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To the Extremes

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I’ve spent nearly my entire life living in two places. The first half on the great plains of Western Kansas, and the second half in the rain soaked forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Two extremes. For someone like me who has always seen themselves as existing in the middle, these two opposing environments seem ironic. One so wide open and big, contrasting with another that forces you to withdraw into your home and your mind during the long months of dark, rainy days. Certainly, at this point in my life these differences must have had an permanent effect on who I’ve become, postal codes forever stamped onto my character. Here’s my view of those extremes.

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My childhood home is located on a gentle rise on the flat landscape of western Kansas. It’s a borderland where the prairie grasses thin out and the high desert begins. Prickly pear cactus, devil’s claws and echanacea grow wild there, as do the spiky yukka plants with seed pods that rattle like snakes in September.

A great big, blue sky curves around you in every direction, touching the very same ground you stand upon. There’s something magical about that. Standing above the horizon gives you the feeling of being a giant and an ant at the same time.

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If it’s a windy day two of the most fundamental laws of physics are your constant companionsspeed and force. When you’re in Kansas you lean into the wind, hear its rhythm, smell its strong scents, and watch as it defies gravity to carry leaves away from trees horizontally, rather than vertically. The wind is amazing in Kansas, and when there’s a break in its velocity you notice it.

But there’s some benefits to that wind. Feeling that power blasting you in the face is energizing. It’s invigorating, it’s life affirming. And you know you can count on it, just as you can count on the sun burning up the ground beneath your feet.

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Twenty years ago, on my first solo excursion out of Kansas, I met a traveler who’d seen the world. As she and I became acquainted she sized me up, saying, “You don’t seem like you belong in Kansas. You seem like you belong in Portland.” I’m not sure how that played into my decision to move to the Rose City but I ended up meeting my husband in Phoenix and together we moved back to his home state of Oregon.

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It was at the end of October when we got to the Pacific Northwest and it was like moving from day into night. A persistent night that lasted until April. I remember the striking feeling I had the first day the sun shone after months of cloudy skies. I was walking across a parking lot and I noticed my shadow following me, something I hadn’t seen in over a hundred days. It was like a visit from an long lost friend.

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All that rain creates a lush, verdant landscape that resembles piles of fluffy green cotton. Mountains surround the city of Portland, and every so often a volcano’s peak will jut up far enough to pierce the clouds.

The mountain ranges of Oregon tell a fabulous story of moving tectonics plates wrinkling up the landscape and causing volcanic eruptions that still threaten to change the topography millions of years after the first eruption.

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Two rivers cut through the city, formed by cataclysmic flooding from an ancient melting glacier. The rushing water dug a trench on its journey to the Pacific Ocean, filling up the Columbia River and carving out a spectacular gorge when it came to the porous volcanic rock of the Cascade Range.

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All this moisture provides an ample amount of fog that can take a familiar landscape and turn it into a mysterious land of intrigue and secrets. Things as great as mountains blur until they are simply graduating shades of grey, and well-traveled roads twist and turn into oblivion. It’s a silent, secluded world that encourages inward reflection and room for your imagination to flourish.

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I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for almost twenty years and, like many of my fellow Portlanders, I can tire of the seemingly endless days of darkness, but I still love this region. It’s beautiful in a way that is easily understood by the casual observer. The emerald valleys, steely-grey rivers, golden sunsets and abundance of rainbows make up the color palette of fantasies. And quiet moments spent in the shadows of clouds are a gift of time travel, taking me far into my imagination to reflect, to learn, and to create from this land’s endless inspiration.

But the part of me that grew up in Kansas continues to flourish inside my soul. The aliveness of a land where there is rarely ever stillness stirs up energy inside everything connected with it. It’s a beauty that is felt, as much as it is viewed. Visitors may miss the grandeur of this endless land if they spend their time passing through it inside a car. It’s a living, breathing, thriving beauty that’s fighting to survive against intense elements, and to truly know it you must experience it, not just look at it. 

I guess for me the combination of these places helps put balance in my extremes and keeps me centered in the middle where I feel most at home.

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Robin Mizell: Treated & Released

Note the date on this post, and remember that the book publishing business, like any other industry, evolves constantly. Always ensure the information on which you rely is current and valid. Be discriminating. Your writing career is at stake.


