Five Debut Novels Worth Sampling


, , , , , , , , ,

Reading 1881_Kramskoi_Frauenportraet_anagoria

I’ve been putting together a reading list of recently published debut novels that have been making a splash in the publishing world. Perhaps not surprising, given I’m looking for a publisher for my own debut novel.

What is surprising is how many there are, and how intriguing they all sound. So much so I’ve had a hard time winnowing the list down to a readable top five. What helped was being able to download free sample chapters from Amazon onto my Kindle.

Here’s what I came up with.

 There, There – by Tommy Orange

This one is first on my list because I’m already 2/3 through it. And I have to say, it’s living up to the hype, and a lot of it there is: “Orange writes the way the best rappers rap, the way the finest taggers tag. His is a bold aesthetic of exhilaration and, yes, rage.” (Claire Vaye Watkins, Poets & writers, July/August, 218)

“Let’s get this out of the way: Tommy Orange’s debut novel, There There, should probably be on reading lists for every creative writing program in this country. It is a master class in style, form and narrative voice. Orange, who is from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, utilizes first, second and third-person narration to incredible effect, creating a multi-voiced novel that effectively reflects an entire community. . . .” (Alicia Elliott, The Globe and Mail)

There, There is about urban Indians living in Oakland, California, who know “the sound of the freeway better than [they] do rivers … the smell of gas and freshly wet concrete and burned rubber better than [they] do the smell of cedar or sage…”

Each of its many characters are heading to an annual powow, which promises to be explosive, according to another reviewer: “[T]he plot accelerates until the novel explodes in a terrifying mess of violence. Technically, it’s a dazzling, cinematic climax played out in quick-cut, rotating points of view. But its greater impact is emotional: a final, sorrowful demonstration of the pathological effects of centuries of abuse and degradation.” (Ron Charles, Washington Post)

Despite this, “even amid confusion and violence, there is the possibility for decency to assert itself,” and novel ends on a note of hope. Or so I’m promised (The Guardian).  I’ll let you know.

  Song of a Captive Bird by Jazmin Darznic

I was drawn to this book because it’s about the life of the Iranian poet Forugh Farrokhzad who “endures the scorn of her family and society to become one of Iran’s most prominent poets and a film director.” According to the Kirkus Review ” this novel is a “thrilling and provocative portrait of a powerful woman set against a sweeping panorama of Iranian history.”

“Song of a Captive Bird is a complex and beautiful rendering of that vanished country and its scattered people; a reminder of the power and purpose of art; and an ode to female creativity under a patriarchy that repeatedly tries to snuff it out.” (Dina Nayeri, New York Times)

The Incendiaries  The Incendiaries by K. O. Kwon

Laura Groff calls this novel “God-haunted.” It is a love story set on a contemporary college campus that “explores faith, religion, and the dangers of fundamentalism” (Poets $ Writers, July/August 2018) An escapee from North Korea who becomes a cult leader is another major character, with disastrous consequences, it seems.

Despite the fact this novel promises another explosive ending like There, There, which may have put me off, it was the prose from that sample chapter that drew me in and made me add it to my list. These intriguing bits added to its allure:

“Kwon’s novel is urgent in its timeliness, dizzyingly beautiful in its prose, and poignant in its discovery of three characters fractured by trauma, frantically trying to piece back together their lives. (USAToday)

“It is full of absences and silence. Its eerie, sombre power is more a product of what it doesn’t explain than of what it does. It’s the rare depiction of belief that doesn’t kill the thing it aspires to by trying too hard. It makes a space, and then steps away to let the mystery in.” (The New Yorker)

                            BEARSKIN by James A. McLaughlin  Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin

“A fugitive from a Mexican cartel takes refuge in a forest preserve in the wilds of Virginia. . . .  An intense, visceral debut equal to the best that country noir has to offer.” So begins and ends a Kirkus Review of this debut novel.

I chose this as my fourth debut novel to read in order to get out of the city and into the wild. And also, I suspect, as a serious Justified fan, to get back into the hills of Appalachia with a soft-hearted and hard-fisted alpha male like Raylan Givens. I don’t know if the protaganist of Bearskin, Rice Moore, will live up to Raylan, but the sample chapter I read gives me hope.

