Tasks… And a cheerful doing


Today’s the day I fell in love with food.

I’ve always loved eating food, but its endless preparation? Not so much. I haven’t exactly begrudged it, but I haven’t loved it. This is unfortunate because I make a lot of food and really often. But today, quite without warning, this thing-I-have-to-do-or-at-least-think-about-every-single-day took on a new delight.

I can’t take any credit. I’ve screwed enough things up to know the good things I experience have nothing to do with me. Today’s love affair – like any other – caught me quite off guard. And it wasn’t because everything went perfectly. Taken from another angle, you’d notice the loaves in the above picture didn’t rise quite as much as (I would consider) ideal. Also knowing my tendency towards fickle (moody?), I know that tomorrow might bring quite another conversation that may sound nothing like this one. I might talk about how sick I am of spending so much time in the kitchen. I might bemoan that no one seems to see the crumbs on the counter or cleans up the unidentified sticky spots on the floor. (In our house we have someone called Itwasntme who’s normally the offender.)

Anyway, this falling in love with one of my household tasks and all its quirks and (’til today) annoyances has happened before. Take laundry. One day I was retrieving the clothes from the washer for approximately the 11,000th time (I actually did the math this morning to roughly calculate how many loads of laundry I’ve done in my married/motherhood life. Some people count profit margins, I count clean clothes.) and I suddenly loved it. Where it had before seemed an endless chore it suddenly became a comforting task. It had a start and a finish. Sniff (the nose is the measuring rod in our house), gather, wash, dry, fold, put away. Repeat. At least 11, 600 times. (For those of you who are stuffy about all things green, would it help to know that I do full loads and dry on a clothesline whenever I can?). Laundry, I realized, leaves my mind free to roam while keeping my hands busy. And you know it allows for alone time (the others in my household do not share my Laundry-Doing-Is-Sacred perspective).

Maybe it happens when you do something so much that you either drown in a mundane-tasks-depression or you decide to love it. Though like I said, I don’t know that I decided so much as something just switched over. I will say that I was giving thanks intermittently during both processes. (Not that I can take credit for that. Prayer and its doing is yet another gift inspired by not-me.) Been prayerful. I see a trend is what I’m saying. Slime on the broccoli earns it a blessed place on the compost pile, sourdough not rising presents more as another bread lesson learned than as a baker-failure, sticky rice seemed, well it was still sticky but I didn’t mind it as much, I was even grateful for slimy pre-cooked chicken as it meant we were having chicken. Crumbs, instead of being an annoyance, reminded me that there’s a lot of life ’round these parts. This spills over to the endless piles of laundry, children’s chatter, 7 billion dishes to wash (and counting. Ok, not really, but it would be a REALLY big number), aggravating relationship troubles, lawn mower maintenance, frustrating coworkers – whatever our daily challenge(s). These aren’t just simple sucky things-to-get-through. They’re sacred ground spaces, and they’re everywhere if we have the eyes for it. I know that I’ve talked about this before, but it’s such a wonderful gift to see things with an eye towards redemption. No matter how messy, uncomfortable, or inconvenient our circumstances, there is a great sacredness – a great potential – in all of it. I’m not theorizing: giving thanks for things, maybe especially for that thing we first found unsavory, elevates the thing. Redeems it. Redeems us. And if there’s a gift, there must be a Giver. Thanking Him’s appropriate and it changes everything. He’s not stingy, people. Given a little attention, He does things like make tiny moments and seemingly insignificant tasks magical.

Y’know, like how we expected and hoped life would be.

All Grown Up 

  
 Saturday’s weather took us outside (’cause who could help but be swept up and out?). After a day of moving and spreading the compost pile, tilling, weeding, and planting a garden, mowing the yard, peppered with the ins and outs and ups and downs of children navigating, my husband and I convened to the outdoor furniture to savor a few moments of inactivity before moving on to the final leg of the day. My work’s-done-for-the-day-celebratory-beer went down especially smoothly (as it is often wont to do after such a day). In response, I blithely commented, “I’m grateful to be a grown up and get to drink beer.” My husband said that ought to be my blog post for the day. Just that. 

