Writer’s Block? Maybe You Need A Mission

I’m serious. Writer’s block is serious. It can be devastating. I’m currently hosting a blog talk radio show called Inspirational Storytellers, and as you’d naturally expect, my goal is to be inspiring. This is actually not difficult for me. Because no matter what I am going through personally, I have this bubbly sun-shiny personality that always sounds enthusiastic. (Except when I’m really low, and then I keep my mouth shut and write in my journal. Or watch DVDs.) Doing a radio show is in itself an upper, so no worries there.

But this isn’t about radio shows per se. This is about writing. And what to do when you feel you’re stagnating, or you can’t seem to move forward, or can’t seem to get to it period.

I have been struggling with these very things in recent months. A year and a half ago I published my first book, my first memoir, and began the sequel immediately afterwards. I was extremely excited about covering new territory after being submerged for so many years in one particular time-frame—albeit a twenty-seven-year time-frame. The sequel was to be about what came after. Many readers expressed enthusiasm for the next book, and that helped. But not enough. Not nearly enough.

I can imagine that even if I had a hefty advance from a publisher for this next book, I still might be flummoxed. Because this has absolutely nothing to do with someone waiting for pages or printed pages or bound pages or digital pages… This has to do with my personal objective. Or lack thereof.

One of the most valuable comments I received from my advisor at grad school was, “Why are you telling me this?”

Boy, what a wake-up call! Why indeed? I had quite a story to tell, if I could just get it out, but until I found the raison-d’etre, forgeddabout it – as we say in Brooklyn.

It has not been a simple matter, deciding who I am writing to this time. For the first book it finally became clear to me, when I asked the question in the very first line—What did I know and when did I know it? I then proceed to spend the next three-hundred and fifty pages explaining the answer. Tellingly, I subtitled the book, “The Memoir That Solved A Mystery” Because it was true.

nancy-wait-wc02
watercolor by Nancy Wait

With the second book, the sequel, I have wanted to tell the story of how I became an artist and why, and what it did for me, and what it did not do. It sounds fairly straight forward, yet I have found this is far from the case. I have one of those minds that needs constantly to be held in check because it tends to go all over the place. It’s why I literally throw away hundreds of pages. But never mind about that. It’s part of my process and I’ve learned to live with it. The thing is, and what I wanted to say today is, that it struck me this morning with a great deal of force—that what I must do is see and perceive my overall mission. I could say ‘goal,’ but mission tends to put it on a slightly higher level. Of course my goal is to finish the thing…but what is my purpose, my mission, the thing I need to keep reminding myself each day that will keep me focused on reaching my goal?

It is not just to spill my guts or bleed on the page or ‘just’ put it out there, tell my story. There’s got to be a why. Why should you bother to read it? Who am I writing to? I cannot emphasize enough how important this last thing is—who am I writing to. This “Who” is not going to change the facts of the story, but it is going to change my slant. It is going to affect the presentation.

Well, the good news is that this morning I have made a decision. I will write to that uncensored aspect of myself who understands my truth, and will not judge. Because often it is not enough in memoir to merely change names—or even lump characters together. It’s the truth of ourselves we’re dealing with. And we have to know why we’re telling it, and the purpose behind it—in order to have the strength and courage to carry on. And I have to believe, have to have to have to, that somewhere, there is someone, who needs to hear my truth. Not just my story, but my truth. Why else would I be struggling so hard to get it out? Because perhaps I hear a voice, calling me from the future, pleading with me to spit it out already.

 

Originally posted at www.nancywait.com  Feb. 15, 2013

 

   

 

“Brief Shadow Song”

In this smoking dream

Unplug yourself from the ghost of life

All the entries that describe you

As the last person down the hall

No one understands

 

A stranger that travels beneath

The leather sun

All meaning extracted

From the corralled herd

 

You have become sea glass

Worn polished

But no longer clear

 

Search for triggers that blaze the soul

The tears runway that almost blind you

Bind you in love

 

Keep searching for the lucid way

The song words of giants inside you

Grow antlers to collect stars

Keep sharpening the horizon

Scrape the sky for new stories

 

Try reading the slow curve of the day

The brief shadow songs

The ancestors drum for you

Paint or carve you in their art

In cave walls standing next to you

With medicine they open you up

 

