Thursday, October 16, 2014

When Seeking the great, don't miss the small things

Beryl's Fall 2014 Newsletter

October 16, 2014
Cramer Road Maple
From mid to late September, Highway 61 from Duluth to Grand Portage churns with vehicles bearing fall color groupies rushing to catch the fall color before it peaks. This year, road repair interrupted their race northward, releasing long lines of vehicles in batches from enforced delays. They speed off like headstrong students only to encounter another enforced delay several miles up the road.

Unable to race to anything-- hampered not by traffic, but by a fractured pelvis – I was forced to get my fall color fix in smaller doses: the aspen shimmering gold through the living room window, the wild honeysuckle in its ocher and red march across our hillside, the hoard of hungry cedar waxwings devouring the lush berries on our mountain ash trees. On September 21, Bill drove me up the Cramer Road known for its flaming maple arch where I could peer into and under the forest canopy. It feels as if I am standing within a stained glass cathedral. In the past, we've tried to capture the full sweep of mountains on fire with color, but the sights we remember most clearly are views of those mountains as seen through an iridescent film of translucent leaves or the vision of a single orange maple flirting between dark green spruces. Not everyone is satisfied with such miniatures, however. On September 23, Bill encountered a photographer marching grimly along the Oberg Loop. “Isn't it glorious?” Bill enthused. “Hell, no,” the photographer grouched. “It’s past peak. A waste of my time.” Bill wondered how he could have missed the color through which he was walking.

Emily Dickinson captures, in few words, what I've been trying to say in two paragraphs and what we witnessed this morning.

I'll tell you how the sun rose -- / a ribbon at a time.

I've begun rereading Learning to Fall: The Blessings of an Imperfect Life by Phillip Simmons, a brilliant young author who died at the age of 35 from ALS. Simmons brings warmth and even humor to these essays written as the disease drains what is left of his life. When I grouch about the things a fractured pelvis makes downright difficult if not impossible, Simmons reminds me that there is beauty to be experienced now, perhaps in this very inconvenience. I keep going back to this book, learning how Simmons came to terms with his disabilities and finding within its pages insights into how to deal with my own. In one of his final chapters, Simmons writes, “Now I find myself in late August, with the nights cool and the crickets thick in the fields. Already the first blighted leaves glow scarlet on the red maples. It’s a season of fullness and sweet longings made sweeter now by the fact that I can’t be sure I’ll see this time of the year again....”

Updates on the Sequel to the Scent of God
The Glass Calyx: a Mother’s Journey to Forgiveness is now with a trusted final reader and then off to an editor. Of course, as I wait, I’m stricken with all sorts of insecurities. Have I really told this story? Can I really tell this story? Will the reader want to read this story?

Enjoy what's left of fall and may winter prove a kinder relative this year.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Seven seconds of gratitude.

In 1846, Canadian painter Paul Kane, traveled through the Canadian North West, creating one of the most extensive pictorial renderings of the country and its its aboriginal tribes. When Kane encountered  Kakabeka Falls, near Thunder Bay Ontario he named it the "Niagara of the North." Even more beautiful, he claimed, because of its breathtakingly wild surroundings.

When Bill and I visited the falls earlier this week, it was impossible not to compare it with Niagara. Heavy spring rains had turned the falls into a thundering force of such power that we felt the ground shake as we stood overlooking the plunge it took to the churning river below. The spray from the falls whipped our faces and even soaked the boardwalk skirting its depths. The falls mesmerized us and we stood there, almost unable to pull ourselves away from the view

Bill and I visit the falls every few years but have never seen it churning with color like it was on Tuesday. Reds, browns, mother of pearl, gold, platinum.It resembled molasses taffy, I thought. If any of you have ever made molasses taffy at home, you'll know the wonderful luminous bands of color that steak the confection as it's being pulled and molded.

