Creative Emergence

Lately, I have been thinking of these two words: creative and emergence; about how they fit together to form a certain meaning.

In a radio interview on September 26th about my writing of The Starlings in London, I chose to focus on a section of the book where the artistic and aesthetic environment is evident. Here the narrator of the book, 12-year-old Lily Starling, is captivated by the allure and beauty of the English countryside and seaside as well as witnessing the working process of painters, like that of her father and his artist friend Lawrence.

Writing in a diary for the first time, Lily tries to express how the old windmill–where her father and Lawrence go to paint–affects her with its tangible and intangible spirit. “Is the windmill really brown?” she begins.

Lily is thinking about what she feels about what she sees. She is struggling to understand it. She decides to submit herself to its control over her thoughts, her being, and attempt to write about it. This is the narrator’s creative emergence.

Something about the place (private; overlooking the sea; by a reedy canal), the object (the old windmill…a sort of vessel), brings its visitors rapture, coupled with self-renewal. Why else would painters and impressionable girls, like Lily, go there again and again and try to capture its essence?

My present thinking about creative emergence is that it occurs not by the struggle to control it, but by submitting to its powers over you, the artist. It comes from the unconscious and the artist must recognize its appearance and harness it while you work your art to create your vision.




In case you wonder what it feels like to get published…

Day 3

I took the summer off…now I am hard at work again. So where was I in the story? Oh, I remember: THE FINAL FILE.

Said final file was sent to a book designer, Molly Cook, recommended to me from the artist Nancy Purington who created the cover art for The Starlings in London. This cover captured in art the essence of what I decided to convey in the dilemma with which Lily Starling and her family are confronted once they reach England. I have to say the cover exceeded my expectations and has not ceased to capture my imagination when I look at it in book form, or better yet, when I study the painting itself.

The book designer worked and reworked and reworked the design to get what I wanted: simple presentation, with the letters interspersed throughout the book in block print, yet looking like real letters on the printed page.

This part took weeks to get right.

Because I read so much and am critical of what I read as well as its presentation, I went one step further. I submitted the book designer’s pages to my copyeditor. And, she did find a few things that needed tweaking!

Another aspect of publishing which I have not yet mentioned is the feedback I received every step of the way from a cousin who used to be in the book design business for major publishing houses in NYC.

It’s 8:55pm. I know not to call once the minute hand for 9:00 has ticked into its getting- ready-for-bedtime place.

“Oh, Hi! Sorry to bother you so late in the evening, but can you just take a look…”

“I will, but in the morning.”

“OK. Thanks!”

Whew! Thank God for devoted cousins.

So, what am I getting at here so far? Publishing is an act of collaboration. The higher the abilities of the collaborators, the better the final product.

Now, to take it one step further.


Thursday, September 8th, was the celebration of my book at our local bookstore here in Lawrence KS: The Raven Book Store. This store is the neighborhood gem for all of us here who love books. And this store caters to the needs of local authors by promoting them and their new books. They gracefully exhibit the books and provide opportunities to gather together over wine and cheese to listen to authors present excerpts in oral presentation. Again, this is another example of collaboration. This time between authors and bookstore and neighbors/Lawrentians (Not D.H.).

My writing group is called The Write-On Group. We came together on Thursday to the Raven Book Store to promote my new book and to present their work to an audience. Again, collaborative effort and celebration.

Here is the program for the Raven reading, if you wish to take a look.


So how does it feel to be published and have your work celebrated? It feels like your work has been officially stamped and sent out into the larger world.

Open Road…

The Open Road, PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE AMERICAN ROAD TRIP, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, February 27 through May 30, 2016

With 100+ images, The Open Road features 19 photographers on the move across America from the 1950s to today.

My daughter Cora and I took to the open road (about a four-hour trip from Lawrence) to take in some art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville AK, and to be together, mother and daughter in the car, in restaurants, at a bed and breakfast, and at the art museum. We both like art and food and r&r time, seeing things, and being together, so we had our own short open road trip.

Here is a photo of us and a few images of what we saw at the museum:
(We shared the same camera.

Great image !



Reinventing Ourselves

As I look around me at family members and at friends and acquaintances, even at people I don’t know but read about, I am struck with how hard people are trying to reinvent themselves. Some of these people are doing it in little ways, such as: a change in size–through diet and exercise; a quick change of appearance through a different haircut, a new hair color; or facts or fictions people are saying about themselves on Facebook. Others are more daring: having lived decades as straight, people are choosing gay partners. Still others have left any known universe we have once shared and have leapt into the unknown; these people one can only now find in snippets–both words and pics on the Internet.

