Daphne has taken writing workshops with me in various venues over many years. On Monday she was part of the writing retreat I held at Villa Maria del Mar in Santa Cruz. When someone you’ve known for years, one you care for, whose reading tastes you trust as they enlarge your own, gives you a book, you take the book seriously, well, I should say that I do. Yesterday Daphne handed be a small stack of books she thought I’d enjoy. When I thanked her, she responded by thanking me for taking them off her hands! One book in particular caught my eye, written by a writer I’ve never read but whom I’ve wanted to read for many years: André Aciman. The book is Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere. Early in the still-dark morning, I cracked it open and fell into the first essay the way, if lucky, one falls into love. It’s titled Lavender, and is about the magic and mystery of scent—the scent of lavender once took away a migraine Aciman had as a boy. “Smell lavender,” Acimen writes “and, no matter how far from one another, were all gathered in one warm, snug room stuffed with pillows, close to a crackling fire, with the patter of rain outside to remind us our lives were secure.” Thanks, Daphne!
Having felt called outside, I walked into the backyard early this morning, but after daybreak, after having been awake for sometime; didn’t know what was calling me. The promise of rain that weighted the air? I stood looking out at all the early day had to offer and getting ready to come back inside turned around, lifted my head up. There it was: the calling, a rainbow struck across the sky and beginning to fade into cloud. Because then the rain did come! What’s something you’ve seen or lived only because you gave a second thought and looked up or over? You might write it, sketch it, paint it: the thing you didn’t miss out on! Send me what you write and I’ll be sure to thank you.
In all my writing life, the experience was never as joyful and effortless as writing Step into Nature was. My wonder had a daily place to go. I got to write about my favorite subjects—nature, imagination, and spirit, and I had a great agent, publisher and editor behind me. When I wrote Writing and the Spiritual Life, the experience was fraught with doubt, hesitation, and fear. This time though I trusted the process, not that I didn’t get scared (daily), but the fear passed quickly unless I clutched it, and most days, I didn’t do that. When I did begin to clutch it I went out to the woods and walked it out; nature transforms fear into wonder. Not that fear is always a bad thing when it manifests as good doubt, that is—the motivation to question and look more closely. Then fear propels the work rather than hinders it. The happiest six months of my life were those I spent writing mostly in front of the fireplace beginning in the pre-dawn mornings, walking daily in the woods, taking dictation from the trees. My joy was a billowing cloud floating me into my work.