The Inklings

While on vacation in England last month, we spent some time in Oxford.

The main attraction (for me) was Bodleian Libraries’ current exhibit:  Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth.

It’s a breathtaking exhibit where Tolkien enthusiasts can view the first manuscript of The Hobbit, hand-drawn maps of Mordor, letters of correspondence from C.S. Lewis, family photos, favorite pipes, and the rocking chair in which he sat when the sentence, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” suddenly came into his mind.

The exhibit will be coming to New York in January (see the link on the blogroll to the right)!  I plan to go again.

After we left the exhibit — and strolled around a bit — we ended up at The Eagle and Child.  This is the small pub that J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams (and friends) would regularly meet over a pint (or two) to discuss poetry, politics and ideas for their stories.  

I sat at the bar with my husband and son, drinking a pint (of Coca-Cola), overwhelmed with the fact that I was sitting in the very place where these great literary minds created The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the world of Narnia.

Here is where the The Lord of the Rings was read aloud by Tolkien himself.  C.S. Lewis, a positive force in his life, had encouraged him to finish the tale.  Although Tolkien believed Williams was not enthused with his work during their meetings, five years later, Williams asked to borrow the manuscript.  He read it in its entirety and conveyed to Tolkien that he experienced a sense of freedom — and a connection with freedom — while he read it.  He may have been slow with his support, but…better late than never.

I’m now reading The Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter, which casts light on the lives of these three writers and the dynamics of their personalities.

Writing is a solitary practice, but with support and encouragement from friends, great art is realized.  Great literature also has a ripple effect in that it inspires others to see the world differently and allows our imaginations to be set free.

I, for one, am thankful.

Sharing our stories

The practice of writing is a solitary one.

Often that practice can make one feel distant, which I suppose makes sense.  Stories of imaginary lands, essays about childhood memories, and faces that only you can see in your head are yours…and yours alone.

That’s why it’s so important to share your work.

The gap – that distant feeling – will shrink once you’ve actually communicated those memories (or stories)  to a reader. Waiting until your work is perfect, in my opinion, is not a good plan. Not a good plan at all.

Because…it will delay joy.

My story, Imperfect Steps, is included in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Yes!

Stepping outside of our comfort zones, “submitting” to life,  and saying “yes” to new challenges is the message of the book which is available now where books are sold.

May we all step outside of our comfort zones, try something new, tell our stories, care less about what others think and feel that sense of newness and joy that comes with saying yes to new adventures.

LUNCH

Saying “yes” with fellow CSS contributors in NYC

The Chicken Soup for the Soul series continues to encourage millions of readers and also supports important  anti-bullying programs, animal care and rescue, and various charities, all of which empower others that are in need.

Knowing what makes you happy

You must be the judge of your own happiness. – Jane Austen

I need to remind myself of this fact every so often.

When I experience the pleasure of simply staying home, by myself, I find that I am my best creative self.

I’m not surprised, however, when I’m crafting a poem, journaling, or reading, to hear the world whisper into my solitude saying, “Come outside and play with others.”  And I must admit there are a couple of options today:  the Mets game or meeting a friend for a hike.  But the simple pleasure of sitting in my little yard just journaling (and listening) are more appealing.

I know what makes me happy. blog happiness

Knowing what makes you happy is key in finding a sense of peace and moving forward.

To sit under a cloudless sky, happily in solitude, interrupted only by the occasional Blue Jay or Cardinal may seem boring to most, but it allows my mind to creatively wander.  I can actually hear myself think — and the voice I hear sounds calm and wise and happy or better yet…content.

We all deal with that constant nag of being productive, but it is sometimes just that…a nag.  The nag’s voice is not so sweet, and frankly, it’s annoying. So, I’m ignoring him today.

Hope you all find some creative solitude this week…

let your mind wander…

and find your happiness.

Downtown Poet (Edna St. Vincent Millay)

Yesterday after work, I took a walk by the former home of Edna St. Vincent Millay at 75 1/2 Bedford Street.

I suppose the address includes “1/2” as the building itself is squeezed between two others, uniquely the slimmest on the block.  A befitting address, I think, as her voice was poetically unique.

Her middle name derives from St. Vincent’s Hospital (now closed) on 12th Street.  It was the hospital in which her uncle had been healed just before she was born.  She actually preferred being called Vincent, but her teachers refused to use the name, one calling her ANY female name but Vincent.

