Stephen King’s The Stand

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ~ Nelson Mandela

I am not a fan of horror anything. I don’t like attending haunted houses on Halloween. I always shut my eyes at the bloody, gory parts of movies and I don’t read books in the horror genre. My distaste of horror probably has to do with the proliferation of slasher movies as I was coming of age, where the main attraction are the number of deaths and the buckets of blood generated from them.

Another reason I don’t like horror books and movies is because I’m a highly sensitive person. I dream about what I’ve just watched on TV or read in my book, so you can understand why I stay away from blood and gore especially right before bed.

Last night, as I was driving home from teaching, I was catching up on my Super Soul Conversations podcast. Oprah was talking to Jordan Peele, the writer, director, and one of the producers of the Oscar Nominated film, Get Out. It’s a horror movie, so I was not planning to go see it even though it’s a character study of African American/White relations, something I think extremely important. But Jordan Peele said something interesting about the horror genre, and I’m paraphrasing; it’s a genre that helps us face our fears. Hmm, maybe Get Out is a different kind of horror picture. I might want to see it because I’m a big fan of facing my fears.

As I was listening to Jordan and Oprah talk, I couldn’t help but connect it to this post. I had planned to write about Stephen King’s The Stand.

The mini-series came out in 1994. Barry and I were intrigued by the trailers. It seemed like it was going to be an interesting character study couched in a good vs evil story line so we watched and loved it. It’s really more a dystopian type story than what I would call true horror.

The story is this: A plague has been accidentally released at a government facility and quickly spreads across the United States and the world. Almost everyone dies. In the U.S., those who live fall into two camps, the ones who dream primarily of Mother Abigail, a 106 year old woman living in Kansas, and those who dream primarily of Randall Flagg, a demon character in human disguise. The Mother Abigail group join her and move to Boulder, Colorado. The other group joins Flagg in Las Vegas. A war between good and evil ensues.

The religious references are mostly from an Old Testament point of view, which at first was a major drawback for me. However, as a student of religion and spirituality, I thought King’s take on this fictional spiritual war was fascinating. It was after all, just a story.

Some of the most interesting characters were the ones who chose to align with Flagg. Lloyd Henreid, for example, is a mixture of admirable qualities which includes loyalty, and not so admirable ones like self-interest. At one point Henreid knows he’s going to hell for his decision, but his loyalty to Flagg, who saved him, prevents him from making a new choice.

Trashcan Man is another fascinating character. He’s a mentally ill pyromaniac Flagg has recruited for a special mission, not realizing that that might not have been such a good idea.

On the other side, we have Nick Andros, a deaf mute who becomes one of the prominent leaders trying to establish and rebuild the “good” community, and Tom Cullen a “retarded” man who ends up being one of the heroes at the end of the story.

The cast of characters is long and varied with enough unusual backgrounds and personality traits to keep the viewer or reader engaged. Mother Abigail, for example, talks to God and shares what He tell her. She’s wise, but she makes mistakes along the way. Flagg, on the other hand, who seems to be strong, eventually shows how deeply insecure and frightened he really is. These kinds of characters make for a richly layered story.

The mini-series was so good because Stephen King was part of the production. And that compelled me to go right out and buy a paperback copy of the book. It’s over one thousand pages long filled with more unusual characters than I’ve had space to write about here. They find themselves in extraordinary circumstances and must try to cope and rebuild. Those are the kinds of stories I find most satisfying and in The Stand Stephen King delivered exactly that.

Who knows, I may read another of his books one day. My candidate is The Green Mile, another book recommended to me by the movie made from it.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much.

One last thing, a commercial announcement. I’m having a Spring sale of The Space Between Time for FREE, beginning tomorrow, March 22 and continuing through the 25th. If you want the ebook version, click on the Smashwords link below to download for any e-reader available. If you want a physical book, click on the Amazon link. The only payment I ask of you is to write an honest review and share it not only on the site where you got the book, but on your social media sites as well. Word of mouth is still the best way to advertise. Thanks in advance.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. I you prefer a physical book, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird book cover

“If you just learn a single trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” ~ Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird

I know it’s St. Patrick’s day and I should be writing about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, or some other book about Ireland, or the Irish experience in America, but I haven’t finished reading Tree yet so that will have to wait for another post.

