40 years the Spring

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.
Like me.
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
into
the
night,
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.

Forty Springs.
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;))

Thank you notes at lap 57…..

To celebrate as I begin another jaunt around the sun;  57 brand new thank you notes:
(in no particular order)

Thank you,  Everett Road,  for being a slow leisurely ride for bicycles pretty much all day every day.
You make me slow down and think about how much value lives
inside each package of skin.

Thank you,  big butter-colored house with the crazy-steep driveway
where I get to lay my head down safe nights to sleep warm against the mountain.
For being loving shelter and home base.
For sharing your waterfall music and and for standing strong in all the storms.

Thank you,  Janet and David,  for sharing your lives and the big buttery house high above Everett Road.
For renting us the sweet apartment on the hillside and letting me plant my flowers there.
For being Lucy and Ricky to our Ethel and Fred:)
For being the best neighbors ever and friends beyond compare.

Thank you,  Yoga with Adriene,
for walking me through some moves on the mat
that help un-do the gnarly stuff that life sometimes does.
For being there anytime and with humor.

Thank you, 57 year old knees,  for how you keep bending me down low
so I can coax things to grow.
And for mostly cooperating with my shenanigans along the way.

Thank you,  US mail,  for trekking my words far and fast
for the simple price of a postage stamp.

Thank you,  Blue Ridge Vineyard,  for being a haven for my heart right now.
And to you,  Tom and Beth,  for feeling like home in a faraway place.

Thank you,  Mom and Dad,  for growing in love still and always,
and for pulling for my kids as if they were your own.

Thank you,  New Leaf Garden Market,  for affirming the work of my hands
and giving me a place to learn and contribute and dream.
Thanks for letting me be on your team and also be my ragamuffin self.
This is gold to me.

Thank you,  Bambi and people who do medical massage
and all of the other healers who use their hands to put things right.
Doing a year without your skills has grown my appreciation
and I don’t want to live in a world without your art form.

Thank you,  Hope,  for inspiring me to remember my buried stories and sagging poetry
while I work with dirty hands and dig up parts of myself that I’d forgotten how to miss.
I love the beautiful way you that are.

Thank you,  January,  for beginnings and my birthday.
For stirring me to celebrate my wishes and let them be.
The ones that make sense and the ones that don’t,  the long shots,  the ridiculous.
For reminding me to let my heart go off-leash and brave about them all.

Thank you, failures and flaws, for learning me not to care so hard what other people think:)
I don’t want to live chained to it’s power to starve me,
but to love for the rest of my days like a wild thing free.

Thank you,  cherry Noble cider,  for warming my belly
with your not-too-sweet bubbles.

Thank you,  people who give their animals good lives,
for living out a heroic kindness.
You make the world better.

Thank you,  Patsy and Jim,  for sharing your beautiful cottage by the sea.
For the gift of your sweet spirits and Topsail time – oh we are rich:)

Thank you, truth-tellers,  for reminding me that despair is delusional.

Thank you,  Audible,  for helping me listen to good books while I go along the highways
and back roads.   For letting me drive and have my books,  too.

Thank you,  good listeners.  for letting the hard things be hard
and the confusing things confusing.  For making it safe to say.

Thank you,  resentment,  for being such heavy poison.
You remind me to forgive as fast as I feel you
and to fight to keep your claws from hooking me long.

Thank you,  Theracane,  for working out my torqued places while I watch TV.

Thank you,  menfolk who refuse to objectify women.
You are healers and heros.   Strength and honor.

Thank you,  pain, for being a good professor.
Sorry for treating you often like a hot potato instead.
And for sometimes skipping class.

Thank you,  Youtube,  for being this freakish crazy magic.
I dreamed of you as a child – this place where anyone
could sing or say or show with the click of a button.
You’re a hot mess because we’re so human, but,  wow –
well done being the thing that you are.

Thank you,  my amazing grown kids,  for reminding me to offer my words easy
and just let them be.
For teaching me to say instead of sell.
You’re some of my best teachers and I love and appreciate you so.

