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Ripened Love

love

Give me a ripened love
full of recollection…

love tender and fragile in
the wild, impatient spring when
romance was new and
each day a discovery

love that has borne
the heat of summer defending
its yield against storm
invader
drought
sending roots deep
to drink the earth

love that has endured the
measured violence of pruning
and known the consolation
of the Gardener

Give me a scarred love
bent by wind, whose branches
tell a story long in the making
fruit distilled
to a warm dark sweetness

ready for the pressing
and aging
still to come

and the final surrender
and the drinking up

~sm

for my darling who has loved me long

love2

Confession Shortly Before the Forty-Eighth Birthday

When my friend Amanda kindly lent me her beautiful hard-cover, deckle-edged volume of Madeleine L’Engle’s poems, I’m sure she never imagined that I would keep it for MONTHS. But it is a book that begs to be savored. Slowly. In sweet sips. It just so happens that I did some sipping last night.

I woke just before 2:00 and could not get back to sleep. So, I pulled the volume from the stack beside my bed, along with my reading glasses, stopped by the kitchen for a banana, then curled up in the yellow chair near the stained glass lamp, the one with the dragonflies. The third poem I read was the one that here follows. A delicious irony given that in 3 days, I myself will be forty-eight. They are the very words I would say if I were wiser and more elegant. It is not the first time the poet has captured precisely where I am at a given moment. I dare say it will not be the last.

Incidentally, I did this morning what I should have done some time ago. I purchased my own copy of The Ordering of Love. I plan to return Amanda’s, hopefully no worse for the wear, this evening.

Confession Shortly Before the Forty-Eighth Birthday

Here I am, beyond the middle middle,
According to chronology,
No closer to solving cosmic or private riddle,
No further from apology
For clumsy self’s continuing ineptitude,
Still shaken by the heart’s wild battering.
Intemperate passions constantly intrude;
I cannot keep small hurts from mattering,
Am shattered when met with mild irritation,
Need reassurance, feel inadequate and foolish,
Seek love’s return, bump into abrogation,
Am stubborn beyond the point of being merely mulish.
So I am saved only by the strange power of silence,
The disciplined joy of work and rule
Inner and outer imposed, steel cold. The violence
Of the freezing wind sustains the heart. So this poor fool
is fed, is nourished, forgets then to be concerned with rust;
Repentance, too, is turning, if towards dust,
And gratitude sings forth in adoration
Of the one who touched and healed the halt and lame
With the aweful, blissful power of his spoken Name.

List of Candidates 2014

books

Life is too short to read bad books. Life is also too short to read all the wonderful books I want to read before I die, but I am doing my dead level best. One of the resources that helps me with this is to keep a perpetual “list of candidates”. The books on this list come to me in all sorts of ways.

Every time an author I love mentions a book or an author he or she loves, I add it to the list. Christian Wiman was especially helpful in this respect this year as I read My Bright Abyss. Many of the books have come to me across the table from a friend–sometimes in whispers, sometimes in passionate testimonial–either way, if it is a true bosom friend, I write it down. A few have been gifts. Others are second and third volumes from an author whose works have already moved me.

Some of the very best books I have read over the past several years have come from YOU. Every year I throw this list out there as seed, then wait for you to tell me what I am missing. Don’t let me down. 🙂

Incidentally, this year I have categorized somewhat. The first list is broad in scope, including fiction and non-fiction, poetry, prose, etc… I seem to be somewhat short this year on old books (as in more than a century old). Any help you can provide here will be appreciated.

The second list is only poets. I have chosen 6 poets with whom to spend some quality time. If you know of an important volume I have omitted, let me know.

The third list contains books about writing and art (for inspiration). Only the first two will be new reads. The rest I have read before, some of them several times. But a truly great book bears rereading. And rereading…

Elegantly Egalitarian

The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Matsuo Basho*
Divine Eros, St. Symeon the New Theologian
Roots of Christian Mysticism, Olivier Clement
Faith Under Fire, Canon Andrew White*
The Ordering of Love, Madeleine L’Engle
Dispatches From the Edge, Anderson Cooper*
Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Sue Monk Kidd
Traveling With Pomegranates: A Mother Daughter Story, Sue Monk Kidd*
The Ladder of Divine Ascent, St. John Climacus
The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran
Walden, Henry David Thoreau*
Immortal Diamond, Richard Rohr
The Naked Now, Richard Rohr
A Place on Earth, Wendell Berry
The Scent of Holiness, Constantina R. Palmer
Everyday Saints, Archimandrite Tikhon Shevkunov
The Outdoor Athlete, Courtenay Schurman
The Book Thief, Markus Zusak*
The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle*
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
The Age of Miracles, Marianne Williamson
The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh
The Lake of Dreams, Kim Edwards
Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery
At Swim, Two Boys, Jamie O’Neill
The Dog Stars, Peter Heller
Love Does, Bob Goff

