The most magnificent collection of carnelians I ever saw…

 

It was 2011, in the month of June. I was back in the village of Walberswick, Suffolk, UK for a visit after more than a three decades long absence. Of course, I went down to the beach. It was a windy day and even though the sun was out, nothing glinted the warm bright orange color of carnelians up to me from the pebble beach.

Walberswick beach

Walberswick Beach, June, 2011

I sauntered along thinking of my father, my siblings, my mother–all the things we did and did not do–during so many Walberswick days of my childhood. I picked up a few shells and put them in my pockets. Bending way down to the sand, I did find a grey stone with a gray heart rimmed with white. Second-best perfect, I thought! I kept this one in the palm of my hand, enjoying the smooth raised heart.

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My heart-shaped stone

During my stay in Walberswick, Tassie, the daughter of our family’s village friends,  whisked me off in her car to visit her mother Diana, this beautiful warm woman my whole family loved. Tassie’s father Clifford, Diana’s husband, also a most beloved family friend, was no longer alive. Tassie brought out artist Clifford’s’ paintings to show them to me. Oh what lovely landscapes he had done of Walberswick! While I studied them, I could still see him hard at work when I used to come upon him in the village. My chest heaved with the wistful memory.

Tassie didn’t stop there. While we sat on the back patio, she brought out her family’s collection of carnelians on a gray stone tray. If I didn’t gasp out loud, I am sure I laughed with delight, or at least smiled broadly.

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Clifford, Diana, and Tassie’s Carnelian Collection

Diana held the tray out to me. I lifted a beauty from it and lay it on top of my knee.

large carnelian

large carnelian

It was not wet, very dry in fact. But, still utterly amazing. Beautiful!

Yes, I wished I could take it home. No luck there. It’s part of this family’s magnificent collection. A family heirloom.

 

 

Carnelians, a pink pottery bowl, and a sage leaf

 

This is a true story.

It was an ordinary day in November in the year 2015. I went to the mailbox to fetch the usual things I don’t want—advertisements, bills etc., but in the pile I spotted something unusual: an air mail envelope from the UK with a customs declaration on the front that also had a gift box checked and a description underneath that stated it was costume jewellery. What’s this?

envelope from Ann Connack Knowland, Malthouse Farm[1]

I opened it up at once. Inside was a valentine!

Valentine from Ann copy

And inside the card was a sort of letter:

card from Ann copy

Dear Lynnie, Paul,

Not before (not sure I am reading this word right) time I write to you for Valentines Day and have enclosed carnelians which I have found on the beach in Walberswick and sending them to you with the extract from your story in my mind, “Squinting through Carnelians” which I loved…

My heart danced a jig. My good childhood friend Ann, originally from the village of Walberswick, Suffolk, UK, went to the beach and collected carnelians for me! What a thoughtful thing to do!

 

package from Ann

“Squinting through Carnelians” is now a part of the book Jewels That Speak: Tiffanys, Freuds, and Me to be published on April 17th, 10 days from now.

Kirkus Reviews addresses this part of the book: ‘She did get one thing from her Tiffany heritage: her father shared with her an appreciation of beautiful precious and, especially, semiprecious stones…  “I never went with [my father] on his solitary walks. Alone, he ambled along the chilly shoreline, especially on sunny days when light shone through the wet stones, revealing their yellow-orange to reddish-brown to rich red tones.”’

And here are the carnelians three years later.

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Ann’s carnelians from the beach in Walberswick, Suffolk UK, in a pink pottery bowl from my daughter, Cora, and with a sage leaf from my son, Roland.

 

Only twelve days away…until publication

 

Where did I leave off? Staring at my last blog on the computer screen right now, I see it was February 15th. Forty-nine days ago, and the eBook is still not where I would like it to be! Almost, but not quite. It became so frustrating that I had to change eBook publishers and this one is better, but there have still been many issues perhaps because the original file was done in an InDesign file format for the print book to make it attractive to the eye and because it includes photos and graphics and InDesign does not readily convert to mobi–which is what you need for Kindle devices. The epub file needed for Apple devices, like iBooks, also had conversion problems from the original InDesign file. There have been entirely too many files to count!

Last night I carefully studied the new file I had just been sent on Kindle previewer in KDP (Amazon Direct Kindle Publishing) in font size 4 (it goes 1-9). I read the whole book through. Even though I know the book so well, it took hours to do the examination. I prayed that my eyes would be copyeditors’ eyes, instead of the ordinary eyes I possess. I found only a few things (4 exactly) that can easily be fixed. Big, big, sigh of relief! We just might make the deadline, which for a publication date of April 17th must be April 13th on KDP.

I receive Nathan Bransford’s blogs in my inbox. He’s been very good lately with his media tips for getting the word out about your books as well as his concentration for author writing tips.  There’s tip-meat there to chew on if you are an organized person, and if you’re not, if you make yourself be organized with what he calls “extreme calendering” (his spelling.) He said he would probably have a future blog about this in more detail. I was already doing his suggestion. Yay! How? By writing down every single thing I do for my book Jewels That Speak: Tiffanys, Freuds, and Me, its date and its time in a calendar notebook. I head to my study about 5:30 am, sometimes 6:30 am, and stay there working for hours until I notice a slump in energy and know it is time for some food sustenance. Following Nathan Bransford’s tip of last night, I have my computer on full-screen mode, my phone is put away, and I have a sticky note on the top right of my screen that blocks out any incoming emails from floating across my screen. (Next step is doing the blocking on the computer itself. Oh dear!). Concentration seems to be working though! Yay again! Thanks, Nathan!

Now, for something beautiful, peaceful, and relaxing about spring that I love.

Spring flowering daffodils are symbols of rebirth and often called Lent lilies. This leaded-glass window, c. 1916, from the Morse collection is by Tiffany Studios.

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.

 

 

 

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.