Solstitium … Once Again

There came a day at summer’s full
Entirely for me;
I thought that such were for the saints
Where revelations be. ~ Emily Dickinson

Copyright 2014 by JM DiGiacomo

Sunflowers: Copyright 2014 by my mom, JM DiGiacomo

My summer has begun

Softly, quietly; under a few clouds

that won’t block the sunshine.

A lonesome beginning,

just as I like it,

in order to feel glad for myself and

honor the ways of those

who don’t look for company

except as it finds them

through the touch of a breeze

or face of a flower

or sigh of a raindrop

or trust of a sparrow;

with nothing to yield for 

but the freedom to reach

and wither

and grow all over again.

~ DM Denton

Earth, Teach Me

Earth teach me quiet ~ as the grasses are still with new light.
Earth teach me suffering ~ as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility ~ as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring ~ as mothers nurture their young.
Earth teach me courage ~ as the tree that stands alone.
Earth teach me limitation ~ as the ant that crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom ~ as the eagle that soars in the sky.
Earth teach me acceptance ~ as the leaves that die each fall.
Earth teach me renewal ~ as the seed that rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself ~ as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness ~ as dry fields weep with rain.

– An Ute Prayer (Utes are indigenous people of the Great Basin, now living primarily in Utah and Colorado, USA)

Do you have A Friendship with Flowers?
Available in Kindle and Print Editions
Click on “Look Inside”

Love flowers? This book was originally created by hand in a small journal while I was living in Oxfordshire, England (most of the flowers included are found in the US, too). I am so pleased that I have been able to preserve it to share with a wider audience. It was done with gratefulness for the flowers that graced and healed me with their beauty, wisdom, and playfulness.

Diane Denton’s skill with visual and literary expression gives me pause. To have introduced such beautiful “friends” to her readers is a gift to be long cherished. Denton’s skill with words and with illustrations not only provide delight to her in the producing of such, but provides us as readers the joy of her discoveries through sight and words. These flowers actually sing to us, in their pleasure of being in good company with their companions of the soil. And so it is with joy I keep this publication available to read and gaze upon over and over again.
~ Jean Rodenbough, author of Rachel’s Children, Surviving the Second World War and Bebe and Friends, Tails of Rescue

Blessings on this Summer Solstice
and 
Winter Solstice, for those in the southern hemisphere  

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Little Things Mean A Lot: Historical Perspectives

People tend to forget that the word “history” contains the word “story”. ~ Ken Burns

For me, the most seductive historians, whether they teach, write essays or books, or make films, are masterful storytellers. They do not forget individual narratives are the breath of the past. Just as life needs each inhale and exhale, even those that go unnoted, history lives because of each story, even—especially—those that have gone untold.

The common story is 1+1=2. The real genuine stories are about 1+1=3. That thing that matters most is more than the sum of its parts. ~ Ken Burns

Venturing off the beaten path is what creativity thrives on. Going beneath, behind, beyond the obvious is what makes history vital rather than static. Something is missing when it’s defined as 1+1=2, leaving out the imagination to expand the equation. Ken Burns is right; the thing that matters most is missing. Unless the door is kept open to fresh interpretation, history loses its chance to other views, to tell the untold, to add up into more than the sum of its parts. Teaching, writing, making films about history are not just about keeping it alive but letting it live to its fully fleshed out potential.

History is malleable. A new cache of diaries can shed new light, and archeological evidence can challenge our popular assumptions. ~ Ken Burns

Unpublished C Bronte

Unpublished manuscripts by Charlotte Bronte recently discovered inside a rare book belonging to her mother.

Imagination, curiosity, obsession can shed new light. New diaries and archeological evidence aren’t found by those who are satisfied with what has been discovered, decided, and, worse, decreed to be true. Surely, even for the historian, absolutes are questionably so, because they rarely tell the whole truth but, instead, slam the door on possibility.

Uncertainty is more essential to exploration than certainty.

With enormous respect and endless gratitude for the investigation, dedication, passion for a subject, and expertise of historians (I couldn’t do what I do without them), I feel that in many ways the best historical fiction writers are reflections of the most creative of their nonfiction brethren. They start similarly from interest and instinct, and are driven to take their interest and instinct on a journey, often a long one, that satisfies their need to explore and discover, their hope of getting lost to find the way, their expectation of being surprised, and their compulsion of making something new out of something old.

