I interrupt the stream of posts about Mother's Nature themes and inspirations to bring you a post about one of my favorite words:
Serendipity is not just a 2001 romantic comedy starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale.
Serendipity is often a source of writing inspiration for me. It's a sign that I'm on the right path, or a nudge in the right direction. It's a hint that I need to start the next project I've been procrastinating, or a sign of encouragement from the universe.
Serendipity happened to me a few days ago while I was at the local elementary school library. I volunteer at the Burgess Elementary School Library once a week, helping to check out books to the students, as well as filing the books away as they are returned. One of the tasks I perform on a regular basis is "shelf reading", which is simply making sure the books are shelved in the correct order according to the good old Dewey Decimal System . (You'd be amazed how disorganized the shelves get when perused by elementary school students!)
As I scanned through the poetry section--Dewey 821, one little book stood out as being severely out of place--Dewey 895. I set it aside without a glance, knowing I'd nestle it among it's siblings further down the shelf. Once I got to the 895 section, I picked up the book to shelve it and the cover and title caught my eye.
What a lovely little book!
I love the title. It speaks to me. It describes the very thing I look for in life. The Moment of Wonder. I opened the book, flipped through a few pages, and immediately recognized my moment of serendipity.
You see, my next writing project is a yet-to-be-titled follow-up children's book to "First Snow: Poems and Folk-art of Winter", in which I wrote poems and my mother, folk artist Jane Comtois, created paintings based on the poems. For our next collaboration, we will focus on the other three seasons--Spring, Summer, and Autumn. However, we've decided to flip the process. This time, my mother will create a painting and I will write a poem about it. It sounded like a great idea at the time...
I soon realized the challenge that faced me. It was much easier to write a poem about a picture from my imagination that to look at a picture and come up with the words. (Kudos to my mother for creating the perfect paintings for "First Snow" to match my imagination!) As I studied the new paintings, I came up empty. It had been a while since I had written children's poetry, and every word seemed forced and flat. After a few failed attempts, I gave up and the procrastination began.
So when this little serendipitous book fell in my lap, it sparked an inspiration. A lovely, sweet, perfectly apt inspiration. It is a collection of Chinese and Japanese poetry and illustrations about nature, the seasons, animals, and people. All the things that fill us with wonder. I knew I had to borrow it, and it sits beside me now.
Unfortunately, the book has been neglected by the students, as much poetry is these days. I checked the date due stamp and the last time it was checked out was before October of 2000. I know this because the library didn't use a date stamp that included the year until after the turn of the century. (I've been waiting for a reason to use that phrase "turn of the century"!)
The moment I discovered this book, it felt like the Universe tapping me on the shoulder and reminding me of what I am supposed to do and encouraging me to be fearless and do it. And you know what? I went home that afternoon and wrote the first draft of the first poem for the new book.
(from the Preface) "Have you ever seen a leaf falling or a drop of dew hanging from a flower or a little insect moving on a window pane? Have you ever watched a butterfly fanning its wings or a child reaching out to touch the rain? You have probably seen some of these things and marveled at their wonderful beauty...Throughout this book you will read may poems describing some of these moments and experiences. Every poet who wrote one of these poems felt very close to the experience he was writing about. The falling leaf, the butterfly and the drop of dew were not only beautiful to him, they were living things, which had their own breath, their own personality and their own part to play in life."
Everyone would benefit from noticing these moments of wonder, moments of serendipity, no matter how tiny.
"The Moment of Wonder" will remain a treasure for me, in memory if not on the shelves of my home library, for I must return it by the due date!
Until then... I will read this book, and I will love it and pet it and I will call it George (not really.)
I write novels and poetry and this blog.