NaPoMo poetry party.4


DanielaElza-cropped-Wendy D Photograpy

It’s my pleasure to welcome Daniela Elza to our little gathering. It amazes me how it is possible to create online relationships, and I appreciate ours. It’s been years since I met you in person, just once, at a reading at the Okanagan Regional Library when you launched your first poetry collection. You are a friend, inspiration and encouragement to me.

I appreciate the considerable depth of your responses to the three questions that are becoming our unifying party chatter here. Thank you for that.

1. What is this quieter version of life teaching you?
Daniela: The quieter version of life that leads to the quieter version of me has always taught me that there’s so much wisdom there. That I’m wiser than I think, if I can still myself long enough to listen. It takes getting very still, very quiet. Now the whole world is cooperating with me to accomplish this. All my life I’ve fought hard to earn this quiet time. Now everyone says stay home, be a writer-in-residence. The world has also gotten quieter. A place where we can look into the mirror of this still surface the way we look at our reflections in a pond. And see what a mess we have made of the world. Hopefully (yes, I am an incurable optimist), hopefully, we will change a few things in our lives to become more sustainable and better stewards of this planet. It’s telling us to shape up. It’s teaching us that our reckless lives will lead to lots of misery, migration, and epidemics. If you look at what the experts are saying, you will see how we are bringing this upon ourselves. That means we can also choose to change. We have the knowledge. This quiet version of us hopefully will teach us how to also have the will and commitment to accomplish this.

2. We often say we wish we had more time for certain things. Having been given this gift of more time, what are you spending it on?
Daniela: I am spending it on writing, connecting with friends with whom I’ve been planning to hang out over the last 6 months, on submitting the submissions I couldn’t get to in the last three months, on playing games with my son (who is trying to finish his second year projects at Emily Carr University from home), we are back to having dinners together, playing scrabble, and listening to podcasts with popcorn together. I am spending it on learning to do yoga from home, since my yoga studio (after 25 years in the community) closed its doors forever after March 16. I had been going there for over half of the time they have existed. Now I’m rallying a few friends to get into the habit of doing yoga at home. Once I commit to that, and get the teaching online up and running, I will feel more anchored in my routines. After more than 50 hours of screen time teaching and prepping last week, I am also realizing there there is such a thing as screen hangover. Going back to reading the books that I’ve been waiting to read might just be what I need more of right now.

3. What is one surprising thing that happened today?
Daniela: Today I cracked open a box of 40 copies of my brand new book. Held the first copy in my hands. I didn’t have to even give my signature to the Purolator delivery man. He said he just had to be sure it’s me (no touching anything). How did he know it was me? I have no idea. But I must be doing something right if it’s easy to tell, just by looking at me in my grungy grey writing sweater and yoga pants.

Daniela Elza’s poetry collections are:

the broken boat (Spring, 2020) preorder now at
http://www.mothertonguepublishing.com/page22/2019-new-books.html
milk tooth bane bone
(Leaf Press, 2013)
the weight of dew  (Mother Tongue Publishing, 2012)
the book of It (iCrow Publications, 2011)
website: http://strangeplaces.livingcode.org/

Your beautifully crafted poem winter light resonates with me. Thanks so much for sharing it with us. And hearty congratulations on the arrival of the broken boat.

Blessings and good health,

Lesley-Anne

winter light
~ daniela elza


how harsh  our winter  is
      on the thin skin of  light
          I pick up    every morning 

to carefully     carry  across.

ice on the pond      in the backyard 
         you put your foot    down
                the morning   fractures.

as days   move through us
         I can never  tell
                where  the surface is

still frozen    where it thaws 
       with a   warm    undercurrent.
                and then     there are 

the words       we throw.

our    son     old enough now
       crouches        on the edge
            picks up a shard.      aims.

pieces glide    down the length 
         of us.     words shatter 
                 on our frozen faces.

on this pond we like to 
   play   as shafts of    light
        pierce   the cold breath of 

the afternoon.      the four of us
      over winter water  and the fear 
              of shadows on ice

what ice can    hide
    what we do    when we pick it up
         in the splintered light.