Truth, we hope, is a byproduct of the best of our stories, and yet there are many many different kinds of truth. ~ Ken Burns

Twas-Later-When-the-Summer-Went

Twas Later When the Summer Went by Emily Dickinson

The kind of truth I look for when writing historical fiction is often found in the little things – The Gorgeous Nothings, as a book of Emily Dickinson’s complete envelope writings in facsimile is titled. They take one intimately into the life of a historical person. As I heard the American historian Doris Kearns Goodwin recently say (not quoting her verbatim): letters and diaries even as they speak of current events often let us into the deepest feelings and thoughts of their authors. Insight and inspiration can come from objects, activities, habits, gestures, all manner of seemingly insignificant things. Somehow they excite me more than epic occurrences. Currently, I’m working on a fiction about Anne Brontë and a wealth of “gorgeous nothings” are not only illuminating her outer world, but offering me a deeper understanding of her inner one. Small things are making the story I’m telling about her so much larger than I initially thought it would be.

Art Print c19th Victorian Barefoot Farm Girl Sits Fireside Fireplace w Cat

Art Print c19th Victorian Barefoot Farm Girl Sits Fireside Fireplace w Cat

I could hear her sigh of relief when I read of her habit of sitting in a rocking chair and propping her feet on the hearth fender in the parlor at Haworth Parsonage—it offered me a glimpse of her ease in her home environment and set the scene for a whole chapter. As a child, answering her aunt’s chastising “where are your feet, Anne?” with a cheeky “on the ground, Aunt”, showed me a girl—who grew into a woman—as spirited as she was dutiful. A diary entry by Emily describing her and Anne’s lazy start to the day offers the reminder that normalcy was as much a part of their lives as drama and tragedy and shows their home, so often depicted holding them in dismal isolation, as a playful everyday place: “It is past Twelve o’clock {sic} Anne and I have not tidied ourselves, done our bedwork or done our lessons and we want to go out to play …”

A seemingly trivial incident revealed much about Roger North, a historical character featured in my novel To A Strange Somewhere Fled. In his book Notes of Me he describes the effect entertaining “30 gentlemen” at Wroxton had on him by the end of the evening, revealing his reserve in the extreme when he was forced into pretentious social activity: “I made my way like a wounded deer, to a shady moist place, laid me downe {sic}, all on fire as I thought myself, on the ground; and there evapourated [sic] for 4 or 5 hours, and then rose very sick, and scarce recovered in some days.” (I know the feeling!)

Notes of Me Book Cover

His reflection on which instrument was best for women to play was another delicious morsel of insight into him as man who liked a certain amount of order, as well as modesty in women: “…the harpsichord for ladies rather than the lute; one reason is it keeps their body in a better posture than the other, which tends to make them crooked.”

Mademoiselle de Mennetoud on Harpsichord

Nicole Kipar 1688

Orazio_Gentileschi_-_Lute_Player_-_WGA8589_pe

Orazio Gentileschi 1625

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(The) history of private men’s lives (is) more profitable than state history. ~ Roger North

It was a list of Alessandro Stradella’s possessions at the time of his death that gave me a starting point for my novel A House Near Luccoli and the fictional Donatella a way to become personally acquainted with him before he physically came into her life (the latter an advantage she had over me), revealing a man who loved beautiful things and yet hinting at a roughness around the edges (and possibly a self-penance for his misdeeds?) through the anomaly of the hemp and wool bedding on the list of silver and gold and diamonds and silk.

Inventory of Stradella's Possessions resized

With no portraits or descriptions of Stradella’s physical appearance, almost nothing recorded of his personality, I found him in the paradox between the masterpieces and messes he made. Additionally, I listened for him in the music he composed and saw something of his grace and nobility, but, also, his flair and pride (and over-confidence?) in his signature.

stradellwide

I’m often “delayed” in my writing by always looking for more magnificently mundane things. I can’t help myself. I’m more fascinated by the focused rather than panoramic view, squinting my literary eyes to see into shadows; and risk remaining in them myself.

I also realize that for a writer to enter completely into a story, to offer much more than 1+1=2, there must be a goal–at least a goal–to leave no stone unturned.

As a historian, what I trust is my ability to take a mass of information and tell a story shaped around it. ~ Doris Kearns Goodwin

As an author of historical fiction, I can say the same. Perhaps, I will be an unadulterated historian in my next life. As long as I can be an accomplished musician, too!

 

 

 

The Perfection of Reclusion

Daffodil buds were growing out of the mud. Pastoral views overlooked what I had come to walking so far with one who would leave me that youthful February of awkward rendezvous and sixteen aging years with glimpses of sun in-between the clouds. Something to go back to even if I never could.

