions about what does the future look like when the pure Divine magical inspiration and talent of Dick Staub and Nigel Goodman have brought the Kindlings to life (a serious nod to the time of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien and their group hanging in the pub, drinking and discussing God and literature and faith in such a passionate way that the pub stayed packed with people simply trying to get close enough to overhear the conversation.
Turbulence. Seat Belts. No one get up. The plane shifts sideways, rides pockets of unseen air in a blue sky, rattles, hushes passengers.
I didn’t fast. Not alcohol. Or sugar. Not sweets. Or meat. Or movies. Nothing. However - prayed I did. In my passing thoughts, in my love and concern and care for this group that has consequentially touched my life. Who remain my tribe.
Then there was that whisper of spirit, those words of wisdom that surface that some of us attribute to God and some of us attribute to the Holy Ghost, and some of us to the Universe, the all-knowing collective consciousness, our ancient ancestors. The bottom line is when wisdom speaks there is a cool confidence. An all knowing. A spot on, you can bet on the race, take it to the bank - sure thing.
Wisdom sounds like clear, cool water. It makes crystal sense immediately. That voice said - Perhaps the journey is a prayer.
Leaving Nashville this morning, getting on a long flight to Seattle, waiting for hours for the shuttle to Anacortes, then waiting at the Ferry for the right ferry and after an hour on the ferry finally arriving ‘on island’ is indeed a type of pilgrimage. It is a trip that requires determination, patience, fortitude. A touch of adventure and a willingness to ride the raw air rattling us again so that words lose focus. Some clutch arms. Some read on. I’ve fallen asleep in the most notorious of storms somewhere out from Denver. I am untroubled by turbulence. In the air. Totally - unmoved. Beyond reason. Something in me leans in to flight. Soars my heart, clings to the landscape of clouds against blue. Of the earth quilted softly below in a grand scheming pattern that says, Hey now, we’ve got this. The roads all lead home.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been praying on planes for so long that I’ve casted a karma net of good vibes no matter. But this thing I do. I get on the plane. I sit by a window. And as the plane lifts, breaks the bond of gravity I pray for the safety of the destinies it holds. All those lives, all those stories. That their absolute purpose be fulfilled. It’s just what I do.
A thousand years ago my mother and sister saw me off to a small connector flight from Tallahassee to Ft. Lauderdale. Something about the plane didn’t bode well. Walking toward it I almost turned around, found another flight. Later I would discover that my mother and sister were standing watching me board and had that same sinking, pinched feeling that all was not well.
We prepared for take off as I considered my options, of causing a scene and asking for the door to be opened so that I could get off. Then the plane began to taxi the runway and pick up speed. Too late, I thought. Too late, I knew. Then - perhaps for the first time in my flying life as the plane picked up speed faster and faster - and just as the plane was lifting off, I said a prayer for everyone on that plane just as an explosion hit outside the window, the wheels were just lifting off and came slamming back down to the runway, people screamed. It’s a gut reaction. The plane began to taxi sideways backing down. Firetrucks came screaming out and we were calmly deplaned. Somehow a tire had exploded and sent pieces into an engine causing a shuffle of hushed chaos.
Waiting to get off as the firetrucks hosed down the engine, my seat-mate said, “Someone was sure saying their prayers.”
“I was.” Quietly, confident. Sure as a fast dog, a good bet. Crystal clear. There might have been fifty people praying on that plane but the prayer I felt was mine. There was something about that moment, something bold and sacrificial, visceral and passionate, something bigger than I am. Full of more compassion and love than I posses. I assure you.
We boarded the next plane. Same assigned seats. The man turned to me before take off and asked, “So, how’s this one.”
“It’s all good,” I told him and closed my eyes. “We’re all good.”
That night was so long ago that I was not yet a mother, not published, not broken, not rebuilt, not so many things.
Years of blessings and times of trouble. Bouncing, jostling life turbulence that threatened to crack me to pieces. But sometimes the faith I have in reaching my final destination finds me right where I’m standing. At sea level looking out to the horizon and in spite of everything still believing in destiny. In the Divine. In a wild sort of rise above, beat beyond defy the odds. Even down at that brown, broken ground level I'll still choose to cling to the expectation of my life.
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.