Thank you for choosing to look into the windows of my mind, heart, and soul. I hope the views are inviting.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I've Been Tagged!

Ok Athena, you tagged me with the hardest Tag of all...THE RANDOM FACT TAG! Arrrgggg!

Here goes a random rant of nothing:

1) Being an English teacher and an avid reader still has not allowed me to change one really annoying reality about my brain/memory...I cannot remember character's names, the general or specific plot, titles of books, author's names, or any significant details from any book I read just one time. I must discuss my books IMMEDIATELY or have someone give me the "Cliff's Notes" summary so that I can dig the book out from under the other mess in my mind.

2) What I described above applies to movies, songs, poetry, jokes, and, now that I think about it, it is the general way that my life is organized! (For instance, I cannot remember how many random facts I am supposed to generate....ugh)

3) I collect movie stubs. Most of the really old ones are all faded, but they are stuffed in two or three different loose change jugs I have around my house.

4) My future husband and I share the same name...my middle name is Renee, and his first name is Rene.

5) I won third place in Jr. State Tennis #2 doubles.

6) I never tag anyone when I do these things. I enjoy reading everyone else's; sometimes I like filling them out for myself; but, I never, never, never tag anyone. So basically, the fun stops here. Sorry!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

One Day

Van Gogh and Damien Rice.

Walk into this room, downstairs in the basement of the soul. Watch your head as you descend the damp wooden steps into the unfinished and unvisited room forgotten beneath the home. The ceiling is low.

Look at the window along the eastern wall. The weeds have grown without notice in the window well, creating a curtain that can't be drawn from where you stand. A few struggling rays of sunlight illuminate the one tattered poster taped to the cement wall. A cheap reproduction of one of Van Gogh's final oil paintings. Wheatfield and Mountains. Inspired by the view the genius gazed upon from his barred windows in the Saint-Remy asylum.
Beauty.
Beauty as seen through bars.

You stand and reflect on the wide sweeping movements of battered wheat and swirling clouds rising above the solemn structures of the field--wood and rock.

You are lost in the view. Listen to the song that begins to rise from the dirt floor you stand upon. Repeating piano chords dripping from the ceiling. Soft vocals wrap like a fog around your form and thoughts. Then the ache, shock, and refreshment of cold water on the broken soul.

Cold,
cold water
surrounds me now.
And all I've got
is your hand.

Lord,
can you hear me now?
Lord,
can you hear me now?
Lord,
can you hear me now?
Or
am I lost?

No one's
daughter
Allow me that
And I can't
let go
of your hand

Lord,
can you hear me now?
Lord,
can you hear me now?
Lord,
can you hear me now?
Or
am I lost?

RESPONSE:
Don't you know
I love you

and
I always have

Hallelujah
Will you come with me?


Cold,
cold water
surrounds me now
And all I've got
is your hand

Lord,
can you hear me now?
Lord,
can you hear me now?
Lord,
can you hear me now?
Or
am I lost?


A prayer exhaled in the basement of the soul.
Amen.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Seven Month Silence

I have been becoming simple...ironically, it's been too complex of a process to explain here. I was telling someone the other day that I am empty. Empty of everything that has mattered (well almost). Relationships that mattered---several gone. My work---not secured. My family away from home---moving away from here. Some who have led the way---lagging behind. My home---up for sale. The place I want---not mine. Promises made---not fulfilled. My current dreams---not yet real. My most comfortable passions---attacked. My current place among roommates---drawing to a close most likely. My collaboration among familiar sisters---perhaps finalized. My movements of faith toward desires---not joined. My sights set on clarity from the light above---but only I see? Really? Why?
I HAVE TO speak this reality. I find very few people of "faith" who have much tolerance for reality. Personally, I cannot find that uncommon faith I thirst for in this life without tracing the harsh edges of every day. The deeper I name my emptiness, the wider the expanse to be filled up. I watched a documentary yesterday that I'll share with you later. The artist was talking about shadow. In that darkness is the reality of a presence. Shadow only exists in the contrasting reality of light. Certainly, becoming empty has helped me discover clearly what makes me feel full. Can you have HOPE without HOLES?