Instead, I have a confession to make. I did not read To Kill A Mockingbird until about two years ago. I know! How come I was not required to read it in school? Well, perhaps since I had just started elementary school when the book came out in 1960 and the movie came out two years later, it hadn’t become an American icon quite yet even though the book won the Pultzer Prize for literature. So, I was introduced to this amazing story by the movie.

It was probably on one of those Sunday Night at the Movies programs that were so popular back in the dark ages when there were only three TV networks. They were TV “events” showing recently released movies that had received lots of acclaim. The movie won three Oscars and was nominated for five more.

The Sunday Night at the Movies program was a godsend for our family since we lived in a series of small towns most of them with no movie theater. To Kill a Mockingbird became one of our family favorites. Whenever it was on TV ever after, I would watch it sometimes with other family members. But most often I watched it with my father. He and I would discuss the characters, events and main ideas. Loving the movie so much, it’s hard even for me to believe it took so long for me to read the book.

I can’t really say why I never felt compelled to pick up the book. It might be partly because the character of Atticus Finch was so much like my father, the way he interacted with his children was so much like the way my father interacted with my brother, sisters, and me. Or maybe it’s because I don’t understand Southern sensibilities. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest where the outlook on life is very different. I’ve read a number of books about the south and I don’t understand the long held beliefs and emotions that divide classes and races. But, in truth, I think that has more to do with the way I was raised than where I grew up. No matter what the reason, I’m so glad I finally got around to reading the book.

I have another confession to make. To Kill a Mockingbird was the movie that began my life long love for Gregory Peck. There was some core of goodness about him, and most of his characters, no matter how troubled they might be that was reflected through to the audience. I love his work so much that I made sure I got an autographed photograph of him at an International Thespian Festival I attended years ago. That photograph hangs on my office wall above a photo of my father.

Just now as I write this I realize that I didn’t want to spoil the image of Atticus I got from the movie, just in case the book and movie characters were different. I was relieved that Atticus retained the same characteristics in the book that I had so loved in the movie.

Several years ago, when I was teaching high school, I was given the opportunity to acquire a course called The Story of Movies, produced by The Film Foundation in partnership with IBM and Turner Classic Movies. The course is designed to help teachers and students understand how to identify the language of film so they can get the most out their movie going experience. The first of what was supposed to be a series used To Kill A Mockingbird as the source material. There were two things I learned from teaching the course that helped me appreciate this beloved movie even more.

The first is that everything that is in a movie, whether it is part of the setting, costumes, music, or even the opening credits, has a purpose. In a way the audience is receiving subliminal information in every frame of a film. The second is what I pointed out before, the camera shows the audience what to focus upon.

The Story of Movies video and materials pointed out something I had not thought about before. Opening credits are important, especially for older movies, and particularly for this one. The camera focuses on a child’s hands opening an old cigar box while she is singing. She takes out each one of the things in the box. As the credits continue the movie theme music begins underneath the images. All the things that are shown in the box during the opening credits are things Jem shows Scout later in the movie. If you are an avid movie fan, those kinds of details are the extras that enhance your movie watching experience.

There is one scene in the movie that I find extraordinarily moving. It’s the scene after Tom Robinson’s trial is over. Everyone has left the courtroom except Atticus and the black spectators in the upper gallery. As Atticus leaves, they stand up as a show of honor for his efforts to save Tom. The camera takes in the wide shot so we see both Atticus and the people standing. Atticus doesn’t look up to acknowledge their tribute. My throat closes up every time.

There have been times when I felt like I didn’t have the right to weep at this moment because I’m a white woman. I think it’s sad that the black people of Macon are thought of as second class citizens, so much so that even a poor white family is held in higher esteem than they are. It’s such a complicated moment. I always think that Atticus can’t look up because of all the history that divide whites and blacks in his community, or maybe it’s because he doesn’t want to embarrass them, or maybe it’s because he feels that he should have done a better job of defending Tom, or maybe he’s ashamed of the whites in his town for upholding the status quo. All those feelings affect me. I just want the white and the black people to be able to have a clean, open relationship, but for whatever reason, they can’t.

