Thursday, December 31, 2015

resolute

Extraordinary Observer  by Enkel Dika:
Extraordinary Observer by Enkel Dika
Inspiration is a nice idea, but make no mistake: inspiration is not the starting point for art and creativity. Inspiration is a byproduct of creativity. The more we make, the more we are drawn to the act of making. The more we write, the more we are moved to get words out. Each painting hones our skills, each drawing our hands, to continue doing that which we've already started. Inspiration doesn't wait for the right timing, or for perfect circumstances. Inspiration goes to those who do the work; she goes where the creators are. She doesn't wait for perfect health, empty desks or quiet children.

Nobody's going to wait for you to catch up. Galleries won't save space until you've got your art room ready. Literary fans won't wait for you to write your words before they read at all, they'll just read someone else. Crafts will delight, be held dear, fill shelves. Art will be made, it demands to be made! That Muse will find a spot to land, whether it be your restaurant napkin or your neighbor's.

This year, be resolute. Don't wait anymore. Do that work which holds your heartbeat at the ready.



Wednesday, December 30, 2015

#2015bestnine

please see links below for photo credit!


9. let it go
8. why Christians should practice yoga and play the drums
7. pushing clay
6. what I know
5. leaving eden
4. every time you erase the word
3. per annum (we are what we've got)
2. awake
1. landslide


The 2015 Best Nine. Is there such a thing? Already? The year, as it turns out, is over. I write because I have to, and yet, I'm learning, there are people who actually enjoy reading these things I put on my little internet corner. You read and I consider you a beautiful person. Each one of your visits means so much to me.

Listed above are the afterthoughts that were most-read this year, with the top post (landslide) being read nearly twice as much as any other. It seems hardship and its resulting honesty are universally understood. Thank you for this. Pausing to take note of your support and interest in my work has been a truly humbling experience. This year has been difficult to navigate; you make it easier to do so through words.

I have so much more on the go, at the ready. My #365project (as per this post) is kicking up a lot of soul-dust. This is a good thing. Thank you for sticking with me, for joining me as I figure out what it means to be an artist, all the time; and not only when words come easy. If the Lord allows, I will be a lot busier this year, with The Work; whatever that looks like.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

out with the new

The winds of need are changing. Normally I'd go looking for new; but, no.

I'm looking for roots, this time. Deep and holy, muddied with history, tangled with soul. This new leaf has got to be attached to a tree of old, or I am just not interested in pursuing it. Here's the thing: I already know what I'm good at. And I know, very well, what I'm bad at. Yet my working hours, by force or happenstance, are filled with the things that bring me no joy, show me no promise, land me in my areas of lack. I'm sitting at a desk I'd rather not be at, doing work I would rather not do, because I need the paycheck, because my boss hasn't gotten rid of me yet (though that lack would justify a dismissal). I haven't bothered to build another desk anywhere else. I don't want to leave, no, I just want to know what I'm good at, so my errors don't derail me.

This morning, in a moment of mistake-riddled distress, I Googled "365 days to change your life."  My thought process, since you asked, was as follows: my gift to myself next Christmas shall be an active role in creative work, and every day this year I will do one thing toward that goal. I can't deny this artist's heart any longer. I got brush pens and sketchbooks from my love yesterday, and I miss them already, want more already. That pottery class I took in the spring has been haunting my shadowed conscience, daily. I have doodles and rough ideas taking over my brain, and my hands are aching to make. There's oxygen in them thar hills, and I'm ready to go find it.

Where is writing on that list? It's still in there, between breaths. I talk a big talk about my love affair with pen-to-paper. But I have recognized that my desire to write has a lot to do with the act of creation itself: that moment of inspiration wherein there was blank space, now there is something beautiful. Who knows if I will be able to make anything beautiful, but the point is, I need to try. The ink is drying up. Even though, I hope, I'm not finished yet.



photosource

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

every time you erase the word

Kids say the darnedest things. So, as it turns out, does their homework. I've heard child therapists will use methods like drawing and playtime to help the children express their truest feelings. I can see why. I've learned things from her barbies that would break your heart, surprise you, delight you; things you'd never know otherwise. Now, her school papers do the talking.

From my experience and understanding, children who live in a split situation are incredibly unique, and carry with them a skill-set not necessarily given to those in solitary households. In our case, my step-daughter can read a room, a face, a tone-of-voice, like no one I've met before. But, as I've learned, she has to. It's become her instinct. She has a high degree of interest in maintaining and practicing this ability, too. After all, this skill enables her survival.

So, when feedback comes in the form of homework, interpretation becomes difficult. Professions of love erased, or specifically avoided, are either true, or not true. Perhaps that sounds too obvious. Everything could be said to be true or not true, so why does it matter here? Because truth is the thing that makes her world so difficult to navigate; and thus, our understanding of her world. Murkiness is the other thing that helps her ease the pressure. She can not get in trouble for loving me, if she doesn't actually write it down. That picture of a woman who looks like me saying the thing I said last week is actually of "no one, really," and that kid in the picture saying a beautiful word which has been hastily erased, well, it means she's kept her heart safe for another cycle. At least, that's the hope.

This is all too much information, I'm sure. This year has brought much hardship and admittedly, I am afraid to write about it. Because if I write it down, it happened. So I stay quiet, avoid my blog and office, and go elsewhere. But I've been peeking ahead at the ever changing leaves and it
looks like they require something different. Like our darling, life gets a little easier if I don't write the truth down on paper. Murkiness is the thing that helps me deal with the things I'd rather not stand up against.

But, I've been learning, fear is no way to live. If I write down a word you've been longing to hear, Lord, I promise, I will not erase it.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

to the world and back

Isn't it possible: you were created for such a time as this?

We say this every generation; because
every generation needs someone, or thousands,
or all of us, to say:

enough!

War is an old story, after all, oft' retold.
Voices rally and change begs for completion.
Hope stirs quietly on our edges.