NaPoMo poetry party.3


IMG_3785

Sally Quon is joining us today from Kelowna, British Columbia. Sally is a writer, photographer (see the feature image above), and self professed dirt road diva. Sally’s essays and  accompanying photos at Featherstone Creative are insightful, and genuine. Welcome to our poetry party, Sally!

You can experience more of Sally’s creative work by following these links;

Instagram:  @sallyquon

Blog:  Featherstone Creative

These are unique times for us all, and perhaps even more so for those with the sensibilities and perceptions of a creative. So I’m wondering, Sally, if you might give us a window into how today looks for you by answering these three questions?

1. What is this quieter version of life teaching you?
Sally: There has been a lot of “white noise” in my life.  By eliminating that which isn’t necessary, I have more room to appreciate that which is.

2. We often say we wish we had more time for certain things. Having been given this gift of more time, what are you spending it on?

Sally: Examining my priorities.  Deciding what and with whom I want to invest my time.

3. What is one surprising thing that happened today?

Sally: I received an Honorable Mention for a short Creative Non-Fiction piece.

That’s a wonderful bit of good news…congratulations! Thank you again for being here today, and for sharing your lovely poem.

Blessings and peace,
Lesley-Anne

The Eyes of a Child

I close my eyes and picture
places I once was –
the streets where I grew up,
the steps behind the church,
the woodpile where I used to hide
my cigarettes.

Are they still there?

Years between spaces,
sand-worn with age,
polished beyond recognition.
A glimmer, maybe,

like hope.
Like thinking somewhere out there
things are what they were.
Another child’s eyes
will widen to see
the mice in the shed,
the perfect nook in the crab apple tree,
the brook that used to flow
behind Charley Shipley’s house.

There was a game we used to play
—  hidden treasure.
My sister and I would hide things,
each for the other to find.
Silver coins and bangles
beads from our mother’s chest.

I wonder if we found it all?
Or if something was forgotten,
left waiting all these years?
Can you imagine,

just for a minute,

to be a child
discovering long-lost treasure?
A Spanish bracelet, or
that worn-out exercise book

filled with my lost poems.

 

 

NaPoMo poetry party.2


Welcome back to the party.

Today’s guest is Richard Osler from Duncan, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island. His blog Recovering Words is a wonderful depository of poetry, and published frequently.

Richard borrows the words of his mentor Sir Laurens van der Post when he says he lives his life not by conscious plan or prearranged design but as someone following the flight of a bird. From business journalism with the Financial Post, to financial analysis, money management and back to words as a poet and as a facilitator of poetry workshops and retreats, describes the richness of Richard’s life so far.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, my husband Bob and I were planning to join Richard in Umbria, Italy, for a 10 day poetry retreat. This too is paused.

Richard la Romita 2018

I’m inviting each guest to consider these three questions;
1. What is this quieter version of life teaching you?
2. We often say we wish we had more time for certain things. Having been given this gift of more time, what are you spending it on?
3. What is one surprising thing that happened today?

In response Richard says this;

In this time of quiet I quiet down inside poems, gardens and an evening fire’s burning eye. And I come back up to the fires burning cold to the touch in the poetry inside my library and allow more time to be curious about the poems that burn me to the quick. And today on the phone with a friend I put him on speaker on my smart phone so I could talk and click the wonder of the sunlight on two yellow roses in a vase on the altar in my bedroom. Yellow light on yellow shouldn’t be a marvel should it? Yet, I tell you, it was. It was.

The poem Richard has chosen to share today is First and Last.

Thanks so much for being with us here today, Richard.
Blessings and peace,

Lesley-Anne

First and Last

 

Somewhere a small boy, already poised
to be something foreign even to himself
stands robed in front of an altar – the wind,
the rain, the wild hewn out of it –  and sees there
a symbol made proud with adze and chisel
from the birch planks it rose from – Ω , omega.
And he knows it, end letter in the Greek alphabet, last.
But paired on his tongue with ΑAlpha and he knows
it too. Beginning letter, first. Α Ω. A hierarchy.
First and last. Not yet confused with the teaching –
the first will be last and the last will be first.
But first and last wedded to become God.
This metaphor raised on an altar made
from stuff of air and ground, the “this is really that”,
and why, now, this memory, as down-under forests
burn and fall, of these names he used for God: Α Ω.

