2020: The Crappy Year in Review by Rebecca Heflin

2020: The Crappy Year in Review by Rebecca Heflin

It’s my pleasure to introduce Author Rebecca Heflin as my guest today. Rebecca captured my heart with her dedication to help others, to help organize the blogs for Soul Mate Publishing, and read on for the other million things about this amazing working woman.

Author Rebecca Heflin

This time last year I was making my holiday preparations, which included the honor of presiding over the marriage of my nephew and his fiancée on Christmas Day—a truly joyous way to spend the holiday. This time last year, I was looking forward to a new year, fresh with the promise of a new start. Which meant, this time last year, I was blissfully ignorant of what was to come. Instead, I was naively planning two international trips, a local canoe and camping trip, several charity events, two weddings, countless family and social gatherings, and the celebration of my 25th wedding anniversary.

Who could have imagined it wouldn’t be long before the world would be living the plot of some sci-fi thriller?

January and February bumped along as normal, with work, exercise classes, dinners with friends, and preparations for the release of my 10th novel. By the end of February, the dark edges of the coming storm were visible.

The first weekend in March was my birthday. I celebrated it that Friday with dinner out and a show at our local performing arts center. There was also an out of town wedding that Saturday, which my husband and I attended. Looking back, being in those very public venues probably wasn’t the smartest decision on our part, but the tidal wave had not yet hit our area. March 17th was my last day in the office, as the university I work for shut down and sent its employees home to work remotely. It would be only a day or two later when the entire state would go under lockdown.  Again, in my naiveté, I thought things would be back to normal in a month or so. Silly me.

Zoom meetings would become a regular occurrence in my daily life, and the next few months were a blur of fear and adjustments, as my husband and I created new routines for ourselves. We limited our grocery shopping to once a week. If we didn’t pick up an item during that weekly visit, we just lived without until the following week. Toilet paper (when the store had it) was priced at roughly the equivalent of a gram of gold. Preparing for grocery shopping felt a little like preparing to enter a contaminated laboratory: masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes at the ready. After returning home, it felt like entering a decontamination unit: washing hands, wiping down groceries, and disinfecting everything we touched.

We watched in horror as the numbers rose and people died—many of them frontline workers. I obsessed over the daily case counts, horrified when we hit 1 million cases in the U.S., not even considering that we would reach double-digit case counts in a few short months.

It wasn’t all bad, however. We also watched the world come together in a common experience. Music and voices rose from city terraces. Drive-by birthday, anniversary, and graduation ceremonies became a thing with horns beeping, lights flashing, and signs waiving. Humanity found a way to celebrate life’s milestones even amid a pandemic.

For me, working from home meant no commute. This freed up time for other things. And the lack of social engagements and other commitments meant time for jigsaw puzzles, minor home improvements, and gardening. Not to mention more quality time with my husband. We had a beautiful spring—cooler than average temperatures, and beautiful low-humidity days—which gave us the opportunity for more outdoor activities like corn-hole games, bike rides, and long walks. Life slowed down, and I couldn’t complain about that.

2020

As we learned more about how the virus was spread, and businesses opened up again, we developed a routine that gave us a little more flexibility. Masked and otherwise following the public health guidelines, we gradually began to leave our sterile cocoon. We had friends over for outdoor socially-distanced dinners (BYOF). We began supporting our local restaurants with take-out or delivery, eventually feeling comfortable dining outside at our favorites.

In May, my husband and I celebrated a quiet, but romantic 25th wedding anniversary—not exactly how we had imagined, but nice just the same.

We took three short driving vacations, 2 to the mountains of North Carolina, and 1 to the beach in the Florida panhandle. The change of scenery provided a welcome respite to the sameness of the daily routines.

After working remotely for 6 months, I returned to my office, but still isolated from my co-workers. I only see them masked and walking in the hallway or on Zoom. It was surreal when I entered my office in September to see the calendar still on March.