On edge, held breath, our voices leave our throats
and sound
like someone else's pain;
storied tragedies now our realities and we fight
to heal our world

again.

And yet, in our midst, there are those
who would split themselves in two
if only it means the world and others in it
might break apart, too.

We are inherently evil, it seems;
because we'd kill the killer, if only to make him stop.
We'd end the Torturer's reign,
by whatever means would have her drop
six feet under
or onto another planet
made of eternal fire
wherein the innocent are never subject to torture.

But the only planet we have access to is the one we're on.
Yet we break her,
fill her rivers with blood,
build our lives at her expense and without thought.

How great is our pain?
Not greater than those
who step t'ward bodies
with memories that ache
for the times they knew
before we knew of their deaths;
the sound of a suicide bomb,
the feel of a shot to the chest;
before we knew how to count bodies.

We bury the dead and leave heart pieces with them,
pray them off to eternal rest
beg mercy from the heavens
hold funeral processions
and hope those, too, don't end us.

Lord, Have Mercy on us all.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

in a New York-sized marathon

I have a deep appreciation for Solidarity; that moment which, all encompassing, joins the greater body of people into one swaying, cheering, singing mass of happiness or purpose. Concerts. Olympic stadiums. Movements. Universality.

So when we walked up to the edge of the 17-mile mark of the New York Marathon, and heard the street-lining crowd cheering the running thousands, I got choked up. I cried, hand-over-heart. All of these people with one focus, all of those feet hitting pavement to reach a goal. More emotion struck as we moved from there, over to the 24-mile mark. Almost finished, so much behind.

I watched these people run and I saw that we can choose how to approach yet another lengthy mile. With interest, attention to the details ahead. With grief, at the many miles of road already gone. Shoulders slumped, or straightened. Heart alight despite the pain, or swallowed by it. Running and finishing both require us to to breathe in, let old air out, and keep our eyes forward, feet steady. This race requires us to be well.

It is my hope, then, that I can be well. And in the meantime, hear the sidelines cheering (though I may have made them up). It seems I'm yearning for solidarity in the mundane, the relief of encouragement in the stuff of every day life. I suppose I want to know that if I stop, if I don't make it to this one's finish line, there'll be hands and arms to catch me, offer me water, lay me on the stretcher and take me home. And, I guess, I find myself praying I'm ready for the race of my very own life.

Purpose is as you accept it. Meaning, the same. Fault and failure belittle, so long as you take them on your way. So let them go. Listen to the Greater, to the call. Hear the voices that don't shame you, at all. Be in solidarity with yourself; be your self-doubts own worst enemy. Put foot to pavement; that finish line is waiting, at the ready.


Toes in the sand:

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

joy break




....and we're off! To a joy break; to lighter things. To fun, unadulterated. To bright lights, big-city style. Side-street delis, actors on stages, Uber, blue-men, music, stacks on stacks of people in buildings; and, I'm assuming: shoes. What else? We hope: big, big fun and sweet soul rest.

xo.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

stand-ish

when you fall to your knees and ask that His will be done
and it is
and it isn't what you wanted it to be
it doesn't mean His will wasn't done.

when you tell me I'm less or further because of my choice
it proves your distance

I'll still admit my distance

though

not at the expense of my voice.
You choose a pulpit, and that's just fine. Pulpits have their place.
But so do feet and hands
 and unless the two (both voice-box and extremity) are linked
 you can keep your pulpit, made up of
what I can only assume is
everything you say I am or not

but then again
i suppose this might count
as a pulpit




Sunday, October 11, 2015

awake

Sometimes all a soul needs is a heavy wrestling match, a good night's sleep, a long look at everything scary. Once fears have been assessed, abated, there is nowhere to go but up, onward, to the next; goodbye, idle melancholy! Hello, calm center, I have missed you, you boundless giver of oxygen.

If soul is missing from the work, bring soul with you. The reason death becomes a day-job is because apathy is so appealing at first. Eventually, there are drawers full of miscellany, seventeen forks to wash, a missing bowl, and paper everywhere. Funny thing, I don't clip pictures of chaos for inspiration. I am drawn to beauty. I am drawn out by the finishing touch. Beauty and order; beauty and the order of my choosing; and yet, I don't choose it, very much.

There is a story I've heard, about a little bird. Actually, the story is about a wise old man on a mountain, but what a cliched way to begin. I'll begin there anyway, and make sentences to fill in the details I forget.

On a mountain, above a village, lived a wise old man. It was said he knew everything there was to know. Legend had it that you could ask this man anything, and he would have the right answer. Two young men decided to trick the old man. One captured a small bird, and said to the other, "We'll climb up, and, holding the bird in my hands, will ask him, 'Is the bird alive, or is the bird dead?' If he says the bird is alive, I'll crush it and kill it. If he says the bird is dead, I'll open my hands and the bird will fly away. Either way, we've got him." They decided this was a very good plan and began their ascent.

When they reached the house where the old man lived, they knocked, and out he came. "Old man," said one younger, holding clasped hands out as he spoke, "Is the bird alive, or is the bird dead?" The wise man thought to himself, "If I say the bird is alive, they'll crush it and kill it. If I say the bird is dead, they'll let the bird go. Either way they've got me."

He paused another moment more, and then looked at the young men with conviction.
His answer, rightly, came: "The bird is as you will it."


My life is full of little birds, each taking their turn in my tightening grip. I can give life to the idea, or, I can crush it and kill it. Call these past few days a mountaintop, and perspective, now, my village; in my life I can live or not, the worth is as I will it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

When everything is difficult, the ink dries.


(via Delightful BW Photography / ✕ Moon River)I was told to stop drinking coffee, but I still drink it depend on it. I'm looking for escape clauses everywhere. Makeshift beach, pretend vacation, couch as mountaintop think-spot. Solitude as necessity is nothing new; love as necessity still feels new but I like it. The day job by which I pay for life is killing my soul, which is sad and ironic, if that's the right word to use. Step-motherhood's a bitch, and I fear the self-fulfilling prophecy of it all. As it turns out, being good doesn't mean you'll be good enough. Idealism is a terrible, terrible thing.