As I said, I felt guilty about my emotion over that moment, until I listened to an interview with a black actor, I think it was with Laurence Fishburn. He nearly wept as he told the interviewer how that same moment in the movie makes him weep every time. He listed the same reasons that affect me so deeply. I felt vindicated. And what he said made me think that no matter how I’m affected by art, that’s a good thing. I should never feel ashamed of expressing my true emotions.

So often we apologize for showing deep emotions, even in our most private moments. When something touches me so deeply that I cry, I feel extremely vulnerable. But it’s in our most vulnerable moments that we have the best opportunity of connecting with others. We don’t apologize for laughing, why apologize for crying? Having come to that conclusion, I’ve vowed not to apologize ever again for weeping when I’m in public.

To Kill a Mockingbird is one case in which the book and the movie are essentially the same. Some of the events and characters are condensed or emphasized differently, but the core message is universal, loving and caring for each other no matter what the circumstances, is extremely important.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting on my posts.

I hope you have a fabulous weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks or Barnes and Noble. I you prefer a physical book, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

More Cloud Atlas

“If God did create the world, how do we know which things we can change and which things must remain sacred and inviolate?” ~ David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas 1850 timeline

“We cross and recross our tracks like figure skaters …” ~ David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas 2012 timeline

“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb we are bound to others past and present and by each crime and every kindness we birth our future.” ~ David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas 2044 timeline

The reason I watch movies, is the same reason I read books. Because I want to learn something. I want to see life through someone else’s eyes. I want to see how other people face their challenges and learn (or don’t learn) from their mistakes.

In the last post I didn’t get to write as much as I wanted to about the movie adaptation of Cloud Atlas and why it made me want to read the book. One of the things I love about both the book and movie is the idea that every life is important no matter how small. And that each soul has the opportunity to grow and progress as they live through many lifetimes.

If you’re an avid reader you know that authors have more leeway, in terms of how they tell their story, than movie makers do. This has always been obvious to me, but I’m surprised at how many people don’t seem to understand that movies and books are different forms of art. A movie is approximately two hours long. So unless you’re creating a mini-series in which you can include more plot points, the screen writer and director must choose the parts of the book that are most relevant to the main idea and leave the rest behind.

Probably the most important short cut to movie storytelling is the use of the camera. It is showing the audience what to pay attention to. Of course, I didn’t realize this when I first began watching. The camera is the omniscient point of view. Sometimes it zooms in on things we’re supposed to notice, or it spins, or shows us a scene from a great height.

When I saw Cloud Atlas for the first time, I knew enough by then to pay attention to what the camera wanted me to notice. When it focused on a comet shaped birthmark on the main characters in each timeline, I knew that was an important plot point. But it wasn’t until the third time this happens in the 1973 storyline, that I began to understand why. Sixsmith, a character we first meet in the story in 1936, comments on the birthmark on Luisa’s shoulder and tells her that he once knew someone with a very similar mark. That’s when I got the idea that this mark is not only telling me who the main character of that timeline is, but that perhaps each new body with the birthmark is inhabited by the same soul.

The idea of reincarnation is subtly reinforced by the fact that the filmmakers use the same actors to play various characters in many of the timelines. In some storylines, a man will play a woman, or visa versa, or they will play a person of one race in one storyline, then a person of another race in another. Once I identified the actors and the roles they played in each storyline, it was interesting to see if that “soul” evolved or not.

One of the strongest ideas of both the book and the movie are the opposing viewpoints that indicate the main theme. The first is a more crude version of a very old idea, “The weak are meat, the strong do eat.” Several characters state this idea in various ways throughout the movie, while other characters oppose this point of view stating that love, truth, and compassion are all more important. I think readers and movie audiences are led to ask “What is true strength? Are the powerful more important than the weak?” We get the answer as each main character is triumphant in their particular timeline.