As I was ironing this morning I thought about that and how I did not write that or anything else as my blog post. I remembered again how this not-writing has become a conspicuous trend the last couple of months. The blog has been silent, the pen has remained largely still. I’ve resented a little this being compelled toward functioning for the good of the people in my immediate sphere instead of indulging my desire to write about the life I’m leading (instead of just living it like I’ve been doing). Because of choices I’ve made neither excess time nor excess energy have been mine in abundance lately, so inevitably, I give up writing – and “processing” as I’ve come to call it – my experience. 

But this morning as I was thinking about this and longingly looking over at the dusty keyboard just a few feet away but more like worlds away with all the laundry and ironing and schooling and gardening and food and bread making and all the myriad number of other tasks and unknowns that show up in the process of a day, I remembered that I am a grown up and I’m grateful to be one with all these many things to do. That I am master of my own destiny (God notwithstanding) and that thing that I’m not doing, as much as I love it, is not more important than what I am doing. Being a grown up who also tends ever so slightly towards excess and abuse of those things that make me feel good, I realized (once again… How many times before a lesson actually sticks and becomes part of our way of doing?) that in the simple utterance and acknowledgment of a thing – in this case being a grown up and savoring the privilege and enjoyment of a specific thing – that I was empowered ever so slightly. Reminded of my place in things. That there is a crazy get-swept-up wave that can carry us along, but every once awhile, it’s important to plant your feet, stand against the current, take a deep breath, and regain your bearings. It also needs to be mentioned that my prayer life has not been awesome lately. None of this came until after I’d talked with God about it and apologized for my neglect of that aspect of my life. It sneaks up, this insidious do-it-on-my-own tendency. And then I wonder why I’m so miserable. Everything changes when He’s invited.

I’ve bemoaned not getting to do the thing I think I want to do so that what I am doing becomes a source of frustration and agitation. So maybe Greg was right. Maybe that simple return to basics is what may blessedly bring one back around to where one needs to be. Maybe that’s where all the real good stuff comes from. Not in long winded “processing” but in short utterances of praise and gratitude for what we do have. So, in honor of a wise husband and in an effort to return to what’s best, and even though I’m not even currently drinking a beer, suffice it to say:

I’m grateful to be a grown up who gets to (insert what you’re grateful for today).

…”go outside with my kids and make a pea trellis out of sticks” would be mine.

Sugaring season

It’s that time again. And I love it.  
Steam and fire, wind and sleet

This shack’s where in- and outside meet

Before this gift here’s at its finish will

Meet heat and coal to quite diminish

All from a boil that allows the clear

And cold run sap to disappear

Up through the air as tiny drops

Float up and up (to the treetops?)

Which leave behind the golden stick 

That boils and boils from thin to thick

And ends up in my coffee, tea

(And fingers, quite in spite of me)

Oh for the sake of sweet so fine

I labor here to make it mine.
But before the sugar shack I have

To make my way ’round yard and back

Where buckets wait in mystery

With treasures held for me to see

I peek inside each one with great

Big hope as I anticipate

How much? How much? lies there within

That bucket; is it thick or thin

With sap, oh tree, are you ready to

Share what’s yours with me, are you?

Is it time? Is it now?

(I’m a child who’s waited all year through

For this present once again that’s new!)
Emptying time. 
I grab the buckets, lift, unload

The metal’s cold, my muscles groan.

I set my face

Quicken my pace

 Through mud, grass, leaves, and ice or snow

Forth and back through taps and trees

I wonder how the count will be

Will I run out of storage space

Or need to slow my boiling pace

For smaller yields and lesser gains?

No matter what, I’ll take these pains

For nectar sweet as honeybees’

 Maple syrup time requires of me.
 

And when I start to tire or feel

The weight of work I do so real

I stop and breathe the crisp new breath

Of spring’s onset and winter’s death

The air is fresh the work is good:

This mix of fire, sap, steam, and wood

And all this bounty’s yielded up

In this li’l yard from nature’s cup

The gold brown gift on counter sits

For king or peasant present fit

A taste so good, pure, and unique

It needs no help, no aid, no tweak
But to watch the boil, this takes a bit

Of preference, here I do admit

To decide how much to load the fire 

And when, how much, in order to

Each facet must be much thought through

Or not; sometimes I’ll let it be 

And not take things so seriously

There’s oft a rhythm there’s oft some fun

(A time for each thing ‘neath the sun!)

