out in the wilds (another name for birthing a book to the world)
field notes from out on the front (the book-birthing front). . .
well, it’s friday, friday morning to be precise, and none of the heart attacks i was certain i would have or was having seem to have felled me. despite my genetically-certified DNA from a fellow who loved a microphone, and the chance to trumpet his wonder and wit into the world, i’m fairly certain mine has gone dormant. i seem to have found a sweet spot in the quiet of a typing room where thoughts meander and flow, wriggle onto the page (or the screen), and i do my best talking from there. or even better: across an old maple table, a formica slab, or even the console of any old car, where talk is heart to heart, face to face, where you can see the gleam or the tears in the eyes. where you gauge every flinch of the jaw or the cheeks or the itty bitty muscles that lift up the eyebrows, punctuation in facial expression––the very best kind.
if you were one of the glorious flock who popped onto the zoom the other night, when we all lined up in our on-screen window panes, you were there for the glorious highlight of the week. of the eighty who pulled up a virtual chair (80?!?!), some 22 of you were signed on as “iPad,” which made it a little hard to know who was quite whom. but i knew that for the first time since this ol’ chair started gathering round the make-believe old kitchen table, we were as one, unblindfolded, and we could finally see who we were. and hear our real live voices. at least some of us. we might need more zooms. especially ones where my heart isn’t pounding like the kettle drum in the marching brigade.
twas a week full of flurry. twas a week filled with moments i’ll never forget. (a hand-stitched dorset button i now wear by my heart, marsha from low country blessing us with her front-porch benediction, a river of people i love flowing down the stairs of an ever-enchanted bookstore last night, and the little pings of love notes and reminders to breathe from the blessed old friends who know how trembly i get when dispatched beyond the walls of my hermitage…)
i’ve been thinking hard of late of how the writing of a book is a time-lapse conversation––and conversation, to me, is the holy marrow of life. i spent months and weeks reading and writing, pouring my heart and my soul into each page; quite truly, laying it all on the line. and then, as the book made its way down the book-making assembly line, through the chutes and the gears and the binding machines, it all went silent. but now, as the little book lands with its plops on door stoops hither and yon, the conversation picks up again. and that, my friends, is the very, very best part of writing a book.
it’s when i find out which sentence or thought might catch on your heart or your soul. it’s where the interplay of our minds begins a back and forth, often a dance. where i get to find out what cumulus clouds of wonder or wisdom rise up from your reading, where your thoughts leap off of mine and gather their muscle and take on their own magnificent form. that leaves me jaw-dropped.
last night, at the very first in-person book launch, in the lower room of the enchanted bookstore where four of my five books have been officially birthed (the pandemic got in the way of one of the birthings), a beautiful, beautiful woman (one i’d never before met) came up to me, took me firmly by the shoulders, and told me she’d read the book cover to cover, and had figured out its message: “the Holy Spirit will find you,” is what she said over and over. “that’s the message.”
she had tears in her eyes when she said it. and tears i find are contagious, so i had them in mine too. after all those months of reading and writing, i hadn’t quite landed on precisely those words. but i realized that no matter how you define “Holy Spirit” (and i might define it quite broadly), she’d nailed it. in six words, she summed up what it took me 56,000 words to quite get at.
there are comical moments too, as in many a delivery room. (remind me which parts of labor and delivery made me chuckle…) the photo above, a rare inclusion of any image of me here at the chair, captures me following orders. the marketing gurus at broadleaf books, my lovely twin-cities-based publisher, sent me a note and told me to get out and record video befitting my book. not wanting to be on screen myself, i decided to film at the glorious water’s edge of which i write in the book, the grasses where i nestle like quail in the rush. and i decided i’d insert myself by reading aloud, sight unseen. and my beloved blair, who assigned himself to the role of “editorial assistant” this week, decided he’d do the driving and, when i wasn’t looking, he snapped the somewhat hilarious photo above: crazy lady reading aloud a book on earthly wonder into hidden microphone of little glass slab.