Thank you,  takers of personal responsibility.
You who refuse to live from a victim narrative, even when you’ve been truly victimized.
You teach us what mercy looks like and are our strength as a people.
Thank you for showing the way to the future.

Thank you,  Marie Kondo,  for teaching me how to fold my t-shirts and keep my home
a joyful space.

Thank you,  current political environment,  for shaking and sifting us so.
For shining a broad beam on our hearts so that we can see our narrow places
and hone in on what and how we want to be instead.
For making us confront the uncomfortable
and build civility during unrest.
Our finest hour is coming.

Thank you Way-Maker
for always being exactly who you are.
Your love is my life-long discovery
and your tender faithfulness slays me in such a healing way.

Thank you,  awkward interludes,  for helping me sometimes to surrender
to the silence.

Thank you,  all of the waves that I’ve known,  for bobbing and crashing
and tumbling and rolling and surging and sweeping me off of my feet
until I find myself a child again inside your churning wonder.

Thank you,  Adam Fadel,  for teaching us that conflicts are not about content,
and helping us to heal our marriage and find the most honest, loving way.

Thank you,  Anderson,  for your kindness,
and for helping me find my footing at New Leaf.

Thank you,  scary circumstances,  for inspiring me to risk
deep into the wild of God.

Thank you,  Bee,  basset of Brevard,
for being a soulful squirmy slinky-dog of a hound
who makes me laugh hard from my belly every single day:)
You light up my life.  And remind me to close my closet doors.

Thank you,  kale,  for being awesome mixed with sweet oranges
and also tossed with olive oil and salt to make warm wintery chips.
For being beyond amazing sprinkled with goat cheese.
And thank you,  Spinning Spider,  for making your goats so happy.

Thank you,  local farmers,  for being fierce
in spite of punishing weather.  For soldiering on undaunted
while growing some of the most gorgeous flowers and veg I ever dreamed to know.

Thank you,  Pisgah Forest,  for being playground and prayer closet to me.
For being the place where I run to
and for winding me swiftly up high to the parkway where i can walk in the sky.
And for changing your clothes so dramatic each day.

Thank you,  Blue Ridge parkway,  for being the sea that I need.
For your billowing waves of moody blues and greens and grays
and endless sky sweeping vast in every flicker and twinkle and shade.
And for inviting always the wind.

Thank you,  mountain night stars,  for coming closer than any I’ve known before.
I can almost hear your starshine.

Thank you,  words,  for being a little elusive this year.
You’re still my favorite art supply but you seem more expensive now
-like I have to woo you harder, pay better attention.
And this is gift;  I may have started to take you for granted;
our relationship is healthier for this rift.

Thank you,  lonely times in a new place.
You helped me become a better friend to myself.

Thank you,  charming small town with sidewalks lit up like Stars Hollow.
You draw me out after dark to walk and feel safe while you twinkle all around.

Thank you,  black bear with the quizzical eyes,  for visiting our garage and being so loud with the garbage,
and for the long stare we shared before you lumbered away..   You and the mama bear with three cubs in tow
– you’ve all heightened my imagination in the sharpest of ways.
I think of you often after dark,  when leaves rustle and twigs crack.
You are always on my mind.

Thank you,  Candace,  for gifting me with words that make my heart sit up and hope clear.
For encouraging me with chicken salad and kindness.
For having my back.

Thank you,  those who nudged open my little etsy store again;
you made my flickering lamp sit up and smile all Summer long.

Thank you,  micron pens,  for making my hands happy to write things down.
And sturdy coarse paper – I love you forever.

Thank you, indoor lemon trees,  for being a thing.
I seriously love you.

Thank you,  Epsom salts,  for turning my plastic portable blue bathtub
into a spa soak almost every night.
With the help of some gratitude and my tired bones.

Thank you,  life,  for letting me feel sometimes the sting of want and need.
Things taste much better with a primed appetite.

Thank you,  new mattress,  for lifting all of my parts at the same time.
Miraculous how you support me.

Thank you,  blank note cards,  for giving me a quiet generous place to pour out my thoughts
and say the things.  I don’t want to leave this earth with any of my love left un-given.

