Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Artist’s Spirit

Greetings fellow story lovers,

A friend who wrote and illustrated children’s books, Marsha Dunlap, died after a long battle with cancer. One of the first times I met Marsha was during a blinding snowstorm. A small group of us had rented a bed and breakfast and hired an award winning author, Marion Dane Bauer, to critique our work and share writing techniques. Despite the weather, we were not going to miss this opportunity.
My friend Eileen and I drove together, peering through the whiteout at the unfamiliar roads. We shook our heads. We’re crazy, we both agreed. Schools had closed early, the radio reported the state patrol had shut down the interstate, and the author’s plane was delayed. Our writing was important, but was it worth risking our lives? I squinted to help Eileen figure out what was a road and what was a ditch. We kept going, bucking through mounting drifts.
We pulled into the bed and breakfast’s driveway, white-knuckled and shaken. We found out Marsha had called and was also struggling to plow through the drifts.
Throughout history, many people have felt a powerful drive to pursue their art, whether it’s dance, music, painting, or writing. Native Americans sometimes worked eighteen-hour days just to survive, yet managed to grab a moment to create beautiful beadwork or baskets. Pioneer women, with work-worn hands, squinted in the candlelight stealing moments to cut leftover fabric and design a kaleidoscope of colors for their quilts. Why?
Is it that we long to set ourselves apart by our individual gifts? Or do we hope to bring joy to others? Maybe it’s our desire to pass something of ours onto the next generation. Or is it our longing to find beauty in an imperfect world?
Back at the bed and breakfast, the phone rang. Marsha was lost and the owner ventured out to help. After a tense fifteen minutes, we heard the cars pull in.  Marsha flung the door open, snow dusting her colorful cap and scarf. “I made it!” Like a tiger’s eye gem, her eyes sparked with warmth and fire. I would notice that same vibrancy in all the years I was privileged to know her.

Marsha Dunlap

The last time I saw Marsha she looked shrunken, but the spark and passion were still there. She told the writing group who met at her home that she’d spent a few minutes painting. I know my mouth dropped. Here she was, having to deal with all the pain and grief of preparing to leave this world, and she had spent time in her studio.
Why do people go to such extraordinary lengths to create?  Marsha’s work was an essential part of who she was, as necessary as water, breath, and sunshine.  Her memory lives on as a testament of a person’s drive to create lasting beauty.
Storysharer would love to hear testaments about other people who have gone to great lengths for their art.
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Silent Rock

Greetings fellow story lovers,

I felt it again yesterday while hiking–the heartbeat of the woods. Does the pulse I feel come from all the creatures watching as I walk down their sun-dappled trails, or from all the past creatures that have lived here? Did they, too, enjoy watching the woods change with the seasons?
In the winter, icicles hang frozen as if time stopped the instant they formed. I imagine Ho-Chunk villagers gathered in a crude cave near the fire telling stories. Two sisters huddle together to stay warm and laugh as a boisterous man animately tells about nearly stepping on a hibernating bear. On the longest night of the year, they would have hours for storytelling.
In the spring, the Dogtooth violets come out. I pick them and envision a girl stooping to do the same. She weaves them into a crown, then laughs at something her raven-haired friend says. The violet-laden girl places the crown on her friend’s head and they dance in the sunshine.

In the summer, I look up toward the ridge. There, in the trunk of that pine tree, I visualize the face of a Ho-Chunk hunter. I imagine him preparing arrowheads while his wife weaves a basket. Two children chase one another around the trees and up and down the slopes, laughing.
In autumn, I listen to the geese migrating overhead and wonder if the hunter’s arrow could bring one of them down. A fast-moving stream evokes the picture of a young boy tying a hook made from a goose’s wishbone onto a string of sinew. He baits the hook, then throws it out where it’s swept downstream. He doesn’t have to wait long before there’s a tug and he pulls in a shiny trout.
Silent Rock is misnamed. The aura surrounding the place speaks volumes to me. Storysharer would love to hear about places that speaks to you.
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Moth Tears

