SECRETS OF TIME

Are you weary of repetitive thought patterns, habits of old, stale insights, or even a genuine lack of inspiration for the routines of daily life? Poetry, fortunately, is like hitting the refresh button. A poem that touches the heart and mind instantly creates a bit of inner space by providing that empowering moment when you finally start to notice your own breathing again. I hope you enjoy reading Ancients of the Earth: Poems of Time.

Time’s powerful dictates are often unchallenged, even unnoticed, so I decided to face the clock, the calendar, the joy and the pain that “time” has delivered, to see what was hiding behind those insistent hands of time.

Of the books I’ve written so far, this one feels the most like a gift from another realm; the words seem to speak to anyone who wants to probe the unexplored … the unspoken … and the mysterious nature of each moment.

“Yet, the questions dance around us, and only poetry can find the rhythm.”
―D.A. (Daisy) Hickman, ANCIENTS OF THE EARTH: Poems of Time

Each poem, a story of its own, but also part of a much bigger story.

What will you glean from each poem? Will you discover the story of time?

“Poems are small moments of enlightenment.”
― Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

From a reader … 

“To me, it is a masterwork, from the beautiful front cover to the impressive blurbs on the back. It is obvious that so much thought went into each word, each chapter heading, each title. I am thoroughly humbled by your reach and grasp of subjects which many would never attempt to address through poetry.”

A progressive six-part story, ANCIENTS explores how we navigate time as our awareness expands and deepens.

ANCIENTS OF THE EARTH searches for the story of time in a way you’ve never encountered it before. Each poem is a reflection of time, the many ways we experience it during our lifetimes. Sometimes we notice its influence, but too often, we don’t, as time is a mysterious and complicated facet of daily life. But once we are more aware of its curious dictates, we can transcend its boundaries in ways never thought possible. While time seems to have a steely grip on our lives, we can discover its secrets, and we can even begin to “find” time.

Now available on AMAZON and most other book sites.

I hope you enjoy these “poems of time.” I promise you they will encourage you to think about time in fascinating new ways.

“This compendium of elegant poems will both root you firmly in the earth’s rich soil, and give you wings to soar to other dimensions.” —Matthew Peters, PhD, novelist, teacher

“A powerfully evocative exploration of humanity and the journey through time that we all share, if not always comfortably. Finally, a deeply insightful book of poetry that leads me to myself.”
Mark David Gerson, author, The Voice of the Muse

“D.A. Hickman’s poems brilliantly illuminate a subject that eludes us all–time. A vivid and intimate examination of time’s boundaries, time’s passage, this beautifully curated collection will change the way you think about the past, experience the present, and meet the future. Spellbinding and provocative, ANCIENTS OF THE EARTH will fill you with wonder, time and time again.” —Laurie Buchanan, PhD, author, Note to Self

Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits. See you again soon!

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Note: SunnyRoomStudio is on winter break, so please take a few moments to browse prior posts and Studio Guest posts. Also, click here for more about my memoir, THE SILENCE OF MORNING: A Memoir of Time Undone. And to find my book about tapping into your inner wisdom via life surroundings, click here: ALWAYS RETURNING: The Wisdom of Place. Thanks so much! Have a wonderful holiday season. ~

LESSONS IN BRAVERY

Have you ever wondered how people find the courage to fight fires? What drives them to risk their lives to save others?

My Studio Guest, Linda Strader, knows a little bit about these questions. In 1976, she became one of the first women on a Forest Service fire crew in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson. I’m very pleased to welcome Linda as my guest today in this sunny space for kindred spirits.

A local newspaper, the Green Valley News, printed an article about her firefighting adventures, which led the magazine, Wildfire Today, to publish an excerpt. The article generated interest in her speaking on this topic to several clubs, including the American Association of University Women. Summers of Fire is her first book, scheduled for publication on May 1st, 2018. In addition to writing, Linda is a landscape architect, certified arborist, and watercolor artist. She currently lives in the same area where her Forest Service career began.

But, how, you may wonder did Linda come to write a book about her experiences as a firefighter?

Was it a daunting transition or a joyful adventure? Here is her story … 

THE MYSTERY OF WRITING
by Linda M. Strader

I’d never, ever thought about writing a book.