Adam Ewing’s story from the 1849 timeline sums up the theme in the most profound way. Adam, after arriving home to San Francisco from a mission to acquire slaves for his father-in-law, informs him that he and his wife Tilda are going East to work in the Abolitionist movement. His father-in-law goes on a long tirade, “… Naïve, dreaming Adam. He who would do battle with the many-headed hydra of human nature must pay a world of pain and his family must pay it along with him! And only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean!” To which Adam replies, “Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?”

That idea makes me weep. There are so many people who think their life means nothing in the grand scheme of things. But we all make contributions to human evolution, even those of us who are considered evil make a contribution, because those are the ones who compel us take a good look at ourselves. And hopefully we say, “I’m not going to be like that! I’m going to be better.”

Cloud Atlas is not the first book or movie to show us that every single person’s life is important even if the names of those people are forgotten by future generations. That’s what I loved about the movie. It’s THAT idea that made me want to go read the book. Both mediums made me feel like I have a contribution to make to the world no matter how small. And I’m the one who decides what that contribution will be.

I hope you find great movie/book connections that inspire you. I believe that reading books and watching movies are wonderful ways to gain a greater understanding about what makes us human.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your comments and likes.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, or you can find the ebook at iBooks, or Barnes and Noble. If you prefer a physical book, you can find a print-on-demand version at Amazon. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Movie/Book Connections

“Adaptation seems to be, to a substantial extent, a process of reallocating your attention.” ~ Daniel Kahneman

In my last blog post I wrote about feeling restless. That feeling hasn’t gone away completely, but I think I may have hit on a new direction I want to take with these posts. The idea came to me as I was listening to my favorite podcast, “What Do I Read Next”. Almost every guest Anne Bogel has on her show has a unique perspective about books. Some of them have created interesting businesses based on one thing they are interested in that are related to books and writing. I have found every one of Anne’s guests to have an interesting story to tell about what books mean to them, how they choose the books they read, how they organize their libraries, or how books have helped them find friends.

As I was listening to this week’s episode that little bit of inspiration I was asking for came to me. I have always loved movies. When I also became an avid reader, often a movie based on a book would grasp me so deeply that I wanted to read the source material. That is my preferred way to do it, see the movie first and then read the book. However, it’s okay if it happens the other way too, like when I read the Harry Potter series then saw the movies. I know enough about the movie making process that I can forgive not having my favorite book scenes included in the movie.

Thursday night I showed my dramatic structure class the movie, Cloud Atlas. It’s one of my favorites and happens to be one of those movies that sent me searching for the book. The movie had some mixed reviews because it weaves six timelines in and out of each other. Many people found it confusing. The book also has six timelines. The first story which seems to be a historical story, begins in 1849 and abruptly ends in the middle of a sentence. The book then picks up with a gay love story that takes place in 1936, then a mystery in 1973, a comedy in 2012, a dystopian science fiction in 2044 and finally a kind of hopeful fantasy/sci-fi story at the center which takes place in the far future. Once that last story is told, the book continues with the 2044 timeline and the plot moves backward through the timelines ending with the 1849 story. If the movie were structured that way, it would most likely be boring.

One thing I’ve learned by osmosis, and from taking a few film classes is that there are lots of techniques that film makers use to help the audience understand what’s going on. Most of the time we don’t notice the camera angles, shot lengths, details of the setting, costumes, props, lighting and music that give the audience clues about plot and characters. There are also little snippets of dialogue that seem to be offhand, but later play a big part in the plot. The screen play has to pair down the book plot, and as in the case of Cloud Atlas must be structured differently to tell each timeline’s story in an interesting way.

Maybe that’s what I find so fascinating. Movie makers take a book and select the most important parts of it to convey its message to an audience. To do that they use all sorts of visual cues to help us connect emotionally to the characters and story. In my mind, if a movie team succeeds and makes a fabulous movie, that makes me want to go to the source material to see how the movie compares with the book.