Poets Please

Aimless Love and Bright Wings, Billy Collins
Thirst, At Blackwater Pond, and A Thousand Mornings, Mary Oliver
A Poetry Handbook, Mary Oliver
Bright Star: The Complete Poems and Selected Letters of John Keats
Given: Poems, Wendell Berry
A Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, Rainer Maria Rilke
Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
Rumi: The Book of Love, The Illuminated Rumi, The Essential Rumi, Jalal al-Din Rumi

Word Wranglers

Ambition and Survival: Becoming a Poet, Christian Wiman
Story, Robert McKee
Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, Madeleine L’Engle
Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Greenberg*
On Writing, Steven King
The War of Art, Stephen Pressfield
Steering the Craft, Ursula LeGuinn
Mystery and Manners, Flannery O’Connor
The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron

*Completed

Memorable Literary Companions of 2013

There is something magical about opening a new book. The promise. The anticipation. New worlds I have never yet seen. The story of a life very like, or unlike, my own. Ideas, thoughts, words that will rankle, discomfit, expand, illumine. This year I opened the pages of 36 books. Some new. Some old and much beloved. As I looked back over them in preparation for this post, I was filled with gratitude for every writer who sat down and penned the beautiful words that have nourished and delighted me this year.

Here are a few of the more memorable encounters…

 

My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer, Christian Wiman

My God my bright abyss
into which all my longing will not go
once more I come to the edge of all I know
and believing nothing believe in this…

And so begins the most important book I read this year. Christian Wiman grew up in a west Texas town where faith was a presumption. Unquestioned. When, as a college student, he discovered that there were people who did not believe in God, he shrugged off his inherited “faith” like a jacket that has grown too warm for the afternoon. For two decades he lived comfortably with the absence of God until two cataclysmic events shook his life. He fell in love…

…when I met Danielle, not only was that gray veil between me and the world ripped aside, colors aching back into things, but all the particulars of the world suddenly seemed in excess of themselves, and thus more truly themselves. We, too, were part of this enlargement: it was as if our love demanded some expression beyond the blissful intensity our two lives made.

…and he learned he had a rare and incurable form of cancer.

The book chronicles the several years between then and now. Years that have included unimaginable pain, bones dying, locked joints, bowel failure, and isolation. And in the midst of this, a wrestling with God, with faith, with poetry and art. A raw, authentic quest to penetrate to deep things. To drink hungrily of the beautiful. To weave together moments of exquisite clarity with moments of excruciating loneliness and pain into a tapestry of life that is rich and expansive and true.

His writing style is evocative and lovely and threaded throughout are delicious lines of borrowed poetry and prose that nourished and challenged him along the way. I am grateful to Makoto Fujimura for whetting my appetite for this one. I give it my highest recommendation.

What a relief it can be…to meet God right here in the havoc of chance, to feel enduring love like a stroke of pure luck.

 

Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems, Billy Collins

I had the distinct privilege of hearing Billy Collins at the Porter’s Call Evening of Stories last year. I was already a fan, but to hear him articulate the poems–his cadence, the pregnant pauses–was remarkable. Mike gifted me with this new collection of old and new poems for Christmas. On AUDIO. In the poet’s own voice! I have listened to it over and over. It is a spectacular collection of Collins’ work anyway–funny, poignant, clever–but completely irresistible when he reads them to me. If you are unsure of poetry, start here.

 

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Natalie Goldberg

This book has been on my list of candidates for a while, but this year my friend Nina put it in my hand. Thank you, Nina!! Clean, concise, and chock full of brilliance. If you are a writer or you want to be, you need this book. One of the best I have read on the craft.

 

I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t), Brene Brown

It is difficult for me to imagine any human alive who will not find herself in this book. Brene Brown has done years of research on shame and she uses her discoveries to help us build “shame resilience.” She understands that as long as we are alive, we will encounter experiences that shame us. It is what we do with that shame that determines whether we become captive to it or move past it. I read this one with bosom friends, and we laughed and cried our way through it with lots of “oh no!”s and “me too”s. You can get a taste with her Ted talk which has over 12 million views to date. Yep, it’s that good.

