Home, sweet poem…


Lesley-Anne Evans:

So, after the telephone interview in which Richmond Hill Liberal’s journalist Kim Zarzour asked me the most interesting questions, her article on PUP was published! Today! http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/5259266-pop-up-poetry-a-wintry-surprise-in-richmond-hill/

Originally posted on pop-up-poetry:

At the last minute I tucked a few poems and some bull clips into my suitcase. Thought, why not…maybe there will be an opportunity for a walk through the neighbourhood where I spent my teen years. And maybe I will leave a sprinkling of poems there bringing everything full circle to embrace who I was and who I am now. It would be fun.

So one cold sunny morning I got up early and set out with my poems. I’d forgotten how cold winter treks along Mill Street were walking to Richmond Hill High School so many years ago. My legs and finger tips were soon numb, but a prickly feeling of excitement kept me going. And the beautiful setting, the glorious day. I walked around the Mill Pond, then back home through a park at Pleasantville School, pinning poems along the way. And the very last poem found its…

View original 125 more words

A slight shift… just a little one…


DSC_0789Hi. Long time no write. Much has taken place and continues to find its place in my life. I am well at times. How are you?

I am grateful for the way God allows me time and space to come to my own inconclusive conclusions, mess through my own muck (self created and a product of my upbringing, culture, experience) and opportunity to humble myself and see things ever vaguely and/or becoming clearer in what they are.

I’ve been away. In Northern Ireland. In New York City. Away from “church” and searching for where I belong, what I need, what I can stand for and with, and who are my people and community and what is it that God would have me do. And more. I’ve become a bit of a nomad, but feeling the repeated pull of home. I believe I’m getting closer to the truth and the reason I’ve needed to wander. It’s as much a result of heart wrenching, certainty tossing, conviction lostness, as it is a result of conversations with wise ones whom I trust enough to open up my pandora’s box of troubled questions and invite them in.

I invite you in…

Here’s what I’m just beginning to discover, what is being unearthed in me;

1. I’m me, and God doesn’t make any mistakes. I’ve been wrestling with God and me, not loving who I am, but loving myself too much in other ways. There is paradox in the journey of faith and self-knowledge, like everything else. The struggles I’m having are because I’m me, and the way to shelter and peace will be specific to who I am and how God wired me. It takes time for me to sort these things out.

2. I’m prideful. I’ve just recognized I’ve been asking “Did God Really say?” (yes, same question the serpent threw in Adam and Eve’s face on the garden’s slippery slope) And whatever particular version of that I’ve entertained has been my somewhat slanted/deluded reason for separation from various people groups out of a sense of needing to protect other people groups. Proud Mary…that’s me. So…

Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned against you and against your people. Bring me back to what matters to you, something I can build my life on. Help me see the difference between the bricks and mortar that build a house, and the decorative elements that are lovely yet not necessary. Bring me back to basic design, Lord. Don’t grow weary of me.

3. I am super sensitive and easily influenced. When I open myself up to new opinions and I attempt to understand various points of view, sometimes those views meld with my own and I can no longer clearly see what I believe is true. There is paradox in this too, because I am a learner with a healthy dose of curiosity, yet I must create boundaries that are healthy for me. Just like I choose to not watch the 10 PM news before going off to bed, or click on the link to stories about animal abuse, I know in my core that I cannot carry certain information well and I must therefore put it aside for a time, or for always. This does not make me an ostrich, I know information is available to me should I require it in the future.

4. I will never find a place where I truly, entirely, belong outside of maybe my immediate family. Not my extended family, not my circle of friends, not my writing circles, not my church, not my neighbourhood, not my academic institution, not even my fav coffee shop. Unconditional love and acceptance does not exist here, on earth, and I will not argue the unconditional love of Father God for me, just to say I’ve heard he does and I am trying to learn how to believe that. My sense of community may instead come in the bits of experiences I have with a wide range of people over time. I must somehow carry my belonging in me. And yes, that ultimate belonging to God.

5. Life is hard. Life is lonely. Life is beautiful. Life is holy. All of these truths coexist. Life is paradox. God is a mystery. My inability to understand or explain or argue does not make it less so. Truth can be absolute. And one can live in the mystery of not having an answer and survive. What I thought I was looking for was a common language to speak, a inclusive way of living that is non toxic and  flourishing.

