“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Henry David Thoreau
“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Escape a false sense of community. Reconnect with my inner instincts and aspirations. Use my gifts. Stop wasting time. Make more time for face-to-face relationships and “old-fashioned” correspondence (think e-mail). These are some of the reasons which prompted me to give up Facebook for an indefinite amount of time (a year?). Commence eye-rolling if you must. I know it might seem selfish. It might be an inconvenience for some. It might not make sense.
I don’t know if my experiment will bring me the things I seek, but so far I have maintained my reading goals (see my new “Reading Log” page for what I’m currently reading), face-timed for two hours with a friend I hadn’t talked to in nearly 20 years, and written in my journal almost every day. I have had lunch dates with friends and family members and appreciated the interaction in ways I had come to take for granted.
When I recently messaged another dear friend and mentioned that I had spent my morning reading, writing and thinking about future blog topics, she celebrated the “fog clearing” for me. She has agonized with me through this past year’s turbulence. She has shared my sorrow and bewilderment over how I lost any desire to read or write – two of the treasured mainstays of most of my life. And with her perceptive observation of the “fog clearing” she has assured me that there is hope that my experiment might truly turn out to be great.
Some things never change, but then again, sometimes (almost) everything changes. Since my last post over 16 months ago, my life has been touched by nearly every major life-impacting event known to womankind. I thought about listing here all these tragedies, conundrums, and milestones, tempted by the shock value of their individual and accumulated status. But ultimately, that’s not really my style. Or is it? Maybe it should be. Maybe the newly transparent, vibrantly vulnerable woman that is emerging from the wreckage needs to boldly acknowledge my journey. Maybe I need to acknowledge my membership in the various tribes of which I now belong.
No. I just spent half an hour chronicling that tribes list here. At Number 17, it stopped feeling right. So I deleted all of them. But that doesn’t change my desire to put my stories out there – out HERE on my blog – not just in a shocking list, but in meaningful, redeeming ways. Because, despite all that is new, altered, damaged or rejuvenated in my life, my soul is still intact, with many of the same longings, loves and aspirations and convictions. It is truly a near miraculous reality and an evidence of grace beyond my mortal comprehension.
I’m still me, the “woman that never sleeps,” the lover of the quotidian life and the stories that reveal its sacred beauty. I hope you’ll stop by occasionally and join me in my marveling.
“It is not a happy thing to be a writer; imagination is a writer’s greatest gift but it can be a torture in everyday life. A poet never knows when or how his ecstasy or melancholy will seize him; the same people, the same place, the same things can fill him with joy one day, misery the next.”
– Hans Christian Andersen as quoted in Hans Christian Andersen by Rumer Godden.
As far as vacation sites go, it was not the most picturesque. In fact, in some ways it reminded me of a few modest plots in the small towns where I grew up. The clapboard house with the creaky wooden floors and maze of rooms and tiny hidden closets closely resembled ones where my brother and I spent hours creating and furnishing secret hideouts. (Not together, mind you; we only collaborated with friends, fighting territorial wars that undoubtedly erased any question in the mind of our long suffering mother, as to whether or not she really was housing monsters in the attic.)
This humble little getaway cabin did not overlook any scenic views, either – unless you consider parking lots of LDS wards to be “scenic.”
The interior scenery was not completely devoid of interest, however. There was an antique picture of a naked baby on the wall of the breakfast nook. My daughter nicknamed him Toby after the supposed specter who haunts a friend’s house. It only took a day for the kids to quit complaining about the little bare butt that shined over every meal we ate at the table. Soon we were too engrossed in our individual and corporate vacation pursuits to be bothered (too much) by bare baby butts. Since we found little inspiration looking out the windows – except for the minature one in the pantry that had apparently once housed a place for a one-nest chicken coop (Open window; grab egg; breakfast!) – we turned to looking to the skies. They did not disappoint our eyes or our ears.
Every afternoon a glorious beast of a thunderstorm rolled in over the White Mountains. This was not Sandburg’s fog coming in “on little cat fee.” It came on the paws of a black panther stealthily hunting its prey. Lightning flashed and the lights flickered as it crept. At its best it felt like the beast and prey were tumbling and scrappling right through the crooked passages of the cabin. It jolted and jarred the joists and jambs. We feared Toby’s little butt would come crashing down on the groaning planks.
We all agreed it was “perfect weather.” We sprawled on day beds and couches, curled under tall lamps in rocking chairs. We took up blankets. We took up our books. For the first few storms I fought boas and flew sorties with Roald Dahl in Africa. And then, as the Mormans commanded their troops across the street and my husband commenced the grand loading project, I stole the last few moments following Hans Christian Andersen down the cobbled streets of Copenhagen. That’s when I found the quote from his sad tormented hand.
On the way out of town and with a low gas tank, we took a wrong turn which led to an unintentional detour through the Apache reservation. It was scenic.
Teach me, O God, so to use all the circumstances of my life today
that they may bring forth in me the fruits of holiness
rather than the fruits of sin.
