On This Island

Nahant is as lovely as I remember, if not more lovely. Since my arrival, almost every day has been blue, sometimes tufted with benign clouds. There is a bench overlooking the nearby beach that I like to occupy in the mornings, letting myself be lulled by the sun and the cries of the gulls as I pray. Later, when the light is falling behind the sea, you can descend to investigate the sand at low tide. If you’re feeling childlike, you might pitch a handful to watch it shatter midair. Against the backdrop of a salmon-colored sunset, you will always find sailboats, rolling gently. And when it is dark, you might see the twinkling lights of a cruise ship passing by.

Two days ago I discovered a quiet road that winds along a treacherously rocky shoreline. Stately houses stand guard above, looking out to sea as if awaiting the return of a wartime ship. One house looks out with blank eyes—the windows smoky, the green shutters weathered—and the lawn is prisoner to ferns and deadfall, an impenetrable tangle. It looks as if it could belong to an old hag that the island children fear to disturb.

I return from my explorations to a humble house where I make myself busy. I love the view from the kitchen window. A retinue of smaller trees cluster around a massive exotic-looking weeping tree—the kind you would expect to find baboons perched in. I like to keep the window open, welcoming in the fresh breeze, the sunlight, and the chittering of birds. A few trees on Nahant are turning a delicious red foreign to the prairies I come from, but most leaves are telling me summer is not quite over. I believe them. On this island, it feels as if summer could last forever.

Nahant

I never expected to find myself living on a little island called Nahant. You may find this strange, but my story begins in Spain.

If you have read The Harbour, found under Short Works on my site, you know that I walked the Camino de Santiago in May 2014. On this pilgrimage, I met a seminarian whom I forged a beautiful friendship with in the few days that we spent together—walking, talking, and praying—and when it came time to part ways, he invited me to come visit him in Boston, Massachusetts.

I flew to Boston in August. My friend picked me up that night and drove me out across the black ocean to the mile-by-mile island called Nahant. I was to stay with friends of his. My first night there was grace-filled. I discovered that the house is consecrated to Mary, she who I had consecrated myself to only days before. And I felt instant kinship with the family. When I settled into bed, my soul was at rest.

Next morning I awoke far too early, but could not fall asleep again. I decided to walk to the ocean. In the golden light, with the smell of the ocean in the air, my heart was sighing; I knew there was something special about this place. And when I sat on a bench above the shell-strewn beach, God swooped in and overwhelmed me with the sense that, as He blesses me in profound ways (such as with the Camino and a subsequent trip to Boston), an exciting story is unfolding. I figure He knows nothing less would satisfy this writer’s heart.

By week’s end, I had discerned to return to Nahant. I will be living with this family for a time, keeping house, exploring, writing. I imagine I will take my laptop to the various points on the island and type away in the breeze, multicolored sailboats and Boston’s towers on the horizon.

Tomorrow, I fly.

Beyond the Misty Borderlands

When the chill comes, and the sunflowers are bowing to the earth, I pause. Just as summer has slipped away, is life also slipping away without my knowing it? Tomorrow, we say, tomorrow I will live the life I’ve always wanted to live. But then tomorrow comes and it has become today. And so it goes, until one day you look in the mirror and you realize that you have not accomplished the many things you thought you would by now.

Leaves are drifting down from their thrones to find repose beneath the snows that will surely come. How often do we too hide beneath those things that seem to hearken peace but, in truth, slowly freeze us to the bone, until we realize that what we thought was peace was only complacency?

Peace, I tell you, is found on jagged mountaintops, the breath snatched from your lungs, your hair tangled in the hands of the wind. Peace is found in the deepest, densest valleys, where vines are mightier than ancient castles. Peace is found behind thundering waterfalls, or on an island in the vastness of the sea. Peace is found by those who are willing to seek it out, get dirt under their fingernails, stain their shirts with sweat, perhaps even risk an encounter with bandits or bobcats. Peace is in the heights and in the depths of existence. Humanity was created for adventure, because we were created for peace.

Today, then, the only day you truly have—today you must begin the climb, begin the descent, plunge through the waters, take up your oars. Because beyond the misty borderlands, the unknown, is the life you’ve always wanted to live.

Email Glitch

For the past week, it looks like I have not been receiving emails to my new email address: author@denisemallett.com

So, if you have tried to contact me via that address (which includes the contact form on my site), you can try again using that same address. Hopefully we have the problem solved. Thank you!