 

Tuesday’s With Morrie, Mitch Album

It took me a while to get around to reading the bestselling memoir of all time. I think I was suspicious of the fact that so many people liked it. :/ But when my friend Julie recommended it, I decided to check it out. Thank you, Julie!! Mitch Album spends several months of Tuesdays with his old college professor, Morrie, who is dying. Morrie has always been wise man. A man of examination and thought. But death sharpens that vision and helps him see with even keener perception. This is, in some ways, a book about dying. But it is much more a book about really living.

 

Gilead, Marilynne Robinson

I read several books this year by Marilynne Robinson after Christian Wiman tempted me with excerpts in his book. They were all very good, but this was my favorite. Apparently the Pulitzer committee and I are in agreement. John Ames is 76 and knows he will not live to see his 7 year old son reach adulthood–a beloved, unexpected son of a sweet, unexpected second marriage–so he writes a book for his son telling of the life he has lived, the people that have mattered to him, and what all means in so far as he understands it. This narrative is woven in and out of these precious last days he is living with his beloveds. It is a tender, beautiful story told in clean, spare prose.

 

Jayber Crow, Wendell Berry

“You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out—perhaps a little at a time.”
“And how long is that going to take?”
“I don’t know. As long as you live, perhaps.”
“That could be a long time.”
“I will tell you a further mystery,” he said. “It may take longer.”

The characters of Port William have become dear to me. Jayber might be my favorite. The life questions which were not answered in seminary work themselves out in front of him in the confessional of his barber chair, and in the community of characters to which he belongs, and does not belong, as a lifelong bachelor. An unlikely instructor in philosophy, perhaps, but instructor he is. Alternately ponderous, humorous, and sweet.

 

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

This was my year to read ghost stories. Not necessarily by design. I already knew this story from Hitchcock, of course, but when my friend Chelsea told me it was one of her favorite BOOKS, I checked it out. Naturally, the book takes you further into the subconscious of the characters, subtly weaving a web that begins to press against the chest. Artful storytelling, well developed characters, and a host of plot twists make this a terrifically engaging read.

 

Silence, Shusaku Endo

This book was one of the reasons I chose to use the word “memorable” rather than “favorite” in the title of this post. This was a difficult read. Though there are shifts in perspective, much of the story is told in the voice of Rodrigues, a Portugese priest filled with love for the Japanese people who travels to Japan to encourage persecuted believers and find news of a lost priest. He is almost immediately captured. As he observes the cruel torture and relentless persecution of the remnant church, he wrestles with a God who is “silent”. Can his fragile faith withstand the anguish, the futility, the silence?

 

The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd

Lily Owens wants desperately to be loved. He father is cruel and her only memory of her mother is of the afternoon she died. She sat in a closet while her mother and father fought. There was a gun. Lily picked up the gun. There was a loud noise. Her mother was dead.

Lily runs away from home seeking answers and follows her mother’s picture of a Black Madonna to Tiburon, South Carolina. Here she will live with the “Calendar sisters” and learn the art of bee-keeping. But she will learn much more than that. A complex, poignant coming of age story.

p.s. Jenna Lamia who reads the audio book is fantastic! I highly recommend listening if that is an option.
p.s.s. The movie is good, but you miss so much of the story. Read, then watch. 🙂

 

Davita’s Harp, Chaim Potok

Chaim Potok writes brilliantly of the liminal spaces in life. Of paradox. In this book, Davita’s parents have rejected the faith of their childhoods, Jewish and Christian, and are staking everything on socialism. There are frequent, hushed night time meetings at their home, which force them to move repeatedly, and always an undercurrent of impending danger. Davita has to string truth together for herself from many disparate influences; her Christian aunt who sweeps in like an angel in times of trouble, her devout Jewish cousin whose home radiates peace and warmth, and her radical parents who are risking everything to make the world better for her.

 

The Turn of the Screw, Henry James

Another ghost story. Or is it? A haunting tale set down by a governess some years after it happens. Perplexing, nuanced, mysterious, spine-tingling, it leaves one with more questions than answers. Positively delicious.

