Sometimes into life’s overwhelm come soft days
so thick with grace
that the volume gets turned up
on your dreams
so loud that it drowns out some fear,
shaking dance back into your feet
until your heart starts taking on hope
like a ship sinking fast in a sea of fresh mercy
as heaven storms down light so fierce
that it swallows up the dark.
When you’re not there right now,
when all you can feel is the cave you crawled in
bone tired and seeking shelter
and the gloom works it’s way on your soul
and you’re hungry for good air and tall sky
but you feel as weak and small as the yelp
that gets stuck in the dry of your voice
( I’ve known this place)
Can I remind you, friend, that it’s there still,
that place where darkness got sliced until the light spilled in;
still there waiting with the warm buttery peace of something realer
than what you can see,
waiting to wrap you again in that firm strong love
that breathes courage
back into all your despairing places.
It’s there now waiting and you can go there still
along the backroads of your mind;
where maybe even as a child
you felt it sweet in someplace truthful and gentle
and it’s there still like a portal
where you feel free and profoundly okay.
You are brave enough to lean on in;
Open wide and go again
to that door that is uniquely gift to you,
where you step into the undriven purpose
of being welcome and known and affirmed with great affection.
Go stand in that place and let love sing down her songs over you again.
the starry heavens whisper.
“Fear is the cheapest room in the house.
I would like to see you living in better conditions.”
It’s been twelve days since my mother left this earth
and I’ve lived each one of them,
lived them full and awake and as tenderly open as I know how.
The days just before were some of the most intense that I’ve known and I’m not ready
to unpack those and make words for them yet.
But I’m up before the sun to remember the gifts that found me these days
in the exquisite pain of love.
For the heave of relief that her considerable suffering is no more,
that her body and being were able to rest back peaceful into those everlasting arms
that she trusted to carry her home.
And for the memory of her smile as she leaned into the turn.
For the fog that wrapped the next morning as I made my way to work,
as if the clouds understood my need to disappear for just awhile
and so came down to offer cover those first gritty hours.
And the chores that let my hard tangle of feelings get dirty and sweaty
and walk hard and long until they drained off soft again.
For the fatigue that came from work instead of waiting.
For the black and blue swallowtail that fluttered around me slow,
and then around again and again in soft circles around my face
while Hope watched and cried because she said she saw it happen to another
the day after she too lost her mother
and my heart felt it like a massage
and my breath went deep.
For the kindness of friends who
loved me in it all
and let me say my pain.
And the song that came alongside to walk me through
* Let it Fall* by Over the Rhine
For the goldfinches who flew alongside my window.
For a table thick with laughter and family and Mexican Train
and the soul food of being there loved.
For time on the deck with my sister while the stars bent low to kiss the ridge tops
and how we felt it thin the line between here and there
and got to say our things and listen and understand;
For the butter and balm of that starry night share.
For the project that wouldn’t wait and was lightning strike to my tired places,
a jolt into a focus that gave my grief a shelf for keeping until.
For the way it challenged my art making expansive and stretchy
when I wanted to curl up and just not.
For the deep breath of yes between my bones when we finished.
For the kindness of words written on little bites of art – the magic
of cards that travel through the mail to rest in my box.
And for the gift of needed provision that arrived just exactly when,
like care packages from heaven.
That the food poisoning didn’t kill me
though, Lord, felt like it tried:)
For the kindness of hands that tugged the sadness from my feet
and rubbed the weight from my shoulders with a sigh.
It feels a primal sort of pain to lose a mama
and I fling thanks for the goodness of mine
and for every drop of comfort and challenge along the way.
Today I will tug free the words I’ll share at her service on Friday
and God it feels daunting to pick up the pen.
Thanks for letting me prime the pump and share with you here, my treasured friends.
I appreciate your kind listen.
“‘Cause rain and leaves and snow and tears and stars,
and that’s not all my friend,
they all fall with confidence and grace,
So let it fall, let it fall.”
– Jerome Detweiler
Over the Rhine
I lay awake and watch the stars dip low and call me out onto the porch
where I lay down my resolve to sleep
so early that the moon hides still behind the house,
the bright quiet of her shine
crisping the only edges of the yard and dusting the treetops with silver.
I wish for poetry but feel only dull;
the tired of me can’t rise to dance in the beauty rolled out here.
Until I lean the tiniest lean – just a slight nod of spirit
into the hush-away from all my questions humming.
