Monday, January 22, 2007


"Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live:
And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live..."

~ Ezekiel, chapter 37

It is no longer a wait, but an arrival; not a longing for the irretrievable past, but a looking forward that centers on the present. What had been a dagger in my chest is now grazed cannon fire of which I have been spared. Yes, this is a new land, and my steps are just at the beginning- however I am tapping into strength that is profoundly rooted beneath these experiences. There is a rush in the air, and something wondrous is happening right at this moment.

Well before dawn I awoke, and from my window much of the results of last night's snow remains untouched and reflectant. The voices and faces of those who have blessed me with their presence fill my light recollections, and I want to honor them all with what I can make of this life given to me. These times are simply shadows of what is to come, and even if what embodies the now constitutes all I really have, the embracing of this moment gives way to confidence that can see beyond the confines of expectations and setbacks. I was sure I heard the double bolting of slammed doors, but now it appears the door may have been bolted only from the inside.

Friday, January 19, 2007

the end of the land of exile

"One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it unless it has all been suffering, nothing but suffering."

~ Jane Austen, Persuasion

Thursday, January 18, 2007

bonum est confidere

What more appropriate time than the Eighteenth of this month to pause and give thanks for the written word. Let's consider why we write, why we tone our muscles of orthographic articulation to record our thoughts and observe our ever unfolding lives.

In Scott Peck's opening chapter of his Road Less Traveled, he is sure to establish that if anything at all, life is difficult. By setting this in context, we neither rail against the absence of unrealistic perfection, nor do we hold assumptions that things must be easy. But I would add that when we write, we are sure we are not alone.

The written word can vindicate, as well as advocate. Considering how persuasive prose has advanced major causes, it brings to mind the shortage of sharp wits in these times of sullen mediocrity. We can easily call to mind the power of well-constructed words during the Reformation, or the American Revolution. Not to be forgotten, amidst a horrific civil war- the bloodiest in the history of France- the massacred Huguenots could not match the resources of the armies of the royal courts. They stood well on ethical high-ground, having been hideously wronged and flagrantly murdered, yet undefeated their circumstances fuelled the spirit which helped them survive. "We had beaten them over and over again," said a king's soldier named Montluc, in a rage. "We were winning by force of arms, but they triumphed by means of their diabolical writings."

Lift your graphite, or inked, or pixillated swords, and persevere !

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

unanswerable impressions

"Something quite unexpected has happened. It came this morning early. For various reasons, not in themselves all mysterious, my heart was lighter than it had been for many weeks."

~ C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

Even as the old spectres await my waking, as lance-bearing centurions keeping watch at my bedside and poised to pierce, things are suddenly different. In a homecoming, the winter freeze has taken hold, and under the frigid grip, I feel warmth burgeoning beneath. It is as though compression and the contractions of raw temperatures force a response, and that reaction is not a numb lifelessness, but instead a geothermal aspiration radiating through layers of ice.

You withheld sleep from my eyes, said the Psalmist, "I was troubled and could not speak." The writer of these words confessed that his soul actually refused to be consoled, as if there had been a choice. Sinking more profoundly into grief, remembrances of grace came to mind. The past right away became the dynamic present. Love has not vanished. The pondering of grandeur gives way to all the trust that is needed at this moment. This afternoon, faith means throwing on my wool coat, wrapping my scarf around, and going back to work. We are each needed. We are each awaited. Happy those who anticipate, for they are anticipated, too.

Friday, January 12, 2007

always and never

"‘This is the land of Narnia, where we are now’, said the faun. 'It is all that lies between the lamp-post and the great castle of Caer Paravel on the eastern sea.’ It is winter in Narnia, and has been for ever so long. Always winter and never Christmas."

~ C.S. Lewis, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

It is in the very face of howling winds that I listen hard for the still voice of mercy, and on dry, barren lands I am pursuing new growth and living waters. This winter I was anticipating encouraging a loved one for whom winter has a depressing implication. Ironically, in the wake of loss and grief, I am the one that is being consoled by every other caring person in these times. Indeed, as I strengthen- I, too, can continue being a consoler. It has never been certain what events and people are found beyond the known lands and boundaries, but there must always abide a confident hope, an aspiration that breathes an affirmative to go forward.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

harrowing movement

"Now I climb the steps to freedom.
The open gates, I can see them.
Hands that I once knew
Beckoning me through."

~ Mike Oldfield, I Can See the Light

My town, my home, my place of refuge has been strangely unfamiliar. New eyes battered by crisis cause me to see the known as unknown, ground to be explored afresh, acquaintance to be made. To be re-known. A ship guided by radar and sonar proceeds, notwithstanding the white void coming over the deck that makes the sky undifferentiated and seamless from the ocean.

I have set forth undaunted, and must have enough trust there will be calmer and better waters. An authentic pilgrimage is an earnest one-way voyage; it is the opposite of a closed loop. And it is a voyage of faith. Maps and prescribed descriptions may indicate localities, but these are merely two-dimensional representations of living and breathing places whose futures are as provisional as mine.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

ne laisse pas mes ténèbres me parler

"There is a light, a light that never dies
See it shine, shining in my sorrow
There is a light, a light in my desire
See it shining, shining for tomorrow

Only love can give me an answer
Oh I know that love can heal
From the dust a new hope rises up
Only love can set me, set me free"

~ Mike Peters & The Alarm, Only Love Can Set Me Free

Just as I have begun to resume a modicum of regular sleep hours and at least a daily meal, the restless nights have returned. This time, though knowing I’ll pay for it later this evening, I simply woke and washed at 4am. It was a chance to watch for the gradual sun rise by candlelight. In due time, the exterior gradations of ambient illumination exceeded that of the lit votives and tapers on my writing table.

