On letting things go

At Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog, Ruth Ayres shares this quote:

I realize there’s something incredibly honest about trees in the winter, how they’re experts at letting things go. —Jeffrey McDaniel

She goes on to offer this reflection and invitation:

I like the thought of honesty in letting things go. 

Do you believe this is true? If so, how will you live today?

As I contemplate these questions, my mortuary-apprentice son is counting the number of death calls, services, and cremations he’s attended to this year.

Sooner or later comes a time of having to let things go.

Seems if we are wise, we choose before that time. A shedding, of sorts.

For in daily living there are worlds of difference between minutiae, minutes, and moments.

As much as I can, I choose moments.

As in the final words of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73: To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Nothing shakes the smiling heart

Nothing shakes the smiling heart.—Santosh Kalwar

a pantoum

Nothing shakes the smiling heart
not loss, not fear, not pain
the heart-smile shines ever bright
even in the rain

Not loss, not fear, not pain
despite tales of gloom and doom
even in the rain
the smiling heart does not consume

Despite tales of gloom and doom
it needs no teeth, for
the smiling heart does not consume
while beating its joyful tune

It needs no teeth, for
the heart-smile shines ever bright
while beating its joyful tune
—nothing shakes the smiling heart.

with thanks to Ruth at SOS-Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog for the Kalwar quote along with the invitation to consider a smile and write about it. Note that in addition to the usual definitions of ingesting, buying, using, etc., “consume” can also mean “perish.”

I want to be the kind of writer…

with thanks to SOS-Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog for the inspiration

I want to be the kind of writer who seizes every moment, carpe momentum, for the meaning it contains, for the uniqueness it brings, for the virtue of its existence and my existence within it, for these are fleeting: my presence of mind and my presence here. I want to the the kind of writer who lets the tap of memory flow full force, who drinks long, deep drafts in thirsty gratitude for every image that lives in the sea of my brain, inside the little seahorse itself. Precious hippocampus, my writer-symbol. I want to be the kind of writer who feeds it, keeps it strong, leaves floodgates open for all that rides the currents of memory, all that rises to the surface, all that washes up like flotsam and jetsam from long ago, even if but random bits of objects or recalled treasure like moments with those I loved and who loved me, still very much alive and real in the iridescent foam bubbling at the edges. I want to be the kind of writer who doesn’t attempt to pin a fragile new idea to the page but who stops to acknowledge it when it appears, makes note of it, gives it room to breathe, to unfurl its wings, for the thing has something to reveal. Yes, I will write to it, write around it, capture it; but softly, without force. Ideas are living things. They are to be nurtured and examined, not hammered and dissected (even in the name of research). I want to be the kind of writer who honors the organic and spiritual nature of the craft and the transcendent power of story in the human heart. It is a matter of mattering. I want to be the kind of writer who spins crystals of my memory, thought, sensation, perception, emotion, and imagination into stories of substance that matter to readers, that maybe add layers of meaning to their moments, too…the way that writers have done, still do, for me. I hear the echo of their words daily as I go about the moments of my living; the writers, the writing, the words, ever-present, tickling the hippocampus, anchoring in my soul, forever bubbling, forming and reforming, spawning yet more ideas. I want to be the kind of writer always reaching for what’s beyond my grasp, always discovering, always inviting awe, always listening, always and infinitely grateful to have been alive.

Carpe momentum.

I am working on it.

The seahorse is a favorite writer-symbol for me, sharing the same name with the part of the brain regulating memory and emotion: hippocampus. Photo: E. Johnson

On quiet

The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear. —Rumi

Morning

I rise far too early, don’t I.
Yet it is an act of love
this aloneness in the
dark, being able to empty
my spirit of noise, slipping into silent
meditation before the dewy
dawn catches in the cobwebby
grass, to wordweave away my hours.

