West Virginia Morning: Hidden (and a giveaway)

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‘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

It’s the time of year when I can’t go outside without getting caught in a spider web. I no sooner walk out in the yard and I am wrapped in bands of light, clawing at my face and limbs to wipe off the sticky threads. I cannot be irritated, though, for the spider has long held my admiration. What beauty she gives us on these dewy mornings. This is the best time to go out and see—star shards left behind in the night, captured in the silken webs.

I found her 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.

She 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.

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. Teddy decided not to come home this weekend for fall break and the emptiness of these rooms echoes deep in my heart. I wonder what he is doing with his time, long for a text that says more than, “hi,” feel this new kind of mothering like being caught in a spiderweb. Flailing.  But there is something else, too, in this restless season. 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 finally 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 have a million things to do today, my only day off from the day job. It’s like that, I try to crowd too much into this one small gap of time. And yet, here I stand, lost in the wonder of a light-studded web.

An allowance for unbridled joy through playdates with God on Sabbath can provide the same result as a quiet, meditative retreat.” Shelly Miller says, in her lovely new book Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World. “Extravagant wastefulness with time might prove the most productive thing you choose for yourself.”

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.

To celebrate my friend Shelly’s new book release, I’m giving away a copy of Rhythms of Rest: Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World. I’m also including a copy of my book Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World, which Shelly so graciously quotes in Rhythms of Rest. But wait! There’s more. Also included in the gift pack is a copy of Francine Rivers’ new devotional Earth Psalms: Reflections on How God Speaks Through Nature.  Simply leave a comment for a chance to win. I’ll announce the winner Wednesday, Oct. 12.

This post is a partial reprint from the archives.

A Gentle Return

 

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At dawn our little valley sleeps under a fog-threaded blanket, hidden in folds of white and gray. The hills surrounding my home drift in and out of sight, rolling over in their forested bed before opening to the day. I return from taking Bonnie out with dew-stained cheeks, kissed by the morning.

This past weekend I met up with a group of poets and writers—musicians, friends, beauty-givers—and am still mulling over our time together. We read poetry out loud, danced, and found a home inside words and laughter shared.  We were staying at a place once called the eighth wonder of the world and even the ground we walked on held stories. It was a safe place, though not always a comfortable place for this solitary spirit of mine, and I let the hard questions linger on the edge of my mind longer than I usually do. I had a tough conversation with a mentor, the woman who probably did more to help shape my writing voice than anyone. I left our talk unsettled, with no answers, only these: (1) the knowledge that sometimes life sets us in hard places and (2) the feeling that I had been seen. Wisdom challenges me to stop whining and start following my bliss in every moment. It sounds so simple, does it not? Perhaps it is when one is surrounded by artists and soul-friends. The bravery is carrying that inspiration into my every day.

During one of our conversations this weekend I shared some thoughts about this TED talk. It’s one I frequently watch with the patients I counsel at the hospital where I work. The speaker is Aimee Mullins, a champion athlete, model, actress, and advocate, who just happens to be a double amputee. The talk is entitled “The Opportunity of Adversity.” In it, Aimee says, “Everyone has something rare and powerful to offer our society.” And,

… Implicit in this phrase of overcoming adversity is the idea that success or happiness is about emerging on the other side of a challenging experience unscathed or unmarked by the experience. As if my successes in life have come about from an ability to sidestep or circumnavigate the presumed pitfalls of a life with prosthetics or what other people perceive as my disability. When, in fact, we are changed. We are marked, of course, by a challenge. Whether it is physically, emotionally, or both. I’m going to suggest this is a good thing … Maybe the idea I want to put out there is not so much overcoming adversity, as it is opening ourselves up to it, embracing it, grappling with it … maybe even dancing with it …”

Times of sharing soul-thoughts and deep conversations have a way of tenderizing the heart, heightening the senses, and opening us up to possibility. This morning, the things I have chafed up against in this one wild and precious life feel less like obstacles and more like dancing partners. In the past couple years, we’ve navigated Major Depression, the loss of treasured work, sending our eldest son off to college, an increase in the demands of other work, the illness and subsequent death of a loved one, a book release, death of beloved family dog, and a change in career paths for the major bread winner in the family. Our life is not uncommon, but it is uncommonly ours. We have been changed. We have been marked. This morning I feel the truth of this settle into my skin as surely as the fog moistens my countenance. And I am opening my heart to the possibility that this is not a bad thing. I am beginning the first slow steps of the dance.

