Bad words and damnation and playing with light…..

By jennifer | June 16, 2022 |

To remove from my body both lymph nodes and splintered wood took a minute.
I spent a wakeful night in the hospital afterwards tripping on pain meds that didn’t agree with me,
my forty-three-year-old body also balking at the antibiotic in my line.
The list of drugs I could no longer safely take kept growing
and I hobbled a gimpy pace about it while
looking down on the lights of Elizabeth Street in Charlotte,
my room overlooking a part of the city where I’d ventured a few times for art supplies.
I wanted to be okay in the worst sort of way,
wondering if I’d ever again sling paint or make a garden or cradle my guitar.
The thick painful ham that seemed to dangle from my right shoulder felt
useless and vulnerable.

But what pricked me restless more during that long night was the unnerving fear
that this seeming trainwreck of a health crisis
was somehow a sign.
A deserved consequence.
A bed I’d made and now would need to lie down in
or figure out how to escape.

Hmmm.
So,
in trying to upgrade my experience as a woman, I’d gone into some gray territory
and made some decisions that ended up making me pretty sick,
Did something crappy happen as a result?
Yes.
Could I have known this would be my outcome?  No.
And wasn’t grace wide and strong enough for this?
Was the suffering of this sorry situation some sort of severe punishment?
Like Karma?  Like some twisted take on the judgement of God?
What exactly was I afraid that I’d set into motion with my mistake,
and what was this chill of a feeling that dogged me each time?

I remember vivid the first time I felt that same sickly stomach drop.
In kindergarten and home after lunch
I was supposed to be taking a nap.
Instead of ticking that box,
I’d slipped to the floor, playing happily with my paperdolls.
For some reason I got frustrated, likely because of the flimsy paper tabs.
I called something stupid.  Out loud.
“Stupid” was the heinous word I uttered.
Just then a siren pierced the quiet afternoon
and a fear shot through me that sent me quick into a panic.
They were coming for me, I was sure of it.   Because I’d “cursed”.

I cannot even tell you where this ridiculous idea originated.
But fear of punishment seized me with a hefty slam
and I ran sobbing to my mother,  apologizing over and over again.
She assured and reassured that no one was coming to haul me off,
reminded me again not to “use bad words,”  and sent me back to my room for a restless nap.

Now here I was almost forty years later utterly unnerved by the sirens in my body,
signs calling out simply that something needed tending.
The fear all of this flushed up was unconscious,
likely generations deep.
The healing that found me during the dark days after
seemed also unlikely.
A knowing settled soft on my anxious mind,  like a holy nudge,
and I began to play.

It was September in the South and the trees were still hugging their leaves.
I watched them linger in the last of their greens
knowing they would soon begin their bright dance of letting go.
Leaves.  Healing things.
I pulled out old paints and began brushing glistening paint across the tops of leaves
I plucked from the dogwood tree outside my window.
Setting paint-side down on paper,  I ran my right hand gently across the folded paper towel
I pressed on top and then pulled up the leaf to delight in the print.
Painting and pressing,  playing with colors,  mixing and marveling
at the sweet kiss of veins and ridges and exquisite shapes
each leaf gifted.
Nothing to accomplish, no one else to satisfy,  slow and easy movement,
taking easy joy in the little song each leaf left behind
in color for my eyes to keep.

Kind of like Kindergarten for my old soul and bones,
only without the pressure for performance that I felt so keenly
all those years ago.
(to be continued…..)

“Who am I to deserve such sights,  to witness such splendor?
Who am I to be the recipient of such excess?  Thank you
for trusting me with this colocr,  this light.  Thank you
for reminding me,  always,  what lives behind the dark.”
– Tyler Knott Gregson

Thank you for coming around again as I dig out one more bite of this story
that I have to say is setting me free again in some places
where the weeds had grown thick again.
(Isn’t that just the way with gardens:
you cultivate and tend and water and wait
and when life knocks you down
you go back,  clear it out,  and go again.)

I’m thinking I’ll wrap up this story next post?
Eager to share what I’ve discovered growing in this garden
since I came out and started pulling the weeds:)

And congrats to Susan Ferris – your name came up in the drawing;
I’m super-glad to send you a copy of my book,  Volume 2
of Tell Me Something Good.
She’ll be headed your way tomorrow!

Leave a comment and into the drawing for another
you go!

Wide stretched wings and deep mud knees….

By jennifer | May 13, 2022 |

When those implants came out there came to me the freedom of a child,
a release from heaving false things around.
I had let a few close friends in, let them support me as I journeyed through,
and felt the warm touch of sunlight in a room I’d shut away.
Nourished and known, it felt like a freefall into something alive,
something for which I’d always hungered
but never knew how to feed it.
I reconnected with the part of myself that had once felt safe
being just as I am.

I even spoke to a few women’s groups, sharing the story and
some words that felt breathed right from the lungs
of a God who knew my name:
“those who look to him are radiant,
their faces never covered with shame,”
I had walked through this shamestorm clinging to that psalm
and dove headlong into the wonder,
exploring the possibility of doing life
without the heavy hidden shame I’d felt since long before I could remember.
Shame for what?  I couldn’t say,
but somehow it had always been a thing when I messed up.
And in my mind I’d messed up big by getting breast implants.
With them out
now there came a lightening. A little lilt.
For a season I felt footloose and free.

I prayed some reckless prayers in those days
and I’m grateful for times when my heart was soft enough to mean them.
For years I walked in that honest place inside myself
and then again we moved,
away from that cocoon of safety
where I’d struggled for and stretched out tender wings.
If my old environment had been a sleepy backroad where I could putter in peace,
this new season sparked a highway of colorful creatives and electrified energies
that both thrilled and intimidated me.
I was being accepted by these bright spirits whom I’d admired from a distance,
invited and somehow swept into the current,
and I felt exhilarated.
Like the blackbird,  it seemed that all my life had been a waiting for this moment to arise
and now my wobbly wings were growing strong.
In some ways I was starting to fly.

And then one day there came a tearing,
as if I’d flown too close to barbed wire and punctured the dream.
We’d started a family gardening business and now my already busy days
were stretched long with bone-wearying labor after my regular work hours at school.
I blamed the strange pain that developed in my right arm and chest on the hard stretch of a new season,
thinking my body just resented the intrusion and would eventually thrive as I got stronger.
I just need to be stronger;  that was the message I kept sending
the shudder in my chest wall when I’d squeeze closed the loppers again and again
as I pruned my way through gnarled tangles of debris.
We grew our business quickly by doing the jobs no one wanted to tackle
and threw myself into it,  body and soul.
In the past I’d get a little high out of this kind of push,
a sweet shot of adrenalin with the call to rise.
But this muddy, achy sick kept feeling sicker.

A worried friend suggested some body work and I made an appointment for my first ever massage.
The fatigue and flu-like symptoms I experienced just afterwards
were soon joined by a fever that I just couldn’t shake.
This couldn’t be one big hot mess of a detox, could it?
And after the massage the pain in my arm and chest became only more severe.
When I finally tagged in a doctor it was because I noticed a red streak running the ridge
from my right breast to my right armpit.
I was diagnosed with mastitis.
Mastitis? In a bewildered sounding voice one nurse actually asked me
how long since I’d stopped lactating.
“Almost 20 years,”  I sighed.
Yeah. So weird.

 The puzzled looks I got from the medical world over the next days
coaxed up insecurities long buried as I waited out the test results
and the gnarly side effects of a potent antibiotic.
I worried that another tumor had developed and was wrecking havoc.
Could I explain this to my new world?
When results were called in:  “The lymphatic system under your right arm is severely infected
because it’s completely filled and blocked by silicone,”
I felt shoved down a flight of stairs.
If I’d been suffering from something “normal” I would have reached for the phone,  calling out
for prayer and support.
I would have cried on some shoulders and held a few hands.
But this was odd in a way that came with a side of isolation,
and I went quiet, shuffling it into the dark.

