With children, you get to see the world through fresh eyes and rediscover it for the miracle it is. Having a child later in life, I've been given a refresher course in noticing the details, despite the fact that my eyesight is going. Or, maybe because of it. After all, I'm rarely without at least one pair of glasses atop my head; often, I resemble a spider with my numerous sets of eyes. When my youngest points out something that has caught her eye, I usually have to slide my readers down the bridge of my nose to peer at it more closely. Thank goodness for magnifying lenses - I would miss so much without them!
I've also become fascinated with the Mandelbrot Set in the last several years, so much so that I named an important character in my books for it. If you are not familiar with them, I urge you to Google images of these stunning fractals. By assigning color to specific absolute values of complex quadratic polynomials (pardon the mathematical jargon - I don't really understand it, but some of you may), the Mandelbrot Set shows more intricate detail the closer one looks at, or "zooms into" the larger image. In other words, the smaller the fractal, the prettier the picture. Here's an example:
Go ahead - click to see it up close. Each little swirl is made of even smaller little swirls, all starting with that bulb-like, black buggy-looking thingy.
If math can be this beautiful, how much more so individual people, not to mention the rest of the world? You've heard it said that the "devil is in the details", but I prefer to think that is where God lives; in the minutia. Anyone can draw a stick figure and convey the idea of a man. It takes creativity, talent, and purpose to paint a believable portrait, and divine inspiration to breathe all creation into life...and more patience than we can possibly imagine. Regardless of my pitiful observations, there is more to our existence than meets the eye. The idea that I am but a small part of a grander picture reminds me of my significance - not insignificance - but in proper perspective. I have particular beauty, yet a responsibility to the whole.
We all do.
Where Are You Going?
People ask all the time when my next book is coming out. Soon, I tell them, soon. I'm as anxious for it as they are, probably more so. But, I take to heart the adage: If something is worth doing, it's worth doing right.
Yes, I am a little obsessive about the details. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever be totally satisfied. Perfectionism can be a trap - or an excuse. It can keep us from achieving just about anything. Stalled along the way to chasing our dreams, we can settle into a state of entropy. I know, I've lived there before. But not this time. I finally hopped aboard this wild train, and I plan on riding it all the way to the station.
How about you? Have you climbed aboard yet? Or are you still standing beside the tracks, watching it speed past? Soon all that may be left is a lonely whistle in the distance. Even if you have to run to catch up, you can do it, I know you can! There's still a seat with your name on it. In fact... it'll stay empty if you don't fill it. And that would be a lousy shame. The world could use more fulfilled dreams.
To all the dreamers out there -
I hope you realize that I write these posts as much for myself as anyone. I'm no expert at anything - writing, success, life, you name it - just an average schmo trying to work it all out. I need encouragement along the way, just like you do. We're all on the same team, and if a cheering crowd can spur an underdog to victory, then this is me yelling at the top of my voice!
One of my biggest downfalls is that I've always been an end-gamer. Most dreamers are, which is why we get stuck dreaming instead of realizing our dreams. We envision the touchdown, the victory dance, and the glorious party afterward, without much thought for the years of rigorous training and hours of grueling punishment that go into getting there. The first time we take a hit, we may smile and try to shake it off. The second time, we're a little wobbly getting to our feet, maybe even wondering about the wisdom of staying in the game. Each subsequent blow leaves us reeling - where did that come from? - and unsure how much more we can take.
But...here's where the cheering crowd comes in. You CAN do it. You CAN win at this game. All you have to do is keep playing, keep inching forward. Yes, you'll have battle-scars when all is said and done, but hopefully, you'll have champagne, too.
I walked into the grocery store today after attending morning Mass, impervious to odd looks and whispered comments. Actually, there weren't that many... but, I had to tell the young girl at the checkout three times that the smudge on my forehead was there on purpose. She couldn't get why I wouldn't wipe it off. I suppose I should have tried to explain better, instead of just smiling and continuing to bag my own groceries, though I didn't. How could I explain my delight at the ephemeral nature of mankind?
Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. We are but frail carbon creatures, sentient lumps of clay who never cease dreaming of the far-off stars. Yet, we remain earthbound from our first breath to our last. Reminded of my own insignificance with a thumb-full of ashes, smeared in the sign of a cross above my brow; rather than be embarrassed by this annual Lenten observance, I feel somehow more genuine. It is freeing, really, remembering that we aren't the center of the universe - let alone the center of attention! - but only a small collection of the same molecules that make up everything else on this planet. It reminds us that in caring for creation, we are caring for ourselves. We've got one job here, and that is to live life well. Not extravagantly, consumers only, but with meaning, making our short dash count. Our legacy - the good or bad we've done - is all we leave behind. Our spirits move on, and the rest gets composted.
I would like the mark I leave to be something of beauty, not blight. Something that speaks to the wonder of my existence, and revels in the grace that breathed me into being.
Occasionally, life blows us up against a fence. We feel stuck, unable to move forward and unwilling to to go back. To push through the barrier, we risk being torn apart by the pressures we are up against. We may not be as supple as we once were. Both brain and body are a bit more rigid, and we may feel there is no chance of coming through unscathed. If we can't find a way to easily wriggle free, we're apt to just stay put hoping that, if we're lucky, someone will come along and pluck us from our predicament.
But, that's not likely to happen.
The winds are gonna keep blowing. The ground is gonna freeze. And, baby it's cold and lonely out there, stuck in the fence. Eventually, we'll crumble having never gotten past it. Unless...
We could climb. As the winds of change blow, we could inch determinedly toward our dream of seeing the other side. We could use the barrier as a ladder to reach the next level, until - whosh! - we are whisked right into the future.
Because, in case you didn't know it, the only fence keeping you out is the one in your own mind.
My husband, a federal employee, shared a job listing that came across his desk the other day. The position is in Colorado, where they are said to average 300 days of sunshine per year. Sitting here next to the wood stove, wrapped in a blanket and listening to the pellet of sleet and freezing rain against the windows, I am sorely tempted to insist that he apply.
The weather is in news a lot these days, as if there hasn't always been weather. We are actually having a milder than usual winter in our neck of the Northeast, but much of the coast was recently buried in record snowfalls. Hurricanes, floods, drought - as devastating as these can be, they have always been around to remind us that we are just a tiny part of the big picture. Perhaps we as a species have contributed to the extremes making headlines, but until we grow smart (and arrogant) enough to control the weather at will, we should learn to grin and bear it.
Our family won't be moving to Colorado any time soon. Instead, I will step outside and revel in the beauty of whatever awaits me here. Today it is raw, wild and tempestuous, slapping my cheeks with the cold, tear-wet hand of a scorned lover. Tomorrow we will have sunshine and soooo much mud............. for making mud pies! And later in the week, there will be frozen puddles to crunch as I take my morning walk, bundled up like an Arctic explorer.
Oh, the beauty, the grandeur of it all!