*******

Late Afternoon

The last shaft of sunlight
pales on my pine floor

like a lingering goodbye
from beyond the window
where nothing is stirring
no breeze in winter-bare trees
no birds to be seen nor heard
in this earthtone moment
of prolonged silence
and stillness

time alone moves

it only ebbs
whether in seconds
or epochs

even in this moment
I can feel moss
growing by millimeters
on ancient rocks
caressed by golden fingers
of fading sunlight

I can almost hear
a song of gratitude
and I can’t tell
if it’s being sung by
the moss
the rocks
or the sun

only by something
which knows
time never flows

and that
soon, soon
it will be night

followed again
by morning light

Smiling face in moss. blondinrikard. CC BY 2.0

*******

with thanks to Ruth at SOS-Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog for the inspiration with the Rumi quote and to C.S. Lewis, who wrote of rising “barbarously early” in the morning: “I love the empty, silent, dewy, cobwebby hours” (Letters to an American Lady).

Bookends of winter days

Winter mornings
dawn in gray monochrome
before the sun bursts on the scene
like a passionate artist
with its gilded palette

Driving to work
in this gray in-betweenness
I note the doves
always sitting on the power lines
like heralds
their plump bodies
of soft sandy colors
framed by the oyster sky

reminding me:
look for the peace this day
live as peacefully as possible
this day

Then, in the strange way
of life
as I drive home
weary and worn
the golden part of the day
nearly spent
what should I see
on other power lines?

Hawks
big and breathtaking
still as statues
painted in shades of rust

They might remind some people
of raw bloodthirstiness
or predatory fierceness
but their beauty
fills me with such awe
that it’s all I can do
to keep my eyes on the road
driving home

as I think about how my winter days
are bookended by birds
and how there’s something
inherently sacred
and profoundly satisfying
in that.


DoveJim, the Photographer. CC BY 2.0

Red-Shouldered Hawkgoingslo. CC BY 2.0

(One of these days, when I can stop the car safely, I am going to get my own photos of my hawks…)

*******
with thanks to Ruth at SOS-Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog
for today’s inspiration to write:
“You are invited to linger in your winter memories, reach deep and pick a golden moment to share.”

A bit of whimsy

Who wouldn’t love a seahorse pen?
Hippocampus reigns in hand and brains!
Iridescent eyes awaiting
My planner for updating
See the daily reminder here…
You are made of magic.

This really is my seahorse pen and planner. Just sayin’.

Dedicated to my blogger-friends at SOS—Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog
in light of the challenge to capture a bit of whimsy

Stay tuned

Today SOS-Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog invites us to write about a catchphrase…here’s one I use quite often

When my colleagues
have more questions
than I have answers
I say
stay tuned

When my husband
bemoans the day
longing for simpler times
I say
stay tuned

When my children
are anxious
about their tomorrows
I say
stay tuned

When I sit staring, despairing,
at an empty screen
the Muse leans in close,
whispering
stay tuned

When sleep turns the knobs
of my weary brain
to receiving messages
on a channel of dreams:
stay tuned

When waking, I realize
the story isn’t over.
It’s a new beginning…
stay tuned
stay tuned

“Stay tuned” is an idiom meaning “keep listening” or “keep watching.” It originated in the days of dial-tuned radio receivers and eventually transitioned to television.

s

Spiritual journey: Awe

On the first Thursday of each month I write with fellow sojourners about our spiritual journeys. Margaret Simon leads the way on this first Thursday of 2022 with reflections on “one little word,” the writer-tradition of choosing a focus word for the year (thank you for hosting, Margaret).

This is the first time I have carried a word over from one year to the next.

Last year awe chose me by appearing in a quote on my planner when I had pretty much decided I wouldn’t choose a word. Perhaps the pandemic had left me jaded. Or simply too bone-tired to care. Nevertheless, there it was, an invitation to seek awe.

I accepted.

I never imagined all the awe that awaited in 2021.

The first grandchild was born into our family. Her big sister came to us by marriage at age three. She had been wishing for a little sister.

God is especially near to children.

Awe.

Baby Micah looks at me with the very eyes, from the very face, of my firstborn son. My husband and I wept at first sight of her.

Awe.