There's a fresh chapter starting, somewhere, without me. Right now I'm stuck on the muddied pages of reality and I'm done with it. But I can not be done with it, because life is life. I read the news to remind myself that I'm pompous, and self-centered, and my troubles are a picnic. The spotlight on my life will land on shadows and arrogance, I think.

There's a certain silence permeating my life, because rageful debate and calm demeanor have gotten me nowhere. My audience prefers to be lied to, and I can't do it, so I stay quiet instead. Go along for the ride. Now, I want off.

Thankfulness is always a savior, picking me up from the grave of a new problem. I refuse to be won-over. I need a win, so I make one up. I need another, make one up again. Through it all, God is very quiet.



Monday, September 14, 2015

per annum (we are what we've got)




























how many days are in a year?
how much good can come, mornings dawn,
fresh arrivals take their place.
the soul can have a thousand dark nights an hour;
how many nights are in a year?

One year and we're still going. All the world in tumult,
and here we sit, hands clasped across the table,
holding on because  we are what we've got
to hold on to. How much us can fit here?

Too much, as it seems.
But, too much is ours to take, ours to wear, ours to name:

our love is big,
the good choice our vows became.

I would carve it out again for you;
this thing that's started us, continued us, tried us,
winned us, and held us in its grip: this year, our first.
our bests, our worsts, and as the world rained,
our home, and the places we ran to.
All of this is ours now, to keep and process, live
and leave behind, or carry close. This year is ours now.

And you, love,
you are mine.


Walt Whitman said it, and said it best:
We were together, I forget the rest.







Sunday, August 30, 2015

Tooth Fairy Absenteeism



pixie


We've spent four days watching it wiggle. It began, quite suddenly, to loosen. That front tooth has gone from a little loose to a craggy, comical near-drop, all in a matter of days. We've spent four days watching her squirm, with anticipation. She looks at it in the mirror every time she sees a mirror. She wobbles it with her tongue whenever she isn't checking it with her fingers (and she is always checking it with her fingers). We've coached her through the fear of pain, and assured her, ad nauseam, that she won't swallow it in her sleep. Every morning she jumps out of bed to see if her tooth has fallen out over night. Every hour, or so, we are asked to see, look, look at how wiggly it is. If I were to count how many times I've checked, I would have lost count by now; and I'm only half of the Wiggle-Judge Panel.

But, for the third time this year, the Tooth Fairy won't be coming to our house. We might get a picture on a cell phone, and a new reality next time we see her. The real transition, that big moment, will be on someone else's doorstop, under someone else's roof. Someone else will hold her hand or rejoice with her when the big moment comes. We will hear about it.

I suppose someone less selfish wouldn't mind so much. And, I suppose, by now I should be used to this whole sharing thing. But I'm not.








Saturday, July 18, 2015

blip


find me on instagram. currently in first place for most boring.




















 








Flux (n): the mind behind afterthoughtcomposer
Fill in the blank:  TO DO LIST(s).
This makes: time important

New project this week:  Brainstorming. Daydreaming. Happy-creating.
Where my mind just went: check-marks, ah-ha moments, happy accomplishment
Fear & self loathing: in check.
Current musical obsession: Christine & The Queens - Christine
Why tell you this, again?  just sssh and go listen to it. tie your soul to the rhythm & get going.
This week’s biggest surprise: I've got a lot of ideas.
Today’s nostalgic observation: Long stretches of time are over-rated. Life is full and won't allow that anymore. Take minutes captive and cram your art into them, even though they're short. Otherwise, you won't create anything.
Where my mind just went: sprints, dashes, late-night owls & words that matter
Coffee & Dreams: "Creativity is often best at night" - @chels_martens

Thanks: to those friends of mine who create as they breathe, constantly; who surround themselves with beauty and the act of making things. To those of you who are unapologetically yourselves, in everything you do. It's very inspiring. To name just a few: Naomi, whose art installation will soon be up all over Edmonton (watch for it!). Chelsea, who turns everything she touches to design-gold. And to my mom, who is currently illustrating what will be our first children's book (due out, I hope, by spring).

Saturday, July 11, 2015

little boat



like the boat  
and the water
I tip    and sway
re-course   and wave
 swell   and stay

like the boat  
on the water
   I leave    the shore
 behold   no more  life's surety

venture out     on the water
hold fast    my sails 
  to  true  things  hail
as best
as    best    I
                         can

then drop them.

Fail.





little boat, big water
big world, small heart;
when the storm rolls in
my little eyes dart
      skyward
      downward
 Oh fright! How Deep!
"I don't swim!" I cry,
    I won't live! Not me.

Despairing, and wearing a hole
through the row I am pacing inside
my little life's boat,  I fret
and I tumble
and watch every   crest,
  with fear! anger! terror! rising up
                               in my chest.






 

this water's too deep
so i drop to the floor
can't hear that whisp
at my little life's door.
can't hear that wave
take a breath   and retreat.
can't feel a hand
plant my sea-sickened feet
to the floorboards.
now the ocean's roar has subsided;
that feet-planter's hand
did come alongside, did
mend the sails, did calm the sea,
and me, and did point
this vessel homeward.


 








Another go   
in a boat
on through life   
big like water

I leave    the shore
behold    no more
          life's surety











fabulous illustration © MB, source
mediocre poetry © afterthoughtcomposer





Sunday, June 14, 2015

landslide

As it turns out, hate is real easy. Comes naturally. Soothes and seethes and stays put as long as you let it. The more you look, the more reasons there are; to hate. Some people, it seems, are begging for it. Survive on it. Being hated, that is.

Listen, I'm a good Christian girl, and I was raised accordingly. In fact, it was well into adulthood before I felt comfortable uttering the word. Now, I admit, I feel the my version of the force with some regularity. Have named it as such, with some relief. And I can justify it, so long as it's even a little bit justifiable. This involves a lot of finger pointing, gnashing of teeth, heartache. Fists that rattle against the glassed in walls of reality. Hate hurts. But, in the absence of healing, there it is.

