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:)

The layers and the light…..

My process begins with a heartpour
my own unscripted words dumped raw onto clean, blank page.
A turn-the-purse-upside-down-and-send-the-contents-dumping.
It’s never pretty.  Never polished.  And can be a little wrenching.
I write the unsayable things – the stuff of which Anne Lamott wrote,
“my thoughts were such that would make Jesus want to drink gin out of the cat dish.”
The hard,  the embarrassing, the boring and the ugly.
It’s the bottom down under and it’s gotta go somewhere.
I give them space and let those thoughts breathe the light.
Unjudged and unashamed (wriggle, wriggle, squirm)

Then I drop down to that place in my belly where the river stirs
and let myself dip – falling,  falling – into those wild and uncertain waters
like a stone thrown into the deep
and I coach my hands start playing.
Just go all playful – letting loose to dance with Creation
until I’m carried along in the current while my childlike arting begins
to let the ripples speak.

I never sit down to make art.  Ever.  I go at it like a playful explore
and I don’t try to get anything right.

There is no right or wrong or off or don’t-go.
Some things I like – especially when they come like surprising packages
that feel like a note passed from Love to or through me.
That stuff makes my heart squeeze happy beats and the living feel like hope.
But I don’t work hard to make pretty or good – the work instead is in the showing up,
the carving out space and time and giving it that chunky slice of my living.
Letting the messy process be
and going soft to the uncertainty.
I may have nothing to show for this.

But oh that messy down under is raw and sometimes daunting.
Life and days and relationships and situations and seasons – they all have bottom layers.
I’m learning to fear them less – to hold a spacious yes for them –
as I dance this messy dance with un-hiding the things.
To growing my love for the layers and the light.

As I grow in love for this process I also grow in love for this life-living we get to do.
It’s amazing what a blank white page can call up and out in us,  especially when we know that
we won’t leave it naked and unloved – that we’ll be back to tend the wounds and notice the beauty
and listen in to hear the healing things.

“I can shake off everything as I write;  my sorrows disappear,
my courage is reborn.”
– Anne Frank

Dancing hope defiant…..

I need to dance with a barefoot heart,
to twirl in the darkness of the wee hours
and wriggle free,
unloading heavy things
into hands so warm and available and open
that they tug the sun up through the woods
while the birds prattle joy
and the candle burns slow,
flickering sandalwood and spruce
and I take it in hungry
and peer into the face of light.

so there is somewhere for the torment
to tumble out and go,
all this anger over unjust things
that hurt the ones I love
while my stomach screams hard for help and change
and my small hands burn to take hold of everything cruel
and make it stop,
to make this big world well
until it goes kind and peaceable and just.

I want to rest deep and also live awake.

So when I need to lay my mind down
on something soft and tender-strong,
and remember deep the shepherd psalm,
and take in the love that speaks truth into storm
so that the fog and the cold doesn’t take me,

I can dance on it,
can paint and sing and write and move and shout and love out loud
in stuff that speaks like prayer
until my vision climbs up higher
and my heart holds firm to peace
and I breathe into hope that is defiant
against the dark.

This is a little re-write I shared a few years back
and it moves me that it’s stirring fresh again inside
and I share with a fresh sprig of new-grown herb
and serve it up with love:)

“The belief is that enough hope and tenderness will lead to world peace,
one mind at a time.    All nations will come together in kindness and justice,
swords will be beaten into plowshares,  spears into pruning hooks.
This is a little hard to buy with a world stage occupied by so many madmen,
and so much suffering.  But setting aside one’s tiny tendency toward cynicism,
in the meantime – in Advent – we wait;  and hope appears if we truly desire to see it.”
–  Anne Lamott

The making and the medicine…..

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,
help…me…open,
help me

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.

So I will celebrate it,  this creativity that we share
with the fountain that never runs dry.
Will celebrate both the making and the medicine,
and lean, open wide,  into the next try.

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

Of life-living and so-telling…..

I’ve been standing in the strong winds of the word that found me for the year –
blameless –
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.
( sigh:))

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?

Ewwww

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)