West Virginia Morning: Gathering Light

IMG_8454

IMG_8455

IMG_8456

IMG_8460

The summer storms these past few days have left us waterlogged and droopy. This morning the air is heavy with moisture and the Queen Anne’s Lace in the meadow collects the memory of rain. I tiptoe through the sodden grass in flip-flops, try not to disturb the family of House Wrens in the nesting box. The day begins with thousands of drops of light, dripping from leaf and bole. The grass is littered with yellow leaves from the Walnut tree, tiny boats sailing this wet land. I watch a baby rabbit disappear through a door of bending grasses.

It’s been a while since I’ve welcomed morning this way.

I feel my spirit quicken within me; my eyes begin to open fully. So many days lately I’ve been sleepwalking through life. Too many things on the to-do list and there is never enough time. I’ve let that list become too big again, gotten lost in the checking off the items. This is a danger I live with constantly: I lose myself easily.

But this morning I promise to only lose myself in beauty, get lost in time. At first if feels like swimming underwater, awkward, muted. But my body remembers quickly. It just takes practice. Practice. Yesterday I listened to an audio book by Clarissa Pinkola Estés—that esteemed cantadora who woos my heart with story. She talked about that word, practice. She said how sad it is that it has come to mean “to do the same thing over and over” in our world. She shared an old Latin word that is a synonym for “practice.” This word means, “to sing aloud in order to remain close to.”

éYes. That’s my kind of practice.

I begin to hum quietly as I search for light.

Welcome, Morning, I sing. Welcome.

West Virginia Morning: Light Comes Early

birthday-rain-021

When I take Bonnie out this morning, the blue light of night still lingers. The stars still haven’t shut their eyes and I wave at Orion as we wind around the house. At the edge of the dome, light striations are only just beginning. To me, they look like layers of phyllo, layers of light, and the goodness of the earth’s rotation rouses a slight lift in my spirit.

The light comes earlier each morning and the days grow longer. I’m still trying to find a rhythm since returning to work at the hospital every day at the start of the new year. I miss my slow mornings, reading poetry out loud to God and Bonnie, sipping my coffee and underlining words. Yesterday, the sun warmed the winterstruck and Jeff and went walking for the first time in a while. The sparrows were singing their sweet-sad song and I could smell new grass, the earth melting from the outside in. I felt a holy whisper in my ear, grow, it seemed to purr.

As I drove to work this morning, I noticed a new level of comfort—my heart settling in to a new routine. Time. I’m always telling my patients that some things just take time. But it’s the way we take the time that makes all the difference. I’m still learning how to slow in the midst of all this busy, how to notice the kairos in the chronos. I think it will be a life-long lesson.

And I’m okay with that.

::

The winner of Dawn Camp’s new book The Gift of Friendship is Maryleigh from Blue Cotton Memory. Congratulations, Maryleigh! I’ll send you a private message soon.

West Virginia Morning: Doxology

Jesus is honey

I awaken before the sun touches the meadow, drift out onto the frozen grass, breathe deep of glory. John Calvin believed theology must begin and end with praise and this morning I cannot disagree. All the world is kissed in white. Except the red of the cardinals at my feeder—crimson flashes on the edge of vision. They chip-chip at me from hiding places as I trespass into their doxology.

IMG_7903

I hop the fence, briefly thinking of Christmas cards and boxed up nativities and how only one side of the lights out front are working. When did life become a race? I want to amble slowly to the manger, savor each step, let my senses delight in scent of straw and flicker of candlelight. Calvin said the world is a theater for God’s glory but lately, I keep forgetting my lines. My eyes are hungry, my soul thin. I don’t know what I am looking for in this ice-meadow, shivering through my robe, standing beneath a roof of lacy gossamer. Delicate crystals of ice rim the memory of autumn and the beauty of the Uncreated One shines before me. I feel the wonder of advent settle into my skin.

IMG_7898

IMG_7901

We wait amidst glory upon glory, this beauty dropped into our lives as gift. “The world was founded for this purpose,” said Calvin, “that it should be the sphere of divine glory.”

Overhead, a red-tailed hawk soars on the waking wind and, I, below, lift my small voice and sing the doxology.

West Virginia Morning: What David Oyelowo Taught Me About Faith

IMG_7644

IMG_7645

IMG_7650

IMG_7653

 

This morning when I take Bonnie out, amber and violet hold hands in the meadow behind our house, coloring these early hours with sun-kissed hues dipping gently in the breeze. The bright waves of goldenrod and ironweed compliment each other perfectly, and I stand for a moment on the rim of our yard to let beauty settle in my soul. My eye follows the color trail along our property line, but something strange happens when I look beyond to where the meadow butts up against our neighbor’s yard. No golden waves dip between greens, no purple clusters kiss the sky. Instead, there is white laced into the grasses, as far as my eye can see.

The meadow behind our house looks like a tickertape parade, but behind our neighbor? There is a wedding banquet.