Wait.
What about how costly these fine new wings?
What about the beauty of full frontal honesty?
What about how shame is the thief of intimacy,
about all those things you said?
What about being true?
What about defying the silence shame seems to require?
And why does this even feel so very, very shameful?
What’s even going on here?

My tired soul couldn’t rise to the questions.
And so I settled for a “true” that wasn’t honest
and hid away the parts too hard to explain.
The day before my surgery to remove the lymph nodes in my right arm,
I punched some old familiar numbers into the phone,
timidly reaching for a faraway friend.
As we caught up about kids and career and changes,  that old hiss to hush came haunting.
It felt good to connect around the sweet stuff.
To tell the triumphs and share the tears that could be shared.
Each time I grabbed at the courage to say the words,
that old longing to just be “okay” rose up and choked them back down.
As we talked, my dog Wally dashed onto the wooden deck where I was pacing on the phone
and began barking at something in the woods.
As I turned, lunging to sort out the chase,
my bare foot scraped up a rough section of the decking
and treated wood chunks splintered off, piercing deeply the ball of my foot.
This wasn’t just a cluster of splinters;
there was a gnarled chunk of wood embedded in my foot
When the Urgent Care directed me straight to the ER,
I explained I was having surgery already tomorrow.
Calls were made and my foot was added to the list of my parts
that needed some serious repair.

Limp, limp…..limp, limp….my aching wings.
I felt as if they may never fly again.
(continued next post)

“I’m learning that there are some things
that can’t be taught in the space
of shortcuts, but rather must be
cultivated on the frontlines-
the long way, knee deep in
mud, fumbling in the dark, or
in the mess and when you are
daring to be beautifully – brave.”
– Tess Guinery

Big squeeze to Cathy Davis (my cousin!) for your name popping up in the drawing.
I’ll be sending you my book with big love.
Thanks for coming around and leaving your kind comments,  ya’ll:)
I’ll do another drawing from this post’s comments
and post the winner next time I show up.
Which will likely be sooner now that planting season
is settling into a slower gentler pace.

A table of weeds and a heave of grace…..

By jennifer | April 8, 2022 |

Four years into life with adequate bosoms there came an aching under my arm,
a numbness to my fingers that would come when I played hard with my kids
or worked vigorous in the yard.
Eventually I could feel it, a tumor the size of a tennis ball.
I was scheduled for surgery and waited eager after for the biopsy report.
The young general surgeon was flippant with his quick share –
not cancer;  it’s a reaction to silicone.

Huh?

I’m 34 now and where is my voice?  My questions?
I remember only the speed at which I escaped his office,
shaken with shame.

What have I done?
My body made a tumor because I got fixed?
Never did I imagine this was a possibility- certainly no one said.
I’m thinking of the couple of kid’s ball games I missed while my arm dangles in a sling,
of the concern my faith community is showing for me while I recover,
how completely undeserved now feels all this care.
People have brought us food – what can I even say to this?
“It’s not cancer,” I fake-smile to those who ask,  and pretend to share their relief.
Part of me wishes that it was,  so deep is the shame that hushes my voice
and compels me to swallow the secret.
I live in a new town, new community, and I don’t want anyone to know
that it’s all really my fault,
how much more I may really be less than.

I want the implants out but that takes three more years of living,
three more years of also wanting to keep this emboldened beauty
that gives me leverage in the coming from way behind.
I want them out but I grieve how will I ever see him looking at me
and not dissect his glance for traces of disappointment.
I want them out but how will I hide it?
Who won’t wince shame that I’m not what I seem?
So, yeah, I want them out but it takes some more living.

We reside in a new town when I travel back to Raleigh for the surgery to remove them,
back to the same place and smells and feels and my skin crawls mad
but I’m ridiculously pleasant
when the nurse wakes me up in recovery to tell me that the implants have ruptured
and, what a mess,  they did the best they could.
It took a while to clean up the silicone
and I feel sorry for their trouble.
Like clean up on aisle nine;  sorry for the spill.
Sorry to be a bother.

