Homebound: A Tour Of Mersea

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Christie and I are homebound. She, an author and writer of contemplative prose, is bound to Maplehurst, a red-brick farmhouse built by Pennsylvania Quakers in 1880. And I, a writer of poetry and prose, live in a small southern shrimping village. My home, Mersea, is an old white Victorian built in 1904. We are both writers, wives, mothers, but nearly twenty years and hundreds of miles lie between us.

Christie and I exchanged a few “Homebound Letters” over Lent. The nature of a letter is to communicate over a distance, but the season of Lent introduces other distances — there is the space between winter and spring, the break between longing and fulfillment, and the chasm, so like a tomb, between death and new life. But what is Lent, after all, but a kind of long homecoming? It is a practice of return and a way of erasing distance.

 

“Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them”Psalm 126:6). This is the meaning of Easter.

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Easter is watching all that miserable distance shrink, almost to nothing. Easter is no more letter-writing but a face-to face encounter. Christie and I haven’t yet achieved that, it remains our not-quite-yet, but here is our literary equivalent. Here, for you Christie, and for each one of you reading along, is your very own tour of Mersea at Easter time. I am so glad you’ve come to visit.

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Christie, welcome to Mersea! Not only do I welcome all of ya’ll, but the sounds of the sea gulls and songbirds, and the sweet smells of salt air and sea spray coming on shore, they welcome you too. As if on cue they are singing their own songs of gladness and welcome. Shrimp season has just re-opened here so Sweet, my english cocker spaniel and I walked to the end of the road to the seafood market this morning and bought fresh shrimp for our lunch. So I can promise the shrimp salad is fresh! And the girls provided the eggs for the deviled eggs. So they are fresh too. (Perhaps we can exchange recipes. I’d love some from you all.)

Let’s have lunch on the front porch in the spacious wicker rockers with all the cozy colorful pillows. You will learn so much about this small village by watching the locals walk up and down our sidewalks. There will be lots of bicycle riders too, of all ages. I hope my neighbor rides by today, the one who pedals her tricycle with her big fluffy dog tied to the handlebars. She always makes me grin. My hope and dream and wish is to ride my own bicycle into my seventies and eighties. She is an inspiration.

We will not be bored, watching the world go by, you and I and our lunch of shrimp salad, fresh lettuce greens from my garden and fresh picked chocolate mint in our glasses of iced tea. Every once in awhile a crabber will go by with his or her crab pots in the back of the pick up truck. There is such beautiful simplicity in the design of the pot and in making a living from the sea. The village will tell you some stories, if you sit still and listen.

This wobbly old front porch has recently won my heart and become my favorite room in the house. It doesn’t hide its age or the wear and tear of living. It flaunts the fact that it has survived at least two major hurricanes, if not more. I am sure you saw the sign posted on the front column when you arrived, the one presented by the Village Museum. I will tell you over lunch a little more about my decision to name the house Mersea. You see she already has one “official” name, The Thomas William Graham house. As you will see in a moment, she not only has two names, but two front doors as well.

I suppose I could be a bit prideful about how desperately we need to paint the exterior of the house, but change and renovation take time as you well know. There is a certain special kind of peace which comes in loving Mersea in her in-between place. I am beginning to wonder if she will be too shiny, too new, too polished once her new paint is applied to her old white boards.

Now, which door shall we enter. These two front doors of ours, I find them to be at once doubly welcoming and a bit odd. I have a passion for doors, so this suits me just fine. But when folks come to see us they are just not quite sure how and where to enter when we say “Come on in!”

In the springtime and anytime the weather is showing off, we leave the front doors open so that the outside can come in and bring its goodness. Fresh air and cool winds flowing through Mersea is one of my greatest joys. Open! Yes, open is always preferred. And two open provides double the sea air and gull cries and birdsong and smells of spring.

But we must have screen doors. As you know, the gnats and mosquitoes and the “no see ums” can be unbearable. We joke and say it keeps the village small, as it keeps folks away. One screen door slaps so hard you will likely remember its slam even when you return to Maplehurst. The other door is so loose it sometimes requires an intentional closing. This is one of many juxtapositions and idiosyncrasies you will see as we continue on the tour.

Let’s go through the foyer and through the dining room. Try not to peek as I want to show you these spaces a little later after we go to the kitchen to grab our lunch. You must be hungry as you have come so far. I made a pecan pie and we are having fig preserves with lunch. Both are a hat tip to the pecan and fig trees out back. I don’t make good biscuits, but I buy great biscuits. The biscuits are just a placeholder for the spoonfuls, plural, of fresh fig preserves. Bought too. But this summer I have big plans to make my own, like my mother used to do with figs from her fig trees. I am missing mother this first spring without her. Spring was her favorite time of year. So many things here at Mersea were gifts from momma. I will point them out to you as we go.

Would you like coffee or hot tea with your pecan pie?

To be continued…

(Follow along on Instgram @graceappears for more photographs of Mersea)

 

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Christie Purifoy has offered to give all of us a tour of her home. Click the link here to follow along on her Homebound Home Tour of Maplehurst At Eastertime.

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On New Birth

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On New Birth

I remember. Forgetting is not an option. And if it was, I would choose to recall every fragment of the story. Remembering and forgetting sit with mystery and paint the canvas of today. The brushstrokes of tomorrow hold wet paint of waiting. And the fragments’ fragments, I would recall each one.