We lost one of our dearest friends in 2021. His last words to me were in response to one of my posts on awe: You are awesome in every way. Years ago he played Santa Claus at church for the children, when my oldest (the current new dad) was three. Nobody loved Christmas better; we spent every Christmas Eve together when my children were growing up.

He’s attained Heaven now. My youngest son, who’s become a funeral director apprentice, helped prepare his body for burial.

A symmetry, a grace.

Awe.

As the year ended last week, my family rescued a robin caught in the grille of a car after a trip down the interstate (read about it here if you like: The Robin). I couldn’t believe it was alive, that we were able to extricate it, or that it was soon hopping around my backyard eating worms in the unseasonably warm December.

Awe.

It chose me in 2021.

I am choosing it for 2022.

If you search the Internet for the benefits of awe, you will find lots of information: Awe reminds us that we are small parts of something vast and that’s good for us. It makes us care more for one another. It makes us healthier, calmer, more focused, more humble, less concerned for material things.

Spend time in nature and you’ll experience awe. Everything is connected, everything. I have seen a shy beige earth snake in the flowerbed glowing with bioluminescence. I have seen a deer running alongside dogs in a field, playing.

Spend time with children and you’ll experience awe. In the way that they see the world. In the way that they trust. And laugh. And dance. And sing. And love. Jesus said: I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children (Matthew 11:25, ESV).

Write, and you will experience awe. Yesterday I wrote on an unusual paraphrase of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30: “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” That line may stay with me forever. There is a flow, a pattern, a choreography to grace. As there is to the stars. Something too beautiful for words.

To realize that one is the recipient of God’s grace is awe. That He means for us to be free and not burdened is awe. That we exist at all, on this blue planet in the vast universe, is awe. That he wants us to learn of him is awe. That we play our short part in an ongoing story of humanity, forgiveness, redemption, and incomparable love, is awe. To know that unseen angels surround us is awe.

I know many stories like the one my grandmother told me, how people in farm communities nearly a century ago used to take turns sitting with someone who was sick and dying. It was Grandma’s turn to sit with the mother of her friend, Amanda. The old woman had been unresponsive for days, when all of a sudden, she sat up. Her face shone; she looked young again. She began to laugh: “Can you see them? Can you see them?”

She died that day. My grandmother never forgot the awe.

When it comes to spiritual journeys, be sure to invite it.

It is the fuel of eternity.

*******

also shared on SOS-Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog, with special thanks to Ruth for the “unforced rhythms of grace” inspiration.

x

Try

inspired by Ruth Ayres on Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog.
Ruth quotes Elon Musk:
“If something is important enough, you should try. Even if the probable outcome is failure.

Begs the question: What is ‘failure’? Who gets the final say? Surely not the inner critic…

I shall try…

to believe, during the darkest night
to seek the infinite ribbons of light

to love more, to judge less
to concentrate on words that bless

to remember my job is a livelihood, not my life
to free myself of unnecessary strife

to not crumble under self-defined defeat
to keep trying, and trying, again to complete

daily acts of grace, others and self forgiving,
thereby seizing the joy of living

trusting the sense of second sight
urging me always to write, to write.





Habit acrostic

with thanks to Ruth Ayres at SOS – Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog, for reiterating this truth: “Habit is essential for writers. If we develop a habit that allows us to enter into writing, then we will write more often.” She encourages the “magic” community to pay attention to the routines that make blog writing happen.

I am a morning writer. I love the rich, dark silence of the sleeping world around me, the freedom to hear my own uncluttered thoughts, the anticipation of gifts from the burgeoning day. I love the neighbor’s rooster, how his loud crowing wafts through the stillness; there are a few roosters in this neighborhood and sometimes they echo each other in a chorus of wild, rustic, joyful aliveness. It is a song of my soul. For a second, I have a sense of my young grandfather a hundred years ago, preparing for his farm chores, walking the fertile land he cultivated and loved all of his life, as darkness turns to light.

And so I write.

An acrostic, for Day Sixteen of National Poetry Month

Hallowed
Are these moments
Before the dawn
Immersed in words
The breathings of my being

If you are looking to write more or to develop a blogging habit, consider joining the vibrant community
at SOS – Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog.