Friday, June 29, 2018

If This Then What?

I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty. Georgia O'Keeffe

If nature creates the bright colors, the sweet smell, the soft sounds to entice us to pay attention then what else can it do to make us mindful of all that God created?
I find I can't ignore beauty without losing myself to the next new gadget, the next horrifying news story, or the best sale price.

The most beautiful things in life are free and without social status. Get out more. Wander mindfully through your neighborhood. Breathe deeply without restraint. If you do that then you might be able to endure the next horrifying news story and bypass the next big sale. Just thinking.......

Monday, June 25, 2018

Kein Umkehr- No Re-Entry

Failure is the only opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.
Henry Ford

I was struck by the symbol on the airport sign indicating that you cannot pass this way again if you turn around and leave.
There are pathways you can not re-enter once you leave but there are many that allow for a turn around.
My One Little Word for 2018 is Umkehr and it is a word that allows for great hope.

    Six months into 2017 I was worried that I would get tired of the word 'nurture'. I don't have those same concerns this year simple because I don't need to invent new goals or come up with a new plan, I need only to return to those goals that have worked before. 

What am I most excited about as I go into the next six months?
  *Return to my writing everyday
  *Return to healing mode as I do surgery on the second knee.
  *Return to planning group lessons for piano students in the Fall
  *Return to my weight loss program after surgery
  *Return to the art room and create something new
  *Return to visiting grandkids with my new car. Yay! I don't have to worry about the car dying on me.

"She went back to all that was comfortable and familiar while keeping her gaze looking ahead- to all that would be and could."
Colleen Attara

Click here to see a table of contents of how this word has become a focus in my life this year.


Friday, June 22, 2018


“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.” 

I did not see the ocean until I was sixteen. My brother and sister-in-law took me to the Oregon coast while they were in college there. I was deeply moved. Tears ran down my face as we drove inland. Another sixteen years passed while I was living in the desert. Then we got a job offer to come to Seattle. Now I was closer to the water and intentionally I took my children to the beach so that they would know a connection to the water. On warm summer days nothing calmed them more than playing at the beach. Their squabbling stopped and there was calm inside their squirrelly bodies.

A few years later we moved to an island in the middle of the Puget Sound. Now I saw water everyday as I drove on my errands. I learned that the biggest art project is the sunrise over the water. When God takes up his paints, his palette is the most varied, refined and spectacular. But you have to wait for it. Wait for it........


There is still time to read my novel about a pianist and teacher who finds a Liszt autograph manuscript and ends up dead. Who killed her to get the treasure? The mysterious student who comes from out of town to study with her? The colleague from Hungary who wants the manuscript more than anything? 

My novel Rubato

A story of a woman's longing for beauty and her struggle to keep the beautiful even when it didn't belong to her.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Chapter One- The Gymnopédist

Chapter One

Experience is a form of paralysis.
Erik Satie

Miquel, his black hair matted with perspiration, woke up anxious. This morning he would walk the wire. He got up slowly and pulled on his tight sweat pants and sleeveless tee shirt. He made sure his phone and slippers were in his backpack. His hand felt deep inside to check for the pliers, wire-cutters, and snack. He didn’t know how this day would end. Jorge was due with his father’s truck any minute. He let himself out of the back door making sure there was no sound. The only sound came from inside his own head. Down, up, up, the lilting dance rhythm of  Satie’s Gymnopodie No. 1 circled around his conscious mind. After his wire walk today he would describe himself as a Gymnopédist.

