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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Change


Change

She longed to change
Things
The ones with a beat
Red, pulsing, pumping the blood
To crack open the norm
Celebrate poetry with prose
Run in the opposite direction
Refuse to settle
Zig while they zag
Rise up and whisper above the screams
Press mute on the debate
Call for peace while there was war
Light a fire on the first day of Spring
Speak as silence suffocates the voiceless
In the spinning
Untangle the web
Raise the white flag
Cry for mercy
Shed tears for grace
Unfurl the banner of enough is enough
Tattoo love on her wrist to remind her of
Wood and nails
Set sail
For calm and deep in
Oceans of counterclockwise in a sea of clockwise
And dream of a world
In which Change would come

And Change remained
Died and rose again
And Change redeemed
Sweet dreams, lovers of Change
Easter is near
All will soon shout
Alleluia’s
Again

Color Me: Weekend Poetry

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Color Me

The color of mercy, royal aubergines and plum
Whimsy, fuchsia, lime and auburn
Reds, fiery wild and burning free
Navy, calm and self-assured

And when the last color is pulled from the box
An attempt to shade and cover-up
To re-make what is simply there
Erase it all and start again
Wipe it void and color-free
White, make me white
And free from pain and sin
Make me new
This Lent
Prepare my soul to meet The Christ,
The Empty Tomb, The Cross

Color me new
Color me anything but me

Prepare me
Easter new

And then send me out to color wild and free again
Outside the lines
Of timidity and fear, constrained and shackled
Held by death and sin
Send me out free
To make art and serve
Spilling forth Hallelujahs
In turquoise, rose and marigold
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Joining Sandy and Deidra for her Sunday Community

Jesus, The Cross &Tofu Scrambles

It was Easter and we had not watched any of The Bible series on The History Channel. I had planned to sit with the conclusion, the final episode this Easter evening with my husband and maybe a teenage child or two if we could get them to sit down and stay still. More challenging than the toddler years, some days with all the moving around. I longed to experience the story on the screen and to honor Him in re-living the story of His suffering as the creators portrayed it through art. But I was hesitant too because this was the final night and this was the Cross.

And as we prepared dinner and snuggled by a Spring fire, burning wood, warming the room, I said to my husband, I hear this is really hard to watch.

His brilliant response to me was isn’t that the point. I meant what I said and so did he and we were both “right”. Yes, it was both hard to watch and the point of the Cross.

We watched and it was difficult and that sounds overly simplistic. But don’t we want to turn away from the suffering and the blood. We want to shield our eyes and our hearts from the slow painful walk to the cross, Jesus falling over, the cross, so heavy, so very tortuous in its weight on his back. The magnitude of the moments there on the screen so filled with the cruelty of man. The vinegar on the sponge, the mocking. And there was certainly an out for us, golf or basketball or even Duck Dynasty re-runs. But not truly. There had to be the cross. And there was no out for Jesus.

And in the days since Easter the discontent and pain right here, well its hard to watch too. A teenager struggling mightily, friends and strangers arguing about theology or discussing scripture and its truths. Its hard to live it out. The pain of this life, this side of glory. The disappointment this week is oppressive. And wasn’t it just Easter with all its glory and hope and new. The news through the phone, through the screen, through the mouthes of those I love. There is suffering here.

But this we know.

I stumble on a recipe for tofu scrambles. While the photography is beautiful and the ingredients are fresh I don’t choose this for myself. Or my family. But I am not going to throw tofu scrambles under the bus. Literally or otherwise. I may throw them down the drain if I have a chance. Or I may think twice before turning my head in visceral disgust. Tofu, not a big fan.

But more and more I am learning about life and God from people who do not see the world or faith the way I do.  And when I start to shut my ears and eyes and heart then I shut down my capacity to love, the different, the not quite like me, the others in this world. When I start closing myself with all my senses, my capacity to love my willingness to love, well it will be next. And I am called to love, maybe not agree, but love.

My faith, my world-view and my interpretation of scripture are all as they are for me, now. But I seek to love those who have a nuanced view of this life as believers, as Jesus followers. And those who are not believers. Because I am called to love like Jesus loved.

More and more I find refuge and beauty in poetry. More and more I run there to express my heart, to find my creative place to play, to delve deep into life through the framework of the poetic.

But I step out of that for this. These words here.

I must think about how Jesus loved,  to review all that He said of love. Review in my mind how beautifully diverse his followers were, especially the early ones, the inner-circle. And aren’t we called as followers of Jesus to love as best we can in our brokenness and sinfulness like he loves. Like he loved. And in and by His power we can love deeper and more tenderly than on our own.

I have seen so much fighting and disagreement in these recent days.  And though I am tucked into my little part of this world,  I know I  am not alone. I have seen it very close up, audibly in my world. And I have witnessed it from a distance too.

This is being human. This is the world this side of heaven.

But can we love as we disagree? And disagree as we  love. Can we honor those with whom we don’t agree on matters of faith and walking- out- life decisions. Can we wrap ourselves in the cloak of the greatest of these, the one that bears all, the banner over all – Love.

And you can have your tofu scrambles and I may have my cheeseburger. And as I play back in my mind’s eye my night in front of a warm Spring fire while watching Jesus walk bleeding and bent. Christ wearing a crown of thorns, a cross on his back covered in blood, carrying my sin in scripture and on the screen. I want to weep.

I have to ask myself now and daily, how would Jesus love. And then I must walk out the answer as I hear it, in my daily living.

My poetry awaits. It is sort of like a carriage waiting to carry me off to a place of beauty and peace. But I cannot hide. I must love like Jesus.

I want to live as a child of God and I want to love like Jesus. So can we sit at the table of fellowship with our tofu and our cheeseburgers, break bread together, love harder and better and more like him.

And remember the Cross.

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joining Emily, Jennifer, and Shellyimperfectprose

mt church

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