Really though, what can you say to those, manipulative, who thwart the worlds of others, for fun? What can you say to the thieves, the takers, grace-fakers, back-stabbing gleeful peace-wreckers?  Those people for whom nothing is sacred. What can you say to them? You can say nothing. Or you can hate them. Sometimes, it's an easy choice.

Initially.

Then, like fog and magic, the choice is gone. Before you know it, you'll hate on instinct. You'll remember, with fondness, a time when you did not hate the world. The world? Yes, because it is the world against you. Such is the result of hating one. One is never enough.

Hate isn't, either. It starts small and then swallows you. Meanwhile, all the reasons in the world won't help you on from it. You know that person who used your heart for kindling? Yah. She's still out there, enjoying the fire. She's fine. She's still taking, in fact; it's all she knows. Your hate hasn't changed a thing, about her.

When everything feels lost, if you look close enough, you'll see everything's not lost, after all. Much is here, still. You've more than survived the burning. You've thrived under it. Grown, even. So you'll let go of what happened. Now matter how much you wish you could change history. You can't. She made her choices. Now, make yours.


As a matter of celebration, in the face of the many hands we've been dealt, here's a photo of me & my little one.
Nose to nose, and happy. As we are, today. As a step-mom, I have been shamed,
whether in reality or in my own head, away from sharing this photo publicly. No more.
We three (our family) remain just this: happy together.
Some may try to steal love, but love won't be taken easily.
(C) Doliente Lifestyle Photography


Saturday, June 13, 2015

pushing clay


The theology of suffering is as follows: the worse you are, the better you become. Pain is painful but it can grow you. Or, something like that.

I left my recent bat-swing, loudly cracking, on the page; as though anger at unfairness is a sport, and I, a gleeful player. It would have been much more ME to quickly solve the dispute I'm having with Reality, with a quippy little poem or silly cartoon in a follow-up by the next morning. Sometimes, I leave things because I feel the need to let my feelings linger. But this time, I didn't feel the need to do anything: too tired, too many other things to do; there's a spin about my world and I'm trying to find my center.


A number of weeks ago, I took myself to Salt Spring Island. Days of grace were spent with The Dear and Wonderful Julie Mackinnon Ceramics, in a pottery class. My first experience with the clay was hesitant, at best. Julie had me handle clay almost as soon as I landed on her doorstep. I felt clumsy with it in my hands. My first creation showed my weaknesses; I made it too thin, it crackled, it had a weird shape. The longer I stared at it, the less I liked it. My first full day of classes was spent at the table, shaping blobs into littler blobs, makeshift vases, pinch pots, and the like. My affinity for the medium and the method grew with each piece. Julie told us our pots would look like no one else's pots, that our fingers would instinctively create something purely us. It's true. Looking around the room, after much was made, proved her point: everyone's creations looked like their creations, each body of work had a distinct feel. By the end of the first day, I discovered my creative niche: cutesy detail work. I'll call it a niche because I enjoy what I made, not because I mastered anything.

The second day of classes, I desperately wanted to sit at the wheel -- a graduation from the pinch-pot --  but found myself approaching the opportunity with more of the same hesitation I'd experienced the day before. Spinning pottery on a wheel has been a dream since I was born, or perhaps longer, and yet, I had to talk myself into actually trying it. The thing is, clay is honest. I was scared. Clay shows what you're feeling and, simultaneously, takes on a life of its own. Clay needs to be mastered, and listened to. Clay is a push and pull, simultaneously.

Julie spent a lot of time talking about how to approach the wheel, how to center yourself, so the things you make stay standing. I spent a lot of time listening to her, and imagining, at her suggestion, where this clay had been before. It's got a long life, she reminded me, it's dirt. I began to wonder at her remarks, when, without changing my approach or my methodology, different pieces were created each time. It was as if the clay was meant to be the thing it became, and my hands were merely witnesses.

Before anything is made, the clay has to be centered. Throw the clay (really, throw) onto the wheel, hit it with the palm of your hand so it sticks, then get that wheel spinning fast. Add water, watch it move in spirals to the edge. At this point, my pulse quickens to think of the work ahead. With a centered body, and strong arms, lean in. Now, push. Down, and toward the center. Eliminate the wobble. Add water as needed. Drown the dirt; push. Repeat until its centered. Create.

I approached each piece with curiousity, as if I was discovering something new each time. My ears were open, and my soul entrenched, in the experience of working with earth. Because I know Julie, and she was gracious enough to let me play around on the wheel for an extra day, I got time on the wheel when there were no other students there. I got to try this centering thing repeatedly, on my own. Beside a world class potter. The stuff of dreams.

Let me tell you: centering clay is hard work. Often, I had to lean my body-weight into the wheel to try and get that lump of matter moving. Add water. Push. Add water. Push. Lean. Scrape. Push. Water. Effort! Push, push, push. Doesn't this clay know I am trying to help it become beautiful!? And then, like some miracle - or, as it felt to me - after much strain, the eye blinks, and the clay is centered.

In so many ways, the clay and the work of it spoke to me, but no moment was clearer than this one. I was working with a particularly difficult wedge of clay. It wouldn't budge. It was stubborn, lumpy, and no matter how much I leaned, wetted, leaned, and leaned, the clay stayed hard, like stone. Funny, too, because it came off the same block as the others. But, this one hurt my hands. There in the sunshine of the morning, hands and elbows and knees covered in slip, I sighed loudly, exasperated at this thing in front of me. It was then I heard a whisper in my soul. It spoke of the push, and the purpose behind it. My breath caught as I thought about how hard I was pushing on this stubborn piece of clay, and suddenly, I felt my spirit shift. I'm this thing. I'm this hard bit. I'm this stubborn piece of clay, with a history, and a future made of shapes, and He approaches me with grace, now if only I would let, give way, and become.

