Thursday, August 30, 2007

Poetry Thursday~When Morning Comes

When Morning Comes
When morning comes
pale early light
nudges open my eyes
recalling me from distant travels
in the land of dreams
I stumble from bed
heavy hearted and sore
no delight in this day set before me.
When morning comes
black coffee drizzles
into a shiny, clear pot,
preparing to ignite my sleep laden spirit
I lean across the sink
and throw open the window
hoping to clear the fog from my head.
When morning comes
cool breezes caress
tender, dry, skin
anointing me with freshness
I offer my face
to the wide open window
rejoicing in the baptism of possibility~
when morning comes
Thank you, Poetry Thurdsay, for providing a safe place to share and experience the joys of poetry.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Encyclopedia of Me Monday: C Is For...Change

When I was a young(er) woman, I didn't give a lot of thought to creating change in my life. It's unfortuante too, because, whether from fear, immaturity, or just laziness, I let life happen to me far too often in those years, content to sit back in my pleasant existence waiting for new experiences to come to me.

As I surf through my blogroll, reading the thoughts and dreams of so many other women, I'm struck by the scores of "30-something" women who are actively pursing their dreams, making huge, conscious choices to effect major change in their lives. My son and daughter in law are like that, and I marvel at the way they think about and discuss their life plans, putting things into motion to make their dreams come true.

But when I think about making life changes, I feel all adrift, completely out of my element, confused, not knowing where to start. I've read about "vision boards," collages of pictures, words, or artifacts that express meaningful ideas about life and what you would like it to be. Perhaps in putting together my own vision board, ideas about change would become clearer.

Because (contrary to the way I was brought up to think) change can be a good thing. It can mean new opportunities, revelations in ourselves and our relationships. And yes, I suppose those are scary. But the scarier thing to me right now is how stagnant my life seems. I feel the urge to create change this time around, and not rest comfortably in my easy chair waiting for the universe to move.

Earlier today, I came across this quote from a book called Ask and It is Given:

"You ask through your attention, through your wanting, through your desire--that is the asking (whether you desire it to happen, or if you desire it not to happen, you are asking...). You do not have to use your words. You just have to feel it in your being: I desire this. I adore this. I appreciate this, and so on. That desire is the beginning of all action."

What a powerful thought, that the universe can be energized to move by the power of desire. Practicing this concept in life would certainly be courting change, wouldn't it?

"Things that seem too good to be true, usually are," my mother always told me.
And parts of this credo certainly seem idealized. By focusing thoughts and mental energy toward my most desirable dreams, could I have the power to steer life in the direction I (and it) need to move, creating changes that are meaningful and lasting?

I don't mind telling you, my heart flutters with excitment at the thought.
All those caterpillar dreams hanging from the cobwebs in my mind suddenly have an opportunity to become butterflies.

It's a lot to think about on a Monday, but a worthy entry into the encyclopedia of me.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Rung Out

As I write, a chorus of cicadas hums outside, someones small dog (not mine!) yips excitedly, and my neighbors old riding mower grumbles as it rounds the yard. Yet to me, this seems like blissful silence. I just returned from spending the weekend ringing handbells with 13 women!

Yep, I got called into emergency service during the annual retreat weekend for Classical Bells, the community handbell group I played with from 1998-2002. Late last Thursday, my friend Barbara called and asked if I would substitute for a member who had suddenly become quite ill. (If you're not familiar with handbells, you might not realize that the absence of one person in the group can be deadly. Handbells are like a giant piano keyboard being played by about a dozen people, so taking one person away is akin to playing a piano with a bunch of its keys missing.)
My friend Millie hosted the retreat at her home on Lake Huron. It's a huge "cottage," vintage 1940's style, sitting high above the lake. We've had many retreats here, her living room becoming our rehearsal space, where we see the sun glistening off Huron's blue water and catch a glimpse of the freighters and sail boats passing by on the horizon. After a long day's rehearsal, we troop down to the deck built over the boathouse, armed with wine and junk food galore. The conversation gets louder and crazier as the night goes on and bottles are emptied, our laughter ringing across the lake in its own wild musical arrangement.

