Two trees growing up in the garden…..

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:)

Thank you note to where I am now……

Dear where and how I am just exactly now,
(dear reality)

I want to welcome you.
And apologize for the cold shoulder I’ve turned
instead of the warm embrace
that I offer now.
Honestly I’ve been scared to accept you
because you’re a really uncomfortable place for me
and it’s habit to dodge and resist something
that feels as dangerous as you seem.
I want deadlines and answers and,
honestly, I feel pretty homesick for the whole idea of “safe.”
Even if it always was an illusion,
the concept felt comforting and,  well,
you don’t.

I wasn’t able to have this conversation with you earlier
because I sort of froze up,
hunkered down from the fears and flares that keep flushing up sudden
like pheasants exploding from a field.
You’ve rattled me,  and I thought if I waited you out a little longer
you’d go back to wherever you came from and
then I’d cozy my mind into taking a breather
from the hornet’s nest of dread
that feels sometimes suspended from the dark corner of my imagination.

But here we are instead and clearly you’re here
until you aren’t.
And I haven’t even thanked you for coming
because, honestly,  I’ve resented the intrusion.
But I’ve been watching and listening and have to admit
that there is something beautiful about what’s happening here.

Like an awkward yoga pose
that holds and holds until I’m shaking and tottering;
there’s just no way to be smooth about you.
The fact that I’m feeling even more uncool than ever,
more uncertain,  more vulnerable,
is something I accept.
But here you are still,  and there’s something that I love
about how you’re pressing on my entitlement issues
until I have to feel them angry rising.

I never wanted or asked for this,
never was cavalier about the virus,
yet here I am.
Why can this land for me as somehow not right?
Why do I feel that maybe I should get a different road?
One that lets me feel large and in charge,  or at least safe.
What if here and now,  exactly as it is,  is happening
for me.
( not that some puppet master is playing me to build character or teach a lesson
– I don’t believe that –  but this storm may be raising the water levels
in some rivers that my soul will thrill to see).

Maybe I can learn to un-freeze
even in this,
to find the beauty in the breaking.
To shake off the fear (as many times as it takes)
and live wholehearted whatever cards this deck serves up.
Death comes to us all,
but I don’t want to turn my life in
more than once.
So I’m thinkin’ maybe stop un-living some of these hours,
especially since the glass is getting heavier on the bottom
every single day.

I want to meet this moment fully.
“May I meet it as a friend.”

“The moment in which the mind acknowledges,
‘this isn’t what I wanted but it’s what I got,’
is the point at which suffering disappears.
Sadness might remain present but the mind is free
to console,  free to support the mind’s acceptance of the situation,
free to allow space for new possibilities to come into view.”

– Sylvia Boorstein

Thanks for having a listen;  I appreciate the gift of your witness.
Just to clarify (writing words down = always the risk of misunderstanding):
I’m navigating the challenge of living fully and unafraid in fearful situations and times.
Not suggesting anyone ignore risks.
(I’m masking.  And distancing.  That’s not even on the table.)

The sweet and the sour and fruit on the vine…..

A whole heap of time has swirled past
since I last met with you here and I can’t say for sure why
except that I’ve opened this laptop often,  just brimming with words,
that then bottleneck and quickly subside like a low tide falling.
I let my fingers stammer for a little while and then release them to go outside
with a basket on my hip to work in the garden instead.
I come ’round to read your blogs  and my muscles draw me first
into the art room where I pour easy streams of paint into a paper plate
and begin swiping on another layer to hold space for the words
so that when they finally do tumble onto paper somehow,  they’ll have somewhere interesting
to land and maybe artfully arrange themselves.

Who am I even in this new season?
It’s taken me a minute to give a long and loving listen
to learn what this woman needs from me.

Quick back story:  I was immunosuppressed before Covid hit;
for years I’ve been extremely allergic,  tagged “overly” sensitive,
and so was super mindful to take care because I knew that if I got the virus
it may likely pound on me pretty violent,  as most viruses seem to do.
A common stomach virus can drop me because it’s gonna take a while.
I can’t actually physically throw up (lovely, right?).
I had an experimental surgery in the early 2000s because of reflux so severe
that my doctors at UNC guessed I needed to have a go.
Of mistakes I’ve made,  this was a big one.
Had I waited a few years,  as my intuition suggested,
I would’ve discovered that reflux is just one of the many
auto-immune symptoms that I’d need to navigate
with a lot of creativity and patience in the decades to come.

So it wasn’t totally shocking that Covid would hamstring me for a while with long haul symptoms.
But my healthy husband?  That shook me.

