Darts Into the Darkness

Up here in the frozen North, winter takes its toll on even the hardiest souls.

And here, in the middle of January, a week or so beyond Christmastide, it’s taking its toll on this hardy soul.

As much as I pay lip service to loving winter – the crust of snow over the backyard, the frosty mornings without and the toasty fires  within – there’s a large part of winter which just chips away at my soul like, well, like frostbite. You know, creeping up on fingers and toes until – yikes! It’s Donner Party time. So sleepy… Etc.

(The other day, I looked at my phone, and was told that sunrise was around 7:30 a.m. and sunset was around 4:30 p.m. That’s nine hours of daylight, by my count. And the remaining hours – I can’t even bring myself to say how many – that’s darkness!)

Darkness.

It’s enough to make a guy start quoting Johnny Cash lyrics, isn’t it? 

Because of this, or perhaps because of just the general nature of living, there are days, psychologically, where the interior can feel a lot like the exterior. The thought of bringing beauty into the world – writing a story, sketching a new idea for a painting or an illustration, even making a beautiful meal for friends or family – seems like an insurmountable amount of work.

Bringing beauty into the world. It’s an idea that on days like these, when the darkness on the news brings a heightened awareness of the encroachment of the darkness into seemingly every corner of the world, seems like more of an idea than an actual endeavor, a task which should be completed.

But it matters. Oh, how it matters.

Making things matters. Bringing beauty into the world matters.

Because every act of love, every act of creation, is shooting a dart into the darkness. And when we make art in all its forms – a poem, a painting, a comic, a novel, a meal, a scarf, a mug – we once again have a chance to fire a razor-sharp pointed weapon against the darkness. Because beauty is love. And love is power.

It’s the thing that Meg Murry realizes when she’s face to face with It on a desperate mission to rescue her father in A Wrinkle in Time. Love.

“That was what she had that It did not have. She had Mrs. Whatsit’s love, and her father’s, and mother’s, and the real Charles Wallace’s love, and the twins’, and Aunt Beast’s. And she had her love for them. But how could she use it? What was she meant to do?”

When we make something beautiful, truthful, and good, we incarnate the Truth and wield it like a weapon against the darkness. Bit by bit. Dart by dart.

So fire away.

Advertisements

Available Now – Horace and Oscar Visit the Lake

Buy Now!

It was about this time of year, the whirlwind pre-Christmas season, more than a few years ago, when I wrote my first children’s book. I was a senior in college, and for the final assignment of our Children’s Literature class, my wife Danielle and I collaborated on a 32-page picture book. I remember two things about that project, other than our frenetic push to turn the project in on time and the what-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into feeling that met us repeatedly throughout the final weeks of the project as we learned about art design, picture book illustration, and children’s book publishing in one fell swoop (and these were the days of the internet’s infancy, mind you):

  1. Writing that story was a revelatory experience. The words came pouring out of me faster than I could put them down. The characters – a snowman named Arthur, his turtle Eli, and his new friend Caitlin – seemed already fully-formed in my head, waiting for me to meet them. Of course, the crafting and revising took lots of time and work, but the whole process was so glorious, so, well, fun, I just knew it wouldn’t be the last time I’d write for children.
  2. I was sure this manuscript would get published. (I chalk that up to a combination of naivete and ignorance. )

Well, the publication didn’t happen with that story. Shocker.

Though a few years have gone by since that snowman story, in so many ways, I still feel like that college kid, charged with adrenaline and passion at bringing a new story into the world. I’m proud to announce the publication of Horace and Oscar Visit the Lake, a delightful little story about a couple of friends and a grand adventure. It’s a beautifully-illustrated ebook that I think will make the perfect story to gather around this Christmas season, and beyond. (I’ll probably say more in the coming days about how much the artwork of the talented Jannia Mattia makes this story come alive, but for now, I’ll just say it’s a treat, and I’m sure you’ll love it!)

I love telling stories. And, even better, I love sending those stories out into the world to find a home among people who can make them a part of their own stories in new, exciting ways.

Horace and Oscar Visit the Lake is one of those stories. It’s my first published book, but I can promise you, it won’t be the last.