I wrote all of the above to say that I’m thinking of writing more posts about movie/book connections that have been both enjoyable and sometimes life changing for me. After telling Barry, my husband, about this idea I began to make a list in my head of all of the movies and mini-series that have inspired me to go find the book. The list is long and varied. Some movies are classics like Ben Hur, or The Valley of Decision, while others are modern retellings of classic novels, still others are based on contemporary books. I was also surprised to find how many different genres are represented in my list.

This project is going to take a long time but I’m looking forward to sharing my favorites with you from time to time.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your likes and comments.

Have a fun weekend. We’re off to see Black Panther. Who knows maybe I’ll begin reading graphic novels next.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Ready for a Change

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anaïs Nin

“To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness, But life without meaning is the torture Of restlessness and vague desire-it is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.” ~ Edgar Lee Masters

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.” ~ Anaïs Nin

I’ve been feeling restless lately and ready for something new. One of my character flaws is that I do not understand people who resist change. It’s hard for me to understand living in one place for an entire lifetime, or working at the same job or thirty years, or never learning anything new.

I suspect I love change so much because I got a healthy dose of my father’s wanderlust. He was always looking for a better way to support us, consequently we moved a lot. But I think part of the reason we moved so often was because once dad had learned all he could from one job, he was ready to move on and learn something new. I’m feeling like that now. I’ve been teaching at our local community college for nine years and I’m ready for some new ideas or even a change of job.

When I got the idea to direct Measure for Measure I wanted to do it because I had never directed a Shakespeare play before. As I began working on it, I had a strong feeling that this was my swan song at Cochise College. I don’t know if this is true but I’ve got that feeling of wanderlust. I want to write in a new genre, take a class or two in subjects I’ve never tried before, go on vacation to a new location, or … I don’t know. I’m waiting for inspiration!

Even though I love changing career directions, or creative projects often, sometimes I envy people who have one focus for their lives. They have one thing they are interested in doing and they spend their entire lives learning and working in the same field. It must be satisfying to dig deeply into a subject always learning something on an ever deeper level.

I guess I’ve done that with theatre and hope to do that with writing too. The arts, or any kind of creative endeavor is like that, the creator never stops learning. Since that’s true, maybe my restlessness is not so much about careers, but something else. A stirring of some kind at a soul level, something whispering to me to break out and try something new.

Maybe I’ll finally learn Spanish or go on vacation, or meet some new people, or I just don’t know. I hope this next week during spring break, I’ll get a clue.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your comments and likes.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

One Drop in the Ocean

“Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?” ~ David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

“… for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” ~ George Eliot, Middlemarch

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it.” ~ Lao Tzu

“I am the light of the world. … Humility consists of accepting your role in salvation and in taking no other.” ~ A Course In Miracles, Lesson 61

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed this last week or so. It’s a busy semester. I’m teaching three classes and one of them is a play production. It’s been difficult to keep up with my writing projects on top of the teaching duties. I’m not good at multi-tasking so I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself to do everything required and do them all well.

When I get stressed I begin comparing myself to other people. Social media is full of invitations to join this or that class or workshop so you can learn the secrets to this or that process that will make your life easier, or make you more prosperous, etc., etc., etc. Seeing those makes me crazy, because I’m tempted to think that I need to be different than I am in order to be a complete person. I need to be an extravert, I need to reach my audience, I need to … Ack! I’m so tempted to let those outer voices become my inner voices but I was saved these last couple of days from those thoughts by two things.

First, I just finished reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s book The Left Hand of Darkness. One character in particular, Estraven, sacrifices his career, his reputation, and his life for Genly Ai, an Envoy from another planet. His mission is to establish ties between Estraven’s planet and an alliance of planets he belongs to. Estraven is the only one on his world unafraid of the arrival of the alien Envoy. He sees that joining this group will be good for the backward governments on his world. Estraven was one man who made a difference by allowing his title and wealth to be stripped from him for a greater cause. Not many of his people knew the full extent of what he did.

The other thing that helped me was our neighbor. He came by to asked my advice on how to write a book. What! You’re asking me, an amateur, to give you advice? Immediately I felt small and unequal to the task. But I had to admit that I do know a little bit about the writing process.

