Sunday, August 30, 2009

Talismans and Symbols

I'm brainstorming my fifth book, and one of the items I need to figure out is what will the good luck talisman be for my hero? And why is it important?

Haven't figured it out yet. All I know is the talisman/charm will have to be significant for a big reason and my hero must believe in its power.

And the talisman's not about luck, it is about faith. I know this might sound corny, but I am a big believer in seeking out those small signs, symbols and natural wonders. I look for signs all the time. I need them. They encourage me, they bring me hope, they settle my fears, and they comfort me.

Here are a few of my symbols of hope, peace, and comfort.

Bluebirds: I love bluebirds. Every house I've bought has had bluebirds flying near by. The house I am in right now has tons of them. So whenever I'm worried about a problem with the builder or the plumbing, I seek them out. It's amazing to me how often these birds fly by my window and land in the backyard just when I need them the most. Seeing them reminds me that I was supposed to be here, in this home, in this time. It's reassuring to me.

Pennies: "Find a penny, pick it up, all the day you'll have good luck." Currently I have a stack of them next to St. Joseph in the niche. I only pick up Lincoln side up pennies--if I see them house side up, I turn them over and leave them for the next person. Just finding a penny, Lincoln side up makes me happy. I feel a bit of luck coming my way. I also have two on my dashboard. Crazy, but I like them there. They give me hope.

St. Joseph: Well, many of you might know the real estate story that if you bury this little guy in your yard, upside down, you'll sell your house fast. We did do it--and 3 days after we buried him, we sold our house. I carried him to the temporary apartment and then moved him to our home here in Alabama. He lives in the niche with the pennies. I kiss him every time the tornado sirens blare. And then I go to the interior bathroom, with a glass of wine in hand, my computer, my cell phone, my purse, and my current WIP as a chair. But first HE gets a kiss.

The Number 3: Birds in groups of three, make me think of the trinity, and they give me peace of mind whenever I am afraid or worried. Once I was waiting for blood work to come back and if it came back positive, I'd be facing some serious health issues. I had just moved to Northern VA and I didn't know a soul. I was very frightened, and I'd go out for these long "prayer" walks by myself. I'd basically talk to God, aloud, and occasionally cry and more. On one of my lowest days, I was walking back into the subdivision's main entrance and three BLUEBIRDS flew ahead of me! In that moment, I knew I could face whatever came along because I wasn't alone. Not at all. Thankfully, those tests came back negative--but my peace of mind was restored long before by the presence of those winged messengers.

Oddly enough, my daughter (who is a math genius) has a thing for the number 3--she likes numbers divisible by three and chooses certain ways of doing things because of the order in which they fall. She can divide any number almost instantaneously by 3. It's a very important number for her.

Butterflies: I was in a bible study and we were discussing Christian symbols. The butterfly was given as an example of a great symbol expressing the potential for positive transformation. I loved the idea of being seen as a tiny, crawly not so beloved little human who, given time and space to mature spiritually in the cocoon of God's love, can emerge capable of great flight and spreading great beauty. That imagery me gave hope for my own human potential and my own transformation. I found myself seeking them out whenever I could--and they appeared more often, and when I needed them most.

Perhaps the greatest gift given to me was on the day my dad died. We were out of town when it happened. We had to fly home from Texas that day. My mom called early that morning to tell me the news. I knew Dad's death was inevitable, but I couldn't bear the idea of telling my daughter, not quite 8, before we got home. I withheld the news from her and it was a long, very difficult day for me. I cried secretly, I called my friends from the airports between flights, and I sucked back my grief.

We arrived in Dulles, got into the cab, and all the way home I prayed for the right words to say to my daughter. When the cab pulled up to the driveway, we stepped out and a huge, monarch butterfly was drinking nectar from the flowering bush next to the house. And then I knew Dad was okay. And I knew how to talk to my daughter about losing her Opa. We went inside, and we got out a book I'd bought months earlier about losing a loved one (written for children), and we sat on the couch as a family and we told her. And we cried, but then I said, Opa is in heaven and he's strong and painting. She remembered the butterfly and asked if he'd painted that. Maybe some people might think I'm wrong for saying it, but I said, "Yes. Opa's got an easel in the butterfly department of God's heavenly kingdom."

The words comforted her and gave her hope. Me, too.

Ultimately, the value in the symbol isn't the symbol itself, it's the reason it became valuable to you.

These are a few of my signs, symbols and talismans. What are yours? Why?


JoAnn said...

Wow, Christine -- I'm blown away by your post. Enormously powerful! Thank you!

And I know you will find the right talisman for your hero. You clearly have a well-honed capacity for listening. Just listen -- it will come to you!

Christine said...

Thanks JoAnn--I am keeping my ears open for all the possibilities!

Jeanie said...

Christine, this is simply beautiful.

Bluebirds are very rare in South Alabama where I grew up, and, so, I didn't see my first one until I moved to Wetumpka. I was sitting in the Huddle House (just one of our fine restaurants) and a bluebird lit on the chain link fence outside my window. I got so excited! It was like an Elvis sighting.

I don't really have any tangible signs and symbols, but sometimes some serendipitous thing will happen that reminds me I'm connected to something higher. A little 'hey there, remember me?' from the Big Guy.

Wonderful post.

Christine said...

Jeanie, I love that the seeing the bluebird was like an Elvis sighting. Yes, they are very hard to find. They love wide, open spaces. So seeing them in the city amongst the townhouses and tightly packed populations was a blessing.

