The practicality of metaphor


July, 2014, I buy several books of poetry in a Belfast booksmith, including “Selected Poems” by Belfast’s son John Hewitt. I pack the book into my luggage and take it with me on the next leg of my journey; a pilgrimage of sorts, a homecoming, and a mysterious gathering of strangers walking and tale telling and music-man healing and Guinness tasting, in Kilkeel and Cultra. The book remains packed for several days.

July 10, 2014, and I cozy in to a little Kilkeel cottage with my fellow pilgrims. I take note of the country walls about us, invisible lines of heft and pull and balance, boulders gathered from the fields and lifted into place, and the walls find their way into my psyche.

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Sunday July 13, 2014, we begin a time of silence and solitude, from 1 pm until the following day at 11:30 am. We are asked to choose a slip of paper or two with words ‘that serve.’ I choose a Thomas Merton quote, then find myself seeking out the Hewitt book of poetry and a phrase that sticks;

I am the green branch asking for the flower

John Hewitt, ‘The Green Shoot’

I take a walk, chewing on the words, repeating them over and over in my head. I walk along the county roads, bounded by country walls. Again the walls. I look. I listen. I return after a couple of hours and write;

The walls, always the walls, my eyes drawn equally to the spaces as much as to the weight of boulders. At first I think it is the wind they must build for, a feat of engineering with revelation built in. If they build and leave room enough for the wind to pass through, the walls will stand forever. But the more I look, the less I see of stone and more evidence of green invasion, seed and wayward bits of bracken carried by wind or wild beast finding cracks and crevices rich with possibility to root in, find purchase. And so a transformation takes place in the spaces, created hollow where light and rain and soil collect. The wall does what the wall does…encloses, defines, stands firm with unquestioned ownership. But is is also a catchment for transformative work, where green shoots take root and thrive, become saplings, become trees, where ferns and grasses fill margins, where moss softens hard surfaces and wild vines climb, and poke through. And slowly, the stones, displaced from the field and placed by hand, become unified by green…and then, small creatures build their homes, raise young, trust in the shelter of the green mass that is slowly enveloped by the earth.

I am the green shoot asking for the flower

I am the green shoot asking

I am the green

I am…

This line of this poem in this place for me becomes a prayer as I consider my life and my ask for the flower and a feeling that change is coming through the angst and doubt and struggle I find myself in. I believe in my purpose. I believe I ask God and he hears me. So many of the things I previously held true are dropping away, and yet the truth that I exist and I ask and God hears and gives good gifts remains. This God is close up. This is a new way of being. Can I dare ask this…yes, I can.

I am the green shooting asking for the flower

I chew on this for the entire time of solitude. I write and write and write. I cry. I sleep. I wake and write again. I have other encounters that impact my spirit in a deep way. I return to Kelowna. I live my life differently than before I left. I make difficult decisions. I withdraw from church. I have written of this before. The journey before Northern Ireland, and after.

TODAY: Thursday, May 26, 2016 I recall the line of the poem, almost two years past, and so much since then. The metaphor of the walls still speaks, but I return to this other metaphor of the green shoot and…suddenly I see flowers…maybe not the flower but maybe, just maybe there are more than just one?

How audacious flowers are, how heady and lovely and unnecessarily necessary to the life of the plant, or not? Why else do we green so, why else does the sap flow, if not to some glorious showing of what is happening in us, and the possibility that the flower comes before the fruit. I don’t know what it all means, but I know some things…

like this…

My part of messy belonging within the Metro Community, the gift of bearing witness and holding space for the beautiful broken ones on the streets and how they are just like me, has become vital and fragrant to me, like a flower

and like this…

a community awards nomination has been gifted to me, unexpectedly, and with humility and surprise I see it is also a flower, whether I win or not, I am opening to this possibility that who I am is who I am supposed to be

and like this…

that while there is so much I can no longer say for certain, and while some of my theology is deconstructed or rebuilt or may be forever lacking structure, I only need look at the glory of the natural world and all God’s creatures and at this incredible life I get to live, and my heart bursts open like a flower, the fragrance of gratitude

Back to the wall…and I have to wonder what it is about the wall that matters now, aside from the perspective of the green shoot and the flowering, I mean? And why must it mean anything at all, rather it is helpful for me to find meaning. I do think there is something to be considered in this wall, still something in the placement of the stones and the spaces, and still there is something about the shoots rooting in the spaces, finding a nurturing spot to grow and yes, to bloom.