Thank you,   music,  for holding it all so good.
For being the fireside where our stories go to be shared
and in such a vivid, moving language.

Thank you,   broken down and falling apart things,
for reminding me that this one life isn’t a dress rehearsal.
That this thing I’m living is real and that there’s help and plenty
but it won’t be forced on me;  that I get to choose to ask and knock.
Your perspective is helpful.

Thank you,  vehicles rigged with kayaks,  canoes and mountain bikes.
Your muddy tires and carefree ways remind me that traffic can also be a road to adventure.
Thanks for being brave – you stir me to play more

Thank you,  religious politics,
for helping me fall in love all over again with grace.
Your harsh self-righteous way makes me all the more giddy over grace.

Thank you,  Charlotte clients,  for letting me go far into the mountains to make my home
and do the drive down on early mornings to still show up and be your gardener.
For paying me still to do what I love and trusting me with places
we’ve cultivated together over the years.
This has been gift and I’ve loved every sunrise and sunset along the way
You’ve helped make some dreams real
and I’ll always remember this.

Finally,  thank you Bryan.
For being for me.
For fighting through hard places alongside of me.
And for mostly loving me – even when the one I’m fighting is you.
We’re a good team and getting better
and you can still make my heart do a shivery flutter:)
Always and forever I love you.

And you…..you who come around and read the words that I write down.
Mountains of thanks – you encourage the wind and fire of me.
(and my next post will be shorter – i promise:))

“Let’s go in search of hidden gems close to home.
Let’s sleep under skies and wake with campfire smoke lingering in our eyes.
Let’s grab the keys and feel the road spill out in front of us,
disappearing into the rear view mirror all we have endured.
Such magic is waiting.  Such splendor.
Find it with me now.  Now.”
– Tyler Knott Gregson

When shame and shoes come storming…..

Back when the world was a coloring book
and my box of crayons still small,
the questions to my answers began to rattle in the wind
of a storm that blew in without warning
on an ordinary morning as I sat pulling on my school shoes
so I could hurry up the hill to catch the bus.

I was however old you are when the girl of you has turned to go
but the teenager isn’t ready for the task
and you wade through sixth grade and the in between to see what even fits anymore.
It was Springtime and I was wearing shorts at last but were my legs  tan enough
and did they look fat and maybe no one see me please that hard.
I wrestled my unloveliness as  I heard my Father’s quick clip headed down the hall
toward his room at the end
when a shot of pain lurched through as something struck my inner thigh
and also thwacked my cheek and lip.
One of my after-school shoes landed hard on the floor,
the other lay like a dream  in my lap.

My shoes.
They’d been trespassing in the living room on the green rug where I had sprawled out after supper
to listen to music on the floor.
On the green rug where my father ran in place every morning,
counting,  counting his high steps fast
as the floor trembled beneath his intensity.
It was where he began his day and my shoes had been there unwelcome.
The after-school shoes that should have been in my closet before I took my bath.
That morning they landed on me hard as he threw them through my door
into the room where they belonged.

Maybe he hadn’t seen me there.
Maybe he’d meant to simply return them to me hard.
I couldn’t wonder.  Couldn’t think the questions.
Just scrambled out the door before my tongue could taste the blood.

I climbed the hill,  climbed onto the bus,  climbed the stairs to the third floor
in the busy throng of chatter as life swarmed around me boisterous
but I couldn’t climb over the tears quickly rising,
tears that threatened to expose the unlovable of me
no matter how hard I pushed my loud and happy to the front.
Don’t cry,  dammit;  my jaw burned from willing down the sob swelling fast in my chest.
I feared the storm rising wild in my emotions;
please just don’t look at me right now.

But Mrs. King did look at me, piercing,
and her eyes jabbed a question that I tried not to meet
and quickly tears betrayed and crawled over the fists I’d planted to look casual against my cheeks
I was called down the hall to the long table where more troubled eyes poked
and my brain got stuck and I couldn’t make the words talk sense like I should
but instead cried more in the heat of their gaze.
Did my father abuse me ever?  No,  and I never said he did.
But talk of shoes didn’t match my pain
and my meanings got mussed in the haze.