There are many things I love about being with this group of wild women (and now one young man, aged 27, who adds his own dimension of youthful craziness to this group). We share stories of our lives, our trials and tribulations with growing children and aging parents, and of course, the memories of our musical history together. The concert in Columbus when we processed onstage, took our places, and found a gaping hole in the formation where Julie had taken a last minute bathroom break and managed to miss last call. The 15th anniversary concert when Darlene, our director, literally tore an IV out of her arm, left the hospital emergency room where she was being treated for pneumonia, and played the entire concert dehydrated, with a fever of 103 degrees. Stories of tragedy, stories of triumph, stories funny, sad, poignant, exciting...the culmination of almost 25 years together, making music and sharing experiences.

I doubt that most people realize how much being a part of a musical ensemble is like being an athlete on a team. A group of people with a shared passion overcome their differences to work
together toward achieving a common goal~ winning the game, playing a great concert. In the process, they become this close knit group of individuals, closer in some ways than family. Since I left the group, this is the thing I miss most~and of course, the performances, the chance to "show off" all this musical ability and entertain people.
So, in spite of the noise and clamor of 13 adults (not to mention 81 handbells and 72 choir chimes!) sharing a relatively small space for the past three days, I quite enjoyed my unexpected weekend. I've been tempted several times over the past few years to rejoin the group. I miss being part of that level of musicianship, miss having the opportunity to improve my skills and make really good music. But, as much as I enjoyed myself, as much as I was reassured that I can still "keep up" with this group, I realize I really don't have the time or energy being a full fledged member requires. It was a good reality check, and I need that every now and again.

As I've written this post, darkness has fallen, the cicadas have ended their performance and a few tired crickets have taken the stage. Ice crackles in the glass of iced green tea on the coaster beside me. I'm about to leave my desk, and join my husband to watch a movie on his new wide screened TV. Perhaps not as exciting as an evening on stage, but certainly carrying a magic of its own. Especially to someone who's as rung out as me.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Write on Wednesday-Coming Out of the Writer's Closet

None of my friends know I do it. My husband knows, but basically ignores it, considering it another amusing little project that takes up time and doesn't make any money. My son probably understands it better than most, and does it himself on occasion. What is this deep dark secret I'm harboring? Writing, of course.

"You know the last thing in the world people want to hear from you," writes Carolyn See in Making a Literary Life, "the very last thing they're interested in? The fact that you have always wanted to write, that you cherish dreams of being a writer, that you wrote something and got rejected once, that you believe you have it in you - if only the people around you would give you a chance - to write a very credible, if not great, American novel."

Every so often, I think about telling one of my really good friends that I write. Perhaps my friend Pat, who is all about "living your dreams," no matter what age you are. After all, she's nudged me out of my musical shell, taught me to step outside my safe box and take risk now and then. Surely she, of all people, wouldn't think I was silly, or worse yet, pathetic, for writing stories and poems, for hoarding private fantasies about publishing novels.

Or my friend Millie, my "other mother" as I call her, who always props up my flagging confidence with genuine caring and pride, who simply grabs me by the hand and drags me into places I'm fearful of, assuring me with steadfast certainty that I can handle myself there. Wouldn't she pat me on the back with a hearty "good for you!" and say "I'm not the least bit surprised!"

So why do I always cringe at the thought of admitting my secret aloud to these women, these "real world" friends? Why is it so easy for me to share my writing dreams with all of you, and not with the people who share my life on a daily basis?

Part of it, I suppose, is fear of criticism, fear that they'll look at me, smile politely, and make some sort of "that's nice, dear," remark before continuing the conversation about next weeks rehearsal or last night's episode of "The Closer." That reaction would not only bruise my fragile writing hopes, but could actually damage our friendship.

Perhaps keeping the writing secret is a way of protecting it. Hemingway said that talking about your work weakens it, diminishes the magic it develops as it gestates in your head. Carolyn See writes that "the wonderful thing about your inner life is that it's your inner life." All the while you're stuck in traffic, or sitting through boring meetings at work, or spending time with deadly dull relatives, you can think about this secret world of characters and ideas living in your mind.

Still, I often feel a distinct urge to spill my secret. I'll have it planned out, waiting to announce when people ask "So, what have you been up to lately?"

"Well," I'll offer, "I've been writing - stories, poems, even a novel."

But when the moment comes, inevitably I back away. "Oh, the usual," I'll concede. "Work, some music stuff, taking care of the parents - you know, nothing new." Once again, I pull the writer's closet door tightly closed, hoarding my secret to myself for a while longer.

So, how about you? Have you come out of the writer's closet to your friends and family?