To sit, to work, to watch, to try

And delight in time that passes by  
The process by which it comes about

I just can’t say enough about

‘Cause I get to stand and watch and wait

And walk and load, elucidate

And wonder, move and load again

(And again and again and again and again.)

How many jobs are under heaven

Where work’s the dough and time’s the leaven

That allows for a product 

From patience and grace

Quite without all attempts to quicken the pace?

I’m the watchman, the gatherer, the participant here

But transforming magic? Quite beyond me, that’s clear.
  

Love and a Waiting Room

In the waiting room
There’re all these darling couples

All this youth and love

All this wrapped-up-in-each-other sweetness

Primped and dressed for world-presentation

There are undeniable glimpses of the behind-closed-doors them:

Their private life and intimacy’s

Worn out here too –

In the way they look deep

(with suggestions and strains of hungry)

Light touches

The business of their daily’s

Peppered with playful talk and soft laughter

They’re marked by an insulating strength

In their unuttered yet undeniable shared secret

Bound together by the primal-est bindings 

To threaten their unity-strength’s

To threaten one’s own pullulation 

Their occasional comfortable silence carries 

Right back to comfortable sharing

Inadvertently staring 

My can’t-help-it-you’re-so-beautiful sunshine

Tries soaking in theirs

Without interrupting their gravity 

Aware of my olderness and otherness

I’m startlingly struck by and reminded about the wonderfulness of people-potential

When we’re bound together by life and love

Cautioned afresh about the fragility and power of the ties that bind us

All this protected selfish loving and I

Remember our sameness

This part of humanness and

How every love affair’s uniquely its own and

Every love affair’s a wonderful miracle

As common as day

Remarkable as light

All these lovely swelling bellies

Testament to life and hope and LOVE

The preservation and perpetuation of all these 

A love affair of all of us

A Middle Finger to the False Self

 

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It’s weird. Probably not uncommon, but still weird.
This being compelled towards a certain way of expression and feeling so utterly self conscious about said expression. Part of me thinks that real artists don’t question their artistry, at least in as far as the doing. Most of us measure the product and its worth, of course. Wonder about, assess, measure. Maybe it’s naive to think that no one else thinks this much about the process. The just “doin’ the thing” part. But I just can’t help but think that if I could just settle into the thing that my battles with self expression (with self?) would be largely (or just more) over. The weirdness that I not only wrangle with, but frankly am totally sick of, is weird. I feel compelled to write a certain way while being totally and completely uncertain about it.
When (and how? How, I ask you?) does a person Just Do It. (If only there was a t-shirt to remind me.) By what miracle of changed thinking and upside down modus operandi (how? How, I ask you?) does someone suddenly just stop all the years of shame and doubt and ridiculous indoctrination and start living fully into his/her self? And THEN create something authentic and real and of value?
New Year review and reflection stipulated honesty as my “word of the year.” Sounds good. Good like all those other words that find their way colorfully and persistently into the margins of journals and legal pads in various pen colors in order to (hopefully) then find their way into my psyche and then (hopefully) eke into my living. And I’ll stay open to that notion. Honesty sounds right, if even ever so slightly loaded and terribly tenuous (for me anyway. See elephants in the room, “social graces,” and skeletons in the closet [wow. Even the references don’t tell you anything.] and you have a terrible battle with what being true to yourself means. True to myself? Heck. I’d just love to wake up with any sense of self. A true sense unfettered and/or unmarred by loads of proverbial baggage.).
Which brings me to my point. (Maybe.)
After being figuratively smacked into an uncomfortable oblivion yesterday, I had to take another uncomfortable but much needed look at my difficulty with transparency and vulnerability. I’m tempted to delve in here about the bummer-of-a-disagreement my husband and I had because of my seeming inability to be emotionally intimate due to years and years of self destructive behavior but I worry that I’ll lose you. I’m assuming you’ll understand without being privy to details. Wait for the book. Because, you know, a book about addiction, promiscuity, victimization and the like would be so read-worthy. It would, you say? Only if it didn’t stop there but continued on to the happy ending of redemption and healing and rescue, which is where my story ends, er, will end once I get to the bottom of this vulnerability thing.