I lay flat on the gurney in a fog, wrapped in heavy bandages
and squeak the only one question I can tug free
before the busy nurse hurries me into my clothes:
“Will it be okay?”
“Mm-hmm,” she chirps,
and then, “you just need to get some rest,
let those sutures heal
and let us know if you want to size up next time.”
The suggestion stirs my stomach queasy
and I groan something about never again
and gather myself up for the ride home.
It’s finally over.

And with a heave of grace,  it was okay.
Until it wasn’t.

“A woman standing in the weeds.
A small boat flounders in the deep waves, and what’s coming next
is coming with it’s own heave and grace.”
– Mary Oliver

I hate leaving the story here!  I started this series last post and will
keep on telling until my pen runs clear;
Always there is risk in the telling because I want to say it true
but can’t tell it fast enough to say all the colors.
I won’t leave you here in the weeds:)
(I promise this girl gets free:))
I appreciate your kind words, each and every one.

Congratulations to Maureen Blake;  I drew your name:)
I’m thrilled to send a book your way.
I want to give away another book this week;
leave a comment and you’re in the hat!

Silicone sorrows and weeping wings….

By jennifer | March 23, 2022 |

I’ve had a broken wing.
Sometimes gimpy these last 30 years,
it’s been cut up to remove tumor and
strip lymph nodes.
I’ve grieved some things, especially how a swollen pain will insert itself
when I paint and write and prune and plant
and sometimes just breathe air.
I used to imagine the injury a thief,
something that came hunting down my joy and identity,
looking to steal away
the way I expressed
the real of me.

I guess the real thief felt at times too painful to face,
certainly too shameful to share.
If I kept moving forward as wholehearted as I knew how,
I could pack that stuff away and defy the damage with my life-living.
Could out-maneuver the regret always simmering beneath the surface.
But there it would come again, from deep down in my basement,  an ugly accusation:
“you did this to yourself;  you get what you deserve.”

It took a lifetime to build that message,
taking root long before 30-year-old me got silicone breast implants.
A mother of 3 under five,  I felt depleted,  un-see-able,
one who is less
(which was a tragic flaw for a girl who was also just way too much).
And so I let them cut me open and put things right,
to add enough
so that I may become
one who is loved.

It had seemed like a solution,
the result of an unlikely offer, free of charge, which felt serendipitous.
Of course the brochures boasted that they would easily correct my flaw
so that I could make my way through this world with confidence as a woman.
It would be a breeze.

After surgery the anesthesiologist approached me, shaking his head,
to tell me how it had taken more than double the drugs to keep me down
and that I’d even briefly woken – how I’d be especially groggy for awhile because
I’d been so heavily medicated.
I think my heart was screaming what I couldn’t yet hear.
Every woman who chooses this surgery has her own reasons;
mine were rooted in lies.
And somehow my body knew it.

I had a brief skin reaction to the implants in the weeks following surgery
and there came an inexplicable fatigue.
In the months and years to come it felt like there’d been a break-up between me and my body,
as if I’d bought some ill-fitting shoes and just needed to woman up and wear them.
I willed my mind to accept these better breasts as my own.
The recovery had been a far cry from the quick bounce back to normal
all the busty nurses had reassured
and I wanted to just smooth it all over and move on.
I felt ashamed, as if I deserved the discomfort I carried
because I’d been the one who put those pebbles in my shoe
and needed now to suck it up.
And quietly.
(continued next post)

There is way more story to tell and it’s coming as I tug it free.
This is the first of a series –
I’m in the thick of working through some heavy things
and coming over here to unpack my stuff
as I’ve done so often.
I’ve got a lot to say and I hope maybe some healing to offer
in the share.