So when I left the island, these thoughts were bouncing around the caverns of my spirit, and I felt grateful for the lesson. I was filled with peace. I said goodbye to my beautiful hostess, I found a spot on the boat in the sunshine. I let the wind have fun with my hair. The boat left the dock, and I sighed again - this time, a thankful pause for the gift of a purposeful weekend. The phone rang. My husband called. In the moments before my feet wandered off the island, our world shifted. The ferry moved along and the island got smaller, and I felt the wheel beneath us kick up speed. Time for centering. Time to be made beautiful. But first, the push. 









Thursday, May 28, 2015

Musical Interlude

Until I get around to taking the photos off my camera that go with my new post -- which was ready over a week ago, if we're counting days (I am) -- please enjoy this bit of musical brilliance. Christine and the Queens hails from France, and has been taking over the airwaves in Europe for some time now, winning accolades and smashing happy eardrums wherever she goes. She's recently released "Tilted", a translation of the song below, to North American audiences. I prefer the French. In fact, I can not stop listening to it. At all. Enjoy.


Christine, by Christine and the Queens:
 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

i do not speak of this

justice is an illusion
oft' clung to, an ideal for those who
still have ideals,
but in the end, start and middle,

is never there.


fairness is a dream
dreamt by those who
still have dreams, by those
who've not encountered the great crush of Reality's taking hand:
fuck your dreams, it says.

truth only matters to truth
and to those who, weariness impending,
exhaustive pursuit neverending,
still chase after it. truth is what happens when we tell it.
but if the lies are spoke first, then the lies become it.
and if twists on truth are then believed, belief trumps it.
truth. ha. truth for some is now whatever this one decides to make it.

there is no better one than she,
this Thwarter so admiring her own games,
this one from whom the devil chose his ways;
behavioral spirals and abject denial's definition;
she can not survive in a world touched by justice.
she can not let her children alone. she will rip them,
limb from limb, heart from loving heart, until they are fragments.

But why? It's a fair question. I used to ask it, too. But then, my moral code has too oft' got a beating.
Being good used to have meaning. It used to matter.

Now there is
no matter
what
this feeling
that she'll just go on and
take
take
take
take
take.
She can
not survive
while giving.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

just a little note

I've been listening to the isolated vocal tracks of Marvin Gaye, Queen, Journey, and others (Coldplay, Gotye, etc, for modernity's sake), and it's got me thinking about noise. Music tends to take us, hold us, save us. We go to it, land on it, dance to it, rest in it. Without the pulse of the instruments, we are forced to rest our fledgling hope on the vocals.

Sometimes, the most powerful thing is to turn everything else down. The quiet actually wins, in a way, by showing us the truth of the lyric, the strength of the voices behind the song. There's so much space, it's jarring.

There's a certain honesty found in the stillness; one you won't find anywhere else. There's an echo that bounces and sticks. So be quiet. Turn down the racket, no matter how used you are to its rhythms, even if it's just for a little while.




Tuesday, April 14, 2015

weddings: thoughts from an idealist-turned-realist bride


your wedding isn't about your wedding.


www.unionphotographers.com
 

The thing about weddings is: they're perfect. No, everything doesn't go perfectly. My dress was wetted & smashed into a wrinkled mess, less than 12 hours before the wedding. Our cake wasn't the color I initially wanted it to be. My hair didn't come out like it did in the trial. I tell you these things and I will still tell you: our wedding was perfect. Did I experience grief over the loss of my ideals? Yes, yes I did. If I'm honest, there are pieces of my idealism I'm still trying to get over. But, I've learned a few things in the process.

1) No one will notice your dress.
Okay I'm lying. EVERYONE will notice your dress. What they won't notice is the thing you think is wrong with it. Besides, your sisters, if they are as heroic as mine, will stay up all night trying to rectify the dress-mess-situation, and they do. You will still see the differences between what it is now and what it was (only yesterday! the grievous travesty!), in fact you could draw the problems in detail if asked. But, you'll get married in that dress anyway. Because the wedding isn't about your dress. By the time you walk down the aisle, you'll only be thinking about getting to the end of it.

2) Your guest list doesn't matter.
There are politics and people to please, and then some. There are hearts to break and beautiful souls to delight, and people that will come only for the dancing. I'm being silly. Of course it matters, but not really. Though the room is filled with those who've supported and loved you the best, if you're like me, you won't even notice until much later who showed up. I saw only one face when I rounded that corner: his.

3) The dress and the aisle have their own time zone.
Part A: I was very late for our ceremony. I was just upstairs, and we were steadily putting ourselves together, but the second hand on the clock put itself into a time warp, and we were downstairs 30 minutes after we were supposed to be. Of the specific things I said I'd "never do," this was near the top of the list.

Part B: I spent a decade dreaming of walking the aisle to the song I'd picked (yes, silly me, a decade ago), and would you believe it? I walked too fast for the song. Which is funny, because I felt every step of that aisle, every flex of the bend in my dad's arm. I memorized my groom's face and I nearly burst open from joy, and I thought I was taking too long to get there. Time had slowed for me, when really, it was moving as normal.

4) It's all in the way you look at it.
Though I don't think I looked the best I've ever looked, I felt beautiful. I felt that way because of who I was marrying, what this ring means (ah, such relief when his ring arrived on my finger), and all that was and is to come for us. I've received a humbling number of soul-stirring looks from my husband, none quite like the look he gave me as I walked the aisle. Or the one he gave me as he said his vows, or listened to mine, or said I do. The thing about weddings is: they happen, no matter what else is happening. It's best if you let go of your idealism now.

5) Just. Stop.
If you're going to get married, take the best wedding advice I got: slow down. Enjoy the process and more importantly, the day. Be slow about it. Take breaths, pause, look around, notice the good, and be present. Once the day starts, you can't change anything anyway.