What is the stone wall? I don’t know. Perhaps my core belief in God, or a foundational structure that is required to root in and cling to? Perhaps. Or the idea of inert stony places in our lives coming alive, assimilated into an ecology of plants and creatures and all living things connected when there is room enough to believe it so? I don’t know. I leave that to you to consider.

Many years ago my then very young son Malcolm told me there were messages in the winter trees that God wanted him to hear. What a gift that he knew that then.

And so, I wonder…

Lesley-Anne

Homespun


DSC_0035_2When I was quite young (spoiler alert) my Grandmother used to sew. Each summer I would be excited to receive my “pop top” with matching short set, exciting to me because I was wearing something new and my darling Grandmother had made it with her own hands. She used a pattern, probably Butterick or McCall, and though it was not a unique pattern, each set was made with her choice of fabric and thread, which made it one-of. I felt like a princess in my new summer handmade homespun outfit!

In autumn, I remember collecting leaves and saving them between two sheets of waxed paper, ironed carefully using my mother’s iron and an old pillow case. Or, pressing leaves between the pages of heavy books, which was even more successful at maintaining the vibrancy of colours, albeit leaves were very fragile afterwards. We did this with flowers too.

At Christmas, we often baked using hand written recipes from family members or close friends, meticulous explanations of how to craft welsh cakes and shortbread and empire cookies, and we anticipated then enjoyed every morsel of our traditional treats.

Often, at family gatherings, we congregated in the living room and laughed ourselves silly over black and white home movies, hazy images of mom and her cousins riding a calf or sledding or standing proudly in front of a new family sedan. The clicking sound of the film as it was pulled through the projector and the click clack faster and faster at the very end of the reel.

We led fairly simple lives, I guess, a middle income family with strong connections to our cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents, country roots, and an earthiness that translated into deep pleasure for me in enjoyment of simple things like riding a hay wagon during harvest, or feeding the barn cats a plate of warm milk, or feeling the rough tongue of a calf on the palm of my hand, or watching sheet lightening over the fields on warm August nights. I don’t recall any feeling of competition, or any need to prove what I was doing compared to anyone else. My experiences were just that…mine. There was a lovely innocence to the time, sure I was innocent then, but when I look at my life now I wish for more of that simple way of being, unto myself.

Today there is an insidiousness about social media that has me wondering what we are doing, and why? Even as I type this blog post it feels like more of the same thing…writing, which I do love, but then I will cast my thoughts upon the internet waters in hope of…what…that you will click “like” or follow my blog, or like me? Rather than living unto myself I often live unto others.

My access to these ways of sharing myself, my pursuit of connection, wide connection, (I do enjoy the contact with those who live far away, family members whom I seldom see) encourages me to craft my life into something a little larger than it is were you sitting beside me on the couch right now, sharing a tea and a story. I post photos to Facebook, share my joy, but I wonder is my joy better served by turning back to those who have created it within me. And I wonder does social media serve me, or does it master me, subtly, yet clearly, and to what greater good?

I am beginning to pay more attention to how I present myself, and how my online virtuality spills over into my reality, affected by every single friend that rolls through my news feed. I see trends, new norms, creating expectations which are both unrealistic and burdensome at times, because truth is everyone else is tweaking their image a little bit too.