Another bird I love to see is the hummingbird. Once we were sitting on the deck in DC, and a ruby throated hummingbird hovered right by my head! My Darling Hubby was blown away. A sign of good things to come.

Jeanie said...

I like bluejays, 'cause they're ornery and mockingbirds. Did you know mockingbirds mate for life? It's supposed to be bad luck to kill one.

Jeanie said...

Found this on the web about mockingbirds:

"The Northern Mockingbird can imitate over thirty other birds as well as such sounds as barking dogs, chirping crickets, and squeaky hinges and it has been argued that some of these wild birds must have gone to a Michael Jackson concert because some of their songs sound like his music.

When the male Mockingbird finds a mate the songs continue, but not as loud. She joins him in their musical arrangements. The music is usually softer and tenderer than when the male was singing solo.

Though they are monogamous, it usually only lasts during the breeding season. Some mated pairs however have been known to stay together for over eight years. This is generally the life span of the Northern Mockingbird."

Pretty cool, huh?

But, I digress. Sorry!

Christine said...

I love the mockingbird info! Thanks for sharing, Jeanie! Canadian Geese are like that as well about their mates.

I am a Goose about mine--and I seriously don't want to train another mate!

Houston A.W. Knight said...

I agree with JoAnn...awesome post hon!

As far as birds...we've got them all down here. In the wee mornings you can look into my backyard and it's like looking into God's personal Zoo.
I've got blue birds, black birds, crows, Hawks, Robin, woodpeckers, Cardinals, Sparrows (one built her nest in the wreathe on my front door! Couldn't open it for weeks until the babies learned to fly!) coyotes, red foxes, red AND BLACK fox squirrels, oh it goes on and on!

One morning I watched as a bunny started a fight with a little gray squirrel...the squirrel won. LOL
I love nature...but my favorite is the Hawk's overhead...the owls worry me...they want me wee pup for dinner so I'm not really happy when they fly around while I'm walking me dog.
The Bats don't bother me...yap, we have bats here too.


Christine said...

Hawk: I love hawks, too. And Eagles. Natural wonders are our constant reminders of hand of God. Wind, a gentle breeze can be a hug. Water flowing and burbling over rocks, a serenade. And sunlight streaming through dark clouds and highlighting the earth below, an image of good overpowering evil.

Cari Hislop said...

I love rooks and since I moved to England (I'm American) I've been blessed to live near rookeries. Rooks are pack birds...or as I like to say, they fly in squadrons. There's nothing like seeing clouds of black rooks like paper silohettes against the blue sky. Every time I see them fly over I feel blessed as if God's waving at me. It makes feel happy to see them fly. Watching them you know they'll eat anything to stay in the air...and they're so smart. There was this video on the BBC news site about these rooks in captivity who were problem solving.
The people put a glass vase half filled with water and one worm in the rook's cage along with a few pebbles. The rook looked at the glass vase and the worm several inches out of reach, picked up the stones with its beak, put enough into the vase until it could reach the worm and ate it. A lot of people wouldn't have thought of that! I just love them.

As for your character's talisman, I'd spend time pondering his character...what are his interests? Some men probably think of their beloved car as a talisman. One of my brothers always names his cars. But it could be something from his past...he might have once been shot and he keeps the bullet they dug out of his leg...or he wears one of his mother's rosary beads on a masculine bit of leather (if he's Catholic) or maybe he has a wallet that's never empty? My irritating helpful side is probably now getting irritating, so I'll just add one more...maybe
an old key he found in his father's belongings that he keeps in his pocket incase he ever finds the lock? Ok...I'll go away and get back to starting my sewing that I've put off all day.

Callie James said...

Great blog, Christine. I don't have a profound story to go with any of my symbols, but I'm always comforted by hummingbirds (almost any bird really), dragonflies, butterflies, and lady bugs.

Couldn't tell you why. Maybe it's the flying thing?

M.V.Freeman said...

What an inspiring post! I started contemplating those things I search for, those talismens..

Here are a few of mine:

Trees--I have always needed them-I find that they show me the strength and resiliency God has given us. If I am not around Trees for a long time, I get quite depressed.

Rainbows after rain--Reminds me of HOPE. Especially after God said he would never again flood the world.

Rain--I can't tell you why this is so powerful to me, I find cloudy, gloomy, rainy days wonderful.

Gargoyles--They were used to put on church spires to chase away evil spirits. I have a few lurking about my office. They fight off my darker negative thoughts...:)

Rocks--I collect them, there is something about finding one..its like a piece of the place that I get to bring with me.

Others talismans--Robins, Fresh Lilacs & Pansys. Coffee mugs, and tea cups...

See, you opened up a pandoras box LOL, I think we all have a little something we go to, or that inspires us.

I thought it wonderful that blue birds are what touches you, as well as pennies and the number 3...
I find it fascinating. :)

Christine said...

Cari: I've probably seen rooks but not known what kind of bird they were... are they only in England? They sound amazing and smart. And I love all your brainstorming ideas about the talisman. I will utilize the method to find my hero's special charm.

Mary: I forgot about rainbows! I love them. I remember when my darling daughter was very young, we moved and she was so lonely, I sent her letters from the "rainbow girl." She looked for the rainbow girl after every rainbow views--of course, you know she heard from her special friend. I still have some of the letters.

Rain, gargoyles, teacups, colors, nature, birds, butterflies, and talismans...

I think being aware of these elements makes us better writers, and better people.

Christine said...

Callie: hummingbirds are special--and maybe it is the flying thing... the fact that these creatures can defy gravity and soar. Isn't that what we want to do as writers? Defy doubt and soar to new heights?