Maybe it was the combination of divorce, job loss, death of my mom, and wondering what the future would bring—if it would bring anything at all—that prompted me to visit the past. After all, the past looked better than both the present and the future.

What was it about the past that drew me in?

When I contemplated my life from where I started and where I ended up, it occurred to me that some of my best years were those as a firefighter. Despite some undeniably tough times, those seven years were also the best times.

At the age of twenty, I became one of the first women on a fire crew with the U.S. Forest Service. I loved the outdoors and had struggled to find work that I enjoyed. This job had been the perfect fit. Until I discovered the men on my crew resented my presence, and made it clear I didn’t belong there.

I decided to write about my amazing experiences. However, I purposely avoided digging too deep into the painful and embarrassing things that I didn’t want to admit to. It made no sense to go there. Not only because I already had enough sadness on my plate, but because I feared being judged.

Once I had everything down, I shared “the book,” in reality a long short story, with friends. They encouraged me to add more. No big mystery as to how I did that—I just did. Four hundred pages later…

I met a retired English teacher online who offered to help me with both grammar and story line. I joined a writers group. After encouragement from that group, I started querying literary agents. I’d been warned of rejections, and tried to take them in stride. However, many hurt enough to make me stop and wonder what the heck I was doing thinking I could write a publishable book.

Many rewrites (and agent rejections) later, I took an online writing course. Surprise—I knew more than I thought I did. I also joined online writing groups, and found beta readers willing to exchange critiques.

Every time I received feedback that required yet one more significant revision, I’d allow myself to get mad, cry, scream: “I can’t write a book!”

A day or two later, though, I’d be back at the computer, more determined than ever to make my story the very best it could be.

In time, I recognized that in order for my story to be the very best it could be, I would have to write about the tough emotional times. All of the advice from well-meaning supporters that writing about those times would be cathartic was wrong—including suggestions that once I ripped off the proverbial Band-Aid, all would be good. “All good” did not happen. And every time I had to revise certain sections, I experienced another emotional meltdown.

However, there did come a point when I was able to numb myself and focus on the writing.

It took me four years to perfect my story. In January of 2017, I signed a publishing contract with Bedazzled Ink Publishing. I am proof that it is possible for someone who has never written anything longer (or more creative) than a college thesis to learn how to write a well-crafted story.

Be prepared, though, to spend hours on the computer. Not writing, but researching how to write. Be prepared for tough critiques leading you to make more edits than you ever would want to endure. If you are up to the challenge, you will master the challenge. The mystery of writing is no mystery at all. ~

Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage.
You have to fail in order to practice being brave.
~ Mary Tyler Moore

Contact info for LINDA:
Lstrader2008@aol.com
Blog address: https://summersoffirebook.blogspot.com/
Thanks so much, Linda, for sharing your story here.
I’m sure you will inspire others to take on that tough challenge that seems overwhelming, if not, impossible.
Wishing you all the best with your 2018 release! Keep us posted …
 ♥

Also, as a quick reminder, my new book of poetry has been officially released.

ANCIENTS OF THE EARTH: Poems of Time features poetry you’ll be drawn to time and time again. Emotionally compelling … each poem is a reflection of “time” and how we experience it over a lifetime.

If you are weary of repetitive thought patterns, habits of old, stale insights, or have noticed a lack of inspiration, poetry is extremely helpful. It’s like hitting the refresh button, creating that empowering moment when you finally “wake up,” notice your own breathing again.

A six-part story, ANCIENTS explores how we navigate time as our awareness expands and deepens. Of the books I’ve written so far, this one feels the most like a gift from another realm, and seems to speak to anyone who is simply tired of “everything else,” and wants to experience the unexplored … the unspoken … and the mysterious nature of each moment.

During the Labor Day weekend, my new book will be available on AMAZON for a sale price of $4.99 … I want to give everyone a chance to put a little poetry in their life. Here is what one reader recently shared with me about the book …

“To me, it is a masterwork, from the beautiful front cover to the impressive blurbs on the back. It is obvious that so much thought went into each word, each chapter heading, each title. I am thoroughly humbled by your reach and grasp of subjects which many would never attempt to address through poetry.”

