Lights of Grace


Julia Cameron


Curiosity is a good thing. It takes us down many roads, allowing us to search for meaning, for joy, for purpose, and if we are lucky, ultimately the “knowing” that life is good.

Along the way we meet other curious people who do small things that create big things (like Mother Theresa); and those who do seemingly big things that make small differences (like rock stars). Without curiosity, we might fail to grasp the difference.

Julia Cameron, novelist, playwright, songwriter, and poet, is a good example of where curiosity can take us. Julia teaches, “Creativity expands in an atmosphere encouraging to it, and constricts self-protectively, in an atmosphere that is cynical or hostile.” In her book,“The Artist’s Way”, Julia reminds us that we are all creative beings.

I find curiosity to be the great encourager, nudging us toward the deeper exploration of our creative core. Affirmations further support our explorations, drawing us closer to our purpose, making it okay to let go of fear and to allow that which fulfills us to flow into the universe as it is meant to.

In Shakespeare’s play, “As You Like It”, the famous quote, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts,” remains true for all people.

I have always been curious and enjoy the variety of different parts in life, from infancy to old age. How delicious to wake up each day, curious about who I will be today. Mother? Writer? Volunteer? Golfer? Life can be exciting if we choose to be curious about it and whether we want to be participate in all its opportunities, rather than to be just a bystander.

Oh but reading, books of all kinds, has always been the core of who I am. Recently my curiosity caused me to rediscover poetry and saddened that I had let it sit on the shelf so long. But with all things, curiosity brings out those things we need, when we need it.

I began reading when I was four years old, taught by my grandmother as we read bible stories of good and evil. I was the middle child of six children. Our house was always boisterous, making it difficult to immerse myself in books that took me away from my rowdy reality. My favorite hiding place was in the huge oak tree in the front yard. I would climb it and nestle into the arms of the limbs, protected from view by the warmth of the green leaves, rustling with peace, as I immersed myself in other worlds, places, people and thoughts.

Then, around seven, I began to write stories that turned my reality into a world that I wanted to live in. I would write poems and stories of all kinds, secreting them away in my closet until one day my oldest brother discovered one of my suspense stories. I was furious and my 80 pound, 4 foot-self tried to beat him up. Laughing, he tackled me to the ground holding me down with one hand, while waving my “manuscript” in the air, saying, “When are you going to finish the story? I want to know how it ends!”

That was a defining moment for both of us. The sparks of creativity and curiosity remain with us still. It has taken fifty years for me to accept that my writing can impact one person, with one word, on any given day. Life is good when that happens, even if I never know it occurred.

That’s affirmation.

I recently received an unexpected gift, causing a stronger urging from my curiosity core. It was a ticket to attend Oprah’s The Life You Want Tour, at its first stop here in Atlanta, Georgia. I went with my curiosity radar working overtime. Oprah greeted by saying: “With the rising of the sun, you ask, “What will I make of this NEW day?”

My brain immediately proclaimed, “I’m here aren’t I?” I was soon to learn those words would mean so much more than attendance.

As if reading my mind and not to be outdone, Oprah asked us to close our eyes and picture someone we love and to ask ourselves what we wish for them. I wished for my loves “to be happy, to achieve the contentment that comes from the awareness that for each day that they are given, may they make that day count by using their gifts, giving those gifts freely to others, and to accept that they can love and that they are loved…and that… Is. Enough.

Then, in her Oprah way she gently reminded us to realize that what we wish for those we love is often what we desire for ourselves. Curious from this perspective, I reflected on this meaning, realizing the truth of her words, and by living that truth for myself, it is enough.

That’s affirmation.

Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle. I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!” “Curiouser and curiouser!”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

What makes us who we are? Where is the creative center of our own personal universe? What is the spark inside each of us that will illuminate and make a difference in the sometimes dark path others may be traveling and in the doing, for ourselves as well?

Aren’t you curious?

Life is for Learning

Just when I think I’m too old to learn new things, I learn I’m wrong.

This week, finally reaching that momentous event that sometimes occurs in life, I had cataract surgery. The world had been a dim, sometimes scary, place to be. My surgery was quick and painless, with little recovery time. Imagine my delight when I discovered a bright, fresh, and more colorful world!

I vaguely remembered that beauty, or the anticipation of all the unexpected wonders yet-to-be. Without realizing it, life grew a bit dimmer, along with my eyesight.  I didn’t take the time to appreciate the nuances of life. I was no longer delighted by the various shades of green in the tree line. I couldn’t remember when I stopped seeing, or appreciating, the life I had been given.

Pastor Mic once told me that God could have given us a world of black and white. We wouldn’t have known any other view, so why did He? “God didn’t need to give us color,” Pastor Mic said. “He did because He wanted us to find joy in the world which He had given us.”

A forty-five minute surgery changed my way of seeing. Learning changed my way of being. The way of being is all about living life; and isn’t life all about learning to live it?

In the past few years I learned that my career had a shelf life, and when I reached it, I retired and learned to live life in reverse. Not a “do-over”, I liked my life, but rather to do those things I always intended to “get around to”.

I’m learning to paint. Nelle, one of my dearest friends, will turn ninety in a few days. I had gone to Picasso’s Corner to paint, considering it a lark since I had never painted. Ever. They guarantee that you will walk out with a completed painting within 2-3 hours.

My first painting
My first painting

Nelle, whose paintings take my breath away, took one look at my painting and invited me to the painting sessions she attends each Tuesday morning. Being so busy with doing laundry, cleaning out the junk drawers and other such stimulating activities, I declined. Needless to say, Nelle has learned to get done what needs to be done in the most effective way over her first ninety years. Each Tuesday morning, precisely at 10:00 a.m. I’m standing on my driveway, waiting for her to pick me up for our painting sessions.

I’m also learning to write with clearer eyes.  My friend Liz coaches me to be better.  She introduced me to Julia Cameron, Anne Lamott, Natalie Goldberg and other authors who inspire me to write what I am meant to write.

As I sit at my battered old desk, piled high with papers, notebooks, reference books, fiction novels, pencils, – just the way I like it, the mess fades as I get lost in the words as they flow through my fingers to the computer screen.

I imagine. I type. I print. I get my pencil and edit. I don’t see the pictures I lovingly covered my office walls with. The colorful one from The Georgia Artist Series, the pen and ink of the Georgia state capitol and a caricature of me, both drawn by my good friend, Huey Theus, who died this year.

I don’t see the picture taken with Governor Zell Miller as he signed a bill into law that I had worked hard to get passed. I don’t see the diplomas of my BS or my MS degrees. I don’t see the bookcase with the publications containing my published works.

But, I do see the small window to the left of my computer screen. It is always open so that I can see the hanging basket,the red geraniums flowing over the sides. The Japanese maple tree, its fragile green leaves tinged red where the sun kisses it ever so gently, stands next to the soothing fountain, listening to its bubbling secrets.

I lose myself even from these things. But the one thing I always see are the two hummingbirds as they come each day to visit. They are so beautiful, their dark green bodies floating in their gentle activity, never stopping while getting nourishment and rewarding me with their whispers, reminding me to be still for that moment.

When they buzz away, my eyes are drawn to the scroll work of the metal cross that hangs by the window, just right of where the birds greet me with their gentle, relentless lesson.

I go still. I smile and say with great joy, “Thank you God for the learning.”

“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,”
Proverbs 1:5 ESV

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