Richard Osler, November 11, 2019

NaPoMo poetry party.1


Back story

Yesterday a friend reached out to me and asked if I’d be willing to share some poetry on his lit blog. Rob said he’s planning to host a full month of guest poets on his long time blog in celebration of National Poetry Month 2020.

Yes, I said. And as I looked at what poems I might send to Rob, I felt a tiny shift in me that felt a wee bit like I mattered again in the world (cue all the feelings). And then I began wondering how I might be part of a ripple effect within my own creative community. Bringing us here: day one of this NaPoMo poetry party!

Please say hello to our first guest and my friend, Anne Linington. Anne and I met through Faithwriters, an online writing community in 2006, and have continued a virtual friendship every since. Anne is a lay minister (Reader) with the Church of England, and lives on the picturesque Isle of Wight. Anne reads her poetry at open mics, and leads a monthly poetry group at Carisbrooke Priory.

91816175_151979932807741_6674367761960927232_n

Before you share your poem Anne, I’d like to ask you 3 questions, questions I will be asking each one of our poetry party guests:

1. What is this quieter version of life teaching you?
Anne: The importance of structure for the day which will be useful as we head to retirement.

2. We often say we wish we had more time for certain things. Having been given this gift of more time, what are you spending it on?
Anne: Sharing more of my writing, not necessarily new material, but older articles and poetry.

3. What is one surprising thing that happened today?
Anne: I offered to share my seventeen years experience of “Contemplative prayer” with others via Facebook.

Thanks for starting us off so well, Anne, and for sharing your beautiful gift and heart.
Blessings,
Lesley-Anne

 

The Plough

How could I have known
When I opened the creaking gate
to the field of my life,
And invited you in
To do the necessary work,
That your activity would be so painful
And yet ultimately
Bring about a harvest?

Setting your plough
To dig down deep
To turn over
And break up
Almost touching the deep bedrock
Of my soul
Revealing me in all my created
Rawness.

Leaving me exposed
Rich pickings for hungry gulls
Whilst all that I had previously
Thought worthwhile
Is torn from its root
Dies
And is re-interred
In the soil
Of my life

Now I lie open and naked
As my neat furrows are
Rained upon
Reduced
Frozen
Broken down
Emptied of all former life
Waiting

Then one day
The returning sun of your love
Gently warming
O’er lengthening days
Begins my re-awakening

Precious seed is sown
In prepared ground
Watched over
Anticipated
And the Autumn pain
Brings life
And hope.

Anne Linington ©

Outlier


SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Outlier. The word intrigues me. I’ve been chewing on it for a couple of weeks, wondering if this word relates to me or not? I am beginning to identify with it. I also wonder what creates an outlier? Could it be that outliers have a somewhat common experience of the world, or a common way of looking at it? Do outlier’s share certain personality traits? Might understanding some of these things help me to unpack my struggle with the elusive sense of belonging in any church?

What is an outlier? Or another word I’ve heard of late is “done,” though I don’t like that word as much. An outlier is defined as a person or thing situated away or detached from the main body or system, and a person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set. In a church context this is a challenging type of person, because one of the things churches wish to do is create community, belonging, family. The church wants to draw all people in, most especially the outliers. But what if the outlier cannot be drawn in?

Maybe it’s best to start with my personal journey in and out of the doors of churches. I’m curious to see what I can mine from my story. Let’s see where it goes. Please join in with your thoughts on this as I can only speak to my own predispositions and experiences. Please join in especially if you self identify as an outlier.

First stop, my church story.

