Monday, November 30, 2020

At the Edge of the Unknown


Poet William Blake wrote, “In the universe, there are things that are known and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.”

And those doors are each a threshold so when we stand on a threshold, waiting and wondering, we are in a LIMINAL SPACE. 

The space between then and now. The in between. 

The word LIMINAL comes from the Latin word, “limens”, meaning threshold. Edge. Doorway.

And now, as we near the end of 2020 – a most unsettling, unrelenting, unforgettable year, as we begin the Season of Advent in the Christian church – a time of preparation and anticipation and expectation – we are at the threshold in so many ways. 

This is a time of waiting, and wondering; a time of enduring; a time of just being – standing at the threshold of what was, without knowing what will come when we step through that door. The door to a new year, the door to a new presidency, the door to a vaccine to help us live with the virus that has ravaged so many lives and livelihoods, the door beyond the changes the pandemic forced and cannot be reversed. 

Yet this pandemic is not the first or only liminal space we inhabit as human beings. We experience liminal spaces all the time. 

A change of employment. 
A diagnosis.
Dying. 
Grief. 
Betrayal, with its time between what happened and moving on, waiting to forgive or be forgiven. 

At its very least, liminal space is most often a time of discomfort and an opportunity to take stock of our living. 

The experience of liminal space encourages us to pause, breathe and live in the moment. To recognize that change is always happening, and to give us space to adjust and adapt and move forward – through the door – into what is new and different. 

It is not easy, not when it so often comes because of loss. Whether it is the loss of a job, a dream, a pet, a partner, there is grief, sometimes deep enough to render the light a mere glimmer. The loss of hope is perhaps the hardest loss – for what is our future without hope? 

So as we head into the month of December, into this season of waiting, of preparation and anticipation and expectation, this holiday time of year when it is almost impossible to bear the weight of sorrow and longing and anxiety, 

let us find the holy in our days – the moments of joy, the breaths of gratitude. 

Let us acknowledge the liminal space in which we now live and accept this threshold as part of the house we create with our living and loving and letting go. 
Let us remember there is grace and courage in this space, even if we’re flooding it with tears.
Let us remember to breathe, and wait, and prepare
for the moment when we are invited to step over the threshold 
and through the doorway from that which is known and into the unknown. 

Together. xo 

~ SJ 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Be Kind to Gentle Authors


Tomorrow is the Pugwash Farmers' Market Outdoor CHRISTMAS Market: Sunday, November 15, 11 am to 3 pm.
It was supposed to go today but today is cool and damp; tomorrow won't be wet but it will be cold. I'll be wearing my thermal long underwear to block that north wind gusting through Pugwash from the Northumberland Strait! 
It's funny -- and fortunate -- how farmers' markets have been able to survive and thrive during this time of pandemic lockdown, slowdown, and restrictions. Far too often, we don't take these "homemade" and "handmade" vendors seriously, but they offer good food and good products in a safe environment. 

I'll be there with my cookbook -- and I'm afraid tomorrow is the day I'll sell out. There was a big demand for books yesterday, for some reason, so I have a limited supply for the market. I was so concerned about having too many books left over that I got caught short; I re-ordered last night but that shipment won't come for two weeks. 
I've become a mini-Amazon (without the billions): I'll be taking orders and telling customers "Ships in one to two weeks!" There are worse problems to have! 

A gentleman called yesterday to see if he could drop by the house and buy a copy for his wife's birthday. "We really enjoyed your Field Notes," he told me. I assured him this collection of stories and recipes were simply more of that kind of writing. 

Another woman messaged me on Tuesday night to say she was reading Field Notes for the first time and those stories were exactly what she needs right now, "given our current world". 

And yesterday, Jean Mills, whose latest young adult novel is set in Pugwash, posted on Instagram -- on World Kindness Day -- that "Writing YA fiction means always competing with the bestseller titles of gritty, sassy, edgy teen experience. But I hope readers (and librarians and influencers and book bloggers) know that there's a place for gentler, subtler, kinder stories too." 

We need feel-good stories; we need to read books that make us unclench our jaws, and even smile, books that help us de-hunch our shoulders and breathe in deeply, perhaps even belly laugh, books that we think about while walking and look up to the sky with a sigh of contentment, an exhaled "Yes" that we wish that story hadn't ended. 