I recently heard a talk in which the speaker recommended spending at least seven seconds of gratitude when experiencing blessing. There's no better cure for depression, he noted, than living with gratitude. Even in times of darkness, blessings large and small surround us. We only have to keep the eyes of our mind open to discover them. Kakabeka Falls needed no prompting to inspire us to gratitude.Just remembering the sight fills me with wonder.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mating Rituals

Yesterday, as my husband and I sat enjoying an afternoon tea break on our terrace balcony, a sprightly dancer on the lawn drew my attention. Tail erect, white tummy flashing, grey wings flaring, he hopped up and down back and forth while courting a not-very-interested female who turned her back on him constantly. He kept working at it, occasionally popping toward her with subsequent in-air tussle. He worked his dance constantly for close to fifteen minutes and only gave up when several other mocking birds descended to join them. Such diligence, I thought to myself. He was so very earnest, so persistent, that I grew quite fond of him. Actually, I'm very fond of mocking birds which nest in some abundance around our condominium in Florida. Their presence could easily convince a snow-bird that the palms and shrubs host an entire conservatory of singing birds. They start their melodic serenading early in the morning, and sometimes even at night, needing only a bathroom light to trigger their rapid fire imitation of cardinals, warblers, jays, hawks, orioles, robins and keep adding to their repertoire throughout their lives.

In a few days, we'll be leaving our mockingbird friends behind and heading home to Lake Superior where they appear so rarely that their presence is a cause for celebration. As our home is still buried in snow, we're taking our time heading north and will travel through the south eastern states to enjoy the azaleas and rhododendrons in bloom. Perhaps we'll encounter a few mockingbirds along the way to bless our journey.



Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kindle Version of The Scent of God Free for download today and tomorrow


I’m thrilled to announce that, after months of effort, the Kindle Version of The Scent of God now appears live on http://tinyurl.com/mexhv9v . I have made it FREE for download on Kindle today, April 12 and tomorrow, April 13. Click the above link and download it for free.

If you don’t have a Kindle but would like to read The Scent of God online, you can download an app at http://tinyurl.com/k59zxqe .

If you read The Scent of God several years ago, you might want to reread it again. I know that while preparing the manuscript for the Kindle Version I had to reread and edit it and actually found myself saying “This is a REALLY good book.”  I hope you will feel the same way after reading it.

Blessings and thanks,

Beryl

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch: A Review

Don’t let the size and weight of Donna Tartt’s 771 page novel, The Goldfinch, put you off.  My first reaction was “Oh Lord, how will I ever hold this, much less read it?” until I discovered that this novel does not need to be pried open page by page, but actually falls open to whatever page you might be reading. Unless you are a discus thrower, however, don’t try to hold and read this book, prop it up on something sturdy and let unravel itself.

That said, the book’s explosive opening – the terrorist bombing of a New York City museum—sucked me into the story. Carel Fabritius’ masterpiece, The Goldfinch, survives the blast (as it did in 1654 when a gunpowder factory next to the artist’s studio, exploded, killing the artist.  Also surviving is a thirteen year old boy, Theo, whose mother dies in the explosion. Theo awakens from the concussive power of the bombing buried in debris along with an old man who points to the dust-covered painting and pleads with Theo to save it. Before dying, he gives Theo a ring and babbles a name and tells him to ring the green bell. What begins as a surreal journey from devastation and loss, gathers momentum as Tartt thrusts us into future, pursuing Toby and the painting through years of suspense, terror and heartache.

While I'd have liked to read The Goldfinch straight through, it’s size demanded I stop more often than I wished. Tartt's eclectic cast of characters leap from page to life: Hobie, the gentle restorer of antique furniture under whose tutelage Toby learns the trade; Toby’s brilliant but gambling addicted father who drags him to Las Vegas where Toby befriends Boris--a Russian teen whose presence throughout much of the book drove me nuts with his unbridled euphoric, eccentric, and peripatetic personality. And then there’s the painting, both treasure and tyrant that drives the story to its violent yet satisfying conclusion.

The book was at least 100 pages too long and I had more than my fill of drug and alcohol abuse running rampant throughout the book  -- from Las Vegas onward. Would I read it again? Perhaps? It’s an amazing, complex, plausible, and gripping and wondrously written hulk of a novel. I wonder if you feel the same way.