What I was maybe looking for was a place to be OK with myself and all the unanswered questions and doubts that I carry with me wherever I go. No place is going to tell me I’m OK all the time. No place is capable of answering all my questions. There will be trouble. The waters will be stirred up. There will be things said that I cannot abide. And that is OK, I think.

6. I am beginning to be OK with being adrift, but also feeling the need to look at what I know for sure, sure enough to trust. I sense the big chunk of fear is shrinking a tiny bit, the angst I’ve carried every single Sunday I wake up wanting/not wanting to go to church and then don’t/can’t go… I think it may begin to dissipate. I’m working through it. I just asked myself today, “What’s the very worst thing that can happen to me if I return to church?” No answer yet, still thinking.

7. I am not alone in my experiences. This is the human condition, to walk in faith and out of faith like Mother Theresa, C.S. Lewis and me. Faith and doubt coexist. To say otherwise is a lie.

8. There will be more shifting. As I continue to unpack and attempt to understand where I am and where I am going and what God has in mind in all of this messy loveliness, I will probably write it here. We shall see.

May all that we experience and all that we learn and all that we are, feed our lives like small morsels of bread cast onto uneven ground. May we learn to see God as the one who breaks off those little bits to help us find our way, and to sustain us.

Lesley-Anne

Thanksgiving Sabbath unrest…


DSC_0589

Yellow ribbons of remembrance hanging outside a NYC Manhattan church.

My Thanksgiving Sabbath rest began with a hot cup of coffee and a little book my dear friend gifted me with for my last birthday. My darling went to church. I didn’t. I’m hoping this day will continue with family time, perhaps a hike somewhere on this lovely day, and then it will culminate in us five gathering around a table and ordering turkey dinner (my darling’s idea to reduce the work and increase the conversation) and watching the sun set over the lake and behind the Monashee. We may or may not talk about why we are thankful… often that makes for discomfort and eye rolling on the part of our young adult kids.

So I read the little book from cover to cover. “A Liturgy for Sunday Schools,” published in 1842 by the Dioscesan Sunday-School Society of Pennsylvania, fragile, water spotted, smelling faintly of must and mildew, is only 36 pages long, and for the purposes of leaders leading children in the various services of the Episcopal church Sunday-School. An easy read.

As I sip coffee and read, I am touched by the deep reverence of the words, and the words themselves, some of which are no longer part of our language today are unique, special, resonant. My mind wanders to my perceptions around church history, the simplicity, literal, black and white, how it seeps into everyday life back then. I move to my own church history, its complexity, its greyness, and how it has for a long time been part of my everyday life, but now not so much. And how I miss it but no longer know where I truly belong, if anywhere.

And I begin to see my Sabbath unrest rather than rest, not always, but now. Do you experience this? What does it look like for you? Have you found a way to peace?

There are others who share my place, others who have written about it. One of my favourite books, “Skin Boat,” by Canadian author and poet John Terpstra, resounds deeply for me. The dance in and out of the pews and I want to end up somewhere, sometimes, and other times I am repelled by the thought.

Or another friend of mine who says he is allergic to church, breaks out in a sweat when he is there, and I get that. Because there is physicality, emotion and intellect involved sitting and listening to words that you can no longer accept in their entirety, or underlying dogma, or attitudes, all those things that begin to get to you like a bur under a saddle and you finally have to untether yourself and run free for a bit while your flesh heals.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve written here, and that’s partly due to feeling I have very little to say mixed with a bit of resolve and shame, but maybe it’s time to open up a bit, I don’t really know.

This blog is supposed to be about hope, and that hasn’t changed, and my belief in God hasn’t changed, nor my belief in who Jesus was and is and what he is about in the world. Jesus words (the red letters of the bible) speak precisely to how I want to live, but how I do that… that is the sticky point. I get hung up on the cast and hook, the doing what I do for the agenda/purpose of type stuff.

Yet my desire to live for God’s glory does not change. My desire to write my experience of the fullness of it, the spirit and humanity of life. My hunger for relationships that connect spiritually has not changed. My desire for spiritual formation, the integration of spiritual practice remains. I am becoming… but I do not know what.…

Anyway, I think maybe I’ll unpack some thoughts here over the next little while. I’ve done it before, HERE and HERE and HERE. Maybe it will take us to more clarity or more willingness to be unsure, more restfulness?

