Hitting Close To Home: Preaching To The Choir

 

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This season of Lent is carrying me to the garden.
We walk together to the sermon by the lettuces.
(The royal we unless you count the coal black English Cocker puppy, faithful by my side)
The figs preach a brief homily as I pass by, one of unflinching hope. It is a taunting message. Their green shoots and leaves trajectory seems sure. June is a garden’s lifetime away and yet they already are. Mine own growth seems fifty fifty at best.
Yesterday’s sermon soaked me good. I can’t shake the message or the feeling of kneeling wobbly on a bed of sweet conviction.
Even the baby limes the size of a quarter of a cracked open pistachio whisper something new. They grow, slow and steady, without reciting the Ten Commandments, praying the Prayer of Confession or being drenched by a thirst quenching sermon that leaves you parched for change.

All creatures great and small  are headed toward re-birth. My own feels questionable, less certain. And the homestretch between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday feels inadequate for my growth.
Not enough time to pick up speed, bear something tangible, edible and fully formed.

The garden, seated behind the lectern listens well. Responds in love.
I want to be the zinnia seed, the radish seed, the one buried in a rich soil of nearer certainty. Of nearer my God to thee. Tucked into the bed by hands who know that giving up and letting go bring more life to life.
That poetry is best heard in the slowness.
And that beauty is tucked in the bed with the beets.

The garden raises its instruments of praise. And a sings an early Easter song of hope and grace. My song is not quite ready. My time has not yet come.

And I remain. Toes buried in the soil. Rooted at the foot of the Preacher. If only I could hear the words. Those written just for me. I seek to hear,  even to read the lips would suffice.

So I remain. Seated in the wooden pew. As close to the choir as I can get. Preparing with those who will sing an Easter hymn.

A hallelujah flowered song of praise, rising up in billowy breath from the mouth of the truly changed one.

 

 

 

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Homebound: From Mersea To Maplehurst, With Love (March Third)

Welcome to Letter Two in the Homebound epistolary journey. To read Letter One, simply visit the page tab indicated on the home page here, at Elizabeth W. Marshall to read each letter in the series.

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March 3, 2017

From the leather sofa, seated beside the wiggly English Cocker puppy named Sweet, in view of copious amounts of pansies.

Dear One:

I am still savoring the words tucked into your recent letter from Maplehurst. Since my last letter we have witnessed both an explosion of color from early spring growth and a re-visiting of what feels like winter creeping back in. The seasons are overlapping and colliding. March is known to come in like a proverbial lion, right? I am looking forward to the birth of the lamb.

The pink azalea bushes are blooming, the ones in the front yard by the sidewalk. They say Easter to me. They always will. I gave into the temptation to bring home pink geraniums. The color choice is always a bit difficult. How odd that we can get stuck on small seemingly inconsequential things like petal colors. Pink is prevalent in my yard this year; pink camellias are still blooming along with the geraniums, the cherry tree and the azaleas. It is a new birth color, full of hope and possibility. It may just be the color of joy too.

I monitor the arrival of spring by taking note of the cherry blossoms. They pop open by the dozens daily, it seems. A favorite, the lady banks rose is climbing up and into the cherry tree, making it appear to be a hybrid with its mix of yellow roses and pink cherry blossoms. No house or trellis is needed. The tree generously gives the rose a home. They seem to be co-existing well, making space for each other.

With so many glorious changes in the yard and even in our lettuce and herb garden, it is easy to be content with focusing on the natural beauty. For now. While the pace of renovation and change is slower than I’d like, I cannot help but be grateful for how far we have come. There is enough natural change to distract me from my desire to make physical and aesthetic changes to Mersea. (And by design, everytime I say Mersea, I am reminded to be grateful.)

I am tempted to shift my perspective back to what I do not yet have. I struggle to focus on what I long for and what I want. There is a tension between contentment and gratitude and longing and desire. Is it always that way in doing the work of restoration?

When the cherry tree blooms I am reminded of that spring we fell in love with this old home. The tree seemed to call to me to explore and consider, to take a second look at the possibilities. And to dream and imagine the potential of making this our home. Beauty beacons us to stop, to pay close attention. And when beauty appears by way of the trees, the limbs, like arms wave an invitation to come closer.

Your own floor restoration at Maplehurst reminds me of our periods of significant restoration. We cycle through periods of growth and change, an ebb and flow not unlike the tides here. Restoration and renovation will come again to Mersea by way of sanding the exterior, fresh paint and new Charleston green shutters. But for now we wait. Thought not always by my design or of my choosing, this slow process of transformation shapes and changes me. It is formative.

I lean into the sacred time of waiting. There is much to learn in listening well, looking closely and seeing well. It happens best when we slow down. Perhaps this Lenten season will be for me about intentionally trying to re-discover the sacred ordinary and savoring the small moments of my life.

Our next big project is to reglaze the windows. The windows are the original ones which means they were born around 1900. There are a few broken and cracked ones, but they are all a little foggy with age. When the reglazing is complete will the pinks seems pinker? How much will our vision change because we have something new and shiny? And how much will be reality, how much only perspective?

Until the big projects get underway, I remain content with small changes. When Daddy came for a visit last week, the first since Mother died earlier this year, I knew exactly what to do. He and I love to porch sit and bird watch together, so I poured my energy into a front porch spring makeover. Somehow, we focused less on our grief and more on the moment. Interesting how something rather small brought us so much joy. In smallness, that is where the joy seems to hide. Grief comes like the tide and like the changes at Mersea, ebbing and flowing. Is it that way by design? Is it more manageable that way, the grief. The pain. And the change.