If I were to spend too much time on Pinterest, for example, I admit my homemade cookies would beg for a better design, my Christmas decor would never match up, my photos would be carefully edited prior to posting, and photo shoots would be required for a myriad of occasions I never thought necessary before. I love design, so research on Pinterest can be really fun, but it can also be overwhelming to see the finesse and extreme excellence of every craft and upcycle and undertaking. I am exhausted with the thought of meeting this pimped out status quo before I begin my own DIY. The stakes are too high!

I think we (sometimes/often) need to leap off the virtual bandwagon and rediscover the power of simple homespun imagination…unplugged. Which is very hard to do…maybe impossible? No, it is possible. Yes, it is!

Because sometimes I get a taste of it, and it is good. Like last night I watched a very sweet unpolished video of a bunch of kids dressed up in homemade costumes, telling a story in the form of a play. It was that tickle trunk dress-up my kids used to do when they were little. The lady who made the video said, sorry about the audio…but it was fine…it was more than fine…it was extraordinary. It allowed me to…breathe…to laugh…to enjoy the silly wonderful way of mistakes and imperfection and sweet innocence of those kids doing their play oblivious to any need to be…better…or slicker…or more excellent. It was pure. It was perfect.

And so I wonder, in this virtual world, with everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, available to me at a few clicks of my keyboard…can I find a way of being without all that, or with just a little bit, or sometimes? I really don’t need to know everything. I don’t need to do and post photo shoots of my Christmas crafts or cookies. I just need to know a few things, and give myself over to the pleasure of each new experience, in the moment. I need to trust  who I am, with quirky imperfections, uniqueness, imagination, my way of being and doing, is…one of…and good enough. I can be the homespun version of me and create an authentic life. And maybe I won’t blog about it either.

Slow down, log off, focus, breathe…

I wonder…

LA.

 

 

 

The elusive art of editing


DSC_0050I think writers come to believe in an innate ability to catch our own errors, spit and polish our work to its very best form, and we do so each time we offer work for submission, contests, or print. This post is yet another chance for me to make editorial mistakes, I know, I know. (Sure, you can point them out to me if you like.)

Truth is, like many artists, poets are just scraping by financially. We cannot afford to hire editors, so we take risks, perhaps believing a little too strongly in our guts, our grammar, and our attentiveness. How hard can it be, we think. Well done, we say. It will be…fine, we whisper as we drift off to sleep having pressed “submit” again, with some hesitation and a little bit of angst.

Deep down we are not entirely sure, but we bravely do what we have to do, which can lead to embarrassing moments. Like the time I spelled the publisher’s surname incorrectly, or saw a clear lack of punctuation upon my 1st read, right after submission! My personal challenges often come in the form of it’s and its, and my deep and abiding love for the Oxford comma that ripples out, abundantly.

Or, most recently, after several months of design, planning, and (several) eyes on every comma, word, line break, title, font, layout, selection of hardware, paper, packaging, and marketing approach, I felt I was finally ready to put my poetry/art books together.

I painstakingly built one hundred copies of the book, tightened each Chicago screw,  placed each stainless steel washer, organized flash card covers into fun and witty combinations, collated stacks of poetry on beautiful cream paper (professionally laid out and printed and drilled with holes for the screws), hand tinted each vintage illustration, and felt a sense of progress and fulfillment at the growing pile of books.

Then I went online to put the finishing touches on the announcement for my book launch. As I typed in the title of my poetry/art book, I felt a niggling. I spell checked a word, and it was correctly spelled…yea, me! But the niggling didn’t go away. And then it hit me…there, blatant, unchecked, WRONG…was a word. On every title page of every book that I just spent days putting together, was a spelling mistake!

POETRY PRIMER | a book of elementary principals

instead of what it should have said;

POETRY PRIMER | a book of elementary principles

ahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!

