Sunday, May 31, 2009

Losing A Tree

I am in New York City attending BEA - Book Expo America. I was here to sign two books: The North Star (Candlewick Press) and Tess's Tree (Harper Collins).

On Friday I checked my voice mail messages and heard one that that shook me... it was made from the cell phone of my friend, Gretchen who I knew as Gari ever since we met 20 years ago in California, but it was Gari's cousin. Her message explained that Gari had passed away last week. She had just celebrated her 43rd birthday. She left a number to call for more information about a service which will be held in two weeks time.

I'm glad my brother, Paul, was with me. The news struck me hard.

It occurred to me, as the weekend unfolded, that the two books I was signing were soothing signals from the universe.

"The North Star", a book about a young boy on an increasingly challenged journey who lands in a deep swamp. Gari struggled most of her adult life with alcohol. I learned last night that she died from cirrhosis to the liver. When I first met her, she was beautiful, funny, adventurous, but the swamp pulled her into a dark place. We lived on different coasts, but we often chatted, especially when things were falling a part for Gari, but I felt good to be a part of her "constellation" - cheering her along the journey. I sit here wondering what more I could have done. I know that addiction has a grip from the inside, but I also know that those around a person struggling can help shine some light on which way to go.

The other book I was signing was "Tess's Tree." A book about loss. A little girl loses her favorite tree to a storm and she grieves deeply. The way the family copes is to have a service for the tree. Family and friends gather in the yard where the tree had stood. They each share memories of the tree and what it meant to them. It eased Tess's heart to see so much love for one tree. Her tree.

I "connected the dots" - the "cosmic dots" and realized that both of these books were speaking to me... at the perfect moment. The power of story to help us understand the mysteries of life, to help us cope, to ease our hearts is a gift we can give each other and ourselves.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Make Way for the Mayor: There's a New Artist in Town

This morning, my twin brother, Paul, and I had wonderful breakfast with the Mayor of Boston, Tom Menino - a stone's throw from the golden dome of the State House and City Hall.

We spent quite awhile talking about the city, about literacy, FableVision's projects and mission, and how we can infuse creativity and innovation into the city's neighborhoods, we decided to get creative at the table.

I pulled out paper and watercolors and ask the Mayor to draw with me. I loved the look on his face! He smiled and, being a good sport, he bravely picked up the pen. He paused. I suggested he draw a teacup and reminded him it only needed to be "teacup-ish." With a few confident lines, he conjured the image posted above. I splashed a bit of watercolor around it. I think it looks like a bronze statue which would be nice company with the Make Way for Ducklings statue in the Boston Gardens!

I told the Mayor that creating art reduces stress and that it allows new ideas to flow freely. The way that Mr. Menino took to drawing was like a 'duck to water". 

In the coming months, the City of Boston may have one of the most relaxed and creative mayors in the country!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Stellar Proverb: Nulla dies sine linea.

My friend, John Harris, sent me this Latin Proverb.

He knew that I would love it! My work is very much about "making your mark." It is a rare day that I do not make a line. Whether a drawing or words, I have made a promise to myself not to close my eyes at night before at least making one mark in my journal. I fell asleep one evening doing that and awoke to my one mark having turned into one big dot from my bleeding marker. That was, in fact, the inspiration for my book The Dot.

So, make your line! Whether your line is a word or a drawing, try to weave a few into each of your days. You can also make a dot. That counts, but please, sign it!