I always shrink from telling other people how to do things. I mean, what works for me, might not work for them. I know that sounds funny coming from a teacher, but as a teacher I try to show my students all the possible ways they can complete a project or paper and then I let them use their own creative skills to do it. So, that’s what I did with my neighbor. He left happy.

I don’t know why I’m so hard on myself. I’m not alone in that. We are, after all, just one drop in a much larger ocean. We don’t have to fix all the problems that exist. Most of the time we never know the good that comes after us as a result of just living our lives.

Today, I’m taking a day off to relax and recoup. Here is a wonderful song I borrowed from Pam Grout’s blog post by India Arie to sing you into a fabulous weekend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

What I Believe

August Sunset

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~ Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

This week’s lesson in Art & Soul Reloaded by Pam Grout is to write an essay about what I believe. This is one assignment I was excited to do because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is I know for sure. I stopped writing because the way I was writing about what I believe to be true seemed to be fake, intellectual nonsense. So I had to sit down and do some thinking about how to share my outlook on life without sounding sanctimonious. I’m going to begin with what I learned from my dad.

He was a lot like me, a very private person. But, when I asked him questions about the news and what was happening in the world, his answers were thought provoking. The 60s and 70s, when I was in school, were a bit like now. There was a great deal of unrest and many of the protests were violent. When I’d ask dad about that, he’d say that wounded people do things to make themselves feel better, but it doesn’t work like that. He didn’t say “What we put out we get back” that I remember, but eventually I understood that the real problems in the world are not external, they’re internal.

Most of us are not taught good coping skills. We aren’t taught how to love ourselves, or that there is plenty of everything to go around so we don’t need to fight for resources. It’s not our parents, family members or teacher’s fault, they’re just passing on what they learned and believe to be true. But what if they’re wrong? What if the infinite intelligent force that created everything sees us as perfect and completely lovable. Wow! That would change everything in our outer world.

It took me a long time to accept this understanding after lots of soul searching and study. I’m finally learning to forgive myself for all the silly and stupid mistakes I’ve made in my relationships over the years.

Throughout my life I’ve had many spiritual experiences that have helped shape my current belief system. The most profound of these insights has been each time I’ve felt my connection to everything that exists.

I think it was Carl Sagan who said that we are all made of star stuff. When I heard that, I knew it was true because when I was a teenager I lay on the ground one night looking up at the vastness of the night sky with all the stars and my heart opened. It felt like the edges of my body were melting away and I was part of the ground, the air, the trees, the grass, the stars, my boyfriend beside me, the other campers in their cabins, the animals in the woods. The sensation lasted for only a moment, but it was profound and changed the way I saw myself and my place in the universe.

Another time I was riding in a car watching people walking down the street and that same feeling came over me, that somehow I had an invisible connection to everyone and everything on the planet. It brings tears to my eyes to remember that and to know that when others hurt, I’m hurt. When good things happen for other people, I get to feel a little bit of that joy too. It’s also sobering to realize that when I hurt others, I’m not only hurting them but myself and everyone else on the planet and the opposite is also true. Understanding that has made me take responsibility for my thoughts and actions.

Knowing all that helps me be more conscious of what I say and do, but I still fall into the trap of getting angry, calling someone an idiot and thinking they are the one who needs to change. Just yesterday I was driving to teach one of my classes and there were some really creative drivers on the road Someone pulled in front of me when I was traveling at fifty-five miles an hour, with not much space to put on the breaks. I was yelling that them, and nearly leaned on the horn. It didn’t feel good and I knew I was sending out nasty energy and that wasn’t helping me or anyone else. That energy wasn’t changing the situation in any way.

The truth is, my growth and everyone else’s is a process. The human race has been growing in understanding since we became the human race and that process will continue until it’s time for something else to happen. I know that I’m just one little drop of water in the big ocean, but every drop is important. Which means, I’ve got to keep working on cleaning up and letting go of all the errors in my thinking and feeling. I’m going to do that because something in my heart keeps urging me to do so when I wake up in the morning, when I meditate, when I sit to write, when I teach, when I read books, watch movies, and look at great art. I never know when I’ll feel the inspiration to keep going. It might be when I see someone doing something nice for someone else. But it’s there and I don’t want to stop working on myself.