The Beginnings

The inspiration for The Tree lives in a dream. I suppose that sounds epic, right? Calm yourself—I wouldn’t call the dream epic, although you may or may not agree that there was something vaguely special about it.

I was flying. Not in a plane, mind you. Just me and the pale blue sky, and the air around me motionless, as if holding its breath (in hindsight, I think it was). I was flying over a rugged mountain range. Below me, I spied a village, nestled among the snowy peaks; as I descended toward it, I realized there was a stone wall enclosing the cottages. And planted in an alcove in the wall was a tree, only a little taller than myself—nothing epic, much like the dream itself. Its fruit resembled peaches. (I will tell you a secret: the book was named The Peach Tree for a few years before I decided to go with something nonspecific and perhaps a bit classier.) I landed there in the alcove, pausing to take in the village. It was almost surreal in its silence, in its utter emptiness. I saw not a soul, not even a misty face at the window. A thread of disquiet wound itself around me as I reached to pick a fruit. It was soft on my palms, and large enough that both hands were required to hold it. When I bit into it, two things happened: I decided it was far too watery to be delicious—and from the cottages came flooding the villagers, freed from hiding by my appetite. Hearing their voices raised in alarm, I knew I had done something wrong. I dropped the fruit and flew up, up, up before they could nab me and do Heaven-knows-what to me.

This dream was enough to set my wheels turning; the next morning I sat down to begin writing a story.

Funny thing is, the biggest bump in the road did not come in the early stages when I was still discovering my style, but only this past spring (2014). Only days before sending the PDF off to be printed by Staples and distributed to reviewers, I stumbled across a hole that forced me to delve in and edit parts I had thought I was through with, never to touch again.

I’ve loved and hated this book. I hated it then.

I spent many a meal in April with my head in my hands, my eyes literally burning with the mental power I was calling upon to find the answer—even as I knew it could not be me but God who must fill the hole. I cried out to Him—inwardly and outwardly. I wanted to know why, after every other hole He had filled, why was He abandoning me now? I didn’t sleep much; my journal was steadily filling with nonsensical notes. I continued to interrupt my dad during his blog-writing to ask his advice. He offered glimpses of hope—I grabbed them, scrawled some more in my journal, spilled a few more tears . . . and finally realized that I was that artist who cannot stop herself from overworking her painting. In the end, what is left but mud? I quieted myself. And the dust settled.

I had fried my eyes for nothing, really. I had been trying to tie all the strings together, and when I paused to take a breath, God said, “No, tie these two together. Good. Now tie these two together. Good. Step back. You see? Your shoes are tied now—but not tied together. You can walk. This story can and will walk.”

Some beautiful fruit came from that experience—a twist in the plot, as well as my fortified trust in God’s ways. I’m telling you now: I know who wrote The Tree. It wasn’t me. I pray that, by the time you close the covers on the book, you will wholeheartedly agree.

New Release Special

Christmas always seems to come out of nowhere, right? Which is why I highly recommend you order now. =) My publisher is offering a New Release Special: Buy 2, get 1 free! Also, for a limited time only, shipping per book is only $7.00! Our big loss is your gain! Ending September 30th, 2014. And by the way—all online orders over $75.00 get FREE SHIPPING anywhere in North America!

Please help spread the word about The Tree via Facebook. (I’ll admit, Facebook is gonna take some getting used to—I’ve resisted it all these years, you see. But as the last three popes have said—the media is a means to evangelize!)

Peace,
Denise

 

At long last…

Dearest friends, family, and strangers,

After seven grueling years, my book is finally in print and available for purchase online. I had thought we’d see this day much sooner, but in hindsight, the delay only made the story better. I cannot adequately express how excited I am to see what our good God is planning to do with The Tree.

As you can imagine, beginning a book at age thirteen means that A LOT of scrapping/editing is required. In fact, about three years ago I ditched the story and began anew, retaining only foundational elements such as—go figure—the Tree, as well as the main characters. More than once did I find a hole that left me completely stumped and, at times, in tears. But time and again, God answered my questions and filled the holes, always in astounding ways that assured me He has this book in His hand.

My prayer is that The Tree blesses you as much as the writing process blessed me.

Peace,
Denise