Then there’s this: “Bearskin is visceral, raw, and compelling—filled with sights, smells, and sounds truly observed.  It’s a powerful debut and an absolute showcase of exceptional prose.  There are very few first novels when I feel compelled to circle brilliant passages, but James McLaughlin’s writing had me doing just that.”

                            SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS by Marisha Pessl  Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marsha Pessl

“Sharp, snappy fun for the literary-minded,” so deems the Kirkus Review, and that’s exactly why I chose this to be the last novel on my “top five” list, even though it doesn’t quite fit my criteria for “recent’ debut novels. This came out in 2006.

“Marisha Pessl’s dazzling debut sparked raves from critics and heralded the arrival of a vibrant new voice in American fiction. At the center of Special Topics in Calamity Physics is clever, deadpan Blue van Meer, who has a head full of literary, philosophical, scientific, and cinematic knowledge. But she could use some friends. Upon entering the elite St. Gallway School, she finds some—a clique of eccentrics known as the Bluebloods. One drowning and one hanging later, Blue finds herself puzzling out a byzantine murder mystery. Nabokov meets Donna Tartt (then invites the rest of the Western Canon to the party) in this novel—with visual aids drawn by the author—that has won over readers of all ages.” (Amazon)

I tried a sample chapter and decided this quirky, fun novel is just what I needed to top off this list, which is decidedly heavy in “not fun” topics.

Some strong runners-up on the lighter, fun side are:

The Ensemble

The Kiss Quotient

The Pisces

Let me if you’ve read any of these yet, and if so, what you thought. Also, if you know of any other debut novels I should add to my list.



“The Raw Nerve of the Universe”


, , , , ,

Kandinsky. Vasili Kandinski o Wassily Kandinsky fue un pintor ruso, precursor de la abstracción en pintura y teórico del arte, con él se considera que comienza la abstracción lírica.

Wassily Kandinsky

Quote of the Week 

“We writers are the raw nerve of the universe. Our job is to go out and feel things for people, then to come back and tell them how it feels to be alive. Because they are numb. Because we have forgotten.”

Ursula Le Guin, from class notes by Luis Alberto Urrea


In Bruges – “Like Being in a Fairy Tale”


, , , , , , , , , ,


In the brilliant dark comedy “In Bruges,” a mobster sends his two hitmen to Bruges to cool their heels after a job went horribly wrong. What the two men don’t know is that they were sent there so they could have a beautiful “fairy tale” experience before one partner was ordered to kill the other. Things don’t go quite as the boss had planned.

But he was right about one thing. The film’s brooding, atmospheric cinematography did create a fairy-tale, dream-like veil through which the city’s medieval history, fabulous architecture, graceful bridges, and misty canals are revealed.

In person, Bruges does not disappoint. It was one of my favorite stops on our European adventure and I’d love to see more of it someday. Three days was not enough. There are more cobblestone streets to explore, more art museums to visit, more boat rides down misty canals. More Belgian chocolate, beer, and waffles for that matter.

DSCN4948 (2)

The city’s many canals, bridges, and swans are favorites, of course. Bruges is known as the Venice of the North, and since I wasn’t able to get to Venice this trip, it made this city even more special to me.


IMG_0489 (2)



Then there was the history and the architecture! From the quaint little corners of the city . . .








. . . to the spacious and grand central plaza with its flags and cafes, shops and towers.





Bruges was full of comic surprises and delights . . .


from the sign above a restaurant “water closet” . . .


. . . to the intimate peek into a doctor’s office on display outside a ceramic shop . . .


. . . the comforting clip-clop of horses hoofs coming up behind you . . .


. . . or a great white whale rising out of the canal.


Then there was the chocolate, the waffles, and the beer . . .


DSCN5010 (3)

I’m not much of a beer drinker but I did find a fruity blend that suited me quite well.

These were just a few of my favorite memories of this fairy-tale, dream-like city. For more, watch the film, it won’t disappoint.

Following the Yellow Brick Road to Publishing


, , ,

Related image

So far I’ve heard from nine publishing houses, all complimentary, all passing on my novel.

Highlight the word “complimentary.” I do. We writers are like that, or so I’ve heard and found to be true in practice. A particularly complimentary rejection letter can keep us smiling for weeks.

It’s all part of the publishing process, those mounting rejections while waiting for that miracle, or what feels like a miracle in the waiting, the hand of god reaching out of the sky to bliss our work, to name us, oh holy of holies–a published novelist.