Vulnerability thing? Oh, right. That’s where I was going with this. I was going to talk about how to get to a place where I stop second guessing every. Single. Thing. I. Do. Say. Write. Think. The place where all this being gets to just be without all the maddening ing-ing. Thinking wondering, second-guessing. That little suffix has added too much extraneous ing-ing on my ability to just be.
Just be, Amy. Just be, you who’s reading. You who’s out there wondering about your inherent value and all its attachments and/or inevitabilities. Not in a mystical touchy feely way, but in a true way. That we might get down to the business of living: comfortable enough in our own skins and comfortable enough with whatever our contribution to the world is ours to give and stop all this ridiculous posturing in order to add what’s ours to add.
Maybe I’m just getting old and tired. Maybe that’s really what wisdom is: getting worn out enough that you stop expending energy (because you no longer have any extra to expend) on posturing and instead concentrate on just be-ing. That ing-ing being the only sort you can muster up enough energy for. No frills, no pretense. Just you and just me with all our wondrous and remarkable magic. ‘Cause it’s in there. And it’s fabulous.
It’s terrifying, but I’m pretty excited to toast to transparency (or maybe I’m just excited to toast. Here’s at least to an enthusiastic and celebratory beginning.). Pretty excited to find out what all this before-now-elusive “be true to yourself” business is all about. Excited to move forward with my eyes wide open instead of frantically darting around trying to read cues about what skin I ought put on to satisfy any onlookers. How are chameleons not completely exhausted? I’ve not learned to adapt so well to this way of being. Or at least not thrive. I’ve maybe learned too well how to adapt. Regardless, I find it leaves me significantly less colorful than more…
So here’s to richer color sourced from an inward treasure instead of environmentally imposed ones. To more transparency and honesty. And though I don’t wish the fiery abyss part on anyone, I do like the spirit of; “ta Hell with all ya’s. I got my own beat and I’m dancin’ to it.” (I don’t usually talk like that, but this finding my voice thing may take some practice…)

……………………
How about you? Do you struggle with “being yourself”? Desire truth in your inmost parts? Or if this isn’t a struggle for you, what has helped you to be a person of integrity/honesty/transparency?

 

Vulnerable and Married: together at last

Maybe my reluctance towards intimacy
Is an innate refusal to be possessed

Maybe I’ve bought the wrong lines

Regarding sacred union

Maybe I’ve perceived all the wrong sacrificial requirements

Maybe I’ve seen love (inadequately, tragically, falsely)

As an all “giving up”

Instead of following that gift through

To its more accurately and absolutely “all getting” 

I have kept you over there – arm’s length

(A safer distance, I thought)

Instead of drawing closer

(In desperate self-protection, I think)

And here, instead of “Impressive Impenetrable Fortress”

As my welcome mat

I have “Lonelier Than Ever”

Starving in this false autonomy

I’m sorry, my lover, my darling, and

(I mean it and vow to grow into all those designations)

I will try…

…No.

I will welcome you.

I will be patient

I will be gentle 

I will surrender in right ways

I will treat this ground and the one who shares it with me as sacred.

I will stop fearing the inadequacy of my own self possession

Stop seeing an enemy where there is you:

Welcome guest, honored, cherished, trusted, (wildly patient!) invited friend and lover.

A Poet Gathering

I had a dream about a gathering of poets. 
All anxious to see others’ work

One stretched his neck to read my scrawl but

All I had on my page was what I’d studied about

The hard work not yet done

The hoped-for work

Put off for 

The hunch that this self needed to grow up (more) in order to produce.

I awoke with my self still attached.

Come to find that its place and presence doesn’t so much need reckoned with

Other than to be taken captive and hushed

Yes, it’s already in the art by virtue of its inextricably bound contact

But this is no mystery needing solved.