So the documentary. Above is a photograph of the artwork of ANDY GOLDSWORTHY. His work has made me think and experence something emotional like none before. He works in nature---collaboratively. His art does not often last very long. It returns to nature. His medium is movement. As seen in the above photgraph, he would artfully arrange these beautiful leav
es in a shallow pool. Then he watches the tide come in and the art changes, continually becoming. If you would like to view more of his amazing work click HERE. If you want to be inspired by meeting the artist as portrayed in the documentary, I suggest you watch Rivers and Tides. The following sculpture is probably my favorite one highlighted in the documentary.


Here, Andy is connecting these strong, dry grass stalks into a web that is suspended from a beautiful tree. He uses thorns to connect the reeds of grass. I am drawn to this man because he is able to see much farther than the work of his hands. He knows full well that his sculptures will be fleeting. In fact, there is frequent footage of Andy's sculpture disintegrating within his hands as he is crafting it. In this example of the weaved reeds, a gentle wind presented itself in the moment of filming---while he was discussing this work he was in the process of creating. He stopped talking. He immediately took verbal note of the change in the wind that he felt. He noted immediately the potential impact the wind might have on the web. And as he spoke this reality, theweb began breaking. Andy reached up, instictively, and tried to steady the art. He was ever so gentle, too. He held his hand in place for what seemed so long. The art eventually gave way to the gentleness of the wind.

There w
as something so dynamic in that scene, to me.

I appreciated his balance as an creator of ephemeral art. He delighted in watching his art change. Yet, he completely grieved when his art was interrupted, or he failed to accomplish the piece as planned. When that web began falling apart, you knew he was not finished with it yet. You could feel the loss and disappointment. He didn't hide it. Perhaps he would place a rock in place and the entire stack of rocks would fall apart---hours of work gone---each time I felt like he should get
up and kick the ground and cuss! There was that tension though. He ususally responded with a deep sigh, a groan, long silence, a little rocking back and forth, and then he would pick up the pieces and begin again.

I'll leave you with one more picture. Look carefully. This is a rock. Andy located icicles, broke them into pieces, and sculpted them into this form on the rock. Beautifully becoming all day long.




Monday, October 30, 2006

Paths Through The Prairie

I just want to give you a window into one of my favorite things to do recently. I love to walk out at the KONZA PRAIRIE. I actually have not walked the trail that gets close to the bison, but I love this picture nonetheless. What amazing creatures. They look kind of prehistoric, don't they?

The landscape of the prairie is such a dichotomy: gentle shades of lighting, soft colors, rolling edges of earth, delicate grasses bending under the weight of a breeze...warm, inviting.

Yet, there are enormous limestone rocks being "birthed" from the dirt womb, mile long shevles carved by harsh edges of ice, cutting into tender earth to the very marrow of sturdy limestone hidden beneath, exposed surfaces burned by the sun and dried by the wind, very few places to hide or seek refuge.

I love the paths. There are three trails for the hiker to choose from. I usually just do the 2.5 mile trail. Yesterday, I opted to add a few miles to the hike and went the middle path, 4 miles. I loved standing on the crest of the limestone studded hills and looking at the path that stretched below.

I sort out alot of life standing on the two-foot wide grey path, looking out to the endless landscape of the prairie.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Ms. Shipley. Part 2

The intention of my previous posting was to create a context in which to place the poem by Robert Frost. I never set out to spend most of my time describing Ms. Shipley. But, since posting, it has been her memory that has lingered longer than the words of Robert Frost. I have more to share about her.