Driftwood guitars

Releasing your see lanes

Oceanic skirmishes with the self

Storm seeking beauty

 

Breathe beneath the sea

In the calm wilds of third eye silence

Swirling wolf hairs in the eddies

Scribing the earth for you

In river to sea words

 

Now read the parts of you

You thought were gone

The ones that fell out of this world

And reunite in this other you become

Something you cannot teach touch express

 

Its how the bear’s dream in hibernation

Passes through the earth

In ritual energy

Scales of bone

Sound of planet

Until you disappear at the edge

Of a chanting memory

 

Presences pass through your sky mind

Giant shadow heads of trees

Winged beings land

At your cradle board

 

Their linear notes season your heart

“You’re called to see this so you will

Be what will help awaken earth’s people

Many will recognize you as one of their own

For others you’re a poem that drifts out of reach

Unable to fix linear meaning in the honey hive

Of your pollinated worlds”

 

 

The Elephant and the Rope

“There are no failures, just experiences and your reactions to them!” … Tom Krause

 

There is a story about a man who, as he was passing some elephants, suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not.

 

elephant2He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” the trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”

 

The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.

 

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once before? I think every one of us can relate to this story and the feeling of having failed at something or another over the years. Over time, we can begin to think that we are not capable of doing a particular thing and we accept this as the truth and limit ourselves to a very confined world. We think to ourselves ‘ah I tried that before and it didn’t work out, what is the point in trying it again and wasting my time, I don’t want to look like a fool!’ And this is how we start to shrink and contract and settle for a life that is ‘safe’ and ‘less than exciting’. However, if we could look at all the so-called ‘failures’ in our lives as just stepping stones along our path and decide to respond in a way that is positive, saying ‘ah well, at least I tried, now I know what doesn’t work so it makes my next attempt clearer!’ Treat it like a process of elimination, gathering momentum and staying focused on what we would like to achieve, trying this way and that until we succeed!

 

So, don’t limit yourself to a small world, stop confining yourself to a life that is restricted, break free of your mental boundaries and expand out into this magnificent kingdom that we live in! The world is your oyster! Don’t confine yourself any longer to the belief that you can’t do something, shatter those thoughts and beliefs and spread your wings and fly! YOU can do anything you set your heart on, if you just believe it! Go on, just try it and never mind what the outcome is, just enjoy every experience you encounter in your life and embrace every bit of it! So what if it takes you 10 attempts or 100! Which will you regret more…the things you did or the things you didn’t do?! It’s all a journey so let’s make it AWESOME! You will never know how far you can go until you have the courage to do it! And if you fall, just get up again… that’s all!

 

So until next time,

 

Love from me, Marie X

 

 

The White Hart

It seemed that summer might never come that year but after weeks of rain the skies cleared one night and sunrise, silent as snowfall, brought sleepy gasps of surprise. Beyond the mouse grey farm cottages, acres of farm land and poppy fields rolled down to the river and, in the distance, a pale mist hung over the Ridge. Today the whole world shone, vibrated with colour.

 

John Deaville saw none of this. For him it was an unbearably quiet morning; today even the tractors and farm dogs were still. Watching from an upstairs window he sipped his coffee slowly. Before him he saw a great complex of cattle sheds and warehouses overlaying the little farms, and fields of high yield crops. A vision spoiled only, he thought sourly, by the wretched tenants. What a backward lot they were with their drab little cottages and namby-pamby herb gardens, their noisy brats running wild in the fields. He scowled at the mouse grey buildings with their broken fences and ramshackle sheds, swiftly demolishing them all in his mind.

 

He put down his coffee cup and drew the heavy drapes carelessly across the window, knocking over a red lacquer vase of dead tulips as he did so. The last of the petals wavered on their stalks and scattered their pollen. He mopped up the watery dust with his sleeve and sank down onto the bed and yawned. On the floor – and at odds with the orderly opulence of the room – were boxes filled with books and next to them an open suitcase still unpacked after weeks. Shirts, poorly folded, lay alongside jackets in need of a hanger and crumpled tee-shirts, already worn.

He wriggled out of his damp, stained shirt and threw it on the floor. He had found the tulips on the steps of The Hall, still in bud then and stuffed into an old watering can. His first night here – how many weeks ago, was that? Six maybe: no more. There had been a little box of provisions too; a loaf of bread (still warm), and six eggs, each carefully wrapped in tissue. With equal care someone had inscribed a message on the side of the box: Welcome Home.