“The three big lies:
I am what I have.
I am what I do.
I am what others say about me.”
– Henry Nouwen

I want to offer up my book as a giveaway during this series.
Because it’s such a love letter to the real, raw, un-fixed of you.
The you who was born to be loved.
Leave a comment and you’re in the drawing.

 

Muddy tracks and incorrigible hope…

By jennifer | March 1, 2022 |

Hello March and hello you:)

I’ve been courting the quiet and
trying to unhurry about it.
The girl I used to be would’ve been horrified by the gap,
annoyed and shamefaced with all the gaps I’ve come to keep
since my body stopped reliably getting on board
with my plans.
That idealistic sprite has grown into someone far more accepting,
less judgy, even of her own challenging self:)

I want to explain,
to paint a picture that will satisfy the questions
(my own included)
so that it all makes sweet cozy sense.
So far such a paint eludes me.

But I will say “hey!”
And how beautiful it is to see the daffodils pressing
through the cold hard ground,  insisting on beauty.
And how brilliant when they come around again, fresh new mornings,
like a pale sky promise being kept.
And how I’ve loved making little bites of art to tuck into paths and pockets
for someones to find and maybe feel hugged by the hope.
And how I’ve grown some new songs and planted some seeds and found some joy
and carved some grooves and said so many thank you’s
for some changes.

And how I’ve come to think that it’s okay when sometimes all I’ve got to share
is a prayer
which is plenty good enough
because of all the times we humans can feel
we haven’t got one.

So here’s one today – join me if your heart nods yes.
( For Ukraine, for the oppressed.  For every hurting soul)

Lord,
stand up
where the sirens wail
and make peace be at home there.
Into every racing mind,
in the anxious poundings of each aching heart,
let your soothing
breath
rest.
And our own feet,
may they follow hard
after the muddy tracks
of an incorrigible
hope.

Thanks for joining me – squeezing your hand across the waves
with love and a teary smile.

“Prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history,
we are loved and chosen, and do not have to get it together before showing up.”
– Anne Lamott

A visit to your holiday porch….

By jennifer | December 17, 2021 |

Stopping by with the handwritten card
that I dream to leave beside your door
with a fragrant little bundle of rosemary, eucalyptus and pine
wrapped in barn red raffia
and maybe some good chocolate and a small tin of tea.
I’d have smiled affectionate as I penned your name
on envelope, giddy that I got to even know you at all.

Love and merriness, it would say,
with big hope that these coming days find you replenished
and refreshed
in all the ways.
And I’d wrap each one in prayer
that the hard, dry shells of tough times
and circumstances
would yield soft to newborn green breaking through
like the strange crackling tenderness of the amaryllis bulbs
drawing my eyes daily to the table
where sunshine coaxes beauty from the dark.

(It’s terrible and wonderful how pain
can stir our roots to deep diving
into new pages
that waited
buried in the breaking
all along.)

Then I’d climb down off your porch,
headed home to rest,
and quickly turn around
to blow a kiss
as I head back to my own place.
Because your spirit is an essence
that turns my heart to look again,
as if a light is sparkling merry through the dark.
Even when I don’t come around here as often
or see you over there doing the wonders that you do,
I feel you and am richer for the sensing.

I remember the you in your places
and I hold that close with love and joy.

A tender merry Christmas and beautiful holiday,
dear one.
May you release like papers to the fire
the heaviness of these long, worn months

“The stars nodded,
The ocean agreed,
The flowers chorused,
Bloom now – bloom free!

Rise,  again.”

– Tess Guinery

(And congrats to Lisa Moreland – I drew your name!
Shoot me your snail mail address and I’ll send a copy of my visual hug
to you asap! )

To see and say a giving…

By jennifer | November 23, 2021 |

To you,  dear ones, who come ’round and read the words
I sometimes write down…
it’s been years of kindness,
of you bringing the balm
that stirred my joy and made my heart feel safe.
On this harsh and prickly planet we navigate,
how did I receive such a gentle listening shoulder
for to process the tumble?
For all of my rough drafts and question-wrestling
and especially in these days when I could barely return the visit
or the nod.