Shhhhhhh – rest here now for just this breath.
Rest. here. now.
And as I breathe and then breathe again,
click goes my heart and open it swings
to this ordinary moment,
showing up like a weary traveler
to the unremarkable slice of time happening just exactly now.
I wonder how many friendly welcomes I’ve rushed on by,
feeling like a stranger in an even stranger place
just because I’m clinging stubborn to the season passed,
the one I’ve known and loved.
Breathing here, now, feels truer.
I can feel the changes work the rough edges of me over until I smooth
to the road that I’m on
and so the travel goes lighter.
And if I go quiet enough I can hear her,
singing love that rolls over fallen things
and quick around stones that won’t be moved
and when they clash she sounds like music
and it lifts me, too,
above my broken down ways
until I’m riding a new rhythm
into the living I’ve yet to do.
“I think there ought to be a little music here:
– Mary Oliver
I’m coming back from a hard prune,
grateful to see little tenderlings shooting up fresh from the cuts.
It’s tricky to celebrate the shears and their scars and I’m not there yet
so I won’t pretend to hurl thanks for those slices;
instead I’ll say quick the pain
and then share the medicine
because we all need the balm when life cuts like a knife.
Doing the big-girl-panties work of grieving the loss
of my old jalopy laptop and it’s hard drive crash
which swept away every picture and bit of writing I’ve made for the past 15 years.
Every last word and image
(except what I’ve shared here on my blog or in journals and notes to loved ones).
I’d let my backup lapse for the last weeks of Summer struggle
when our cash flow dried up with the rivers,
waiting for the Autumn rains which would hopeful stir the flow.
The back-up backup I thought was in place was not.
The loss has felt crushing.
Also, the “miracle” shot I’ve been taking for my asthma
stirred a full blown rheumatoid flare which has my body red hot with swollen pain
and feverish for weeks after each injection.
Pressing through to do my daily work in the hot Summer sun
has felt like a Survivor challenge
and sometimes the frustration runs down my cheeks without my permission.
But grace has swarmed in – even sometimes as bee stings (!)
Who knew? I work among honey bees and they seem to know when I need another shot
of their anti-inflammatory wonder:)
Then I got my heart broken in a double-you-over kind of way
and so the pile of hard clippings grew
until the bare of me felt barer still.
I know – this sounds dismal – but please read on;
I won’t tell you a forest fire without the rain
Because when losses start to pile like branches tossed to flame
it can feel like un-love and here the story can get spun
because we’re meaning-makers – we need to make sense of suffering
and when it comes storming we get busy writing our narrative
because it makes us feel a little control.
“It’s all my fault” even feels a balm because then we can know.
And knowing, even if it’s false, feels better than uncertainty.
(this is what the great teachers say)
So while I was making up my story I remembered (thank you dear friends who remind)
to lean into the heart of wisdom
where I’ve learned to find my rest
and do the messy, often awkward stutter-step of going open again,
of unfolding my angry hurt where I clamped down tight
to seal myself off from feeling it all too hard.
Courage to let go, to open the fist of me and breathe instead into the waves as they wash in
– it came as I prayed help…me….trust,
and in ways I couldn’t manage or imagine
I began to feel again the river flowing,
to sense the whisper of buttery quiet truth in it’s unassuming way,
“how do you feel when you prune something you love?”
Prune something that I love – I know this feeling well,
have spent years there in my work.
I feel hurt for the hurt but hope for the next…..like “please feel the love”
because this is temporary ache and your roots know what to do.
Good Lord, how perspective paints the pain a healthy shade of true.
And so I’m landing bumpy but safe
in a place with no despair.
Ache, yes. But without the burden of hating the cuts
there’s this energy enough to draw from these roots and pull life on up
into every space left barren and bleeding,
to draw deep from the river that keeps flowing
and to hope and yes and open and rest
and flourish untethered into the flow.
Thanks for reading along while I process.
My words here sound way smoother than the wrestling it took to get me to them:)
Forgive anything that sounds trite or oversimplified – still finding the wordsand spilling them slow.
I appreciate you, dear reader friend,
and can’t wait to share what may grow in this freshly pruned place:)
“But grace can be the experience of a second wind,
even though what you want is clarity and resolution,
what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.”
– Anne Lamott
I’ve been moving through some changes and it’s been a gnarly sort of stretch
but also beautiful and grow-y.