Here we are again with Christmas past and New Year’s fast-approaching. There is a light, in the form of vaccines, at the end of this long dark tunnel that is 2020. It will take some time, and more patience is necessary, but we will get there. We will overcome this. The world did it in 1918-1919, and we will do it in 2020-2021.

But will the world ever be the same again? I, for one, won’t be. I am forever changed by this experience. I will never again be blissfully ignorant. I have lost my innocence.

Even so, not all the changes are bad. I have come to appreciate so many things I took for granted: my health, my family, freedom of movement, hugs and kisses shared among family and friends, big gatherings and shared social experiences. And my good fortune. Throughout it all, I have wanted for none of life’s necessities. I can’t ask for more than that from the crappy year that was 2020.

Rebecca Heflin is a best-selling, award-winning author who has dreamed of writing romantic fiction since she was fifteen and her older sister sneaked a copy of Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Shanna to her and told her to read it. Rebecca writes women’s fiction and contemporary romance. When not passionately pursuing her dream, Rebecca is busy with her day-job at a large state university.

Rebecca is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Florida Romance Writers, RWA Contemporary Romance, and Florida Writers Association. She and her mountain-climbing husband live at sea level in sunny Florida.

Rebecca can be reached at rebeccaheflin@hotmail.com. Feel free to touch base with her.

All of her books are available on Amazon
as well as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Eden Books.
The third book in Rebecca Heflin’s Seasons of Northridge Series, A Season to Dream, will be released mid-2021.

Shades of Red

Shades of Red

Roses are red . . . We’ve all heard that little ditty numerous times. But have you ever wondered what makes red such a powerful color? Why does red make a bold fashion statement? Why does it look great as a feature wall in your home? Why does red pop on a book cover?

Amy Butler Greenfield’s fascinating book, A Perfect Red, traces the history and cultural impact of the color red. And guess what? It all began with a little red bug called cochineal. Vast fortunes were created and international intrigue bloomed as countries battled to figure out how to beat Spain’s hold on the trade of a red dye. So valuable – it was traded on commodity exchanges in the 17th century.

And of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I love red as an artist and painter. I often weave red into my paintings, like the one shown here.

 

And if you’re curious – here are some other fun facts about red:

Threads of Wisdom 36×36 Oil Ingis Claus

Clever red fingernail polish names: Red Abandon, Little Red Wagon, Don’t know . . . Beets me, Wanted . . . Red or Alive. Life is a Cabernet, An Affair in Red Square, and Breakfast in Red.

Remember Dorothy’s beautiful, magical silver slippers from The Wizard of Oz? Not silver, you say? Well they started out as silver in the novel but when the new Technicolor process was used in the film version, the moviemakers wanted a color that popped—so, of course, they chose red. Ruby red.

Charles and Ray (Bernice Alexandra) Eames: Together the husband and wife duo created some of the 20th century’s most enduring designs. Charles and Ray Eames are known for their classic modern furniture and for their pioneering work with materials such as molded plywood, which they created by pressing sheets of wood veneer against a heated mold. Through this work, in the 1940s the couple developed their iconic LCW (Lounge Chair, Wood), which has been called the best design of the 20th century. The Eames Molded Plywood Lounge Chair Wood Base, currently sold by Herman Miller, is striking in red. Today, the chair sells for north of a thousand dollars and is made in the United States.

While writing my 2019 published Unforgettable Miss Baldwin, I saw red everywhere. My heroine has red hair, she blushes a pretty shade of red, her lips are full and red . . . Red has seeped into our language: seeing red, caught red-handed, down to my last red cent, red herring, a red-letter day, like red to a bull, red tape, go beet red, in the red,  red-blooded, red-carpet treatment, red-light district . . . well—you know. And of course, my sweet Tom and I love to paint the town red.

I’m currently writing an essay based on my memoirs and how red integrated my life.

What’s your favorite red—either in your home/office or in your personal life?

Used with permission, © 2014, Icon Magazine American Society of Interior Designers.

Gail Ingis Claus is an author, artist/painter and interior designer. Her historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.

