Last week was one of wonder, sadness and inspiration. Four things happened that gave me a lot of perspective on life: How short it is, how incredible it is, how precious it is.
First was the total solar eclipse. I’m a bit of a space geek, so when I heard the path of the total eclipse was so close, I told my husband we were booking flights. Even better, we spent the weekend in Colorado with a friend (fellow author and amazing person Denise Vega) then drove to Casper, Wyoming, for the big show.
On Monday, we woke up at 2 am to beat the traffic heading north. It was incredible how many car lights were weaving through the roads in front of us. We arrived at the Casper Events Center around 8:30 am, in plenty of time to get settled before the sun started disappearing at 10:22 am.
The grounds quickly filled up. Families, local TV news reporters, bikers, a group having mimosas on a red and white checkered tablecloth next to their motorhome… It was a patchwork of society, all there to see a possibly once in a lifetime event. And they had come from all over, Texas (including other Austinites like us), New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois, Canada, and so many other places, including Wyoming, of course.
When totality hit, it was more amazing and beautiful than I imagined nor can describe. I’ve seen photos of the black circle surrounded by white light, but being there in person–feeling the cooling air, seeing the dusk-like sky all around, and witnessing the power of the sun’s light even when it’s completely shadowed then pops back into view–was incredible. I felt huge and small at the same time, like I’d been puffed up with so much awe, but also humbled by how little I was compared to the whole universe around me.
Driving back, my husband and I got stuck in 9 hours of stop-and-go traffic going south on I-25. We almost ran out of water in an about-70-mile stretch with no services, until a group of wonderful people gave us two bottles even after I offered to pay them. Then when we were finally making headway, there was a problem with the car’s accelerator pedal, and we had to use Duct tape to fix it so we could drive the last 60 miles. Despite all that, though, seeing the total solar eclipse in person was absolutely worth it.
When we got back to Austin on Tuesday afternoon, I raced to a doctor’s appointment exhausted but still exhilarated. Sitting in the waiting room, I checked my email and saw the second thing that happened in the week: Children’s book author Dianne de Las Casas had died because of a house fire the previous night.
I didn’t know Dianne personally, but I’d emailed with her a bunch of times because of marketing work I do for The Booking Biz. Dianne was a client, and I’d written pitch letters for her presentations and blog posts about her books. We’d been emailing each other during the last couple weeks about an interview with her I was planning to run on our website and in our enewsletter. The week before, Dianne had sent me an email saying she’d get me her answers by the end of the week. Then she died.
In all my correspondence with Dianne and the research I did to write her promotions, I came to know that she epitomized the best part of the kidlit community: Caring.
Dianne wrote stories she loved that spoke to children about topics she was passionate about, like literacy and bullying. At her school visits, she took the time to greet every child, and she founded Picture Book Month, celebrating the first books that help children become lifelong readers.
Dianne’s death is a big loss for the kidlit community as well as all the children who’ll miss out on the books she would’ve written. It’s wonderful, though, that we have all the books she wrote in her life, including THE LITTLE “READ” HEN, CINDERELLEPHANT and her latest co-written chapter book CAPTAIN DEADEYE: THE BULLY SHARK. And I know she’ll be remembered by all the lives she touched.
Seeing the outpouring of love after her death, reminded me of the generosity of spirit that’s so inherent in this community. A Go Fund Me campaign was setup by Dianne’s daughter to help offset the funeral costs, but following Dianne’s caring spirit, any additional proceeds raised will be donated to the non-profit literacy organization First Book. The funds raised are almost double the goal at the time of this writing, and I’m sure it will continue to grow. (You can donate here.)
The week ended with me having a minor surgery–but surgery nonetheless–and getting hit by the outer bands of Hurricane Harvey as it raged through Texas. There’s something very unsettling about people you barely know fixing things in your body while you’re so far asleep that you have no idea what’s going on. All the nurses and doctors where incredibly nice, and everything went swimmingly, but for the hours leading up to it, as I got more and more nervous about that small change that I might not wake up, I was reminded how precious life is. Then recovering while Harvey’s giant arms tossed around rain and wind outside the windows, I felt like I had been brought full circle to the eclipse: awed by the power of this world.
So yeah, this was a week of perspectives for me. Perspectives that…
– This world is incredibly beautiful and powerful and we should respect is
– Life is short and precious and we should protect it
– I’m blessed that I have the means to fly to the center of an eclipse path, the insurance to pay for a surgery, and a roof and walls to protect me from storms–and I want those things for every person.
The eclipse and Harvey reminded me how small I am in this world, how humble humans should be against Mother Nature. But Dianne de Las Casas, like so many other kidlit authors and illustrators I’ve met, showed me that I’m not too small to help, to affect, to inspire. I can do my part with words.
These are the things that inspired me to be better this week. What’s inspiring you?