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.

West Virginia Morning: Fierce Convictions

IMG_7575

Already the heat clings to the windows, resting heavy on petals and leaves. Every blade of grass drips. In the meadow, the goldenrod is nectaring and the ironweed waves good morning. I stand among the flowers and listen to the honeybees begin their long day of work.

The light slowly spreads and I feel a sense of urgency. I am Niggle, coloring in his leaf, and time is water. I want to drink deeply; I want to stop the fast arc of the second hand. Yesterday, I listened to Dr. Dan Allender talk about how play does this—slows the ticking. When we play, “[T]ime no longer seems to be binding,” he said. It’s when we allow ourselves total abandon to the moment that we are able to stay fully present within it. I lose this awareness so easily in trying to hold too tightly. It’s only in the letting go I am able to transcend the chronos and be filled with kairos moments.

There is no hurry, I tell myself, as I bend to study the way light reflects the world in a drop of water. There is more than this one life, I remind myself. Eternity is written on my heart and I can feel its steady pulse with each breath I take.

But how do I live an extraordinary life right here, right now? I think of Hannah More and all that she accomplished for this world in her one wild and precious life. Poet, philanthropist, slave abolitionist, women’s rights activist … Did she feel time like water as I do? Maybe the answer to the extraordinary life is hidden in each ordinary moment. When we surrender to each moment, let go of the lists and plans, when we are fully present in each passing breath … isn’t this when we are able to make the moments matter?

The birds are leaving. Last night, as we walked, I felt small as I watched great flocks cross the sky. Everywhere is the feeling of summer giving up the green, fading. From glory into glory, each season its own currency.

I promise to notice it all, to write it all down and live the saturated moments. This, my fierce conviction: make this one-leaf-life beautiful.

In honor of Hannah More’s extraordinary life and the contribution she made in support of the founding of the school we are taking Teddy to this weekend, I’m giving away a copy of Karen Swallow Prior’s beautiful book Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist. Just leave a comment for a chance to win. I’ll announce the winner next Wednesday, 8/26.

 

IMG_7580

A Strange Courage

christmas-cookies-2011-019

I lay down on the cool concrete of our front porch and made ready to watch the meteor shower. It was ten o’clock, still a little early, but I knew I was too sleepy to stay up much later. Everything I read said the best time to see the show would be right before dawn when the sky is at its darkest. But I know how my body fails to listen to the alarm clock on a day off of work. I would take my chances and collect what little starlight fell over my tired body at ten p.m.

I found Cassiopeia, and looked for the constellation Perseus below. It’s called the Perseid Meteor Shower because the meteors seem to shoot out of the constellation Perseus in the northeastern sky. It’s an annual occurrence, but this year’s shower is supposed to be especially glam due to it coinciding with the moon waning into a new one. To my dismay, I noted a large amount of light pollution right where the old boy should be. Never mind, I decided to give it a go anyway.

The concrete was cool on my back and the stars above looked like granite. I let the shine take me, and I remembered a William Carlos Williams poem I had recently read:
El Hombre

It’s a strange courage
you give me ancient star:

Shine alone in the sunrise
toward which you lend no part!

I did, indeed, feel a strange courage holding me as I reclined underneath those twinkling lights. My husband came out to check on me, but didn’t stay long. He has no patience for these things.

“I could sleep out here,” I told him, and I stretched my legs out to the edge of the porch. “No you can’t,” he said, and disappeared. But I thought I could, and for a moment I was lost in imagining being kissed to sleep by night-dew, tucked in by trailing fires of meteors dipping low. As if by invitation, I saw my first meteor shoot by, leaving its long tail behind. I waited another half hour and was rewarded with another, before conceding that maybe I needed my soft bed after all.

I fell into a dreamless sleep, starlight my companion.

shine alone in the sunrise …
and I will give you my heart.