I returned to my classroom relieved to go free,  and to the day and then the bus
and down the hill that afternoon to change my shoes and eat a snack and watch TV and feel at home.
At the table still we were a family until a phone call ripped the seam.
I was in my room reading when the voices changed.
My mother’s cheeks were pink and demanding when she stormed in and said the things
in a tight, angry tone that trembled I had lied and what did this mean?

The world slipped sideways;
what lie had I said?

It was an un-say-able kind of lie and I had told it
and now do I even know what people could think?
I didn’t know exactly except that my father didn’t come.
He didn’t come to ask what or why or how is this thing?
The house had no more air for talking,
holding it’s breath until the morning came.

He would do what we did in our culture when shame came storming.
He erased me.

I had to sit again with the grown-ups at school who wanted to know
and I couldn’t make the words –  maybe didn’t have the crayons
or know how to blend the colors true.
I painted muddy because mud was all I felt,
wanting only to back up,  to back out of this terrible mistake and never cry ever again.
But I backed into a wall that would close in between me
and all that had felt safe and known.

We would never speak of this again.
I had broken something.
Broken it so badly that I lost my place at the table.

“Sometimes the most dangerous thing for kids is the silence that allows them
to construct their own stories – stories that almost always cast them as alone
and unworthy of love and belonging.”
– Brene’ Brown

“You are here,  and more than you know,
you  belong.  There is more in you
than you ever see,  more than the less you convince yourself of
when the dark pieces of days seem to outlast the light ones.
You are a soul alight,  the flames of stars and shadows dusted
with moonlight and pitch.
This world cannot spin without you inside it.
You are here,  and you must remain.”
– Tyler Knott Gregson

Oh please don’t climb off now;  I won’t leave you here,  I promise.
There is love enough,  and grace and
I will park us somewhere lovelier when next you come

* this post 3rd in a series *

 

Even song…….

Even when the night dances so dark on my mind
that my peace gets shut down hard,
when my life feels overdrawn and over-budget
but under-spent;
In the ache and stall and prickle
and in the fear that can sit so heavy on a belly
that I freeze clear through to my spine,
even then it is there,
rumbling low,
fluttering hope.

In the fear that my mistakes may cost more
than I can ever help to pay,
that I 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
that the final word
is
suffering.

Even there, in what could quick become despair,
a bud burns still inside to open
to sizzle and surge and batter through rock
and shriek life back into all that died.

In the stabbing glare of all I 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
I must.

It rumbles  new beginnings,  new pages,  new leaves and buds and seasons,
that what was lost may still be found,
that again what was buried may live.

That in all of the loss and leaving,
in the dreams that died in the shell
my heart is safe to lean into what’s coming,
into the quiet thunder that’s humming
resurrection,
hold steady,
it is well.

“And in great decay comes great renewal.
Life finds a way out
of the darkest spots.”
– Tyler Knott Gregson

Of skinny dipping and scripture…..

At first the words landed sweet,  like the tingle of sour candy I used to scrape across my teeth
during Summer matinees,   so swept up in story that I didn’t notice my tongue start burning raw.
It would later hurt to talk and it took some figuring
to trade in those large pastel candy pucks
for a box of something creamier and chocolate,
which feels a little like the path I’ve taken with scripture
and I’m fumbling,  talking milk duds,  while I stall
to find the words because this is where the wicket gets especially sticky
in my story.

The word of God.
I still have a bit of an allergic reaction to this phrase,
and to many of the clusters of words that make up what my faith calls the Bible,
this volume of letters that I’ve loved and loathed.

“Of all the scriptures I despise,  I hate that one most of all,”
the words scrambled out of my mouth
too hot and fast to wrangle back inside as I watched faces go shocked with nervous laughter.
It was a little gathering of believers that met each week where we
sprawled on couches and floor and worshiped easy and talked real and spoke encouragement
and prayer over each other’s hearts and lives and people in a genuine,  healing way.
It was bliss for me until it took an unexpected turn into bible study and my insides began to squirm.
The offending verse brought back the sharp slap of shame I’d felt in earlier years
as I’d failed to “be healed” or “have no anxiety” and showed up weak or depressed
to you better cowboy the faith up and do better and believe harder
because neediness is sin.
The medicine was to “get more Word in me.”
(I can’t even make this upOh. so. heavy.

