Almost Poetry, Manna Meditations

this is what i am trying to tell you …

Manna Meditations, Day 12

I find the Light
rumpled in the morning sheets–
toss back the quilt and there it is,
rising in the gold air,
catching in the dust motes,
setting them on fire.

Sometimes, too,
I find it caught fast
in a crosshatch of frost on the windows,
or crystalline, scattered
over spikes of frozen grass.

I swallow it in the sunshine
on my eggs at breakfast.

It glints on my glasses
as I read.

Sometimes I could lick
the Light off my fingers like butter —
Sometimes it drips through my hands
and down my wrists
like spilled perfume.

*

But some mornings,
I wake and it is not there.

I am thirsty for it, calling for it,
crack-lipped and crazed
as a fever patient.

In those days,
the shadows fill the room
and the sky is snuffed
& there is no appetite
for eggs
or butter
or perfume
or the Presence.

*

In that day,
carry the Light to me
in your cupped hands.

Kneel at my bedside, Friend,
and I’ll drink from your upturned palms.

*

Hear me.

Oh, hear me:

When we are not alone
(and we are never alone),

there is always Enough.

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Manna Meditations

the gospel of ordinary things…

Manna Meditations, Day 7

Lord, preach to me a gospel
of ordinary things:

a snatch of sky, caught in a puddle …

tree-shadows, spangling the pavement …

Remind me that all the earth is a cathedral —
one not built by human hands.

For You told us, once,
that if we human creatures couldn’t praise You,
the stones would cry out.

And You promised us
that a day would come
when the mountains and hills
would burst into song —
every green tree clapping its hands.

And I am thinking:

This age-old earth was here before Adam,
singing Your song, before stained-glass
or steeple,
or even Scripture.

Rotting logs and fallen limbs,
silent stones, ice-slicked streams,
eagles and herons and small nameless birds,
wood beetles and pill-bugs, lank eyeless worms …

Oh, Lord … these were Your first worshippers.

And it occurs to me now:  they have been trying to teach us ever since.

The moss-covered stone,
who meditates without moving,
who rests, and waits,
and sings without speaking a word.

The ancient oak,
who lifts her head to the light,
quivers & dances, shimmies and sways,
shaking each leaf in shameless undignified praise.

The waterfall,
which drops to its knees a thousand times a day —
perpetually prostrate, slain in the Spirit,
as if that’s what it was made for.

(And maybe it was.)

And the birds …
oh, Lord! the sparrows
(not one of which, You are quick to point out,
falls from the nest without Your notice).
Even now, Lord, the sparrows are singing …

in midwinter.

in bitter cold.

They hop and dance circles in the snow,
laugh and leap and shout out their songs …
raucous rebels, they don’t care who hears.

Ah, Lord.

Ah, Lord.

I have made much complaining about Your silence.

So let me not miss this gospel You’ve been singing me
every day, outside my window,
whether I notice it
or not.

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Everyday Wonder

in the land of the living …

You might not know this about me, but I’ve got a lot of old scriptures rattling around in my head.

I was raised in a world where –for better or worse — the Bible was Law.  At the conservative private school I attended as a girl, I copied out long passages of scripture from memory, my girlish hand careful to pin down the exact placement of each comma and semicolon.  

Go on:  picture me now, a wide-eyed girl in a knee-length skirt and high-collared blouse, reciting whole chapters in front of the class.  Hear the lyrical lilt of the Psalms wearing rhythmic grooves into my psyche, the way the breakers wear grooves on the shore.

Decades have passed since then, and still — the Good Book is so deeply etched into the folds of my brain that its words often sound like my own thoughts.  

I couldn’t get rid of them now if I wanted to.

*

I don’t know why, but lately I keep circling back to a little snatch of words I’d all but forgotten:  I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13).

The words are King David’s, but they might as well be mine.  

