Lighting the Earth

I awoke early one winter morning. It was somewhere in the hour of 3:00 am, and my young family was sound asleep. In the typical Oregon way, there was a gentle rain pattering on the roof of our small farmhouse. As I drifted out of my sleep state, something followed me from the dreamtime, something living, pulsating. Something so profoundly visceral, I was drawn fully out of my slumber.

This ‘something’ came to me in images and sensations. I couldn’t tell if this thing was coming through me or from within me. All I knew was that I was swelling with strong emotions which I can only describe as feelings of graciousness and exuberance. I sat up in bed and immediately wanted to write. There were no words yet, but I knew I needed paper and pen. So, I snuck out of bed and stole my way quietly into the living room.

Not wanting the spill-off from the lamplight to rouse other slumberers, I fumbled around in the dark until I could scrounge up a small stack of scrap paper and a pen. I sat on the couch and, in the dark, allowed my eyes to gaze into the shadows, paying attention to nothing but the images rolling through my mind. I sketched and wrote my way through the scraps of paper, one by one, until the images stopped. And within two hours, a complete story coursed its way out of my mind.

Bathing in an incredible feeling of satisfaction and contentment, I set my pen down. I couldn’t believe that my years of struggle attempting to write something of value had culminated in a children’s picture book which flowed effortlessly from the depths of an early morning languid mind. I had never considered writing a children’s book before, and yet here it was, my very first complete piece of writing. I gave it a working title, Light of the Earth, and tucked it away. I slipped back into bed, falling asleep with a deep sense of well-being until the sun lightened the grey morning sky hours later.

I arose with excitement and couldn’t wait to give my new book its first proofread. To call it a rough draft is an understatement. I’m not an artist, and my sketches made in the dusky morning were hard to decipher. My writing was also a little hard to read, but because of the simple wording, I was able to pick my way through the chicken scratch.

When I finished reading it for the first time, I could not believe I had written it. It had a depth and breadth of meaning beyond what I had been capable of writing for six years prior. I had been attempting to create something even partway adequate, and yet had never penned anything worth reading past the first two sentences. This, on the other hand, was worth reading.

I knew a great deal of children’s book authors, having read books for hours on end to my daughter. I knew that there were amazingly talented authors to which I could not be compared. And yet, I felt confident that I had written something that could at least be considered somewhat of value. Little did I know that, six years later, after well over 100 redrafts, many new titles, two years working with Karen Brough on illustrations, three years submitting to publishers, and one year finalizing the current published version, my story would become an award-winning book that has touched the hearts and minds of many children and the adults in their lives.

When people first read over the original draft, they asked me where I got the inspiration to write it. I didn’t have an answer at first. It came to me from a relaxed state of deep sleep and that was all I could say about it. But, as I went through the necessary rewrites over the years, I realized the deep and underlying source of inspiration. I may not have been aware of it at the time of writing, but on the most obvious level, the story portrays my relationship with with my daughter. It exudes the very heart of how much I believe in my her as a person and her ability to be powerful in life.

On a more subtle level, the story portrays my relationship with Amanda, who believed in me more than I did myself. If you have read Lighting the Earth, you may relate to the strong yet gentle presence of the young girl’s mother. In her simple and powerful tribal way, this mother reflects the very wisdom I felt emanating from Amanda the Medicine Woman. It is a story that feeds me on a soul level as a mother and as a daughter. It is an offering both to my own daughter and to Amanda, two people for whom I feel the deepest gratitude. For through both of them, my life has become meaningful, rich, and real. Lighting the Earth is not only the story of who I have become, but also who I wish others may become, because I believe “the most important thing to do is be a light on Earth.”