Here is a partial poem I’ve been messing about with on the subject… all I have for now:

This accidental architecture defines what belongs
and what is outside, romantic notions
of historic field boundaries somehow justified
by the latter commendations of sparrows and
and small creatures nested in crevices, hollows. How
we are drawn by longing then repelled by the lines drawn between us.

Build me not a wall but an altar, a holy well
set mid field and shaded by fairy thorn.

Everything is holy now…


I’ve only heard this song twice, the first just a couple of weeks ago as I sat mesmerized and crying while David Wilcox sang it over me and the rest of the Northern Ireland 2014 pilgrims. The second time right now, as I find it on Youtube and share it with you.

That first time I heard Peter Mayer’s ‘Holy Now’ in Belfast, I felt opened and washed by the lyrics and deeply understood in a way outside the music. I felt truth echo back to me around how I’ve been living out my lifelong version of a complex and oft times frustrating faith, a simple way that has seeped into my life and my writing for many years now. Glory in all it’s profound abundance, this sense that everything is holy now, has slowly seeped into my soul and grown into how I behold the world, it is the under girding of my poetry, it is how I find God.

So while I listened to Peter Mayer’s song, it broke over and through me with a deep thankfulness for having been opened to see the whole earth is full of the glory of God and in it to see Him, to be awestruck, and in my own way, say WOW! Everything, EVERYTHING IS holy now.

Yet as I write to you, my neighbour is cutting his lawn, large machines are hard at work digging and scraping and beeping and preparing what for 14 years has been an apple orchard behind our home, and my attempt at a time of contemplative silence has been cut off abruptly by science. Can I say this disappointment I feel today is holy now? Can I say the dog nudging me while I’m trying to pray is holy now? Can holiness be found in the sink full of dirty dishes and the piles of laundry and the weeding and watering and bill paying and dog nose prints on windows and spots on the carpet? My version of this truth about glory and holiness involves space and time and silence and proximity to rural landscapes and natural beauty. Not this version I’m experiencing right now… at least I don’t think so.

So how might God want to transform my heart to see holiness in noise and dirt and to do lists? Is that really who God has wired me to be? Or do I need to adjust how I live my life to line up more closely with the ways I see him and his glory best? Do I need to find new ways and new places of silence and contemplation and communion? Is it both and?

I think that’s closer to the truth of it. The more we know of ourselves, the more responsibility we take for how we live and the choices we make to be healthy and whole. And for me I know soul health and wholeness requires holy contemplative and life giving places and spaces and times. And the more we learn about God, the more opportunity we are given to be open to his ways of doing things, sometimes contrary to how we might naturally choose. While I know silence sustains me, I also know it’s also good and soulful for me to be stretched, to be opened to seeing holy in, as they song says, EVERYTHING. Not just the beautiful, but the ugly too. Not just the silence, but the noise.

As an introvert I find crowds and social events depleting. Oh, I love a good party, but I need time to gear up for it and to recover from it. The same is true for family holidays or other times with groups of people. I crave alone time, because in the silence I find myself and God coming together into a comfortable way of being and it is there I process and listen and fill up again ready for the next social interaction. Noise depletes me, and Northern Ireland taught me a new level of silence that, by comparison, makes living in Kelowna seem loud and brash. What was my happy place before I left, my garden porch in the shade of a quiet summer morning, is upon returning disturbed by things I have no control over yet offend me. Even the sound of my air conditioner grates on my ears and I’m longing to return to that remote rural Irish cottage with the sounds of sheep and lambs communing in the dusk. But I can’t go running back there… not yet. So how can I recreate what I have discovered is needed for the sustaining health of my soul? How do I accept what I cannot change and find good in it as well?

The settling in to everyday life after experiencing trips like Northern Ireland 2014 with potential life impacting new revelation, takes time. As I ask myself these questions of what now shall I do and recognize some shifts may be required, I also remember the wise warning of our retreat leaders who said, give it 6 months, don’t rush into anything, don’t go out and start a new business with someone whom you’ve met here, just allow what you have learned to settle in, find its place in your life. This is my life… this version of everything is holy now. The lessons must settle in here. I keep reminding myself of these words when visions of green walled fields and mist covered mountains call me back to that place of deep quiet that calmed me all the way down to my guts. And this from a woman whose guts are usually twisted up in knots!