Born into a fundamentalist christian sect, I grew up in the church, the eldest daughter of an elder, and from the start I was a good girl. There were so many teachings from my formative years that are vital to my story; purity culture, end times prophecy, the inerrancy of scripture (literal interpretation), male headship, within a small church where whose you were mattered. I struggled to fit in. I was not athletic, chatty, outgoing, and my father was an Elder. I was doomed socially. I loved books, art, time on the family farm, the quietness of the garden, music. I understood God to be rules, love to be conditional, and relationships to be complicated.

Leanings: introverted, with artistic ability, kept from culture (in the world but not of the world – rules against movies, drinking, dancing, smoking, swearing, etc.) and pushed to the social margins of church. Pleaser. Somewhat repressed.

I invested and persisted with church through to my senior year of high school, when I concluded that while church youth didn’t like me, non-christians did. I found friends outside church. I found a capacity within me to rise to intellectual and artistic recognition by applying myself with good old work ethic. Work was easy. You either worked hard, or didn’t. Achieved or didn’t. I had part time jobs, and enjoyed making money. I had long been aware that the kids who rejected me at church were not who they pretended to be. I didn’t call it integrity at that time, or recognize my bullshit detector, but I knew intuitively who was to be trusted, and who was not. I especially found this perplexing around church leaders who lavished love and belonging on some, but not on all, and in particular not on me. I didn’t feel sought after or special. At church. On my grandparents farm and in nature however, my heart sang. 

Leanings: intuition, a felt sense of what is truth and fiction, strong work ethic, a desire for more – self improvement, environment improvement, love of the natural world, no nonsense approach to things. Sensitive. Quiet. Curious.

In my final year of university I was excommunicated from the church. What was my crime? I married a Catholic. I’ve written about this before on this blog. Any sense of lingering belonging I may have had within the church of my childhood, no matter how challenging it had been, was ripped away from me for choosing to love someone who I was told did not belong. I took it all on the chin and carried on. For 35 years.

Leanings: trusting, until trust is broken, judging of others and self, introspective and curious, educated, seeking, idealistic, keen, resilient, stubborn.

Marriage, career, the upheaval of moving across the country and starting over, 3 children in 5 years, and church again became part of my life. Healing began as I discovered a different church culture and within it God’s grace and love for me. But his people continued to create havoc in me. In particular I struggled with what it meant to belong, what was required to fit in, and how fleeting that belonging seemed to be. When I served I felt belonging. When I did not I felt invisible. This sense continued over years, but I pushed it down, pushed through. Perhaps mega church was an odd choice for someone like me, but that’s where we found ourselves at last…with good friends, good children’s programs, good teaching, and a good life…fast forward 22 years to a place I could no longer abide by what felt like duplicity or confusion or plain old unanswered questions around the love that supposedly defined the place, yet denied certain people groups.

Leanings: social justice, righteous indignation, taking a stand on behalf of others, questioning of doctrine, theology, and black and white thinking.

Retreat, full on. No church. For a couple of years. Followed by testing out a few options. Nothing seemed to draw me. I went to the beach and thought about nature’s beauty. I wrote poetry and thought how like prayer it was. Slowly and incrementally God became more real to me in ways that had nothing to do with church, and all to do with a personal experience of his love. I found elements of Christianity…Desert Fathers and Mothers, contemplative, liturgical, great theological writers and poets, resonant thought…and at the same time felt a warning to proceed with great care…to not jump from one box into another, to not exchange one language for another…but to find a way to live in integrity with Christ, myself, and others.

Leanings: willingness to say I don’t know, willingness to hold unanswerable questions, willingness to withdraw and be solitary, seeking, asking, disillusioned, hopeful.

35 years after I’m put away from my childhood church, this happened. Another layer is peeled back and I recognize how my excommunication was spiritually formational. Big time.

Leanings: personal trauma, a desire to make sense, and overcome. Willingness to do the work.

Of note here is I carry my peculiar sense of things to the world, not just church…I also feel apart when I consider society and culture. What appears to matter to many folk, just doesn’t to me. I weigh things, and I find so many of them wanting. I am peculiar, one who finds it hard to relax, play, give myself over to pleasures. I can’t imagine retirement. I seek meaningful pursuits, and often give more to others than I give to myself. I’ve been told I’m too hard on myself, am my own worst enemy. I wonder what it’s all for, why I am the way I am.

