Pursuing Life's Daring Adventure

Monday, February 22, 2010

Finding Inspiration

"If we live to be 100 years old, we will have only experienced Spring 100 times … if we’re paying attention.  –unknown
Sometimes, life takes our breath away.

Lupine field, Somes Sound, Maine

One July, while camping at Acadia National Park in Maine, I stood in silent wonder at the unexpected and magnificent beauty of a vast field of lupine edging up to Somes Sound. Whether it was the crashing of the ocean along the rocks bordering the lupine, the Bald Eagle circling above me, or the veil of fog filtering the summer sun, I don’t know, but somehow the experience impacted me. Profoundly.

Frequently, I’m asked where I find inspiration for my writing, my painting, and my work. But the truth is I don’t often feel at a loss for inspiration. Life has kept me quite filled with a well from which to work, from which to tap to create, and to keep my mind fascinated with the beauty which can be found in our world. I am deeply grateful.

Have you ever had an experience that changes you? The way you see things? The way the world looks afterward? I love how this phenomenon is described in this great post by Michael Hyatt, on the healing power of beauty and art and an experience that changed him for better.

I once heard the definition of an artist as “a collector of experience.” Art then might be defined as the application of a collection of experience. Run-of-the-mill art might happen as a result of a collection of a lifetime of contained non-risky experiences. Whereas broad-sweeping art may be created from a lifetime’s worth of stretching—of opening ourselves to the wide collection of experience available in everyday living.

In my mind, inspiration comes quietly, in the serenity of a sherbet-colored sunrise, the sharing of stories over dinner, the crackling warmth of a fire, the bells pealing from a church belfry, or the bursting color of Spring—experiencing it all as if for the first time.

my daily inspiration, the Prague Castle

Maybe this week, dare to do something new, to go somewhere you’ve not previously gone, to sit and share and listen to the life of friend. Just for the fun of it—just for the new experience, try driving a new road, sitting at a different table at a restaurant, reading a new book, or trying out a new food. Perhaps when life takes our breath away, we can take in a fresh beauty, and can remember He made it all just for you, and me.

I think as we collect experience we are further inspired for our art and for creativity. But we also may be furthered as human beings to love more deeply and to live more richly, and to express our life and gratitude as its own work of art.

Starting the conversation: What inspires you? Can you remember a time when life changed, inexplicably, and the experience took your breath away?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Olympic Training-- My Personal Experience

"Only one person and one person only will determine how good of a runner you become ... You will become as good as you let yourself be. That one person is you." - a Coach

In 1988 and the years leading up to it, I had the privilege of training with a great synchronized swimming team for the Olympics. For years, we spent hours and hours each week, nose-clips on, heads down underwater, practicing and swimming and working hard, with competition as our goal. That year's Olympics in Seoul became the premier for the sport of synchronized swimming, and our team qualified to compete in the Olympic Trials in Indianapolis in early summer. I was the youngest on the team, just fifteen years old.

Photo of 2008 Olympic team at Beijing, http://synchro.teamusa.org/

I remember the competition, standing nearly paralyzed with fear in front of judges, rivals, and the crowds. And I remember vividly the feeling of wanting to give in-- to walk away before even competing-- because of the tremendous pressure.

Every time the Olympics come around, the flood of memories comes rushing back. I love watching for the looks on the athletes' faces, observing how they handle the pressure. For after all the years of training, the hard work is put to the test in the moment of competition for all the world to see. I cringe when the skier makes a mistake, a momentary glitch in concentration when the athlete perceives the pressure and caves.

Isn't it in all of life that our ability to maintain a vision is tested, our skills for hanging on through the most difficult moments are challenged, and we are forced to see if our training can help us to pull through and finish strong? Whether it's running a race, or writing a novel, or working toward any concrete goal, we must learn to push through the moments of doubt when we just simply want to give up. Finishing well isn't easy.

