Category Archives: Writing

Culling, Surrender, and Bliss.

Five months ago I was happily pacing through the days of Lent. I began each morning with a reading by Madeleine L’Engle and ended the day with a reflection that owed something to where the day started. I was caught up in it, loving the way spending my days in prayer–that’s how I think of that ongoing noodling–gave me focus and helped me remember something of my priesthood. Twenty days into the season, the posts end.

Two things happened. I read an NPR story called, The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We’re All Going To Miss Almost Everything. It blew me away.

The story boldly highlights the reality that I will never hear the majority of good music that exists in the world. That’s right, never. The same is true of reading books, seeing movies, and encountering art. Their grasp is forever beyond me. There isn’t anything I can do to change that either (or you for that matter).

The article does a nice job describing two different ways people appear to be handling finding themselves in this position. Some eliminate whole categories of things by dismissing them. They say things like, “There isn’t anything good on TV, so I don’t watch it.” Or “I like every kind of music, except Country.” By eliminating a category or two of entertainment, you shrink your list of what you need to see and hear and watch.

Others surrender to this reality. If culling is another way of describing the “bucket list” experience, then surrender may be a way of thinking about experiences you really want to have that will, in all likelihood “miss-the-bucket.” In other words, even though you’d love to have an experience, you realize that it’s probably not going to happen. Your desire isn’t enough. You let go.

Something like this happened to me yesterday. I ran into a friend at the neighborhood farmers market and watched her buy a basket of tomatoes for eleven dollars. I asked her, “Why are you buying those.” She replied, “I like the meat in these tomatoes.” I think they were Roma’s. I continued, “No, I mean, what will you do with all of them?” “Can them. We have a pressure canner.” I remained puzzled. “Can I ask a silly question?” “Sure.” “Why will you do that? I don’t get it.” “Well it’s about flavor and cost. . . . I just used the last jar of tomatoes we canned last summer.” “Wow” was all I could say. I returned home thinking about the canning many of my friends were doing. Should I be canning veggies too? Was I missing out? Did I need to do something about this? If I did, and I think I–yes I want to! What supplies do I need? I emailed a friend who cans, and asked for advice. I visited the website of The National Center for Home Food Preservation. I searched amazon.com for pressure canners. I didn’t know what one was. I had a mission. I was going to figure this out.

Meanwhile on Facebook, a friend commented that a picture of cinnamon rolls I’d posted that morning, photographed in low light and bearing a yellow tinge as a result, looked delicious. “i think you need to open up a bakery.” That’s what she said. Another, “they look a little radioactive.” Note to self, next time use flash. The effect of those comments was to help me realize that while canning may be desirable, cost effective and a wonderful way to eat local vegetables all year long, I didn’t have to do it. I might like the idea very much. That doesn’t mean I need to add it to my list of things that I do. I let go of it and surrendered. I bake almost all the bread I eat. I do not can. That’s okay.

I mentioned earlier that a second thing happened after I wrote my last post. Here’s what it was, I took my own advice. That post is about paying attention and being who you say you are. It’s about making sure your actions match your words and how it’s easy to let yourself slip out of alignment. We lie to ourselves all the time. We tell stories about who we want to be and pretend that’s who we are. Sometimes our actions catch up to our words. Sometimes they don’t. Last March, many of my actions and words were in different places. Good or bad, that’s where I was.

I let go of the blog, because I was culling too much out of my life to make it happen. I’ve been recovering from a brain injury for two years. My capacity, as a result, is diminished. I’m getting better. I am not there, yet. In February and March those Lenten posts took me six to eight hours to write. Each. That’s a chunk of time. They’re not that long. To make the writing happen, I had to remove things from my schedule. Some of the things I cut were important. I put other things on hold that I needed to work on, too.

When I stopped writing, I didn’t consciously realize any of this. Only now, as I look back, can I say these things. Only now, can I see and find perspective. What I was aware of then is that I was, as the NPR story says, “separated from so much.” That realization overwhelmed me. I stopped.