When after a vigorous move and  months of navigating my own confounding symptoms
my husband went suddenly ill with acute kidney failure,  I felt raw with fear.
For a short while I thought he may die.
Instead came the challenges of his living a newer normal –  high doses of prednisone,
insulin shots,  and wobbly with weakness.  And all the new what-do-we-do-now’s.
I had been pivoting away from our family business, gentling down, and suddenly that move
became as hardly do-able as all the other new necessities to navigate.
But ride each wave we did
and when anxiety stormed down a torrent,
I went out and dug in the garden like it was my only thing.
I guess trauma requires new dances
and this became mine.
Life became new normals and dances and gardens and ways.  And all of it mattered.

I hold them as delicious gifts now, the days when my body and brain show up in ways that I understand.
I’m learning new work-arounds for times when they don’t,
like using food enzymes to support a bum pancreas,
and implementing more structure to help with the buggy brain that can fog my windshield with sudden haze,
and talking myself through the panic that can jump me like a prowler
with a random wave of nausea or sudden chill.

Honestly it’s an unfamiliar place,  this learning to give myself some tender loving time.

To have to bend low and be patient,  sometimes as if with a toddler,  has been a level of care
I’ve never offered to myself before.
And as I do,  tentative and awkward,  I’ve felt this compassion rise
because I feel it vivid the spaces where this woman
could have used this kind of support always from,  well,  me.
How did I leave her last in a line
that never reaches the end?

This challenging stretch of road has been a ruthless and beautiful teacher.
I’m glad for these fresh cracks
and the way they’re letting the light crawl in,
bringing me somehow closer home.

Sometimes my heart flutters shy in this newer,  more tender relationship with myself
and I’m having to sit with it for a minute
before I can say the things.
I mean it sincere each time I write that I’ll be back to you more regular soon.
But I’m holding no space for the hurry I’ve long inflicted on myself;
I’ll be back when the wind fills my sails;
for now it’s maybe enough that I’m keeping them set.
And watching my garden grow:)

Sending love to you and to your own friendship with yourself;
you deserve the very most beautiful and best
there in that sacred space.
I hope you make some reservations to invest
and go gently.

“Inside your chest
lives a little nightingale
who never sleeps.”
– Alexandra Vasiliu

Big joy in sending out a package this week to Renee Clark
who likely doesn’t even remember leaving a comment
it was so long ago that I posted.
Baby steps:)
I’ll wait until I come back more consistently before offering another giveaway.

 

Of bouquets and brambles and bounty 4 you….

About twenty years ago,  when I was in the thick of trying to figure out
who am I in the strange and terrible beauty of this life,
coming on forty and wondering what of all that I believed was even true enough
to haul into the next season
– what was real
and what would hold the weight of all that I loved,

I had this powerful whisper of an experience.
It started soft like a low hum,  a glance of the clock on my old stove
landing neatly on 4:44.  My eyes liked the something-ness about it.
Early the next morning I woke with a start,  face to the bedside clock radio.
Again with the 4:44.
I felt my curiosity rustle.
It kept happening through the remainder of that year,
so many 4:44’s that my questions began to burn.
I was church-ing hard at that time and I prayed for answers and clues
about the gift I seemed always to be unwrapping
only to find another box inside,
wrapped in 4:44s.
What did it mean?
And what was I supposed to do with it?

Eventually,  instead of enjoying the experience,
it stressed me out (as did much of my inner life).
I figured I was missing something important – another deficit
in my spiritual account.
Secret fear:  God was trying to warn or correct me about something and I was too dull
to decode the memo.
If only I could discern the message and comply,  things wouldn’t be going so poorly for me.
Prayers would get answered.  Hurtful situations would heal.
That’s where I camped fearful.

That hard season was followed by a sweeter blossom of a time
and I got free from some fears.
Every now and then the 4:44 would pop up and I’d wonder still and hold it close to heart.
It felt more,  in that less constricted place,  like a stone that caught my eye
that I’d pick up and put in my box of special things.
For over almost two decade my eyes would often be drawn to clocks
just when the fours all lined up
like sunflowers waving tall against the blue.
I studied numbers and dream interpretation and all the hullaballoo,
but when I’d have a pray about it,  now more like an easy conversation,
the thought that would bubble up from my being
was simply this:  “I’m for you.  I’m for you.  I’m for you.”

Like God was winking into my insecurity and hesitation
and reassuring, “hey,  I’m for you.”
(maybe if you,  too,  come from a severe spiritual climate,
you can relate to the ingrained idea that God is mostly against).

Many years later, just as the sun began to go down on 2020,
all the fours began lining up persistent across my clock faces again.
For about four days they hummed and then trouble came sweeping
and I felt carried downriver by the blast.
I don’t need to sing you all the details,  just that all my fear-buttons got pressed hard.

These numbers.  Like old friends.
They felt familiar,  showing up like a strong Dad on a dark lonesome road
with a spare tire and a torch and time and skill and love to spend.
4:44
I’m for you.
I’ve got you.
Hold tight my hand.
I’m right here.