6) The way it is.
As it turns out, I liked the cake better with the color swap. We didn't even get a picture of my shoes. Or our rings. I forgot to put my "good side" to the camera, almost all day. But we did get pictures that steal our breath; photos that will stay and heal our hearts for life. The flower girls were charming and delightful, and their sashes wouldn't stay where they were supposed to; they spun wildly around their dresses from the aisle to the dance floor; such is the thing that happens when you are a charming flower girl, delighting in your task. Our flowers, though we scrambled toward the end, came out perfectly: our florist turned out to be ethereally talented. I guess what I'm trying to say, is this: weddings are great, as they are, no matter how they happen, so don't worry.


7) On we go.
Find humor in the missteps; you'll need this skill in the coming days. Say thank-you to the helpers, because there are lots of them, and our journeys are all marked with the need for other people. Hold hands. You'll find so many reasons to cling to that hand, over time, and you'll be thankful for the practice in fine weather.

Embrace the day as is, and your day will be much better. It isn't about the building or who shows up to it; it isn't about the seating chart; it isn't even about the wedding. It's about the marriage.

The day isn't about the day; it's about the rest of your lives.








Saturday, April 11, 2015

why Christians should practice yoga and play the drums

This is long. Not particularly interesting.
Written over time, actually, but finished today. So, here it is.




I attended Bible college. Admittedly, there's a bit of a confessional feeling in saying that. I know the stereotype, and remember a time when I happily cozied myself up to it (and preached it, and breathed to its beat, and waved it around like a holy flag). And though I'm now less comfortable with much of my former mindset, I have realized that my years in the Praries hold a lot of value; in a different way than I expected, though. The things I learned about life at Bible College aren't church-friendly.


It is important to swim upstream.
I remember what it felt like to watch a good friend challenge the status quo. She read up on other religions -- from a non-Christian perspective. She asked questions no one else would dare ask, and in class, to boot! She breached uncomfortable subjects like sex and women's rights with boys. Christian women were to be submissive and soft spoken; this girl was anything but. Outwardly, I played the part of fisherman. Inwardly, I was conflicted, and perhaps a little jealous. We would sit, friends and I, for hours sometimes, trying to get her back. To what? To the way we had been taught. We so believed in, and so relied on, our rightness, that we couldn't see the value of what she was doing. We couldn't go there, or we'd collapse.

I remember the first time I started to ask questions in church. I was in my early twenties. It was very uncomfortable, and I was losing friends. So I stopped. Mid-twenties, the questions began again, only this time, I was less afraid and more pissed off that nobody would stop to answer or converse. Glazed looks, uncomfortable pauses, brilliant re-enactments of the character of Polly-anna. Hours spent by friends, trying to get me back. Way too many one-shoulder-squeezes to count. But no honesty. No one would go there with me. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. But what about when it seems he isn't? And isn't he big enough to go with me to the edge? According to the church I attended at the time, or rather, the people I was speaking to, the answer is No. God is not big enough. The God I was being coerced and convinced to believe in was small, fragile, and tempermental.

They say there is value in trying to see yourself in others. But when I saw that version of myself, that guilty clingy plugged-ears version, I recoiled. That version didn't love me, it wanted to correct me for the sake of itself, to reprimand, to corner. I wanted to believe in a God that was big enough for questions; I couldn't find him in the church.

I think of a younger me, looking at my friend with awe and disbelief. I couldn't fathom how she could go around asking questions; I couldn't figure out how her entire belief system didn't collapse. I didn't yet realize that mine needed to.

Sometimes it is important to swim upstream, and sometimes it's important to switch rivers. In the first you build the strength to change, and in the second, you discover the courage to swim as you wish.



Dancing with Natives.
One of my strongest memories from college was the year the Natives came (the band was Broken Walls - check out Holy Is Yahweh, or River of Life). I'd never experienced God like this, so loud, so artistic, so....free. I knew God like the baptist girl I was: neat, tidy, studied and packaged. I knew God like the Christian I was: obedient, conformist, afraid of the water. But these people with their beads, drums, dancing, and voices in unison, floored me. I'd spent my life sitting quietly in a pew, and now I was encouraged to get up, hold hands with these aged women and vibrant men, to dance in their circle, to be unashamed of wanting to move to the music. I spent that weekend in the chapel, letting the drum move my feet, and beat my heart for me.

I remember one of the men was speaking at one point, about the drum. It was huge, majestic, prominent. It accompanied all of their music - like I said, I spent the weekend to the sound and feel of it. It was also controversial. Traditionally, he said, this drum is used to call up evil spirits. Since he was now a Christian, could he play it? His culture and tradition historically opposed his use of the drum in a new context, and the Christian tradition certainly opposed it. Could he sing to the Lord to its rhythms? He broke belief and decided: objects are what we make them. Could the drum be reclaimed? Could they use it, instead, for worship of a different sort? Surely they could. And they did. Using their drum, their music, their stories, they've traveled the world. They've been invited into countries and colonies that would normally not accept outsiders, simply because of who they are. They used the drum for good.

Through them I learned to want a God that would move with me when the world shifted. I came to want a God that would let me make noise, go against the norm, feel him deeply through the rhythms of reclamation. That weekend marked the last time I felt truly comfortable in a tidy pew.



Context vs religion
I'm a big believer in context. No truth is full without the story surrounding it. Growing up in the church, I was told a lot of things. Mostly, I was spoken to in blacks and whites. I should read this book. I should not want to read other things more than this book. I should question what I hear from outside the church. I should never question what I hear inside the church; ideas that come from anywhere but here are heretical. People who don't believe what we believe need to be corrected, or made to feel uneducated for their beliefs.

About half-way through my first year of college, when I was 18 and happily sheltered, I still liked to hold hands with my friends.  I remember taking a new friend's hand after a service as we skipped up the aisle. She lost her smile and step immediately, throwing my hand back at me. "I don't want people to think we're lesbians," she said quickly and quietly. "Oh," I said. I was shocked. The idea had not crossed my mind, and once she put that thought out for me to think about, I realized I still didn't care (either what people thought of me or lesbians).