What’s changed? This post will come in at just under five hours when it’s done, with the bulk of the writing happening in a single sitting. Even at a thousand words, that’s slow. While I’d like to be able to write a post in half that time, it’s a heck of a lot of progress. I did most of this work in the late evening, as the day wound down. That’s my actions and words coming into alignment. I have good friends helping me to understand how my actions align with my words. Some have the courage to tell me when I’m being an ass. That’s more important than you know. One, humbles me, here, with lovely words that are all about her journey.

Yesterday at the market, my favorite farmer looked at me and said, “Well. It’s a good day isn’t? You’re holding your head high and have a smile on your face that matches the weather. What can I get for you?” He’s a good farmer and a good salesman. And he knows a shade of bliss when he sees it.

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Four Questions

Who are you?

Whose are you?

What do you want?

Where are you now?

Four fundamental questions. It’s been along time since I’ve written. There are bunches of post on fb, yes. Some of my longer fb posts belong here, or somewhere like this I think.

So, on the heels of a reminder over Thanksgiving. With a gentle push from one of my favorite bloggers and the assistance of the prompts from the folks at reverb10 I begin again.

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Nothing Fancy

In April of 1987 I began keeping a book of poems. The book is a marbled green variation of the classic composition notebook. Except the cover is stiff and inside you’ll find graph paper, not lined. I’ve kept it– treasured it–for twenty years. From time to time, I’ve added another poem to the collection. The journal–that’s what it really is–opens with two poems from 1985, but they are not the only thing the book holds.

Here’s what I found inside the cover:

A yellowed copy of Stan Grossfeld’s Pulitzer prize winning photo of an Ethiopian mother and child in Wad Sharafin Camp in the Sudan from 1984. I’d cut it out of the Boston Globe when it was originally published. I consider the image to be the epitome of the Third World Madonna and Child. I also have a photocopy of the same newspaper clipping. The original has held up better.

A short essay by Linda Weltner. She used to write a column titled, “Ever so humble…” for the Boston Globe. This one is about marriage. I’m not sure what year it’s from, but I remember being struck by these lines, “Marriage is no safe harbor. There’s danger there, and a dark surge of powerful emotions. Over the years I’ve contemplated murder and known true contentment. I’ve felt trapped and liberated, challenged and defeated, in despair, yet determined to keep this love alive.” As I struggled through my marriage, I often hearkened back to them hoping I could sustain what was a very flawed relationship. In reviewing it now, I realized I’d never remembered the words that followed that sentence: “The decision to marry means having faith in your own power to create the life you want with the person you have chosen, and that is something [couples] have to find within themselves.”

There’s a draft of a poem–or was it a song?–written in 1999 to a friend at LSU I’d lost and found and was losing again. Did I ever send it? Did I finish it? I have no idea. The draft itself is coarse sandpaper rough. I still hope to find her and look from time to time.

Another clipping. A photo cut from the National Catholic Reporter of a Peruvian Crucifix sculpted by Edilberto Merida. The Christ figure is rendered in a traditional indigenous form. The hands, feet and facial features are all oversized. Like the Grossfeld photo, this is a Christ of the poor.

The last clipping is an article from the Sunday Globe from 1989 by David Nyhan on the growing numbers of refugees throughout the world. I’m pretty sure I kept it because the story frames the Grossfeld photo.

After that a page left blank followed by two poems from 1985.

I remember buying the book to hold a flurry of poems I found myself writing. The two from ’85 had probably been written on individual pieces of paper and saved. That was a time in my life when I would write as inspiration struck and present my poems as random gifts to friends and strangers.

Twenty years later I begin this virtual book where I will endeavor to write from time to time as inspiration strikes. Here you’ll find links, clippings and musings of mine. Nothing fancy, just plain text notes.

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