In the meantime I print out the rejection letters and mark with yellow highlighter all the praise large and small. A sunny bulwark against disappointment, I suppose.

“It only takes one to fall in love,” says my agent. “The right one, for the long haul.”

Finding the right publisher is like finding the right marriage partner. We can fall in love with someone, or some book,  and yet still not be ready to commit. To slip a ring on a finger or offer the ultimate pledge, to death do us part.

So I’m still waiting for “the right one” to come along, to be so swept away by my novel they cannot bear to pass on it.

In the meantime, I gather Toto in my arms and happily follow that yellow brick road of sunny highlights on my way to see the wizard and find a home for my novel.

Keep your fingers crossed.




A Rainy Day in Segovia


, , , , , , , ,

DSCN4358 (2)

One of my favorite side-trips when traveling in Europe was the day we spent in Segovia, viewing the Roman Aqueducts and visiting the Alcazar, a 12th century castle where Queen Isabella grew up.


The Roman Aqueduct is by far the most dramatic feature of a city full of beautiful landmarks. Built in the 1st century, it  rises nearly 100 feet tall and reaches over 2600 feet long, consisting of over 170 arches and 25,000 granite blocks, all built without mortar. It delivered water to the city for over 1800 years, until the mid 19th century.


The city through which it passes is a painter’s palette of raw sienna, burnt umber, and yellow ochre, stitched together with narrow streets of cobblestone and brick pavers.


We stroll through the damp streets with the patter of raindrops on our umbrellas, stopping often  to visit the quaint little shops along the way, to watch the street performers play, and to snap photos of each other.





We love the ornate doorways we find, the flower-filled balconies, and richly textured walls we pass.



DSCN4280 (2)



Eventually the narrow streets lead us into large plazas, as it does here before the Iglesia de San Estaban with its Romanesque bell tower, built in the 14th century.




The largest plaza on our walk opens up to reveal the jewel of the city, Segovia Cathedral, built in the mid 16th century. It is considered a masterpiece of Basque-Castilian Gothic architecture and is known as “The Lady of Cathedrals.”


Surrounding the spacious plaza are an array of sidewalk cafes and tall, elegant buildings.



Another steep climb from the plaza leads to the Alacazar. It sits high above the city on a  stony crag with steep cliffs falling to the Castilian valley below. The castle, first referenced in 1120, was a favored residence of the Spanish Royals. This is where Queen Isabella spent her youth. Where she fled with her husband Ferdinand for protection from her enemies when they were newly married.  And it’s where she was finally was crowned Queen of Castile and Leon.


It’s tall towers and turrets are said  to be the inspiration for Disneyland’s castle, but several other castles claim that distinction as well.DSCN4295

Inside the castle is a dazzling array of richly decorated halls, chapels and armories.






The views from the ramparts are dizzying as well as dazzling, revealing lush forested hillsides, . . .


. . . fairy-tale villages winding along the riverside . . .


. . .and panoramic views of the city of Segovia.

Here you can see the towers of Segovia Cathedral and the Iglesia de San Estaban in the distance. Note too the ancient walls that surround the city, built before Isabella’s father retook the city from the Arabs.

I’m asked all the time which were my favorite places to visit during our 30 days of travel, but I can’t quite pin that down, there were so many.  Still, when asked, Segovia always rises quickly to mind.

If you ever get the chance to visit Spain, the city of Segovia is a must-see.

Tasting Life Twice – A Traveler Returns


, , , , , ,


“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ― Anaïs Nin

I’ve just returned from a whirlwind romance with Europe, visiting five countries and 18 cities in 30 days. I wasn’t with a tour group but with 3 traveling companions, one of whom was on a grant-based mission to tour the castles of Europe.

We traveled by plane, train, bus, ferry, car, taxi and subway, and the wear and tear of the trip happened mostly during those transitions, lugging bags and suitcases up and down hotel stairs and elevators, across cobblestone streets and busy thoroughfares, up narrow escalators and down crowded corridors to throw our luggage through train doors before they closed on us. One terrifying and, in retrospect, hilarious moment I’ll never forget was standing on the platform watching my lone cousin on the train surrounded by all our luggage as the train doors are closing and her husband comes running up behind us shouting that it’s the wrong train.

That “in retrospect” is so important. It’s what filters raw experience into meaningful moments, pushing some moments into the background while highlighting others. It allows us to filter those experiences through our past, to find the similarities and disconnections that help us to place it within a larger context. It allows us to reflect on what was seen and felt in a deeper and more comprehensive way.

Even going through the hundreds of photos I took, deleting the inconsequential and cropping others to highlight and foreground what was seen in a new way, allows me to “resee” what I might have missed in the moment, allows me to re-experience the moment in a new way.

I’m fascinated with how layered, how open to revision, our experiences are. While travelling I had little time to record my thoughts and perceptions, but as soon as I returned home, I began to do that. Here’s what I wrote:

“Currently, as I write this, a day after my return home, I see that month of travel as a huge, largely undigested meal, too rich and powerful to fully absorb, to unravel, to comment upon. I mix metaphors because even how I cannot fully or precisely articulate what I’ve not yet had time to fully grasp.

But I’m looking forward to the time I have now to reflect back upon those raw experiences and to shape it into meaningful expressions, whether through writing, blogging, sketching, painting, poetry. The best is yet to come, I feel, for bringing the past into the present, into a slow-motion re-examination, pulling it under the microscope of the mind, filtering it through past similar memories, or things I’ve read about it, or read afresh, read anew–experiencing it more thoroughly through the lens of history I had not had the time to read in the raw moment . . . 

I see this trip as a treasure trove of experience, largely unmined, to draw upon. My life is deeper now, richer, more varied, than before, because of this experience.”

It goes on, much of it rambling, repetitive–the free writing that allows us to get our feelings and perceptions down on paper uncensored.

So while I’m still mining this treasure-trove of experience, or to mix metaphors again, digesting this rich meal, tasting it twice, I’ll leave you with five fleeting moments forever stilled from the five countries we visited.


Detail from Gaudi’s Cathedral, Barcelona, Spain

DSCN4938 (2)

The Louvre, Paris, France


Bruges, Belgium


Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany


Varenna, Lake Como, Italy


Blogging, Another Way of “Breaking Bread”


, , , , , ,

Recently I wrote about blogging as virtual “love-making,” riffing on the new science which defines love as a“micro-moment of positivity resonance.” 

But there’s more to it than that, it now appears.  According to an article in The AtlanticThe Selfish Meme – Twitter, dopamine, and the evolutionary advantages of talking about oneself” by Frank Rose:

“Researchers have previously shown that certain online activities—such as checking your e-mail or Twitter stream—stimulate the brain’s reward system. Like playing a slot machine, engaging in these activities sends the animal brain into a frenzy as it anticipates a possible reward: often nothing, but sometimes a small prize, and occasionally an enormous jackpot.”

Apparently this behavior of constant searching taps into a primal food-hunting drive and the reward we feel when the sought-after food is actually found—it’s matter of survival.

But even more interesting is the discovery that sharing information about ourselves as commonly done on Facebook and on blogs can be even more pleasurable.  It can, in fact, give the neurochemical equivalent of an orgasm, according to an article on the Web site for the Today show “Oversharing on Facebook as Satisfying as Sex?”.

So beyond the reward of the hunt, it seems, is the deeper pleasure of sharing what we have (our catch, ourselves) with others.

In that case, blogging may be a new form of “breaking bread.”

We’ve all experienced the pleasure sharing a meal we’ve created with people we care about, and we know how this stimulates conversations in which we share our thoughts and stories.

In a sense, when we blog, we’re inviting others to our “table,” and sharing the best of what we have to offer that day—our thoughts, insights, images, poetry, memories.  We’re feeding each other and inviting responses.  And, while things we find on other sites may create those deep resonating connections we call “micro-moments of love,” the deepest pleasure comes from our own offerings: sharing ourselves with others. Giving more than receiving.

It all makes sense. Blogging, after all, is about creating community.  Creating bonds of interest, of mutual satisfaction, mutual admiration.

It’s all about connecting.  Hooking up. Taking risks. Being vulnerable and open.

Blogging may not be “orgasmic,” but if you think about it, it’s pretty darn sexy.

This was originally posted in 2013.

Virtual Love-Making, Why We Blog


, , , , , , , ,

public domain bee

Often when I leave comments on a blog posts that moved me, I write “I love this post” or “I love the way you do [this]” or “I love that quotation.” Lately I’ve been wondering if I’m overusing the word “love”.

Am I really feeling this strong emotional attachment, or am I just being lazy, unwilling to take the time to precisely articulate what strikes me about a particular piece?

After reading an article in The Atlantic on the science behind love, I’m inclined to believe that, more often than not, I use the word “love” because that’s what I’m actually feeling– a “micro-moment of positivity resonance.”   That’s how Barbara Fredrickson defines love in her new book Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do.

In The Atlantic article “There’s No Such Thing as Everlasting Love (According to Science), author Emily Esfahani Smith writes:

Fredrickson, a leading researcher of positive emotions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, presents scientific evidence to argue that love is not what we think it is. It is not a long-lasting, continually present emotion that sustains a marriage; it is not the yearning and passion that characterizes young love; and it is not the blood-tie of kinship.

Rather, it is what she calls a “micro-moment of positivity resonance.” She means that love is a connection, characterized by a flood of positive emotions, which you share with another person—any other person—whom you happen to connect with in the course of your day. You can experience these micro-moments with your romantic partner, child, or close friend. But you can also fall in love, however momentarily, with less likely candidates, like a stranger on the street, a colleague at work, or an attendant at a grocery store. Louis Armstrong put it best in “It’s a Wonderful World” when he sang, “I see friends shaking hands, sayin ‘how do you do?’ / They’re really sayin’, ‘I love you.”

PenguinsSo when I say I “love” Louis Armstrong’s song, now I know why—because I feel such a strong positive connection to what he’s saying, as well as with how he says it, and the music he says it with, that I experience a triple love-whammy!

What I feel when reading things by fellow bloggers, or see the images they’ve created, is similar—a deeply-felt resonating connection, often on several levels.

In “Tao and Creativity” Chang Chung-yuan describes this connection between poet and reader as a “spiritual rhythm.”  It is the means by which the reader participates in the inner experience of the poet. He writes:

In other words, the reader is carried into the rhythmic flux and is brought to the depth of original indeterminacy from which the poetic pattern emerges.  The reader is directly confronted with the objective reality which the poet originally faced. The subjectivity of the reader and the objective reality of the poem interfuse . . . .

This is very interesting because Fredrickson discovers a similar phenomenon when she compares the brainwaves of a storyteller and listeners. Smith describes this in her article:

 What they found was remarkable. In some cases, the brain patterns of the listener mirrored those of the storyteller after a short time gap. The listener needed time to process the story after all. In other cases, the brain activity was almost perfectly synchronized; there was no time lag at all between the speaker and the listener. But in some rare cases, if the listener was particularly tuned in to the story—if he was hanging on to every word of the story and really got it—his brain activity actually anticipated the story-teller’s in some cortical areas.

“The mutual understanding and shared emotions, especially in that third category of listener, generated a micro-moment of love, which ‘is a single act, performed by two brains,’” as Fredrickson writes in her book.

Big Sur and Mothers Day picnic 111Fredrickson also discovered that the capacity to experience these daily love connections in our lives can be increased through simple loving-kindness meditations, where, as Smith describes, “you sit in silence for a period of time and cultivate feelings of tenderness, warmth, and compassion for another person by repeating a series of phrases to yourself wishing them love, peace, strength, and general well-being.”

“Fredrickson likes to call love a nutrient,” Smith writes.  “If you are getting enough of the nutrient, then the health benefits of love can dramatically alter your biochemistry in ways that perpetuate more micro-moments of love in your life, and which ultimately contribute to your health, well-being, and longevity.”

So remember, fellow readers, as you go meandering from one blog site to another like busy little bees, making those “micro-moment” connections with people whose work you admire, that you are engaged in a kind of virtual love-making.  You are distributing a pollen-like “nutrient” that nurtures others, as well as yourself.

As Louis says, “what a wonderful world” we live in!

This essay was first posted in a slightly altered version in 2013.

The Rich and Sensual World of Scent


, , , , , , , , , ,

Lately I’ve become obsessed by scent.  Perfume, to be more precise.  I seldom wear it, which is why this obsession is so strange.

It all started with the quest to find the perfect perfume for my daughter’s bridal shower.  I wanted something intimate and earthy, something that would literally become her.  A signature scent that would be all her own. It had to be perfect, like her–warm and rich and exciting, and deeply satisfying.  Something that made you want more.  That you would never forget and never forget wanting.