I know that Ms. Shipley passed away about 10 years ago. A friend from high school, Marion, emailed me with the news. I met Marion in Ms. Shipley's class. She was sitting behind me when the wire basket sailed above. We struck up an enduring friendship. The friendship lasted until about two years into college (actually I would still consider Marion a friend). She went to the University of Missouri and became a journalist. I went to a University in Kansas and became an educator.

Marion read in our hometown newspaper about Ms. Shipley's death. She looked me up (somehow) and emailed me the news. I hadn't been in contact with Marion at that point for about six years. I haven't been in touch with her since. I mention these details so that you can get a sense of the impact this one woman had on the lives of those she taught. Like the brevity and power of her poetry, Ms. Shipley's life was honored by a single email exchange interrupting the two streams of conscious living.

I remember Marion mentioning in the email that she had driven by Ms. Shipley's house the last time she was in our hometown. Ms. Shipley's house sat off the main street that runs downtown. She lived directly across from our postoffice. Her place was a very simple, small white house, much like a breadbox. What set her house apart from the other white breadboxes was the green door. Ms. Shipley was proud of her green door and how it stood out from the others. Marion noted in the email that the trademark green door had been repainted. It was a way of naming our loss.

I did a little research this morning on Ms. Shipley. I was trying to locate some of her poetry that might be posted on the web. I haven't found her works, though I have found the titles to some poetry she wrote and will be pursuing those titles later.

What I did find is a poem written in Ms. Shipley's honor by, what I can gather, another former student. I have provided a link here, in hopes that you can read of a life that gracefully impacted many people beyond what she could have possibly known. The poet's name is not noted on the website, although he has written other poems posted on the site. He is just like me (in fact I wonder if he is from my graduating class from some of the references in the other poems). His life has continued, carving out his own path and sometimes ruts, but he has been drawn back to the simplicity of this one woman and the mysterious gift she offered each of us through poetry. I need to continue to remember Ms. Shipley's example of a life that leaves marks on others, even so unsuspecting. She visited the living room of my life for only nine short months. During that brief stop through, she left more green paint on my interior walls than many who stopped in, stretched out on my couch, and stayed for decades. I guess some people haven't even decided on a color for their paintbrush. My life is different because Ms. Shipley showed up having picked her color. If I was to write a poem in her honor, I would title it GREEN PAINT.

Read the poem from the link below:

RED INK (FOR BETTY SHIPLEY)

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Great Designer

I have been posting poetry recently. This is ironic. I have never felt a mastery of poetry, and have always viewed it from "afar"--as if it is a mystery too great for my involvement.

Ms. Shipley, my 9th grade English teacher, was a bizare and intriguing person. She was shorter than any of us, and would be described as "round" in physique. Her hair was a natural mess of wavy grey/brown streaks. Pieces of uncontrolled beauty would fall down into her view while she was talking to you, causing her to frequently brush hair away from her face and adjust her glasses. Her glasses were often slipping down toward the end of her nose. She was both very calm in her demeanor, and very agitated. She wore a sullen look on her round, wrinkled face, but smiles would pop out of nowhere and soften her into a youthfulness.

I was drawn to her quirky, surprising approach to teaching and relating with us. It did not intimidate me, as it did so many other people in our class. An example of her element of surprise can be seen in this one snapshot moment from class: We were all working quietly at our desks. Sitting in rows of about 5 desks in each row--it was a long narrow classroom. It was an advanced English class, so we were emersed in our work, and no one was causing any disruptions. Ms. Shipley's desk sat facing her students' profiles. On her desk was a two-tiered wire basket, like an in/out basket of grading. As we sat quietly working, Ms. Shipley sat at her desk grading papers. With one swift move, rising out of the stillness of that bleak, monotone classroom, Ms. Shipley grabbed the entire top wire basket and flug it across the room. The wire basket flew in an arc above our heads and bounced hard against the empty desks at the far side of the room, landing with a clatter on the tile floor. As it sailed over our heads, papers fluttered down, raining on us. A changing of seasons in the classroom. All of this occured in a split second. But being ripped out of a lull by such a surprise, made the experience play out in slow motion. I remember looking over at Ms. Shipley. As papers floated down around us, she sat at her desk, grading the stack of essays she had been working on since the beginning of the hour. She didn't look up. She didn't say a word.

