Archive for April, 2012


The Bluebird of Happiness

Spring has sprung in the midwest.  Early March we had summer-like weather.  Tonight we are having one of those “thunder-booming” rain storms, and it strikes me that even violent weather and rainstorms can be a harbinger of what’s to come, hoping of course for a resurgence of all that is new and beautiful, all there is to look forward to as the weather turns golden and warm.

As part of this, there is the return of the bluebird.

Bluebirds in the midwest are not seen as often as they used to be.  They are much more rare than they used to be, but we nevertheless keep an eye out for them.  As follows in much of nature, the males are the brightly colored, beautiful blue we associate with the bird whereas the females are more brown with blue wing tips.  Many of nature’s creatures follow this pattern with the male being the show-off to capture the attention of the ladies, and those cagey coy females hang back and get to make the decision as to which of those male birds they are most attracted to.

This doesn’t seem to be particularly true for humans.  Women paint their faces, pay attention to how they look, how they dress.  These women might even spend a lot of time exercising and obsessing over how to capture the attention of their male counterparts, quite the opposite of many of nature’s other creatures.

The bluebird symbolizes the setting of the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, but even though they are winter birds in this respect, they nevertheless signal the coming spring as well, a transition from the old into the new.  In this way, the bluebird signals the end of the cold season, the transformation into spring, the passage into happinesss and fertility.  The fertility represented is not only the recognition of the birth of the new, the heralding of infants into the world, it also speaks to the birth of new creative endeavors.  Thus, the bluebird is dually a winter bird as well as a spring bird, foreshadowing an awakening of a new consciousness.  They not only represent the transition and passage of winter to spring, they also speak to a passage from child to adult, night to day, and barreness into that aforementioned fertility.  The bluebird acts as a guardian of all transitions.

If a bluebird finds its way into your life, look for the possibility of the new and renewed in all your endeavors.  Symbolically, a person could herald the birth of the new and unexpected in your life, and I myself try to surround myself with those “human bluebirds” who encourage me to embrace all my potential.  If you find a sort of bluebird in your life, expect opportunities to reach new levels of joy and happiness.

On June 19, 999 Stephen King took a walk and nearly never came home to his wife and kids.  As King might have put it himself, he almost “bit the big one.”  His leg was broken in at least nine places, his lung collapsed, and his glasses ended up on the front seat of the driver of the car who hit him because Stephen King’s head went through the windshield.

King seems to have had a strong will to live, but what interests me most is how he went on to resurrect his life and go on creating compelling new tales.  Surely, wanting to see his wife and kids proved a major motivator, but Stephen King also desperately wanted to write again.  The first day, after many months, he sat down in his wheelchair and managed to sit still and write for an hour and forty minutes, despite excruciating, nearly crippling pain.  His need to write propelled him forward, giving him that extra motivation to live and make whatever words he had left in him matter.

I’m not sure I would have had his resolve.

The lesson learned from Stephen King’s determination:  write through your pain; write in spite of your pain; write to heal whatever ails you.  He started out writing on a desk with a portable typewriter in the laundry room of his cramped quarters–no glitz, no glamor–but despite long odds made an entire, best selling career out of putting words on paper.

In 2003 he won the National Book Award for distinguished contribution to American Letters over the strong protest of more “literary” writers like Marilynne Robinson.  She has won the Putlizer Prize and allegedly claimed when King won the National Book Award that he was merely a hack writer, undeserving of attention from the legit press.  At the most recent Association of Writing Programs (AWP) conference held in Chicago, Robinson was asked what she liked to read, and she rather haughtily replied that she doesn’t read contemporary fiction.  Exactly how does that make her competent to critique Stephen King, especially if she has never read one of his novels?  I shudder at how she responds to the creative writing students she purports to teach.

Anyone who has read his novels or short stories like “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” cannot doubt that Stephen King definitely has a lot to say.  There’s an adage:  fiction is a lie that tells the truth.  In all the mystical sorcery involved in creating not one, but many, many fictional universes, King is an honest writer.  At times in his novels he hints at what might happen, then he shows you how it happens, and then recaps, in case you missed his point, but he nevertheless creates stories readers care about.  We follow his characters and care what happens to them, genuinely mourning when we come to the end of his tales.  Isn’t that what fiction writing is all about?  Isn’t that the mark of a great novelist?

I recently finished reading his newest novel, 11/22/63, and was dazzled by his sheer storytelling ability.  This particular story tells of the possibility of going back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy and how changing that moment would alter the world as we know it.  King branches out and constantly challenges himself to reach for greater peaks and mountaintops, and doesn’t seem afraid of any subject matter.  He puts aside the horror genre to tell a different tale, but his eager readers gleefully devour every word of his prose.

My advice:  go out an buy a Stephen King book.  Don’t be ashamed or afraid to like John Grisham or mystery authors like Agatha Christie or Chicago native Sara Paretsky who write compelling tales, even if you’re coached to claim to prefer Charles Dickens or Herman Melville or even contemporary writer Marilynne Robinson.