Women Who Create (An Interview)

I write about me, my experiences, my own observations. Yet, somehow, I still manage not to tell you very much about myself.

Danielle Ayers Jones, writer, photographer, and an all-around lovely woman, is helping to rectify that. Danielle has posted an interview with me as part of her blog series Inspire: Women Who Create.

It is, as the title suggests, an inspiring series. I feel pleased and privileged to be a part of it.

If you have any interest in my personal and creative journey, in my upcoming book, or just want to see a photo of my cute kids (they are cute, even if we never do manage to capture all four smiling at once), I very much hope you’ll read all about it.

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What I Saw In The Golden Hour

It is called the Golden Hour or, sometimes, the Magic Hour. Photographers and filmmakers revere it.

It rarely, if ever, lasts an hour. Usually it is less, though in the far north in deep winter, it might last all day. It is that period just after sunrise, or, more usually, just before sunset when the light is warm and soft and shadows are long and gentle.

During our winters, golden hour is something I glimpse from a window in mid-afternoon. A sight that causes me to pause. For a moment.

Now that it is spring, golden hour is more like a place. We might wander in and out of the house all day, but as sunset nears a new door opens. It no longer matters what indoor tasks are pressing on us (homework, dinner prep, a pile of laundry on the dining-room table). When that door opens we will stay outside until the door swings shut and every last, golden drop vanishes.

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This week, in this magic evening place, I have seen a two-year-old girl, her hair the same color as the light, kneel in a sea of violets. She used a stick to stir a basket overflowing with dandelions. She was so focused on her fluffy, yellow stew that she never saw the pink magnolia petals drifting behind her back. She never noticed the bright green buds from the maple tree dusting her shoulders.

This week, in the golden place, I have seen a brother and sister roll their bodies down a green hill, over and over again. My own shadow was so long, reaching toward them, it seemed as if I could wrap shadow arms around them while they rolled. I could use shadow hands to help them back onto their feet.

In the golden hour, all kinds of burdens are lifted. Dinner and homework and laundry matter so much less. Even the daily burden of gravity seems to lift. In this light, we walk somewhere between the earth and the sky, belonging equally to both. When the two-year-old cries, “I catch the moon!” I believe her.

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Here is what I have seen in the golden hour: my children are beautiful, the earth is gentle, there is no reason, ever, to be afraid.

Here is why I hesitate to share what I have seen: Baltimore burns, another young black man is dead, wars rage, a marriage is ending, young parents grieve a baby’s diagnosis, a friend has landed back in the hospital.

I am strongly tempted to keep the vision of golden hour a secret. I know that my world is not the whole world. Do I tempt you toward jealousy if I say that this week my life, between the hours of six and eight, is almost unbearably beautiful?

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Yet if I am silent then some essential part of the story goes missing.

CNN and NPR tell their stories, and we feel duty-bound to hear them. What about the good news? What about those dispatches from the golden hours?

The door to that place opens and closes according to a will that is not ours. Some evenings bring clouds and rain, and we are given only darkness.

I cannot even begin to guess why this is so.

But I hope that when the clouds move in, and darkness once again surrounds me, that you – yes, you – will have the courage to share your golden visions.

That I might know more of the story and take heart.

That I might glimpse the ending of it all and have hope.

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This Is Pizza Night, This Is Prayer

In our home, Friday night is for pizza. I imagine that is true for many of you as well.

For ten years, we lived in pizza heaven (also known as Chicago.) Late on Friday afternoon, we would decide which neighborhood pizza place was calling our name.

Within a few blocks of our apartment we had two long-time pizza restaurants that served traditional, deep-dish Chicago pizza. I still dream about that spinach pizza pie. One slice would make you grab your belly and groan. Every once in a while my husband managed two.

There was also the little Italian restaurant on 53rd Street with its gourmet, thin-crust pizzas. We loved a version with thinly sliced potatoes and fresh rosemary, but I made the mistake of eating it early in my pregnancy with my firstborn. It was years before I could eat that pizza without remembering first-trimester suffering. Every few months, my husband would ask, plaintively, “How do you feel about potato pizza?”

Toward the end of our decade in the city, a new “bake-at-home” takeout place opened up. It was a little more affordable than the other options, and the ingredients were incredibly fresh. Baby spinach, large leaves of basil, golden, caramelized shallots, rich, briny olives … I think we tried a new combination every Friday night.

Then we moved to Florida.

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In Jacksonville, we sampled every pizza place in a 15-miles radius before accepting that things had changed. We’ve been making our own pizza ever since.

Our homemade pizza is cheap, quick, easy, and, oh my goodness, is it delicious. It may not be Chicago deep dish, but it is good.

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I’m sharing a story of homemade pizza, practical hospitality, and prayer over at Grace Table today. I am also sharing our recipe.

Won’t you join me?

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Five Life-Changing Lessons From The Garden

Lesson One:

The weeds come back first.

Don’t be discouraged. Start weeding. Keep waiting.

And, especially, keep your eyes open.

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Lesson Two:

Even your least-favorite colors are beautiful after a long winter. Neon-yellow forsythia, I’m looking at you.

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Lesson Three:

After a long winter spent with books, it takes time to reacquaint yourself with the world outside your door. Like the two-year-old, you may at first mistake a bumble bee for a “porcupine.”

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Lesson Four:

Don’t put off till tomorrow the cleanup you can do today. Especially because, tomorrow, all those brush piles will be edged with poison ivy.

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Lesson Five:

The garden asks you to do and be. It is important to cut back all the hydrangeas that bloom on new wood, but it is just as important to sit in a green patch memorizing the stripes on a purple crocus.

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What’s growing in your bit of earth?

 

(P.S. These springtime photos were taken by my sister, Kelli Campbell, last year. If you’d like to keep up with the spring just beginning at Maplehurst, you can find my own images on Instagram.)