Last night, I answered the questions of writers who had gathered for the monthly meeting of the Central & Southern Ohio chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (COSCBWI). A couple of questions were posted here in advance. The Q&A format was well suited to the enlightened group, but it also might have been confusing for someone who wanted simple, basic information about getting and working with a literary agent.

The basic strategy for getting published can be found in any number of books at the library and bookstores, as well as on dozens of writers’ and agents’ blogs. One of the best brief summaries of the process…

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Mary Shelley’s horror story, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, is a classic examination of the ‘science vs. religion’ debate. Written during the Industrial Revolution, Doctor Victor Frankenstein is so taken by the technological achievements of the time he forgets the soul of his creation; his Monster, and ultimately loses all he loves as a result.

Scientists conducting electrical experiments at the time certainly provided much of the inspiration for Shelley’s maniacal doctor, but one man is cited as a possible model for the theme of her novel.

1673 – 1734

Johann Conrad Dippel was born in Castle Frankenstein in south central Germany in the region of Hesse. As was the custom of the day, he acquried Franckensteinensis or Franckensteina-Strataemontanus as a surname and became forever linked to the place of his birth. He received a Master in Theology in 1693 at the University of Giessen where he also studied philosophy and alchemy and gained a prominent position among Europe’s intellectual elite.

Influenced by the Age of Reason while remaining a fervently religious man, Dippel authored several controversal theological papers under his nom de guerre; Christianus Democritus, a name that represented the duality of his views. In them he called for the demise of the traditional church organization and a rejection of the Bible as the literal word of God in favor of a more personal approach to faith. They were widely circulated throughout Europe and earned him both praise and criticism. One enthusiastic follower, Emanuel Swedenborg, later criticized him as a cultish opportunist who was “bound to no principles, but was in general opposed to all, whoever they may be, of whatever principle or faith…becoming angry with any one for contradicting him.” Swedenborg also accused Dippel of being the ‘most vile devil…who attempted wicked things.’ This opinion was surely based upon his suspected experiments in alchemy. In his Maladies and Remedies of the Life of the Flesh, Dippel announced his discovery of the ‘Elixir of Life’, as well as, a method to exorcise demons through potions produced from the boiled bones and flesh of animals. Even more alarming to the public were rumors of his attempts at ‘soul-tranference’ on human cadavers, where he was viewed as playing God on desecrated corpses.

In the end, it was reported by his contemporaries that after having been thoroughly trashed by the religious leaders of the day Dippel gave up his faith altogether, directing all his energy to his experiments in alchemy. He never backed down from his arguments or the experiments that he felt supported them and may have even actively encouraged rumors that he was in league with the Devil, having sold his soul to become a dark sorcerer.

So, in the end, Mary Shelley may have used this real-life ‘mad scientist’ as inspiration but the moral lesson she provided her Doctor Frankenstein was lost on Johann Conrad Dippel.

 

Expectation

Define what you want in clear, concise words. Educate, plan, and prepare for the opportunities that will come your way. Work to build your experience and reputation.

Abundance

 Give thanks for the abundance that is given to you. Give back with the gifts you have and what they have given you.

Enrichment

Continue to educate yourself and grow in knowledge. Strength will lie in your ability to adapt to new paradigms with intelligence, speed, and grace.

The Passing

The Passing 

My life peels away from me, leaving my soul bare against the harsh wind. Icy cold, it cuts me like daggers forged from each of my sins.

I’m in a void.

The landscape around me is an ocean of parched earth. Empty and endless. No North, South, East or West. Nowhere to go and yet,

I walk.

There’s a light ahead. It fills the sky and instinctively I know it has no origin. Warmth flows from it and embraces me. I’m compelled to move forward but with each step I struggle against the bitter wind.

Across the great emptiness joy appears and attaches itself to me through the light. Tingling sensations rise to a crescendo inside me, shooting out the top of my head in a shower of white sparks.

I smile with my whole self.

Hours pass in seconds and the shore of this strange land soon stretches out before me. The ocean I’d been walking upon ends in waves of light that wash up on a pristine beach.

It’s nighttime here.

In the distance shadows await me, but not darkness.

As I approach I begin to hear familiar voices. Individually and in chorus, I’m welcomed by everyone I have ever known with the love we’d always shared. Intense joy explodes inside every cell of my body.

I’m in Heaven.

PHOTOGRAPHY

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