 

Your turn. Best books you read this year? Go!

p.s. Thanks to Kari for recommending “I Thought it was….”, to Ian and Anne for “Jayber…”, to Giorgio for “Silence”, to Karissa and Jen for “Secret Life…”, and to David for “Davita…”. I am profoundly grateful for my bookish friends. 🙂

For Monday, a Poem…

illmatchedthreads

Over several assorted Mondays this fall, I have gathered with a motley, seasoned, gorgeous collection of women. We have brought our various hurts and glories and peculiar ways of seeing to the table. A dining room table. One that has served up many a delicious repast in times past, and times yet to come. Here we have feasted on story and laughter and poems. We have lived in and out of one another’s lives. Words have nourished us; challenged and strengthened us; and sent us back into our everyday lives glowing, like Moses, betraying that we have been in the Presence.

Today we are done. For a space. And already I miss it. The very idea of it.

So I am carving out a space here for poems, on Mondays, just because. Favorites. Some from my Creative Lectio class, and some from life, and all the craziness of life, and the beauty that is ache and can only be conveyed in the strict economy and the intense potency of the poetic line.

And you may love it, or you may hate it. And that’s ok. But I challenge you to read it before you decide. Read it out loud. Let the words swim in the air and travel back to you across space. And see what it means. To you.

For today, one of the more meddlesome poems we read this fall. Meddlesome in that I have not been able to stop thinking about it, because it is so wondrously lovely and deep. Of Rilke, one of my favorites.  A poet who speaks a heart language that pierces me to the very entrails of my being.

Ill Matched Threads

She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
of her life, and weaves them gratefully
into a single cloth–
it’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall
and clears it for a different celebration
where the one guest is you.

In the softness of the evening
it’s you she receives.
You are the partner of her loneliness,
the unspeaking center of her monologues.
With each disclosure you encompass more
and she stretches beyond what limits her,
to hold you.

Rainer Maria Rilke

My profound gratitude to Nita Andrews and Patsy Clairmont who have poured so much beauty and truth into my soul over the past year in our Creative Lectio experience. I love you both.

For I Will Consider My Granddaughter Kenzie…

IMG_2775

FOR I WILL CONSIDER MY GRANDDAUGHTER KENZIE

For she catches sunbeams in her hands and puts out her tongue to taste them.

For she looks at me just before plunging both feet into a puddle and she is all mischief and wonder and delight and I try to remember why I shouldn’t let her but I forget.

For she must spin if the grass is green and the lawn is large.

For sometimes she pauses just at the top of the slide to gaze at the lawn and I know she is spinning in her heart.

For she buries her whole face in a blossom to breathe its scent and emerges blissful and flecked with pollen.

For she loves her mommy.

For she awakens a sweet radiance in her mommy, soft and gentle and all joy.

For she is generous to all, especially to old people.

For she holds her head sideways when she poses for a photograph.

For after the photograph, she says “awww, cute”.

For she loves her Pops

For she loves music and making music and people who make music and instruments that make music.

For music makes her dance.

For she wields both fork and spoon with dexterity but prefers to eat with her hands.

For when she asks for candy she always says “just one”, but does not mean it.

For she loves Josh and Jake.

For sometimes she holds her cup with her feet just because she can.

For she tucks one corner of her paci inside her lip.

For she colors with mad, bold strokes and makes no apologies about that.

For she loves books.

For she is a mixture of gravity and waggery.

For she greets every morning, every moment, with expectation that something wonderful is about to happen.

For sometimes when I hold her she puts one hand in my hair and one on my face and I know what it means to be truly happy.

For she has a shoe fetish, yet prefers to be barefoot.

For her toes are soft and round and make sweet wet footprints on the porch after she has walked in the dew.

For she loves to pray.

For she laughs easily and often and always out loud.

For she climbs everything.

For she loves water and perceives it as a personal gift to her from someone who loves her.

For sometimes she kisses me first.

For there is nothing sweeter than her peace when at rest.

For there is nothing brisker than her life when in motion.

For she is of the tribe of angel.

For she loves me.

IMG_2747

*The form of the poem is borrowed from Mary Oliver’s “For I Will Consider My Dog Percy” She, in turn, borrowed it from Christopher Smart’s “For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry.” Lines in italics are borrowed from both.

  puddle

List of Candidates 2013

I will die with a list of books I meant to read, but didn’t.

This thought disturbs me.

Terribly.