 

His hand strayed to the empty side of the bed where a notebook lay. There was a letter too, crumpled as though having been squashed into a tight ball and tossed into a bin, then later retrieved, smoothed out as an afterthought. He held it against his chest. How could this ever be home without Jenny? He turned over and his heart turned over too.

 

Tempted by sleep he closed his eyes. Even in his dreams there was a distance between them. He saw her, pushing an empty pram down the lane at dusk. Evening after evening she’d made the same solitary journey, walked for hours, glad to be unobserved as night fell. Neighbours had looked away, stayed away, unsure of words that might fit. He remembered the cards, lined up on the mantelpiece, gathering dust, and the day he’d taken the call: We did all we could but he just came too early.

More cards arrived and Jenny would arrange them around the room, Congratulations and Sympathy in uneasy accord. Months passed and still they filled the mantelpiece, the table; the shelves: Congratulations! On your loss …

 

One evening, seeing her leave he could bear it no more. ‘Tim!’ He lunged at the cards, swept them to the floor, stamping and cursing. That night they clung together, stirred by the passion of strangers or lovers, never to meet again: illicit, irresistible. Never again, were their thoughts. This is the last.

 

In losing their son they had lost each other.

 

Later, much later, there were girls, five, six, he had lost count – but each time he told himself: This is the last. In losing his son he had lost himself.

Moving here to The Hall had been his attempt to make things right, start again but in the end Jenny had refused to come. He picked up the crumpled note and read it again, eager to find the hope that had so far eluded him. ‘I can’t leave here, John,’ she had written. ‘This is Timmy’s home.’ The words had a dreadful permanence about them, as though etched in stone.

 

Soon his thoughts were interrupted; from above came the now familiar sound of footsteps, the to-ing and fro-ing of someone busily occupied. They had become company almost; a reminder that he wasn’t alone, even though with Mrs. Bloom the housekeeper gone, the house was empty.

One evening he took a torch to search the attic but found there nothing but a number of broken picture frames and a grimy old notebook.

 

He fingered the little notebook now, its cover inscribed with a pair of interlocking initials, EC, and the date 1897.

Jenny would love this, he mused, recalling her fondness for old things. Resigned, he wrapped his thumb around the finger where his wedding ring had once been (there was still a little groove left there – how soon might that fade, along with everything else? He wondered). His thoughts turned back to his land.

 

Over the weeks to come he set to work on his land development plan. The days would be taken up with calls to fertiliser companies and meetings with lawyers whose job it was to find loop holes to eject the tenants. At night he would dine alone, a place set for him by Mrs. Bloom. Sometimes, bored, he took a tray to his room and turned his attention once more to the little notebook.

 

One day he examined the deeds of The Hall and found that it had once been the home of a 19th century artist called Edgar Childes. Childes, he discovered, was best known for his paintings of country life, in particular the hunt. Wealthy and ambitious with a reputation for extravagant living, Childes was a keen huntsman himself. His work had been much sought after by the new middle classes, landowners, and industrialists, although at the height of his popularity failing eyesight brought his career to an abrupt end. He died, a recluse, in 1897.

 

One evening after supper the footsteps in the attic became unusually agitated. He had already begun, painstakingly, to transcribe the faded notes. The first entry was dated 4th April 1897:

Commission for H.A.B. almost done.  A skilful work but lifeless, I cannot say why. Vision much weakened.

There followed a series of sketches, clumsy and childlike, mostly struck through or scribbled over. The last few pages of the little book were the most difficult to read since by now Childes’ sight had almost gone.

 

7th June 1897:

Purposeless. Can no longer see to write, let alone to paint.

A stain, possibly port wine, obscured most of the next page, then:

 

5th August 1897:

Late one evening an intense light filled my studio, discernable even to my failing sight. It
troubled me and I fell to my knees. Suddenly, as though perceiving my concern, a gentle
Presence touched my hand. Was it an angel? I wondered, having a sense of wings
brushing my skin. Next, although in truth there was neither a ‘ before’ nor ‘after’ for it all
seemed to happen at once, a beam of light hit me between the eyes. Inwardly I saw a
screen on which I watched my wasted life play out. Clearly I saw my own greed, the
gambling and womanising, the bloodlust of the hunt and the suffering of the poor beasts. And finally, I saw my empty work too – the trivial themes I had so often repeated to please
those with more wealth than discernment.