Why are people doing this? Is it because of self-hate? Is it a calculated strategy to succeed in this changing world? Is it fear of failure? Is it in the hope of finally finding fulfillment? Is it finally trying to be who they really are?

About fifteen years ago, I moved from the East, where I had spent my whole life, except when I was living in London, sight-unseen to the Midwest. Now that was a rather large change. Was I trying to reinvent myself? You bet I was. In work–especially writing–and in love, I sought to create worlds that reflected the now urgent vibrant sense of self that was screaming for expression. Even if no one else acknowledged these needs for change, I did, and I acted on them.

So, did re-inventing myself work? Does reinventing oneself work?

I think it did; I think it can, if the changes one is seeking are authentic; And, if one is able to find a system or world to support the reinvention. For, reinvention is creation and creation is risk-taking, barrier breaking. Sometimes the barriers are family and friends. Sometimes the barriers are new conditions that one encounters. Sometimes the barriers are parts of oneself that are hanging on for dear life until one gives them the boot.

The Golden Summer: Giving Myself Permission to Just Be

This summer, we arrived at the lake in sorry shape. Paul had been in a biking accident where he broke his sternum. Scrapes and bruises covered his body. In fact, his entire butt was black and blue. His psyche took a hit. My eldest sister had been found in a diabetic coma and there was the family scramble of how to get her proper care. My bruises were internal: the worry over two people I love.

We headed to the lake, two Sunday drivers–what with our 4Runner, top-heavy with 2 kayaks, towing our old Corolla and changing over as drivers every hour.

Once at the cabin we were met with the workings of a critter, a critter that chewed through my couch cushions and sprayed them in a circular pattern with something smelly and black. The critter also gnawed the edge off a windowsill, scattering wood chips onto the floor. The plumbing did not work at the kitchen sink. Inside the cabin the air was cold and damp. Outside it was cold and it often rained. We did a lot of huddling under heaps of blankets, coming out to light the Franklin stove and then sit in our chairs under blankets…and sort of stare at the fire.

This state of being–like the weather–lasted about two weeks. Finally the plumber came and soldered pipes. The cabin’s pipes are the age of the cabin–forty-six–and often leak. With water in the cabin flowing, we began to move. One day Paul gingerly sat on his bike seat and rode a few miles. Material and thread came in the mail and I began to measure and sew. For a week, our kitchen table was covered with fabric, measuring tape, needles, iron. The sewing machine whirred in our little study. The light and warmth of the spring sun came to Wisconsin in mid-June. Step outside and there is the iris that usually makes its appearance at the end of May. Same for the lilies of the valley that run along the cabin’s side. And trillium, both white and pink, spreads sporadically through the ferns on the downward slope of the hill to the lake.

I transported two carefully wrapped little flower-shaped silver vases from my Norwegian grandmother–Mormor–to Wisconsin this year in order to snip a few of these lilies of the valley for the vessels and thereby bring my worlds together through a small offering of sight and smell.

Couch cushions washed, repaired, or thrown out; new curtains for the living room and bedroom up and working, it felt like I was ready for outdoor fun. What should I do today? A walk? A bike ride? A kayak ride? A swim? Friends coming soon. Let’s get going.

I notice Paul is smiling a lot–even beginning to glow. He’s now biking for 25 miles. I can sense the lightness in my own expression, an expression that comes from my insides to the outside. As I walk, I am not afraid of bears; I breathe in long whiffs of sweet light early summer air. As I kayak, I watch: the yellow water lilies opening up, the turtles sliding into the water after sunning on a log, the loon’s webbed feet disappearing from the surface water’s light-filled transparency. On my bike, I am free. I am young. Swimming, I am a girl.

Sets of friends come and play. Then, go.

Paul is now up to fifty miles a day. In a week he will join some high school guys pals to bike 400 miles across Iowa.

And I am back to me. It’s a golden place to be.

Why I Keep Letters

Perhaps I intuitively understood from an early age that my life would encompass loss. People, places, things. Whatever the case, when I was sent a letter from say my great-grandfather, Bompa, I kept it. From my grandmother in England, her missives were read, then put in a drawer. From my American friends once we moved to England, letters arrived to let me know what was going on in my native country and to let me know even as the years passed I was still missed. Those went in my top drawer. My Norwegian grandmother never wrote me. Her English wasn’t very good. But, I remember she visited Italy once and sent me a rosary. (It was made of a chain with rosaries of mother of pearl–from that trip.) I took a lot of pains to open the chain with pliers, put it around my neck and pinched the chain link closed so that I could wear it to school. Everyone there thought it was weird. You don’t wear a rosary, I was told. I undid it again at the end of the day and regretfully put it in my jewelry box where it has remained ever since–a sort of perennial love jewelry letter–which blooms every time I open the box.