I was facinated by Ms. Shipley. Others were intimidated. I liked that she kept us guessing as to who she was and what we might experience.

Mrs. Shipley was a well known and awarded poet in the state in which I went to school. She socialized and worked in circles of creative people who valued the power of the word and its ability to impact the soul. She would tell stories of facilitating writing workshops in high security prisons across the country. She would read us poems that men who were on death row had written. Then, she would ask us to write poems.

I was intimidated by Ms. Shipley's offer to engage poetry. Poetry was mysterious and surprising to me. It seemed to invite me places that I wasn't expecting to go to. When I arrived with the poem in this private place in my soul, I couldn't figure out how we had gotten there. How could a poem about ordinary things linger in my mind all day long? How did it intice me ponder things of life and death? I was used to writing my thoughts in a composition and getting wonderful feedback from my teachers, but how do you take a handful of words carefully picked arrange them in a purposeful way, and carve out a path the soul? I tried to write poetry in Ms. Shipley's class, but it was stiff and stilted. She did not like my poetry, and she told me such. She never said I couldn't write poetry. She just told me she didn't like the poetry I was writing.

Ms. Shipley intrigued me. Poetry intimidated me. I find it ironic that as I am processing some thoughts in my life right now, I am drawn to poetry. I think I owe this to Ms. Shipley. She allowed poetry remain mysterious. She engaged us with intrigue. She let me wrestle with words and emotions and thoughts. Thank you, Ms. Shipley. The desire to look for my soul in the reflection of poems today is a result of her invitation.

We have been talking about sovereignty and love in Seminary. The discussion has been in terms of "which is greater." I have been contemplating my ability to embrace Sovereignty. Some discussion of this concept tends to produce fire in my soul, and other thoughts draw me in close to my Designer.

Here's a poem I found that makes me understand the Soveriegnty of God, the Master Designer.



Design

by Robert Frost


I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,

On a white heal-all, holding up a moth

Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth--

Assorted characters of death and blight

Mixed ready to begin the morning right,

Like the ingredients of a witches' broth--

A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,

And dead wings carried like a paper kite.



What had that flower to do with being white,

The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?

What brought the kindred spider to that height,

Then steered the white moth thither in the night?

What but design of darkness to appall?--

If design govern in a thing so small.



From The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1916, 1923, 1928, 1930, 1934, 1939, 1947, 1949, © 1969 by Holt Rinehart and Winston, Inc. Copyright 1936, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1947, 1948, 1951, 1953, 1954, © 1956, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962 by Robert Frost. Copyright © 1962, 1967, 1970 by Leslie Frost Ballantine.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Robert Frost on the Seasons of the Soul

AFTER APPLE-PICKING


by ROBERT FROST


My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing dear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

thank you, Robert Frost, for your warm eyes and gentle words that embrace the winter, the harvest, the labor, and the sleep.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Emily Dickinson #657

I dwell in Possibility--
A fairer House than Prose--
More numerous of Windows--
Superior--for Doors--

Of Chambers as the Cedars--
Impregnable of Eye--
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky--

Of Visitors--the fairest--
For Occupation--This--
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise--


thank you, emily. beautiful.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Movie Recommendation

Yesterday. Would you like to meet her? What about her daughter, Beauty? And she is. They both are.

If you think the most engaging thing this side of heaven is the simplicity of a human's story, you should watch the story of grace unfold before your eyes in the movie called YESTERDAY.

The people of Africa with their dark, smooth skin, radiant smiles, and penetrating eyes. The Zulu language complete with staccato clicks intermingled in words that bubble off of the tongue. The sociolinguist custom of long greetings and courteous inquiries at the crossroads of the journey. The singular images captured against the canvas of the African landscape---a child playing in the river, a mother standing in a dusty garden, women sharing in community around the village water pump. The love of a woman for her child. The capacity of a human to bear a gift not asked for and still forgive and love the broken giftgiver.