I gimped into 2021 without a word for the year – didn’t even want one.
No head space for that.
I did feel inspired to start a creative challenge (a bouquet a day) and
noticed the number 4  showing up in my art in droves once we moved and I got back at it.
Then,  as my little challenge started to unfold (i share it on fb),
I noticed I was beginning every share with “For you.”
Well dang.  There it is.  Once again I backed into my one little word for the year.
Only this year it’s also a number.
So,  way late to the new year’s share but toddling in just the same
(always the late bloomer),
my one little word: the number 4.

Because it’s been a slow unfolding, this peaceful confidence,
that shitstorms in my life don’t define me.
That trouble doesn’t tell me who I am,
especially who I am to the One who is for me with warm affection,
even when I’m bent low by a cold wind passing.

I think that’s what’s growing in my garden this year;
I’ll come around to share what blooms.

“We unwittingly project onto God
our own attitudes and feelings toward ourselves…
but we cannot assume that he feels about us the way we feel about ourselves
—unless we love ourselves passionately,  intensely,  and freely.”
– Brennan Manning

And
Congrats to Judy Hartman
for winning a copy of my book in last post’s giveaway.
Another drawing this post,
a little packet of handmade cards,  all originals.
Nice and textured and unique and with beautiful soft envelopes.
Leave a comment and into the hat your name goes.
(I hope to come back to you way sooner this time)

Of weakness, wobbles and Winter’s end…..

I have loved being the strong of me,
loved being the older one who hefted bags of soil and pots of living things
and pruned and dug and tucked and tweaked and lasted long until the work was done.
Loved flinging myself headlong into wild dance with the Muse,
until my chest heaved wholehearted and sweat and dirt and paint and grin
covered me like a song that I relished diving into,
 unafraid of swirling waters because I actually prefer.
Oh give me strong white roaring waves because I’ve got a whitewater heart
and peace can be hard to find in stillwater places
unless I’ve spent myself already in the breakers.

When I went down with Covid in mid December, it found me
able to rest patient and lean into the process of cooperating  with and waiting for healing to happen.
It was fear and relief and dread and hope and mindfully ride each sickly wave as they hit.
A lot like labor – really painful hard but focused,  with eyes of the prize.
“This too shall pass,”  I imagined my mother’s voice saying.
Breathe and pray and go through.

And I went through. Within several weeks I was weak but back to my life
and so grateful to be.
When another wave crashed down and knocked me powerful off my feet again
in January, I was bewildered.  I was in the thick of packing and preparing to move
and this felt totally rogue.  I was mystified.  How even is this real?
I slowly recovered,  read,  researched,  and realized that this sometimes long road is a real thing.
I slowed down more and took even better care.

Then,  in early February,  the night before the movers came,
I again couldn’t taste my food and began to sink beneath the dark waters.
I went through again and in about a week I was able to do life pokey and slow again.
Pokey and slow and hesitant.   Like walking-on-egg-shells fearful hesitant.
How do I stop this thing?

When the beast flared again in early March I was less surprised
but more discouraged.
The shaking, burning, thirst.  The dizzying nausea.  The feeling of being pulled underwater.
How the weight of my shoulders threatened to crush me.
It all came with ugly crying this time.  I was tired.  Tired of going through.
I wanted answers and tools I could hold in my hands.
I knocked on doors – please help me –  until I found some.
Not a cure,  to be sure,  but handy tools that have helped me feel a little less afraid
so I’m not wasting precious time and focus scanning always the horizon
for another monster wave beginning to swell.

I’ll say more about that someday
(if you’re really allergic and post virus and shaking in your boots,
feel free to message or email me and I’ll gladly share what bits I’ve found.
In short,  you have to treat these flares like a massive mast cell activation
or cytokine storm.  Use the tools that treat anaphylaxis.  It works for me).
The storms still come – but I’m still going through to the other side.

I don’t want to give more time and attention to the virus here in this space.
It doesn’t deserve any more of my life and I want to continue to see and celebrate
the big beautiful of this ocean rather than the storms that blow in.
I’ve always loved waves and will ride them wholehearted still.
Just wanted to catch you up on my disappearance
and get back to the blogging space.
I’ve missed you much!

Happy greenings.  Happy springing.  Happy bounding back to life again.

“God of herons and heartbreak,
teach us to love the world again.
Teach us to love extravagently,
knowing it may
(it will) break our hearts
and teach us that it is worth it.

God of pandemics and suffering ones,
teach us to love the world again.

God of loneliness and longing,
God of bushfires and wilderness
and soup kitchens and border towns,
of snowfall and children,
teach us to love the world again.

Amen.”
– Sarah Bessey
(from her new book “A Rhythm of Prayer” which I’ve been loving so big)

To celebrate being back on the blog,  I want to give away one of my books.
Hard to believe that even happened – my book – because I’ve done zero marketing.
Have not done any of the things.
But she’s here in all her ragamuffin glory and I want to share her
– leave a comment and I’ll pop your name in the drawing.
Thanks for coming around again;  I welcome you warm.