I’d eventually run away from this and similar spiritual floggings,  then wrap around and circle back,
this time to safer-seeming places and mostly they were and I loved the love I’d discover
as I unwrapped another slice of freedom from the very same book that pounded me before.
It was like swimming in the sea and being drawn into and dazzled by beauty and light
or suddenly stung and throttled until squeezed empty of breath.
What was the deal?
Like a sandpiper on the beach,  I’d dart away then go back hopeful,
drawn always to the sunsparkles on dancing water.

There are a million places I could settle and even more stories why,
but I want to tell you quick were I’ve landed
because the long version is a love story still unfolding and for another day
The cliff notes for now: I go no more into the water alone
wearing the tight, heavy clothes of assumption.
I invite the author to take me there,  skinny dipping,
like a guide who seems happy to have me along for company
and may be eager to show me a shade or swirl I’ve never noticed
or just bob in the waves until some weight slides off
and I’m floating free where I felt constricted before.

Because the whole thing is a painting,  I think….
Poetry and parables and picture-talk,
spacious fields of buried treasure inviting discovery,  spirit calling spirit,
a long beach for combing slow,  encountering gifts washed up from the deep.
Going there intellectually seems like driving fast down the beach in a truck,
looking for messages written in sand.
Mysteries get missed and even crushed that way,
and so do people.

I came back to life in the rhythm of the waves,
walking bare-heart on the moist of the sand.
I’d looked for God in a still life and found eventually an abstract painting,
an allegory with a generous guide.

Do I even think I understand it all?  Oh Lord no and feel no pressure to try.
And I wouldn’t argue any point at all, except for this one:
if someone looks inside this tapestry and sees a picture
that paints God as harsh or vengeful or petty or moody or narrow or disengaged,
anything other than the good I see loved out loud in the person of Jesus,
I don’t buy it,  thinking this projection of bias,
or even more likely translation of a foreign language based only on our native tongue.

Maybe it was always meant to be a treasure dig like I’ve come to wonder.

I can only say that I’m  finding still fresh fountains buried for me there
and the process seems to grow inside me something that I wouldn’t trade for certainty.
And yes,  if served up in a spirit that my heart no longer welcomes,  my soul will break out in hives
and I’ll run screaming into the woods with no apology.
I have no tolerance for spiritual bullying or the suffocating fear it can cause.
(Really,  people?  From a God who took the pains to write down “fear not”
365 times in a book he was willing to pass off to wobbly beings like us to have published?
Don’t even try to threaten me with fear.)

If I had to say it short,  I’d say that yes,  I believe that scripture is God-breathed,
like trees and sky and sea and flowers and puppies
which we also tend to get our sticky hand prints on and pollute or even abuse.
(i’ll go there later – where i’ve landed on the whole deal of suffering and a loving God)

For now,  may I just bless you wherever you are on whatever your journey
in whatever you choose to believe.
I love this about life – how it’s all one big eclectic explore and we’re all welcome along the way.
And for each time someone has used scripture at you – caused some blunt trauma wound,
can i apologize to that hurting place.  I believe wholehearted that it wasn’t from the heart of God.
Someone just couldn’t see the picture for the paint.
You are loved.
Always.
Loved.

“Will you follow me down that old dirt road and get lost inside those mountains?
Will you rip up that map and dance inside the confetti?
Let’s chase the horizon and find ourselves along the way.
These are wandering feet and they wish for you to join them.”
– Tyler Knott Gregson

” Don’t settle for an angry,  narrow-minded,  linear-thinking,
unkind,  punitive God.”
– Robin Macmillan

Thanks for coming along on this series…..I have maybe one more or maybe I’ll find myself done;
it’s been harder to dig up the words than I ever imagined.
I’ll be putting it to voice soon,  like I wrote it to be.
Here’s another little video I made you….hope you enjoy:)