Write a Book and Learn to Write

Write a Book and Learn to Write

Editing, editing, editing

How can anyone be a writer if all they know is what a noun and a verb is – oops, I mean – are? I didn’t know the difference between an adverb and an adjective when I began this journey, and if it’s not visual, forget it, I’m an artist after all. So, how did I manage to write Indigo Sky in 2015? I had lots of advice and help along with a little paper crumpling, file deleting, and even some foot-stomping. A lot has happened since then. I’m more comfortable with adjectives, verbs, nouns, and the combination thereof.

Here’s a shocker: If you think that adverbs only modify verbs – think again – they can also modify adjectives. We all know this stuff because we use it every day, but the point is that many of us, myself included, don’t know how to break it down and explain it. So given that I’m a life-long learner, I decided to add “grammarian” to my to-do list. That’s why I ordered Elizabeth O’Brien’s book with the hopes that grammar would become my friend and serve as my road map to becoming a better writer. A writer who can write . . . anything. Uh, oh, there are those elusive ellipses. Hmm, maybe I should have used an em dash? Sigh . . .

And don’t holler at me if I forgot a comma somewhere, Grammarly didn’t help me with this post, and that’s probably the reason.

Thanks for reading –  and remember: I before E except after C and in words that sound like neighbor and weigh.

Indigo Sky and The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin are both available on Amazon. Please remember to write a review – like everything else – folks only buy after they’ve read the reviews. Reviews are easy, they only need one or two lines, a title and of course, you probably know that 5-star is the best.

Flowers, Books, and NANOWRIMO

Flowers, Books, and NANOWRIMO

Flowers for that added love and color from Tom

November is an exciting month for writers and authors. NANOWRIMO. Every November – newbie writers and multi-published authors from all over the world make a commitment to write a 50,000-word novel. The GOAL is to write 50k words for the month. Essentially a first draft. Some might go on to write more words but the goal is to get that 50k. I’ll be joining in the fun on my own, as I revise my WIP (Work in Progress) The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin.

For the writers out there you know the saying that “good writing is all about rewriting.” I’m currently on my tenth draft of my next book. This one’s a big revision – more than fine-tuning the romantic bits and bobs. Writers are always looking to improve our craft. With that in mind, I signed up for the Westport’s Advanced Fiction Writing Group. This is a great critique group led by the talented editor, Adele Annesi. The critiques are mega helpful. I also took an amazing online course October 1-4  with New York Times Bestselling author, Kristan Higgins, Setting as CharacterFantastic. If you’re interested, you can check out the online courses on the CTRWA (Connecticut Chapter of the Romance Writers of America).

But writers also know that in between the rewrites you need to regenerate your imagination and your body. I like to play my guitar—I’m working on building those old calluses again. And my piano too, even if it’s only to tickle the ivories for a few minutes. Walk every day with Tom Claus (my hubby) and Ed, our ninety-three-year-old inspiration, and ballroom dance with my instructor, Henry, sometimes with Tom, that’s the best, really gets my heart pumping. And of course, Tom gives me flowers to inspire me as I write.

Oh, was I talking about writing?

My work-in-progress or WIP, The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin has taken about two years (and counting). One day at a time, one scene at a time. I am also constantly reading one of my hundreds, but who’s counting, craft books, like all those Thesaurus books and Emotional Beats by Nicholas C. Rossis. Which sometimes sends me down a different path in my writing. I will let you know when my Gilded Age Mistresses: The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin is ready for you.

I will be delirious when I type THE END.

Gail Ingis Claus is an author, artist/painter and interior designer. Her upcoming romance The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin will be released in spring 2018. Her current historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.

A work of art

 

 

Beating Heart of the City

Beating Heart of the City

New York City Hall, a beauty in classicism with its touch of Palladio! I studied interior design and architecture many moons ago, but my passion has not wained. New York City Hall is featured prominently in my upcoming book The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin. The cornerstone of City Hall was laid in 1803. Construction was delayed after the City Council objected that the design was too extravagant. Imagine something like that today. In response, architects, McComb and Mangin reduced the size of the building and used brownstone at the rear of the building to lower costs. Labor disputes and an outbreak of yellow fever further slowed construction. The building was not dedicated until 1811, and opened officially in 1812.

