Interview with Poet, Lesley-Anne Evans


Lesley-Anne Evans:

Sharing what was both unexpected and personally enlightening. There is a sacred gift in the individual who knows how to ask good questions, and how to hold a safe place for timid souls to find answers.

Dear Geosi… thank you from the depths of my heart for helping me to know more about why I do what I do. Thank you that you do this for so many. May it be increasingly so.

Lesley-Anne

Originally posted on Geosi Reads:

Photo: Lesley-Anne Evans Photo: Lesley-Anne Evans

Brief Biography:

Lesley-Anne Evans was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She graduated with a B.L.Arch. from University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, in 1987, and practiced Landscape Architecture and theme park design in Toronto, Ontario, for several years. Lesley-Anne moved west to Kelowna, British Columbia, where she pursues creative contentment with her husband of 27 years, three young adult children, and rehabilitated hound. Lesley-Anne’s poetry has placed in contests, and is published by Leaf Press, and in The Antigonish Review, CV-2, Quills, Ascent, Sage-ing, Pantheos, UBCO’s Lake Journal, and others. Lesley-Anne is drawn to poetic activism and word sharing activities with her street level initiative Pop-Up-Poetry, and facilitates a poetry circle with writers who live on the streets.  She sees artists and poets as culture makers, and art in all its varied forms as witness, influencer, advocate and healer.

Geosi Gyasi: Let’s begin with your poem, “Desert

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Seriously, ladybugs?


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If I were to ask God for a significant recurring insect in my life, it would certainly not be a ladybug. Something more exotic perhaps, like a praying mantis, but not scary like a wasp or millipede. Nothing precious or pretty, nothing commonplace, please God. Let it be something with a bit of an edge to it, like the insect world’s version of a raptor, a hawk or falcon of the insect kingdom. But a ladybug? Shiny red, polka-dotted, embarrassingly cute… oh God, why that particular choice?

And, as if it weren’t bad enough to have had a ten year history (here and again, here) of encounters with these little red creatures, God continues to place them in my path. And I continue to notice. Either I find them or they find me, and it’s usually at a time when something significant is happening in my life that…poof… there they are again!

Still, they always come unexpected, and cause a sharp intake of breath that I hope is at least partially spiritually significant. These bugs hijack me, beg the question “Why?” (like most other things in my life) and have me asking, “What God, what are you saying in this, what would you have me learn in this?” And sometimes, I end up smiling, like there’s a private joke between me and the Almighty. So maybe I have come to terms with them as my significant bug species? I have not, nor will I ever, get a ladybug tattoo or wear representational jewellery. I have yet to witness any cool ladybug t’shirts. Those darn bugs keep showing up, and I keep wondering what they really mean?

Last weekend, 7th floor apartment in Vancouver, B.C. and I’m there with my young adult son helping him nest, watching him put together IKEA bookshelves and bed frame and it gets a little stuffy in the small studio and I go and open the sliding door to the balcony and there, in the track of the door frame…yes, you guessed it…ladybugs…3 dead ladybugs. Why? I have no idea. I’m not an expert in ladybug flight patterns, but 7 floors up seemed pretty high to me, let alone a little bug with translucent wings. And they were dead, again, dead and dried up. But this time there was no voice saying a word. Silence. There they were, and there I was. They were dead. I am alive. And these days I’ve taken to flying more. My son is leaving home, and I am still alive, still standing. Big changes, still standing. Big changes, still flying. Maybe that was it, more of a comparative analysis this time around? Was that it God? I don’t know.

And then this, again, these words,

Coincidence is the term used to describe two events which unexpectedly occur together in a way that makes one wonder if this is chance and simple happenstance, or is there a hand.  John Terpstra, Skin Boat ~ Acts of Faith and Other Navigations

I’m choosing hand, and I’m beginning to see humour in it, how God might be enjoying a belly laugh when his kid (me) stops everything she is doing, everything she finds so vitally important, in the presence of this blatantly red yet miniscule stop sign! Yeah, maybe that’s it, it’s an attention getting thing. Whenever I get a little too hung up in my own way, my own pain, my inward focus, my work ethic, my sadness that my son has grown up and away, my, my, my… Oh my… then God says…

…consider this…

“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothes [or whatever else…you choose what fills in the blank]? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.…” Matthew 6:27-29

Stop, observe, consider. Maybe that’s it. About seeing.

Lesley-Anne

Dem Bones, Dem Bones ~ Of Bugs and Bones, Part 2.


Dry-BonesCoincidence is the term used to describe two events which unexpectedly occur together in a way that makes one wonder if this is chance and simple happenstance, or is there a hand.  John Terpstra, Skin Boat ~ Acts of Faith and Other Navigations

The following year, after my first encounter with a ladybug at Seton House of Prayer, I returned to the retreat centre for what was becoming my spiritual practice of solitude and silence. I left the busyness of my daily routine, and, for a day, invited God into the silence, into the inner room of my heart. I have not yet found my journal from that visit to confirm the precise date, but my experience that day remains indelibly etched into my psyche.

In planning my time of solitude, I gathered my journal and pen, my Bible, spiritual books I was currently reading, my camera, some lunch, some layers in case the weather turned, a plain wooden box with an inscription, “Buddy ~ Forever Faithful, Forever At Rest,” and Buddy’s old collar. I carried a painful weight of loss. Buddy, my companion and muse, my gorgeous German Short Haired Pointer, had died not long before. I was not moving past his void in my life, and I thought I might be able to bring Buddy to Seton House, release his ashes there, and in that find some release for my deep sadness, find some solace from the God who again felt so distant to me.

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I drove to Seton House, unpacked my car, and moved into the Poustinia for the day, alone, with Buddy.

By now my solitude practice had widened to include several ways of contemplative and prayerful being, the stations of the cross, several walks with niches and statues of saints, a lovely woodland altar where one day I came upon a doe resting, a labyrinth, and a small chapel at the top of the property. I quietened myself in the Poustinia, fed by the views of my natural surroundings, read some scripture, prayed, journaled, and then took a walk to the chapel.

I felt broken, empty, so placing my body prostrate on the floor of the old chapel felt right to me, to lay myself down in a response of surrender to God and to my feelings, there, in an old wooden chapel, with a plain altar, and embraced by the forest beyond. I lay myself down. And when I opened my eyes and looked around me, I saw dozens of dead ladybugs.

My sharp intake of breath, as in the next thought vicious words drove into my mind;

This is you, Lesley-Anne! Dead. Empty. Dried up like these dead ladybugs. You are not worthy of flight. You are not who you thought you were. Rise up… I don’t think so. You aren’t going anywhere.

No, no, I cried. Tears, running down my face. No, that’s a lie! God does not speak this way. I am not dead or dried up. I am sad, mourning, and that does not disqualify me from anything. I recognized the darkness, the lies of the enemy of my soul. Thank you God that I recognized who spoke.

But I was shaken. I quickly left the chapel, made my way back to the Poustinia, as these thoughts, jumbled but memories of a certain story came to my mind;

And God took his servant to a mighty valley, full of dry bones, and he asked the man, can these bones live? (My own paraphrase and just enough to send me back to my bible with hunger to learn how God can make dead things live.)

For the next two hours I poured…poured over the scripture verses I found in the book of Ezekiel, poured out my deep anguish and despair over the death of my sweet dog, and the death of my spirit because of his loss. And I felt God asking me the same questions as were asked the prophet of old, And He said to me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, You know! And in me a shift, a realization, a revelation, something opening me to the answer within my pain. God knew how he might take my loss and turn it from death to life again. So I prayed it out, anguished out a surrender of whatever was going to come from my pain, and I thanked him for my dog, for the love I had experienced, and I thanked him that he could make my dry, broken, mourning bones live again.

And then, my time was over, and I packed up my things, and I went back down the mountain, with everything I took up. And the plain wooden box with the ashes of my precious Buddy remain unreleased, instead gathered, to my bedside table.

And change comes, and life comes, more pain, more loss, more dry bones transformed.

My journey continues, and the mystery of ladybugs returns from time to time,

chance and simple happenstance, or is there a hand?” “You can decide for yourself if…[these events] together have meaning or are only interesting but ultimately random coincidence of events. If you decide they do have meaning this does not imply you know what that meaning is.” John Terpstra ~ Skin Boat

Like last week…but that’s another story.

On the way,

Lesley-Anne

P.S. If you missed Part 1 of this story, see Of Bugs and Bones, Part 1.

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…

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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…


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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.)

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