The Heft of Time

Journaling in the Piazza di Castel Monastero

Journaling in the Piazza di Castel Monastero

So, today’s #LetsBlogOff topic is “Are blogs as important as bloggers think they are?” Now what kind of question is that, Paul Anater, you instigator you? I can only seriously answer this in one way: “I have absolutely no idea whether anyone would consider my blogs important (Yes, plural; the amount of attention I’ve gotten from my internet platform has created a virtual monster!).” I’ve been thinking about the subject as I’ve traveled through Italy so some surprising things have come to mind as I’ve wondered what I might post.

Until yesterday, I was ensconced in the Tuscan countryside in a remarkable retreat called Castel Monastero that was a former nunnery. Several of the buildings surrounding the soulfully beautiful piazza date back to medieval times so strolling through the setting made me feel as if I’d stepped back in time. I sat in my room with the windows thrown open yesterday morning listening to Hildegard von Bingen, one of music’s most prolific contributors to the spiritual genre, while working on my memoir about the mission field, The Road to Promise. It was an incredible experience and I felt as if I’d transcended my humanity to reach into a realm I’d never touched before.

As I thought about von Bingen and all she represents to musicians and feminists as I zipped through the Tuscan countryside on the train to Milan yesterday afternoon, I realized that whether anyone thought her writings or musical compositions were important was likely a secondary concern if a consideration at all. She was simply involved in her deepest creative spirit, which is exactly what my blogs, particularly The Road to Promise, have given me—a depth of experience that is remarkable and invaluable to me spiritually and creatively.

Before I traveled to Tuscany, I spent three luscious days at CastaDiva Resort on Lago di Como. My duplex suite was in the tower of Villa Roccabruna, which was the original home of Giuditta Pasta, who became an important muse to the composer Vincenzo Bellini. Pasta’s first appearance in London was a flop, and yet legend has it that when Bellini—who was staying in a villa across from the soprano on Lake Como—heard her singing he rowed across the lake to find the woman with such an incredible voice.

She was the inspiration for two of his greatest works, “Norma” and “La Sonnambula.” Of course, Pasta cared how others felt about her performances and it must have been crushing to have received such bad reviews, but it never stopped her from studying with better mentors and performing to great acclaim in some of the most important cultural capitals in Europe.

I feel a connection to such a story because I have tried for decades to secure a book contract for The Road to Promise so that I could share my experiences. Not only have I been unable to interest anyone in publishing it, I have received some scathing feedback along the way, one particular editor at the University of Nebraska Press telling me to “get over myself” on a sticky note affixed to the manuscript.

The printed book proposal with his confetti of rejecting notes peppering its pages is in my war chest—the box of past challenges I have saved to keep me from giving up when the going gets tough! So blogging has given me the opportunity to do what I set out to do—send my thoughts and my ideas out into the world—and I truly appreciate all of you who have taken the time to read the material and to comment or support me in the varied ways that you have; it’s been a beautiful thing for me to experience.

So, for now, I am happy to continue to post every Wednesday so that I can share the journey I had, hoping that a publisher will recognize at some point that the material has merit. If not, maybe I’ll self-publish, but at the very least I will have been able—through the experience of posting online—to express myself in a way that’s rewarding, and that’s what makes my blogging important to me. Whether it’s of any consequence to anyone else, I’m not at all sure, but I’d like to think it is…

I’m now enjoying a stay at the incredible Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan, which at one time hosted celebrities the likes of Josephine Baker, Charlie Chaplin and Maria Callas. I leave you with a video of Callas’ version of Casta Diva, a song that Bellini wrote for Pasta to perform, as Callas was compared to Pasta early in her career. I have to say that the parallels in life, even in three such diverse locales as I have stayed over the past week, can be quite breathtaking when one is roaming by design!

I’m posting The Road to Promise a day early this week so that those of you who’ve seen last Wednesday’s post will have something new to read if you decide to stop in. Thanks again for sharing my journey, everyone. I have to say you all mean so very much to me and I look forward to many rewarding interactions to come! To see other #LetsBlogOff posts, click here and enjoy the ride!

  • Rich Holschuh

    Don’t stop. Carry your torch; you light the path with many others on their varied journeys.

  • Saxon Henry

    Thanks so much, Rich: Your encouragement has meant more to me than you can possibly know. Were it not for you and the others who’ve taken the time to read my ramblings, I feel pretty sure I would have stopped by now. Your response in particular, given that we’ve shared some of the same feelings about organized religion, has made me determined to keep going. Deepest gratitude!

  • Joseph

    Damn. I wrote two novels I was never able to publish and a number of short stories, two of which I eventually published in little magazines for damned near nothing. Over the years I certainly got my share of rejection notes, but I never had anyone tell me to get over myself! Blogging is fairly new on the landscape. So is this brand of rudeness. As for the question on blogging… well, my blogs matter to ME!

  • Saxon Henry

    Hey Joseph: Thanks for stopping in. Actually, the editor’s rudeness happened about 15 years ago. At that point, I packed The Road to Promise away and didn’t even look at it for about 10 years because I was so disheartened (and humiliated) by his pretty nasty responses. I felt a more subtle embarrassment early on when I was posting “Road” but it fell away as people who seemed to genuinely respond to the material said so. I’m grateful to all of them and to people like you who take the time to comment…

  • Tony Rowe

    Hi Saxon,Wonderful to read about your travels, so envious as you savour Italy! Love those micro climates you pass through on the train, how scenery changes from Vinyards to open farmlands, enjoy one of the best treats in Europe! Try to get to lake Garda, We have alot of fun there!

  • Rufus Dogg

    I have a similar box full of rejection notices and type-written manuscripts as well. For a 20+ year period of my life, I had just given up writing. Blogging has rekindled that again for me and I longer care much about people liking what I write; I just write. If it finds an audience, that is a bonus. Maybe someday I’ll squeeze out another book. We’ll see if this blogging thing takes off.

  • Saxon Henry

    I wanted to get to Garda but couldn’t figure it out on this trip (nor for just the wine of the region but the beauty as well). Thanks for stopping in. My next trip to the UK is getting confirmed today so hopefully we’ll connect in person before the year is out!

  • Saxon Henry

    You should keep at it (and another book really should be on your horizon) because you’re good at it and you have important things to say. I also think it’s time each of us has support for our ideas from a larger audience rather than the rejection of a lofty few (I have editor friends at publishing houses I don’t view this way; it’s just a few rotten apples spoiling the whole barrel at times).

  • cindy frewen wuellner

    Saxon: you write so elegantly, I would read your description of cooked spinach. perhaps university presses are particularly cruel? that’s said about universities in general so maybe it spreads to the publishing presses too. “The Man in the Arena” comes to mind. Thanks for sharing your lovely work with us. its my vicarious trip across the most beautiful culture on earth. cindy @urbanverse ps, yes, Paul Anatar’s question is diabolical. He loves the puzzler. yet the responses are filling me up, very rich stuff. pps, just letting others know you have four or five blogs. Go saxon henry blog hunting, folks.

  • Saxon Henry

    What a great thing to say, Cindy! Thanks so much! I hadn’t thought about it but maybe the lone professor in his garret in the middle of nowhere needed to lash out for some reason. I don’t mind criticism that deals with writing issue but to attack me personally as if I were some self-absorbed ninny; that was the worst but only because I felt it a bit anyway. He tapped into what I was already worried about or I wouldn’t have given it a second thought! Loved your post as well; aren’t we all lucky to have such a diabolical guru to keep us stretching and growing? Yes, that’s you Paul!!!Re: Five blogs…Catch me if you can!