My hope is to offer encouragement to writers as well as to those who simply love to read. You will find snippets of things I am working on and special announcements here.
To support themselves, the first Christian monks spent their days weaving palm branches into baskets and ropes they could sell. And as they worked, they prayed. The steady rhythm of the work helped the monks memorize the psalms and the Gospels, which was a necessity in the fourth-century desert, as books were expensive and rare. But the monks regarded this work and prayer as their way to God, hoping that over time the "straw" of mundane tasks could become the "gold" of ceaseless prayer. (From A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer's Life Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris)
I sit here at one of my favorite spots this New Year's Eve--the page. I look down to see what I'm hearing on Pandora. The title of the song is Time. How fitting, as I reflect on the past year. I think, too, of a beloved metaphor. Doors. One of my favorite couples, trusted friends, gave me a jigsaw puzzle for Christmas. The image includes multiple doors. How did they know I'd been wanting to work a puzzle over the holidays? I'd been looking in stores, but couldn't find a picture I'd want to piece together. But there in the package was the image I'd been searching out, door after door, some bright orange or turquoise, others weathered, paint peeling, some with knockers and intricate iron work. A few open.
It is not a snowy day here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. In twenty years, I think it's snowed twice, and then hardly sticking to the ground--just enough to provide that dusting of white powder that gives us southerners a thrill. I have lived in snowy climes (just outside Chicago), and there's nothing like a fresh snowfall that outlines trees and blankets rooftops. There were times while living there, I'd bundle up and walk amid the flurries, lifting my face to feel the frozen softness on my cheeks, then brush the snow from a park bench and sit amidst the silence.
Over the week, I fell down a hole. I'd spent too much screen time reading the news--tax reform, sexual harrassment cases--a new one each day. Every bodily symptom I had, leading me to a new article on Web MD--the cancer probably back. It was almost as if I was consumed, touching my phone screen to link after link. I felt the fear and anxiety seeping in, my tendency to "catastrophize" knocking on the door of my heart. Cue to run in the opposite direction. Cue to run toward peace.
One of the ways I choose to run toward peace is to remember coping tools that have helped restore tranquility in my life. I needed restoration, not dysregulation. I headed for the Psalms. My ears are filled with the sounds of promise. Good people will prosper like palm trees, grow tall like Lebanon cedars, transplanted to God's courtyard, they'll grow tall in the presence of God, lithe and green, virile still in old age. (Psalm 92: 13-14~The Message). I connected almost instantaneously with the phrase, My ears are filled with the sounds of promise. I decided to begin a search through my journal over this past year and read the words and promises from God that surfaced on the pages. My journal that I call Morning Pages (inspired to begin writing by one of my favorite authors: Julia Cameron) is not neat and tidy. The pages are hand written and stream of consciousness. There are scratch outs and writing in the margins, sketches and drawings that are not very good. Yet I love what rises up from the ink when I go back and read what's been written. There are prayers and the longings of my heart. Scripture. Enclosed are some of the promises that filled my ears once again over this past week. I invite you to use the words in any way you see fit, praying that they lead you to increased peace. (All Scripture taken from The Message)
He guards you when you leave and when you return, He guards you now, He guards you always.
She stood on the platform alone, waiting for the train. She'd come before to catch the Majestic Express, but had never been brave enough to board. The train's final destination was not tangible, really. All she'd heard was that the final stop was unbelievably beautiful--unbelievable being the prime descriptor. She felt a lot more comfortable knowing what she could expect. Here, in this place, she could count on leaden skies, the gray landscape--bare trees, with their dark branches blanketed in snow. This quiet beauty was not unbearable. And she had a warm coat, a red scarf she wrapped around her neck, a woolen cap and gloves. She could bear the cold just fine. But was there more? She'd lived in the same climate for so long, she didn't know if she could risk to explore some place different, some place warmer...
She peered down the track and saw the chugging train as it neared the station. Its headlights penetrated the misty atmosphere, and her heart seemed to beat just slightly faster seeing that glow in the weak daylight. She could feel the ambivalence warring inside her mind. "If I leave, it will be difficult to get back. And what if I want to come back--what If I'm homesick? What if I hate where this train might take me? But then, what if it's the best decision of my life?" Even on the snowy day, she felt her brow break out in beads of anxious perspiration. She swiped the hat from her head and felt the brisk wind glance her skin, a prickle of cold coursing through her body. She shivered.
The train slowed and came to a stop right in front of her. The door swished open, and she could hear the murmur of joyful laughter inside. She caught sight of the conductor standing in the open door, raising his hand to her. "Won't you come aboard?" he asked. He was tall, youthful--with a headful of shiny brown curls. Gallant. He extended his hand to her. She hesitated, hovered there. Then the promise of what she might discover in a new place drew her, beckoned her, and she placed her foot on the first step and grabbed the conductor's hand. She could feel the warmth of his flesh through her gloved hand. "Let me show you where you can store your backpack. I know it must be heavy. You've been carrying it for many miles. But now, rest and enjoy the view as we travel to our next stop. You're going to love the Majestic Express. And I'm delighted you're onboard. You're in for some brilliant stops along the way..."
When I lived right outside of Los Angeles, decades ago, I drove to Hollywood in search of Lucille Ball's house. I bought a map of where the movie stars lived intent on finding "Lucy's house." The winter day was warm, as the sun shines almost year round in Southern California. I found her street easily, and parked my brown Camaro across the street from Ms. Ball's home. I actually fantasized that she might be in her yard, that I could walk up to her and say how much joy she'd brought me over the years--how much "I loved Lucy." I remembered that the neighborhood was hauntingly quiet that day, other than a few birds singing. The date palms lining the street stood sentinel, their leaves barely whispering. And her house seemed almost ordinary compared with some of the other mansions on the street--white brick, the front door painted black, lush St. Augustine grass. I snapped a picture and lingered for a bit, thinking back over my short life. I Love Lucy began airing before I was born. And in 1960, when I was five, I was just beginning to enjoy the re-runs of the famous Ricardos. I realized tears streamed down my face as I walked back to my car. Why was I crying?
And now fast-forward twenty years, and I'm watching a PBS documenetary on You Tube entitled Findng Lucy. The documentary tracks her rise from a B movie queen to television stardom, her face the most recognized in the whole world at one point. I watched clips of I Love Lucy, remembering every episode. The comedy bits still made me laugh. But then, the very last show Lucy and Desi recorded together, she had already filed for divorce. It was not only the end of a marriage, but also the end of an era in television. Tears again flowed down my face all these years later. I realized I was experiencing a brush with nostalgia. It was as if I was running through a blur of memories. I wanted to run through them, but simultaneously I didn't, because reminiscing stirred sadness and a longing to go back.