Lent started. (This is the first year I knew the name came from Old Something for "springtime." Always, we are tied to the earth).
I thought I would keep up a discipline, something about writing, something about praying, something about staying in touch with God. Maybe even every day. But I never pinned it down, and I never told anyone else about it. And so, God knows what it could have been, but no one else does. Maybe next year (is what I always say).
I did manage to post twiceover here. And then I fell into a hole again, and anything worth saying was too far out of reach.
So I let that go.
We did go to Williamsburg. And we did have a lovely time, even in the 33 degree snow and rain (enough wool will keep anyone warm).
The milliner's shop was my favorite -- amazing colors, detail, stitches. The tailor sitting in the window sewing a buckle onto breeches was wearing hand-knit woolen stockings and hand knit woolen sleeves that went all the way up to his red woolen vest. I could have just stared at him; well, I did, to be honest, until I remembered that staring isn't nice.
And there was beautiful snow, lots of it, each time a gift: a smooth soft silence, the hush of shadow and shape; recasting, revealing, reminding, of majesty. Each time a gift.
I fretted too much over this piece. It's the first one for somewhere else, and I am so used to making sense only to myself that it seemed a stretch to ask strangers to follow along. But I did, and they have, and it's been quite a learning experience. I wish I could talk to Mom about it, funnily enough.
And we had a birthday. There was wind, so much wind, on the night before, that it was not too surprising to wake up Sunday morning to see the clock still saying 3:15. The power was out all day (and all night, too), but we still had a party with Erma's pound cake and ice cream with rainbow sprinkles, candles and a song, and a beautiful group of friends and family. And now my sweet, funny, cheerful, self-assured Flora is four.
Since the girls got their own room a few months ago, we've been praying the Close of Day devotion from the Book of Common Prayer. There have been many nights when the words are only words, entirely someone else's, clumsy in my mouth. I say them anyway, hopeful that they will somehow carry with them all the unknown and unformed prayers, hopeful that one day, they will roll off my tongue from out of my heart.
I didn't expect them to come unbidden in the early morning. But there in the springtime woods, the words of the psalm leap off the page and glow green.
Under the dogwood, before the poplar, beneath the stirring clouds, how can I do anything else?
Lift up your hands in the holy place and bless the Lord; The Lord who made heaven and earth bless you out of Zion.
These delicate films of color reaching stretching becoming home, this given light
the pulling sun reaching stretching welcoming crocus, golden and first
Mom's room was full of flowers. They spilled into the house, the shed, the driveway, and out into the fields and gardens beyond. Day lilies, blood lilies, yucca, wild rose, lavender, daisy, chamomile, cosmos, chicory, rosemary.
There were lilies in the last song I played for her, climbing the winding spiral air.
Funnily enough, narcissus was in the song, too.
My difficulty is indeed in what I look at, how I interpret events, my reactions to those interpretations, and the events that result from my reactions to those interpretation. It's all ridiculous, really. And I feel so stuck there. There is not the barest glimmer of anything but myself and how shoddily I am living my one wild and precious life.
That is where narcissus takes me, anyway, and I don't want to go there anymore. And if I do, because I know I will, I want to see where I am and take my leave.
Fall back into grace.
This time I remembered, finally, to ask God to use even these feelings of disappointment and lost opportunity and anger, and also the self-blame and criticism and disparagement that file right in. And then the bishop's wife posted about being vulnerable before God and community,
What keeps me wrapped in the blanket of this Episcopal Church is that it does not walk away. No matter the extremes of my or anybody’s life, it stays and stands patiently with its gentle voice of prayer, mirroring the words of Jesus, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. This Church of mine wants me to be the most kind, thoughtful, peaceful person I can be, but it knows that is not the wholeness of me and it still doesn’t let go of my hands. It still doesn’t raise its voice and run away screaming. I pray that this Lenten season is a time for you to melt down and expose your most core desires and fears.
And so tomorrow, whatever else it be, is the Tuesday of Shriving.
And I wonder what it will be like to shed those layers and husks, to open to that pull of the sun.
It has me in its sway, and I don't even know what it is.
I set my mind to wriggling loose, blending in, passing unseen.
I want, again, the bliss of ignorance.
Christmas was harder than I thought it was.
I tried to squeeze what was into what is, what is into what was.
Looking for the delicate bridge between.
Finding instead crooked paths and angel wings, and a west-facing waterside.
Where I could scoop, sift, sort through the smoothness of well-worn words.
Blessed be God ...
In unity, constancy, and peace ...
With gladness and singleness of heart ...
Sometime in those last days, I joked with Mom about recording her saying that -- Oh, sweetie -- so I could play it back in all the moments I would need it.
I didn't do it.
I thought I'd be all right without it.
I thought it would be enough to remember.
I was wrong.
But not long ago, on a cloudless day of blue, I looked out the window to see a handful of white, a wispy bit this side of the mountain.
Mom! A surprise of exclamation, and then I chose to stay and watch instead of run for my camera.
The cloud started to dissipate as it passed by the window, lessening, fading, letting go. It is so hard to hold form, and I could feel even the effort of the words. And then she, it, was gone.
In the empty sky, though, was confirmation: Yes, it is hard. It is hard to be spirit in this dense world overfull of matter. It is hard to be in time and space, bound in a body, bound to other bodies. It is hard to remember home without wanting desperately to be there.