One Deep Breath-Daybreak

stumbling from bed
i bathe in your radiance
my sleepy soul awakes
bright eyed star
your brilliance hails the morn~
sunrise salutation

My day begins early, with a steaming cup of coffee which I carry to the living room, while Jim, Magic and Molly sleep contentedly in the warm spot I've left behind. Pulling open the vertical blinds, I'm usually greeted by this sparkling orb rising above the trees across the way. I lift my mug in a silent salute to this star of stars, thankful for another brilliant daybreak.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Encyclopedia of Me Monday: B is for...

What else~Books!

They excite me, inspire me, inform me, invigorate me, relax me, distract me from worries, and keep me company when I'm alone. My love affair with books began a when I was very small, and will last as long as I hold a book in front of me and read the words.

There are always at least two, sometimes three books piled on my nightstand~or more accurately, scattered throughout the house and even in my car! (Don't worry, I never read while driving, although I've been known to catch a paragraph or two at particularly long stop lights or stuck in a traffic jam.) I've usually got a novel going, along with a non-fiction book or two, plus at least one book on writing. Currently, my reading life is getting out of hand -in addition to all of the above, I've got some background material books to help me with revisions on my novel.

I've been keeping a book journal since 1996, a list of all the books I read during a month, with a "top 10" review at the end of the year. Occasionally, I'll look back to certain time periods and see what I was reading, which author was helping me get through a stressful time, or what characters were celebrating with me when things were good.

Here's what's been on my list this summer:

  • Sisters of My Heart, Vine of Desire, The Uncommon Errors of Our Lives...Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
  • Echoes of the Dance...Marcia Willett
  • The River Queen...Mary Morris
  • The Divide...Nicholas Evans
  • The Post Birthday World...Lionel Shriver
  • The Emperor's Children...Claire Messeud
  • The Chinese Chef...Nicole Moins
  • Shaggy Muses...Maureen Adams
  • The Shoe Queen...Anna Davis
  • Stormy Weather...Paulette Jiles
  • The Revenge of the Kudzu Debutantes...Cathy Holt
  • It's Always Something...Gilda Radner
  • Eat, Pray, Love...Elizabeth Gilbert
  • The Right to Write...Julia Cameron
  • On Writing Well...William Zinsser

Update: Just got home from my monthly trip to the library, and what a haul! Here's what I grabbed up...

  • One For the Money...Janet Evanovich. Lots of people have been recommending her Stephanie Plum mystery series, so I got one in paperback to read on my next plane trip
  • Kabul Beauty School...Deborah Rodriguez
  • The Maytrees...Annie Dillard
  • Sheer Abandon...Penny Vincenzi. I've been waiting for this one...this British author has a series of big, fat, historical family sagas that I can't put down
  • Peony In Love...Lisa See
  • Keeping the House...Ellen Baker
  • The Water's Lovely...Ruth Rendell

Can't you tell how excited I am??? I admit it~I'm a pathetic book-a-holic :)


Sunday Scribblings-Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

I'm in love! This relationship is unlike any other. When we're together, I'm amazed at the way my world opens up, excitement wells in my heart, and my thoughts cascade in so many different directions. Words tumble out so fast, I can barely keep up! And yet, I can be still and quiet too, and never feel pressured to say things simply to keep up my end of the conversation.

Having a supportive relationship like this is a godsend, in a world that's full of uncertainty and mistrust. Many of my friends are floundering these days, unsure about their future, fighting demons from their past. They all long for someone they can trust to share their feelings with. I feel almost embarrassed to tell them about my new love~I don't want to brag, after all. And yet, I want to share my joy with them, in hopes that they could find the same freedom and happiness that I have.

Ahh, yes, Dear Diary, you are my true love, my steadfast and faithful friend. When we meet each morning your clean white pages beckon me, and when I set my pen to those straight blue lines and begin pouring out my hopes and dreams, I feel the pressures of life lift from my heart. As you listen to my thoughts, protecting them from the judgement of the world, you inspire me to pursue all the crazy dreams I've confided in you.

Dear Diary, you have my unending gratitude for your constant love and devotion. And I promise, when I've poured out my heart until your pages can hold no more, you will retire to a safe corner in my home, where I can revisit our special moments together and be reminded of the way you changed my life.

With love,



Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Me, Myself, and I

My friend Barbara is living alone for the first time in over 40 years. "How are you managing?" I ask, expecting her to say she's lonely, lost without her husband's growly voice or crusty sense of humor.

"Well of course I miss Don," she says. "But I have to say, I'm really enjoying my own company!"

