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Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Peasant_Mary_192pxIt’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post. A really long time. I haven’t even written in my journal in quite a while, either. I didn’t realize that my last post–“Why I Don’t Write”–would be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Once I realized how long it’d been since I had written–anything!–I started thinking about why I hadn’t been writing. And I realized I’d been too busy living.

Now, that can be a good thing. If I’m too busy enjoying each moment, living in the present so enthusiastically that I just can’t take time away from the sights and sounds, the laughter and toddler hugs, the sunsets and evening stars, then that’s okay. That’s living life to the fullest AND storing up future writing material.

However, if being too busy living means that the treadmill of my life is cranked up too high, if I’m running at a sprint just trying to get it all done, with no time to breathe, rest, or write, then that’s a bad thing. A really bad thing.

Looking back, I discovered that I’ve been doing both. And personally, I count it as progress that I realized and adjusted, rather than judged and scolded myself. So here’s to progress.

But I have to admit, there’s another reason I haven’t been writing much. The world has just been too full of voices lately. Voices that know it all. Voices that hold positions with no room for anyone else’s experiences or opinions. Voices of anger. Voices of righteous indignation. Voices of dead-on certainty.

Mostly, all those voices just make me want to be quiet. To add only peace to an already over-loud world.

So here’s to a new year of being kind to ourselves and each other. Of being peace instead of one more strident voice. Of waiting to write (or speak) until we have some wisdom or beauty to share, some joy to bring. I like this idea. May it be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Why I Don’t Write

hand-325321_640I don’t write because you have to think to write, and thinking is hard work.  Much harder than cleaning a house, or mowing a yard, or digging a ditch.  When you think, you have to go down roads that you’d rather not travel.  You have to confront your doubts and inconsistencies. You have to face the scary demons that slink under your bed at night and hide in the deep recesses of your closet,  behind that dress you keep thinking you’ll wear again but never do.  Thinking is not easy like strolling down the driveway to get the mail; it’s hard and long–like  sprinting a marathon.

I don’t write because I think too fast. My mind latches onto an idea and sprints off with it, keeping a pace that a pencil or even typing fingers can’t match.

I don’t write because I think too slowly. I ponder and go deep.  I linger, turning ideas over like small warm stones picked up on the side of the road. My thoughts run like molasses, and I don’t want to bore anybody with sticky ideas that take too long to go anywhere.

I don’t write because I have good ideas when I can’t write them down, and then I forget them when I can.

I don’t write because I figure that if I’ve thought of it, so have you, so why would you want to read what I say?

I don’t write because somebody else has already written what I want to say.  And done an excellent job of it, too.

I don’t write because I’ll probably make a mistake, and you’ll catch it, and I’ll be embarrassed.

I don’t write because it takes a lot of time, and I’ve got too much to do already.

I don’t write because I’m afraid that if I ever get started, I’ll never quit.

I don’t write because I’m scared to say what I really want to say.

I don’t write . . .

 

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Tales from the South at St. Joseph’s Farm

 

 

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A few weeks ago, I got to be on Tales from the South for the second time.   You can listen to my story HERE.  I’m the second storyteller.

 

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This go ’round, we were on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Farm in North Little Rock.  St. Joseph’s started out as a Catholic orphanage.  Now, it’s an organic, sustainable farming operation.

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We got to walk around the farm, were served a delicious farm-to-table meal in a beautiful location, got to hear great stories, and I got to tell one of my own.

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I’d had dreams of an evening feast under a sprawling oak since I first saw a spread like that in Southern Living, years ago. Sometimes, dreams do come true.

 

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The Sisters

branchEither way I turn out of my driveway in the morning, I have a beautiful walk ahead of me. Today, I turned right, pasture on each side of me, bales of hay against a backdrop of white barn and green grass. About half a mile along the road bends to the right, and I walked alongside a grove of oak trees. These trees are young, planted in straight rows, but farther down on my left are the trees I really love. I call them The Sisters.

These four towering oaks are old, standing in somewhat of a circle. They are venerable, leaning slightly in towards each other, their gnarled arms outstretched, their knobby hands on the shoulders of the sister on either side of them. I can’t explain how or why, but I know these trees. I know them deeply and intimately. I long to walk through the tall grass and the wildflowers and sit in the grove made by their circling.