I truly hope you will give these “poems of time” a try. I know they will inspire you and encourage you to think about time in new ways. Its powerful dictates are often unchallenged, even unnoticed, so I decided to face the clock, the calendar, the joy and the pain that “time” has delivered, to see what was really hiding behind those hands of time. Each poem … is a story … what will you glean from it?

author D.A. (Daisy) Hickman
Ancients of the Earth: Poems of Time (2017)

The Silence of Morning: A Memoir of Time Undone (2015)
Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place (2014, second edition, Heart Resides)
Where the Heart Resides: Timeless Wisdom of the American Prairie (William Morrow, first edition)

“We Need Memoir” (author interview, R. Gilbert blog)

 “Resist much, obey little.”
― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits. See you again soon!

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GUEST CAROLYN WALKER

I’m really pleased to welcome author Carolyn Walker to SunnyRoomStudio. Sometimes life calls us to cope with the unexpected. Nearly always, in fact. And when the unexpected involves the people we love, we usually feel uncertain, unprepared, and overwhelmed. So Carolyn, like many of us, decided to write about her experience in a memoir (Garn Press, January 2017) called Every Least Sparrow.

“No one is without troubles, without personal hardships and genuine challenges.
That fact may not be obvious because most people don’t advertise their woes and heartaches.
But nobody, not even the purest heart, escapes life without suffering battle scars.”
― Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway

WORD AFTER WORD
by Carolyn Walker

I remember vividly the day I announced to my mother, while the two of us stood in our living room, “I am going to be a writer.” I was ten years old. I had no idea, of course, how to generate, or recognize, good ideas, push through rewrites, or use imagery and grammar. Having not yet discovered Nancy Drew, I wasn’t even much of a reader. Nevertheless, in my innocence, I somehow foresaw that writing would be my calling. At that age, I couldn’t know that it would become my platform.

I began writing by producing silly poems, and my mother, a secretary given to organization, became my biggest supporter. During my teenage years, when I was especially prolific, she surprised me with a green and white filing box to hold my writings, and during my adulthood, clipped my weekly columns from our small town newspaper and slipped them beneath the cellophane sleeves of a scrapbook. My mother’s actions empowered me, and helped me to believe my words had value.

During my childhood and adolescent years, we lived in an idyllic, small village that included among its residents a round, wide-eyed mentally handicapped woman who liked to float on an inner tube in the local lake, and a woman who probably had cerebral palsy, who rode about the village on a three-wheeled bicycle. If there were any disabled children in the neighborhood, I didn’t know them, although I did attend junior high with a few who had mental handicaps and who were sequestered most days in a private classroom.

Sometimes I would sit at the kitchen table and talk about these folks, their differences, the teasing I saw them endure, their obvious loneliness, while my mother did the dishes. She’d listen and then say, “There but for the grace of God go you.” This was her way of telling me that disability could have been mine, and I should be grateful that it wasn’t.

But then it was.

In 1977 I gave birth to a daughter who has Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, which affects her IQ, various body functions, and her appearance. She was followed ten years later by my son, who is on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum, and who coincidentally is gay. Those dual challenges have rendered him a true eccentric who has been devastated by bullying.

Whatever I imagined for my career as a ten-year-old, writing about disability and equality was not it. Even early in my marriage I couldn’t have guessed that children with these kinds of complications would come my way.

It didn’t take me long to fall in love with my children, and raising them has made me reevaluate any preconceptions I harbored as to what is beautiful, what is normal, and what is acceptable.

I often wrote about my children in my column, and later personal essays and memoir. I found that the page gave me a place to think deeply about what it means to be human.

My daughter and son are adults now, but when they were little I would sometimes stand at their bedroom doors and consider them as they slept, as I know my mother did with me. I’d look at their peaceful faces and think about the difficult world they would have to live in. This made me wish I could change the world, help it to become a more understanding and compassionate place. After half a century of writing, I believe I can, word after word. ~