Although Mangin and McComb were the original designers, the building has been altered numerous times over the years, by various well known and respected architects:

Step of City Hall

The steps of City Hall frequently provide a backdrop for political demonstrations and press conferences concerning city politics. The heroine in my book meets the hero on those steps while attending a suffragette rally in 1886.

Rotunda

On the inside, the rotunda is a soaring space with a grand marble stairway rising up to the second floor, where ten fluted Corinthian columns support the coffered dome, which was added in a 1912 restoration by Grosvenor Atterbury. The rotunda has been the site of municipal as well as national events. Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant lay in state there, attracting enormous crowds to pay their respects. City Hall is a designated New York City landmark. It is also listed on the New York State and National Registers of Historic Places.

The area around City Hall is commonly referred to as the Civic Center. Most of the neighborhood consists of government offices (city, state and federal), as well as an increasing number of upscale residential dwellings being converted from older commercial structures. Architectural landmarks such as St. Paul’s Chapel, St. Peters Church, the Woolworth Building, Tweed Courthouse, the Manhattan Municipal Building, the Park Row Building, One Police Plaza, and the Brooklyn Bridge surround City Hall. If you’ve ever watched an episode of Law and Order, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Until next time, Gail.

Thank you Wikipedia for the facts and links.

City Hall Park

Gail Ingis Claus is an author, artist/painter and interior designer. Her upcoming romance The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin will be released when she’s done revising, I’ll keep you in the know. Her current historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.

http://amzn.to/2j0LXLE

 

 

 

You’re invited to my art show

You’re invited to my art show

Art has always been a big part of my life. Guess what? I’m having an art show and you’re invited. Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018, 10 am-5 pm. (rain date Sunday, Aug. 12, 2018). At my house. And the Sangria is on me. If you’re interested in attending and you’re in the area (Fairfield, Connecticut) you can email me directly at gail@gailingis.com.

Join me for my art show COLORFUL VISIONS and celebrate color and beauty in our world.

Art, nature, Sangria. Sounds like fun to me. Hope to see you there. xo Gail

Many of my paintings will be available for purchase, including the ones featured in the postcard above. I will be donating half of all sales of my paintings to Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum. A National Historic Landmark since 1971, the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum is regarded as one of the earliest and most significant Second Empire Style country houses in the United States. Lockwood-Mathews holds educational programs throughout the year for schools, colleges, and universities along with other educational groups and for the general public. Lockwood-Mathews also hosts various events throughout the year for the public including art shows, flea markets, tea parties, costume balls, private tours as well as offering guided historical tours of the estate.

 

Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum

Gail Ingis Claus is an author, artist/painter and interior designer. Her upcoming romance The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin will be released in the fall of 2018. Her current historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.

http://amzn.to/2j0LXLE

My Wild Walk on the Beach

My Wild Walk on the Beach

Rockaway Beach Morning Shoreline by Maureen E Ritter

I was alone. A sultry day in July, the sun was blazing, the temperature in the nineties. A walk on the beach sounded like a great escape. Sneaking away from my family was no big deal.

Jumping into the soaring waves was refreshing, revitalizing, invigorating. I waited for the next wave, then the next. Giggling at the cool spray that tickled my skin. The heat no longer bothered me after each successive splash of cold water coated my arms and legs. Suddenly, I found myself overcome by a giant wave. Unexpected. Scary. Gasping for air and flailing my arms I couldn’t stop the pull of this force of nature.

Would someone see me and come to my rescue? I hadn’t noticed a lifeguard. Who thinks about that when there’s so much fun to be had. I tried to drag myself out of the frothy water, onto the safety of the beach, but my strength was fading fast. The undertow pulled me farther and farther away from shore.

Rockaway Beach

Desperate. Frightened that I would drown, I fought the waves with all my might, dragging myself back. Finally, I managed to stand and slog my way through the shallows to shore.

I was eight years old.

