Sabbath rest


Re-reading Sabbath, by Wayne Muller…deep sigh. Paying heed to the longing for more than one day a week.

Spending several mornings in a row by the lake, poetry, paper, pen and bible by my side…yes. Be still. Listen. Know. Learn how to do this again…lean in, see, hear. It is good.

Spending golden hour in pursuit of the light, camera, eyes, heart seeking ordinary beauty…yes…weeds, but not really…

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And then this morning by the lake a poem comes trickling, flooding through me…just when I think I have passed writing the last one, when I’m convinced it has all been a cruel trick of nature, that I actually can’t write a jot, that my work is shite, that the combinations of words will definitely NOT flow this time around…what was I thinking…and then…a poem…a draft poem…appears (she says carefully, not wanting to sound as if she thinks it is any good.)

A friend once scolded me…you are a poet…you write…HOW DARE YOU NOT SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD!!! Whoa, it bothered me to be spoken to like that. Who was she to say that? I stuttered out excuses, like these ones I still push down every single time;

I’m nervous

It feels self-serving doesn’t it, a bit boastful

There are many poets so much better than I

It seems inappropriate to ask if I may read, silence is just easier

Um…I don’t think it’s that good yet, maybe a few more edits

Edie looked at me straight on and said it again…How dare you! It’s your gift! It’s your voice! So you’d do good at getting over yourself and sharing your work. (Well, maybe she didn’t say it precisely like that, but I remember clearly her emotion, her gentle yet persistent tone. I often share those words with young emerging and nervous poets I spend time with.)

It’s been a while. The last few days as described above have included solitude, silence and the joy of allowing my heart to free up my fingers and journal some thoughts and some poems. Here is one of them. For you, Edie.

Praise the Mutilated and Aching World

after Adam Zagajewski’s ‘Try to Praise the Mutilated World’

 

Praise the mutilated and aching world.

Praise civil rights activists and pamphlet propaganda,

praise the moment after

you watch the Youtube video and can no longer say

I did not know. Praise your confusion. Praise your disbelief.

Praise the ones who call it evidence, or conspiracy,

and sleep soundly with both points of view.

Praise each pair of opposites, the terror and the beauty,

disgust and delight, the wildness within us

and the sea, sky, and expansive forests

that swallow men and their wives.

Like the elderly man, axle deep in snow

at the end of a logging road, who suggested his wife

stay right here, stay warm, and I will go for help.

Praise his half-frozen body

and the wolves who received his offering.

Praise her waiting, for days.

Praise the sway of nighttime hydrangea bouquets

and dead black stares of roof rats chirping

like beautiful birds. Praise their goings out

and comings in for seed and vegetables.

Praise their diseased droppings.

Praise copulations of wet salmon

over gravel substrated shallows, praise

their slick fins and gaping gills.

Praise homefires in our wood stoves

and firestorms in our neighbourhoods,

praise the smoke, the candled trees,

the displaced and crispened wildlife.

Praise equally the ash smothered front lawns

and ash crossed over foreheads in remembrance.

Praise each fickle choice and self-righteous justification.

Praise lonely and never alone.

Praise here and hereafter.

Praise Him whom you have not seen but believe may be who he says he is.

Praise Him. Praise Her. Praise Us.

Praise the mutilated and aching world.

 

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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

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

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


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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.

Come, come again


DSC_0043When the sun is book-ended by cloud
and the kitchen lights are lit by 3,
when long-term plans are
no longer relevant after darkness falls,
when the evening hours outlast your novel,
and tones tint deeper than a glass of red can reach,
pour a bath, light a candle, soak
and say goodnight,
and sleep.

When sons are gone,
and daughters pending plans mean life apart,
when the stranger in your bed is you,
and friends are snowbirds, and birds
of a different feather,
and you cannot remember a particular song
that once called your soul awake,
pour a bath, light a candle, soak
and say goodnight,
and sleep.

When laughter is a needle skip on vinyl,
and joy is what you try to do,
when last week’s inspired thought is vaguely passive,
when mice leave their evidence on the stove,
and the dog paces, paces, with relentless sighs,
and you don’t know what to do, to do,
pour a bath, light a candle, soak
and say good night,
and sleep.

Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.

And Spring, like a shock of hair falling lush
across the pale face of winter,
will come and wake you,
melt ice tears from your silent waiting eyes,
and kiss your forehead warm lipped like a lover,
and you will rise, dance barefoot
in the garden on smoldering grasses,
yes, you will dance again in golden dusk light come,
come again, yes, come.

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


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

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

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

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On to my blog hop answers now;

1. What am I working on:

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

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

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

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3. Why do I write what I do:

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

4. How does my writing process work:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best for the journey,

Lesley-Anne