Fire tests gold, suffering tests brave men.
SENECA

Carolyn Walker is the author of the memoir Every Least Sparrow, a book about raising her daughter Jennifer, who has Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome. In May, 2017, the book was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by Garn Press. Walker, memoirist, essayist, poet, and creative writing instructor, worked for twenty-five years as a journalist, before returning to graduate school. She earned her MFA in Writing degree from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2004. In 2013, she was made a Kresge Fellow in the Literary Arts by the Kresge Foundation. Walker’s work has appeared in The Southern Review, Hunger Mountain, The Writer’s Chronicle, Gravity Pulls You In: Parenting Children on the Autism Spectrum, HOUR Detroit, The Detroit News, and many other publications. Her essay “Christian Become a Blur,” published in the literary journal Crazyhorse, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Walker is a creative writing instructor for Writer’s Digest University, Springfed Arts, and All Writers Workplace & Workshop. She has been a writing resident at Vermont Studio Center, and Noepe Center for Literary Arts on Martha’s Vineyard. She is a lifelong Michigan resident, and the married mother of three adult children.
crlynwalker@gmail.com
Thanks so much, Carolyn, for being my 48th studio guest here in SunnyRoomStudio!
Wishing you all good things in the years to come. Keep me posted on your literary endeavors.

Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits. See you again soon!

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SKIP THE NUMBERS

FEEL caught in the trap of quantifying your life? I notice it all the time.

People measuring themselves via numbers, scales, lists, contests, competitions, etc. But doesn’t this leave a lot to be desired? Isn’t there much more to life than how many, how much, how … something? Awareness around this dynamic seems limited, however. Many seem to just “go along” with this limiting mindset, assuming everything should be quantified, rated, and analyzed. Assuming this is all an inevitable aspect of daily life.

For the next week, though, try unplugging to all the rating games … try looking at the depth of an experience or the quality of something instead of immediately zeroing in on measures of quantity. I think you’ll find it’s very liberating to avoid mainstream patterns that are habitual and often unnecessary. Clearly, an “awakened” perspective quickly looks for the deeper story and shuns the old-fashioned, senseless number game whenever possible.

Do we really have to “measure up” in the eyes of someone else, all the time? Of course not. We can choose an alternate path, a more mindful path. We can decide to focus on substance and meaning and depth instead of counting everything.

“Numbers do not feel. Do not bleed or weep or hope. They do not know bravery or sacrifice. Love and allegiance. At the very apex of callousness, you will find only ones and zeros.” ― Amie Kaufman, Illuminae

Does the incessant hunt (and dependence on) for numbers wear on you? What have you done to upgrade your own existence by ignoring that senseless cultural game? 

There is MORE to all of us, just look a little closer the next time some dumb number comes into your day.

Numbers can seem easy, however, and are readily substituted for depth of thought or personal insight. Sometimes it’s merely a convenience thing. I wonder how many times a day some sort of number comes to mind or is relied on for something totally inappropriate. How many calories? How much sleep? How far did I walk or run? How long was I out running errands? Did I get enough pages written today? How many books did I read last year? How many blog posts did I share? How many friends did I make? How many … how much … how soon … this futile game is endless, isn’t it?

But there is another way ….

Seems like a summer break from numbers isn’t a bad idea. You might find people around you still want to pressure you to constantly evaluate, count, and measure. But is this need, this behavior pattern, mostly subconscious, part of our conditioning? Has counting become part of our identity, our collective psyche?

“Isn’t it sad that we have to gain control of the artificial numbers placed upon
us by others to regain some control of our lives?” ― Rick Gregory

Thanks so much for stopping by this creative sunny space for kindred spirits. See you back here soon when I’ll be sharing the details of my forthcoming poetry publication, ANCIENTS OF THE EARTH: Poems of Time. Until then, skip the numbers!

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A CERTAIN JOY

A pear in a cup. What does it mean? What could it mean? Why is it interesting, even curiously captivating?

Well, to a poet, or to anyone charmed by the unusual combination that stirs the imagination, a pear in a cup could create a certain joy. Yes, joy. The joy of discovery that follows when we are alert and observant and tuned in to the messages of the universe, right?

But, in my case, there is a little story behind this particular pear … this particular cup.

“The final lesson a writer learns is that everything can nourish the writer.
The dictionary, a new word, a voyage, an encounter, a talk on the street, a book, a phrase learned.”
Anais Nin

I did not grow up loving poetry. I did not even love poetry into early adulthood, so I can’t be sure how or why I finally discovered its ability to illuminate the more meaningful layers of life.

Now, however, as a poet, my appreciation for this art form only increases.

Perhaps it is the incomprehensible abundance of words and opinions in our world that seem to weigh us all down emotionally and spiritually; perhaps we see more of the complexities of existence as we mature. The tangled web of darkness and light, for instance. The human quest for truth in an age of nonsensical proclamations. Whatever it is, poetry seems to reach into the very soul of life in ways often difficult to achieve otherwise.