We'll call this one of my first noteable gray experiences. Suddenly, in that aisle on our way out of chapel, the context of my love mattered more to me than the rigidity of religious opinion.



hiding is everywhere.
I'll always remember a friend's response to why she and her kids participated in Halloween festivies. It's Satan's day! Said the church. It's an unholy day! "Satan doesn't get a day" said my friend. Instead of hiding in her house with the lights out, she lined her walkway with candles, opened her door, and met the neighbors.

Some time ago, a conversation about yoga popped up in my aquaintance circle. I'll save you the dogma, but it went something like this: an elementary school teacher leads her kids through yoga inspired stretches, breathing exercises, and hand movements. The teacher does not teach them the spiritual beliefs behind yoga, but simply has them breathe calmly, stretch, and move. This mom was considering pulling her child from the school because of it. To be clear, I know the roots of yoga, and I know how it can be practiced. I don't ascribe to the belief system, but I view yoga like that drum: it is and will be what you make it.

Between hiding from the world and doing what they do, we find ourselves in the murky Christian veiwpoint of being IN and not OF. If we are IN, we are surrounded. If we are OF, we are motived by, or seeking the approval of, or drawn to be more like. When it comes to the frights of THINGS!!!! I would rather my child know the truth of the power of God - because I do believe in it - than run in fear from anything different. I would rather my child be equiped to handle observation, dissection, engagment, questions, and conversation. Quarantine is neither necessary, nor safe.
Downward dogs and deep-breathing won't send you to hell, nor will banging on a piece of animal skin. Neither will I. I've read the Bible, too, and despite what those people on the street yell at you when you pass: it's not their place to condemn you, either.

I digress. What matters is why you do, what matters is the what-for. Bricks and mortar are amoral; it's what you do with them that counts.


In the world.
Maybe the point of belief isn't seperation, class or caste systems, magic wands to make good feelings. It probably isn't to create heirarchy, or determine worth or value, either. Belief in God isn't a guarantee, a waiver, a safe-haven from the stuff of life. Belief in God won't make you rich, happy, thin, successful, or good. It certainly doesn't make believers smarter, better, or wiser. The point of belief is to do something about it.

We're not high-ranking keepers of a secret, we're stewards for a Kingdom. Get to work. Feed the poor instead of whining that God doesn't feed them. Be a voice for the voiceless, instead of complaining about the lack of justice in the world. Go IN to the world. Stop hiding from it, praying yourself out of it's troubles. Get IN there. Get your hands dirty. Come alongside the people you encounter, don't smack them with your Bible. Bible thumping gives me a headache, and I believe what's in it. Anything done without LOVE as a motivator is useless.

It came as a surpise to me, at some point, some time ago, that God is not here to make me feel good. Oh, He listens, and comes alongside, and speaks, and gives. But these things he gives me are not meant to stop with me. He's here to give me what I need so I can care for, provide, give to, and serve others. It's one thing to notice trauma, it's another thing to sit next to somone experiencing it. It's yet another thing to try and stop the bleeding, if stopping the bleeding means I ruin my favorite sweater. This is all a terrible metaphor. My point is this: saying I care about hungry bellies and cold nights on the street, abandoned children and the needs of the refugees, well, that's one thing. Actually doing something about it? Yikes.

Listen, I'm terrible at this. Full disclosure: this final rant is for me. I'll read it later and go, "yah, I know," and I'll struggle to leave my house. I'm not putting this out here as a method of building up my soapbox. Actually, I am very much attempting to dismantle the rickety thing anyway.


Upstream Believer (hey, that sounds like that one song)
Bible college was my holding-tank. It was the final resting place for my childhood experience of church. It was prep school for all of the ways in which Life would disappoint. It was many things, and it was beautiful, but it was not the solid ground I wanted. It was, instead, the catalyst for questioning, observation, and journey.

I expected a lot from it, and even more from my life after. I didn't get what I expected, at all. Instead of perfection and order I have, over the years, earned stripes of imperfection, and seasons of disorder. Loving God has not left me full and strong, it's left me weak and in need of him. My witness does not come from my mouth, but from how I live and treat others.

I am not called to live in a bunker, I'm called to live IN the world. I am called to get my hands dirty, not obsess over their cleanliness. I don't worship the holy, I worship God. Truth is a public forum and anyone can take it; it isn't mine to give out. I don't teach, I converse. I don't demand, I listen. I don't comment, I act.


At least, I am trying.








photosource: unknown.



Friday, April 10, 2015

dancing with the elephant in the room

Dovima with Elephants 1955 | From a unique collection of figurative photography at https://www.1stdibs.com/art/photography/figurative-photography/
i have all
but given up

illusions these are:
peace
rights
and ease

as it turns out
we are fated
to be released
into the night;
to freeze,

in the wind
of all we are forced
to give up.



Friday, April 3, 2015

leaving Eden

The World was all before them, where to choose
Thir place of rest, and Providence thir guide:
They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through Eden took thir solitarie way.
Paradise Lost, Book 12, 646-649


 fallingforoctoberandecember: Autumn Hollow on tumblrI was born and raised Evangelical, and as such, I became quite familiar with story of The Fall of Man. Adam and Eve. These names are synonymous with a number of images, including but not limited to: nudity and poorly placed leaves, apples and snakes, and that fated, pretty tree.

This story frightened something in the core of my little humanity, each time I watched those Sunday-school Teacher’s hands place felted characters upon the board. I can still remember the yellowed walls of the church basement, the smell of dust bunnies and old carpet. I remember the long walk upstairs, back to the world of adults, wherein I spent each step wondering if I needed to hide from God. I became more petrified, each time I heard the story, that I’d already done myself in. Sinners are exiled. This, the lesson.