Copyright 2015 by DM Denton

Copyright 2015 by DM Denton

A story emerging from the memory of my imagination has, more than once, become my life. Well, that was when I thought I was the story. Now I know I’m just the teller of the tale, a balladeer singing the music of silence. A freeing realization and, perhaps, a necessary one for my evolution into a writer whose most creative stimulation is as an onlooker, a solitary soul, a lover of love without a lover, a childless woman with many offspring, a traveler going nowhere and so anywhere. An elusive chanteuse more comforted by ghosts and longings than is good for me, I prefer possibility over certainty and need to disappear for the words to appear—often in conflict with these striving, competitive and extroverted times, but never without a vision, interest or objective in hope of satisfying my muse.

I recently came across an opinion that the perfection of Emily Dickinson’s “art” was the perfection of her reclusion. Another way of putting it might be that the perfection of her “art” was her lack of distractions. Like striving and competition. Like thinking what her poetry should be.  Like wondering if anyone would ever know it lived. She asked if her poems breathed and was told they weren’t publishable. How very fortunate her lack of participation in what she called “the auction of the mind” didn’t prevent her breathing into eternity.

What motivated her to write nearly 2000 poems when no one was waiting for her fragmented and faint scribbles on scraps of paper, envelope flaps, and even a chocolate wrapper? Some creative individuals need an incubating space around them—a chrysalis as William Du Bois described it—for longer than others, even forever; like Emily Dickinson, her spirit perpetually on the verge of emergence into its winged perfect state.

For me, that is the essence of creativity no matter what medium it finds its expression through or whether anyone but its creator is involved in it: always in a state of metamorphosis, within its cocoon seemingly inactive while preparing for birth. The timing is its own, for it knows when it is ready to fly, very few eyes noticing its colors in flight all the more beautiful when unconscious of being noticed or not.

Like those daffodils that weren’t there and then they were—reaching up, opening, sighing, and shriveling down—not for me or anyone else, not for anything defined by ego or expectation, not for anything but the earthly and unearthly breath of being.

Copyright 2015 by DM Denton

Copyright 2015 by DM Denton

 

Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them. ~ Anaïs Nin

 

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Solstitium

There came a day at summer’s full
Entirely for me;
I thought that such were for the saints
Where revelations be. ~ Emily Dickinson

Copyright 2014 by JM DiGiacomo

Sunflowers: Copyright 2014 by JM DiGiacomo (Diane’s mom)

My summer has begun

Softly, quietly; under a few clouds

that won’t block the sunshine.

A lonesome beginning,

just as I like it,

in order to feel glad for myself and

honor the ways of those

who don’t look for company

except as it finds them

through the touch of a breeze

or face of a flower

or sigh of a raindrop

or trust of a sparrow;

with nothing to yield for 

but the freedom to reach

and wither

and grow all over again.

~ DM Denton

Blessings on this Summer Solstice

and 

Winter Solstice, for those in the southern hemisphere  

 

Earth, Teach Me

Earth teach me quiet ~ as the grasses are still with new light.
Earth teach me suffering ~ as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility ~ as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring ~ as mothers nurture their young.
Earth teach me courage ~ as the tree that stands alone.
Earth teach me limitation ~ as the ant that crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom ~ as the eagle that soars in the sky.
Earth teach me acceptance ~ as the leaves that die each fall.
Earth teach me renewal ~ as the seed that rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself ~ as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness ~ as dry fields weep with rain.

– An Ute Prayer (Utes are indigenous people of the Great Basin, now living primarily in Utah and Colorado, USA)

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Nature Insight: Bog Chorus (Repost)

The frogs are singing again, and as I haven’t come up with anything new this week, here is a timely repost!

If I could sing
all day, all night,
then being
nobody
would be alright.

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

If I could send
a clear high note,
then I might
keep my head
and heart afloat.

If I could be
content to bring
one more voice,
all might muse
a hope of spring.

I take a leap
though just a frog,
not for praise
but the mud
in my cool bog.

Inspired by the frogs singing in my vernal pond and Emily Dickinson’s poem:

And please check out Grace Pieces recent ‘re-write’ of this Emily Dickinson poem:

“I’m Somebody!  Who Are You?”


©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Nature Insight: Bog Chorus

If I could sing
all day, all night,
then being
nobody
would be alright.

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

If I could send
a clear high note,
then I might
keep my head
and heart afloat.

If I could be
content to bring
one more voice,
all might muse
a hope of spring.

I take a leap
though just a frog,
not for praise
but the mud
in my cool bog.

Inspired by the frogs singing in my vernal pond
and Emily Dickinson’s poem: ‘I’m Nobody! Who are You?’


©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Nature Insight: Dawn Speaks

At day’s break the only chatter that needs to be heard rises up—not with alarm but conviction for what waits to be enjoyed and avoided.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers–
That perches in the soul–
And sings the tune without words–
And never stops–at all–

Emily Dickinson (American Poet, 1830 – 1886)

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.