We are marked as mother’s by the ways we bring life into the world. The ways. There are many.  Laboring for years of a life changes perspective. Like tears on a page, the lines blur after being soaked by saline droplets racing down rivulets over cheekbones and around earlobes. Salt enhances flavor. Every memory is tinged with vivid recollection. The tear catchers can tell of what they witnessed. They held hope and joy and pain in equal measure.

And seeing life through the lens of infertility becomes a lens for seeing the world. Because the waits and pauses and hold on’s feel again like that. Pregnant pauses weigh us heavy with wonder. The question that shouts from the heart is why. Why slow down or shackle? Why hold back on life and gift and art and the birthing of new. Wrestling and wrangling possibility, I remember what I forgot. Perfect timing demands time. It is the wellspring, the life source, the fountain of new birth.

This thing about new birth and creation and creative birthing?  It is constant. It comes. It walks in the door, it comes through the womb, it bursts forth from the soil and it erupts from the limbs of the pecan tree. And this other thing, its Irish twin is the mystery of when. In waiting on the birth of a creative project, I feel mystery in the infertility of now. Now feels pressed with wait. Now is held by the weight of wait. When is held by mystery.

So I adopt a posture of certainty. It comes in part from the trail of fat bread crumbs on the path of before. I am sure of the sureness. I am at peace with the pause. I am attending the beauty of the mysteries of but when. Because faith and hope and love are in the soil. And that is all I know. They are in the soil of the tree, the soil of the garden and the soul of me.

And when I forget, I come back to this. I am certain of the certainty of new birth. And I am certain of the power of a tear.

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Thank you for joining me.

peace and grace to you,

elizabeth

Airing Out The Soul

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Airing Out The Soul

The first warm breeze
It thaws the crusty lingering on
The hangers on of a deep winter of
A soul
Ice  cold  frozen tundra patches, folded over, held over,
Hidden in their fear and trembling
All the working parts and pieces
Leaves them high and dry, ice cold
In desperate need of a team of doctors
Remove the dead, breathe new life
Send them out regenerated, heavy with hope
Surgically implanted
Cleaning crews called in to raise the broom
Do some heaving lifting
Break down the  corner cobb webs
Lower the boom
Hang those blooming hanging pots
Make it look like Spring, feign a vain attempt
Extract every dust bunny, grab them by the tail
Send them packing
The temple needs the tables turned over
And over again

Re-arrange the furniture
And redecorate the soul

Start by cracking a window

Air out the smell of death

Grab a rag which smells of Pledge

And promise

Throw open the portals to the merciful new

And breathe a breath of birth

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Joining the team at Tweetspeak Poetry today with a Billy Collins prompt. We are spreading some wordcandy sweetness around this Eastertime. Visit wordcandy.me and dip into their box of goodies. You will fill your sweet meeter to the rim with all the offerings. The newest are the freshest for spring.

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Sweet Forgiveness

The prayer cottage.

A place to go and sit before the Lord in prayer and supplication. Small and welcoming.

But in this season the prayer cottage for this sinful soul, is one of the heart. My heart.

And this dwelling place needs dusting off.

Spring cleaning is needed in this place.

The get out the rubber gloves, the bucket of cleaning supplies, the harsh abrasive cleaning products and start with the baseboards kind.  A fresh coat of white paint and crisp linen curtains, exteriors would make this little prayer cottage look clean and white and prepared for prayer.Externals.  Superficial tending to will allow her to appear to be dressed in her Sunday best.  Ready for visitors.  Those in need of what she offers.

Freshly planted window boxes dripping with color, vibrant and showy take the eye off the truth, place it squarely on the exterior and the shell, the mask. The outer.

But  changing  externals does just that.  It doesn’t get down to the muck and the dirt, the soiled and the sin.  When what needs changing is a rewiring, a change in the fundamentals, the foundation.  The beating heart that pumps the blood.  The place of life. And all of lifes joy and pain.

Just as the Easter finery and freshly polished nails  can cover what lies within.

These heart places which need to be released of unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, distrust, disappointment need cleansing.  They need to be washed in the blood.  A paradox.  Cleaned by blood.  White by blood. The envy, jealousy, scraped off the walls of the heart and dumped in the trash, put on the curb, and carried off.  For good.

These dirty corners here in the dwelling place of the soul, the hearts yuck ,need to come clean. Room inspection is required, the looking under and over and around for all that is ugly and unpleasing to the One who made me.

We huddle over His word and with furrowed brow wrestle with forgiveness, the word.  The meaning.  God’s description and desire for us in this realm. God’s heart.  We process the weight of its importance to Him. We discuss  the kind thats all out, no holes barred.  The no holding on to any of it.  The surgically removing every cell of this cancer.  And the gift that comes with walking it out, forgiveness. Put words on what it bears and brings to the abundant life.

Hundreds of years of life huddle over the word, in one room in one house on one night. Many of us contributing a  half century or more of life to the count.

And its still there, the weight of forgiveness and unforgiveness.  And we still seek His Grace and His Mercy. We still want to receive it and offer it.  Offer it, give it–grant it.

I still need to jump off and jump in. I need Hope as a life jacket, and Grace as a buoy marking my way on this sea. And Mercy charting the maps around the rocks and the sandbars. I want nothing in the way of this path to the cross.

“The Cross was the place where God and sinful man merged with a tremendous collision and where the way to life was opened.  But all the cost and pain of the collision was absorbed by the heart of God.” — Oswald Chamber, “My Utmost For His Highest”

Lord, blow sweet and gentle winds of forgiveness into the sails of this ship. And take me into the pitch and toss of seas safely to the harbor of your Love and Grace.

Merciful hands of God, Merciful touch of God, Abundant Life-Giver God.

I thank you for your Cross.