That year, at Olympic Trials with my team, we stood before the scoreboard and were thrilled to earn 13th place-- a big deal for a young team. I think we all learned so much. There will always be factors to prevent us from achieving a great goal. But to achieve excellence, we must learn to push through the doubt, exert the extra energy needed to overcome anything ready to derail our success, and push through to finish strong. In all areas of life, we have to allow ourselves to become our very best.
Starting the Conversation: When have you worked hard toward a goal and worked even harder not to give up? What is one goal you would like to achieve?

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Bright Side of the Road

“Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” –Nathaniel Hawthorne

What do you think of when you hear the word change?

When I hear the word change, I don’t think of jingling coins in a pocket, or cringe because I want to only keep things just as they are—comfortable. No, change to me means the new normal. Change is the hallmark of our past year, moving from Cincinnati, Ohio, to an expat life in Prague, Czech Republic.

This past year has been crazy-hard. Everything is different for us. In fact, we’ve had many discussions about some of the things that have stayed the same for us, our constants in a sea of change, things we are incredibly thankful to have: family, faith, health, Snickers. Things that have changed: well, everything. Yes, even our foods have changed, drastically. Nothing is the same. Change is our new normal.

I’ve had dozens of people ask or comment in the past six months, “How can you always be so positive?” or “Why are you always looking on the bright side?” After about the twentieth comment, I’ve had to stand aside and think for a while. Why? How?

This is what I’ve come up with, like the title of one of my favorite Van Morrison songs: I choose the Bright Side of the Road.

Nothing profound. But daily, I think, it’s a choice on how we choose to see the world. For the good or for the bad. For the light or for the dark. For the blessings or for the bummers. If we don’t choose to make today great, to see the beauty in the chaos, to find the best even out of the worst, today will be … just the opposite.

All photos copyright Jennifer Lyn King at www.jenniferlynking.com

Some say this mindset is a “positive” one. But I think it’s focusing on the truth. Today is a gift, created by our God who cares. And because he cares, we are freed to see the bright side of the road.

So, though things continuously don’t go as planned, it’s okay. For without the dark shadows in life, we wouldn’t have the contrast to clearly see the light. Today, I choose to walk on the bright side of the road. How about you?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Reading and the Rich Experience

"When you sell a man a book you don't sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night- there's all heaven and earth in a book, a real book." ~novelist Christopher Morley

I have always loved to read. Some of my earliest memories are of the library in Arkansas where I learned to read: the chalky-white walls, the blue felt-like carpet, and the endless cases of books—the taller ones, of course, had the magical adult books. But I remember loving two things about that library—the books, and the name placards that children could earn by reading lots of books. Yes, I earned lots of placards, but mostly I learned to love to read for the experience of reading a book—to open the cover of a new book was to open the portal to a new world. I still love reading books, and discovering new worlds, experiencing the world through a new character and learning as I read.

About six months ago, when we moved to Prague, our easy access to new books evaporated in an instant. But, this week, I scored a huge triumph. I configured my first international book order, effectively breaking down the barrier to getting new books. I’m elated!

Seth Godin recently said this about e-books versus paper-and-ink books: “Sometimes the goal is to make change happen. A book is a physical souvenir, a concrete instantiation of your ideas in a physical object, something that gives your ideas substance and allows them to travel ... unlike just about any form of electronic media, you get to read the book at your own pace, absorbing it as you go.”

I agree. To me, spending time reading at leisure words permanently printed onto paper is an enriching experience to be savored. The transience of blinking cursors isn’t the same, disappearing so quickly in our e-world that it hardly bears existence at all. But a physical book is a piece of timelessness in page form, with an experience lingering in my mind like the vibrant colors of a stunning sunset, forever changed and moved by the subtleties of savoring.

So, though I blog into the transient e-web-world and spend countless hours putting letters in the space of the blinking cursor writing novels, and even though I read my news, and emails, and blogs, and school updates electronically, I still am not ready to settle down and pleasure read a great novel from a screen. I look forward to every novel I read—especially the ones coming in a few weeks, via international mail. Whichever way we choose to read, whether on an e-page or a paper page, here's to to reading and the richness of the reading experience.

Starting the conversation (click to leave a comment, below): What are your reading habits? Have they changed in the digital age—iPad, Kindle, e-Reader? And, do you recommend any great books you’ve read lately?