And I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 

In a different season, I might have seen that goodness as prosperity… Goals met. Accolades won. Or perhaps even some deep place of spiritual enlightenment

But now, I’m wondering if seeing the goodness of the Lord isn’t just a matter of noticing the dew on the clover:

  

The shadows playing on the sidewalk:

  

A sunset, washing gentle and gold over our Roanoke sky:

  

Maybe seeing the goodness of the Lord is a matter of faith: the simple, outrageous belief the smallest works of the Creator might be, in their way, holy… 

And I’ll tell you: this life is brief, but for now I’m here, and I believe that all this beauty is mine to see. 

And to share.

Here’s wishing you the same. ❤

 

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best of alpha // whiskey // foxtrot

Sleepless, Under Shooting Stars {a Flashback}

If I’ve managed to convey one thing in my little series about insomnia, I hope you know this:  insomnia is hard … but also, it can be pretty special.

Few words capture this better than the ones below, which I wrote just after the night of my ninth wedding anniversary.  It’s one of my favorite posts … I guess because it reminds me that sometimes, the hard things give us our most beautiful moments.

And somehow, that seems like a good place to end.

Enjoy…

///

A week ago…

  
It’s three a.m. and I’m lying in bed, feeling the slow wash of the oscillating fan stirring the sheets.  I settle closer against my husband, stare at the ceiling and wonder — a familiar question — if I’m the only one awake.

I’ve spent my life as an insomniac, and I can tell you:  there’s no loneliness as deep and existential as the one that comes when you lie sleepless in the dark — especially beside someone you love.  You lean into him, letting his breath tickle your neck, his heartbeat drum against your spine.

Still:  while he sleeps, he doesn’t even know you exist.

But on this night, instead of the usual ache of his absence, I sense T’s presence — his breath conscious, shallow.  With me, somehow.

“Are you awake?” I whisper, and in a moment there’s his hum of affirmation.

“Me too,” I say.

It’s the night of our wedding anniversary, and outside, the Perseids are falling:  shooting stars streaking the black, like they do every year on August 12.

Suddenly it just feels wrong:  us, asleep.  The universe, awake.

“Do you want to go see the stars?” I say.

We do.

*

We go in our pajamas:  bundle ourselves into the Volvo with extra coats and two cups of iced coffee.

T drives us into the mountains, away from the city lights.  We drive, and drive, through one empty street and then another, climbing the hills until the black bowl above us is twinkling clear.

And then we stop.

T switches off the engine.

The sudden silence shocks us, until our ears adjust to all the other sounds of the night.

*

In the cicada-hum and cricket-song we open the sunroof and wriggle halfway through, leaning back with our elbows on the car’s cold roof, our bare feet on tiptoe on the leather seats below.

Somehow it feels like we’re standing side-by-side in waist-deep water.  The black sheet-metal shines, reflecting stars.

Time passes, slow as a single drop of water easing down the lip of the faucet.  The stars twinkle but seem otherwise unmoved.

And then, the first streak of light tears across the sky.

“Did you see that?” T almost shouts.

“I did!”

We wait longer.  Time passes — five minutes?  ten? — and more meteorites flash earthward.  Some are just tiny dashes of light; others look like small comets, with long tails that leave a smoldering afterglow.

We laugh.

We holler.

We gasp.

“Did you see that one?” 

“Look — over there!”

We watch until our necks hurt from craning them back.  Until our eyes feel owlishly wide:  unblinking in the starry dark.

*

And now here I sit at my keyboard, a week later, pondering the way it works:

The way we must put ourselves in the path of wonder, whether that’s the wonder of human love or natural beauty, the wonder of grace or God or goodness.

And I know — there are moments when we stumble over the magic like it’s a tripwire.  We skin our knees on the glory and raise our hands in hallelujah.  In those moments, the Mystery chooses us. 

But those moments are few.  And — my God — I don’t want to go through life asleep, hoping and dreaming of the next one.

So I get up in the middle of the night.  (Are you with me?)  I push back the bedsheets and stumble into the dark like a sleepwalker, hearing that voice at my back, still and small as my Sunday-school teacher told me it would be: 

Open your eyes, love. 

