My hope is to offer encouragement to writers as well as those who simply love to read. You will find eclectic snippets here—news of projects I’m working on, comments regarding books I enjoy, favorite authors, quotes, and reflections regarding my own experiences. I especially like to write about my dreams—those parables in the night seasons. Symbols and metaphors delight and intrigue me. You will find them here.
She sat in her pickup, the driver's side window down, hair blown back from her face. The first traces of tropical storm gusts stirred the air as the state anticipated the effects of Hurricane Florence. I noted a pink neon stripe zagged through the woman's dark bangs. The color reminded me of those frozen concoctions sold in gas station convenience stores, that stain one's tongue disturbing colors. I stood on the bank of the tidal creek where she had parked her truck. We made eye contact, waving simultaneously. The young woman smiled and nodded, then went back to her musing as did I, our brief connection a mercy as we awaited the storm's approach.
The woman's bright shot of pink in her hair, and her wide smile comforted me, and I began thinking of the concept of mercy as I walked. I remembered the encounter I had with my six-year-old granddaughter a few days prior. We'd been talking about how we enjoyed writing as a way to capture moments of our lives. She picked up her journal and said, "You know what I write in my journal is just for me to read." I responded, "I understand. My journal writing is the same--only for me." Then she said, "But I'll read you a page in mine." I said, "I'd like that very much." She began:
"One day I went with my mommy to visit a lady. When we got there, and I saw the lady, I realized she had a mustache. I really, really, really wanted to say something." Then my granddaughter looked up from reading and said, "I had to hold back my words. I wanted to say something so bad." She continued: "I decided not to say anything, though, becasue it could have hurt the lady's feelings. I didn't want to do that."
While on some level, the journal entry was funny, the story reflected a tenderness of heart as well. At six, my granddaughter had learned the art of mercy.
Sometimes I ask a question, and the answer comes wrapped in astonishment.
Over several weeks, a layer of melancholy seemed to cling to me that I couldn't strip off my mind, like transparent strands of spider webbing. I wrote in my journal. Prayed. "God, peel back this film of misery. Give me a key to open the door." At the bottom of the page I'd drawn a key.
A few nights later I dreamed. In the dream, I discovered a locked door with a large keyhole. When I peered through the opening, I observed a glimmering sea, the sun spangling and dancing over the water. I wanted to unlock the door, but I didn't have the key. I heard in my mind, "Turn toward grace." A key materialized in my hand. I placed it in the keyhole, and the door swung open. I awakened.
There was my answer. "Turn toward grace." But what did that really mean?
When you have something like reading--or drawing or music or nature--it surrounds you with a sense of connection to somethng great.~Anne Lamott (from Stitches, A Handbook On Meaning, Hope and Repair)
I opened the door of the library, the bottom of my jeans soaked through after walking across the parking lot in a downpour. My red umbrella dripped mercilessly, creating a puddle in the foyer. I hadn't cared that I was more wet than dry, because I had tried something new--even as small a thing as going to a different library branch--off my beaten path.
The librarian raised one eyebrow as I disrupted the peace, my shoes making lurid sounds as I crossed the faux-wood flooring over to the movie section. A toddler screamed at the same moment my shoes created a louder, more disgusting noise, distracting the librarian from his watchful eye on me. I found no movies that fit my mood. Gooseflesh appeared on my arms as the raindrops evaporated. I ran my ring fingers under my eyes, black eyeliner left smudges on my damp palms. I spied the new book section where my reward for trying something different awaited: The Art Of Vanishing, A Memoir Of Wanderlust by Laura Smith. I made my way to the checkout desk, my shoes now silenced. The librarian gave me a wry smile as I slipped the book into my bag.
Over the last weeks I'd been feeling overwhelmed--awful things happening at work--patients overdosing, a patient with gangrene from medical neglect, afraid to go to the hospital because he didn't have medical insurance. People frightened and traumatized. People coming apart. Somehow I was supposed to help them. Much of the time I didn't know where to begin. Most days I'd say, "You made it here today. That's a good start. Let's pull the session into the present. What's the next safest action for you to take today?" (I'm a firm believer in the beauty of small, incremental change). Just as I ask my patients to risk doing something different, I needed to keeping choosing to try new things too--even though I'm such a creature of habit--appreciating sameness, made delirious by familiarity. Going to a new library was a start. What was next?
A single star suspended in the morning sky attracted me in its silent glory. I leaned back against my car and observed the star's glinting presence until the sky grew pale with the day's first light. "A sky to remember," I thought, as I headed off to work.
The memory stayed with me all week, that dose of blue sky and silver star like protein powder causing me to brim with grace and energy.
Then later in the week I read an excerpt from Dr. Henry Cloud's book, Necessary Losses. He provided a metaphor that resonated. He spoke of the rose bush. He described how rose bushes produce many more buds than they can sustain. The person growing roses must trim many of the buds to allow the plant to route its resources to nourish the healthiest blooms. If the plant is not pruned, the roses will not flourish. Dr. Cloud stated that often our lives can be like the rose bush. We perceive loss as negative, rather than embrace the concept of letting go as a means to increase health and wholeness. Perhaps I was magnetized to the morning sky, because it bore the symbolism of simplification. Paring down. One star, glowing aloft in its blue estate.
The root of the word "integration" is the smaller word "integer," which means "whole." Too often, racing through life, we become the "hole," not the "whole." We become an unexamined maw into which our encounters and experiences rush unassimilated, leaving us both full and unsatisfied because nothing has been digested and taken in. In order to "integrate" our experiences, we must take them into account against the broader canvas of our life. We must slow down and recognize when currents of change, like movements in a symphony, are moving through us.~Julia Cameron (from The Right to Write, An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life)
Sometimes answers surface on the page before they rise to the top in my thinking process. At times, I look back over journal entries searching for ideas, themes and actions that remain unassimilated in my life. As I wrestle with integrating the desire for more freedom with the need for careful consideration regarding retirement, what I discovered anew on the page provided determination to keep walking toward increased liberty. Writing can be that friend who listens...
I wrote: Coming up out of the blue. A dream surfaces. I am riding a bike. It's blue, the ocean near. I want to remember. I need to remember, but by noon it's gone. Life layers over me.