 

John Deaville moved to the window and looked out on the quiet fields. He was not often given to self-enquiry but now uneasily he began to consider his own life. Below him in the courtyard a tenant farmer was tinkering with a broken down van. In his mind, though, John was touring The Hall. As if in a dream, he passed through doors rarely opened and explored rooms that were never used. He wandered like a ghost, a visitor in his own home, but aimlessly and without the curiosity a stranger might have. ‘Do I need all this?’ he murmured at last.

 

At this point a shabbily dressed woman had joined the farmer with a flask of tea. The two were soon chatting and laughing together, their faces bright. Children darted between them, clutching at the adults’ sleeves, hiding, playing noisily. After a while they trailed off together, arms around shoulders, into one of the little cottages.

Envious suddenly and unbearably sad, he returned to the little notebook.

 

At this point, Edgar Childes continued, I could no longer bear to look at the screen
and concluded that I must either be mad or about to die. But then the images began to
change. Bewildered, I watched now as a precise three dimensional likeness of a young
deer appeared to me, a white hart with almost human eyes – a preview of what was to be
my last and finest work. Suddenly my heart melted as the beast met my startled gaze. Such compassion shone from its eyes that a feeling of aliveness and purpose returned to
me. Guided by the Presence I reached for my brushes.

 

From that day onwards my sight weakened – yet my vision grew! The Presence remained
close and for seven weeks I worked, often without sleep. Sometimes I would drop brushes
or stumble into cupboards, yet I always trusted that my hand could not fail. Each colour
would be mixed exactly as it should be, each loaded brush placed where it would reveal
the splendour and dignity of the Hart. Then, all too soon, I heard: ‘It is done!’ and the
Presence left.

 

John Deaville put down his pen. The footsteps had grown even more restless now, running noisily the length of the Hall. He got up and began to search the unfamiliar rooms – sitting rooms, library, and study – and climbed two great staircases to the gallery and bedrooms. ‘Can this ever be home?’ he wondered. Then he opened the attic door once more, casting torchlight onto rafters and boards. Stillness. Silence. Three times he circled the attic and was about to leave when he spotted something – face down in the darkest corner – a large canvas, blackened with grime. He carried it down to the dining room and gently brushed away layer upon layer of dust until at last an image of a white hart emerged. Its face had a curious and almost human expression. ‘Come home,’ it seemed to be saying. ‘Come home.’

 

*

 

The next morning Mrs. Bloom arrived early. She placed porridge and toast before him and then brought in a bowl of freshly picked strawberries.

‘A little gift for you from the tenants, Mr. Deaville,’ she announced cheerfully and drew back the heavy drapes. Dust motes danced around her on ribbons of light. ‘What a grand morning for the market.’ Then seeing the White Hart with the human eyes she nodded, as though unsurprised and opened the windows wide. A little crowd had suddenly gathered in the courtyard below.

‘Have you seen, Sir?’ She beckoned him to the window.

 

The broken-down van had now been mended. Its engine was ticking over noisily while a group of farmers loaded great crates of vegetables and fruit on board. They were the finest crops he had ever seen. Whole cheeses, boxes of eggs and pots of preserves came out of the little cottages, followed by trays of bread, pies and fruit cake. For the farmers’ market, Mrs. Bloom explained. Visitors from the city paid good money for organic food.

Bewildered, he surveyed the tenants’ tiny plots and chicken runs. ‘How could they possibly produce all that with so little between them?’

 

But Mrs. Bloom didn’t really need to answer for somehow he already knew. They did it together. What little they had, they shared.

The White Hart with the human eyes stared out from its frame and caught his eye. This land belongs not to you but to all who live here, it seemed to say. And looking into the Hart’s eyes he realised exactly what he now had to do. ‘What a wonderful idea, Mrs. Bloom,’ he said excitedly.

 

Suddenly light-hearted he climbed the stairs, three at a time, to his room. There he opened the heavy drapes and diamond clear in the morning light he saw the land as it could be. The fields were now home to woodlarks and butterflies; there were hedges of cherry and alder fruit, orchards and allotments. And even the tenants’ mouse grey cottages were freshly painted now, their fences mended. And like Edgar Childes he found his own vision was growing too. He imagined the rear of the Hall where a sign announced Deaville’s Cottage Cooperative and out buildings that now housed an organic shop. For all to share! He smiled and thought of Jenny and how proud she would be.