What a concept ~ enjoying your own company. In our culture, being a woman alone invites sympathy, pity, even scorn. Women don't get much opportunity to become acquainted with themselves, not with taking care of husbands and homes, children and pets, jobs and hobbies. In the course of a woman's lifetime, she rarely has a minute to be alone.

Another much younger friend is raising her two year old son alone. "Honestly," she said to me, "if I could only go to the bathroom alone, I'd be happy!" Families are a pervasive presence in a woman's life, and even when they aren't physically with us, their needs can still weigh heavily on our minds and hearts. Since I've become my mother's sole source of transportation, I make a point of taking her along on my errands to the market or mall. But the other day, I happened to stop at the grocery store on my way home, and was amazed at how free I felt shopping alone, meandering through the store, checking out when I was finished without waiting for her. Then, of course I was consumed with guilt for having the audacity to prefer being on my own.

While I don't consider myself an introvert, I have always been perfectly happy with my own company. Granted, I've never lived alone-at least not for more than a few days when my husband might be traveling-but I've never feared those hours when the days activity was over and I would be left to my own devices. Probably because I have always had so many interests - reading, playing music, writing, walking - there was always something to keep me busy.

My mother in law had a pathological fear of being alone. She wanted someone with her all the time, and would complain bitterly about "sitting here in this apartment all by myself." I don't think she ever liked herself very much, so it follows that she wouldn't enjoy her own company. Now she's surrounded by people all day, in the "family room" of the Alzheimer's center, and ironically enough, this probably suits her very well.

Women are taught to be nurturers, to think of others needs before our own. But we must learn to love our own company, enjoy taking ourselves for walks, to the movies, even out to dinner. It is in enjoying ourselves that we develop the confidence and assurance to become stronger women in all our roles - wives, mothers, children, and friends.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Encyclopedia of Me Monday: A Is For...

Monday's are kind of strange days, aren't they? I always have this urge to write, but I sometimes feel a bit of let down from the weekend and not very inspired. Or else, I'm all excited from my weekend, and have so many things I want to write about, I can't seem to choose just one. Now, thanks to Bella Dia (whom I found via Patti Digh, at 37 Days) I have a new Monday project~The Encyclopedia of Me. A catalog of life, one alphabet letter at a time...what fun! Bella Dia's plan is to post on a new letter every day, but my thought is to make this a Monday project, so I'll have a way to kickstart my writing week every single week, at least for the next 26 weeks. If you want to play along, feel free to do so in whatever way the spirit moves you.

Aging...not a popular topic among my friends and relations, all of whom are feeling the effects of mounting years. It's not all that popular with me, either, especially today, when my bones feel stiff and creaky, my eyes aren't working all that well without my reading glasses, my pants are all too tight. Frankly, I feel decidedly curmudgeonly.

But I'm trying to have a good attitude (another "A" word) about aging. After all, I no longer get carded when I buy wine, I don't care whether my shoes are stylish as long as they don't hurt my bunions, and I occasionally get "senior discounts" on hotels and restaurants. I've also found I don't worry as much about things (large or small) and I get less irritated when life doesn't go my way.

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.” Charles Swindoll

Sure, I'm getting older, but aging is only a small percentage of what's going on in my life. I have a great family, a couple of jobs I like, lots of loyal friends who are fun to hang around with, and interesting, fulfilling hobbies. So who's to complain about a few grey hairs ( I have a very talented hair stylist, too!) Along with age, I think I've acquired a more mellow attitude about life in general, and that's not all bad!


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Sunday Scribbling-Goosebumps

A high B-flat~the one two octaves above middle C, cutting through the overcast sky on a grey day in Washington, DC. Seventy five high school students, and 10 adults, standing shoulder to shoulder, each one holding tightly to a small portion of the gigantic American flag blanketed in front of them. The last verse of the Star Spangled Banner~"the land of the free"~the held note on the word free, and one soprano lifts her voice above all others, bravely jumping the octave and landing squarely on that high B-flat, which soars like an eagle in flight. Recalling it now, 15 years later, my arms are covered in goosebumps.

I love musical goosebump moments, those instants when the music, the performer, the atmosphere, all come together and create a moment of such power and beauty that a shiver runs down your spine, and your flesh prickles with delight. I've been lucky enough to hear quite a few in my years as a musician. Often, it's not just the music itself, or even the performer, but the circumstances that lend the magic to the moment, setting the goosebumps to rise. On that choir trip to Washington, we visited Fort McHenry, where they unfolded the largest American flag in existence, allowing us to stand outside holding this massive piece of cloth which symbolized all the hopes and dreams of the American people. Singing the national anthem at that moment was thrilling enough - to hear that beautiful high note, completely unplanned, was certainly the icing on the cake. Since that day, every time I've sung the anthem, I hear that note in my head, and remember Kelly McBride, the young girl who sang it.

