This Post Is Not About Anything: A Guest Post From Christie Purifoy

I have the honor of having my new writing friend Christie Purifoy guest-posting here today. If you don’t yet know this beautiful soul and her art, you are in for something simply wonderful. Though I have only known Christie for a short while, I feel I have know her as long as her Victorian home, Maplehurst, has been providing a backdrop for living in southeastern Pennsylvania. Christie is real and fresh. And her writing speaks for my own tired soul on days I can only mumble, “me too”.

You will hear a deep thinker but one who is unpretentious. And you will fall in love with the art and the heart of this woman. Christie, I am honored.

sparklymessWM (2)

The close of day one of Daylight Savings found my husband Jonathan and I washed up like wreckage on our old green sofa. We could hear all four kids still awake in their rooms. Maybe that is why we left the dinner dishes on the counter and the toy dinosaurs on the floor and simply sat right where we happened to be. We were too tired and too irritated by the noise to attempt anything productive.

We had no energy for choosing or making a plan, but the evening chose something for us. Something lovely. Jonathan opened the laptop left lying on the floor. He hit play on a recent episode of Austin City Limits, and we let the sounds of one of our favorite musicians wash away every irritation and tired distraction.

Listening to these songs, I remembered that the lyrics have always been indecipherable to me. I have no clue what this singer is singing, and yet these song have been some of my favorites for years. They are soaked in beauty, drenched in emotion, and, listening to them, I found myself floating in a rich sea of meaning.

I don’t know what they are about, but I seem to know just what they mean.

***

Living my ordinary day-to-day, I often find myself tripping over the same question. Something like, what is the point?  What is the point of sweeping this floor, what is the point of baking this bread, what is the point of putting the toys back in the basket? The floor will be dirtied again in minutes, the grocery store sells bread, the basket will be upside down in no time at all. If my life is made up of these seemingly pointless activities, then what is my life about?

I am afraid that my life is not about anything beyond time wasted, tasks repeated and minute-by-minute survival. Yes, the minutes might be adding up to something good, but when the minutes are messy I can never feel sure.

But what if I am not asking the right question?

***

The film critic Roger Ebert used to say, “It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it.”

These are important words for more than just movies. These are words to remember for novels. For poems. For paintings. Whether we are making them or enjoying them. These are words that help us appreciate the wholeness of a work of art as well as the small grace notes.

These are words that honor the joy of creation.

We do not ask ourselves what the sky is about. I has a purpose. It is far from pointless. But its meaning is blueness. Spaciousness. Openness. Its meaning is shelter and canvas. Its meaning is the joining of heaven and earth.

What is my life today about?  I don’t know. But how is my life about this thing called living?

My life is about fresh clean skin after a shower. My life is about butterfly kisses on my baby girl’s cheek. My life is about lighting a candle. Brewing tea. Even the back and forth beauty of my arms holding the broom.

I focus on the how, and I am convinced.

My life–yours too–is about great things.

+++++++++++++++++++

Christie Purifoy writes at an old desk in the parlor of a Victorian farmhouse called Maplehurst. After earning a PhD in English literature from the University of Chicago, she traded the university classroom for a large kitchen, garden and a henhouse in southeastern Pennsylvania. When the noise of her four young children makes writing impossible, she tends zucchini and tomatoes her children will later refuse to eat. The zucchini-loving chickens are perfectly happy with this arrangement. The chickens move fast and the baby even faster, but Christie is always watching for the beauty, mystery and wonder that lie beneath it all. When she finds it, she writes about it at There is a River (www.christiepurifoy.com)

DSC_7412_3-1

+++++++++++
Joining Jennifer Dukes Lee for #tellhisstory and Emily Wierenga at Emily Wierenga dot com for Imperfect Prose

You Could Always Just Say Thank You

thank you peachSometime during the growing up years, in the South,  where I was raised and am raising mine ,we learned something about the transactions of words. And the early lessons get buried  the deepest if the soil is rich and the heart is receptive and the love is fertile. We feel shy and unworthy in our youth when words of encouragement or of the complimentary variety are showered on our heads. But we were told. Just say thank you. And isn’t even that difficult sometimes. It means we hear, we receive, we acknowledge that we caught the bouquet of gracious words.  We  now hold them, bear them, own. them. Grasping them even in our fragile souls. Thank you is the acknowledgement we at least hear and receive.

But we know it is much deeper and more complicated than that. It is a holy and sacred transaction.

And then there is the saying them ourselves. Two words. Unfurled from our tongues, released from our lips. Remembering to. Meaning to. Wanting to. Sending them out to others. Often. Authentically.

Yesterday we met some lively young women. And it was our privilege to pile them on our boat. We headed out to the secluded beaches of this Lowcountry coastline and basked in the glory that was the beauty of one summer day. The Patient one was at the helm and like all good captains he cared well for his charges. They delighted in every small detail of the day. Every shell they found, every glance at the horizon, nothing was lost on their porous souls. The day poured into them and they reflected back the joy in their countenance. Smiles of  delight from those a generation below us are contagious. And we remember to sing a song of wonder too.  At the end of the day, they turned, one in particular, and said thank you to their captain. For the day, for the adventure, for the journey. And that gray haired man,he lit up.  And he beamed a  boyish grin. One that gratitude and gratefulness can birth.

One of my favorite poets is John Blase of “The Beautiful Due” blog. A recent poem of his written forFather’s Dayspeaks to saying Thank You. In his straight forward and profound style of poetry, I found his words tucked  brilliantly into the gentle  lines of this poem. He  amplifies  the power of saying this to men. No  doubt it is important  to shower genuine, authentic gratitude on those who pour into our lives. But maybe I need to re-think the frequency of these words leaving my lips to my husband, among others.

This morning I turned to him and said quite simply, thank you for all you do to take care of us. It changed me. It changed him. Gratitude always changes us. The air in the room softened. The mood lightened. That Monday mood where everything wants to feel oppressive and needy and urgent, if we allow it. It felt kinder and gentler.

Thank you says we are blessed. Thank you says I love you. Thank you says your efforts are not in vein. They are appreciated. And they are beautiful.

We prayed on this Monday. And we thanked God.

And I am reminded how much I take for granted. How many times I have missed the lessons of my childhood. You could always just say thank you. 

We sat on the porch last night. Our souls rocking to the lapping of the Intercoastal Waterway, under the super moon, hair and skin kissed by  salted sea. We are molded by the gifts. And the discussion turns to how much manners matter to people. Small cultural nuances, like respect and gratitude, standing at the proper time for young men, saying thank you, helping others. We have heard these lessons all our lives. And the South won’t let up, in some small pockets. In our homes we are bearing down on good manners. Because respect and gratitude and a servant’s heart fall into the laps of appreciative adults. And sow good things.

God, please remind me to hear these lessons too. The ones we are trying to teach. Of saying with my lips what I feel in my heart. Of pouring out to others,  helping and serving. Of getting outside of myself and seeing and hearing a need in another. Of responding in love. Of living a life which reflects how grateful I am to be YOURS. To know you

And because I want you to know, Lord hear my thank you this summer Monday in the middle of June. Remind me to speak a vertical thank you always and to extend a horizontal thank you often. In love, in sincerity. Wanting nothing in return. A transaction of a pure heart. A grateful heart. A heart that knows you.

I want to always say thank you.  Not out of rote duty or empty cultural mores, not flowing from cliched patterns of speech or lessons of my youth.

I want to grow a thank you spirit in my home and in my very soul.

And then watch the changes that will occur in me and in the lives around me. Vertical, horizontal words of grateful praise.

Make my life a hymn of praise, in all the moments that are gratefully mine.

Joining Laura at The Wellspring and Michelle at Michelle de Rusha dot com and Jen for SDG

Don’t Tell The High School Guidance Counselor I Said This

books little switzerland 2

I bought a calendar.

I thought that there might be some sort of freedom in being without one. Or was I trying to stretch my capacity for memorizing facts and dates.

I struggle with a faint fear of losing my memory one day. The one who bore me has dementia and it could be in me waiting to pounce.

Sometimes I write and I pause at a word and the word comes slower. So I write more and more. It’s as if a muscle is being worked in the gym of my mind.

I want my children to have my words when they don’t have my words any longer.

When I first started blogging I was determined to use the word I in my posts infrequently, verging on the never.

Today I am breaking my rule of no I’s in my posts. It is a selfish pronoun but it is necessary. I could shift to the third person but that would be silly because at this point you know it is me to whom I am referring.

Putting things on my calendar yesterday felt like a good and needed discipline. There is a tension in the space between spontaneous living and purposeful, intentional living out of days.

I see things less poetically if I am strapped down and bound by restraints of time and space. You know there is a quote about that, the poet is working when she is staring out the window. I need to look up who said it because it is true and brilliant. And it helps me understand where poetry is born.

If you have been reading here for awhile you know the focus on poetry. If you haven’t you can read the title of the blog and then you would know. I think poetry is saving me and giving me new eyes. Both.

Therefore, poetry is important.

There is a way of seeing the poetic in life which comes from breathing deep and walking slow. Of staring long into the places and moments of a day.

If I look out the window long enough I see the beautiful, not the dirt. And I long to write of the beautiful rather than reach for the Windex.

Yesterday I met with my daughter’s guidance counselor to go over her graduation plan. She was doing her job and she does it well.  We were making her schedule for next year and picking courses. This planning of my youngest’s senior year is heart wrenching work.

I starred at her blue eyes and drowned a little in the talk of college.

We talked of AP Spanish Four and of AP English too. Of her plans to be a Pediatric Dentist, of GPA’s and SAT’s and Class Rank. And I felt really hemmed in that office. And thought a bit about how things change.

