Three Seeds Under

searching for wholeness in a fractured world

(100 books) 8 – 1Q84

I’ve been on a Murakami kick lately. A few years ago, I posted about my favorite Murakami novel, Kafka on the Shore. I listened to the audiobook again a few months ago with my husband, and he was so impressed that we immediately moved onto 1Q84. In the three months it took us to finish the audiobook, I also finished Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage and started A Wild Sheep Chase. 1Q84 didn’t — quite — manage to knock Kafka on the Shore off my number one spot, but it was a near thing.

1Q84

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the spring thaw

Spring is here, or just about.

It feels odd to write that when so many parts of the country are dealing with snow drifts and below-freezing temperatures, but here in Seattle, it’s warm enough that I’ve put away my winter coat. All over my neighborhood, trees are blooming with little pink flowers. Magnolias, I think, though I’m not quite sure. There are daffodils blooming in the traffic circle up the street, and a little hand-painted sign asking people not to pick them. It feels like the world is waking up around me.

And I am waking up, too.

In her amazing song “After All,” Dar Williams says of depression:

It felt like a winter machine
That you go through and then
You catch your breath and winter starts again
And everyone else is spring bound

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(100 books) 7 – Born to Run

I read Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run on a whim right after Christmas. The first day I opened it up, I read half of it in one go, then (buoyed up by that second-hand runner’s high) downloaded a Couch to 5k app, pulled on some sweats, and left the apartment before I could talk myself into doing something sane like making buttered noodles instead. Yeah, I don’t know what got into me either, except that I had suddenly become indignant at myself for denying my body what is, apparently, its God-given right to be able to run barefoot for miles on end.

Borntorun

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starting up again

When your life changes dramatically (even in a good way), it can sometimes be hard to fall back into the swing of things. That’s the best excuse I can come up with for leaving this blog sitting vacant for six months. But being at Foolscap this weekend and meeting so many other writers gave me the kick in the pants I need to get back to it.

Regularly scheduled book reviews will start again tomorrow.

a small reminder

I’ve learned over the years that inner space tends to mirror outer space. The messier my house is, the more scattered and depressed I feel. It would be easy enough to say that my depression causes the messy house, which could very well be true. But that doesn’t explain why organizing my a desktop helps me to organize my thoughts, or washing a sink full of dirty dishes helps me to feel like I’ve processed some of my own feelings. Sometimes I think serenity doesn’t begin in the mind, but in the home or the office.

As I mentioned in my last post, my husband and I are in the process of moving. The house is a disaster right now, and pretty much destined to remain one until all of our stuff has been packed away and brought to the new apartment. I’ve felt uprooted all this week, unable to concentrate on anything for long. There’s this little ball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach — so much to do between moving and looking for a new job!

But yesterday, my husband came down to my office with a little gift — a lily he’d picked from the garden. I cleared a little place for it amidst the piles of craft supplies I’ve been sorting through on my desk. It’s still sitting there next to my sun lamp, a fragrant reminder that every little taste of serenity counts. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’ve managed to re-do my resume and get two applications and cover letters sent out since he put it there. When I’m feeling disjointed, I just look at the flower. Not at the moving boxes. Not at the dishes I need to carry upstairs. Not at the piles of clutter that I still need to sort through.

Just the flower.

Lily

Feeling stressed? Messy house? Try it! Just clear one tiny space, for now, and give yourself something beautiful to look at. And let me know if it works!

What is this blog about, anyway?

Any of you who follow my husband’s blog might know that he’s taking a course this summer called Social Web for Social Change. I’m not in the course myself, but I feel like I’ve learned an awful lot from it. Drew always gets out of class brimming with insights, and I’ve enjoyed watching him develop his own blogging presence and begin incorporating multimedia elements into it. So it follows that, learning vicariously through him, I’ve started to think about my own blog more. This has led to an unscheduled hiatus as I decided where I want this blog to go. (Of course, it doesn’t help that we’re in the middle of a move right now — these are just the upstairs books!)