Always the paradox – the God-breath and the grit.
So, still from the soup, I want to share some of the stuff that’s been moving me:
~ all of the extra oxygen in my lungs (!)
I took the shot. The one I’ve shied away from for several years because too many risks.
But then the risk of un-living my life seemed to loom larger so I dove in
and did the risky deed the doctors recommended
and I can breathe all the way down
to the bottom of my lungs.
This feels crazy big and I’m sometimes giddy with air.
~ the way the early evening quiets the heat
the dusk gentles the sun,
and how the river sings my dry places soft again.
~ the courage that’s somehow finding me to be transparent in shamestorms,
to stand sometimes unmasked until my fear gets tired of fearing
and love gets to find me like that
and heal some of my unloved places.
The whole getting better at not hiding thing.
~ for the fields of yellow where horses graze with the foal
who trots along playful like a dolphin born into a buttercup sea.
~ for the mishmash of music making my summering sing,
including Willy Nelson Sings Gershwin,
and Lauren Daigle’s Look Up Child.
~ for how I’m learning to live in a rest that can weary what wants to drive me,
can just demoralize it because the joy I keep tapping won’t lose it’s fizz.
that I can cry angry, heart-broken tears and still trust the Love that’s holding me
and plant myself peaceful in this place.
How this is stronger than the certainty I crave.
~ for the high places and skies that ride these ridges
where I can listen to the wind words.
~ the way life is giving me soft moments with my mother
that I didn’t know I needed until I find the girl of me running hard to plant her flowers
and bring her beauty and make her eggs wet and find the words
that have fluttered far from reach before this tender time when we’re both bent low
so that maybe we can see each other’s faces true.
~ the compassion of friends who see my gimpy places and smile the same smiles
that warm me when I’m strong.
~ the first ripe veggies of Summer, elderberry syrup in my tea,
and all the brave moves that let us be fresh berries splashed with cream
and served up sweet instead of growing mold in the back of the fridge.
“You are not too old,
and it is not too late
to dive into your increasing depths
where life calmly gives out
it’s own secret.”
Thanks for your patience with my heavy Springtime ways.
It’s coming on Summertime and the living is easier
now that the planting is mostly done.
I’ve been standing in the strong winds of the word that found me for the year –
winds whipping high with opportunity to blame like crazy,
to max out my capacity to resent and hold grudge.
(isn’t that the way these things go – you get a word and it challenges you so)
Yeah, my little word has been riding shotgun while I wrestle with the wishing
to slam down my gavel and spit reasons why I’m right,
to stomp my feet to make it fair,
to lock my jaw and close up tight
because the way I see it is the way
and I want to keep my mad about it.
The urge to say I told you so – there they are,
the words that can hiss and rattle alongside my longing
to be grace in gravely places.
“I told you so”
-is there even a shimmer of light in those self-righteous little words?
That I was able to predict something that heaven never wanted,
able to say the worst before it had the chance to happen
and then get to feel like I’m on higher ground?
When I get over myself and look with love I can see a little clearer
the choices that I’m choosing,
because when I leave this planet and burst blazing into the next thing
what kind of fire do I want to have lit with all of my telling?
I want to have told things that massage hope into silent questions,
that knead whatever light someone holds until it expands and fills their lonely places,
telling that rubs away the anxious rumblings that can make a hurting heart feel separated from love.
To say how you don’t have to be clever enough, or strong enough,
or fast or smart or good enough –
that you’re already there and wrapped in love enough
to help and heal and hold you close through anything
and maybe someone can open and receive it
because another someone told them so.
God how I want my told-you-so’s to be life instead of darkness.
You are worthy and wanted and welcome
and I want to tell you so:)
“Certainty is missing the point entirely.”
– Anne Lamott
(i’ve been a bad blogger lately – thanks so much for coming around
and saying even when I don’t get by to visit as often as I will soon.
I miss our visits)
Even when the night dances so dark on your mind
that your peace splinters tears,
when life feels over-budget and overdrawn
in the ache and stall and prickle
and in the fear that can sit so heavy on a belly
that you freeze clear through to your spine
…even then it is there, rumbling low,
In the fear that your mistakes may cost more
than you can ever help to pay,
that you may have loved much but not well,
may have caused more harm than healing,
more thicket than clearing,
more frustration than good,
that a stray word or exhausted miss
may have broken things so hard
Even there in what could quickly become despair,
a bud burns still inside to open,
to sizzle and surge and batter through rock
and shriek life into all that died.
