Homebound: From Mersea To Maplehurst With Love, March 9

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Christie and I are homebound. I, a writer of poetry and prose, am bound to Mersea, a simple white Victorian, nestled in the historic district of a southern shrimping village. She is bound to Maplehurst, a red-brick farmhouse build 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.

Welcome to my third letter in the series. To read Christie’s previous letters and more of her beautiful words go to her web site, found here. To read all the letters in the Homebound Collection, visit the tab at the top of my home page, entitled The Homebound Letters.

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March 9, 2017

(From home after being away)

Dear Christie:

The brown leather sofa in the parlor is holding me with a familiar leather scented embrace. A cool night has left the house chilled, but I am warmed by both blanket and puppy. What an apt name my husband has given our sweet English Cocker whose name is Sweet. She chooses to stay by my side as I write, apparently my absence was noticed as she leans in especially close this sunny morning. Perhaps she missed me, as I missed all things familiar, all things home.

Christie, as you know I accompanied my friend to Boston for a trip to Mass General Hospital. We left on a Tuesday, returned on a Wednesday and I am back to my beloved writing on a Thursday. I am viewing home now with the lens of leaving. Leaving and returning bring many gifts, one is a newly framed perspective. I like the frame. It focuses me, like the European silver with a bit of patina that I chose to frame my son’s portrait here at Mersea.

Perhaps leaving reawakens all the senses and plants tiny seeds from the experiences within us. What seeds have I brought back which I will need to tend to and water? How will I grow because of where I have gone?

I imagine we are all being renewed daily. During this Lenten season perhaps I am more keenly aware of renewal. It feels more present and sacred this year. I long for it more deeply, and am even slowly chasing after it. Somehow I feel we are beginning to meet, change and I. She is gentle. And she is patient and willing to wait for me even as I must wait on the minute radish seeds in our garden to grow into edible radishes. I must wait for the natural process of seeds transforming into bulbous red radishes.

But it is worth the wait. For I will slice the radish thinly, place it on a thick slice of grain toast with avocado, arugula and fried egg like the one I sampled in Boston. And it will be good. A simple good that comes along as gift. Why is it that I want to slice the radish thinly so that it becomes translucent, nearly transparent? Are we called too to be transparent like the cut radish?

When I was in Boston, I tried to make it my temporary home. To be rooted there for but a blink. Graciously Boston gave good gifts. The signs along Charles Street provided a curated display of simple art. Each one, uniquely designed and hung with care outside of the shops spoke to pride of place. I walked at a snail’s pace along the bumpy and worn brick sidewalk, looking up and studying the design of each shop keeper’s home.

Rich conversation was a by product of this long journey for a bittersweet visit. The seventh floor of Mass General held both sorrow and joy. During one of our talks, my wise friend reminded me that joy and sorrow can and do coexist. We can celebrate the miracle, slivers and slices and servings of joy even while grief, sorrow and sadness are present. What mystery there is in celebrating what they each bring.

Flying looks like a metaphor for our lives. The experience felt new as I hadn’t flown in a long forever. I have lost my wanderlust. Maybe I have found other things to replace it and it is not therefore a true loss. My desire to go faraway anymore has been mostly snuffed out.

But this was an invitation to go. I wonder about all I would have missed if I had said no. What a place of honor to travel as a companion and co-traveler with my beloved friend on her journey. I call her teacher too. We have much to learn from each other about loss, love and restoration. Christie, oh how I am enjoying your letters! And you too are teaching me about important things.

On this micro-journey, as in life, we experienced delay, turbulence and frustration. But there was joy too in seeing the unparalleled aesthetic beauty of the clouds. Their shape, color and mysterious movements, viewed from a plane window are spectacular. Childlike wonder sat with me. I thought I knew how to press into looking up at the clouds from my earthbound, rooted place. But glimpsing the cotton white masses moving against an azure blue backdrop at eye level reminded me there are new ways to see everything.

And there was joy in being, just being with a friend and meeting kind souls along the way, such as the world’s coolest Uber driver. The news was good in Boston and so we are full of rejoicing. Is this a preview of what is to come at Easter-time?  We are moving in that direction, the place of newness. I hope I am ready and that I am changed.

Today I will go to the tiny post office here in the village to mail some thank you notes. I wish I could box up and mail you a package of springtime. It would contain color and hope, buds and seeds, pieces of me and Mersea. My hope for you is that it will not delay, this true and fully fledged spring.

In time we will both celebrate its arrival. Spring will come for all of us. Newness and change are the sweetest of gifts. I hope I unfurl my clutched fists to receive it all. And to allow the gift of change in me.

Peace and grace to you,

Elizabeth
Mersea

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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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In Your Own Words — Restoration (A Guest Post On The Blog of Charity Singleton Craig)

Join me, please as I share my word of the week Restoration as part of a beautiful series hosted by my writer/friend/blogger Charity Singleton Craig.

Every other Thursday, Charity invites writers to writer about their word of the week. Mine,

Restoration — noun

the act or process of returning something to its original condition by repairing it, cleaning it, etc.

the act of brining back something that existed before

the act of returning something that was stolen or taken

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Restoration

(Fly with me over to Charity’s. It is a beautiful place filled with her words and the words of her favorite writers.  And my poem is featured there today. What an honor. Join us...Click the link and you’ll be there by the magic and mystery of the internet)

Rest, Restoration and The Golden Hour

pond scarf hammock faveI took myself on a bit of a wild goose chase. Wild goose chases are exhilarating if they are productive. And I was in need of a wildly curious wondering off into the blue. Off into a land of discovery.

Good health had been mine for a very long time. Rolling along for what seemed like an eternity, I had not been sick. Until I got sick. I am not sure what “under the weather” means or from where it originated. I could go on a wild goose chase and uncover more about this expression.

But where was I. Oh I was sick. So sick. My ordinary became scrambled and my body and soul cried out for rest and restoration. And when one enters the land of blah and stays there for what feels like an eternity, self-pity can creep in.

And that is where perspective-changers come in. You know them. And you have them in your own life. Friends who break through the dark and dank. The dull and gloom. They change your perspective with a word or phrase of encouragement and offer hope on a proverbial silver platter.

I was admittedly wallowing. Feeling less than poetic. Uncreative. And sick and tired of being sick and tired. The sun was coming out on the outside but the insides of my world were deeply entrenched in winter. So as any good self-pitying poet would, I felt pathetically left out of the bright and sunshiny world. And fell into the land where the blah trees grow. My world was blanketed by rest and restoration. Hmmmm, sounds like an enviable, vacation like place in which to linger.

I didn’t see it that way. I saw through the lens of pain and sadness.

A friend sent me a well-timed text, a quote and a word. And I latched on and sped off in pursuit of wild geese. And I  fell in love with the words of J.M. Barrie. She texted me this quote late one afternoon as I lay in my bed, sick and tired. And it was like honey on the back of my throat, and a warm bath drawn for lingering, for soaking a weary soul. It was simply, medicinal.

“You must be warned against letting the golden hours slip by; yes, but some of them are golden only because we let them slip by.” – J.M. Barrie

And then she, my friend, said these words:

“So rest and restore and live to play another day.”

How simply profound. These words found me in a place of soul fatigue. Feeling like I was dormant, passive even and that life was actively passing me by while I was hurting and trying to heal.They revived my weary spirit. And that lead to a bit of a goose chase. (You thought I forgot about the goose chase.)

These words lifted me, gave me hope and I became ravenous, not just hungry for more. So I went in search and found wonderful quote upon quote from the author of Peter Pan. And I accepted and received the implicit permission I was given this particular evening, to rest and restore and prepare for the healing. To sink down into the dormant time of sickness, to lean into a time of rest which would give way to healing. And to save up and expect the beautiful, the wholeness and wellness  to return to my living.

I could see that passion and beauty would return. With the smallest of shifts in my perspective, ushered in on the wings of a friend’s words.

Words are that for me. Agents of healing. Life-affirming and life-giving.

So as I read more of Barrie’s words and reflected on my season of sick and ick, I came to the thought that perhaps one of the greatest gifts we can give is the gift of encouragement to one another. And I love the picture of the Golden Hour and its various meanings. (I have been on a goose chase discovering the meanings of this phrase too. More on that soon.)

I have uncovered some words for you. May you be encouraged by his today. And perhaps one day or some day even mine. Because I think I was made to write and encourage. And maybe I got well so I could continue to do both.

For goodness sakes I had a sinus infection, though I felt I was a death’s door, I would clearly recover. But in this time of sickness followed by healing,  I realized even more clearly, as the passion slowly came back: I do desire for my own art to be life-giving, to inspire, to encourage and to whisper a call to see beauty and to shift perspective.

Sometimes it takes a period of pain to regain perspective all over again. To redeclare what our art is called to do. To define more clearly our purpose and our call. Pinpoint how it is we are to use the gifts, well. Not just good. But well. Perhaps very well.

Enjoy these words from J.M. Barrie. And if you need to rest and restore, take care and do. Perhaps we can play another day.

“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”

“Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always try to be a little kinder than necessary?”

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Thank you for allowing me to bring my words here. May you be encouraged to find the poetry and the beauty that is uniquely in this day.

Joining Lyli, sweet Lyli