The way the fog slowly unveils the day feels good, a gentle return.

Welcome Summer

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Last night I dreamed I was back in college, in that old apartment on Walnut Avenue. Clothes were strewn across my bedroom floor, draped across the bed, piled up in corners. One of my friends sat on my bed and I reclined next to him, asked about his wife, his new baby. I was the me I am now—this woman quickly approaching fifty—but my heart was young and carefree. As I looked in my friend’s eyes, I knew I was old, but I felt beautiful and hopeful, as if time had no power over me.

When I awakened, I puzzled over the contradiction the dream posed.

“Why would I dream such a thing?” I asked my husband as we carpooled to work this morning.

Then I remembered. Today is the first day of summer. The summer solstice happens when the tilt of the earth’s axis leans closest to the sun, and we enjoy the longest day of the year.

I suppose if I think about it, I would say my college years might represent the summer of my life. If summer represents freedom and possibility, a time of dreaming and discovery. But the beautiful thing about the dream was that even though I was in an earlier time, I was the same age I am now. And felt the full impact of my gathered years as beauty.

I’m sitting with that for a spell. Letting it trickle down inside of me and drench my young heart—that heart with eternity written into it. The dreaming is not done with me yet.

 

“lean in a little more, honey,” says
the sun, glowing. and the night
scatters as light is sown gently

in the morning, this dream awakens
words so strong they are heard
underwater; scent of crushed flowers

the wind as stiff as stone, ushers
a sudden rain and clouds drift soft
into velveteen

amidst the tumbling
songs of robins.

Home Smells like Lilac and a Winner!

 

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Now, when I take Bonnie out in the mornings, we are greeted by the thick perfume of the lilac bush pushing down heavy on the moist morning air. The skeletal trees surrounding our little valley are fleshing out in white and yellow and green leaves unfolding. The hills are all pinked up with Redbud and spring is working her resurrection magic on my inner geography as well.

Last night, I took Jeffrey to be fitted for his first tuxedo—prom is only two weeks away. Jeff had band practice, so my boy and I were alone for the evening. After dinner, we took Bon for a walk and then went to DQ and picked up some ice cream (I was hankering for a Reese’s blizzard). We sat on the back deck amongst robin song and that heady scent of lilac.  How sweet to savor the moments (as well as the ice cream).

I’ve been gone for two weekends in a row and I can’t explain the rich feeling of anticipation for a weekend at home. I’m looking forward to staying put—to piddling in the yard, and rising with the sun, and worshiping with those who know and love me best.

I love adventures. I love meeting new friends and dining with old ones. But home is the best place. I’m so grateful for home.

The winner of the small stack of books from last week, including a signed copy of Jenn Hand’s 31 Days to Coming Alive and a copy of Deidra Riggs’s Every Little Thing, is … Nancy Sturm! Congratulations, Nancy! I’ll be in touch. Thanks to all who stopped by and commented.

Welcome Spring

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I am re-entering this place gently, feeling something inside me awakening with the spring. This morning, while the house still slept, I stared long into the meadow beyond the backyard. I remembered when this land was clear and freshly mowed, when Mrs. Casto would ride her lawnmower over to our fence to say hello as my boys played on their swingset. Now, it is a wild thing, fruit trees spilling out over brambly earth.

As I looked on, the robins sang their morning songs and I thought what a gift that brambly meadow must be to them. I wondered what it feels like to peer at the world between branches lit with the light of a thousand white blossoms. And then I thought, why not find out?

So I hopped the fence with my camera, braved the sticker bushes and pokey weeds, and found the place where the deer bed down beneath the trees. I sat on a cushion of wild violets, reclined my head on a pillow of moss. And overhead? A white-blossomed canopy framed up against blue sky. The sun broke through the branchy chuppah all at once and I was held in warm hands. The breeze stirred the trees as I lay, cupped and happy, and a shower of petals fell over me—white mingled with purple on my bed and I breathed the fragrance of beauty.

Life used to be more fresh-cut grass and orderly meadows, but I am finding there is beauty in the wild-brambly. How about you?

Happy spring, Beloveds. Where will you find beauty today?