And in this quest I tumbled down a rabbit hole into a rich and sensual world where one single sense seldom privileged—smell—was given full rein to romp and roam and sate itself in scent.

We humans rarely give ourselves that pleasure.  We privilege sight, touch, sound, taste, and the feel of things.  Poor scent is a step-child to the other senses, neglected, forgotten.  Not so for other species where the sense of smell is primary with a full palette of colors and a symphony of sounds.

Often when I sit on our front patio overlooking the surrounding hills and valley below, my little dog sits with me, looking out as if as mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape as I am. She seems totally enraptured, her nose raised, nostrils quivering, her whole body trembling in delight.  But she’s reveling in smell not sight.  She’s drinking in that delicious flood of scents flowing uphill from the valley below.

I imagine her savoring each scent the way we savor each note when listening to a symphony, carried away by the trill of arpeggios, deep thundering drums, long sweet notes like violin strings, the soft low moans of cellos, blasting trumpets, cascading piano keys, all washing over her, tumbling together, fading away, like movements in a symphony of scent that I am deaf to.  How I envy her!

We’ve long known how smell and taste are intricately connected—in fact, we can distinguish far more flavors through smell alone—inhaling and exhaling—than we can by our tongues.

What’s new and interesting is how scientists are discovering a similar interconnection between smell and sound that gives rise to a new sensory perception quaintly coined “smound.”  If this new science bears out it will only confirm the old science.  In 1862, the perfumer G. W. Septimus Piesse noted how “Scents, like sounds, appear to influence the olfactory nerve in certain definite degrees,” and he developed an “octave of odour” to measure those scents.

Musical metaphors are used in describing perfumes, which are said to have three sets of “notes” that unfold over time, each interacting with the others to create a “harmonious scent accord.”

As I wandered along countless cosmetic counters in the search for the perfect perfume for my daughter, spraying sample scents on slips of paper and waving them in the air, or daubing them on my wrists and forearms and inner elbow, knowing how scents change when applied to skin, mixing with our natural pheromones and warm pulses, I was savoring those musical notes: light florals steeped with sandalwood floating on a musky base.  Amber and lotus blossoms with a hint of peach.  Cardamom married to rosewood.  Lavender and rosemary.  Vanilla and violets dampened by oak moss.

But there was more to the whole process than scent–the name had to be perfect too, evocative and mysterious, lyrical and alluring.  The shape of the bottle had to be sensual or simple, daring or dreamy, as fitted the fragrance and the name.  It all had to flow together.

I finally found it, amazingly. The perfect perfume for my perfect daughter.  She loves it, and her lover loves her in it. So I’m happy.  But still hungry.

Still wanting more. More of my own to daub on earlobe and wrist, to line along the window sill like colored glass or exotic orchids.  Scents to soothe and stir, arouse and savor.

I want to collect scents the way I do books.  To sit quietly, alluringly, on my shelf, its richness and beauty and promise in full display, just waiting, waiting, waiting, for the perfect moment when I take it in my hands and lift the stopper and let the initial scent rise, and all its sweet layering, lingering notes play over me again and again.

I want scent to light up every neuron in my body.  To flow through me, light and airy, like champagne bubbles. I want to hear it taste it see it feel it popping all about me.

I want, I want to be, sated in scent.

This was first posted five years ago in a slightly altered version.

Riffing on Roses, Beauty Past Knowing


, , , , , ,

Lately I’ve been playing with roses, photographing them at different stages in bloom, at different times of day, against varied backgrounds, just to see what I could capture.

I love this first one, the delicate color, the fat soft petals, open, exposed,  framing the center. The way the gentle light catches the edges of the petals and swirl in toward the center where the deeper shadows lie.

The eye moves from the edges spiraling ever inward, round and round toward the tight bud.   This is where the eye rests, at that center, probing the inner depths, where the spiralling continues past where we can see. 

The spiral is a symbol of infinity, an inward eternal flowing.  Water spirals, wind spirals, dancers spiral, galaxies spiral. Thought spirals round and round, ever inward, toward a place past knowing.

This next one stops my heart, I don’t know why.

The color is so tender, the center so closed, the outer petals so utterly open, leaving the center defenceless.  There’s a feeling of vulnerability, a careless disclosing, an utterly unstudied becoming.

Here it is again from a different angle.  See the way the light flows upward through the petals?  It breaks my heart.

And the one below . . . I have no words.Now we go outside to where I pluck the roses from the only bush that has survived the deer and gophers.  It’s a tall, gangly bush that grows outside our bathroom window where we see it every morning, watching the roses burst and bloom from one stage to another.

I cut only the ones that grow below and above where we can see and bring them into our home–orphans, offerings, honored guests, gracious gifts.

This first one is stunning.  The contrast between the deep rose and deeper blue.  I’m thinking flags flying, sails billowing, kites dancing across the sky.

Hotdogs? Baseball? Blasting trumpets?  There’s something heroic, cheering, utterly wholesome and deeply comforting about this photo.

That shade of blue in contrast with bright colors heralds all our summers, all our bright hopes, all our pride and enduring optimism.  Endless summer.  It lives like a flame in our hearts, in the faces of laughing children, in the roar of jets, in  fireworks bursting against a twilit sky.

This deep blue sky is the background for all our hopes and dreams and unites us wherever we live in the world.  The whole rounded globe is cupped in this blue.

The next is especially sweet and hopeful.  The way the light shines through it conveys a sense of innocence, purity. There’s a freshness here.  You can almost smell the sweetness.

The following seems more serene, mature, even though it is the same rose against the same sky, but the light is different,  There’s an intensity here, a romantic allure.  I’m thinking candlelit dinner, silk stockings, love letters strewn on a bed.

The one below is pure happiness.   I can only smile and smile.

What more can I say?

The following photos evoke something else.  The rose and the clouds seem to drift across the sky, lightly as feathers.

We sense movement here, of passing time, fleeting moments.  

There’s a dreamlike quality with the soft focus, the soft petals, soft as the clouds they float upon.

I’m thinking of a rowboat rocking gently on a pond, fingers trailing in the cool water, eyes gazing at the sky above, clouds gentle as a breeze gazing downward, stroking soft skin.No we go indoors again.

These roses are shot against a gold wall. I like the way the pink  and gold play against each other. The contrasting colors startle each other, but they do not clash.  The boldness of the gold deepens the warmth of the rose, releasing its sweet aroma. Can you smell it? 

There’s a tropical feel here.  It reminds me of a conch shell I have sitting near my bath, the deep rose at the center of its hollow, the broad lip curling outward turning shades of gold, the whole sculpture a study of pink and gold, of curls and whorls and crowns.  The smooth inner lips reflecting the light, the rough and rugged shell absorbing it.

This following was shot out of focus against rippling water. I filtered it to see what would happen.

It’s hardly a rose anymore, hardly water, it’s all melted together, water and rose. 

There’s a surreal quality, what a rose might look like painted by Van Gogh, underwater, floating among the seaweed.  A still face just below a rippling surface, holding you with its gaze.  Trying to tell you. You strain to hear.  What is it?  What do you hear?

The next is also filtered, shot against the travertine tile. Romanesque, don’t you think? An old world quality.  Ivory and old lace.There’s a coolness and stillness here, yet the light still brightens.

I’m reminded of ancient statues, the way the light wraps around them, tempering the cool marble with its warmth.  The skin of the rounded limbs, the muscled thighs, the bent elbows, broad shoulders, soft and silky to the eye’s touch, the embracing gaze.

Can you feel the cool, soft petals?

The following is one of my favorites.

She’s just past full bloom, just a shade before fading, still buoyant, full faced, gracious in her giving, nothing hidden, nothing withheld.

The sepia tones capture that inner light, the golden glowing, the gracefulness and graciousness.We know where this ends. But the end is not here, not here at all, not in her, not in this elegant awakening, this gathering awareness, this full-throated opening to all there is.

Here are my lovely ladies, gathered in a crystal vase, growing old together.See how the petals sag ever-so-slightly?

You want to cup them and hold them up, you want to feather your face against them, you want to say, it’s okay my sweets, I love you still, I love you ever more, I love you just this way.

Never has your beauty been more achingly tender than in its fading, its falling away, it ethereal effervescence.

Your beauty is past knowing, it’s all past knowing.

This post, still one of my personal favorites, was written six years ago. I had only one rose bush then. Now I have at least a dozen. Here’s hoping your summer is blooming as lovely as these.