That examination can (blessedly) be over.

The self need not be a major player:

Noticed, stroked, hailed for its presence among us.

It needs only to record its findings 

Is needed only to examine spaces, places, abiding mercies

And share what it’s found.

The artist’s generosity is in communicating

The gifts.

Souls have value:

Let’s not dispute that.

Questioning the validity of their voices

Wasn’t the dream

The discovery and unpacking of those voices 

As they reflect all the goodness of their Creator’s the dream.

Little mirrors co-creating in honor of the One artist.

The unexamined life may not be worth living

But that may also be true of the morbidly examined one

So intent upon its own navel that life

Is lost on it.

And this isn’t to devalue our personhood:

Rather it is the reinforcement of it.

See! and then Share! 

Have a peek at my scribbles

I’ll peek at yours

And may there be something to see:

Some connective tissue from a

Personhood all intact.

Adding to the beauty

Reflecting things true and needful

And so see the world through another lens

– His –

Ah, the dream of poets.

One of Those Days

It’s one of those days​

When I’m a little shell of a thing

Not the usual small

Smaller.

When the regular, run-of-the-mill indecision

Looks like all out perplexed and

Feels like paralysis supercharged with tension and

Progress feels like a no-option thing.

Reason (and experience) would tell me this is temporary

But a moment’s still a moment

With all its time and requirement

And can’t be discounted

A moment can feel timeless

In all the worst ways.
But wait, confusion stupor,

I don’t accept your terms!

Oh, snake oiler,

You may have enticed me with such hocked wares as these before, and

I may have bought your lines and swallowed your bitter pills once upon a time, but

I’ve no expendable currency

To support such business today.

In fact, I don’t even have time for the rest of your pitch.

Roll on by

And find some other pig to inhabit

What you offer’s not the only merchandise in town.
I’ll wait and watch and listen for

A lovelier voice

A truer product

A sweeter purchase.

I can spare this moment while I wait

I’ll hold on

For One who always offers what’s good, what’s needed, what’s best

Even if I can’t hear Him right this minute

He’s coming.

Blessedly and with Him, it’s always that day.
Thank You.

Turn (to the light)


What’s all this angst that rises to the surface?

This right to be vexed?

Are they sourced in these irritations that challenge

my (snotty and ridiculous) sensibilities?

No.
These children, these demands, these challenges,

circumstances, inconveniences, or others’ bad behavior

Are not the cause of my reactionary ugliness.
No.
Just the me’s to blame.
But thrillingly, that doesn’t have to be the end of the story.
In a signature moment of said angst and growing irritation

– just another day together during life and learning –

An unexpected choice was made.

A lightening bolt epiphany supernaturally

(how else would I have chosen well?)

Suggested I laugh instead.
Laugh instead of explode, fume, brood, resent, chafe,

offend.

I could just laugh out loud at that dark power that was

ready to steal our joy and erect more walls.

So I did.

I laughed out loud

At all this wretched humanness.

And then they did.

And our communal laughter

Tsunamied over all the filth and

Diffused all that impossible tension and

Revealed a clean place.

A brighter place.

A start-over place.

And the tone and the magic and the potential of an entire day

Re-upped.

Sweet redemption

In its mind blowing everything-changing way

Prodigiously entered the room and

Effortlessly swept away the (now) silly-small vice.

In its wake an entire room’s climate and

all the relationships in proximity to it

Were enabled to shift and turn to a better way.

All ’cause in a solitary moment

One soul turned to the light

Instead of bowing to the dark.

The ripple effect

Enabled us upright and

Drew us together

In light and in love.
Thank You.

This Cup

  

I play at beauty.
Enjoy it. 
But relegate my scraps as little more than

Measly contributions.

I won’t prob’ly win no prizes…

All’s simple and meager and small here

From these parts.

But I am learning.

Learning to drink deep draughts

Of pure water

That flows ever purer

The longer and fuller I drink.

No need to add anything

To this cup I’m holding.

It’s full.

It’s good.

And I’ll drink it.

…To overflow.