For today, let me simply see holy in something I haven’t seen before. Let me see and hear and understand something new about where I am, this place and these people, this noise and this version of silence, this life. Help my heart to settle into my life here and all its holiness.

(And just now I realize the sounds of construction haven’t changed but I have been paying less attention to them. As I wrote to you the sounds blended into the background.)

DSC_0426

 

It’s a “blog hop” … let’s get hopping!


images-14

I was nominated by Daniela Elza (or I may have invited myself by answering Daniela’s call on Facebook for writers who blog… and I do) to participate in a global blog hop that has its roots in Young Adult Fiction. Daniela and I share similar geographies, she in Vancouver and I in Kelowna, both writing from spectacular British Columbia. I had the opportunity to attend one of Daniela’s poetry readings in Kelowna a couple of years ago and purchased her compelling book of poetry, The Weight of Dew.

Screen-Shot-2014-06-15-at-4.02.57-PM

Daniela Elza is a talented, widely published and awarded Canadian poet who keeps a blog called “Strange Places.” You can read Daniela’s answers to our four vital blog hop questions about writing HERE. Thank you for allowing me to jump on board with you, Daniela. This is fun!

Now a wee bit about me. My writing genre is poetry, although I write non-fiction and technical pieces occasionally. I was born in Northern Ireland and have roots in rural Ontario farm life. A sensibility toward land stewardship and the arts led me to a degree in Landscape Architecture at the University of Guelph in 1987. I find myself revisiting themes of land, spirit and human narrative often in my poetry. Photography, gardening and cooking are other creative pursuits I enjoy, and family life with husband, three young adult children and a dog keep me from getting too serious about things.

IMG_5116

On to my blog hop answers now;

1. What am I working on:

This month is heavy with poetry readings and performances so my current work involves creating lists of what I will read, then editing and more editing and reading the poems aloud until they roll off the tongue. Earlier in the month I participated in a short poem a day exercise with a friend and poetry mentor, Heidi Garnett. We met and worked through several draft poems together and discussed how they could be made better. Great fun and stretching for me! I am working on a collaborative poem to performing at a music and arts festival this summer. And I get out regularly with another photographer and shoot photos. I see better that way. The details of things.

DSC_0031

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre:

I believe in the process of discovery and unearthing one’s voice, and the more I lean into this, the more I see my poetry is primarily different because of my voice, but also in message, theme and musicality. I tend toward lyrical poetry but I am also attracted to the avant guard, the idea of words/typeography as artistic objects on the page, although I have not yet pursued this past thought. I’m always learning, and hungry to learn and apply new ideas to my work. I enjoy writing workshops, lectures, conferences, and just finished taking a fantastic Brit. Lit Survey course at Okanagan College.

LA in bookstore photo

3. Why do I write what I do:

I find writing poetry is like an archeological process, one digs away and does the hard work of digging sometimes for days with nothing to show, but suddenly, there it is, a corner of some compelling artifact peeking out. So you continue to dig, but in that particular area, carefully, gently, and something more is exposed, something meaningful discovered and brought into the light. Poetry is about digging away and stockpiling all the extras that aren’t really needed, or maybe again but later, and polishing the little itsy bit worth keeping. I love the sparseness of it, although I’m still learning what this looks like. The scariest part for me is taking apart at draft poem that I thought was going somewhere and turning it on it’s head. My mentor suggests this and it makes me quake but I know she’s usually right.

4. How does my writing process work:

The above metaphor explains it well, but I find I have to make space for it. For a couple of years now I’ve created a daily space of 3 or 4 hours each morning. Then I go to work, putting in the dedicated time of writing, editing, submitting, promoting, and also getting out into the community with my work. If I have a project with a particular theme, I just start writing things down. Sometimes in a journal, sometimes on my laptop. I think on it a lot. I chew and chew. Even when my writing time is up I am in the head space of writing, leaving myself notes on my cell phone that I return to later. I am a little lost to regular life sometimes. A bit of a dreamer. And I read poetry almost every day. It’s the last thing I read before I go to bed. I read lots of different poets that come across my path. And I live my life with my family. I watch what’s going on around me. Absolutely everything can become fodder for future poetry.