Let me use disappointment as material for patience.
Let me use success as material for thankfulness.
Let me use suspense as material for perseverance.
Let me use danger as material for courage.
Let me use reproach as material for longsuffering.
Let me use praise as material for humility.
Let me use pleasures as material for temperance.
Let me use pains as material for endurance.
– John Baillie, A Diary of Private Prayer, Twenty-Fourth Day – Morning
Randomness does not even sound like a real word to me, but apparently it is. But if it wasn’t, rather than begrudgingly force myself to accept this fact (like I’m attempting to do with the use of anyways – and by the way, I caution you on checking out Urban Dictionary‘s definition on this; they’re more vulgar than I am…) I would accept it . Woo-hoo! I DO accept it and I’m using it. Rah! Rah! Skip-boom-bah! This, my friends, is the result of spending seven hours a day with 28 first graders, four hours a night revisiting algebra and Latin with your middle-school children and six hours this morning doing my PHS-1 on-line college science course (perhaps a story for another time of exuberant, delirious randomness.)
Seems like this might be a good time to insert a sentimental photo and change the subject. This is a photo (courtesy Aunt Sue) of what is left of the swing on my grandparents’ farm. For the last several months my mother has given me regular updates on the selling of the farm, a transaction which is the result of my grandmother and grandfather passing. They both lived well into their 90’s – 95 and 98 – and their farm is in itself a world of analogies and metaphors for those of us blessed to spend time there. My memories of the place are stacked in a happy recess in what’s left of my mind, like the fragrant golden bales in the gigantic tin-roofed hay shed just beyond the milk barn, half-way to the creek. There are no swings on the playground at the school where I now work. This is a sad, sad, sad, sad, sad, sad, sad commentary on contemporary society. There’s nothing like hours of exhilarating swinging to alleviate all your childhood cares. I’m pretty sure it would work on my adult cares, but they paved paradise and didn’t put up a dadgummed swing, so I must blog. Lucky you. (That was a joke.)
Prayer is not a joke to me, and here is an excerpt from my favorite prayer diary: “Make me wise to see all things today under the form of eternity, and make me brave to face all the changes in my life which such a vision may entail: through the grace of Christ my Saviour. Amen.” (A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie). Being mindful of the big picture, embracing change – the ever-present adversaries warring away in my mind and soul.
But speaking of another type of “big picture,” my hubby and I are finally going out for long overdue Date Night; i.e., dinner and a movie. Thankfully this is one of the most effective adult versions of childhood swinging.
Pump those legs.
Feel the breeze.
The sun is kissing me all over my face.
“The little stream sings
in the crease of the hill.
It is the water of life. It knows
nothing of death, nothing.”
There is more to this Wendell Berry poem (“Sabbaths 2003, IV”) but these first words cause my mind to wander. I recall streams, and then full-fledged waterfalls, from my childhood and from my living and travels since: the cool, clear waterfall that spills over slick black slate in a hidden pine-filled ravine on a Nebraska ranch, the cascading sheet that pours from head-tilting heights at Multnomah Falls, the slender fall that is barely visible in the verdant Hawaiian paradise. All these still sing to me, and I wonder: is it true? Has water somehow escaped the infections of the Fall? Has Christ’s metaphor of living water somehow redeemed our streams already? On that day that hails the new heavens and the new earth will they alone say, “But we’re already perfect!”?
Merely thinking of perfection always seems to invite its opposite, and I now remember the red-brown waters of my grandpa’s creek – mosquitoes hovering to defend their silty haven. Yards away were stenchy, stagnant puddles – the water filled hoof prints of cattle and their manure. Far from the farm, determined black algae insisted on clinging to the pebbly crevices of our backyard swimming pool. Did Berry get it wrong – this idea of water knowing nothing of death?
No. Berry’s words speak of running water, a “stream.” It can sing because it is ever fleeing the temptations of this world, the snare of sitting still in laziness. Running water revels in doing what it was created to do, tickling sand and rocks, bubbling and babbling, spilling over outstretched thirsty tongues. It does not stop to welcome infection and disease, but rather sweeps up and carries mud and gravel to the places they belong, like a gentle mother depositing her child back into its crib for the thousandth time. This is why Berry can say “it is the water of life.” The challenge in this life, where all water waits for its redemption, is to be a stream, ever flowing for the purposes of our sanctification. When we are “still water” may it be because of a deep and confident faith in God’s purposes.
I sit in a squatty, stunted lawn chair, its bar legs gagging the mouth of sand it sits upon. I look out towards the grey horizon and watch fingers of foam crawling up the shore’s spine, massaging it rhythmically. It is mesmerizing, this sandy, foamy ocean massage table.
This is vacation, but I am pulled by an inner ocean of current that flows towards the known, the routine. I seek out the condo’s laundry room, following the fresh linen and detergent scent until I find the balmy humming haven. There is water here unclaimed by nature’s tide, and it will rid my towels of the sneaky sand that hitchhiked from the shore.
Vacating the quotidian is easier said than done.