Since that day, I have told this story hundreds of times. I promised myself I would never take the power of nature for granted ever again. I was pretty tall for my age and was a good swimmer, but it didn’t make a difference. I was at the mercy of the tides. Since then, I never go into the ocean when the waves are bigger than me.

Those lovely old cottages

Jones Beach undertow

My family had a cottage just up the street, in Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York. The experience put a damper on my love of the ocean. The almost-drowning is what I think of whenever I see a gigantic wave today.

I spent many a summer at Jones Beach watching my own kids jump in and out of the waves. I didn’t want to stop their fun or diminish their pleasure, but I was ready at a moment’s notice to leap to the rescue if one of my kids needed me.

Nature is beautiful but it’s also untameable. Wild. Have a safe summer.

Gail Ingis Claus is an author, artist/painter and interior designer. Her upcoming romance The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin will be released in the fall of 2018. Her current historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.

http://amzn.to/2j0LXLE

 

You want to be a writer? Now what?

You want to be a writer? Now what?

How do you do this writing thing?

I kind of fell into writing fiction by accident. You see, I’m an artist (a painter) and for many, many years I was an interior designer and taught design and architecture as well. I was always an avid reader. But a writer? No way! Until I was inspired by painter Albert Bierstadt and I wanted to tell a story inspired by his life.

I know, I said to myself, I’ll write a book. After all, I had written a chapter for a history book and been wooed by a publisher. I wrote up school catalogs, wrote course curriculum, wrote up interior design and architectural history lectures, proposals for jobs, poetry and love letters. Surely writing a book would be a piece of cake. Sure, right.

I sat down, pen in hand, put pen down—booted up my trusty Mac, surely that would inspire me . . . but that didn’t help. This is not going to work. What do I write first, the end? What words do I use? How do I find my characters? Where does all this come from? It shouldn’t be any different than giving a lecture. OK, I though smugly, I’ll approach it like a lecture. I could talk for hours about interior design, lighting, space planning, history, architectural anything. Still nothing. I remember the emptiness, the confusion, the lack of words. I didn’t think I had this gift to tell a story, never mind, writing one.

Tommy the train to NYC

Then I met Brenda on a train ride into New York. We were both on our way to a Michael Hauge workshop. Hauge is a screenwriter who teaches writing courses. Brenda and I became friends after that class. I learned a great deal from Hauge but also from Brenda who helped me get my thoughts together and helped me formulate my story. But Brenda was busy with her growing family and her full time job as an attorney, so I had to continue my search for help. During a CTRWA Fiction Fest, in 2009, “Inspiration for Writers” offered free editing service for the auction. I bought enough tickets to win it. Yay, That’s how I found Charl, who is an editor for them.

Creativity is a right brain activity. Have you explored your creativity? Do you remember being creative as a kid? I sure do. Comic books were the rage when I was growing up. (They still are). I would sit at my desk and draw what I saw in the comic books. Wonder Woman was my hero. As I got older, I drew all kinds of things. I played the piano, I took dance lessons, voice lessons, sang in school shows, sang in school choir, took my mother’s dresses apart and remade them. Took my radio apart and my clock apart and put them back together, well, with Daddy’s happy help, it was my curiosity that pushed me to explore. The list goes on, and I wrote little poems and notes to friends and family. I realized that I had always had that passion for storytelling inside me all along. I had just been using different mediums to tell my stories.

I didn’t just want to think of a story, I wanted to write that book, and in spite of myself, i did.  I took enough workshops and writing courses to earn a PhD in “workshop-taking”. And with the help of Charl I was able to complete my very first book, Indigo Sky.  I am a member of the Connecticut Chapter of the Romance Writers of America, where writers gather and help each other. Being a member of the CTRWA, I was exposed to many different publishing companies, big and small and with Jamie S’s help where to submit. I landed a publishing contract with Soul Mate Publishing. With the help of my editor, Tammie, at Soul Mate, who worked very hard with me, I completed the re-writes and the book was published in 2015.