I sense their wisdom, and I drink in their beauty.  How much these trees have to teach me!  The beauty of old age, of a life well lived.  The dignity of standing strong and tall through the years, weathering the inevitable storms of life. The comfort of the family circle, the ability to live gloriously through each season.

What would happen if we all stopped to listen to our sisters and brothers in Nature?  Would we grow wiser? Would our lives be richer? Would we be unable to rape and pillage the earth without compunction? Would we be kinder? Gentler? More accepting of our own gnarled knottiness? More willing to provide shade to others?

I like to think so.

 

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Starry, Starry Night

746px-Starry_Night_by_Jean-François_Millet

The weather this past weekend was perfect, and Saturday was a day I have needed for a long time.  You know those days–the kind when you’re fully immersed in each moment, not watching the clock, just doing the stuff of living. The way every day used to be when we were children.

Our grandson spent the day with us, and we followed him around as he explored.  From the front porch to the yard, on to the barn, out to check the cows, into the Mule to ride through the woods, he helped us remember what life is like when everything is new and exciting, out there waiting to be experienced.

After he went home, we didn’t want the day to end, so my husband built a fire in the fire pit. We sat around it, listening to the frogs and distant barking dogs and admiring the flames. Hamburgers sizzled on the charcoal grill. When they were ready, we dressed them with mustard, lots of lettuce, thin slices of onion and tomato, and tart dill pickles, then ate them outside, under the moon.

When our children were young, we’d often all lie on their trampoline and look up at the stars.  It’s one of my favorite memories, and it seems that both my husband and I were remembering it at the same time.  He turned to me and asked, “Do you have a blanket we could spread out and lie on to look at the stars?”

I went upstairs to get a quilt, and we walked to the side of the house, away from the fire, away from the lights of Searcy glowing in the night sky. We spread the quilt on the grass.”Let’s lie facing North,” he said. so we lay down on our backs, feet towards the woods. The earth was solid beneath us, and the warmth of another body by our side welcome in the chill night air.

We did not talk.  I looked up into the night sky and lost myself.  Stars, stars, everywhere. More than I could ever count with all the numbers in the world. The longer I looked the more stars revealed themselves, seeming to come out of hiding to reward my perseverance.

The vastness of the universe overwhelmed me. How far away the stars are! And how vast the distance between them!  Was I, perhaps, looking up at a star that had burned out millennia ago? I felt small and full of awe for the mystery that is life in this universe.  How presumptuous we are, acting as if we’ve got things all figured out. How little we comprehend of the Divine Mystery, yet how comforting to know that the spirit of God lives in us. In us!

 

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Words, words. Perhaps.

Words, words.words

I love them. I use them.  I parse them, analyze them. They are my joy; they are my tools.

But this Summer, words have almost deserted me. Although I’ve thought long and felt much, I have found it difficult to write, even in the privacy of my journal.

Why? I wondered. Why? When I’ve felt so close to Spirit, experienced times of profound comprehension, received long-desired healing in important areas of my life, grown in knowledge and in practice? Why?

Perhaps, when Spirit works in our hearts, the experience is too profound for words. Perhaps words, if used too quickly, too early, with too little thought, cheapen the experience, make shallow deep lessons.

Perhaps my Life is mimicking the rhythms of Nature.  This past Summer, a time of growth, will give way to the shortened days and lengthening shadows of Autumn, providing more time for contemplation and, perhaps, the return of words.  Beautiful words arriving just in time, like the jewel-toned leaves, crowning growth with glory.

Spiritual experience cannot be captured in words, but we try.  Oh, we try. Perhaps to understand.  Perhaps to share the gifts we’ve received with fellow travelers.

Perhaps.

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I Love My Job

welcome back

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Being What I Am Becoming

400px-Metamorphosis_(7196082472)Ever since I was a little girl, a very little girl, I had a vision of the woman I wanted to be.  My future self was a fully rounded character. I could see, in my mind’s eye, the way I’d wear my hair, the expression on my face, the style of clothes I’d wear, the types of books I’d read, the way I’d approach life.  But even as I write this, I know what I’m saying isn’t exactly right. In fact, I don’t think “a vision of the woman I wanted to be” is the correct way to describe it at all.  Instead, it’s as if I was born with a deep knowledge of who I was and the ability to see myself as the full-grown version of that person. I both knew who I was and deeply longed to be that person.

