I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind. –Emily Bronte
Some mornings, before I’m fully awake, I lie in bed swimming in a sea of dreams. Their images (a cup, a pew, a panting dog) float around me in nets of narratives but then dissolve as I climb into consciousness. Every rare once in a while I can pull one into the air. Once I realize I’ve done this, I repeat the dream to myself until I can reach pen and paper. Even if I have no idea what the dream is about, the fact of harvesting the dream feels significant. I’ve heard you, my remembering seems to say. The gift of you, I’ve received. Continue reading
Over the next few months I’m sharing excerpts from Writing the Sacred Journey so I can take a break from writing about writing to actually do some writing!
One spring I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was privileged to hear Jane Yolen speak. Yolen, the author of over a hundred children’s books, identified herself as a Jewish Quaker. She spoke on the hazards of addressing spiritual questions in books for children, explaining that children’s book buyers are primarily public schools and libraries, which tend to shy away from spiritually inclined literature. Nonreligious publishers are often unwilling to take on material that might prove controversial. Yet as Yolen pointed out, children ask spiritual questions: Where did Rover go when he died? Why do some people attend church and not others? Who is God? Yolen argued that we do wrong by our children when we censor stories that might aid them in their seeking.
After Yolen’s lecture a member of the audience asked, “To whom do you think children’s authors should be accountable for the moral quality of their books?” The questioner was concerned that indoctrinating content might wind up in her children’s hands. Yolen responded fiercely, “Every writer has three responsibilities: first to the story, second to yourself, and finally to your audience.” Continue reading
One evening when I was in college, I attended an orchestral concert in the large Gothic Revival chapel. The atmosphere was elegant, subdued. The space was dim, candles on two grand wooden candelabras burned up front, and hundreds of listeners were swept up in the rise and swell of the music.
I sat toward the back. In my late teens and early twenties I was terrifically shy; I avoided talking to professors, stuck tight to my core group of friends, and did my best to avoid any limelight. The student body at my college was extreme in its intelligence and talent, which intimidated me terribly; for three years I was convinced admissions had made a mistake by accepting me, and I struggled mightily to prove to myself or anyone that I belonged. I’m not sure when or how that feeling dissipated, but the night of this concert certainly helped. Continue reading