First anger. Then blaming. Then another hissy fit because it was so OBVIOUSLY WRONG and I missed it…we all missed it… but I MISSED IT! And then the creative problem solving began…what if this, or what if that, in an attempt to save it somehow…but I could not. It was WRONG. It had to change. Then my gratitude to God that I saw the mistake before my book was sold!

Yes, indeed. Gratitude. Two hundred times I unscrewed those Chicago screws. One hundred times I removed the offending page and, after paying my printer a substantial amount of money for a one page reprint, one hundred times I replaced the page with the corrected title page. And then I tightly bound the book with the turn of two hundred more Chicago screws! Editor, I am obviously not. Life learner, yes I am. And my thumb and index finger were throbbing proof!

What would I do differently next time? I don’t know, I run a tight ship, so I still can’t afford an editor. Or, maybe I can? Maybe we could barter something? Or, maybe if I sell all of MY POETRY/ART BOOKS (limited edition, signed, numbered, unique, collectible, fun) I can afford an editor for my next project?

Have you got a copy of POETRY PRIMER yet? If you live in Kelowna, delivery is free!

A human, being, and learning humility,

Lesley-Anne

I’m not one to pray out loud


DSC_0763That hasn’t changed for me ever in my life, and sure I could say the same thing about how I feel when I have to speak in a group about anything, but praying out loud is somehow heavier. So what happened today may be God doing what he always does, or God doing specifically what he had in mind when I prayed what I prayed, or God doing what he was going to do aside from anything I prayed. I wonder?

There’s more to it… I struggle with the repetitious nature of group prayers, the competitive feel of it sometimes, the limited vocab we use, the way I believe God might find what I say trite or redundant given he already knows everything there is to know. Still there is mystery in prayer, and I have been reading a book lately that points to a way of being with prayer that is quite attractive to me…to live my life as a prayer…everything matters…everything counts…when my heart is in a posture of reverence and gratitude before the Father. These days I am leaning more into a contemplative way of being in prayer. It’s a learned way. It’s a way I want to learn more about.

But prayer can also be specific, and at a given time, alone or in groups. And as the various members of our group prayed around the circle today I wondered, what on earth can I offer with integrity?

All I know is this…sometime between 2:15 and 2:45 pm today I prayed a short prayer out loud in a group setting. Very short. Pretty much these words;

God, we have so many needs here. And you are a God with lots of connections. Could you please send people to help us?

And when I was done praying I began to do what I always do…self analysis, critical dissection of my choice of words and how odd and how silly and really, couldn’t I have said something a little more eloquent than that? Condemnation…yes!

Fast forward 30 min to when a member of our community joined our meeting with a huge  smile, and we soon found out why. In another meeting that kept them late from ours, a meeting where our representative often feels unheard; today tangible and wide support was offered up to us in ways that left our representative dumbstruck. A shift occurred this afternoon. Between 2:15 and 2:45 pm.

Coincidence? Reading something into nothing? Or, could a short prayer offered up in earnestness count for something in the spirit world that changes something in the real world?

I wonder…

Someone at the meeting said maybe I should pray out loud more often… :) I’m not convinced yet.

 

How the poems felt about it…


Reflecting on what matters, on the cusp of an old year past and a new one soon to begin. Listen. Speak. Engage. Rest. That is all.

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It was a blue bird day, and the poems were alert in their lively cling to the wire, their flutter of twos and threes. The wind cleared their heads of winter, and they soon realized the grape vines clinging beside them were similarly inspired, weathered arms held up to the sun, green ideas budding out in the warmth and light. And then the moment came when a woman reached out and touched one of the poems. How it felt to be chosen and held like that, the woman’s eyes intent on each lettered scar, the nakedness of lines. How the women read, gently, to last letter of last word. DSC_0040DSC_0041DSC_0039DSC_0037DSC_0036DSC_0035

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Resting…


Hindsight and foresight…

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DSC_0041What a year.

Installing poems @ Los Angeles, Port Townsend, Kelowna, Penticton, and Vancouver.