 

‘Come home to me, Jenny,’ he whispered and already the distance between them seem to have disappeared. Impulsively he reached for his mobile phone and imagined the empty rooms now filled with friends and family – and maybe more children of their own. Come home, Jenny! He wrote.

This could be your finest work, a voice in his heart said.

 

Then he began to unpack at last, first the books then his clothes, still folded in the suitcase. It was nightfall before he had finished and by now the tenant farmers had returned. Together they lit a bonfire and began to prepare a shared supper.

He listened again for the footsteps but tonight, for the first time, there was no sound, just the laughter and singing from the gardens.

Why not join them, John? The voice in his heart prompted. After all, what have you to lose?

Only my loneliness, he replied and, as he hung up the last of his shirts in the wardrobe, he felt almost happy.

 

He glanced around the room for anything he might have missed, smoothed the bedcover and rearranged cushions. He unravelled a bunch of sweet peas and placed the lacquer vase back on the table.

Just then his mobile phone began to beep. I miss you too, the message read. He smiled. I have, he decided, finally come home.

 

 

© Moyra Irving 2011   

 

 

Guitar Man – Award Winning Inspirational Short Film

A street musician, ‘Guitar Man’ has a gift for playing the blues on his guitar and connecting with others. His love for music and for people supercedes everything else in his life. Although on the surface he doesn’t have much, that doesn’t stop him from sharing two simple messages, ‘that we all have a lot in common’ and ‘that our true gifts reside within ourselves.’

 

Please enjoy this award winning inspirational short film by G. Brian Benson.

 

 

guitar-man-awards

 

 

     

 

“The Marian Gate”

‘Thank God that’s over.’ Shiva consulted her watch and followed her father out of the church. She hung back, brushing imaginary flecks from her coat while her mother and the others moved further down the drive.

‘Siobhan?’ Shiva looked up. A stranger in a long coat had come close and brushed against her. She felt the warmth of his arm against hers while together they watched the coffin disappear into the hearse. He blew his nose noisily then passed her a small card which she stuffed absently into her bag.

‘He was proud of you.’

‘You knew him well then?’ she snapped, doubting that anyone had really known her father well.

 

He was an awkward young man – a colleague perhaps, wearing a coat that was too big for him, borrowed no doubt for the occasion. And as though reading her thoughts he looked down at his coat and smiled. ‘My father’s,’ he said with a shrug, and offered her a cough sweet from his pocket.

Shiva glanced at him blankly. He frowned as though searching for something more to say then, sensing her indifference, hurried off down the drive and into a waiting car.

 

Shiva un-wrapped the sweet and pressed it against her palate with her tongue. Its pungent juice dribbled from the sides of her mouth, reminiscent of cherries and bringing with it her earliest memory. They had always been her favourite fruit, had even decorated the curtains in her room; little bunches of them on glazed cotton, bright and exotic, in a very ordinary room in a very ordinary house where nothing ever changed. She would watch them brighten whenever moonlight flooded the room. One night, unable to sleep, she had gone to the window and stood in the little gap between the curtains for they never quite met. Touched by the light, she imagined herself made transparent and bright like the cherries.  Soon she floated down the stairs in her nightdress, weightless as a ghost, and hovered by the open door, quivering like a cat about to pounce on a leaf. The moon cast long shadows across the garden. Her father stood smoking, his gaze fixed on a lone star. Sensing her presence he turned suddenly.

‘Hey, Shiva!’ He reached down and gently lifted her up, pulling his jacket around her. She burrowed inside for warmth and its rough tweed collar tickled her cheek.

‘See the Great Bear?’ He began to draw a shape in the sky with his finger and when she peered out from his jacket the sky was now full of stars.

 

Shiva bit into the sweet, its edges now rough against her tongue. All that was thirty years ago.

A crowd had gathered around her mother now. ‘We’ll miss dear old Ted,’ they said, patting her hand.