Every single comment has felt like rainwater
to this farmer whose love language
is words of affirmation.
And gifts.   That someone takes the time is a gift and I hold it as so.
To be acknowledged feels a powerful thing;
hand to my heart for each verbal flower you’ve left at my door.
Visual hugs are potent
and I’ve received them many here.
Thank you for coming around.

They say you write what you need.
This year I made a book which became the gift I needed to give and receive,
like a bright bunch of flowers left at a door
with a little card dangling from the twine wrapped simple around the jar.
It’s 90 pages of affirmation, little love notes to whisper
“I’m for you,
so for you
….only every always for you.”
As if some gentle mystery keeps drawing your eyes
when the clock marks 4:44.
A God-wink with warm affection for the beauty
that is you.
(this is what grew up in the garden from my one little word
planted early in the year.)

If you know someone who’d feel hugged by this,
I think my little book may be welcome gift.

“But what I thought, and what I still think, and always will,
is that she saw me.  Nobody else has ever seen me –
me, Jenny Gluckstein – like that.
Not my parents, not Julian, not even Meena.
Love is one thing – recognition is something else.”
– Peter S. Beagle

“There is no greater gift you can give others
than to acknowledge them.”
– John Williams

(It’s big joy to send a copy of Tell Me Something Good Volume 2
to giveaway winner,
my high school English teacher,  Jane Brocious,
who has been forgiving me the liberties I take with the english language
for many, many years:)
One more giveaway before the holidays
– leave a comment and you’re in the drawing
to receive another copy.

And again, thank you for every kind word ever.
With big love.

You can purchase a copy of this bundle of love notes on my etsy site on the sidebar
or at Singing River Studios.

Tell Me Something I can hold

By jennifer | October 18, 2021 |

When I married I became a more acceptable thing
in the eyes of the religion I ran from.
Having a good man take me as his wife was a hall pass in this constricting world,
a ticket upgrade that gave me access to better hiding places
from the shame I felt dogged by in my youth.
Too young we said our vows and bought a house
and began making a new story that I believed if I lived well enough
would be strong medicine to erase my old pain.
Just fix it all with fresh paint
and rows of pretty flowers.

Someone was willing to have me,
right in front of God,
and I hoped this proof enough that
I might be salvaged,
along with the bits of my heart that shattered years before
when I let go my baby girl
to release her to another mother
because I wasn’t nearly enough
to remain hers.

So when into our fledgling marriage came another baby girl beautiful,
I loved her with the fury of one who has already lost one child
to her own unworthiness.
I loved her wholehearted and also fearful,
dogged by gnawing hunger to do right
because my heart had heard them hard, words like wrong and unfit
and would my fitness pass muster now these seven years since?
Then along came a boy-gift,  beloved and bright,
and then another son of sweetness – all the apples of my eyes.
My young heart spilled wild love;  they were my world.
And like a sea turtle returning to the beach where she was birthed,
I scrambled to the knowing tree,
with these bright beings
in tow.
To keep them safe and shield them
because it was the only way I’d known.

(This is my why I offer compassion instead of distain
for those trapped by fundamentalist thinking;
I know what it is to be a mamabear with bloody paw
caught in the steel teeth of that fearful-rigid trap.)

I hear people say how they have no regrets,
how they’re glad for what happened because it made them the people they are now.
I have no grid for that.
If I could bargain for it now, I’d paint their childhoods all over again
in a wholly different tone.
From a fiercely nourishing tree.
And from that Living tree I’ve poured forgiveness
on all the people, and especially myself,
and released that mom-guilt to the wind,
to the sacred river-running-through who does the restoring
of what my own hands
can’t mend.

This whole messy business of being a mother,
and now of loving grown up someones more than actual air,
but not knowing exactly how or how much or
what-just-now to offer….when or if to say the things.
Much of what I make and share spills from this place.
To leave it here for them to someday find
with a hopeful trust that it will splash them good in the living
when they need,
if they need,
but not swamp their boats when they don’t.