And all of this leads me back to the story … of the pear and the cup.

I found the small, still unripened pear while walking Noah, a beloved schnauzer no longer with us. And the petite white cup had been floating around our house for a few years … blissfully unattached to the other three cups that were part of the “set” we had purchased once upon a time. But, you may rightly wonder, why did I imagine the two seemingly unrelated and disconnected items together. Or did it just happen one day … a fluke, a funny idea? Why, you may also wonder, would I pick up a small (ordinary in every way) pear on the ground and bring it home in the first place … or do you sometimes do things like this, as well?

“We have what we seek, it is there all the time, and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us.”
~ Thomas Merton

I guess I could explain this in several ways but, mostly, I simply felt enchanted by the pear and had no idea what I was going to do with it. It sat on our kitchen ledge for a few days, deepening in color ever so slightly. I sort of forgot about it, actually. But a few days later, it caught my eye again, probably after I’d also seen the small white cup sitting aimlessly on a forgotten shelf. And, thus, this fun pairing was born! Unusual, yes. Yet, the creativity in unusual combinations is endlessly intriguing … at least for many writers, poets, authors, artists, and readers. Of course anyone engaging in research, i.e., scientists, librarians, also will see great merit in looking for that “eureka moment” in unlikely places and situations.

There is a certain joy in this arena of thought. A certain fascination with ordinary items becoming “something new” when paired in less-than-ordinary ways.

But I especially appreciated the creative inspiration of this pairing, enough to take several pictures. Enough to write a poem about it one day. Enough to send the picture to my daughter and ask her to paint it (which she did)! Her painting is framed and on display in our home. I look at it nearly each day with a profound sense of joy, yes, but also with a nod to the unmistakable wisdom of taking the time to actually “see” a small, unripened piece of fruit on the ground (with many other apparently unwanted pieces of fruit). Then to also notice the empty white cup not serving any purpose at all, other than to add “clutter,” right? Haven’t you also had objects in your home that seem to float aimlessly from room to room, shelf to shelf, etc., never really finding a useful purpose? Until one day … they do find a purpose. An artistic and inspirational purpose that no one would have predicted or thought likely.

“There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it.”
Gustave Flaubert

As you can see from the pictures … I saw this as an opportunity to stretch my imagination, to look for the unspoken, the unseen, even the magical in our very midst … I let my intuition guide me.

So one day, when I decided to write a poem about this experience, I also realized that poetry was something I wanted to spend a lot more time writing. I’d been dabbling in it for quite some time, but that was about it. Now, though, I was feeling strongly drawn to its brevity, depth, precision of thought, the endless juxtaposition of contrasting ideas, seeing what is right before our eyes, yet, missed or overlooked in the mad (sometimes senseless) rush of daily life. Simplicity coupled with complexity also flows from strong poetry and, thus, we are allowed to see more deeply into the days of our lives, but we are also given a glimpse of the inevitable paradox of nearly everything around us.

“You will never find yourself unless you quit preconceiving what you will be when you have found yourself.” ― Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

But, honestly, when it came to my quiet desire to delve into the world of poetry (I’ve mostly been a nonfiction author, to date), it took me quite a while to take myself seriously. At least 10 years, in fact.

Had I read or studied enough poetry to understand the quirks of the genre? Did anyone read poetry anymore, or had the art of verse quietly skittered off the table of life … replaced by fancy phones and such?

In the end, I didn’t have specific answers to such questions, but kept working on poems whenever time allowed. And it felt “right,” so I stayed with it. Becoming a poet was a quiet journey of reflection, but also a matter of trusting my literary instincts to lead me in the best direction. Now, as I look forward to the release of my first collection in August, I have detected a certain joy. A deepening sense of gratitude. If I hadn’t been open to a nudge from within … if I’d closed the door on my creative instincts … if I’d tried to push myself in other, more expected or safe, directions … my “poems of time” would never have come to life.

I guess there is more than one moral to this story of the pear in the cup.

Publishing details will follow soon.

Thanks so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits! Since so many of us are busy with summer projects and vacations, I’ve turned off comments for this post. So go enjoy some beautiful weather!

“Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

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