Friday, April 30, 2010

Recent Writings

In our online community at My Smart Puppy, we've been writing speed drabbles recently. Drabbles are short pieces of writing that are exactly 100 words, and we've been starting with a given word for inspiration and writing our drabbles in 15 minutes or less. This is a great warm-up and confidence building exercise and is lots of fun, especially seeing how we all write such different selection from the same starting word.

The starting word for this drabble was Wig.

I had no talent for either, but music would be far worse than art. If I took art, only the teacher would see my failed attempts. With music, other students would hear me. The very thought made me squirm with premature mortification, so, with a sigh, I signed up for drawing.

The teacher set a stuffed owl on the table. After a panicked, “I can’t draw that!” I soon got lost in a world of the owl, my paper and my pencil. Forgetting my lack of talent, I contemplated and drew… and discovered a new love.

Thank you, Mrs. Wiggins!

Here is my owl drawing, done when I was a senior in high school. I wish I could find Mrs. Wiggins to thank her for the inspiration she passed on to me.

The word for these two drabbles was Alone.

Alone drabble #1

It’s one of those sometimes difficult relationships. With quality time, there’s respect and even love; without it, things deteriorate quickly into annoyance and judgment. It’s not like those friendships that seem to remain strong even when years go by without close contact. This one needs attention and nurturing—which is easy to overlook until the tension level has risen.

With time to connect, though, there’s fun, enjoyment, laughter, a ready smile. Joy in the little things, a feeling of peace in the quiet moments, spontaneous fun.

It’s time for me to get reacquainted with myself, to spend some time alone.

Alone drabble #2

The hurry slows, the nagging feeling of “ought” diminishes, time spreads large and wide ahead of me, full of potential without pressure. Raindrops patter on the windows, gentle notes of a wordless lullaby, not lulling me to sleep but calming the frenzied swirling of my thoughts, washing tension away. My senses seem clearer, like the freshly washed air; my mind is both quiet and poised with anticipation, savoring this time, ready to either dance with birdsong or to quietly contemplate. As the oughts fall away, the possibilities gain substance and beckon me forward to step into my life with delight.

This drabble was inspired by Power. I spent more like twenty minutes on this one.

It creates or destroys. Builds up or tears down. Reveals truth or spins lies. Heals or hurts.

To keep from damaging, diminishing or desecrating. To stop that gossip or barbed comment before it slips out. Is there anything harder?

To encourage, comfort, make a difference for one life that ripples outward for years, for a lifetime…

To build connection rather than distance, bridges rather than walls, love rather than hate… this is all the realm of a small yet powerful part.

To tame the tongue and to use it well… that is power - the sort of power I'd like.

Two days ago I woke up early and went right out for a walk, then wrote this-- over 100 words, so not a drabble.

I pull a heavy sweater over my pajamas , slip my feet into my Crocs, and step out into birdsong—Cardinals, Robins, Titmice, Chickadees awakening the day. Heading up my driveway in soft-soled stealth-mode, scanning the still dark woods, I spot three sleepy does just as they spot me- and leap to their feet, causing me to startle momentarily.

I continue, Canada Geese and Chipping Sparrows now adding their calls to the growing concert. A Spruce stands tall and black against the glow in the Eastern sky as a Red-bellied Woodpecker lilts past. I pad silently, drinking in the dawn.

The crown of a Maple turns green, then suddenly all the gray gives way to shades of abundant life, and more birds merge their voices with the joyful announcement of morning. I turn homeward, surrounded by the songs of Phoebes, White-throated Sparrows, Bluebirds and more. The day has begun, and I am ready to join it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Festival of Faith & Writing

My brain is filled to bursting with all that I heard and participated in at the Festival last week. I took over 25 pages of notes (and sketched many of the speakers I heard), so will only touch on a few highlights here. That's not so easy, since it felt like one, continuous three-day highlight, but I'll try.

For starts, it was wonderful to meet and listen to established writers whose books I've read and who turned out to be real people with many of the same doubts and questions and struggles as I have. Hearing about their growing process as writers has given me more confidence in my journey and more enthusiasm for pursuing writing in my areas of interest.

Eugene Peterson has been one of my favorite authors for many years. His writing draws me in so that I find it hard to put the book down, except for his writing about prayer, which is so inspiring that I drop my book frequently to spend time in prayer. His talk last week was an example of the power of personal story. He told the story of how he became a pastor and a writer, and in the process we absorbed much truth about what makes a writer and what writing is. One point he made was that we write as a conversation with our readers and we write into what we don't know, as a way of exploring and discovering, as a way of paying attention and as an act of prayer.