Open your eyes. 

Engage. 

And I walk out into a world where stars fall like rain.

I crane my head back and stand very still, my eyes wide-open.

*

Maybe you’re standing here, too.  ❤

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Almost Poetry

the imperfectionist’s prayer

oh, Lord, leave me…

… undone.

heal me,
but don’t –
(forgive me
for saying it)
– fix everything.

keep me
a little messy,
a little broken,
disordered and
a touch disorderly…

do this so that someone might stand in just the right place, at just the right time, in just the right state of mind, and see — oh, God — as the sun slams through the wreckage, lights up its edges, stripes it in shadow, and makes it — for a brief moment —

beautiful:

daylight1

oh, Lord, leave me like that. ❤

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The Body Electric

The Body Electric: Day Twenty-One

advent2

Can I say something honest to you?

I grew up in a world that talked a lot about God — a lot — and I’m not always comfortable with the things that world taught me about him.

Tonight, though, as I walk the streets on this darkest night of the year, I stop in front of a plywood manger scene in someone’s front yard.  And I suddenly realize I’m grateful — so, so very grateful — for one thing:

I’m grateful that the God of my childhood was so physical, and so human…

A God in the shape of an infant, thrashing and crying in the straw.

A God who wept actual tears.  Who bruised and bled and broke.

A God who tells me that the divine can, in fact, dwell in this place:

… this hardscrabble earth.

… this fast-fading skin.

*

 

I turn my hand over.

I trace the river-blue veins in the wrist.

I think about the spirit that flows through that living water, and I can’t help but say:

 Oh, God … It is good. ❤

 

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The Body Electric

The Body Electric: Day Twenty

Tonight, at the exact moment of the Winter Solstice, I am standing out in my front yard, head craned back, staring at the sky…

I’m looking for magic.

The thing about the solstice is that it comes at the exact same moment for all of us — the instant when the sun crests over Stonehenge and begins the shortest day of the year.

Which means that the day after this one will be a little longer.

And the next day will be a little longer still.

It means that winter just can’t last, and that thought feels pretty magical to me.

*

Except that tonight, out in the rain-laden midnight, I can’t see any magic.  I have my camera with me, looking for light.  But my sky is moonless, and starless.  All I can see is the dull orange haze of the streetlights reflected back from the bottom of rainclouds.

So I put the camera away for awhile, and I go walking instead.

I take a deep lungful of dark air, and I think about how ordinary this magical moment seems … and suddenly it occurs to me that, in a way, this particular solstice is very much like the Christian Advent.

Because it’s quite possible, isn’t it, that the sun rises half a world away and we don’t see?

That the stars spark behind the rain and we don’t know?

That the very person who spells our salvation could walk into the world, and still … there might be a brief span of time in which we just don’t know it yet??

Instead, there’s just ordinary.

Just dark.

*

I walk longer, in the black, and I try to take pictures of whatever ordinary beauty I see:  the crisscrossed shadows of tree limbs on the road.  The faint wet gleam on the sidewalks.  And after awhile, I find myself praying.  Because I’ll tell you:  I am no preacher.  And yet if I had to have a little good news to carry, it would be the gospel of ordinary things:

The flash of sun on a dragonfly’s wing.

The slow lap of liquid at the river’s edge.

The early-morning fog bedding down soft and white into hills and hollows.

And oh, God, I am going to keep preaching this ordinary gospel — even if nobody really listens — in hopes that my tiny good news might be pointing the way to some larger Gospel … the kind that’s much too big to fold up into the cramped container of language.

The kind about how the divine might be contained — and also not contained — in human skin.

Which is what all my words are about, anyway.

*

I tilt my head.

I take a breath.

I peer into the dark and take a picture:

  

*

Happy Winter Solstice, friends.  Though you can’t see for all the shadows, today marks the beginning of the end of the dark.

Let’s celebrate it together. ❤

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