The town of Highland had two old bell towers which once marked the entry to mainstreet and downtown. The bells were removed long ago but the towers, some thirty feet high and made of sandstone, looked regal and impressive even today. The metal pyramid roofs covered the platforms where the bells were once mounted. A small, circular, iron stairway wound up inside the tower toward the platform which was encircled with a wooden railing. Climbing up inside was a favorite activity for children and teenagers. When drug paraphernalia was found inside the entrance and above where the bells once existed, the police installed a chain and lock to discourage using the towers. That did not always stop visitors as they just crawled underneath. 
Miquel and Jorge, crouched down, each kneeling on a platform and looked across the street at each other. The sky was beginning to lighten and tiny beams of light filtered around the horizon making the east side buildings glow a pastel pink and yellow. The town was still quiet at five o’clock on this summer morning.
 Jorge took aim with his bow and made sure the hemp rope was untangled. He had one chance to shoot the arrow, with the rope attached, across the street from one tower to the other. What they were doing was well rehearsed but anything could go wrong. The muscles in Jorge’s forearm flexed as he pulled back and he knew he had just seconds before his arm would begin to shake. He released and the arrow shot across the street with the hemp rope dangling behind like the tale of a kite. Jorge saw the arrow fall onto the tower platform and waited to see if Miguel would get hold of it. Seconds passed and drops of sweat ran down the sides of Jorge’s head. Finally Miquel popped up and raised his arms above his head, waving the rope. Now Jorge needed to tie the next heavier rope to his end and signal Miquel to pull. The rest of the hemp rope began slithering through the slats of the railing and with snail speed the thicker rope made it’s way over the street from tower to tower. Again Jorge waited to get a signal from Miquel. The time was getting away from them. He checked his phone. They needed to set their plan in motion in the next twenty minutes. 
Attaching the wire cable to the thicker rope was not new to Jorge. He had prepared the cable many times since he and Miquel had started wire walking in earnest. Jorge stopped walking the wire himself but stayed involved to ensure Miquel had sufficient support. What was once a Boys Club gymnastics class activity now turned into a series of daring ventures that were much more public. To walk across a wire from tower to tower above mainstreet, in broad daylight, was Miquel’s idea but both boys needed to be fully committed to make it happen. 
Jorge felt the tug on the rope and saw Miquel signal him to move the wire cable across to his side. The cable caught the glistening sun as it snaked over the street. Now Jorge began securing his end to the large metal eye hook which the boys had pounded into the stonework some days before. He felt satisfied that his end was secure. He watched and waited for Miquel to step onto the wire. He was putting on his slippers and then he gingerly stepped up on the wooden railing. He teetered to each side, stretching his toes along the wire. and then reached for the pole. Jorge readied the camera on his phone to start videoing the walk. 
He heard piano music from the other tower which must have come from a phone. Miquel had a strange thing about listening to weird music when he did wire walking. Ever since he started piano lessons his musical tastes had changed.  Then Miquel stepped  onto the wire and with the pole to balance him he walked inch by inch across the street. The sun was now coming over the buildings and illuminated his friend. He looked as if he was walking on air. This was going to be an incredible news story. He kept his camera on Miquel, catching him bending his knees and then straightening them with a dancers grace. He heard some shouting from below. People were seeing what was going on. There were going to be consequences to what they were doing. They might even be arrested. His heart was pounding faster and he felt exaltation well up inside of him as he saw that Miquel was halfway across. 
He was fiddling with the video screen when he felt the cable bounce and then he heard the scream. He looked up and saw that the wire was gone. Feeling the slack cable on his side he knew that the cable had broken. His high school best friend was gone.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Questions About My Word Umkehr

     With pride, there are many curses. With humility, there come many blessings. 
Ezra Taft Benson

June is a month to evaluate the relationship I have with my One Little Word 2018.
to change one's ways

Having a word like Umkehr has meant that I seriously watch where my actions are taking me. It is a word that invites reflection and evaluation. Seeing the word and responding willingly to the word has made space for humility.

I have enjoyed that this word is hopeful. 

If we can turn and right our path then we can correct our mistakes and begin again. Just like I come back to the Bach Sonata on the piano each day and with hope work through the mistakes I made the day before, so I look at the mistakes I make with my impatience with my husband. I must correct my actions so often with him when I push to have my own way. "I'm sorry" are words that coexist with Umkehr.

The challenges I face with my little word is overcoming pride. 

I'll not change my ways to suit you. These are my mistakes and I own them proudly. I can't possibly let anyone see how often I fall back to self-defeating behavior so I'll pretend that I don't care.

I can tell that I'm entangled with pride when I run the same script in my head rationalizing my behavior. When I can't concentrate on the question, "What do others need from me?" then I'm pretty sure I need a good dose of Umkehr.

Pride and humility, one stops us from righting our path and the other makes our path open with hope.

"She went back to all that was comfortable, familiar, and right, while keeping her gaze looking ahead- to all that would be and could."

Colleen Attara


Click here to see a table of contents of how this word has become a focus in my life this year.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Writing Wednesday- Choosing Franz Liszt as a Character

"It's a matter of record that Liszt could sight read anything, and it's said that musicians who watched him do so would leave his residence talking not among themselves but actually to themselves."