My three nominees to continue this blog hop are Robert Rife, Kathie Thomas and James Bell.

Robert Rife and I go way back, back to this side of the border. Rob is, among his many talents, a lyric poet of great sensitivity and grace:

Rob Rife photo

Calgary native, Robert Alan Rife, works as the Director of Music and Arts at Yakima Covenant Church in Yakima, Washington. He is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist (including Highland Bagpipes!), poet and, writer here, here, and here. His life and art are dedicated to discovering those places where life, liturgy, theology, and the arts intersect with and promote spiritual formation – who we are becoming. Rob’s blogs primarily at Innerwoven. www.innerwoven.me.

Kathie Thomas is a high energy and big hearted writing friend from Australia who has published several books. Kathie and I met online through a writer’s community and have since met in person when she did a Canadian Tour:

Kathie photo

My name is Kathie Thomas and I live in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges, 50kms east of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Surrounded by natural bushland and rainforest and visits by native bird life and wildlife – who could blame me for wanting to live here? And it’s here that I run my full time business as a Virtual Assistant. Not only that, but I provide VA training and web design and hosting services as well. Why did I start working from home? So I could bring up my 5 daughters. They are all now grown up but I continue to work at home because I love it.  My blog can be found at http://vadirectory.net/acsblog/

James Bell lives just a few mountain ranges over on the B.C. coast and we have only met virtually, though he knows my family well over many years. Jim has fallen head-over-heels in love with my country of birth, Northern Ireland, which has become his writing focus of late:

Jim Bell photo

Jim finds inspiration in many areas of his life: the education and tutoring of youth, literature, family, God and of course Ireland. He was born of Scottish descent, is a true Canadian (Brantford, Ontario), but when he married into his Northern Irish family, his focus changed. He has visited Ireland some 25 times with some stays as long as 2 months, and during those periods, his love for Irish authors grew. Jim lives with his wife, Esther now that his two daughters have married, both to men of Irish descent! His recent book, “A Year in Eire” is available here through his new blog! This blog hop will be Jim’s first post!

images-13Thank you for coming by. I hope you have enjoyed getting to know a little bit about my three writer friends and me. In two weeks time you can visit Rob, Kathie and Jim at their blogs to discover their insights into the writing life and see what three writers they highlight, and so on, and so on, every two weeks while we keep hopping along. And of course, you can go back to Daniela’s blog and work your way down other rabbit trails of writers. Everyone knows how things that hop get prolific very quickly! Just go with it.

Best for the journey,

Lesley-Anne

Every life is a poem…


DSC_0037

You may know that I write poetry, but Buddy Breathing is not usually where I post it, if at all. You will find a small selection here on my author website, but the timing is such that I am going to post a newish poem here today.

It’s a poem I’ve been scratching away at since I first was accepted into the Northern Ireland 2014 ~ Storytelling, Music, Art, and Peace experience. Thanks to Gareth Higgins, Karen Moore and David Wilcox, the wonderful co-leaders of this trip, poet, priest, philosopher and scholar John O’Donohue’s legacy of mindfully walking the Irish landscape will be realized once again for a small group of most fortunate people, myself included. The long call of home to my birthplace, to talk and walk and open anew to understand… in just a few short days I will answer what has been percolating inside me for years. I sense changing coming.

Maybe even before I knew of this pilgrimage I’ve imagined myself arriving in a place like that described in my poem. A wild and desolate place, perhaps the middle of a wide and endless field, or the top of a rounded barren hill (not a mountain as I’m not that kind of adventurer), or an abandoned once inhabited place grown over and melding again with the earth. Any such place I’ve seen in movies or aptly described in a book or glimpsed in reality or dreamed myself to… are somewhat liminal spaces between here and somewhere, between what is and what could be.

For me landscapes best describe how it might feel to stand physically and/or metaphorically at a transition, an edge, and to feel the pull of such a place… and so in this spirit the poem began. It is, as always, a work in progress.