What I believe is that every human being is inherently good, we just don’t know that yet. At least not all of us. Maybe more people are waking up to that fact, and that’s why this time the unrest feels different than when I was growing up. For one thing, the protesters are less violent and more dedicated to finding solutions to our problems. That feels good to me. I’m excited to see what happens over the next months and years.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it very much.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Inspirations

Lighthouse

“Inspiration is one thing and you can’t control it, but hard work is what keeps the ship moving. Good luck means, work hard. Keep up the good work.” ~ Kevin Eubanks

“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” ~ Ella Fitzgerald

Inspiration comes to me from the most unexpected places at times. This must happen to other writers and creative people as well but when it happens to me, I am often surprised.

This week I got inspiration for my second novel, Time’s Echo from a memoir by Kelley and Thomas French titled, Juniper: The girl who was born too soon, which on the surface is totally unrelated to my novel. It’s a raw emotional roller coaster ride chronicling Kelley and Thomas lives together beginning when they first met, then when they got together years later, their struggles to not only have a child, but to keep her alive after being born at twenty-three weeks and six days gestation.

The thing that I always look for in a book is, do the people or characters learn from the circumstances in which they find themselves. Kelley and Thomas openly share their mistakes, fears, hopes, and eventual lessons as the doctors and nurses struggle to keep Juniper alive. It’s a book I highly recommend.

As I read the book I said to myself, “How were they brave enough to write so openly about what they went through?” Perhaps it’s because they are both journalists and know that the best stories touch our hearts. In any case I was hooked on the book partly because I’m not willing, yet, to be that vulnerable about my personal life. And yet, their account sparked my thinking about taking the characters in Time’s Echo into new directions. Those ideas are still percolating on the back burner of my mind, but I’m newly excited about all the new directions my story can go.

Vulnerability and writing the flaws of my characters was something I struggled with when I was writing The Space Between Time. One of the segments I had the most trouble with was this last section of chapter one, when Jenna’s mother dies. I tried to express the feeling that the floor has dropped out from underneath her, while at the same time showing how having her loved ones gathered together was such a comfort to her.

In this audio segment, Jenna has arranged for emergency leave from work and drives four hours from Portland to Roseburg in southern Oregon where her mother is in the hospital. Her mother’s friends are waiting for her.

I hope have a fantastic weekend and enjoy this last section of chapter one.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

The Oldest Story

“When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.” ~ Joseph Campbell

“Power focuses on self-preservation; principle focuses on making ideas successful.” ~ Dan Webster

Barry and I binge watched Victoria this long weekend catching up for the season finale next week. Two of the episodes were eerily similar to what’s going on now. The first, which was the most emotionally affecting for us, was about the Irish Potato Famine. It centered around Robert Traill, a Protestant vicar in Cork, a mostly Catholic region, who feels the plight of the people most deeply. Most are poor and starving as a result of the potato blight and the unwillingness of the landed gentry and the Protestant clergy to help them. Traill can’t stand by and watch innocent people die. So he writes a column in a London newspaper hoping to get the government to act. Queen Victoria reads the article and invites him to come to the palace so she can understand what’s happening and try to do something to help. She sends some of her own money to feed people, and she enlists the help of Prime Minister Peel to sway Parliament to do something. But it’s too late. One million people die, including the historical figure, Reverend Traill. Two million Irish emigrate to the U.S. The arguments are the same as now. “The poor need to work harder, they need to stop taking charity, they need to … blah, blah, blah.” I was weeping by the end of the episode. Why are we so callus and lack empathy for our fellow human beings?

The next episode takes place shortly after the Irish crisis and is about repealing a bill that benefited the landed gentry and took food out of the mouths of the poor in England. At one point speaking with her Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, in reference to the repeal of the Corn Laws, Queen Victoria says, “Nobody likes to give up what they already have …” It’s so true and sad that we haven’t progressed past that.

