Unmasked: Seeing And Being Seen (and poetry)

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This may be a first for me. The first time I have started a blog post with these words “my eyes are filled with tears as I write these words”. You can’t see me, so I am revealing that truth to you. By the time I edit the post, I may have dried my own tears. Gotten my emotions under wrap and felt less fragile.

This is not about life and death. Or monumental loss. It is about a slow death and losing out. Sacred and holy moments encircle us. God has presented us with glory upon glory. This is a sharing of grief at what might not have been. This is a story of being open to wonder, possibility and the richness of meeting a stranger.

Recently, I was on a plane returning from Boston, during the last leg, the La Guardia to Charleston leg I was admittedly drained and a shell of myself. It was like I had left it all on the mat. I’d been to a hospital with a friend. And yet, I felt as if someone had hooked me up to an IV and sucked the lifeblood out of me.

I had flown to Boston for a whirlwind visit,  to accompany a friend for one day at Mass General Hospital. Can a day feel like a week? This day, filled with Ubers and airports and fabulous Italian food and Charles Street window shopping and digging down deep into the well of friendship was wonderfully full.

For obvious reasons we had hoped and planned to sit together on each of the four legs of the trip. We were having rich conversations and building on our rather new friendship.

Things happen. Unexpected things. Wake you up things that begin with an airline employee or two that could not accommodate our request. I was separated from my companion and seated beside a pleasant stranger. Here was my opportunity to just rest. I gave myself permission to ignore my seatmate. He had a kind smile, a quiet presence and a boyish but fast becoming a man face. Curl up and process my trip, that was my rather selfish goal. (Well curl up as well as one can in a cramped airplane.) I was too weary to read or talk. I was “conversationed out.” But while my plans were to close my eyes, my mouth and my mind, the young man beside me was there to school me. Teach me to stay awake to the possibility of wonder.

Somewhere mid-air my heart softened and we began to chat. What would follow would be a deep conversation about life and death, his grandmother’s and my mother’s. What would follow would be his telling of his career in medicine, his plans to move to Seattle to follow a dream and his upcoming trips to visit friends in Finland and to Prague.

He was young and full of wanderlust. Wise beyond his years. Kind and gentle. I was grateful that the  invisible curtain between us was ripped to shreds. I was grateful that I gave him a ride once we landed and that I had another hour in the car to learn more about life through a stranger’s enthusiastic teachings. Passion is contagious, especially when it is laced in gentle kindness.

I have missed hundreds of chances to intersect with glory. Been closed to seeing or being seen. Been prone to stay masked. This time. This one time on a plane with one gentle stranger I woke back up, again. To what rests and waits in quiet possibility.

How much richer is life, how much sweeter is the wandering when we catch hold of the eyes of someone seated in the row beside us. Those bumping elbows, knocking knees, unknown souls, they have a story to tell too.

Are we listening? Because of the wonders of social media I follow my new friend and he follows me, on Instagram. And he sent me a thank you note for the ride which allowed him to avoid one very expensive Uber ride to his destination far north of the airport. My friend’s husband picked us up and provided my new friend with a lovely historical narrative of Charleston as we made our way to my car, parked at their home.

This was his first trip to the South. I almost blew it. I almost caused him to think, what Southern hospitality? What grace? He gave me more than I gave him. But I hope he saw a piece of a shred of a thread of something which said, welcome. We are glad you are here.

How rich and lovely to have a new friend and to be seen and to see. Now there is one less stranger in the world.

Perhaps we said to each other, not in words but in deeds…

You are seen. And you are heard. And you have a beautiful story to tell.

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Follow me on Instagram where I am looking out for wonder, beauty and the extraordinary in the ordinary. (@graceappears on Instagram)

Here is a poetic offering from today’s Instagram post. Follow the link to see the image and the post in its entirety.

UNMASKING

Be there to hear the tree fall in the woods

Be there to see the goose lay the golden egg

Be there to touch the invisible line between now and then

Be there to smell something fishy

All wonder and marvelous mystery need you to testify

And say “I saw”

Be the beholders

Be the ones who witness the unfolding, unraveling and unmasking 

Right here is a marvelous place to be

A witness to it all

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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The Blackbird Stole My Poetry And Other Lame Excuses

The Blackbird Stole My Poetry And Other Lame Excuses

I dreamed once in a daydream, not resting under indigo back-lit sky.The scarlet winged blackbird came to visit me. An awakening. Unwelcome.Unannounced. The visit was a robbery of unfinished words, my art.

Every poem left abandoned, in embryonic stages, wet ink pen lying in repose, by the paper’s side, was carried off  by my feathered enemy. Fowl dressed in red and black. Colors of his uniform for war. And I, my own worst enemy.

I cannot blame him. For abandoned art remains fair game.

I cannot hold him to account. He saw that I was sleeping, not attending to my work.

But I must thank him, properly. For while he could have released them, into a angry wind. He chose instead to drop them off for me to start again.

The shreds of paper would have served him to line his feathery nest. But instead they floated back to earth in billowing down-currents and landed by my right side.

The blackbird gives a second chance. Waking me from sleep. In gratitude I offered him a seat. We’re here now beak to cheek sitting in soft repose. At my windowsill. He no longer dressed  for war, but in tones of of papal royalty. Restorer of the second chance.

I dreamed once in a daydream. I found again lost poetry.

 

 

Omega

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Omega

Eight lost, some stillborn
Others born, still lost
Sons and daughters of Willow
One remains or so we believe
Alpha and the in-between-ones
Are all gone
Our deposit has not been sent
Hope is a currency all its very own

We are uncovering poetry
It’s what remains now
Well into her eighties
Grief grinds its way through
Those of us remaining
She deposited words
Like shiny gold coins
Rare
Into the safest of places
Poetry, her currency

Page after aging, age-less page
Reveal what Agnes’ life did not
To me

Distance and years
Wedges like a bank vault wall
Kept me at bay

She never knew that mother penned
“For Elizabeth our aspiring poet”
On the inside of Oliver’s “Evidence”

Surprise would have attended us both
That pens are passed into spheres of
The unknown

And just after we grieved for a good long while
The gone-ness grew
The no-going-back-ness
The place where the mind comes back from a long hiatus into dementia
Just to hear “I loved you”
And now
Your poetry

Omega was the last
Black English Cocker puppy
Born alive
In Oklahoma

A sign that one of nine
Remains
For us
A sign of hope
At eight weeks
Omega, should she live
(Meg for short)
Comes to live with us
Eight others rest in peace

Epiphanies born from death
Poetic embalming of her secrets
Now shared
Beauty birthed on every page
Life revealed in death

I cannot crown my favorite line of hers
(It may take a lifetime of catching up to dog-ear my favorite page)
Alpha and omega
And poetry in the in-between’s
She rests in peace
I wrestle with regret and grief

She wrestled with life
And turned it into poetry