The shops on and around Bedford Street have of course changed, but the spirit of art still hangs in the air; the scent of coffee, bold paintings in shop windows, a flower stand on the corner of Cornelia Street.

From the corner of Bedford, one can see the red plaque that hangs above her former door and the thought of her sipping on a cup of coffee on the stoop beside 75 1/2 made me smile.

The plaque reads:

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) – The irreverent poet who wrote “my candle burns at both ends” lived here in 1923-1924 in the time she wrote The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize.    

The area is still charming and full of life, but (as you can read in her stanza below) there were times in which she craved the open air of the shore.

EXILED

Searching my heart for its true sorrow, 

This is the thing I find to be: 

That I am weary of words and people, 

Sick of the city, wanting the sea; 

Wanting the sticky, salty sweetness 

Of the strong wind and shattered spray; 

Wanting the loud sound and the soft sound

Of the big surf that breaks all day ….

* * * *

I snapped a few photos, felt an urge to blog about it (as I’ve now done), stopped by See’s on West Eighth Street for a few pieces of dark chocolate,

and, although not sick of the city myself…

headed home to the (sometimes salty) air of Long Island.

Dappled Light and Poetry

There is something so beautiful about dappled light.

My hike today included a long path with such light.  It lay before me, like a regal carpet with a welcoming invitation.  “Become dappled as well,” it seemed to say.

And so I did.

I walk steadily along, with a gentle breeze, tall trees on either side; light piercing through numerous spaces in the canopy of branches above. dappled

I brought a poetry book (this has become a new habit). Poetry, I thought, might be considered dappled words and befitting to read in such light.

I opened to the first poem, a well-known poem, a favorite.

Renascence, from The Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay:

 

 

*****

The world stands out on either side

No wider than the heart is wide

Above the world is stretched the sky, –

No higher than the soul is high.

The heart can push the sea and land

Farther away on either hand;

The soul can split the sky in two, 

And let the face of God shine through. 

Excerpt from Renascence, Edna St. Vincent Millay

sun

Wishing you all a peaceful weekend full of long paths,

tall trees,

and dappled light.

 

Writing, Reading, and Listening

It was a long winter.  For everyone.

But today — as I was hiking under a clear blue sky — I felt the weight of winter (finally) lifting.

Oh, the joy!

Nature has the incredible power to change our mood and also open doors of inspiration that allow words to flow easily and naturally.  She also helps us to notice beauty (if we listen).

During my hike, halfway up the hill, I sat down on a bench and took out my paperback copy of The Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay to a most appropriate page:

***

I will be the gladdest thing

   Under the sun!

I will touch a hundred flowers

   And not pick one.

 

I will look at cliffs and clouds

   With quiet eyes,

Watch the wind bow down the grass,

   And the grass rise.

 

And when lights begin to show

   Up from the town,

I will mark which must be mine,

And then start down.

— Afternoon on a Hill, Edna St. Vincent Millay

I’m hoping that the coming (warmer) months will bring more days “under the sun” and will fulfill us all in such a way that the simple touch of a flower will bring us joy, gladness, and inspiration.

To be outdoors — experiencing nature in her full glory — just feels “right,” doesn’t it?

Going forward, I will be spending less time on the computer and more time just “listening.”  

I will not miss my computer.

I don’t think anyone on their deathbed has every uttered, “Oh, how I wish I’d spent more time on my laptop.”

So, enjoy the weekend,

breathe some fresh air,

and spend an afternoon, outdoors,

perhaps on a hill,

and listen.

 

 

 

Dear writers…

Once there was a little document who lived all alone in a WIP folder.  After several years, the folder grew and housed several other little documents.

“One day I will become an ebook,” said the youngest document who was smart, brave, and fell within in a specific genre.  “No!” shouted the others.  “Stay here on the computer, where it is safe and warm, for it is ugly and mean out there in the world.  People will judge you and rate you.”

But the young document persisted, replying, “Although I am safe and secure on the computer, I am not happy here.  I must get out into the world, for I believe in constructive criticism.”

And so, the Master of the keyboard, acknowledging the little document’s frustration, turned it into an ebook.

“I’m alive!” shouted the ebook, who felt very much satisfied with the ultimate decision.  “I’m being read.”

Be brave, dear writers, be brave.

Or at least let your document be brave for you.

Pride and Prejudice and Coffee (my doc-turned-ebook is now alive on amazon.

2018 03 19 pale cover for EbookIt