So, I began to see myself as exiled. Anywhere I went, I felt alone. When they taught us about Eden, they didn’t teach us about grace. When they taught us how we fell, they didn’t tell us we would be able to get back up. It was humanity’s fault, after all, and they deserved what they got. Had Eve simply chosen contentment! Had Adam shown self-control! If they had been perfect, the perfection they had once laid claim to, would still be theirs. God would still love them enough to keep them close. The moral became my mantra: don’t lose Eden, sinner.

I guess we all have our own version of loneliness, and mine came from this striving; this longing to return to a place I knew I could never get to. The trouble is, Idealism only seems cute. In truth, the Idealist survives on something that doesn’t exist. Perfect Peace doesn’t happen, and if it does, it doesn’t last, which only exacerbates my feelings. Nevertheless, I involuntarily strive for it. This is a terrible cycle, and it’s never worked. Eden, or what it has become for me, remains endlessly out of reach.

But Eden is already gone, isn’t it.  I cannot find it in my circumstances, and I know now I’m not supposed to. Sometimes I think I find it, like tiny threads in the chaos.  They vanish just as quickly. So I sit, to myself, think on that little bit of grace, what it felt like. Perpetually, goodness leaves. I’d rage at the loss, but rage is purely isolating. But then again, so is everything outside the garden.


The sacred shows up in gasps. To the lucky, to the blessed, to those who call themselves chosen; the sacred stays. The rest of us seek out wholeness in any way we can find it, by pretending we know how to love, or how to receive it. We, the wicked, hold on to what we can in a wicked world, and we do our best.

Perhaps, for the first time, I am truly leaving Eden. I've got my hand in a hand and my eye on Providence, and all the world before me. 




photosource: etsy

Thursday, March 26, 2015

what I know

Day five on day twenty. Not bad.

I made a little oopsie in a previous #500words post: I called it "day three on day four" when, in fact, it was day four on day four, and I had missed day three entirely; Wake Up Early. Although, I have thought long & hard about day three. I have strongly considered waking up early to write, almost every morning since I read that I should wake up early to write. Does that count?

The Day Five challenge is as follows: write what you know.
Here are some things I think I know. They are not necessarily worth reading, relevant to anyone other than myself, or related to each other.

Sapling seen through a Drop of water























1. Fairness and Reality are mutually exclusive.
2. The ground of Reality is more solid than the ground of Fantasy, but it matters that you shake things up with a dream or two, every now and then.
3. Sometimes, the bad guy wins. This isn't an excuse to become a bad guy.
4. It helps if you know how to respectfully toe the line. They don't tell you this when you're younger, but there are lines everywhere.
5. It matters that you learn, when it matters, how to respectfully put those lines where you want them.
6. Goals are silly. Take care of yourself & do what you love. You're all set.
7. I'm well-rounded in that I'm not exceptionally good at any one thing, but marginally sufficient across the board.
8. Sugar tastes the sweetest when you don't eat it as much.
9. For years, I bought a $4 coffee every morning, and simultaneously wondered how to stop the drain on my bank account. The drain stops when you do, sweetheart.
10. Honesty is still the best policy. Except when it isn't. Then, kindness is.
11. Perpetual, patient thrift-shopping is good for the soul. It's an idealist's call-and-response into the wide world of interpretive panache, and economic prowess. This one might only make sense to Anita.
12. You should know yourself well enough to know when you aren't being true to yourself.
13. The prettiest girls are the ones who don't realize they are the prettiest girls; who have more going on in their lives than the mirror.
14. Hope feels silly and sometimes misleads you, but it'll still save your life.
15. You can always make a theory fit the facts. Stick to the facts.
16. Context matters.
17. There won't be enough time later. Do it now.
18. Purpose continues to change; we're never done doing what we're meant to.
19. Right now, while I write this, someone is out there rescuing a baby. Or, hundreds of babies. Saving a dog. Giving blood. Donating an organ. Planting a tree. Dedicating their lives to a cause. Risking their lives for a cause. Nursing the sick. Helping the poor. Giving their food away. Surviving with very little. Going without. Loving the wretched. Defending the small. Living a life worth their oxygen.
20. Legacy is not what you leave behind. Legacy is what you do now.





photosource

Sunday, March 22, 2015

purposeful hiatus and deviation

I just had four days off, during which I did not write a word. This isn't news, by any stretch, but I did it guilt-free, which is the new part. I can not balance every scale all of the time, and I'm learning to be okay with this part of my humanity. I did, however, tackle myriads of loads of laundry. I slept well, had people over, played Parcheesi, and ate birthday cake with my sister. All good things. Writing, or the guilt of not writing, rather, took a back seat.
 
I'll try, but you know I have gotten to "DAY 16" of writing prompts and I've used only three of them so far. Talk about a swifly deflating balloon. I would apologize, but it's probably truer for me to say: I told you so.



Such a happy photo <3
Above Prague - copyright ludmila foblova

Monday, March 16, 2015

vessel

one, two step
brush the hand, touch
willow leaves ; gentle whip
on a life outstretched.
Sunshine dotes
hair falling from curls
down a set of shoulder blades
relaxed.
Move as air, wonder senses
something Other, there,
or there. Hope
in a gentle rhythm on the cotton
on the breeze.
Out beyond these, fields,
readied to be gracious
with my one, two step.

This was the vision
as it came upon me
quiet in the loud
separate in the crowd
helper wings take,
but this time it's okay,
because they take me, too.

Even here, I can leave from here.
I can be told otherwise. I can be
let go of, made into space, feel
the rhythm of a Lord I once knew.
I couldn't feel but feeling itself
Reality: like reeds passed under fingers
dust on the wind, knowledge of sound.
But nothing sticks. Nothing needs to.
Here, only here exists. Only breath
given and even this is takeless. Only
the feeling of fresh air as a gift,
fresh air as if its all there is.

How can you break from the rule of the watch,
matter not to gravity, be.
the Breath of God
expelled wholly weightless,
belonging only to the One who first

His lungs did move
His lips did part
and here we are.


















 ©afterthoughtcomposer
photographer unknown