My emotional involvement with the high school students adds to my enjoyment of their performances, and increases the opportunity for goosebump moments. But I also have them listening to Measure for Measure, my husband's men's choir. Last winter, eighty five men, the last verse of Franz Biebl's Ave Maria, the funeral of the groups beloved founder and director~a huge goosebump moment. And when I was playing regularly with Classical Bells, I had a few such moments ~ a bell festival in 2000, our solo piece, Debussy's Arabesque, watching the festival director (who was French) listen to the flowing arpeggios with his head back, eyes closed and a wonderfully satisfied smile on his lips~sent shivers down my spine.

Playing music, listening to music, creating music, is a natural high for me. It stimulates some nerve center in my brain that fills me with delight and deep satisfaction. As a musician, one of my goals is always to have the listener experience one of those thrilling moments when the music touches them deeply enough to cause a physical reaction~ that little frisson of pleasure you feel down your spine or in the pit of your stomach. Last spring, our final concert at school, a fabulous arrangement of How Can I Keep from Singing, my husband hugs me afterward and says, "Wow, I can't believe how well you played that - it gave me goosebumps!"

for more goosebump moments, go here


Thursday, August 9, 2007


This might be the only time you ever see that word on my blog~ but there it is. I'm bored.

I know, you're all shaking your heads saying "What the heck? First she complains about never having any time to herself, and now she's bored?"

Human nature is perverse. From September to June, when I'm working two jobs, performing in three or four musical ensembles, and trying to run a household, my body is on overdrive. I'm always longing for just a day or two of empty calendar space. Then, during the summer, everything shuts down. Even my office job fizzles to nothing. For about six weeks, I love the quiet, empty hours, the time to read, write, play whatever music I want, stare out the window, lie in the grass...all that summertime stuff. But, now it's August, and the back to school ads are popping up everywhere. Maybe it's just my body kick-starting itself, but I feel restless and itchy to do something different.

When my son was small, he was always dreaming up creative projects for himself. I've never known a child who was always so busy. But occasionally, he'd meander out to the kitchen or family room, hang around momentarily, and then utter sheepishly..."I'm kinda bored."

"Well," I say, rather nonplussed, "you could go for a bike ride. Or clean your room. Or..."

"Never mind!" he'd say, brightening suddenly. "I just thought of something!" Off he'd go, back to his room or the basement, where he'd disappear for hours completing his next story, drawing, video...whatever great idea had popped into his head.

I guess he gets that from me, because boredom is a rare occurrence in my life. I'm not one who can sit still for very long (unless I'm writing or playing music)~truthfully, I don't even like to go to the movies because sitting still for two hours is painful. Lurking in the back of my mind is always a long list of other things I'd like to be doing.

But this week, I must admit I'm "kinda bored." I could wash windows, or clean the basement, or catch up on some ironing...actually, never mind. I think I just thought of something....


One Deep Breath-Evening

summer ends~

evening shadows

fall too soon

Just this week, there is a noticable difference in the length of days. By the time I've cleared up supper dishes and watered plants, the western sky has started to glower at me. Hurry up, it chides, put on your walking shoes or grab your bike, there's not much time left before darkness swallows the sun.


Saturday, August 4, 2007

Sunday Scribbling-Decision

When it comes to decision making, I'm a ditherer, a hand-wringer, a me-oh-my what shall I do-er. Shall it be fish or chicken for dinner? Florida or California for vacation? Walk in the neighborhood or park? Fiction or non-fiction for Sunday Scribblings? Just DO IT, my inner voice persistently chides me. To quote my high school orchestra director ~ "For god's sake, girls, just do...SOMETHING!"

Invariably, though, once I've embarked on one route, I immediately start wishing I had chosen the other. "Decidophobia" it's called, and there are a plethora of Internet cures available, from wonder drugs to hypnosis tapes.

Actually, I'm not really a phobic in the strict sense of the word. These are people who are too paralyzed by fear to perform their jobs or even get up in the morning. In truth, I move through the business of daily life with great decision...I complete all tasks promptly and on time, I attack my job responsibilities with gusto. However, I admit to being stymied by personal decisions sometimes, and occasionally this leaves me feeling as if my life were a stalled race car, desperately revving its engine but going nowhere fast.

