Hitting Close To Home: Finding Lovely In The Places Nearby

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I am looking for a passport which bears the name of someone other than myself. I think it’s tucked away among old stained t-shirts and outgrown boy things. I stop to imagine the uncovering. Of both the semi-lost passport and of the waiting wonder and beauty on this trans-Atlantic journey. The hunt for this documentation, necessary for going away, is taking me places I never imagined I’d go. A circuitous journey of coming back around to my staying home.

It is enough, this vicariousness. There is profound joy and deep satisfaction in mental wandering. I wonder about the topography of Wales, the weather and whether it will rain or not. And if it does, what does a post-rain village smell like in the springtime there. Old brick and ancient soil co-mingle to tell stories, an aromatic telling. (I can read of Wales from here and I can see a hundred photographs. But the smells, I must net them in my wildest dreams. Capture them in my imagination. That is the sense that takes me travelling in place.)

Wet or damp, dry and cool, how do the fields smell. Sweet like wildflowers or pungent like arugula and rosemary, whose powerful scents explode in their breaking. The pastures, splaying out from ancient castles like oceans of green grasses, blade on blade of lovely; how do they wave in the wind? A green that only May may know, that is the green of my imagining. Green, a favorite smell is the green that shouts new birth.

Each dream, each splinter of my imagination is rooted in love. This season, the one in which I find myself, is one of staying. Of anchoring. Of tethering. I am harbored close to home. All of my travels are in the soil of nearby.

I both remember London fondly and recall my dormant desire for returning. I grieve for what I missed, victim of a younger me wasting time in a city I long to experience her again as an older version of myself.

So I may ask them to visit a bookstore for me, to bring me a something I can hold of that place. Go in my stead. Yet, I do not want my influence to attend their journeys. I want this trip to be wholly theirs in every way. I imagine the places the soles of their shoes will mark. I close my eyes and dream about the planes and trains and automobiles that will whisk them along from town to town. They will soar and fly and rumble, while I will remain in place.

But I have my own rumblings to lean into. And I have my own soaring to do. I ride on the wings of words. And I go faraway in the nearby. I am discovering the shards of lovely in the places nearby.

When they return, when they all return, I am the receptacle of experiences not my own. They dig deep into the well of experience and I am there, far from here. Removed from my present place. I receive their experiences and stories, soak them in and hold on to a re-living. They take me with them in their telling.

The squeak in the eighth stair down, is my siren call to stay. It reminds me as I travel up and down this staircase, built circa 1904, that I am going back and forth through time. I live in a time capsule, a concrete paradox of staying and leaving.

Yesterday the dirt was dark and thick. Each fingernail held the soil-turning of the day, by hand. I placed the pansies into the containers, chosen by design for their size and significance. I dug into the contentment of staying put.

Staying calls me to dig deep in the narrow fields. It forces my hand to root out the nuanced beauty that lies in wait. If I am to discover anything, I must know how to discover the nearby first before I go out in search of more. I must rejoice here, celebrate here, if I am to be practiced at perfecting discovery anywhere else.

The squeak in the eighth and ninth stair combine to play a duet. And I am content to strike the chords of staying.

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Burnt Toast

Nearly 25 years in
I decide to ask for burnt toast
Villa D’Este can wait
Napa can ripen longer
On the vine, time sweetens
And Blackberry Farm ,well
The longing after this place and that
Over the Blue RIdge Mountains and beyond
Can’t match
The burnt toast, smell it, love is in the air
Behind it there is a love story
Of trying and failing
Trying and succeeding
Routine and change
Marmalade mornings
Love  wafts in the air, the fan dispersing the stale
Ruined, never
Broken, neither
Saved by grace, always
Love lingering somewhere
Cut and scrape
The black crumbs down the drain
Make it new and lovely
Paris is perfect for lovers
And no greater Francophile lives
Than I
But for me, on my anniversary
Champagne and burnt toast
Please
Living the dream while
Going nowhere
Love carries us everywhere.

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The Narrowing

dolphin duo show offsWe discuss the newlyweds in Spain. Their picture has just popped up on Instagram. I confess now this is something I could really long for. I might even really want to do this, go there. They are sitting under a shade tree, white linen table spread like a banquet with olives and wine and cheese and the cured meats. And they are smiling relaxed newly married bliss-filled smiles.

We are riding down the salty creek in our little boat when we stop to visit with friends sitting up on the top deck of their house boat. They are breathing in salt and watching the old lady dolphin swim, rising up above the surface now and then, she smiles at them. And they exhale the stress of their long work week in a thriving restaurant business. Owners never seem to sleep. I tell her “I hope you have a wonderful sunset tonight”. And her response is Elizabeth, you know, I really don’t care. Her cup is full with all that is there. There is nothing lacking in her dusk date with her husband.

And they tell us they are celebrating ten years of being in business with a really big trip. They are going to Scotland for three weeks. I exhale, ah Scotland.  And remember my two trips there. Lovely, they were. Good memories I have. And it creeps up again, this hazy desirous emotion and longing. Should I stay or should I go. In my inner parts, into my day dreams. Into my internal wish list.

There is a well-aged and well-tended friendship in my life. I believe I tell her everything. She has the enormous responsibility of listening to me spill it out, beat it to death, and wallow in it. My stuff. I confess, I complain, I confess some more. I doubt. I dream. And I drop off all my innermost parts at her feet. I am safe with her.

And in her wisdom she reminds me that no matter what we do or where we go we always have fun, in the simple. She reminds me of this truth. We have discovered the journey into extracting maximum joy from some of life’s most simple activities. We are four. We are two couples who though we have had our passports stamped a time or two, are happiest now in the execution of a simple plan. One of discovering that life explodes with God beauty in the trips down the African Creek, the one right here in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. And life is beautiful when we pack a sandwich, even bologna, or especially bologna, and kayak out to the wooden cross on the shore of the Waterway.