And we are making plans so far ahead and so much can change. And I know that we need this dance of the deliberate and the planning out of a life.

But where is the dance of the poetic. And what if the dreams change or crash. What if her heart changes her mind.

We would walk in and write out a course change slip and off we would go to a new dream and a new class. Plans and changes of plans. The now and the surprise of tomorrow. The dance of uncertainty and the plans for a life well lived.

There is so much beauty in the savoring of now. And intentional living keeps wandering minds from going too far off track. And we need a plan and a dream and a schedule.

I dance between these two worlds daily.

I am off to work on my calendar and write down some important dates and plans and appointments and a writing schedule of sorts.

And I hope that I don’t lose my poetry along the way. I hope my dancing shoes don’t fall off. It has taken me a lifetime to learn to dance in a place of the poetic. And I don’t want to stop now.

The high school guidance counselor does important work. I am grateful for her and her ability to keep folks like me on track.

I wonder if she saw my mind wander a bit. But don’t tell her I said that. Sometimes the mention of SAT and Class Rank cause me to glaze over a bit.

I am writing now like there is no tomorrow and I am finding great relief in doing so. I knew I was really drawn to the words of my favorite poet Billy Collins.

I wonder how he feels about the use of the word “I”. I have used my quota for the month here.  I wonder if my mind is fading and how long I have with it.

I will be writing a lot in the months to come. And there I go making plans. Maybe I was listening to the guidance counselor after all.

If you subscribe you may want to stop following as it may get a little too verbose in these parts while I exercise my mind in the gymnasium of my heart by lifting the weight of the words.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

joining Eileen and Heather295b3123-4a67-4966-8a77-222919b9921c_thumb_BR_44

6144223072_aba44084aa_m

 

6025924437_0eed108371_mOneWord2013_Art

Lean On Me

{Joining Amber at The Run A Muck for her concrete word prompt writing series on Monday’s. Today we are writing on the word, rock. Join me at Amber’s where a wonderful community is gathering around the abstract.}

When the air is hot, steamy humid southern summer style, trademarked by its moist heat, they hold the cold.

They bear relief.

Stone cold stares of people I have known, revealed again in the smooth strength of boulders. Unwavering. Unflinching. Heavy, solid mountain variety.

Slate grey’s and shale ash, cool their colors. Relief found in the sight of them.

And on that mountain porch, the one on the front of that house built in 1908, we tip back on green chairs. In a line like the Rockettes we rock back and forth to the rhythm of the crickets. Music from the valley calms the night. Black night air blows in cool from over the rock laden mountains, bringing relief from the heat of the day.

He tips back and forth, stares straight out with the calm cool stare, the mountain stare, all worry and anxiety gets left down in the lowlands. This place offers relief. He puts his cares on ice. Once his bags are packed and the altitude changes to something well above the sea level life we live, he chills.

Twenty-fifth anniversary looming ,the rock of all these ages of my life still bears up the burden of the four of us. We lean hard on him.

The chip off the old block, first born is gone. He learned of life from the rock at the mothership, how to anchor a life on hard work. How to avoid running aground, steering clear of the rocky coast lines.  And one day soon there will be someone leaning hard on him. And they will lean on Him.

The getting up and rolling out on four wheels in the morning to support a trio of kids, growing, going, gone. One gone and another one’s on the way out. Rolling out and on to college in a few more months. I lean in hard and bear all my weight on his strength.

Those green chairs on that porch wait for him to prop up and cool down and stare again into the valley. The flinty stares into the fog help clear the mind of the rock on which I lean. More of a boulder really on most days.

 But we stand on Him together. And when our footing gets slippery, like the sliding rock we go down with the children to the pool of moutain water waiting at the bottom, we stand again, straighter, taller leaning on Him and standing on His rock.

And now some days he rocks, or sort of sways and it looks child-like. Self-calming, a slow and steady back and forth.

The worries fall, like an avalanche, off of men and man.

We’d crumble, crack, roll down the mountain if it weren’t for this firmament, the foundation He gave and gives, in the new of every day. I can see the days of the way ahead in the now. Rocking off into the sunset of our years.

His words a lullabye to the weary. We rocked those babies endlessly at night, noon and morning. And it soothed us too. Calmed the mother and father of the babies as we fell asleep with them on our laps. Rocking away the cares of a day. While rocking a baby or two to sleep at night.

This man who put a white rock on my left hand nurtures babies like a woman. He brings home the bacon, cracks the eggs, rocks babies and cooks the bacon too.

We stumble, we fall, we roll Humpty Dumpty off the wall of this life, but unbreakable is he.

On solid rock we stand.

With the soundtrack of our life playing The Reverend Al Green, always.

rock wall a FAVE moss shadows lichenrockboulder infront of foot bridgespring with moss on an angle edited

i-P9wn5Qq-1

Joining Laura at The Wellspring and Jen.

e79f1c72-672d-40a2-b768-2fae490d02b3_thumb_BR_44