I’d love for you to join me and gather around this story. You can find it at Amazon, and it will be on your e-reader, iPad, or other device quicker than you can say, “Kris Kringle Kraves Krispy Kremes.”

Enjoy.

Coming Soon – Horace and Oscar Visit the Lake!

I’m proud to announce that my first book for young readers will be released December 18, 2017! Horace and Oscar Visit the Lake is two stuffed friends who decide to leave the comfort of the nursery where they live and venture out on a grand adventure. With some warm and beautiful illustrations by the amazingly-talented Janna Mattia, I think it will be the perfect read-aloud this holiday season. Check out the trailer below. And tell your friends!

The Moments and the Miles

As milestone birthdays go, turning 38 scarcely qualifies. And yet, as I found myself approaching that signpost a few weeks ago, I began to find more significance than I had anticipated. Turning 38 means two decades since the spring I graduated high school, and the fall I started college. I was 18 all those years ago, when Chumbawumba and Sugar Ray were on the radio, boy bands were still (mercifully) a few years off, and I looked at the future much like the “fresh, green breast of the new world,” which F. Scott Fitzgerald called it.

Now, with the eyes of a not-so-young man, I look upon the intervening years with more than a measure of perspective. It seems so simple in retrospect to pick out the the paths which I have hewn through the dense vegetation of the years, to measure that distance in miles and discern meaning in the big picture.

But what about the moments I spent in the midst of that forest, hacking my way through all that underbrush, machete in hand, sweat beading my forehead? Nothing seemed simple then. How can one find perspective when surrounded by the thick vegetation which comprises the daily stuff of life? I ponder this question, not just as a man looking back at where he has been, but as one looking around, looking forward, at the path ahead.

Read more at Story Warren

The Other Side

where-the-red-fern-grows-2-600x250As I recall her in my mind’s eye, Mrs. Thompson (first name lost to time) was a pleasantly plump, nurturing fifth grade teacher, clad in the sort of festive, seasonally-appropriate sweaters favored by seasoned elementary school veterans. During my first year at that small Christian school in Winter Park, Florida, she led my class through math and science, handwriting and Bible. And, she also had the distinction of bringing me face to face with death for the first meaningful time, through story.

My childhood, while not idyllic, was nonetheless, relatively free of loss. My dog Mac had died in the night on Valentine’s Day earlier in my grade school years, but to that point, I had never lost a close friend or relative. I suppose the greatest sense of loss I routinely experienced as a child was leaving behind friendships due to nearly a half-dozen moves before third grade.

So Mrs. Thompson reached the final chapter of Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows after weeks of reading aloud to our little class community, and first Old Dan, then Little Ann, left Billy behind after that run-in with the mountain lion. And something inside of me which I hadn’t even known existed, broke. The bond I had formed with these two brave hounds, tirelessly loyal to the very end, was stretched until it snapped. At the time, I probably couldn’t form my feelings into words. So I wandered through days poring over the ending of that story, trading anger for grief, until the emotions subsided, and I passed through a door into a new room, face-to-face with the reality of loss.

Read more at Story Warren

Home is a Mercy

With our boys spending a week at a summer day camp, my wife and I recently dove into a substantial (for us) home project – installing a new laminate wood floor in our kitchen. Like the true DIY go-getters we are, we did every bit ourselves. And, like the absent-minded handyman that I am, the project proceeded in fits and starts over the better part of four days as I measured, cut, laid the planks, re-measured, re-cut, tossed ill-fitting boards out, and rubbed my sore knees and my wife’s sore back, all in the hope of a fresh, clean kitchen for our family to enjoy.

It’s a task I’m not sure I envisioned eight years ago when we bought this house, our first as a married couple after several years of the renting life. When we moved in, we insisted to anyone who would listen that this house was a “starter home.” Though it was a perfectly lovely three-bedroom with good bones in a quiet village here in Western New York, positioned on a modest half-acre with a mature maple shading a bricked back patio, we felt the itch common to our generation, I’m told, to keep moving, stay for a few years, then move on out, onward and upward.

But something happened along the way, as the years went on and we moved further into the role of homeowners.

We got planted.

Read more at Story Warren