Word Ablution

IMG_7393

The ablution of words continues. On my days off I sit with a stack of books and immerse. It’s a lovely way to avoid the laundry and thoughts of sending Teddy off to school in the fall. Would you like to know what’s in the stack right now? I’ve shared a bit in other posts, but here is what I’m currently baptizing my mind with:

  1. I’ve shared about how my thoughts are running wild as I re-read my old favorite Women Who Run With the Wolves. I’ve been stuck on the fifth task of Vasalisa the Wise this week. Perhaps I’ll write more about that later.
  2. The writing book I’m working through has inspired me to listen better. I’ve started Writing Down the Bones several times, but this time around I’m committed to finishing. I think, before, my faith was too narrow to appreciate Natalie’s Buddhist perspectives. But now, I love when Natalie talks about her Zen teachers/masters. I let these lessons speak to my Christian roots and am finding the shared soilbed encourages them to tendril deeper. Often, I get a little weepy with the desire that our Christian mindset would be so tender, so generous toward the earth and ourselves.
  3. While my running life is slowed, I’ve been enjoying walking some with Jeff. A timely read recommended by a friend, A Philosophy of Walking, has added to the enjoyment.
  4. Nothing makes me happier than a new children’s book to feed my hungry eyes. I found a lovely one while researching a children’s message to go with my sermon last week. Sidewalk Flowers is so beautiful, and tells the story of noticing life without any words at all. I like to sit with it and study the thoughtful images. I haven’t grown tired of the tender story yet. I adore it. I can’t wait to share it with the kindergarteners I will read aloud to next year.

IMG_5903

5.  A few years ago I purchased Stevens: Collected Poetry and Prose after stumbling into one of Wallace Stevens’ poems that shook me up a bit. Ever the student, I ordered a reader’s guide by Eleanor Cook to go along with the weighty volume. But after a friend and poet I deeply respect commented that she has a “visceral reaction” (not in a good way) every time she sees the black cover of this book, I quietly shelved it, second-guessing my judgement, and went back to reading Wendell and Mary for a while. Here’s a word for beginning poetry readers: follow your heart where it leads you. I am learning so much about poetry from this duo.

For example, I kept coming across the word “trope” in the reader’s guide. Having never studied poetry, I didn’t know what this term meant. Eleanor Cook generously tells me, “A trope is a figure of speech in which meaning is turned or changed.” A metaphor is a type of trope. And Eleanor tells me, “It means ‘transport’ etymologically. Literally in modern Greece … you may actually ride on a bus called metaphora.” From Eleanor, I learned that in my favorite stanza of Stevens’ Le Monocle de Mon Oncle (The Monocle of My Uncle), stanza II, “wind” and “wet” and “wing” are “all common types of trope for song or poetry.” Isn’t that cool?

Eleanor says that “reading figures of speech by distinguishing tropes and schemes” is like “distinguishing birdsongs and birdcalls.” Well, anyone who knows me knows learning the language of the birds is something I rather enjoy. So this may be one reason I am drawn to the poetry of Wallace Stevens. He and Eleanor Cook are teaching me to pay closer attention to words.

  1. I always end my reading by praying the Psalms, reading once from my Bible and then again from Praying the Psalms, an old favorite that invites my heart to step onto the wide path of the Psalmist’s words.

There are more books and more lessons, but these I am dipping into every day. What are you reading?

 

Playdates with God: Paper Trail

thanksgiving-2011-day-3-044

Today we bury someone I love and I am far away, unable to share in the tears and memories and the ways we hold one another during times such as these. I have been having trouble writing since I found out, wondering about the ways I spend the moments and questioning. I’ve tried to be more present with my family, tried to listen with my heart to all they say and do not say.

Scripture tells us there is a season for everything—a time to mourn and a time to dance. In my book, I share a story of when I did not feel like meeting with God; when the loss of a friend felt so unfair, so pointless, and too hard to let go of. I tell how the Lord held me during that time, and taught me how to dance again.

There is nowhere we can go that our God has not gone before us. Today I find comfort in that knowledge. In the end, it is the little things—like walking together, and eating together, sitting side-by-side, even writing—it is the little things that make a life. We do these things because our heart compels us to and this is how we honor the one wild and precious life we’ve been given.

So, I will write it all down. Again and again. And when my time comes, there will be a paper trail to follow to find me.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess