Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Work, sometimes

Work, Sometimes
Mary Oliver

I was sad all day, and why not. There I was, books piled
on both side of the table, paper stacked up, words
falling off my tongue.

The robins had been a long time singing, and now it
was beginning to rain.

What are we sure of? Happiness isn't a town on a map,
or an early arrival, or a job well done, but good work
ongoing. Which is not likely to be the trifling around
with a poem.

Then it began raining hard, and the flowers in the yard
were full of lively fragrance.

You have had days like this, no doubt. And wasn't it
wonderful, finally, to leave the room? Ah, what a
moment!

As for myself, I swung the door open. And there was
the wordless, singing world. And I ran for my life.


Reading this poem was like a sudden warm breeze. Like yesterday, the thirtieth of March, when the grass began to grow. It felt like swinging a door open. It describes the way I have been feeling lately about my work.

And wasn't it wonderful, finally, to leave the room? Ah, what a moment.

I have spent ten years in this room. Mothering. Writing in the margins. It is my heart's work. I am falling-down grateful for every day of it.

But I got a job. A real, dress-up job with other adults. It feels like it is time, now, to leave this room, sometimes. It feels like swinging a door open.

Happiness isn't a town on a map,
or an early arrival, or a job well done, but good work
ongoing. Which is not likely to be the trifling around
with a poem.

My new job is a few evenings and weekends. Nothing particularly noteworthy, just a simple part-time job.

We are still going to homeschool. I will keep writing in the mornings. The time is right, and we need for me to bring in some extra income. It feels like an open door, like fresh breezes. I think it will freshen all of my work- mothering and homeschool and writing.

All work is best sometimes.

For a long time now I have lived should-be-writing. This constant vague guilt, every spare moment- write write write. But art {life} isn't produced through guilt. It comes by distraction, attention, fun. The more I focused on writing, the more it felt like slog.

How can there be art without time also spent in the yard full of lively fragrance?

The best thing I have done for my work recently is to walk away. To learn to work, sometimes. It is wonderful, sometimes, to leave the room.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

How to make a decision

Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace... Hebrews 12:28


I am quite moveable. It is a problem. There are so many ways to think about any given subject and I can think and overthink and lay awake thinking and exasperate myself.

I worry I am that wave tossed and driven about. I ought to know more than I do. I ought to be more certain.

Then there are the things which I don't analyze or question at all but which somehow ease in beside me. Poetry begins while making the beds or running baths or watching the street. Things like affection rise up from the ground, they water themselves, they survive on dust. Things like affection don't need thinking or persuading or dissecting but space, wind, light.

I think I am learning, slowly, how to know, which is to think a little less. We try too hard, planting all in rows when we are meant for freedom. Kingdom life is not for measuring and counting, analyzing, deciding, but for scattering, wasting, blooming, bursting.

A kingdom which cannot be moved is not wide and tall and certain- reinforced- all of these kingdoms crumble. An unmovable kingdom slips in the frame of the door. It is slim and small and scattering in the breezes, planted in the cracks.

Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.

It is the smallest room behind the smallest door. It is the treasure buried in a field, the yes of the heart, the quietest knowing. To decide is more of a waiting- unknowing- still and small and quiet, listening, wind blowing where it will. Let us have grace.

“Often I have not known where I was going until I was already there.  I have had my share of desires and goals, but my life has come to me or I have gone to it mainly by way of mistakes and surprises.  Often I have received better than I deserved.  Often my fairest hopes have rested on bad mistakes.  I am an ignorant pilgrim, crossing a dark valley.  And yet for a long time, looking back, I have been unable to shake off the feeling that I have been led- make of that what you will.”-Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Wisdom of Tenderness

When Jesus said that he was hungry and thirsty and naked in those around us, he was referring to more than mere corporal needs. We’re surrounded by people who are hungry and thirsty and naked in their souls, and they come to us hungry for understanding, thirsty for affirmation, naked with loneliness, and wanting to be covered with the mantle of our genuine tenderness.  
 
