Manna Meditations

gratitude in the winter dark…

(Manna Meditations, Day 23)

In these gray days, let us not forget to look for the ordinary wonder …

To see beauty in bare lines and broken places, in cracks crazing the sidewalk like fine china:

To see color in subtler shades — the blonde of afternoon sunlight.  The burnished bronze of fallen leaves, shining against wet dark asphalt:

Let us see warmth in the naked white limbs of sycamores, which reach out to embrace each other across streets and lanes, unhampered by their green-leaf summer clothing:

And let us see sunsets — one for every day, astoundingly aflame, the gift as predictable as clockwork:

Ah, Lord.  This place is cold and dark…

And also, it is beautiful. 

💛

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Confessional

Insomnia: a storm & a silver lining…

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It’s true, what I’ve been telling you here over the past two days:  Insomnia is hard.  And it’s dark.

But also, it’s beautiful… and to stay silent about that would be the worst kind of ingratitude.

I know…  I know.  It sounds crazy to say that there could be something magical about night terrors and hypnopompic hallucinations.  Long lonely hours awake in the dark.  But the truth is, some of my most interesting creative ideas surfaced out of the watery margin between the conscious and the subconscious, when I was lying suspended in insomnia’s strange ether of almost-sleep.

I love how surrealist photographer Jenna Martin describes to thephoblographer.com the way insomnia blurs the line between sleeping and waking, and the way it informs her work:

“I’m a complete insomniac; it’s something I’ve struggled with my entire life.  I go days at a time without sleeping … And when that happens, reality becomes a bit warped.  You know you’re there but you aren’t really present… When it gets really bad, the line begins to blur and I have a hard time figuring out whether I’m sleeping or awake … or if I’m dreaming while I’m awake.  It’s very hard to explain … These aren’t pictures of my dreams when I’m sleeping, but instead pictures of how I view reality when everything starts blending together.”

(Sidenote:  if you’re interested in Jenna’s insomnia-inspired photography, you can check out her blog here.)

It was during a particularly terrible bout with sleeplessness that I began experimenting with camera movement to capture that blurred sense of reality Jenna describes.  

I discovered the trick almost by accident — during a photo walk, my hands shook so badly that the images dragged, no matter how I tried to hold the camera steady.  I decided to intentionally embrace the camera movement, since it seemed like an honest expression of how I felt at the time, and some of my favorite photographs were the result:

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I’m not sure what to make of all this, except to say that sometimes, our dark fearful places are really just invitations into creativity and innovation.

And whether you’re sleepless or dreaming peacefully tonight, I hope you’ll imagine your way into a little creative magic of your own. ❤

 

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best of alpha // whiskey // foxtrot

Flashback: a Promise, Left on a Park Bench in the Frost

As I write these words, Winter is having its last gasp.  Fat white flakes swirl, caught in the golden cones streaming from the streetlights.  Once again — when we’re all hungering so fiercely for Spring — the world erases itself into white.

And yet:  Winter cannot last.

If you’re finding that hard to believe today, please know that I dug this little post out of my archives just for you.

Love and sunshine to you today, friends!

///

{This post was first published in January of 2015, as part of the Secret Messages Project — a 30-day series in which I left my words in places where they might be found.}

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Yesterday, for the first time, I caught someone in the act of discovering one of my little offerings.

I never meant for this to happen — in fact, as a rule, I avoid the possibility.  I’m careful to leave my messages when no one’s looking, and I never go back to search for them.  The way I see it, once I give them away, they no longer belong to me, and this is how I want it.  There’s pleasure in the not-knowing.

But yesterday, in a completely unplanned moment, I got to see a stranger experience my words from afar.  And I have to tell you it moved me.  It moved me so much that I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.  So I didn’t do either.  I just watched, and then made a quiet exit.

But if I’m going to tell you that story, I think I have to begin at the beginning.

*

You should know that I’m a summer girl, through and through and through.  You can’t tell it to look at me, with my pale skin and dark hair and long heavy black eyelashes.  I look like I belong in cableknit sweaters and Pendleton skirts, burgundy and brown and copper, and I *do,* in fact, spend plenty of months living in those.  Still:  I wander through this half of the year desperate and hungry for green, for the sun on my bare shoulders, a film of salt on my lower lip.  The constant white-noise of locusts and songbirds and children playing ball in the dusk.  The wink of fireflies.  All of it. 

And every winter about this time, the cold gets into my bones and it doesn’t leave.  I carry it around with me like grief — heavy.  This is not — believe me — an overstatement.

This was what I was feeling, yesterday morning, when, returning from an early-morning errand, I was suddenly overcome with the intense desire to pull over on the side of Brandon Avenue and get out of the car.

Lakewood Park sparkled to my right:  a perfect slice of green sloping toward the woods, and every last inch of it, every blade of grass and grain of earth, was coated in glittering frost.