He came up to me yesterday with the heart of a child. Laid out all of the shells he was collecting on the kitchen table. They were all so shiny. There is a scientific term for the shimmer and sheen, the particular sparkle and shine. But the child in him just saw the shiny. And he pulled out a light and shined it on the splendor and everything glistened in this moment of ordinary.

And then he brings me his two special ones. He is not a mid-Fifties adult, he is a child, wide-eyed discoverer of beauty.

These he says, these are my special ones. Please don’t move them. He has found extraordinary beauty in these two found objects. Because they are imperfect. They are perfect. Barnacles and a  combination of shells have been molded together by the sea  to make a hybrid of beauty. And this is all we will ever need.  This sacred simple.For we are learning to go into the land of discovery of the God simple. The natural wonder of the unexplored. Exploring what is under our sandy toes and sun-burned noses.

We cut the motor on our favorite part of the creek and it seems that all we can see is green lush marshgrass, oystershells and sky. There is so much sky. Have I forgotten how large that canopy of unending sky is.  How could I forget the shades of blues so life-giving even on a cloudy day. And water. We are surrounded by water, sky, and wonder. And then the pod of frisky dolphin show up and we are all children. Each one of us in our human pod of four, is a child filled with a spirit of  fresh discovery.

And we are narrowing. And we are traveling. And we are home.

Oswald Chambers writes:

“If you ask for things from life instead of from God, ‘you ask amiss’; that is, you ask out of your desire for self-fulfillment. The more you fulfill yourself the less you will seek God.”…seek, and you will find…” Get to work-narrow your focus and interests to this one thing.”

Our conversation, the one with my friend Harriet,  turns to Him and any desire we have to “go and do”. It is our term for living. Unless He plans the trip, we decide we don’t really want to go after all. Because traveling on the outskirts of His will, is less than each time. And isn’t seeking Him as children the better way. And isn’t seeing His world as children, with the impressionable spirit of a discovering child the most tender way.

Our conversation, the one with my husband, turns to an older couple who are no longer walking out this earthly life. He reminds me of their routine. He says do you remember how they would get into their boat every night and ride out to see the dolphin play in the surf.  And they died not long after that.

I wrap my mind around age and living simply and death and heaven on earth, the glory in the sacred daily wonders.

And realize that there is beauty in the narrowing, in the simplifying.

We are soaking in the wonders of our Sunday, a day that we marked as family day and prayed would be the beginning of the best summer of our lives. This house we are renting to “test drive” this new town, to see if it likes us and  if the feeling is mutual, has a wonderfully small kitchen. We are bumping into each other preparing our summer supper. And my husband yells, Look, Come See This is Classic.  When he calls out wonder and beauty I have learned to listen, to stop and look. He means business when he sees moments of grandeur.

I walk to the glass front door and see the neighbor’s chickens are out running around  her neighbor’s yard. And we laugh at the sight of chickens out of place. And the variety of the brood, there seems to be one of each. The silkies might be my favorite. And we laugh some more and find surprise in the spontaneous wonder of chickens running around the green lush lawn of a neighbor who carefully maintains a beautiful yard. She just happens to be out of town this night.

And who needs wine and cheese in Spain after this. This most perfect day.

Of ordinary. Of extraordinary.

The vision is wide in the narrowing.

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Joining Laura at The Wellspring for her Playdates  and Jen for SDG and Emily and Jennifer

Breaking the Break

It feels like breakfast. Breaking the fast. Or breaking the break.

It has been a long pause, this break from writing on my end.

And I miss ya’ll. Yes, I am southern. Because I am blessed by this community, by you.  Each one of you — who are present and read and reflect with me on this life.

And while I gather my thoughts and process this life that I have been living, I want to say a brief “hello world” on the other side of this blog.

Because the sun has been rising and setting a lot since I wrote and you read here.

And the moon has been doing her thing.

And trees have been smiling in forests while no one was looking.

And God has placed hearts on stumps, to stumble upon in the most shaded of secret places.

And Joy still floats. Hope does too. The Janice Sue tug floats along and chugs along too.

Even smiling as I capture her tuggy beauty.

Tangerine wings still stop and rest, then flutter their flirty fluttering selves like little tutu-ed dancers in a preschool recital, performing their dance, so simple. So simple.

And roads still lead the discoverer, the wanderer to new places. Carrying the one who looks for surprise down the road to just that. Simple surprises. Simple findings.

A new shade of blue, quite unlike any other. Not common. Not named. A blue so unique and brilliant that all shades of it aspire to be this.

They long to be this blue.

An in the beginning, Genesis blue. When God formed the universe and made earth and sky, blue. His original idea of what blue should be when it is being blue.

And God is all that He has ever been. Great. Good. Loving. And omnipotent. And loving us, and loving me.

So while I try to get my hands steady, oh so steady back on the keyboard. And while I process all the ways that He loves and shows Mercy and Grace, I leave you with a word or two and a photo or two.

And I say thank you for being here. And always thank you when you comment, though please know and feel the grace there. I feel you even when you don’t speak.

I am soaking in the love of God and family. And picking my tomotoes fresh from the vine and soaking in the summer rays, shooting like an arrow straight at my heart.

And counting gifts and Grace.

And all these summertime moments of wonder.

And of course, practicing working on enjoying writing.

{If you would like to follow along, another place I ponder and post is on my facebook page. And you can comment there too. Don’t forget to “like” it if you want to follow along. There is a place to hop over there at the bottom of this home page.}