Posts Tagged ‘Dan Barden’

a little light

March 26th, 2012    -    18 Comments

Reading my friend Dan Barden’s  new book wasn’t altogether pleasant. It was a lot like trying to get around the borderless sprawl of Los Angeles. A contradiction, to say the least. Here you are, cruising under the blinding sunshine of an earthly paradise, and over there is a body under a blanket. Watch out for that sofa thrown onto the street. There’s a mattress in the middle of the freeway. The high-speed lane is stalled, and the off ramp is closed. Beautiful people drive by plumped up on collagen and hair extensions, and under the overpass is an invisible underclass. We must be in the wrong neighborhood. Let’s not get out of the car. I love it.

In the soft hills behind the beaches, everyone is hurting, and hurting each other, and trying to keep from hurting.

Barden wrote about that, in the form of a noir thriller, set in a place I know — Orange County — with people like us, people who have totally messed up and now are trying to do The Next Right Thing. You might think it’s strange for me to read a mystery, at least one with a lot of flying fists and f-words, but it’s no stranger than my real life. I love it.

 The Next Right Thing gives us a most unlikable kind of love. It ranges through the blight of addiction, anger, graft, betrayal and decomposing bodies in the basement, all to prove that the ugly underside is the incubator of goodness.

It’s thrilling, for real, and deeply wise, and I’m giving away a brand new copy. Leave a comment by this Friday to enter my giveaway. I’d love it.

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Falling upside down

August 10th, 2009    -    3 Comments

Mother’s Autumn Plunge
Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009
Assisi Heights Spirituality Center
Rochester, Minn.

There is a story about what brings me up so high this time, so far out there, beyond any place I’ve ever been or even seen on a map.

There is a story about how all of us – against odds, hope and reason – will come together for another day of effortless oxygen and quiet astonishment.

Listen. It is the story of your life.

About two years ago, I got an email from a complete stranger, the lovely writer Elissa Elliott. She had read a powerful essay by novelist and teacher Dan Barden, “Writer as Parent: No More Aching to Be an Artist,” in Poets & Writers magazine. Dan was another stranger to me, but he wrote convincingly about what my book had meant to him in the early confounding years of parenthood when ambition and opportunity seem forever lost.

Elissa read Dan’s words, and then mine, and in a flash, she let go of her well-founded fears about motherhood. “I believe I can do it,” she wrote to me.

I lost touch with her until a year ago this month, when I read about her adoption of Liliana, now three, from the Ukraine. We can always do the thing we are most afraid to do; indeed we must.

I’m humbled and awed at the mysterious force – wind, breath, words – that can release us from old fears and resistance. Awed, and yet it happens all the time. It happens when we exhale. And when leaves fall.

When Elissa wished off-handedly for a retreat in her northern neck of woods, I didn’t know where she lived. I only knew I could find it. I trust it’s on my way. More than that, I trust it is the way.

How lovely to see that Rochester has a 100-year-old tradition of healing. And that our retreat home, Assisi, recalls my own conversion experience to the unholy goodness of the whole wide world. How awfully kind that airlines are offering insanely low fares. I have my ticket to paradise.

If you live in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota or North Dakota, I insist you come. If you live in Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana or Michigan, I’m saving you a place. If you live north of the 32nd parallel, especially if you don’t even know what that is, let go and fall up to the Autumn Plunge. And tell your friends.

We’re blowing in the wind and diving into a golden pond of wonder. Turn everything that’s stopping you upside down.

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