It grows my love for all the someones,
for all the beings learning how to be,
and for the Tree who scoops us all into a taller and more tender grace
than a body can imagine.
I often think my kids taught me to love,
or at least showed me how deep love goes.
And this new book – I made it for them.
It’s a smattering of the fruits I would have plucked from living tree
and grinned as the juice dribbled sweet down their chins
those short golden hours.

My imaginary do-over:)
The things I would go back and say.
The fistfull of flowers I want to leave some days at their doors
with a written note “for you” that means “oh how I’m for you,”
“and God only for you,”
and “ever always for you.”
Along with the words I long to have lived with them
instead of the ones I sometimes settled for
in the foreboding thicket
of the wrong-ass
tree.

I know we don’t get do-overs,
but we sometimes get more time.
This is the book I made with mine.

It’s available for you and yours,  too.
With love.
Pre-orders open over at http://singingriverstudios.com

“I love
you.
Tell me the words
you need to hear.
And I
will say them.
Over and over and over
until the echo sings
like whispered hymns
in the broken rubble
where churches
once stood.”
– Tyler Knott Gregson

Giving away a pre-order to a copy of Volume 2
to be mailed out as soon as it’s fresh off the press.
Just leave a comment and you’re in the drawing.

And,  hey,  I realize navigating religious weirdness doesn’t resonate with many.
It’s a niche of a story,  mine,  but it’s the one I’ve got and so I share
with hope that bits and pieces may be life to another heart
in the throes of healing and change.
Thanks for hearing me.

 

 

Safeheld in the tree that knows me….

By jennifer | October 10, 2021 |

(continued from previous post….)

I grew up amongst the two trees,
feeling the stirrings of them both.
The living tree was where I knew joy,  and a peaceable rest that sprung up
from feeling safe in the
easy just being.
I took refuge in these branches most often alone,  when stress and clamor didn’t steal
away the childlike yes it took to dwell there.
But when hot fever of shame sent my ego into storm,
I’d retreat to the thick branches of the knowing tree
where I’d take comfort in my narrative carefully written:
Who to side with – who was good.
And who or what to blame when feeling less than.

To figure it out,
so that I could feel justified and so at least safe
from the fear of judgement that came creeping
like a shadow in the dark,
lurking always when I felt undeserving of love and care.
And here in any shamestorm,  if I could play the right part hard enough,
I could get high on feeling  like I’d scrambled to a tower, lofty above the fray.
There were perks to dwelling in the tree that seemed to know,
like camaraderie among the approved.
We could be good together,
or against together,
or at least safe together in the camp of the upper-hand.
And even though as a child I had a soft spot for mystery,
it grew harder with every need to prove my right-standing,
to self-protect,
to know and be right.

Yeah I spent years driving nails into coffins
where I buried my wonder alive.

I broke up with the knowing tree years ago,
but I can slip,  and I do,
slip fast like an addict with just one sip.
I can be self-righteous
and I don’t want to live there anymore.
Where some god is propped behind a smoking curtain
while little men demand my attention to their booming bluster.
Especially in this season where the wizard behind the curtain seems to be
whipped into a frenzy,
and we’re called out as stupid if we don’t buy.
How dare I approach the great and powerful?

Well  I have a thing for this tree.
The living one.
This is where I want to spend myself.
On a love so safe that it’s shelter,
a knowing so wide that it’s wonderment
and a belonging so secure that I’m always and anywhere
home
with One who welcomes and wants me as I am.

And when the mad in me goes bitter,
when fear sends me scrambling for what I worry must be scarce,
when I feel somehow superior
or ashamed,
I can trace it back
to the fruit
I’ve been
eating
again.
Stupid tree.

God,
help me settle like a child into the tree growing up
like a fountain from your heart.

And in places where I’ve drawn back like a stranger to love
because I’ve taken on some lies
and missed the affectionate twinkle
in the only eyes that get to tell me who I am,

may I remember it again
and again
and as many times as it takes:
don’t eat from the tree
made of eyes that can never see or know me.