Thank you for the recommendation, Maris. I want to share this movie with someone just as you did with me. YESTERDAY an hbo film on dvd

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sacred Silence

It's been a good month. I've watched seven monarch catapillars transform into butterfies. Each one has been shared with other people. Each person has been simply surprised at their own reponse. Most people do not realize that they will be so moved by watching the transformation and releasing the butterfly. Here's a picture of the last one I released this past Saturday.I have seen transformation in three relationships in the past three months. Not any different than the stages of this insect's transformation. Each is in a different stage, but significant none the less. Most notably, a foster daughter has returned home to find me and brought a heart desire to reconnect. Ten years of waiting. She initiated the return. I had told God I would wait. It was very difficult. But the return was beautiful.

I thought it was all I could do to wait on that one relationship to find it's way through God's hands. Then I was asked to wait on another friend, a very dear friend, who was needing to sort pieces of life out for a time. She initiated a return to relationship this past week. One and a half years of waiting. Forgiveness and the beginnings of restoration. It was beyond hard. But the return was beautiful.

Waiting is not easy for a dreamer. A dreamer is someone who connects good eyes to see with a passionate heart to feel. When you have eyes to see, you want to see. When you have a heart to feel, you want to feel. Eyes are not meant to wait. Hearts were not meant to wait. The heart was made to beat with consistency---no hesitation.

I've thought several times about the story of the prodigal son. I wonder often about the father. Why do we get some verses on the prodigal son's day to day happenings, even some interactions he has with others. Perhaps we even see a bit into the older brother's life--what he is doing and thinking. But I have always felt like there is a gap--a glaring gap--in the story. My heart needs to know what the father did, who did he talk to, what did he say, how did he spend his days waiting, how was his heart...while he waited? I think because there is no insight into the days, weeks, months, years (?) the father waited---how he grieved and lived--I think we may tend to sugar coat his experience. Perhaps we make him out to be this resilient man who had no problems releasing his son, no problems waiting for the unknown, no problems handling his sorrow for a broken relationship.

Tonight, I'm thinking the scripture is silent on the father's days of grief because of how sacred his experience of waiting was . I'm thinking off the top of my mind and heart here, but really the only person I can think of that we get an up close look at the face of pain, loss, and grief in the New Testament scriptures is Jesus--seeing his blood drops, hearing his cries of mercy, watching him look around for others to join him for relief and support. The only other places I can think of (with the amazing exceptions of the Old Testament lives of Job and David) would be that we see people mourning at Lazarus' tomb, but what a brief glimpse! We can understand that the father of the prodigal son must have been deeply affected by the loss of a most precious relationship, but we do not see how he handles it. It is so personal. It is so sacred.

I want to see what happens in that chrysalis. It's the only part of the transformation I'm not privy to. I can watch the caterpillar chomp on milkweed. I can watch it shed it's outer layers of skin. I can watch it weave a connection to a flat surface and hang in a "J"--waiting to change. I can even watch the caterpillar begin to shed that last layer and become a chrysalis. But then...I can no longer see anything. I wait. The most amazing transformations are happening at that point in the process. What once was a caterpillar mouth with jaws and "teeth"--in the chrysalis becomes a butterfly's tongue--no chewing leaves, only an apparatus for sucking nectar from flowers. Legs turn to wings. Thick and pudgy turns into light and free. But in the meantime, all there is to see is an emerald green sack dotted with shimmering gold "buttons." No movement. No changes. I have no window to peek in. No matter how long I stare, or how many different angles I look from, or how many different people I get to check the chrysalis...I can see nothing happening. Even the 12 days of a caterpillar melting in a chrysalis crucible are too sacred for us to know.

I wait.