While Daddy was here, the robins stopped by as they migrated north. Droves of them gathered in the backyard, fueling up for their long trip northward. I wonder what they will find when they arrive at Maplehurst. I grieve with you the thought of spring being snuffed out by the frigid cold air that is predicted to interrupt spring. I am hopeful that you will preserve your early spring beauty and that you too will find joy in the robins this year. There is an optimistic bounce in their step as they go in search of fuel for their journey.

The lady banks, the fruit trees and the robins, I am learning from each of them this year. And from you, my friend. You too, teach me so much.

Peace and grace and warmth as the Lion of March moves through,

Always,

Elizabeth
Mersea

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Visit Christie Purifoy at her blog, Christie Purifoy, A Spacious Place where you can read more or her lovely writing, and learn more about her recently published book “Roots and Sky”.

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Homebound: From Mersea To Maplehurst With Love, March First

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Christie and I are homebound. I, a writer of poetry and prose, am bound to Mersea, a 1904 simple white Victorian, nestled in the historic district of a southern shrimping village. She is bound to Maplehurst, a red-brick farmhouse built by Pennsylvania Quakers in 1880. We are both writers, wives, and mothers, but nearly twenty years and hundreds of miles lie between us.

This season, as winter turns toward spring and Lent leans toward Easter, Christie and I are writing letters, she beneath the hemlocks and maples and I beneath the pines and pecans. We reflect together on our homebound journeys. We will explore the bonds of love and faithfulness that tie us, and not always easily, to these particular places and to the people sheltered within them.

Please join us for an epistolary exploration of love, loss and restoration.

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My first letter to Christie may be found here. To read Christie’s response click here or the link to her letter may be found at the conclusion of my own.

February 2017

(From my green leather chair, the color of pea soup, at Mersea)

Dear One:

The wind is almost violent today. The gusts are like bursts of labor; nature is birthing something weather-wise that reminds me of the hurricanes we have lived through. Mersea has seen more than I. But I have seen all I care to see in one lifetime. Last fall’s hurricane, the one named Matthew, made landfall here. We chose to ride it out, to stay with our home and so we witnessed the force, the power, the destructive nature of the wind.

Today when the wind stops howling it is so peaceful and yet there is this waiting. The pattern is set. There will be more rattling and rumblings. The wind comes in like a train too fast at the station. My heart calms and speeds up in tandem with the wind.

Each time the wind barrels through the pine trees I am reminded of the bending and breaking they do. How resilient they are. And yet, in a moment one could come down on the house. The gust too much for the fragile, weak or old tree. So much restoring left to do here and yet a ripped and damaged roof would add to the list of “we need to’s”. I love the restoring. It feels important and life-giving. But do I want to add a project birthed from disaster?

I love the trees here in the village and at Mersea. They are mostly old and grand , some pecan, some pine and some oak. We live with them and learn from them. They seem to be storytellers and teachers. Walking us through the seasons with hope and renewal. Pointing out and upward with limbs of praise.

In the winter they appear to be grieving. Bearing up under the weight of their bareness. Providing so much and asking so little. Generous to a fault like the one in the book, “The Giving Tree”. Givers and teachers and beacons of what’s to come, these trees seem to be. Shade givers and hammock holders. Tire swing hangers and fig producers.

The wind is coming in a little calmer now. Just as the seasons do, change comes if we hold on tight and wait. I can hear the songbirds better when the wind dies down. Their song is vibrant, telling a story I cannot quite interpret. But yet, and yet, I miss the passion of the heavy gusts.

Our restoration has slowed down a bit here. I miss the passion we once had. But in this time of dormancy I am learning contentedness in the waiting. The quiet lull between projects provides a sanctuary of sorts. I must wait. And it is always good, no better even, when I do. It changes and shapes me, this waiting.

Peace and grace to you and your beloved Maplehurst. You are on my heart as I wonder what is being birthed and restored in your own heart and in your home.

Wishing you joy and hope in your restoration,

Elizabeth,  Mersea

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To read Christie’s beautiful response to me from Maplehurst  follow the link to her blog found here. Christie, author of “Roots and Sky” writes on her blog Christie Purifoy, A Spacious Place

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Dear Henry – “Letters From The Village” – Day Two

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A letter for my future grandchild calls him to see, calling him to be, aware, alive and grateful for the beauty in his grace-filled days.

Dearest Henry,

The squid ink squirts across the night
Sky, a canvas
Blackening, a blanket for sleepy day’s cover
And you will look up while holding my hand
To soak in a heavenly sea of delight
The pin pricked sky over Jeremy Creek
Twinkles its twinkling radiant stars
Flashing and blinking and winking at you

Cast your eyes, your chin tilted skyward
Throw out your vision as shrimpers their nets
Connect the dots with your gaze make big dipper
Then squeeze tight my hand while we gaze
At the moon,together
The man in the moon is smiling at you
Sweet Henry, sweet child
He’s smiling at me, he’s grinning at us

And one night its cuticle thin like a sliver
Cut with precision, smooth as french silk
Capture the glory now in your memory
Maker
Capture it now for tomorrow brings change
Somewhere so briefly between the waxing and waning
A thin sliver hangs graceful over our dreams
Blink and it changes, sleep and its gone.

Tomorrow when sleepy day goes down for the night
You and I will walk out to the edge of the world
The edge of the water its lapping and flapping
Bobbing the shrimper’s boats like toys in the bath
And the sky will become radiant with color
We’ll stare at the pinks, the hot and the cool ones
Right before orange blazes her brush through the sky.

And off to the heavenlies the day will retreat
To sleep beside dipper and man in the moon
The day will rest up for her glorious tomorrow
And you dear Henry will sleep awhile too
For tomorrow there are treasures and glorious discoveries
To make and unwrap, to claim and collect
Tomorrow the sea will deliver her beauties right at the feet of sleepy-head you.