‘Old bastard,’ Shiva muttered, spitting out the last of the sweet. She edged round the side of the church and squatted on a gravestone, breathing in the cold November air. She rummaged crossly in her bag for a tissue and, finding none, dabbed her eyes with her sleeve and brought out instead a brown leather wallet. Instinctively she looked around her and, seeing no-one there, opened it. She felt inside its lining and drew out an old paper driving licence, then carefully removed a photograph concealed in its folds; its worn edges suggested that it had been there for years. She narrowed her eyes, taking in every detail: a young woman in a blue dress smiled back at her nervously. She was undeniably beautiful, wearing lipstick and pearl earrings, her hair dressed in the style of thirty years ago. On her lap sat a small boy with a serious face; a boy who must now be almost as old as she was.

 

Only a week ago she had collected her father’s belongings from the hospital: an old tweed jacket and the wallet which for days she had kept close, turning it out from time to time in the vain hope that it might offer up some clue to the unfamiliar couple. A name perhaps, or a telephone number: anything to end the giddy suspicion that her life was about to change.

The photograph, she decided, was not for her mother’s eyes. Soon she knew the wretched thing by heart, every detail – the crumpled edges, the blue eyes, just a shade darker than the dress, the nervous smile; even the boy’s dimpled knees. It lay heavy in her hand.  And finding it both familiar and unsettling she was unable somehow to throw it away and would return it to the wallet, where it lay hidden once more in the folds of the licence. Her father’s secret – for that is what it seemed – had now become her own.

 

‘Siobhan, where are you? We’re leaving.’ Hearing her name, Shiva shifted uncomfortably on the cold stone. In the distance car doors slammed as the cortège headed off for the Crematorium. A sudden wave of anger swept her to her feet and she ran in the other direction, footsteps clattering on the flagstones.

Leaving the churchyard she stumbled up the hill to Starlings Rise. They had walked here often, Shiva and her father. The air up here was raw and halfway up she paused to lean against an iron gate, her face stinging with cold. Here, half hidden by brambles, a rusty plaque caught her eye: The Marian Gate. Entrance to the garden 1d.

She tried the gate, puzzled that she had never found it before, but it held fast. Bolted to it was a slot machine for old pennies and she searched in her purse for a coin that might fit. Nothing. So, forgetting her funeral clothes she scrambled up the gate, tearing her tights and scuffing her shoes. She fell heavily into the walled garden and caught her knee on a stone and cursed. But the grass was soft underfoot and she sat down, peeling off her ruined tights and began to relax a little, despite her self. Although winter, the air here was unusually warm, and heavy with the scent of jasmine. There were sweet peas and daffodils, bushes of blackberry and lavender. It was truly a garden for all seasons. Sunlight touched her face and she sat, shading her eyes, for a long time.

 

Last night Shiva had taken out the photograph and placed it against a clock on the bedside table. The woman and the boy looked awkward in their unfamiliar setting where nothing had ever changed, where the glazed cotton curtains, though faded, bore the same little bunches of cherries she’d loved as a child.

She didn’t hear the door, nor notice the photograph fall to the ground, dislodged by a current of air.

Her mother stood, silent, in the doorway and the woman with the nervous smile looked up at them both.

Shiva snatched up the photograph (it lay, sticky, in her palm) and searched her mother’s face for some hint of reassurance. But she had closed her eyes as if to wipe out the image of the mysterious woman and her child. Then finally she spoke: ‘Her name was Helen.’

‘Was?’ The old clock ticked in the unchanged room and the cherries rippled on the curtains as her mother closed the door behind her.

‘She died five years ago.’

‘And – the boy?’ Shiva’s thoughts swerved dangerously as part of her, sensing alarm, raced down the stairs. Her words seemed to come from somewhere far off. ‘Who is he?’

‘Edward.’

Shiva repeated the name, her father’s name. ‘Edward?’

‘Yes. Edward is his son.’

Her mother’s lips continued to move but Shiva had ceased to hear. She was now too far away. She had escaped from her ordinary life and the unchanged room and was running, as if to save her life – her old life – where secrets and affairs and half-brothers and cheating fathers didn’t exist. Those things just didn’t happen to people like them. The picture still lay in her hand and she wished only to crush it, to crease the perfect face so it was no longer beautiful.

‘Would you like to keep it?’ Her mother stood near, stroking her daughter’s face, but her words were a long way off too. ‘He did love us all, you know.’