Her comment points to the oldest story of human history, the world is dangerous and we must be about preserving ourselves and what we have. We gain a little wealth, power, and things and we don’t want to give them up because we think the things we’ve gathered will protect us. Look at our myths both ancient and modern. What is the main theme? Superpowers, or magic, or super heroes, or being physically strong, or having the best most modern weapons will save us. But they won’t because the problem isn’t outside ourselves. It’s inside and some of us are just now beginning to realize that fact.

We hear it all the time. “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” That’s right. Frightened angry people hurt other people, but we need to take the guns out of the hands of frightened angry people to begin to protect the innocent. Then we need to address the underlying fear and rage that has brought us to this place.

Amassing great wealth won’t protect us either. The scriptures of every major religion encourage us to love and take care of one another. But even as I awaken, I feel the tension between self-preservation and using my resources to help others. One of the most profound lessons in the sacred books I’ve read is that God is our protection. Hearing or reading those words, my mind says “Yes!” but letting that sink in emotionally is a different story. It has taken me many years to even come close to letting go of the idea that if I don’t protect myself, no one else will. I’m just now beginning to understand that God, or Higher Power if you prefer, has my back.

I think our present upheaval and debates on gun control, human rights, and the rest are a great opportunity. Gary Zukav says that human beings learn through crisis. We don’t take action, or change our minds until we’re forced by circumstances to do so. Hopefully we’ve come to the edge where we will finally let go of self-preservation, fear and anger and allow ourselves to feel and build something new.

Thanks for reading, liking and commenting. I appreciate it.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.

Life is Messy. Why That’s a Good Thing!

Marco Polo Sings A Solo

“The one thing that I keep learning over and over again is that I don’t know nothing. I mean, that’s my life lesson.” ~ Dwayne Johnson

“My greatest life lesson has been that life can change in a second. This is why it’s important to always live your best possible life and to do what you can for others.” ~ Niki Taylor

This has been a devastating week both on a national level and in the lives of my students. I never know what to say at such times. I want to be of comfort. I want to assure my students, or friends that when things fall apart, they are really falling together. I even said that to one of my students when she said, “My life is a mess.” But later I thought, “That was stupid. She needed comfort not platitudes.”

The thing is, I’m old enough now to have lived through lots of life shattering events and I know that when my life falls apart, I have this extraordinary opportunity to build something new with the pieces. And some of you might think I’m crazy, but I know that there is some power guiding us through such trying times. We just have to trust that’s true and then try to listen to what that still small voice is telling us. I know these things, but when I say them, or share them on social media, people can’t understand what I’m driving at. They get angry with me or they say, “Yeah, but …”. I can’t blame them. When you’re in the middle of the drama, it’s hard to see that outside the theatre there is something more wonderful going on.

After that encounter with my student, I berated myself for not being caring enough. I felt like I failed and I started thinking about how to share what I’ve learned about life being messy and how failure and loss can be the beginning of a more fulfilling life. Then I had to laugh at myself. My book, The Space Between Time is my life philosophy expressed as a story. Jenna and Morgan face life shattering events, they embrace the messiness of their lives and come through to happier plateaus.

I’ve always loved fairy tales, myths, movies, and books. I didn’t know why, but when I became involved in theatre it dawned on me that stories give us the chance to open up to new perspectives. And when we allow ourselves to be influenced by the story we get a glimpse of new ways of thinking and being. That’s what propelled my drive to begin writing.

In real life encounters, all I can do is BE with those who are suffering while they find their own way through the darkness. But as a writer, I have an opportunity to give comfort in a different way. Stories give us a chance to learn at a safe distance. That’s exciting! Now that I’ve realized the truth of that, I’m more determined than ever to keep working on improving my story telling skills.

Here is an audio recording of the second segment of chapter one of The Space Between Time. I’m experimenting with creating my own audio segments, so this is not perfect, but I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks for reading and listening. I appreciate your likes and comments.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2018

Lucinda is the author of The Space Between Time, an award finalist in the “Fiction: Fantasy” category of the 2017 Best Book Awards. It’s a historical, time-travel, magical realism, women’s novel, and is available in all ebook formats at Smashwords, and print-on-demand at Amazon and other fine book sellers. To join her email list, click here. She will never sell the names on her list.