And what were they saying to themselves? How can he do this? He is a genius. He holds within his head the music before his time and of his time. I say these things to myself, as well. 

My interest in Liszt did not begin when I first played a simplified version of Liebesträum. When I was a young adult I found this piece to be too sentimental. I really wasn't fond of the Romantic Era. However, later as an adult, I was taking piano lessons from a teacher who admired Liszt. She introduced me to literature outside of what I knew. I realized he had a wide variety of sound and some so sublime that I had to stop to really listen. He lived into his seventies, which is rare for a composer of the 1800's. He retired from concertizing when it was thirty eight years old and devoted his life to composing and serving others. He often taught piano lessons at no charge.

   As I explored the plot for my novel Rubato I wanted to include Liszt and show through his own words how he influenced my main character Judith. I studied two of his books and read opinions from other musicians about his life and music. I wanted to know where the autograph manuscripts were of his piano pieces and when I searched through online archives I found that the No. 8 Hungarian Rhapsody was missing the first page. In that discovery a plot emerged. These questions formed the foundations of my story. Why is an autograph manuscript so important to musicians? Is there money in holding and auctioning off these manuscripts?
   Liszt held mental manuscripts in his head. He could play a piece never before seen, perfectly. He could also memorize it upon first run through. That means he had a virtual mental library of all the composers he played. No wonder he could transcribe orchestral pieces for the piano and literally play all the top hits at his famous salon concerts to the masses. He was the first pianist and composer to have concerts featuring only himself and his music. By the time he retired thousands bought tickets and came to hear him play. He was simply, a rock star in his day.

“Although Liszt was clearly a musical genius, he insisted on projecting a tonal, romantic “beauty” in his music, confining his music to a narrow range of moral values and ideals.”

Letters of Franz Liszt: Volume 1


There is still time to read my novel about a pianist and teacher who finds a Liszt autograph manuscript and ends up dead. Who killed her to get the treasure? The mysterious student who comes from out of town to study with her? The colleague from Hungary who wants the manuscript more than anything? 

My novel Rubato

A story of a woman's longing for beauty and her struggle to keep the beautiful even when it didn't belong to her.

Click here to read the book for free for a limited time.

Friday, June 8, 2018


The Sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings
Malachi 4:2

Mankind has always loved the idea of flying. Just yesterday my pre-schoolers joined me in flight around the yard. What a joy to open our arms and feel the wind lift our wings. What is the fascination of defying gravity?

When I see an eagle or hawk rise up outside my living room window I catch my breath. I am in awe at his size and grace. Gerald Manley Hopkins wrote a poem I admire called The Windhover. I include the whole poem below. My favorite lines are these;

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here 
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion 
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier! 

   Hopkins is comparing the majesty of The Windhover bird to Christ. I love the word 'buckle' using the definition "to unite strongly'. His grace and strength are a billion times more powerful than this bird but the bird testifies of his nature and characteristics. The closest thing to flying that I have experienced is the lift of his powerful spirit. I cannot generate that in myself. For that reason I come to him.

To Christ our Lord 
By Gerald Manley Hopkins

I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-

dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding

Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding

High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing

In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,

As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding

Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding

Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of, the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here

Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion

Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

No wonder of it: sheer plod makes plough down sillion

Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,

Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Halfway Through Check In

                                 In Progress
This month I will ask mid year evaluation questions

A Mid-Year Check In To See How Things Are Going And Reconnect

     In one or two words, your OLW experience so far has been:

Pushy, Direct

              What has surprised you most so far this year?

  In a world that values novelty and brand new things it surprised me that returning to what I previously attempted has been the most productive.
  For example; the creative pursuits I had in high school and college are now taking up new space in my life. Art and writing were very attractive to me forty years ago and I waddled into those experiences with a huge "I'm not good enough" cloud over my head. I put them away telling myself that raising children was the priority now. Truthfully, I put them away because I didn't receive the validation from others I thought I needed.
  It is different now. Being better at painting or writing than others is just not important anymore. I don't have another forty years to wait to prove myself. What I have now is enough.

"She went back to all that was comfortable and familiar while keeping her gaze looking ahead- to all that would be and could."

Colleen Attara

              What are you most proud of related to your word?

I am most proud of the fact that I have been inspired by this little word to come back, return to what is wholesome and nurturing. Seeing my word in many places around my house has kept my wandering heart open and willing.


Click here to see a table of contents of how this word has become a focus in my life this year.