 

Back in the warm garden, a great weight had settled in Shiva’s chest. How could she ever forgive, as her mother had seemed to? She imagined Edward, tucked inside her father’s tweed jacket, sharing a sky full of stars, stealing her own special moment. She had been snatched from his heart by the boy with dimpled knees. She found a tissue, tucked up her sleeve, and blew her nose noisily. Suddenly remembering the young man at the church, she reached for her bag and pulled out a small, crumpled card.

The handwriting was unaffected, simple and straight. The kind of hand you would immediately trust. My name is Edward, the message began.

Just then a gardener appeared from behind a rose bush. His white hair shone in the afternoon sun. ‘I see you came in the hard way.’

Startled, Shiva stood up and blood began to trickle down her leg from the graze.

‘You mean there’s another way in?’

He laughed. ‘Of course, isn’t there always?’ There was such a brightness about him that she felt lumpish and dull in her funeral clothes.

He stepped forward without a word and, raising his hand, passed it in front of her chest, as though swatting a cloud of gnats. Then, without a word, he returned to the rose bush and disappeared as quickly as he had come. The heaviness in her chest had lifted completely and, studying the little card once more, she continued to read:

Like you, Edward had written, I never knew till now. You are as much a surprise to me as I am to you.

*

From beyond the rose bush where the gardener had appeared comes the distant sound of drumming, each beat growing louder than the last, and filling the silence.

At the edge of Shiva’s vision a young woman in a blue dress takes form. The folds of her dress are pulsating with the same steady rhythm as the drum. Shiva’s heart thunders with anticipation. And dropping the card, she realises there is no need to know more – only that Helen had left and in the course of time married Tom; the man Edward calls dad.

Now the blue dress fades and the woman too, but in her place stands a small marble Madonna with outstretched arms. Her father is there too with his rough jacket and his love for a son that he barely knew and, suddenly, his arms, like hers, are open wide.

‘Come home, Shiva,’ he seems to say, and there is, she knows, room in his arms for them all. The statue smiles.

 

Something inside her takes its last breath and, all anger and jealousy gone, she looks down at her knee and sees that the wound has gone too, not the faintest trace remains.

 

*

When the gardener returned the sun had sunk behind the trees.

‘Are you ready?’ he asked and, taking her hand, led Shiva through the garden until they reached the Marian Gate once more. ‘They’ll be missing you.’ He touched the gate and it whinged open with ease.

Home! She imagined them all, warming their hands by an open fire and tea passed around, laced with whisky, and little trays of sponge cake and buttered scones.

‘Do you remember?’ they might ask, and remind one another what a good life old Ted had lived. And perhaps he had after all.

‘I have a brother,’ Shiva thought, seeing the young man in his stepfather’s coat and her magnificent mother serving him tea, adding a drop more whisky for the cold. ‘Imagine,’ she said aloud, ‘a brother!’

 

Outside the garden the wind had risen and rain was coming in from the sea. As the gate swung shut Shiva turned to thank him, but the gardener had already gone. Then, kicking up the gravel on the path, she hurried, spiralling down the hill, her feet barely touching the ground.

‘I’m coming home,’ she sang and her voice was carried on the wind, lifted up like a kite. ‘Home… home…’ echoed around the hills and the cliff walks and danced with the air currents until it was almost lost amidst the seabirds’ cries. And, as the tide broke against the rocks, the sound of her own voice rose up and stirred her heart. ‘I’m coming home!’

 

 

“On Being Inspired”

 

Watercolor by Nancy Wait

When I’m inspired, it’s like being in a whorl of surging energy. I’m focused and centered on what I’m doing. I’m totally absorbed in the moment. I’m not “thinking,” I’m doing. And if my “doing” is a thought process, then the thoughts seem to be coming through me, effortlessly. I can be lost in an activity for hours and not know where the time went. It’s what athletes call being in “the zone.”

For me, it’s being in touch with my muse. My muse can come from different sources, but there’s always a sense of reaching. Of trying to capture a feeling or an idea that feels just out of reach. So I have to raise myself up a little, or stretch down further. And always, always, open my heart more. Open to more feeling, more love, more trust.

 

When I’m inspired, I create something new. Or I take what I’ve been working on, to a new place. I take it to a new level. It always feels like a higher level, or a deeper level. But even when I’m trying to express the depth of a feeling, I have this sense of having to reach higher for it.