So every year I whittle away at the books I know to be on that list. A little at a time. And every year I learn about other wonderful books. So I add them. And every time I finish reading a glorious novel, a delicious bit of poetry, or an inspiring biography, I pray a little prayer of thanks, not only for the author who penned the words, but for the friend who introduced me to them. If you are reading this, there is a good chance that person was you.

The list is not static, but grows all year through. However, I do make a deliberate effort in January to sweep together all the leavings of the previous year’s list along with titles jotted onto scraps of paper and in margins of books, or plugged into my phone, and begin again. I get so excited I want to read everything all at once. But life intervenes and I will have to tuck them in here and there wherever I can carve out a wee bit of space.

My list of candidates has improved considerably since I began soliciting help from you, my readers. So once again, I am giving you a look at what is already on my list, and asking you to help me fill it in. What have you read recently that rocked your world? What is that book you come back to over and over? Tell me about it. Please!

Here is what I have thus far…

Silence by Shusaku Endo*
Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry*
Waiting for God by Simone Weil
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Matsuo Basho
Davita’s Harp by Chaim Potok*
On Acquisition of the Holy Spirit by Saint Seraphim of Sarov
The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell*
Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom*
The Poetry of John Keats
Story by Robert McKee
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier*
The Ladder of Divine Ascent by John Climacus
The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho*
The Liar’s Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
Matisse Picasso and Gertrude Stein by Gertrude Stein
Behold the Beauty of the Lord by Henri Nouwen*
Steering the Craft by Ursula Le Guin
The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
Dakota: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris
On Writing Well by William Zinsser

*Indicates book has been completed

Favorite Literary Companions of 2012

A good book is like a good friend. It helps you to see the world more clearly. Perhaps it makes you laugh. Or cry. It nourishes your dreams. Very often it reveals to you a bit of yourself you did not know was there. And, as in the case of a good friend, I am sad when we come to the end of our time together, and I continue to think of it fondly in days, and years, to come.

Here are some of the more memorable encounters from the past year, in strictly chronological order as they came to me.

A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories, Flannery O’Connor

Flannery O’Connor’s wordcraft is a cauldron of conundrum, brilliant characterization, and truths so deep they defy reduction. Her stories have a meandering way of taking us inside ourselves, preparing us for “almost imperceptible intrusions of grace“.

A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

His words are sumptuous. His descriptions of Paris in the 1920s with her rain-washed cobblestones and sidewalk bistros and cafes are perfectly delicious. And his intimate reflections on the literary luminaries who were his friends, priceless. I found myself dreaming of living in a little garret in Paris myself with daily strolls through those same avenues, the gardens, the museums… And, always, I love peaking inside the creative process of genius. I remember him speaking of how he could not write about Paris while in Paris. He needed distance to see it properly. This, I understand.

The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky

Dostoevsky said of this novel that he wanted to write one character who was completely without guile; innocent and good. Gentle Prince Myshkin allows himself to be thought foolish so that he may make others wise. It is a beautiful, redemptive story. An elegant counterpoint to Crime and Punishment.

Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson

A chronicle of genius. Albeit eccentric, unwieldy, arrogant genius. A man who thoroughly changed the face of communication in our time. Isaacson weaves an engaging narrative about his enigmatic subject. I found myself laughing frequently. Deeply saddened sometimes. But mostly awed by this man who so often saw the not yet as though it already was. And as I have watched my one year old granddaughter navigate my iPhone over the past few months, it has been clear that his passion for intuitive design was spot on.

 Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultra-marathon Greatness, Scott Jurek

Scott Jurek is one of my heroes. Partly for his freakish ability to run obscene distances really fast, but also for his practice of foregoing a shower and sleep to hang at the finish line for hours congratulating finishers who have been on the trail far longer than he. This book tells the story of a spindly legged kid from a family with its fair share of challenges who grows up to be one of the most remarkable ultra runners the world has known. Jurek writes with great good humor and a deep sense of gratitude. He also includes some of his favorite (vegan) recipes.

Wounded by Love, Elder Porphyrios

Whoever wants to become a Christian must first become a poet…The soul of the Christian needs to be refined and sensitive, to have sensibility and wing, to be constantly in flight and to live in dreams, to fly through infinity, among the stars, amidst the greatness of God, amid silence.