It’s more important to be a mature Christian than to be a great butcher or baker or candlestick maker; and if the only chance to achieve the first is to fail at the second, the failure will have proved worthwhile. Isn’t failure worthwhile if it teaches us to be gentle with the failure of others, to be patient, to live in the wisdom of accepted tenderness, and to pass that tenderness on to others? If we’re always successful, we may get so wrapped up in our own victories that we’re insensitive to the anguish of others; we may fail to understand (or even try to understand) the human heart; we may think of success as our due. Then later, if our inner world collapses through death or disaster, we have no inner resources. 

The greatest thing on earth is respect, because it is the heart of love. 
 

Your faithfulness will be measured by your willingness to go where there’s brokenness, loneliness, and human need. What are you to draw from the life of the Master? The knowledge that love and mercy are the most powerful forces on earth.

from The Wisdom of Tenderness: Brennan Manning- an excellent book! Worth re-reading again and again. 




A collection of Patchett's essays, published throughout her career and ranging on topics such as her disastrous first marriage to the story of her happy marriage, her career as a writer and her relationships and various experiences. Patchett is a master essayist. I thoroughly enjoyed these essays and listening to her read her own work on audio only enhanced the book, as she has a wonderful voice. 


I chose this book to read looking for stories on the immigrant experience for the novel I'm writing. The story of Bohemian immigrants who settle in Nebraska in the late 19th century was fascinating both for the story of the immigrants who helped settle our country, as well as the fascinating description of the vast plains and struggle to survive in it. (I was born in the wrong century. sigh).

Saturday, March 21, 2015

end and begin



The gift of a long vacation is to be fully there, unpacked, entirely away. But it's like the mornings before my kids wake up, or when I have a sitter for a few hours- it isn't reality, and I know it will end soon, and so I feel this pressure to maximize my time somehow, to cram in all of the things, rest meaningfully, read all of the books, experience some moment of clarity or vision. Yes, I know #firstbornproblems.


Instead I came away with only this: Everything ends and begins. It is beautiful. Love and mercy.

And one more: Here I am. 

It is the best anyone can do, to be here, wherever I am. All that my kids or anyone needs from me, all Christ calls me to, all I have to give- myself, at this moment. Tenderly.




And then we came home to springtime. The birds outside my window are a racket this morning. How ever did they survive the winter? 

Yesterday we learned about maple syrup. We watched them pierce the flesh of the tree and the sweetness that drips out, born of darkness and death. Everywhere is resurrection.

Springtime evening light is lush and pouring forth sweetness. It is a mother's arms. It is the father's leap and the prodigal's return. It is the lover's Come away. It is the tenderest greeting and the grandest surprise and the thing we'd been searching for, all this time and darkness and even when we should have given up. It is so far away and suddenly right here, behind and before.

Everything ends. Everything begins. Eternity in our heart. Everywhere is resurrection.

Here I am.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

whatever we lose(like a you or a me)

Last week I went to the store for groceries and when I came home the bananas slipped out of the bag and landed in the snow, and something about that image of brilliant tropical fruit on a snow bank filled me with such wild longing. Today I went to the store and brought home bananas and I ate one standing at the window, sun pouring over. Things in their place.

Now there is sun on my toes and on my shoulder and pouring over the keyboard. Child emerges with the sun tangled in her hair and a white tank top slipping off a brown shoulder. Today is a long blue day. Small rhythms. We will stretch, play, listen. I am so thankful.


I love our latest poetry memory, for while we are in Florida:
maggie and milly and molly and may
E. E. Cummings
maggie and milly and molly and may 
went down to the beach(to play one day)
and maggie discovered a shell that sang 
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and
milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;
and molly was chased by a horrible thing 
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and
may came home with a smooth round stone 
as small as a world and as large as alone.
For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) 
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea


The Piano Tuner
The redeeming qualities of this book are it's setting and truly mystical sense of faraway lands, legends and curses, the entrancing qualities of music, beauty, a search for something one cannot name. The writing is dreamlike and haunting. And yet the plot did not match the setting and prose. I was irritated by the main character- by his inexplicable choices and what felt like forced tension of the story. I suppose I am meant to notice the literary devices, and be left pondering what happened or what was fantasy. But I just didn't connect with the character enough to really care.