Monday, May 30, 2011

We Are (almost) Brave

On the back porch, one last time, we sit in our lawn chairs, swirling mugs of white wine, sharing stories of our weeks - weeks now, not days, because we spend our weeks apart and there are so many things that need to be told! : Abby on the farm, Sarah at the Inn, I in the office. We are grown ups, or supposed to be, or getting there. Anyways, we are graduated.

We share our regrets of college: the countries we never studied in, the friends we never made, the cups of tea we never drank. We share secrets too. About the countries we did study in and the moments we can try to put into words but will never truly be able to be felt or held by the other.

I reminisce on my return from Oregon, my bold, daring, and courageous return.

"You are still so bold and daring and courageous," they tell me, "Don't let Holland take that from you." They are dear and good to me and, it seems, never short of kind words.

The class after my sweet professor passed away but her baby lived on, her best friend told us: "You must pretend your way into courage. Eventually, it will become you."

May you have the courage to pretend you have the courage.
May it one day become you.

Monday, August 23, 2010

If you want to write

I'm finishing up Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write, which has been one of the kindest, most generous, and encouraging books a writer could read.

I just wanted to post a couple of my favorite quotes:

"For when you come to think of it, the only way to love a person listening to them & seeing & believing in the god, in the poet, in them. For by doing this, you keep the god & the poet alive & make it flourish."

And from the chaper entitled "Why Women who do too much housework should neglect if for their writing" :

"If you are always doing something for others, like a servant or a nurse, & never anything for yourself, you cannot do others any good. You make them physically more comfortable. But you cannot affect them spiritually in any way at all. For to teach, encourage, cheer up, console, amuse, stimulate or advise a husband or children or friends, you have to be something yoursef. And how to be something yourself? Only by working hard & with gumption at something you love & care for & think is important."

"Menial work at the expense of all true, ardent, creative work is a sin agains the Holy Ghost."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Speaking of Faith Favorite

My weekly newsletter from Speaking of Faith requested that I send them my favorite SOF moment, as they are working on creating a show of memorable moments of the past seven years. I thought I'd post it here too, for those who are interested. This is from an interview Krista Tippett had with Jean Vanier, founder of l'Arche - a community dedicated to caring for adults with special needs. You can find the interview entitled The Wisdom of Tenderness here.

Jean Vanier: "Death is a passage, which will be an extraordinary discovery, something that'll be so amazing that we can't even imagine it.

It's like my little niece who died of AIDS, and she wasn't a believer. She said, 'What it's going to be like?' And I said, 'Well, you're going to fall asleep. And when you wake up, you'll be in such joy, such peace. Something that you've never, never lived before.' And she said, 'But I'm not a believer.' I said, 'But you remember when you're in that apartment in Paris and there were some Turkish immigrants that you make cakes for them. I've always seen you as somebody kind. And so your kindness you'll find, it'll be OK. And then the rest we will discover. It's going to be exciting. It's going to be wonderful.'"

Ms. Tippett: "This is another something you know, clearly. You know this. And all of your philosophy, all of your studies can't explain that to you, something you know."

Mr. Vanier: "Yes. Something that we have experienced — you see, if you just experience somewhere the peace of Jesus, the peace of being with other people, the peace of loving people. Well — and that experience transcends everything, the ideas we might have, because it's that experience where we live trust. And in Greek, the word "faith" and "trust" are the same word. Trust in other people, trust in God, trust in the peace that is in our hearts, trust also in those who are struggling to find peace and who got their angers and their pain. That's OK too. We're in it together."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Intutive Writer

"An oryoki is a set of three nestled bowls, chopsticks, spoon, and cleaning utensil, all cozily wrapped in a cloth that serves as a placemat for Zen monks during silent zendo meals. The little stack is housed to the right of each monk's seat. When the meal bell sounds, within cushion-reach is everything one needs to pray, eat, and clean up afterward.

The meal rituaal is flawless thanks, in part, to the impeccably designed oryoki, but the design comes not so much from food as from listening.

Its beauty, elegance, and explicitness teach us how to live."

-Gail Sher, The Intuitive Writer

(I wish my own life could be so simple & elegant & within cushion-reach)

Friday, June 25, 2010

a more lovely way of thinking about Father God

"To become a father is to experience an infinite dependency on an infinitely small, frail being, dependent on us & therefore omnipotent over our heart."