Still God persists with me.

I find myself volunteering at a church run street mission, facilitating a poetry circle for those experiencing homelessness and marginalization. It is an evangelical Christian organization but I find a way to participate without having to give answers for myself. I dip my toe in the water of belonging. I join staff. I apply work ethic and creativity. I create things. I instigate things. I still sense there is a divide between the in crowd and me. I don’t know why but it haunts me. I cannot abide group think or conformity. I still have so many questions. Am I creating my own sense of marginalization?

Leanings: self knowledge, independent spirit, lived experience of God’s presence, creative energy, rebel, brave, lonely, leadership tendencies.

Present day. Again I step back, and wrestle every Sunday to go to church. Staying home wins out more often than not. When I do go I spend time listening, and watching. I sense intimacy between others in the group, I long to be asked to do something, I long to be seen. I am seen more by my street friends than by the staff. I offer my help, I facilitate a study, continue to visit my street friends, but I know I am again on the outside looking in. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in. I wonder if being in is like “The Borg”…a form of assimilation? If so, I sense I will never experience that feeling because I am attuned to it, repelled by it, and run from it. The very idea of conformity stands against who I am, rightly or wrongly.

Leanings: a strong sense of personal mission, a strong sense of God’s leading, learner, seeker, fragile, indignant, willing to speak out and bear the cost most days.

How do I interpret all this, I wonder? I think it will take more thoughtful consideration. Someone suggested I look at my Enneagram # and consider how that informs my sense of belonging. Do I set myself against the very thing I believe I am longing for…belonging? Is there too much about how the church operates that is against my grain, so that in some ways, the church repels me?

This I know, I continue to see the beauty of the church and her ability to bring love and hope and mercy and justice to those who are in great need. I believe passionately, and I am not all in with everything, and I continue to have some deep questions. God has not left me, Jesus is walking with me. I may not align completely with the church but I have not given up having a place and purpose there. I have a sense that being an outlier matters to God…

Thoughts?

 

Suffering


dsc_05151.jpgI’m a terrible sufferer. I hesitate to use the word, as my experiences with suffering are few, and not long lasting. Still, being ill with a particularly virulent flu virus at the moment opens me to feelings I’d rather not have; lazy, unproductive, frustrated, angry, bored, sorry for myself…to name a few. I’m OK admitting these things. They are truly true. But my suffering is minor, the flu, nothing more.

I can’t imagine how those with chronic pain find the capacity to carry on, day after day, with no relief. There are those who seem to bear the lion’s share of pain and suffering, not just one thing, but many things one after the other. I don’t understand. I feel powerless to help them. And I am ashamed to say seeing their suffering makes me afraid. I think about the end of my life. If I am so impacted by the minor pain that I’ve experienced so far, what will I do should more come to me?

Medical assistance in dying appears to offer a way out of the suffering. I watched a documentary once, a beautiful story about someone taking leave of their illness. After attending to their affairs, and doing what they could to carry on as long as they could, they lovingly attended to their goodbye’s. In a poignant ceremony of gratitude, surrounded by their beloveds, they left this earth for the hereafter. It appeared very peaceful, meaningful, and dignified.

Suggesting this option is heresy for some, hope for others. For some there is a deeply held value in soldiering on through illness, to suffer silently and with great inner strength. I recall as a young child my parents spoke about folk who were dying. They talked about their testimony. They found in the way these gentle people handled their illness, hospitalization, and treatments, a reflection of God’s love and grace. I’m not so sure.

I have been witness to the sorrow of a dying friend of great faith who implored us to help him, who when he lost the capacity to do everything, and being deeply afraid of ever being left alone, asked us to take turns sitting by his bedside through the days and nights until the end. I can’t imagine God’s love shining more brightly in my dying friend than it did when he was healthy, and whole. I can’t imagine how his slow and lingering decline testified more greatly to his life of faith. Perhaps it did to some. Not to me.