I have been having trouble ordering the days. Now that my editing job is over, there is a little more room in life and each day I try to make up for all the things I neglected when the deadline was king. At the slow winking of the end of each day, I find myself exhausted and dissatisfied.

Yesterday, I awakened with a terrible cold and am now forced to rest. I am feeling puny and ineffective, all the more aware that no matter what work I choose to do, there will always be something left undone. This transition leaves me questioning everything; I am wondering again about the best use of my time.

I have been trying to live more deliberately from a place of being loved—not let the things I do, the world’s definition of value, perceived success or failure, the actions of others—not allow these things define me. When a woman knows she is loved, it changes the way she lives in the world. I’ve had to grow into this beloved skin—still am on many a day. This question is a remnant from my chaotic childhood, “Am I worthy of being loved?” My husband’s eyes tell me yes, the arms of my children tell me yes, my faith tells me yes; but during times of transition, the soil I was planted in leaves my heart wondering anew.

God uses many things to speak into a life and not too long ago he used a movie star to whisper love in my ear. In an interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, actor David Oyelowo was asked how being descended from a royal family has impacted his life now.

Laughing, Oyelowo downplayed this part of his history, saying, “You know, royal families are a dime a dozen in Nigeria. It’s more like being the king of Sherman Oaks, really.”

But then he went on to share a very profound way his family lineage has shaped his outlook.

… the effect that knowing that I was from a royal family had on me—I mean, it had no real monetary or positional benefits … as is the case with a lot of African royal families. There’s actually no real financial remuneration. It’s more born out of a tradition. But what it gave me, that is undeniably something I hugely value, is a sense of self that has enabled me as I’ve gone into my life in the West to carry myself in a way that flies in the face of the world in which I live in. You know, there are a lot of challenges I undeniably have faced as a black person, both in the U.K. and in the U.S. that contrived to make me feel lesser than what I am. And I can absolutely see that in the African-American experience in this country. If you feel like the beginning of your history is rooted in slavery, that really, I think, messes with your sense of self, your self-esteem and your self-worth. But to know that you came from a lineage of kings, to know that you came from a place whereby every opportunity afforded within that society is yours for the taking, it makes you get out of your bed a very different way than if you feel like today is yet another fight. And so that is something I carry with me that I know has been of huge benefit as a result of, you know, my family and where I’m from.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about his words since I heard them. Our country has had a rude awakening in the past few years when it comes to race relations. Everything I thought I knew about such things turns to dust in my mouth when I try to speak of them. But Mr. Oyelowo’s words teach me about more than the troubles of our culture. They teach me about myself.

What if I lived my life as one descended from royalty? What if I treated every person I encounter in this same way? Yes, I am worthy. I am a daughter of the king.

This morning, I look out over the meadow at an endless sea of white. Its name is Tall Thoroughwort, my wildflower book tells me. But I name it Promise. It’s a royal wedding feast.

West Virginia Morning: Hidden

 

IMG_7632

IMG_7643

 

‘As if you could kill time without injuring eternity,’ Thoreau wrote. You don’t want to kill time but to welcome it, to pick off its leaves and petals one by one, second by second.” ~Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking

I found his hiding place this morning while filling the finch feeders. Black oil sunflower seeds dropped down plastic tubes and out of the corner of my eye I saw the morning breeze exhale across silken threads. One does not usually get to enjoy such artwork before sunrise so I padded over to gawk, wet grass clinging to bare feet.

He wasn’t home but I made myself comfortable anyway, let my eyes linger on light-studded gossamer as a cardinal complained noisily in a nearby tree at my continued presence.

There it was again—faint ripple in the design and as the toile work lifted and fell it was as if an invisible string joined my soul to its gentle rise. In your light, we see light, the Psalm I read this morning said, and I can feel eternity stir inside of me—the place that beauty always touches.

Things are changing around here. The house feels empty with Teddy gone, but the fire of expectation burns the empty into promise. The earth models for us how to handle these transitions with grace and my hungry eyes seek its tutelage. Autumn whispers on the edges of the days and last night I noticed the fireflies have made themselves scarce.

“From now on we lose two minutes of daylight every day,” my friend Frankie told me yesterday at work. “And in November, we lose an hour.”

Later today I will pull up my ramshackle beans, what’s left of the tomatoes and squash. Then I will plant the fall crop of greens. I texted my mother-in-law this morning, “Am I too late?” And she said, no, there is still time.

As I wait for the spider to appear, the sun burns off the morning dew. I feel time move over me—my shoulders, my neck, the curve of my cheek. I’ve been reading Emily P. Freeman’s new book, Simply Tuesday, and in it she celebrates all that is my life—the beauty of the small, the joy of each common moment. As I read her words I am feeling seen, for the first time in a long time, perhaps. And I know this tender ache of missing my boy is something beautiful, something to be celebrated, just as is the coming of light each day.

Slowly, sweetly, the light saturates the morning, and my unseen spider friend’s hiding place becomes invisible once again.