Do you see why I love this man? This is one of the most significant books I have ever read. I know I will revisit it often. Elder Porphyrios’ writings on love have been both nourishing and challenging. It was his belief that if we pursue love only and our hearts become filled with love–for God, and for others–that everything else takes care of itself. This is a very pedestrian reduction of his beautiful words. I invite you to come to know him yourself.

Lit: A Memoir (P.S.), Mary Karr

Liar’s Club, the story of Mary Karr’s rough and tumble childhood in Texas, is credited by many with starting a memoir revolution. This third in the a series tells of Mary all grown up. Of her ‘fairy tale’ prince, of the son she adores, and of the demons that will not leave her alone. It is raw and honest, tragic and hilarious. Ultimately it is a compelling, marvelously crafted story of perseverance and grace.

Lifted By Angels: The Presence and Power of our Heavenly Guides and Guardians, Joel Miller

“This is the staggering asymmetry of God’s goodness. There is more grace than envy, more love than hate, more heaven than hell.”

I read the whole of it in one day. I just couldn’t stop. Joel Miller’s narrative is enthralling, his theology is sound, and his subject matter fascinating. Read my review in its entirety HERE.

A Thousand Mornings, Mary Oliver

I bought it on Kindle. For my phone. So it is always with me. I can’t tell you how often I pull it out. Just a poem or two. Or all of them at a go. Gift. This voice. That penetrates to the very essence of things. And renders them in such lovely expression. Par example

I HAPPENED TO BE STANDING

I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance.  A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep.  Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why.  And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t.  That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern

You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self purpose.

This is the line that caused me to buy the book. (Thanks, Karissa) The Night Circus is an enchantment. Mysterious. Beautiful. All done out in black and white. It is a feast of imagery and imagination. Read it for the artist in you. The part of you that still traffics in magic. Or wants to.

How Inarticulate the Longings of My Soul…

How inarticulate are the longings of my soul, O God,
yet how acute are its pangs.
How incapable am I in understanding those longings,
let alone, in tending them.
Feed me with food, O God, that will best nourish my soul,
food that will intensify rather than satisfy
my love for You
and my longing to be with You.
Awaken every eternal seed You have planted in my soul
so while I am yet rooted in this earth
something of heaven may blossom in my life…

~Ken Gire, Windows of the Soul

Only He Who Sees…

Benevolent, solemn, fateful, pervaded with divine light, every landscape glows like a countenance hallowed in eternal repose; and every one of its living creatures, clad in flesh and leaves, and every crystal of its rocks, whether on the surface shining in the sun or buried miles deep in what we call darkness, is throbbing and pulsing with the heartbeats of God. ~John Muir

Here is an unspeakable secret: paradise is all around us and we do not understand.
It is wide open. The sword is taken away, but we do not know it:
we are off “one to his farm and another to his merchandise.”
Lights on. Clocks ticking. Thermostats working. Stoves
cooking. Electric shavers filling radios with static.
“Wisdom,” cries the dawn deacon, but we do not attend.

~Thomas Merton

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. ~Marcel Proust

…And we pray, not
for new earth or or new heaven, but to be
quiet in heart and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

~Wendell Berry

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

~Mary Oliver

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes

~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.  ~John Muir

I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam. ~Annie Dillard

The Air was perfectly delicious, sweet enough for the breath of angels. Every drought of it gave a separate and distinct piece of pleasure. I do not believe that Adam and Eve tasted better in their balmiest nook.  ~John Muir

Supernatural grandeur expands our soul and helps us throughout the day to live not in glass-breaking tension but in tiptoe perspective. It’s the place where, in our “upward leap of the heart,” we see beyond the fray to the Father who does all things well.  ~Patsy Clairmont

And God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good. ~Genesis 1:31 KJV

I am rich, rich beyond measure, not in rectangular blocks of sifted knowledge, or in thin sheets of beauty hung picture like about the “walls of memory,” but in unselected atmospheres of terrestrial glory diffused evenly throughout my whole substance….  ~John Muir

When I entered this sublime wilderness the day was nearly done, the trees with rosy, glowing countenances seemed to be hushed and thoughtful, as if waiting in conscious religious dependence on the sun, and one naturally walked softly and awe stricken among them. I wandered…as if in some vast hall pervaded by the deepest sanctities and solemnities that sway human souls. At sundown the trees seemed to cease their worship and breathe free.  ~John Muir

*All photographs taken in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks where the glory of God is a breathable reality: astonishing, elevating, nourishing….for the one who sees.

 

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