Again choosing life in the living
while the wind rustles love songs from God.

“I have refused to live
locked in the orderly house
of reasons and proofs.
The world I live in and believe in
is wider than that.  And anyway,
what’s wrong with Maybe?

You wouldn’t believe what once or
twice I have seen.  I’ll just
tell you this:
only if there are angels in your head will you
ever,  possibly,  see one.”
– Mary Oliver

Congrats to Rebecca Lanning on the name-draw.
I’ll be sending out your bundle this week
with a whole lot of love!

Two trees growing up in the garden…..

By jennifer | September 16, 2021 |

I’ve heard it told of two trees growing up in a garden,
two filters,  two perspectives,  two ways;
one a driven religion to be right and know,
to category and label living things.
Superiority feels like shelter in this system
and it demands that those who eat it’s fruit conform.

The second tree is freedom from this judgement,
instead it holds both the dark night cold and the clear sky blue
without fearing the colors and range.
Doesn’t demonize or categorize but
a spacious system supple enough to let people be where they are
until they aren’t.
This living-tree pulses powerful with compassion and grief
while the knowing tree draws from roots of punishment and shame.

These trees can be felt everywhere
like a river running through.
You can feel the slap and shove of the knowing tree when you
question,  when you try to listen open,
when you draw back from the fast food it’s selling.
It has no patience for growing and preparing food for thought,
no tolerance for the slowness of God.
There is a quietude to the living tree
because it doesn’t bristle,
controlling and scared.
 The knowing tree rages at this living tree’s generous way
because it fears the living,
doesn’t do the messy,
of living things.

And humans are hard to get to know
without a lot of time and trust and conversation,
especially if your goal is to narrow down the wide
into piles of evil and good.

Perhaps the human heart was never meant for dissecting at all.
Knowing someone can take a lifetime
and the knowing tree has no patience for this mystery.
It wants cliff notes filed through fast
instead of a novel to discover and digest.

Humans are bewildering to the knowing tree,
often simply problems to be solved.
So the way people are wired is a conundrum for the knowing tree
which likes to keep a tidy god,  well-managed and contained.
Left brained or right,
liberal or conservative,
religious or secular,
engineer or artist
– an impossibly ridiculous (and unnecessary) range.
This unholy mosh must be cooked down into a self-same stew
because there is no rest for those in the stranglehold of this system
if it can’t get a vice grip handle
on evil and good.

It has to be one or the other,
which is likely why the fruit from this tree
has such a harsh and bitter bite.

It will say,  with authority,  what it “knows”
as if it’s perfectly and positively true.
It scrambles to this knowing without question
and ascertains the motives of a heart,
what’s gonna happen next,
what someone meant by what they said or did,
and,  especially,
what God thinks and feels about
pretty much everything.

And this tree thrives because we humans have a powerful low tolerance
for looking stupid
so if we’re gonna live from a freer place
we have to make peace
with looking a fool.

Yeah,  the knowing tree has mastered the art of mocking.
Of the side-eye,  the eye roll,  the mic drop and the sneer.
And it offers up what Anne Lamott calls “snappy explanations for suffering.”
The knowing tree has it all figured out.
Oversimplified.
You can check your gut at the door and simply pick up your pre-approved script.
(to be continued…)

“There is nothing you can’t prove if only your outlook
is sufficiently limited.”
– Dorothy Sayers

(this feels like storytime with Jenny and I’m loving the telling,
my heart especially needs it now to hear.
I aim to come back next week with another portion;
I need to write this,
especially as I fall deeper in love with the living tree
and also grieve it out, all the unholy knowing that I’ve done.
~ thanks for your always generous patience
in my working it out.)

To celebrate the living in the tangle of these times,
I want to give away a bundle.
A signed book,  some art,  and some handwritten love
from me to you.
Leave a comment and your name goes into the drawing:)

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