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.
It is very important not to become hard...have one skin too few in comparison to other people, so you feel the slightest wind.~Shusha Guppy
She kept looking at me--glancing over unsmiling, eyes bright, fevered. Her thinning blonde hair messy, unkempt. A walker stood near her as she sat on the edge of a chair in the doctor's office. She appeared to be in her seventies. I sat several feet away from her, smiled and made eye contact. Finally she said to me, "I have fluid on my lungs. I'm waiting for my daughter to take me to another doctor to have the liquid drawn off." The waiting room wasn't crowded, but everyone there could hear the woman and me, too, when I said, "I'm sorry to hear you're going through a rough time." That comment seemed to unleash her story. "I'm getting chemo now. I just finished two treatments, and I have four more. But I just have no appetite, so the doctor prescribed weed (I think she was referring to marinol). Better to be high, I guess, than too skinny." She chuckled when she said that, then went silent, her head down. I looked out of the corner of my eye and observed some people smiling. Others fidgeted. When one is sitting in an oncologist's waiting room, the elephant in the center is cancer. Nobody breathes that word, though. Afraid to even utter it. Yet the woman continued. "I have ovarian cancer. It's awful." I transcended my embarrassment, my self-consciousness and replied, "I know. Cancer is horrible. I had six chemo treatments. I made it through, one by one." "You did?" She smiled then. "And you're okay?" "Yes, I'm here today for my first check up, to see if I'm still clear." People looked up from their magazines, their phones and laptops, now wondering where this public conversation would go. "You look good," the woman said. And indeed, I was feeling energetic again, my hair growing back, my weight stabilized (I'd gained weight). "What's your first name?" I asked the woman. "Patsy," she said. "And yours?" "Priscilla," I answered. "Oh, that's a pretty name." At that moment, Patsy's daughter peeked her head inside the waiting room door and said, "Mom it's time to go." Patsy struggled to get up, grabbed her walker and slowly made her way across the room. "God bless you," I said as she left. She called back, "Pray for me." I said, "I will," my voice loud, confident. Everyone heard me.
So often in a creative career, the magic that is required is quite simply the courage to go on.~Julia Cameron
She scampered into my office unannounced. River, my colleague's new dog, that she had adopted from the SPCA. "She doesn't like tile in the hallway, so we ducked into your office, because it's carpeted." River wore a bright red harness that highlighted her black coat. She didn't know what to make of me, a stranger. We made eye contact, but she didn't rush to greet me. First, she sniffed around the perimeter of my office, edging closer and closer to my desk. She glanced at my colleague as if to say, "Is it safe to investigate this new person?" I reached out to her, waiting. No sudden movements. River sniffed my hand. I felt the cold wetness of her nose. She backed away, still not certain of me--ambivalent--then walked back over to my colleague who sat in a nearby chair. River's body quivered. She couldn't sit still. My colleague and I spoke of our holidays and I congratulated her on adopting River, as her older dog had passed away. Then, in a burst of courage, River came over to me and placed her paws on my knees. I laid my hands on River's head, feeling the softness of her ears, then ran my fingers down her smooth coat. She licked my cheek.
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)