Books moving
photo by Andrew Jones

I originally began Three Seeds Under to develop an online presence for myself as a writer. I will use it to announce any publications and links to my online work. And of course, I will continue to review the books I love. However, I want this blog to be more than a blog about words, as much as I treasure them.

My tagline is “searching for wholeness in a fractured world.” I’m fairly upfront about the fact that I live with mental illness. I’ve struggled with depression since childhood. I also have ADHD, which was only diagnosed in my thirties, as is sadly the case for many women. Yet I don’t want Three Seeds Under to be a mental health blog. Rather, it truly is about the search for wholeness — for integrity.

When we live with integrity, we live as our whole selves, not our fractured selves. We live according to our deepest principles and beliefs. This is a challenge for all of us, no matter the chemical make-up of our brains. The world is not set up to make integrity easy. But then, nothing easy is ever worth doing.

I want to use this online space to celebrate the things that have helped me to find my center when I inevitably veer off course. Books are on that list, of course, as is my writing. But so too are many movies and songs, bits of philosophy, creativity, spirituality, and what I like to call the Ars Vitae (Latin for Art of Life) — all those little habits that help to draw out the joy in life. As John Crowley said in Little Big, “The things that make us happy make us wise.” I can’t claim wisdom, but I’m searching for it, as I’m searching for ways to live with more integrity.

If you are also on this journey, I invite you to share my path for awhile.

(100 books) 6 – Ecstasia by Francesca Lia Block

In the carnival city of Elysia, the land of youth, life is a sweet excess of costumes, parties, food, drink, and debauchery. Four friends live together there and play in a band called Ecstasia. Then their drummer, Rafe, falls in love with a tight-rope walker who has a secret linking her to Underground, where the elderly are banished. Their doomed romance drives the entire band to explore the shadows hidden beneath the city and in their own hearts.

Ecstasia

I read Ecstasia for the first time in middle school, and completely fell under its spell. I carried it with me nearly everywhere I went. I wore through three copies in nearly as many years — as you can see, my current is still ragged and dog-eared, the binding coming free. I read it so many times that I still have certain passages almost memorized. But why did it have such an impact on me?

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Clarion Write-a-Thon

I’m a big fan of the Clarion writer’s workshop. It has turned out some amazing authors, and looks like such a fun experience. Someday, I’d like to be able to participate in it. But for now, I can participate in the Write-a-Thon, to raise some money for this fantastic program, and get a bit of writing done, to boot!

My goal this summer is to draft, edit, and submit three new short stories. To help myself decide what to write, I spent this evening putting together a BINGO card (which Drew then made pretty for me). Each story that I write this summer should complete either a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal BINGO.

Slide1

But it wouldn’t be a Write-a-Thon without some audience participation! Therefore, I’m giving you all the chance to sponsor me if you also want to help out Clarion.

Amount Donated Incentive
$5 Your own, personalized BINGO card of writing prompts
$10 Editing and feedback* on any story under 5k, or one hour of cheerleading/brainstorming services via e-mail, IM or Skype
$20 Editing and feedback* on any story under 10k, or two hours of cheerleading/brainstorming services via e-mail, IM or Skype
$50 Editing and feedback* on any work under 50k, or on-call** cheerleading/brainstorming services via e-mail, IM, or Skype for an entire week! I will also throw in a Tarot reading for your current story or any of its characters.
$100 Editing and feedback* on any work under $100k, with on-call** cheerleading/brainstorming services via e-mail, IM or Skype for a month! In addition, you will get a Tarot reading for your current story or any of its characters, a personalized BINGO prompt card, a video trailer for your story, and something awesome*** handcrafted by yours truly.

* When it comes to editing and feedback, I’m very versatile. I can do surface-level polishing of spelling and grammar (be warned — I am an English teacher!), or I can give you more in-depth feedback on plot, characterization, or just about anything else you can think of.

** Within reason. I do need to eat and sleep, after all 🙂

** You can choose between any of my delicious baked goods, a pocket shrine or set of 10 inchies, or a poem.

Intrigued? Head over to my Write-a-Thon page and click “Sponsor this writer.”