But, I am digressing. There were the adventures of being a military policeman in the very north of Norway captured in pen from my Norwegian boyfriend, which buoyed me up amidst a disintegrating family when I was still living in England. Reassuring letters arrived from my first real American boyfriend back in America when we were on different educational plans in college. Unlike me, he was attending college in the summer, and the reassurance he offered me was because he knew I was not tolerating our separation well. Then years later when I was poor, I received in the mail a hand-drawn advertisement–a birthday invitation–for a ski holiday in Zermatt, Switzerland from a man who was rich. Later still, there was the E.E. Cummings poem that came via post thirteen blocks from west 72nd street to west 85th in NYC from a man I had just met that pretty much sold me on him before I knew one real thing about him. Three of these boyfriends turned into husbands, and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that words on paper had something to do with the outcomes.

Words in letters are living breathing spirits to me. Or can be. You can so easily return to them and read the intent of the person who wrote them: A well meaning great-grandfather to his great-granddaughter, a jealous sister to a jealous sister, a father who abandoned his family to his bereft daughter, a troubled son to his guilty mother, a boyfriend who forgave and never forgot. When the great-grandfather, grandmothers, father and mother, lovers and husbands are gone, the letters are still there. When there has been a rift, forgiveness can still take place. Opened, each one is a little piece of history in the making. For a few moments, each one gives me back these people and a piece of myself is restored.

Norway Part XIV

One word best describes the ghost of my mother, her people, and her land:


Those long cold dark winters.

The earth, mostly mountains.

The heavy arctic sea.

The dazzling but brief summer light.

All of these elements are climate conditions that created “bone in the nose” of its inhabitants.

My mother is gone. But she has left us “this strength…this example of grit” to return to.

You feel her presence at her cabin. The presence of my grandparents whispers in the wind. You don’t have to duck your head in shame at loss–as with my father–because though my mother’s heritage is chipped and beaten, there it still stands… rugged and, in some places, quite tall.

That’s Mom as a young woman at the front of the line of skiers, waving her ski pole in the air.

Norway Part XIII

Two days later, my sister Randi arrived with her family–husband David, adult children, Christopher and Katharine. My cousins Lillebeth and Grace went to pick her up at the airport about ten a.m. while Paul and I prepared a shrimp, smoked salmon, and cheese luncheon with a pot of tea–Randi’s favorite beverage–to welcome them.

We had already cleaned the cabin and packed, with only twenty-four hours to be together as two families in the small cabin. Not much time to be with a beloved sister!

But, we made the most of it…the best part was the swim we sisters took together the morning before our flight out on July 25th. We donned Randi’s wetsuits, climbed down the rocks in front of the cabin and–just like when we were kids–treaded water vigorously until we had built up enough body heat to swim around that part of the peninsula in the icy Skarggerak to what used to be Grandfather and Mormor’s house. Grace spotted us, came out on the lawn and waved…just like our wonderfully warm Mormor used to do.

Paul followed us down the rocks and reappeared when we returned from our swim to snap photos.

Here are two that I like:

Norway Part XII

July 22nd.

The day was cool, even a bit chilly. Paul and I were sitting in the cabin with a fire blazing, reading I think, when Lillebeth knocked on the glass door. We stood up as she burst into the room.

“Something terrible has happened,” she said a bit flushed from having run the whole way over.

What terrible thing could happen in this spectacularly peaceful place?

“A gunman has opened fire on students in their summer camp on the island of Utøya. It’s madness! It’s happening right now!”

“You saw it on T.V.? But, why?”

“No one knows why. It’s insanity!” God knows how many he has killed and it’s not over yet. I must go back!”

The rest of the news came in snippets throughout the day… and days that followed.

Dressed as a policeman.

The victims, teenagers.

30…no, 44, no… 70…death toll rising.

Bombings in Oslo of government buildings right near where Marne (Lillebeth’s daughter-in-law) takes the bus everyday to work. People killed there, too. Thank God Marne’s here.

Bombing and shootings linked.

Right wing extremist.

Didn’t agree with Norway’s policy of letting refugees resettle in Norway.

And we all know that Norway is known for its generosity towards and tolerance of immigrants, its international proven stance as a peaceful country.

We walked along the paths between houses and cabin in a state of disbelief. We talked about it with our Norwegian family. Then we didn’t talk about it.
We–at one with everyone else in Norway–were in a state of shock.