Edge

Take the path up
through the stinking mud
and tufted grass barely rooted
in barren. Keep on up
to the cliff top, lean
into the wind, tears
pulled from your eyes and drained
down stark lined cheeks. Up, up
to the edge where all that lies ahead
is North Sea waves half ice over shipwrecks,
selkie dreams dashed hard
on the jagged shore. Look north,
out where the sky meets mossy
undulations of standing waves,
where looking back at yourself you are nothing
but a speck of possibility. Look down
at shoes muddied and scuffed, wild
brambles hitch hiked to your old wool coat.
Reach out your hands,
ridged nails on fingers
wrinkled staccato with terror. There,
and only if you dare,
open up your life,
widen your lungs to salt mist, your veins
to the pulsing hum of thin places.
Steady yourself, eyes up, up,
your heart a fast cloud in the groaning gale.
Feel the heft of surf’s begging boil
beneath you. But stand your ground.
Sing. Sing.

Lesley-Anne Evans

 

 

Slowly but surely…


DSC_0063

I adore playing with my Nikon DSLR… but I don’t always have the patience to read the manual (never) or the attention span to watch Youtube self help videos. So, I just play. I randomly test and spontaneously shoot and sometimes magic happens. Like above. Rain back lit by low light. But I don’t know if I could repeat this. And I’m OK with that. LAE

A continuation of paying attention to the details, taking notes, and persuading my heart to be grateful:

546. eye feast, soul banquet, in every direction…

547. son’s 21st birthday dinner

548. soccer success

549. air conditioning, home

550. love is all you need

551. Facebook void not as painful as might have been expected

552. dogs

553. irrigated lawn on a hot afternoon

554. relatives calling to wish him happy birthday

556. family life

557. a safe drive there and back

558. photographs

559. the ability to remember

560. brushing your teeth

561. finding a good gift of an experience rather than a thing

562. life is wonderful, God is good, God never gives up on us

563. more peace, more shelter

564. confirming words from listeners…

565. the ability to write a letter, post it, and have it arrive in another’s hands…

566. rest

567. grace

568. kale salad, kale smoothie, must try kale chips

569. typography, fonts, endless variety

570. Antigonish Review #177

May the fullness of this day be yours,
May the generosity of God overtake you,
May the loveliness of your presence
be shelter for you as it is for others,

Lesley-Anne

 

Step 2 ~ look at your life with gratitude


I’d vaguely heard of it before, but it came up clearly in conversation with a friend who said, Hey, I know how you like the practice of spiritual disciplines and there’s this one called “examen” you might enjoy. So I googled it immediately and today I practiced my very first examen and wrote it into my prayer blog that is now at its 100th post. (Not that I’ve been counting but wordpress does it for me and told me today I was at 100.)

Wow, so amazing this hindsight and seeing God is drawing me in new ways into him and how I can now say I have been given a gift of a spiritual habit that is meaningful and something I want to do and enjoy doing.

Examen is a way of finding God through intentional examination of a day, or, in the words of another writer, rummaging for God by praying backwards though your day. I love that idea. And so I ventured into this still space today, in the quiet of my office after all had gone to work and school, and began to dig around in the good, bad, bright and ugly of the past 24 hours of my life. I looked for God and found God and asked God to be past, present and future in all the bits that make up my days.

Examen includes 5 steps, a template of which is found here: http://www.rcdom.org.uk/documents/EXAMEN.pdf. 

Step 2 is looking at your life with gratitude, which I have decided to also note here in a continuation of the ongoing list of gifts the father lavishes daily upon me;

534. the discovery of the practice of Examen, ancient, new, drawing, opening, compelling…

535. My young friend and our conversation about similar things we long for and long to do

536. The sudden appearance of the ladybug on my binder as I prepared for tomorrow night

537. The kindness in words from other poets and friends who will pray and support by their presence

538. My family all arriving home safe from work, together for dinner, the slow evening of being in each others company

538. TV… the final episode sitting with him

539. Him picking her up from soccer

540. Hugs, kisses, words

541. The late evening sun over the garden and the warmth of it, the weeding, the watering, the joy of those dirty hands in the dirty dirt

542. Friends finding me

543. Quiet to prepare

544. A knowing that you are in all and inspiring all choices, empowering the words, quickening me to do what needs to be done in due course, encouraging my heart, giving me the strength I need as I rely upon you

545. experiencing this as truth in my ordinary and everyday life…DSC_0153