Greetings fellow story lovers,
Poet Ted Kooser inspired my muse with the following poem.
Lobocraspis Griseifusa

    This is the tiny moth who lives on tears, who drinks like a deer at the gleaming pool at the edge of the sleeper’s eyes, the touch of its mouth as light as a cloud’s reflection.  –Ted Kooser
I have seen many wondrous sights in nature.  My first occurred when I was a teenager rabbit hunting with my father.  I glanced up at a nearby snow-covered hill and saw a brilliant red fox.  I took in every strand of his bright fur, his alert ears and moist eyes.  For a second before he darted away, we looked at one another, snapping together a link in the chain of life.
After that moment, I paid closer attention to the mysteries in nature, marveling at all I could see and all that wasn’t revealed.
Blazed in my memory is the time a few years ago when I awoke early, looked out the cabin’s window to the lake, and saw five river otters playing along the shore.  That following winter, while skiing through the woods, I encountered an otter again, this time bounding through the snow like a deer.  On another skiing adventure, I spotted a face appearing to be a mix between a fox and a teddy bear and got my first glimpse of a pine martin.
I’ve observed turkeys strutting and ruffed grouse drumming, a rare Hawaiian goose honking and a mongoose prowling, but I’ve never had a moth, whose mouth is as light as a cloud’s reflection, drink from my tears.
I’ve kayaked next to a beaver, heard it slap its tail sounding like a gun shot, found its lodge, leaned my ear toward the cozy hut made from sticks and mud, and been treated to the sound of the babies inside mewing like newborn kittens.
Several springs ago while hiking alone near our cabin, I spotted a fawn still wet from birth.  I bent down on my knees, and, wonder of wonders, the fawn approached me.  I held out my hands and felt a surge of joy unlike any other as it licked my fingers.  I ran to tell my husband and when we returned, my joy was complete as it tottered toward me and later wanted to follow me home.

This fawn seemed to want to say hello and even licked my hand.

I’ve had a newly born fawn lick my fingers, but I’ve never had a moth uncurl its straw and take life as it licks away my tears.
I’ve seen mint-green luna moths flying in the moonlight and watched hatching painted lady butterflies unfurl their wings.  I’ve spotted mated turkey vultures flying into their cave nesting site.  I’ve witnessed young great horned owls and newly fledged ospreys peer over their nests, as if anxious for their adult life to begin.  Mating eagles and sandhill cranes have performed elaborate courting dances in my presence.
I’ve walked the same hiking paths as moose, elk and buffalo.
Once, I unknowingly shared a blueberry patch with a black bear.
Yet I’ve never had a moth light on my cheek while I slept and drink at the gleaming pool of my tears.
Or have I?
Storysharer would love to hear bewildering questions you ponder.
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Writing is Like Hatching an Egg

Greetings fellow story lovers,
Two ducklings hatched out of my incubator this spring. I love this project. Although it demands hard work and patience, it can produce joyous results.  The same is true of the writing process.
Stories begin with ideas. The fertile mind incubates a nucleus of an inspirational thought, rotating it in the mind so it’s warmed thoroughly. The shell is fragile and the wise writer doesn’t open herself up to criticism by speaking of her project until it’s fully formed. The project needs to be turned several times a day (28 days for ducks) until the last three days of incubation, when the writer sits at her computer and hunkers down. The pipping of the shell can take hours, but then, oh glory, she greets the warm sun, waving her rough copy to the heavens.

Amy with newly hatched mallards, Maynard and Mallory

She looks around. This needs tightening, that subplot isn’t working. Once fully dry and feeling fluffy, she’s ready to introduce herself to the world. She may waddle about, quack via blogs or face to face, and meet fellow story lovers.
To view my excitement when my first mallard hatched, check out Maynard’s entry to the world at http://bit.ly/JnvKYo.
Storysharer would love to hear tips about your writing process.
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