And I know why this is. I know it’s because I’m in a physical body wanting to express a thought or an idea that’s beyond me, that resides in my spirit.

 

I also know that spirit is matter, but moving at a much faster rate. Too fast to be seen on the physical plane. So I must move faster. I must accelerate. Speed up my vibrations. Break through my old patterning.

 

You can, you can

take yourself in and UP

through the spire itself.

As in, aspiring

Through the whorls of energy

to the rings of the spiral

As in, grabbing hold of the spiral

As in, swinging with it

As in, spiraling with it

As in, allowing yourself

to be carried away.

 

Energy speeds for a new cycle

A new turn in the spiral

As in, acceleration

The mind speeds up, and UP

(It may feel like we’ve slowed down)

But we stop being bogged down

By doubts and thoughts of failure

Before we even begin

Because we are UP

In the spire

Aspiring to be more.

 

As children it was easy for us to be inspired. Anything could inspire us. Alphabet soup, fire trucks, paper dolls, empty boxes—what didn’t inspire us then! Every day something new to absorb, no backlog of disappointments weighing us down.

 

Watercolor by Nancy Wait

Being inspired is like being a child again, which Nietzsche describes so beautifully in his parable from Thus Spake Zarathustra. “Finally, after defeating the dragon of “Thou shalt”, the creative spirit is born into its final metamorphosis: the child. As Zarathustra says of the child: The child is innocence and forgetting, a new beginning, a game, a self-propelled wheel, a first movement, a sacred “Yes”. For the game of creation, my brothers, a sacred “Yes” is needed…”

 

 

   

 

“Story-Me”

Why should we write our stories? Because in the words of Baba Ram Dass :

Ram Dass

Everything changes once we identify with being the witness to the story instead of the actor in it.

For now we are watching the action from above, or from the side, or from the wings. We have some distance. We are an observer. Everyone in the story, including ourselves, is now a character. This is taking our lives to another level.

Story-Me means “make-it-into-a-story.” It means taking an episode from your life, something memorable because of the emotions attached to it, and creating a story around it, a narrative that doesn’t part with the facts of the situation, but one in which you are the observer, the witness to  what is happening. This retelling is like being “in it but not of it.” Not this time around. This time around you can see it all playing out in hindsight. This time you are wiser. You know the outcome already, but you are re-creating it for us, your listeners.

 

* Story-Me

When you Story-Me*, you are taking your experience to a different level. If the experience was a painful one, there can be healing through writing it down. Through bringing the events up again we can hold them in the light. We can step back, change the view in the viewfinder. Re-evaluate. Perhaps change our perception.

And then there is the sharing part. Reading a story aloud opens up the throat chakra.

In the process of creating story, we are outside, looking in. We begin to see ourselves as a “character” in our own lives. Why is this good? Because when we are able to observe ourselves, we are no longer at the mercy of our thoughts and feelings. We still have thoughts and we still have feelings, but now we are observing ourselves as we have them. Journaling does this for us as well, albeit in a private way. Journaling doesn’t necessarily open up the throat chakra or take us to another place. But it does make us more self-aware.

When you are able to re-create your life or part of your life as a story, your life starts to turn into an art-form. Maybe you start to see the plot, or the theme. Or what it has been so far.

As we move into the accelerated evolutionary pathway, the telling of our stories has never been more popular. “This flowering of story-telling is certainly no accident,” says Daniel Pink.

My own understanding has grown immeasurably since I began seeing myself in different stages of development. I’ve had to practice self-forgiveness when I realized how I was denigrating my younger self for not being more aware. There were so many hidden messages I had been giving myself that didn’t even come out until I began putting them on paper.

The more we can story our past experiences, the more we will be able to create the story of our future. Perhaps it will then be a story of the soul. Perhaps we will become more conscious of our soul lessons. If nothing else, writing out our stories brings us to a new level of awareness and understanding.

The whole point is to go deeper into our experience, remembering who we were in order to know who we are.

*Story-Me is an expression I came up with when I was fantasizing how wonderful it would be if I could listen to a person’s story, (meaning a sad, bitter or tragic one) and then reinterpret it for them – much the same way as I reinterpreted my own for myself in The Nancy Who Drew. Which is to say I took the experience of betrayal and punched so many holes in it – until the Light of the Soul came pouring through – and lit up my life!