-Louis Evely, french theologian

(found on the Speaking of Faith blog)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Personal Writing Philosophy From Spring Novel Class

“Writing is not about writing what we know, but trusting our vocations as a way of knowing, and writing in order to see what we do not know.”
-Scott Cairns, Faith & Writing Festival, 2010

“In the creative life, readiness is all, readiness is everything.”

-Robert Siegel, Faith & Writing Festival, 2010

Once, in a cabin in the mountains of southern Oregon, I gave myself over to words and the mystery of the space between them. I spent a week living and breathing a lyric essay I had taken to calling my labor of love. Each morning I awoke, firing up the tea kettle and opening up a book that I hoped would give me the inspiration and courage I needed to spend another day fully engrossed in my writing. In moments of emptiness, I returned to it, and in desperate moments of doubt, I chose walks instead. I learned that the movement of my feet coaxed my mind to do the same, each step encouraging a word to add on to another until the traffic jam of words began to sort itself out. During those walks I became a vessel, emptied out so that the stream of words might flow through once more.

That week I felt as though I didn't need anything. I forgot to eat. I lost track of time. I neglected socializing. I fell into moments of complete attention in which nothing else mattered but the world of words I had created. All I wanted to do was be with them, to hold them, to search within them for the light of life that I trusted would reveal itself to me, as if a gift for my patient waiting. These glimmers I kept, while the rest I trimmed away, knowing that this was what I must do if I ever wanted to come close to speaking the truth. My dear and kind professor Jessie sat alongside me as I worked that week. She read my words aloud to me and guided me through my doubts. The week progressed and I watched as my initially fragmented and fragile collection of words became stronger and more connected. I felt they were ready to enter the real world and so I made them physical. I craved the tangible, so I took the words out of my computer and I laid them out in front of me. I cut them up and rearranged them as if they were a puzzle, only with this puzzle there were endless solutions and no knowing when I had actually completed it. I had no other option but to choose trust.

Trust was everything that week. I trusted the spirit in my gut to write that essay for me. I listened to her when she bid me come write, whatever the topic she chose for me. Occasionally my logical impulses tried to intervene. They wanted to know why, what for, what does this mean? But I tried not to listen to them. I tried to simply open up and write. And in that final evening of my week, with twelve hours to complete my final draft, I trusted that the ending I had been waiting for all week to tie the loose ends together would come. It did come unexpectedly, standing in the shower while I let the day's work run off me. I wish I could tell you it was something about the way the mist fogged up the air, or the less romantic hair that had accumulated around the drain that sparked my inspiration, but I can't. It fell straight from the sky, or maybe it rose up from the earth. Either way, somehow it ended up in my hands, for no apparent reason other than the fact that I was ready to receive it.

“Readiness is all, readiness is everything,” Hamlet spoke, and Robert Siegel echoed. It was readiness that led me to rush out of the bathroom that evening, towel wrapped around me, remnants of shampoo still camped out behind my ears, and sit down in my humble living room, fire dying down in the wood stove, to type the last words that would gather my week together and send it out to be shared.

I tell you the story of this week in my life because it represents my writing life in all its fervency and earnestness. It carries all the elements I hold most dear – physicality, openness, playfulness, sharing, readiness, and trust. Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of spending all of my writing life tucked away in a little cabin in the woods in a community of kindness. Walks on sidewalks in the suburbs don't fill me up quite so much as getting lost in the woods. Taking four classes at a time hinders my attentiveness and my readiness. But this is the real world, and I must return to it. My job is to look upon it in wonder, even amongst the pavement and the busyness and the cafeteria food. It's harder to settle down here. Trust doesn't come as easily. Fear and doubt paralyze me some days as I sit down before the blank screen of my computer, and on these days I must clumsily choose prayer.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

o thing that consoles

how clumsily i thank and fail to thank you
for plans to make dinners together
for the times between darkness and light
for the warmth of unremembered dreams
for the babies that sleep inside our bones
for proud fathers and their growing gardens
for bold bodies of water that tremble at my touch
for kind words, fascination, wonder
for the poetry of list-making
for gratitude