Part of the problem is often my imagination ~my penchant if you will, for seeing too many opportunities as well as too many pitfalls. It's like perusing the aisles at the grocery store - where once there were only Corn Flakes and Raisin Bran, now there's Corn Flakes with strawberries, or almonds, or organic corn flakes, or low fat cornflakes, or...well, you get the picture. Life presents us with too many tantalizing choices - how's a girl supposed to pick just one?

Therein lies my real problem with decision making, the fear that each decision is not only irrevocable, but represents an opportunity lost. There are so many things I want to experience in life, and I'm fearful that choosing one will deny me the ability to experience the other.
I really do want to sample all those flavors of Corn Flakes -I'm just impatient, and don't want to do it one box at a time. I want to buy up every variety and sit down to a different one each morning. Similar to Forest Gump and his famous box of chocolates, I'd love to bite into each one and see what I get.

Unfortunately, decisions often mean irrevocable choices - that's just life, too. Because I decided to buy two homes in Florida, it probably means I won't ever be able to live in England. Because I decided to get two dogs, I probably won't be able to travel as much as I'd like. Because I decided to go back to my school job, I won't have as much free time to write this winter. Because I decided to have only one child, I'll probably never have big bunches of grandchildren to comfort me in my old age. Big decisions have big consequences, and the older I get, the more dire they seem, since there's just not as much time left to sample all of life's varieties.

I'm afraid there's no cure for my hand wringing, dithering, decision making dilemmas. I'll probably always worry my way through the process, and then later on wish I'd made another choice altogether. Hopefully, the consequences won't be too painful, and I'll be able to accept them gracefully.


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Write on Wednesday-Detail Oriented

As I write this, a cool breeze from the fan overhead gently lifts my hair, the soft whirring of its blades a counterpoint to the clicking computer keyboard. One dog (Molly) lies stretched full length in the doorway, sleeping soundly, while the other (Magic) is perched on the bed gazing attentively out the window, awake and on the lookout for a squirrel, or his favorite neighbor from across the street. Dusk is falling, earlier now that summer is on the wane, and soon I'll need to switch on the desk lamp, but not yet...I can still just barely see the keyboard in the hazy blue glow from the monitor. A glass of white wine rests on a slate coaster beside me, beads of sweat forming around it as the chill liquid inside meets the warm air of the room.

"Writing is about learning to pay attention and communicate what is going on," writes Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird. "In order to be a have to learn to be reverent."

Life is in the details, someone once said, and for the writer, learning to observe everyday details and make them important for the reader is vital to creating character, setting, and moving plot along. In my first paragraph, I was trying to give you a word picture of where I was (a bedroom/writing room), the weather (hot, as evidenced by the ceiling fan and the sweaty glass), the type of person I am (someone who writes, drinks wine, and loves dogs, because they lie on my bed!) But I was also trying to convey a sense of reverence for these homely details about my life and this room where I come to write.

"We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded," says Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down the Bones. "This is how writers must think, how we must sit down with pen in hand. We were here; we are human beings; this is how we lived."

The writing I love to read is full of details - about people and places, some might call it minutiae, but for me the details are what make the story and the era come alive. I love to know what people were having for tea in Jane Austen's drawing room, how they dressed for the party in Scarlett O'Hara's American South, and in more contemporary work, the cars they were driving, the TV shows they were watching, all those kinds of everyday details that help me identify time, place, and character. And often I am surprised by the beauty evident in those seemingly ordinary moments.

"This is our goal as writers," Lamott continues, "to help others have this sense of wonder, of seeing things anew, things that can catch us off guard, that break into our small, bordered worlds. There is ecstasy in paying attention."

Since I've been writing, I have found myself more open to observing details in the world around me, everything from the new ochre colored paint on the walls in my favorite coffee shop to the glorious rosy sky in the morning sunrise. I'm find myself thinking about the people I encounter - the young man I see walking the street morning and evening, winter and summer, wondering about the restless energy that is so apparent in his nervous stride. What is his story?

"To be engrossed in something outside ourselves is a powerful antidote for the rational mind," Lamott concludes. Finding a sense of wonder in the details of the world around us, in the people before us, all the little things that make us who and what we are.

"This is what it is to be a writer," Goldberg tells us. "To be the carrier of details that make up history."