Performing poetry on the streets, in cafes, libraries, churches, and in homes.

Writing poetry and submitting and having some published in literary mags and elsewhere.

Stretching and growing through all of the above.

Yes, a very good year. I am exponentially blessed.

And now I shall rest until the New Year.  And I shall bask in the good company of family and friends. And I shall be glad.

For words that pop up and expand in 2014,

Lesley-Anne, SDG

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A poem


Looking back and moving forward…

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The moments when

we sit on the porch and you look
sideways and I lean soft into
your hard and you let me as
clouds gather over top the ridge
and the garbage cans are lined up
back beside our garage door. The tick
clicking of the neighbour trimming his
side of the hedge and our lawn needing
cut and the sun pouring it’s gold onto
our bare toes. The bed rumpled and
the dog sprawled over it snoring and
another clean load wanting out of
the dishwasher. The last fragrant
fifteen minutes before the apricot pie says
it’s done and perches on back burner
stove top until some celebration
of this day occurs after supper and
we join together to open words
and taste day’s end. The parts in
my library novel that keep my throat
full and now prognosis isn’t good so
I cry over the sink while…

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Hush, hush


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Hush, hush

Quiet me, LORD.

Hush, hush.
Your love transcends
my dialect of anxious fears,
soothes my flesh
with tender words
that still my trembling,
quiets my questioning lips,
stammering, and striving,
reveals your truth is
there, there, and here.

Hush, hush.
You teach me to practice
a foreign tongue
of sighs and weeping,
soul speak,
communion
of broken bodies
and body water
turned to holy wine.

Hush, hush,
in bare footed remembrance,
my shoes removed from road weary feet.

LORD, God,
consume me within your radiant presence,
my spirit burns in silence.

 

We are not done


What has become a longer poem…

BUDDY BREATHING

dsc_0045.jpgWe Are Not Done

We are not done. We are
ongoing conversation,
not monologue, not soliloquy.
Done is undone in our transforming reality,
our we that is, and will be.
As perplexing as speech sometimes seems,
I will wrap my errant tongue unceasingly
around the shape of this dialect we long for
yet hesitantly speak. Years down the road
we’ll continue our halting imperfect communion
because we have chosen this holy union.

No. We are not done.
Done is baked bread filling the air
with aromas of childhood, golden crust, served up,
butter and jam, eaten, gone, done.
Done is my hair, washed, cut, coloured, and styled.
Done is your fishing trip into the wild.
Done is each finished task, our completed to do lists,
but done is not done when we both choose us.
Yes we will disagree for a time,
but when emotions
and the need to be…

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We are not done


dsc_0045.jpg

We Are Not Done

We are not done. We are
ongoing conversation,
sometime monologue, sometime soliloquy.
Done is undone in our transforming reality,
our we that is, and will be.
As perplexing as speech sometimes seems,
I will wrap my errant tongue unceasingly
around the shape of this dialect we long for
yet hesitantly speak. Years down the road
we’ll continue our halting imperfect communion
because we have chosen this holy union.

No. We are not done.
Done is baked bread filling the air
with aromas of childhood, golden crust, served up,
butter and jam, eaten, gone, done.
Done is my hair, washed, cut, coloured, and styled.
Done is your fishing trip into the wild.
Done is each finished task, our completed to do lists,
but done is not done when we both choose us.
Yes we will disagree for a time,
but when emotions
and the need to be right mellow and calm
we’ll be right back here; take my hand, carry on.

Because we are not done
striving, surviving, staying alive, relational jiving.
We are not done doing and undoing
all we’ve messed up, gluing what’s come unglued.
We don’t live the
“you complete me” sentiment.
We chose, our promise remains.
We are not done. Always, we begin again.

One day, I imagine
you will hear my breath reach
between the words I cannot speak,
nearly there, almost, there.
In that pregnant space you will hear
the language of your heart, beloved.

My heart will be the echo.