(100 books) 5 – The Wood Wife

In Bellingham, we lived in a haunted attic apartment an easy walk from downtown. On Saturday mornings, we slept in, then walked downtown for chocolate croissants at La Vie En Rose and coffee at The Black Drop. I used to bring my laptop to Boulevard park and write while watching boats move across the bay. We visited used bookstores, shopped at the food co-op a few blocks from our apartment, and caught live music whenever we could. When my car broke down, I didn’t bother to replace it — we lived right across from the bus terminal, and I could get just about anywhere I wanted to go by foot or public transit. I lived in a world of blues, greens, and grays; the bay, the evergreens, and the mountains all washed together, their edges smoothed and rounded by the constant rain.

When we moved to Yakima so that I could start my teaching career, it might as well have been another planet. Forget about walking — half of the streets didn’t even have sidewalks. The few city busses only ran sporadically. We drove everywhere — to the grocery store, to church, to my school, twenty minutes away. Most of the buildings were tagged with graffiti. The best bookstore was the now-closed Borders in Union Gap. Even the landscape looked different — it reminded me, more than anything, of the planets Spaceman Spiff explored in Calvin and Hobbes. The sun was too bright. The heat too oppressive. The hills on the horizon constantly startled me. I didn’t know a single person. The only familiar things were Drew and the cat, and both of them felt as shaken as I was, the three of us rattling around our enormous (to us) rental house like the dandelion seeds blowing across the front yard, scattered and adrift.

On my first day of teaching, I was a nervous wreck. For the past month, I’d had nightmares about out-of-control classes. I’d done my student teaching with sixth graders, but here, I’d be working at a high school. I was terrified that the kids would be rude; that they’d hate me, or I them; that they’d break into fights; that they wouldn’t listen to me; that I wasn’t cut out for teaching at all.

That was the day Drew gave me a pair of turquoise earrings, along with the little hand-drawn charm:

Protection

The bunny girl stands for me. I love bunnies. But the turquoise, the spirals, the “for protection,” all of that came from The Wood Wife, by Terri Windling.

Woodwife

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The Art of Life

At our church every Sunday, we have a moment I treasure called Joys and Sorrows. The celebrant usually introduces it with, “As we travel through life, each of us comes upon high and low points in individual journeys. By sharing these peaks and valleys with others, our sorrows are lightened and our joys enhanced.” I’m not sure if this is a peak or a valley I’ve stumbled upon. Maybe it’s both — a swaying rope bridge suspended high over a valley. My blog has sat empty for a few weeks now while I started the journey across it. But now that I’m feeling more secure in my footing, I’m ready to share.

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting about Terri Windling’s fantastic novel, The Wood Wife, which I made a point of re-reading four years ago when my husband and I moved from the lovely bayside town of Bellingham to the shrub steppe desert of Yakima. It’s been a joy and a challenge living here — I’ve grown a lot, met some fabulous people, and even learned to appreciate the beauty of the red hills that loom like sleeping dinosaurs on the horizon. For awhile, we strongly considered buying a house and settling down here. But if we did, I think that’s just what it would feel like — settling.

In our hearts, we’ve never stopped thinking of Bellingham as home. We even have a map of Bellingham Bay over our mantle. Soon enough, we’re going to see it again in person. I’ve resigned from my job, and we’re preparing to move back to the town we love.

Mantle1

In The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, I found a quote that has been my motto: Leap, and the net will appear. I don’t have a new job lined up yet , and I’m going to miss the community we’ve found. We’ll almost certainly take a hit financially. But in a way, it’s never going to be easier to move than it is right now, while my husband is in graduate school and we don’t have any kids. It’s a leap of faith — but even if the net doesn’t materialize, hitting bottom, in this case, won’t be all that bad. God knows we’ve learned how to live cheaply in Bellingham. And this move will put us closer to family, and to used bookstores, and coffee shops, and public transit, and a million other things that have made my life poorer through missing them. At any rate, I’m seeing the road ahead, not as a trial, but as an adventure. I’m looking forward to these next few months, rickety footbridge and all!

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