Make a little turn, and optimism fills the sails

Writing at the Maine coastYesterday, I spent the day querying literary agents, telling them about my book, trying to capture in one page the essence of the last fourteen years’ evolution of this project.

It’s impossible. There are too many reasons, provocations, insights and experiences that one has on the way to a goal. And there is more to it than my very real enjoyment of Emilie Loring’s stories.

I spent fifty-four years of my life in school—as a student and then as a teacher. If I learned anything, it’s that little bits of things make a difference—small distinctions, parts of ideas, notions, and concepts.

In exercise physiology, for example, thresholds are critical. They are the points above which you get what you want—strength, endurance, flexibility, a nerve or muscle firing—and below which, nothing really changes. They are the balance point between effectiveness and nought, between utility and futility. Knowing about thresholds lets you look for those critical points and tailor your efforts for success.

Everything you learn allows you to see more. That’s both literally and figuratively true.

Version 2When first I went sailing, the wind was invisible. I felt the boat lurch when the sails caught it, but it was like stubbing my toe in the dark—pure revelation. Then I learned how to let the sail out or bring it in to change the angle at which the wind struck the fabric. I learned that the little, red strips of fabric hanging from the sail–which I’d never paid attention to before–are “tell-tales” whose direction helps you make adjustments. (So that’s where “a tell-tale sign” comes from!) I saw the difference in tautness, the difference in lift and speed, felt the difference in resistance, first in my hand and then, oddly as it seems, throughout myself and the boat, as a unit. I could use the wind.

Then I was told to watch for the wind coming by changes on the surface of the water. Across the way, there was a roughness, and it was traveling toward us. I could see its direction, its speed, note how strong it was by the magnitude of change it made on the water’s surface. I could see the wind coming and plan for it. Wind on waterEverything you learn allows you to see more, and Emilie Loring’s books have taught me, just as successive sailings have. At first, the story is the thing, and you simply follow events as they unfold. Then you notice an idea here, a follow-through there, and once you see it, it stays with you. The story—still just as fun, still just as romantic, intriguing and interesting—holds more.

At the core of Emilie Loring is resilient optimism: “The beautiful things in life are as real as the ugly things in life.” In any moment, we have a choice to see the threat or to see the hope, the challenge or the encouragement. What a useful tool it is, to always be able to find the part that makes the present moment good, that encourages us to take positive action.

“Dio mio! You see good in every one!”   Wynne laughed. His voice was teasingly affectionate as he countered: “Don’t you wish that you did? Think how much richer my life is because I do.”  Swift Water

Weren’t there always hilltops clear if one had the vision and the will to see them? Hilltops Clear

Sculpin Point wprThe beautiful things in life are not more real; they are just as real. A little turn of attention can change each day into a hopeful, cheery venture. It’s not Pollyanna-ism; it’s forthright, clear-eyed conviction. And it all turns on a small distinction—a perspective threshold that is met by choosing to look in its direction. It is the expectation that allows us to see good things on their way and prepare for them.

But why think of those seas entirely in terms of danger and treacherous reefs and sinister whirlpools? I’m perched on the lookout spying for goodwill ships and treasure islands, and priceless friends, and lovely summer seas with just enough squalls to make me appreciate fair weather.”  Uncharted Seas

My current query letter says that Emilie Loring “perfected a blend of romance, purpose, and intelligent optimism that endeared her to three generations of readers.” We can easily enjoy her captivating stories in beautiful settings, their sparkling dialogue and infectious humor. Emilie wanted to entertain us, and enjoyment is enough.  But if we also pick up on her philosophy, learn to turn approaching winds to our advantage, think what a difference that could make.

4 thoughts on “Make a little turn, and optimism fills the sails

  1. Patti, you really are opening our eyes to life, good and bad. Appreciating what we have and accepting the things we can’t change.


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