As I told the Grade 1-2 class I was in the other day, the world needs more puppies, not more zombies!

What's more interesting, however, that I spent two days with a writing friend at her home in Cape Breton, and came away more resolved than ever that my days as a professional writer -- a freelance writer, an author publishing books -- are over. Yet it seems every time I commit to giving up publishing (to focus on teaching, and my death & bereavement studies), someone comes along and tells me they love my writing and that I must keep doing it. 

That's results in a different kind of looking up at the sky and sighing, let me tell you. 



Wednesday, November 11, 2020

A Blessing From the Road

The Canso Causeway links mainland Nova Scotia with Cape Breton Island
 

(inspired by my recent one-woman road trip to visit a friend in Cape Breton; by oneself for three hours there and three hours back is plenty of thinking and observing time) 

Remember this, 
when you are clutching the wheel 
and riding the gas pedal and the brake,
not sure whether to gear up or gear down,
or maybe even flip on the hazard lights: 

You can drive when it’s foggy,
when you can only see what is around you
(the present)
but you can’t see in the distance
(the future)
because you know it’s safe
to believe the road will rise to meet you
even if you can’t see it
It will unfurl itself 
even as you are reach it 

Sometimes silence as you drive
is soothing
and surprising
Other times,
you need to turn up the music

As Taylor Swift sings, 
“I’ve been having a hard time adjusting
I had the shiniest wheels
Now they’re rusting” 

Remember this,
behind that hovering fog is the light
burning away those misty droplets
to reveal a glimmer, a gleam,
a beam, a beacon
Of course, it reveals there are mountains to climb,
and the road is never flat,
never straight,
and not always easy

And Taylor Swift sings,
“Hell was the journey but it brought me heaven”

Even if your backseat is full of regrets and what-ifs
and bitter recriminations,
all three wrestling for their own seatbelt,
even if you have to shout 
I’m going to stop this car – 
(although you won’t)
Just roll down the windows
and let them fly out with the dirty napkins
stained with the words you say to yourself 

And Jann Arden sings,
“These are the days
There’s life in your soul
Although your struggling to stay afloat
With nowhere on earth to go”

The signs are everywhere:
Nova Scotia Strong
and you are strong,
a tank full of courage and sorrow,
resilience and longing
Grief is an asphalt ribbon
stretching out ahead for years,
controlled access
and always under construction

And Jann Arden sings, 
“There’s life in you yet
Although you’re lost in the mire and the hate
And the bitterness of losing your faith
There’s light in your eyes
Full of hope and grace”

Because there are signs,
if you keep your eyes open:
Marshy Hope,
and Be Prepared to Stop,
and most wonderfully,
Divided Highway Ends,
and we all heave a sigh of relief
and honk our horns
as our shoulders detach from our ears,
and we can hope again,
even if the ground is wet and spongy. 

And Taylor Swift sings,
“I had a marvelous time ruining everything” 

Yet these are the days
when the holy moments 
are found in the fog
and the cloudless blue sky
in the chitchat at the gas station
and the four-fingered waves on country roads
where everyone thinks they know you
in the six eagles soaring over the causeway
in a slipstream between human and divine
and your white knuckles ease on the wheel
and you yield to the journey
as your spirit merges with the destination 
as a bridge from here to there

~ Sara Jewell 

Monday, November 02, 2020

The Shipping Department

 

Meet the supervisor of the shipping department! What else could I expect when I turn my dining room table over to the work of wrapping and taping and labelling? Lucky for me, only Leonard is the supervising type; I couldn't get any work done if all three cats felt they had to closely supervise this work. 

The books are selling well, but what I'm most grateful for is the enthusiastic response to the book. I knew there were people out there who like Field Notes, and like my style of writing, but the whole "Yay, another book!" response certainly fills my heart with joy. 

I had to do a second printing already, partly because I wanted those books to arrive before the election in the US tomorrow -- just in case. 
I've declared a moratorium on the news for the next two days. I'll check in on Wednesday morning before I head off to substitute teach but there's no point in becoming anxious about something over which I have no control; I can't say it doesn't affect me because I have family in Georgia, but as we say in the Jewell family, "Don't worry until there's something to worry about." 