Here's a sketch I did of Eugene Peterson as we were listening to another speaker.

Sara Miles has given me much to think about and chew on, both in her book, Take This Bread, and in the two opportunities I had to hear her speak last week. One of the many things she spoke about that has me pondering is her thought about the difference between healing and cure and how there can be one without the other. Cure would be physical recovery from an affliction of some sort, whether disease or something along the lines of alcoholism or some other problem. In other words, the typical situation we want "fixed."

Healing, as Sara Miles sees it, is bringing wholeness to individuals and communities, and it may or may not be accompanied by cure. She spoke about how diseases and other problems tend to isolate people-- or rather, society tends to isolate those whom they see as sick in some way or other, viewing them as "unclean." She reminded us of how Jesus touched the unclean when he healed them, thus bringing them into connection, even as he became unclean through touching them. She stated that healing happens in relationship and that prayer is one of the deepest forms of relationship, both with God and with other people.

I went to two talks by naturalists-- Paul Willis and Kathleen Dean Moore. Paul Willis spoke about John Muir, and I really enjoyed his gentle, quiet approach. We read some selections from Muir's journals and discussed them as a group. I think I'd enjoy taking a class taught by Willis. His manner blends well with his subject matter and promotes a contemplative attitude by example. I'll be pondering his manner of being and speaking as much as his words.

Arielle and I attended the talk by Kathleen Dean Moore together. Moore caught our attention right from the start, when she said that her father had had a Downy Woodpecker in his freezer, as I currently have a Downy Woodpecker in my freezer. Moore spoke about having movement in a nature essay from experience and observation to exploration of meaning, from what one notices to what one questions. That was part of the pattern in Holdfast that I enjoyed so much. She said that the task of the nature writer is to awaken a sense of wonder and awe.

Leslie Leyland Fields, Jeanne Murray Walker, and Paul Willis spoke together about translating personal suffering to the shared page. One interesting point they made was that being highly rational, being highly spiritual, and using humor can all be ways of denying the reality of pain, rather than allowing our own felt, painful lives to connect with our writing. They talked about writing into our sufferings to steward the afflictions God has granted us when the time is right. Wow! What a thought. That gives a whole new perspective on suffering.

Mary Karr was the last speaker, and she was fascinating. Very honest about her life and struggles and urging us to be honest in both prayer and in writing. One thing she said was that she loves her readers and feels a conscious connection to them as she writes. That was evident in her manner as she answered questions after her talk. Her simple, straightforward way of speaking and replying to questions was motivating and gave a sense of emotional connection.

There was so much more, but that is all I can summarize now. I have much to meditate on and notes to read and reread during the coming weeks. There were quite a few other powerful speakers/talks I heard, and I need to ponder them for a while as I let them sink into me and shape me in various ways. For now, I am eager to write, but feel as though I am in a holding pattern of thinking and allowing information and patterns to develop in my mind.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Morning Has Broken...

Morning has broken
Like the first morning,
Black bird has spoken
Like the first bird.
Praise for the singing!
Praise for the morning!
Praise for them springing
Fresh from the Word!

Sweet the rain's new fall
Sunlit from heaven,
Like the first dewfall
On the first grass.
Praise for the sweetness
Of the wet garden,
Sprung in completeness
Where His feet pass.

Mine is the sunlight!
Mine is the morning.
Born of the one light
Eden saw play!
Praise with elation,
Praise ev'ry morning,
God's recreation
Of the newday!
(words by Eleanor Farjeon)

This is one of my favorite hymns and it has been running through my mind ever since Easter morning. The weather has been gorgeous, with early sunshine shimmering on dew-covered grass every morning when I go out to walk dogs. Birds are filling the air with song, including the Red-wing Blackbirds in our swampy area. I just love these days.

We had a delightful Easter, my favorite day of the year. We started the day with church, singing my favorite resurrection hymns and having breakfast together as a church. Then Stephen and I packed all the dogs (five of them at the moment) up in the car and headed to my parents' farm to spend the day with my parents and my brother Alexis with his fiancee, Lina, and my brother Thaddeus with his family. Unfortunately Jennifer wasn't able to join us, since she lives so far away. We shared stories, laughed, did some dog training, and ate a lot. My newly pierced ears were a big topic of conversation with my mother and brothers. A good day that has had me smiling every time I think of it.

Here are some journal entries and other paintings that reflect my generally happy thoughts of the past week.

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