My book can be found in three formats, paperback, eBook and Audiobook. I even have a book trailer! Two things have changed in my life since that fateful day I decided to start writing: 1. I became a published author. 2. I have made so many wonderful friends along the way. I wish you all the same creative journey.

Gail Ingis Claus is an author, artist/painter and interior designer. Her upcoming romance The Unforgettable Miss Baldwin will be released in the fall of 2018. Her current historical romance, Indigo Sky can be purchased on amazon.

http://amzn.to/2j0LXLE

 

 

 

A Romantic Summer Read

A Romantic Summer Read

Sea Lust

I was fortunate to receive an ARC of the contemporary romance, Sea Lust by Joy Smith in exchange for a review, and I devoured it in one night. Joy Smith’s writing is dramatic, descriptive and tight. She wastes no words—each one carries the story forward. Marty, aka Martha Chase, was a strong, independent woman but life had cheated on her. Known for her excellent reputation as a seafaring captain, she temporarily worked in a shipyard as a painter until someone discovered her availability. Joe Carella had his own set of issues to be a proper sailor. His father, Gino, and his woman lost their lives when on their yacht a squall came up and pitched his father into the ocean, and the woman dived in to save him. Joe was desperate to get his father’s yacht out of a Miami boatyard. A skilled seaman was needed to take charge. He knew of Marty but wasn’t sure a woman was the right person. At the time there was no other skilled sailor available, so Joe hired her. I cheered for Marty as she went about doing her job as captain with great perseverance. Nothing ran smoothly from the get-go. On the open waters of the Atlantic, they were vulnerable to evildoers and were left in a raft in open waters. A beam of light, apparently help from the great beyond, was the alerting factor to the coastguard. Each step of the journey was thrilling as Marty and Joe grew together in compassion and understanding. I loved this book. WOW!

Joy Smith

Joy’s writing is inspiring and upbeat. Her work has a contemporary, twenty-first-century rhythm. I finished the book lickity split, I keep going back to read sections that are dripping with creativity.

Tagline: To prove their worth, the cowardly son of a famous yachtsman and a shunned female sea captain set out on a boat delivery traversing the dangerous waters of the Atlantic Ocean, not realizing they might never make it back.

Back Cover Copy: Time is of the essence. During the busiest boating season of the year, Joe Carella needs a delivery crew to transport his dead father’s prize sailing yacht home to Mystic, Connecticut from Florida, traversing one of the most dangerous areas of the Atlantic Ocean. Desperate, he hires a captain with an iffy reputation. Despite his lack of skill, confidence, and courage, Joe, who has always lived under the shadow of his famous father, feels obligated to go along to prove his worth.

Fishing boat captain Marty Chase’s career sank like the Titanic when she was made the scapegoat for a boating accident in Mystic. Determined to restore her tarnished reputation, she accepts Joe’s offer to captain the Carella’s boat home, despite her inexperience with sailing a large yacht in deep ocean waters.

They set sail just ahead of a hurricane brewing in the Caribbean, not realizing that the weather and seas will be the least of their worries. As they fight to survive, the fisherman’s daughter and the privileged son find strength in each other.

Teaser: The timid son of a famous yachtsman and a shunned female sea captain set out on a perilous sea voyage to prove their worth and must fight to survive.

Joy fixing lunch in the galley

About Joy: An experienced sailor, Joy Smith has cruised the same waters as her characters, and has an in-depth understanding of what it’s like to be on an ocean passage. She has published eight books, including several non-fiction how-to boating books. To buy Sea Lust, click here.

 
Writes books to learn from and enjoy…
FictionGreen Fire, Seagulls Don’t Eat Worms, Hear Me Roar, and Sea Lust (forthcoming)
Nonfiction: Oh, No, They’re Engaged!, The Empty Nest CookbookThe Perfect First MateLet’s Go Cruising,  Kitchen Afloat.

