I went to the monthly meeting of my favorite book group last Sunday, eager to see the three women who are my sisters-in-reading, my sisters-in-seeking, my sisters-in-adventure. We've been a group for almost twelve years and have been through some stuff together. This is the group I went to the LA Times-UCLA Book Fest with over a year ago, the group I'm going to Croatia with next summer. This is the group I tried to quit once because I was so frustrated about people not reading the books we agreed to read. This is the group that would not let me quit - although they did give me some space and time to cool my jets.
We are me, Deb; Patty, a fellow teacher and someone I look to as a role model for courage and living life with the volume and gusto of an Italian tenor; Lou, an attorney and the one who organizes our outings with detailed, tightly packed and unbelievably fun itineraries; and another Deb, a school secretary who in real life is a gifted writer of children's books searching for just the right agent to help bring her work into the world.
Deb and I have formed a lovely and special bond in the last couple of years as fellow writers and bloggers. We read each other's blogs. We commiserate about the lack of time and energy our work life leaves us for writing. We are the two in the group who have always read all of the books - or tried to - and she's one of my favorite sources for new reading material.
When I walked into Lou's house on Sunday, the last to arrive, everyone was gathered in the kitchen. They were helping get food together for us to take out to our clubhouse - Lou's newly covered, screened and furnished patio - in the backyard. I was in the middle of a conversation with Patty when I became aware of Deb standing at my side with a blue folder in her hand. She mentioned my Shimmer post as she pulled out two pieces of paper. It took me a moment to understand what I was seeing, even as Deb was explaining. Goose bumps exploded down my arms. Tears pooled and were blinked away.
She had taken my Shimmer post, copied it into a site called wordle.net, and produced the word cloud you see at the top of this post. She gave me two clouds. One was black and white. The other vividly colorful. The size of the words is determined by how many times they are used in the piece being clouded. The site is free. The choices endless.
For the last few days I've been pondering the message in this third Shimmer. It seems that, like the word itself, the message is gentle and uncomplicated. A friend and fellow writer took the time to give me a gift of my own words. I'm trying really hard not to big-deal this. Deb is not one to big-deal; in fact she downplays a lot and is one of the most humble people I know. But my heart is bursting with the big-dealness of her thoughtful gift.
The story didn't end on Sunday.
I knew instantly that I had to blog Deb's gift. I knew I needed to show my Shimmer Cloud. I didn't know how to get the hard copy into my computer. I was so proud of myself when I figured out how to scan the image (I know how simple it is, but I'm still pretty impressed with myself!). But it scanned vertically and I could not get the damn cloud to rotate and stay rotated. I finally asked Walt for help today (three days later), and less than five minutes later I'm ready to go.
As I always do at the beginning of a posting, I check my comments from the previous one. Today I found an additional comment from Deb, informing me that she had presented me with an award. I thought that was nice, but was not overly impressed. Until I went to her site and read what she wrote about me.
I've been stuck trying to start the rewrite of my book for days. This next draft requires me to get even closer to my story than I have before, in areas that I have so far managed to avoid. I have written an entire book about a search for a family to replace the one I was given when I came to this life, without ever really talking about my relationship with the parents who raised me.
My inner voices, ever helpful, have been loud. "You're not that good a writer." "You're wasting your time. Who do you think you're fooling?" "Your story isn't that interesting. No one is going to care." "You're too old to be starting this. There's not enough time left."
I've been doing battle with them as best I can, but Deb's kind words are the weapons of light I needed to send those destructive words scurrying back into the darkness. What I'm feeling now is the shimmer of gratitude, the shimmer of hope, the shimmer of happiness. Is it possible that this is my new landscape? The new bottom line from which all else grows and flows? How blessed am I?