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

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Every life is a poem…


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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

 

 

Midweek Random Ramble016


1.  Did you notice the snowflakes here at Buddy Breathing? Wait for them… wait… there they are!  Aren’t they cool? I even managed to upload a photo as a backdrop to the snow… real Canadian Rockie Mountains… for your viewing pleasure. Yes, it’s winter here. For my friends down under, I will be thinking of you basking in sunshine while we are shoveling out again and again. It’s supposed to be a very snowy winter… La Nina and all that!

2.  #1 Son and I joined the choir at Trinity, our home church. This was to some degree ‘Carpe Diem’ inspired, plus being with #1 Son inspired (he graduates from High School this year), plus watching the choir and saying, ‘Boy, I’d love to sing in the Choir’ for 17 years inspired. Getting to participate in the Christmas Eve Services… definitely inspiring!

3. What is it about renovating and decorating that’s so on steroids? Back in the day I have no recollection of my parents upgrading our family home, other than to paint it from time to time. In their home now, they’ve done a few things, like new flooring, painting kitchen cabinets, even adding ‘wallpaper’, but the trend or the mindset or whatever you want to call it these days, is complete do-overs. Anytime around the 10 year mark of being in a home it’s ‘time to upgrade’. And that usually means ripping things out and starting over. I wonder why? I could easily be swept up into this mindset, consider how my tired kitchen could be completely replaced. But is that really a good and honourable and needed use of our dollars… I mean in light of all the other needs around us in our world. Just saying…

4. My Christmas (Holy-Day) Top Ten Favourite Things;

1.  Picking up a special coffee drink, and meeting a good friend at the local garden centre. Admiring all the lavish decor.

2.  Baking my Scottish Grandmother’s shortbread cookie recipe, dipping them partly in chocolate for something extra special. Eating them with family and friends. Baking other family recipes. Eating them. Ignoring calories.

3.  Planning our family Caroling Party. Thinking up party games that we haven’t played yet. Walking around in the darkness and cold, trying to read the words off the song sheets by candle light. Being greeted by surprised neighbours who sometimes join in the singing. Coming back home to warm drinks and conversations.

4.  Adding Irish cream to our Christmas morning coffee. Having a second cup! (Bob and I, not the kids!)

5.  Setting the table for dinner each Sunday night in December, lighting the Advent candles one by one… then lighting the Christ Candle in celebration of his arrival, so many years ago, and his presence with us, today.

6.  Opening Christmas cards from far away places, like Northern Ireland. Considering how good it feels to hold snail mail in your hand.

7.   Staying up late on Christmas Eve with Bob, wrapping gifts in the quiet of the house. Looking out the window for snow. Listening to  Messiah. Putting the gifts under the tree. Standing back in relief and gratitude that we pulled it together again. Anticipating the kids happiness in the morning. Falling into flannel sheet coziness for a long short winter’s nap.

8.  The smell of the tree (yes, real).

9.  Taking out all the decorations the kids have made over the years and hanging them on the family style tree (nope, no designer tree for us!) Trying hard not to cry.

10.  Listening to Handel‘s Messiah over and over again, at high volume, and singing along wherever possible!

Well that’s all for today, folks. I must complete some out of town gift wrapping and packaging and get myself to the Post Office before the morning is over.

Have fun with your own Christmas favourite things, and why not share them here with the rest of us.

Really, what are your Christmas Top Ten Favourite Things??

Sol deo gloria,

Lesley-Anne