A work of art

http://amzn.to/2j0LXLE

Give Me The Artist At Seven (The Painter’s Keys)

Give Me The Artist At Seven (The Painter’s Keys)

(Originally published on The Painter’s Keys – April 20, 2018)

Artist and Purpose Guidance Coach Sam Kaczur recently put out a call on social media asking her friends, many of them artists, the following question: “Around the ages of 6-10, do you have a memory or pivotal moment in your life that you feel set the trajectory or tone for your future?” She offered some examples, like meeting an artist or scientist, discovering a talent, or winning a prize. From among the responses, a theme emerged that painted a picture of family and parenting. “My mother took me to the theatre,” “My dad beat me and so I wanted to be peaceful” and “I assembled my first computer,” were among the replies.

Abbott-H-Thayer_My-Children

“My Children” ca. 1910
oil painting by
Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849–1921)

Experts in child development — parents included — seem to agree that while toddlers explore many ways of being, seven-year-olds seem to settle into patterns, their tastes established and interests piqued. Seven, the age of surging co-ordination and cognitive stamina, is when mediaeval pages took their training to become knights and when boys were first sent to school in ancient Greece. In 8th century Japan, Shichi-Go-San, or “Seven-Five-Three”, acknowledged the passage into middle childhood for the children of court nobles. Shichi-Go-San continues as a festival day for Japanese children and includes special rituals like replacing a regular cord used to tie one’s kimono with a traditional silk obi. Children visit shrines to drive away evil spirits and set an intention for a long, healthy life.

Abbott-Handerson-Thayer_A-Virgin

“A Virgin” 1892–3
(painted allusion to
“Winged Victory of Samothrace”)
by Abbott Handerson Thayer

In art, seven is when, with exposure and practice, children start drawing objects more realistically and with details specific to their cultures and experiences. Seven is when performing, reading and writing music grow in dexterity, complexity and artistic interpretation. Body awareness, movement, rhythm, imitation and mood inform dancing. Seven-year-olds distinguish between body shapes. In drama, Sevens can name characters, settings, problems, solutions and drivelines and can construct and act out real-life and imaginary situations through dramatic play. Scholars have suggested that reading skills at seven can determine future life outcomes like social and economic status.

Sam says this crucial life stage is when we “can create awesome or perpetual bad habits.” By seven, we’ve learned how to cut corners or dig in, to indulge curiosity, to give up, to ask for help or be self-sufficient, to be dutiful or contrarian. If we’ve been acknowledged for creative ability, our environment and character have determined how we follow up. And what we do with our deepest desires — like bury them or explore — began here. Coping with setbacks was probably reinforced into nearly immoveable beliefs during this time. How we cultivate and sustain joy likely comes from this spot, too. Are we all still mostly, at our core, our seven-year-old selves?

Abbott-Handerson-Thayer_Boy-and-Angel_1918

“The Athenaeum – Boy and Angel”
1918 oil on cradled panel
61.5 × 49 inches
by Abbott Handerson Thayer

Sincerely,

Sara

PS: “The future influences the present just as much as the past.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

Esoterica: Part of Sam’s coaching work is helping her clients discover the essence of their “Why Superpower.” They get there, she says, by identifying their values, which often requires a trip to age seven. “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction,” wrote John F. Kennedy. After the re-visit, instead of accepting a pre-determined track, you could use the understanding to exercise a current will. As free and responsible agents, who we were at seven could be a powerhouse for the future. “If you’re not busy being born, you’re busy dying.” (Bob Dylan)

You may remember the 1964 BBC/Granada longitudinal study documentary Seven Up, which followed the lives of fourteen British children and covered themes of religion, class, family, happiness and psychology with the intention of exploring theories of pre-determinism, class mobility and existential free will. By continuing to interview the same subjects every seven years since 1964, the film series reveals heartbreaking truths and surprising discoveries. Roger Ebert called it, “an inspired, even noble, use of the film medium” that “penetrates to the central mystery of life.” The ninth installment, 63 Up, will be released in the spring of 2019.

abbott-handerson-thayer_kittens

The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are now available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.

“The creative adult is the child who has survived. (Ursula K. LeGuin)

Thank you for the courtesy from the Genn family, the letters of Robert Genn and Sara, his daughter.

 

A work of art

Pin It on Pinterest