the other half of that marketing assignment instructed me to consider making a “reel,” a concept as foreign to me as reading a novel in russian. i had literally no idea how to do this, so i called one of my brothers, whose mastery of reels is legendary among his circles. he reels with abandon, he reels for any occasion. so i knew i was going to the master. as he talked me through, step-by-arduous-step, i followed along. i sat in a chair, and i read a few lines. and then, i must have hit the wrong button, for the darn thing “posted”––aka somehow landed on instagram where any and all could follow along. egad. it had been my first dry run, but i decided to leave it. because life unfiltered, unedited, un-pre-plotted, is where the spice finds its way in.
here’s what life unfiltered might look like:
and with that overdose of moi, i shall leave you in peace for the day and the week.
but do tell: if you’ve found yourself turning the pages of my conversation in paper and ink, what are some of the thoughts that have wriggled up for you? lines that sprung your own epiphany? stories that made you think of your own? tell me what you’ve read from the Book of Nature (the real one, not my little old book)? and tell me the glories and wonders you’ve found. . .
bless you and thank you for being the circle that holds me. the love here is real, even if all the rest is somewhat virtual.
I was thrilled to be at the live event last night and to hear you read aloud to us. Can’t wait to dive in myself and get lost in nature. You were so great and gracious and had the perfect backdrop behind you of some glorious books – Vogue Knitting was directly in my line of vision, a personal favorite!
i literally couldn’t stop thinking about how much i LOVED seeing you there last night, and how beautiful you are, and how touched i am that we’re entwined all these years later. i love that the books were backing me up (literally) so you had something enchanting to look at!!! thank you, thank you. and bless you, love, b.
Personally, I’m certain that the holy spirit has already found you. And in my belief system, I feel that the same holy spirit lead me to the chair, this very special place on the world wide web. Let me explain. Ever since Tuesday night when we met, I’ve been thinking about what you said about the “chair,” how the chair remains a place of civil discourse during times of unprecedented policital divisiveness, times of extreme strife and illness, times of an upturned world. Yes, it has! And as you talked of how greatful you are for that, all I could think of is how greatful I am for this special place to be every Friday, a safe place you created for all of us. You have been here to shield me from some of the toughest times in my life. You provided an escape from the sorrow when my mom died and the traumatic births of my first grandchildren. I very much feel I need to thank you and the others who gather here for providing me with much needed comfort during some tough times. Thank you immensely.
PS. I love the dorset pin.
ohhhhh, dear JACK! it’s true, however one defines the holiness that draws us together, the stories of who and how the chair has been found never cease to astound me. i wonder if i look back whether i can find the first time you commented. it’s been years and years! i was looking specifically for you the other night! it was really hard to look down at the window panes (i would have had to scroll through three screens) while keeping my brain on whatever sentence i was trying to say…..we need a directory of faces and stories and wonders and wisdoms. i’ve kept my zoom subscription for now, in hopes that maybe we will have an occasional chair gathering. in smaller, more intimate circles we could have the most glorious conversations. complete with our mugs of tea, coffee, or whatever. isn’t that dorset pin amazing. every drop of it by hand! how amy threads through these teensy-weensy beads i’ll never know…..
thank you for your profoundly kind words. the thing i most know is that the chair is now a collective. we all together and entwined have made this a place where gentle kindness and warm wisdom are the coins of the realm….xoxoxox
have a blessed weekend. xox
BAM, you are the sacrament of my encounter with God these days. Bless you, thank you, love you! 😘 MJ
❤️❤️❤️ I can only respond in pure silence. Bless you.
Pg 36: “Oh, that I might remember in my own hours of littleness, of feeling “less than” in a world of seemingly endless bigness and boldness, that my quiet little violet of a self is more than enough.”
Pg 54: “…the goose overhead, the heaven’s muezzin, flying in chevron.”
Pg 56: “I have come to the place where the prayer comes. And so, too, comes the One who utters in wordless reply.”
Pg 58: “Expect heartbreak. Await healing. Start all over again.”
I had to give up folding over pages because I was folding every one. Positively brilliant. And I need hope so badly. Thank you for an ample supply. xoxo
ohhh, beautiful nan. it’s funny how as i was writing certain lines i had a sense i was whispering truths to especially trusted friends. i think that’s something of a beginning point for writing from the soul. and in some of the lines you pluck here, i was whispering to you. 36 and 58 maybe especially…..
this book is so much more a conversation than most could possibly imagine. but the truth is i write in solitude but i am always in the communion of saints. you live here at my writing desk with me. xoxoxo