So very hungrily and tirelessly I have been pressing on for wholeness, navigating the dense and grievous haze. At times I can wake with a forward sense of the moment, otherwise my thoughts are invaded with imagined reasons why I must be so detestable. But then, if loving gestures reflect the hearts of those who give, perhaps in a similar sense hateful actions reveal the essence of their origins. While the life of the mind lends itself to the temptations of rationalization, my recent learning is giving way to regarding such thoughts from more of an observer’s vantage point. Indeed, there have been- and there will remain- unreasonable actions and sentiments that will never make sense, however what is always at hand is my ability to go forward without capitulating to morose principles. Even this far down the line, after things that would desensitize anyone, I am positively sure I will always love and proceed from my heart.
It is the only way.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

resist voluntary squalor

"Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
and death shall have no dominion."

~ Dylan Thomas, And Death Shall Have No Dominion

Though I move among all of you, chatting with you, serving you, sipping coffee, and doing the normal day’s commerce, my open gashes are invisible to all. It is a tangible perplexity I have known before, in rare instances, that I pursue a normalcy albeit in the form of some eviscerated animal. Indeed, this is self-perceived, otherwise the responses in employment, cafés, post offices, and shops would be entirely different than the usual cordialities. Nonetheless, emotional wounds can cause a sense so pervasive as to debilitate. Or, at least to feel as if this is really so.

Surely, I have enough presence of mind to draw contrasts between the actual and the unreal. That is among the fringe benefits of gainful employment. No matter how I am feeling, I know what is required of me, and how to make the best connections between what is needed and what to provide. It is an undersold skill, and I’ve seen myself capable of such acute performance in the midst of harrowing grief and desolation. And yet, even now- as then- I count it a blessing that I have refused to opt for the cowardice of frivolous amnesia and willful squalor. Rather than slink away, I am engaging the battle to decimate the cumulative pain-body. Non-dealing is no way to deal. Even with the rawness exposed, I could never imagine squalor to be an option. Hardship indicates that sights must be set higher, not lower. Even the depths of crepuscular valleys can reveal gratitudes. One such unwitting blessing is the flat refusal to embrace insensitivity. Feeling wretched may run its temporal course, but it certainly does not imply a choice in favor of wretchedness.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

violent for mercy

"God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

~ 2nd Timothy 1:7

My physical steps are labored, on the steep uneven sidewalks of this seaside city, under burdens of books, work accoutrements, and this anguish that can tether even the strongest soul to the hard pavement. But with each day's worth of measured strides, with each planting and pushing-off of my feet on the bricks, I am sensing the depths of my strength. I look at the skies, even at night, and begin to ponder the concern and uplifting love that is around me, that is presented to me. When I can't find healing imagery within, my friends provide the healing words and gestures. When I have not been able to cook with my usual alacrity, I am breaking bread with dear souls who invite me to their tables. And so many, with such astonishing abundance. It makes me spin. I wonder if all these good people know who they are talking with, but I can do nought but to trust. To be loved is an even greater wonder for me than to love others. Pangs of abandonment cause me to flinch. Ultimately, I believe, we all get to serve one another and it must never be about keeping tallies.

And in the numerous conversations, I get to be thankfully distracted from what grieves my heart. It is the gift of the present, and I am able to view my life in the healthier context of being part of a great many lives. No person's life is perfect, least of all mine. Ironically for these times, I find myself in the familiar place of pointing others to hopefulness, and in the process there is the sprouting seed of encouragement within me. My profoundest wishes and desires are released into the universe, and now detached from me. It is all so raw and paradoxical, but now impossible not to notice this is the eve of the feast of the Epiphany.

Friday, January 5, 2007

anchor of my soul

"O that thou wouldst rend the heavens, and wouldst come down: the mountains would melt away at thy presence."

~Isaiah 64:1

Thursday, January 4, 2007

i'll fly away

"sunlight has not found us
over forty days or more
while the flood outside proves no guide
to bring this little boat ashore

what we know this hour
is not what we will know
when these liquid days are done
in a turn of light like sun on subtle rose
we will see what’s just begun."

~ Charlie Peacock, Liquid Days

Simply the intense desire to turn the corner, to wish with all my strength that I be awash with the tide of sea change, is the tiny and extremely fragile mustard seed of trust. If it is so, as with ancient traditions, that we can keep company with our forebears, those who lived in other times with other deprivations and challenges, then I not only begin to sense their presence but as well that of my esteemed and living friends. The communion of the saints comprises those I know and trust, but also the comrades on the journey who have been corresponding with me. For years I have served and given, to the point of physical and spiritual exhaustion, and suddenly in the vulnerability of feeling the depths of the backstabs of time, I am recipient of the gifts of the graces of others. Grieving has broken me into many pieces. The wings of entrusted friendships have just begun to bear me up out of the trench of miry clay. All of which causes me to redouble my honest endeavour to be healed and whole, so that I can continue to be a presence to others, as I am gifted with the sanctity of the precious souls who give safe harbours in the torrent. Indeed, one might say hurricanes have eyes. I want to return to being a refuge, and as well nurture the trust that is being recovered.

Though overwhelmed and bereft, it becomes necessary to go forward. It is vital to call to mind that what is ahead is what exceeds that which is before me. The movement cannot wait until tomorrow; it must urgently happen, and in that uncertain dynamism I can just start to sense the excitement of the unknown. Daring to reckon with fears, and not delaying the process, is to throw off the burdensome yokes of servitude to negative forces of betrayal. The new and reinforced self is forced to leave behind the obsolete. Inertia will be overcome, and it is surely easier if we support one another, and it is certainly sweeter when we can share the good momentum.