I walked slowly across the field, toward the stream that cuts the park in two.  The ground under my feet was so hard and nubbled with ice that it was difficult to get my footing, but I kept walking, past the volleyball pit — oh, God, that stab of remembered summer! — and toward the pond.

The pond… It’s my favorite thing about this place.  Any time of the year it beckons, perfectly round and surrounded by benches.

Today, however, it was filmed by a thin skin of pale ice so that it formed two concentric circles:  the outer circle of the bank, and the inner circle where the ice ended  and the open water began.  The whole pond looked like a giant eye, staring up at the sunrise.

I stood quietly, watching the weak sun burn its way through the gray. I looked down at the bench beside me, which was frosted like a cake, beautifully white.  And that’s when I decided that this was where I was going to leave the day’s message.

I had it already prepared:  the words inked on the shiny green undersides of six acuba leaves, with their brilliant gold speckles.  I stuck a hand in my pocket and ran a thumb over their leather skins.

Yes.  This place. This. 

I waited.  In just the briefest span of time the frost suddenly went from ice to water, and the bench beside me instantly beaded over with liquid.  I placed the leaves there, in just the right order.  I played with them a little bit, getting the spacing right.  I snapped picture after picture, trying with all my might to believe in the message I was leaving.

It was like a prophecy, and my own heart doubted it the whole way.

And then I left.

Crossed the field.

My boots by then were muddy, my toes cold.  I stopped to take a breath, looked back, and that’s when I noticed her:  a stranger, crossing the street to the park.  I couldn’t see her face for the hood of her parka, but I could see that she was walking a beautiful white dog.

She walked straight across the field toward the pond.  Crossed the bridge toward the bench without a moment’s hesitation, as if it was exactly where she intended to go.

A little moment of panic kicked through my chest — I didn’t want her to see me there, didn’t want her to know it was me.  But of course, by then we were already a good fifty yards apart, and who was to say what she would think, what she would know, even if she saw me?

Still, I hurried back to my car and got in.

Sitting there, my breath fogging the windshield, I had the perfect vantage point to watch her for a moment.  She stood there facing the bench of the longest time, just staring.  The dog stood very still beside her.  Her breath came out in clouds.

And then she bent low, her face pushed right up to the words.

After awhile, I realized what she was doing:  she was snapping pictures, just like I’d done only a few minutes before.

I started the car.

I drove away.

I felt the laughter escape me in a single note that was almost a cry. And for the first time, I believed my own message — really, really believed it, in every cold-benumbed corner of my soul: 

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And it will.  I promise you that. ❤

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Musings

A promise, on a cold, rainwet day …

  
Summer comes.

It cannot be stopped, will not be held back.

*

It pushes up from the southernmost places, unfurling in gold light.

The icecicles grow narrow. 

The pond darkens at its center — liquid underneath, warming into wet.

Small green things force their way out of the earth and into the sun — believing, as they always do, that winter cannot last.

*

Oh, friends … I can promise you this:

Summer stops for nothing.

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Musings

Five Little Reminders for You, on Valentine’s Day

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True story?

For almost a decade now, I’ve slept with my body curled tight against my husband’s.  I’ve woken to his heartbeat, and shared in his dreams. 

We have every reason to celebrate, but still:  I have some very mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day.

I don’t know why, but this year I’ve felt painfully aware of how the holiday pressures people into making commitments they’re not ready to make…   They say words that don’t feel right yet.   They buy rings they can’t afford, and make promises they’re not sure they want to keep. They make love that isn’t love at all … And that makes me sad.

If you’re reading this today and you’re feeling like a flower forced into bloom, I hope you’ll hear these words and take a little courage …

*

Five Things We Already Know, But Keep Forgetting:

1) You don’t have to spend this evening with anybody … especially not with someone who makes you feel less important than you are. It is completely acceptable to spend Valentine’s Day with a special friend, a dear family member, or in the pleasure of your own company.

2) You don’t have to feel pressured to sleep with someone just because they bought you a fancy dinner … And you certainly shouldn’t feel pressured to say words you don’t mean just because somebody else said them to you first… Your body is yours to give or to keep. Your heart is, too.

3) If social media makes you feel badly today, please — please — just disconnect for awhile. Take a walk in the woods. Hug somebody who seems lonely. Read something, or create something, or reconnect with an old friend. All these are better ways to spend an hour than scrolling and feeling Less Than.

4) Whatever you do, I hope you *don’t* pop the question just because your partner expects it, or because it seems like The Thing To Do. There will time for genuine love, for champagne and celebration, commitments and congrats. But the well-paid advertising folks in the jewelry industry don’t have the right to push you into thinking that it has to happen today… or tomorrow, either.

5) Last but not least: you deserve so much more than to be somebody’s fallback option … and your partner deserves better, too. **Don’t settle.**

*

Oh, friends: maybe it sounds sappy, but I believe that your Creator loves you dearly, and I’m saying a little prayer that you feel that love today…

You’re braver than you think and more beautiful than you know.  ❤  

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