In the stabbing glare of all you may have wasted
or wandered off from,
there’s an epilogue unwritten still
but swirling always fierce with hope
that won’t let go even when you must.
It rumbles new beginnings, new pages, new leaves and buds and seasons,
that what was lost may still be found,
that what was buried may yet live.
That in all of the loss and leaving,
in the dreams that died in the shell,
your heart is safe to lean in to what’s coming,
into the quiet thunder that’s humming
it is well.
“What is this breaking,
this hopeful re-making,
addressing dry bones,
dizzying me with blessings,
intercepting my grieving
and raising the dead all around me.”
– Enuma Okoro
Happy Springtime, dear you:)
I’ve been busy living like a farmer and I realize I say that every April or May; it’s as true as ever.
I’ll be back regular now – thanks for being your loving selves with my
dirty, achy, sunburned, tuckered out Springtime way.
You are a lovely garden and I plop down grateful in your gentle shade:)
I’ve posted this for many years; a loving, healing ritual.
Because I need to honor this out loud,
especially for those who haven’t found their voices yet
And to honor all of the days these 40 years since
because they are each of them marked by both pain and light.
And to honor mothers everywhere,
because our hearts bear always the stretchmarks
of loving and letting go.
It was March 1979.
Breezes turned balmy and I pulled off my shoes,
letting swollen feet tramp across the warming earth.
I was pregnant with my first baby, due St. Patrick’s Day.
For weeks I had ached for time to stop, squeezing myself shut to the coming separation,
the word “relinquish” heavy on my heart.
But today the weather had turned, and hadn’t everything somehow changed?
Spring had come with her own dreamy wildness
and waves to ride far beyond the looming loss.
I spent the morning sun-soaking, watching the wind stir the tire swing
I’d played in not so long ago.
I was newly seventeen, an “unwed” mother
with an unwanted task:
to give my baby to someone she deserved.
Soon she would come apart from me,
gone before the leaves flushed out;
their buds were fat and ready to pop.
I went quiet with the knowing.
But this day was vivid lovely and it got inside me.
As the sun began to dip low, a storm of pain rumbled
and hammered down urgency inside my belly
as grownup voices began herding me into the night.
As my frightened parents gathered my things into the car,
I lunged back inside for one last minute alone
with the gentle life that had so shaken mine
with her own tender worth.
I lowered my heavy frame onto the bed and tried to sing one last lullabye
but could do only tears, a fragile goodbye.
Following strong contractions downstairs and
I returned home with only fierce memory
of her tiny fingers and face.
But I’m marked forever by her essence,
often swept away by her melody
as it drifts across my heartstrings.
I recognize her song.
I honor each of her days.
Today I tenderly comfort the girl-in-me who carried her
before she was transplanted into the garden
that nurtured her to thriving.
And I remember those shimmery days when we were just us,
when she was still mine.
“I don’t have much money but if I did
I’d buy a big house where we both could live.
If I were a sculptor, but then again, no
or a man who makes potions in a traveling show
I know it’s not much but it’s the best I can do
my gift is my song and this one’s for you.
And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it’s done
I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind
that I put down in words
how wonderful life is while you’re in the world.”
– Elton John
Thanks for giving a listen.
For being a witness.
I hold this as a gift
with love and thanks – Jen
( Self care gift to myself this week – lots and lots of words;))
Morning breaks through branches scratching words across the sky
and I draw back sometimes like a stranger to love
because I’ve taken on some lies
that sting and shame
and so I look down
and miss the affectionate twinkle
in the only eyes who get to tell me who I am.
But when I listen for the truth,
close my eyes and listen low,
there comes the soft storm of a sound like drumming,
the sweet strong thunder of a river humming,
breaking off the shame and home to me coming
back to the true of my heart.
And I remember it fresh – don’t eat from the tree
made of eyes that can never see or know me.
And so again I am breaking up with shame
as the wind rustles valentines from God.
Even when you don’t fit.”
– Mandy Bird
In the awkward stage of practicing new skills over here –
taking a personal challenge to learn to say what I mean without so many words
and this is a fearful thing
because I don’t want to be misunderstood.
It’s my nature, instead, to explain.
To use lots of paint to try and say it clear:)
Having an awkward go
and grateful if what I write down
meets you where you are.