It is said, “Most certainly I tell you, when you were young, you dressed yourself, and walked where you wanted to. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you, and carry you where you don’t want to go.” I’m not a scholar, but I have to wonder about the carry you where you don’t want to go part. Yes, it could be literal, but might it also be metaphorical?

There may come a day when I sit in a doctor’s office and hear something I would prefer not to hear. I wonder about suffering again in that context, and if when I am old (or any day now really) and I am dressed in the burden of suffering and it carries me where I do not want to go, will I also be given the grace to accept it as part of my journey that will have its own gifts of mercy and moments of transcendence. I believe I believe that.

Today my throat is too sore to swallow, so I try not to. My fever has broken. The sun just came out for a few minutes, and the feeders are busy with an abundance of birds. The dog naps on the couch, and in the time it took to write this I become unaware of anything other than my fingers on the keys, my thoughts on the page. The flu becomes less. These words become more. That is a grace.

Thanks for joining me in considering these things. I recently read an article by Anne Lamott. She says: the first and truest thing is that all truth is a paradox. Life is both a precious, unfathomably beautiful gift, and it’s impossible here, on the incarnational side of things. And here it is again. Paradox. Is suffering a vehicle, a way, or a curse, a great burden? Both. And.

I can’t help thinking of the cloud of witnesses who have gone before me, some of them through deep suffering over their lifetime; my ancestors, friends, all regular folk. Many of them, of great faith. Thinking on them I am reminded of how it is possible to make a life, like a pie, out of the ingredients you have on hand…and then share it bite by bite by bite…right to the bottom of the dish. The taste is not always sweet, but mostly. And the fragrance of the pie while it’s baking, well there’s nothing quite like it. I’ll have to think more on what that means.

 

 

 

 

 

A snapshot of my life


dsc_0907To be honest, sometimes nature speaks, and I hear things. I’ve been aware of this since around 2006, but I think it may have been happening to me when I was a little kid. Only I didn’t understand what or who was speaking. 

In 2006 I began to walk with my dog with the intention of paying prayerful attention to what God might have for me, what he wanted me to see. I asked. And I believe God began speaking to me through the eyes of my heart. I became aware of the divine presence of God in all of my surroundings. I learned the whole earth is the fulness of his glory. I went seeking. I found God’s supernatural presence and life feeding thoughts in things like a roadside rose bush, and two seagulls chasing one another, heart shaped poplar leaves, and even in a tarp covering an old boat. And then I went home and wrote those thoughts down. This was the beginning of my writing life (two ancient blogs, here and here), and how I eventually came to poetry. 

This morning I was overcome by the weight of loneliness. Sipping my morning coffee, I looked out over the wood and wondered about how who I am aligns with these particular feelings at this particular time. I thought about what feeds me, why I do what I do, why I am hurt so easily, and the depth of joy that fills me in the creative process when I am realizing a vision for the sake of something or someone. As solitary as I am, creative partnerships invigorate me. I recognize how meaning must accompany my actions, and how the mundane responsibilities of my life are almost always my greatest challenges. I realize the tension of opposites in pretty much all of my life.

I began to cry as I thought of some relational challenges in my recent years, and I said out loud, I am so lonely. The next thought that came was, are you a victim in this? But I dismissed it and felt the depleting feelings.

Then an eagle flew over the treetops toward me and straight over the house, and the wisdom words “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” downloaded into my mind/heart. Did I feel caught up by that? You bet, I did. A teeny bit of pressure in my chest/heart/gut lifted straight away. I thought on those words a little more, how God is for me, he loves me and will come to me, and also how I have a responsibility for my own life and choices. Then I texted a couple of friends, and made a couple of asks that might help this introvert stand against self-isolating behaviour. 

Nothing has changed yet, but it might. It always does. 

Peace, out,

Lesley-Anne

#beautyhunter

p.s. This, just now, via email:

DAILY MEDITATION | JANUARY 14, 2020
God Longs to Bring Me Home
For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.
Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.
Henri J. M. Nouwen
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
ISAIAH 41:10 (NIV)