But then life happened.  Other voices told me what to think and what to do, what was possible and, mostly, what was impossible. Authority figures limited me, and society shaped me. And because I was an obedient child longing for approval, I buried deep what I was and what I knew and tried to be what I was told to be, to believe what I was told to believe.

I lived this way for years and years, feeling as if I were not a real person, admiring authenticity in others and longing for it myself but believing it was impossible for me.  Always, at the edges of my vision flitted an alluring specter, a lurking promise that there could be more.

One day, I had an epiphany.  I realized I would never become that woman if didn’t start being her.  I went back and loved the little girl that I was, accepted her fully, allowed myself to get to know her.  I let myself remember what I’d known, embrace the wisdom with which I’d been born. I started both being and becoming myself.

I have been a recipient of grace. May I accept the grace of Remembering, re-inhabit the grace of Being, and allow the grace of Becoming.

 

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First Days, Jobs, and Callings

teacherA new school year starts today.  A new semester, new classes, new students.

I remember when I first started teaching.  I worried about syllabi and lesson plans.  I worried about what I should know, what I would say, what my students would think about me, and how I’d get all those papers graded.

I still think about some of those things, but I don’t worry about them.  What I most wonder now, as I begin a new semester, is this:  What will I learn this year? How will I grow as a person? Whose lives will I touch this year?  Whose lives will touch mine? Who will be forever changed because they met me? What student will change me in ways I could never have expected? Who will start out as my student and end up as my dear friend?

I am an English professor, and I still believe it’s my job to teach students to think critically, to communicate clearly, and to appreciate literature in all its forms. But my calling is to be a life-long learner, to touch lives, to become more whole day by day, to grow and to help others to do the same.

May I be successful at both my job and my calling as this new school year begins.

And to my colleagues, former students who are stepping into their own classroom for the first time, long-time teachers in new positions,  and those returning to long-held positions, may your year be blessed and full of joy.

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Expanding Stillness

I wrote previously that I’ve spent a lot of time being quiet this summer, and I have loved the quiet. But I’ve also spent a lot of time being still, too, and you know what I discovered? When I pursue stillness, it expands.

When I’m still–and I don’t mean physically unmoving, but when I’m still in mind, in spirit–a whole new world opens up to me.  I see things, hear things, know things, that escape me in the hustle and bustle of “normal” life.  I experience time, and life, differently. The stillness expands through my body, slowing my pulse, my rate of breathing.  It tempers my need to be always productive. I discover that I am in relationship with nature, with the rhythms of life. As it spreads through my mind and spirit, I feel the undercurrent of Being that gets crowded out by doing.

I just finished reading Paulo Cuelho’s The Alchemist (which I loved), and in it the main character, Santiago, comes to know the Spirit of the World and to read the omens that guide him as he pursues his Personal Legend. His relationship with nature, other human beings, and all the world, grows as he slows down and pays attention. He becomes more peaceful, more settled in himself, more in tune with God.  That’s the way I want to live.

As I’ve begun to pay more attention, things I might have rushed right by beg to be noticed and have messages to give me. On my morning walk the other day, I noticed this:

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Do you see the hearts lining the string of barbed wire?  How beautiful! A reminder to live every day with heart. I had to go back with my camera to capture the image.

See this beautiful yellow-breasted fellow?

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He’s been my companion over coffee many mornings this summer.  He sits on the fence, squawking at me and singing.  I sit on the porch and listen, pretending that I understand.  And perhaps I do.  Oh, not his conversation, of course, but I do comprehend this beautiful reminder of synchronicity.  The yellow bird, the yellow flowers, a reminder of fortunate connections everywhere.

As the school year is about to begin, I pray that I can hold on to this stillness.  Even with driving back and forth to work, with class preparations and grading, with grocery shopping and folding laundry, with all the necessary doings of life, I want to cultivate a background of stillness.

May I practice this holy stillness until it expands into every area of my life, until it permeates my entire way of being in this world.

 

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