Instead of the news, I'll simply watch the cats play in the packing paper. Here's Millie wondering what all the fuss is about. She'd rather have her nap in Nana's quiet room. 





Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Buy Local Matters More Than Ever


These are more efficient ways of reaching me -- and there is no security question with the e-transfer. A couple of friends have used a different email to send me money and it's been delightful seeing what they chose as a question -- the joys of friendship! 

The fun thing about this, and the hard work of self-publishing, is being everyone! I'm the writer, the editor, the photographer, the proofreader (although I also delegated this to Mother, who did a fantastic job), the typesetter, the formatter (is layouter a word?), the head of marketing and promotions, the head of sales, AND the entire shipping department -- although I get to delegate trips to the post office, too. 

Whew! This certainly has given me a new appreciation for book publishing. But I find that I love it. 

What's interesting is this: Creatives and artists - like writers and musicians - are having to find new ways of producing their work and reaching their audience. My friend and neighbour, singer/songwriter Christina Martin, just announced a virtual Christmas concert, with tickets $10. It's her first ticketed event. Everything else she's offered since the pandemic lockdown began, and live music venues shut down, has been supported through grants. 

Like me putting out my own book on my own, Christina is looking at other ways of generating revenue when our sectors have hit the pause button. 

It's scary, but also exciting -- in a scary way. I find producing this book, and getting to send it out into the world to my faithful readers and followers keeps the scary in check. Doing something gives me a sense of control that doing nothing doesn't have. 

I think, too, about the artisans who make mugs and paintings and all sorts of other handmade creations. They've lost their markets and festivals this year; like me, like Christina, we can still sell online but it's connecting with people there in a virtual world where we are bombarded with information and visuals and "sponsored" posts. 

It's really tough, but doing something helps. And you buying something from a creative and an artist -- a book, a ticket, a mug, a scarf, a necklace, a painting -- helps even more. 





Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Jewell of a Cookbook

 

Here she is, folks! 

My new book. 

I have three books on submission, a collection of essays that's been rejected a couple of times, plus the rejection of Field Notes 2 and the Field Notes cookbook a few years ago. 
What's a girl to do but take matters into her own hands and put out her own book? 
This is one way to take control of my creative life, my work and my goals, and reconnect with my loyal readers again. 

If you enjoyed Field Notes, you'll enjoy the 15 stories (essays) in this book. Same style, same humour, same cast of characters. 

Along with the stories about food are 40 of my favourite recipes. Including the famous oat cakes! I also added black and white photos, and I think they are delightful. 
If I'm honest, I think this book is delightful! I'm very pleased with how it turned out. 

This book represents three months of intense work -- and it is worth every hour and every dollar. Let me tell you, I have a new appreciation for what goes into creating a book and getting it out to the public; I think I quashed my mother's dream of starting a publishing company. 
I was writer, photographer, editor, transcriber, proofreader -- with an assist from Mother -- typesetter, formatter... and now the entire marketing and promotions department! 
I really enjoyed making A Jewell of a Cookbook and I hope you enjoy reading it. 
You get a quality product for $20

For those of you who live near me, I'll happily deliver - it will be great to see you again. 
Otherwise, the cost includes postage. (However, if going to England, postage is $20 because the book weighs over 200g.) 

I'm taking payment by cash, cheque or e-transfer. 
I'm not keen to put certain information on the blog, as I'm sure you understand, so please email me using the "CONTACT ME" link in the top right hand corner (note: that email is not the one to use for the e-transfer) and we'll work out the details. 
As soon as I receive payment, I'll put A Jewell of a Cookbook in the mail. 

Thank you in advance for your support. It's truly appreciated. xo  






Friday, October 23, 2020

A Hint About What I've Been Doing


My Super Secret Summer Sanity Saver project arrived ten days before expected. Wow! That was a much-needed boost and now it means I can announce what it is AND have it in my hands. I'm excited to hold it; the improvements I made based on the proof copy have improved it so much and it was worth all the effort. 

Leonard was very quick to inspect the two boxes but he was most delighted with all the packing paper and had a long nap after we were finished ooohing and aaaahing over the finished product. 

This feels so good...Can't wait to share it with you on Saturday!