On Poetry

I have a new friend who is a poet. I believe, from what I know of her, that she takes it pretty seriously. She has a podcast that I enjoy very much called Take this Poem. She has given me courage to begin writing poetry again, which is something I have not done in a very long time.

I mentioned in a previous post that fear is the thief of inspiration, yet it also robs others of the joy of sharing part of you that would otherwise be unknown. Who knows what changes might occur in another person when we write down words and thoughts and pictures and phrases and senses and emotions? Who knows how their lives will be impacted for comfort, courage, change, or calm?

When God created the world, he created it to be shared. All of its beauty, all of its color, all of its treasure. Imagine if the most creative force in the universe had withheld his creativity because it was “too personal,” made him “feel vulnerable” or “needed a tweak.” Then he placed within that creation a man and a woman, made in his likeness, with creative energy and potential, to have dominion over his great masterpiece. He even gave them free will to steward it or destroy it as they chose, though not without consequence.

When he said “Be fruitful and multiply” did he mean “Raise crops and offspring?” Perhaps, but not exclusively. I think he meant for us to be fruitful in all of our capacities: for love, work, passion, building, growing, teaching, writing, wine making, rendering, designing, serving, ministering, worshiping…living. By being fruitful in our calling and design we are giving glory to our Creator God, and breathing the breath of life into our fellow creatures. This in turn inspires them and causes them to be courageous and to grow as individuals and as communities, and expands the glory further.

When I as a writer withhold my creativity because, as my friend described, it’s like standing in front of someone in your underpants, I am withholding a gift to you, my fellow human. Certainly, my gift may be imperfect, but there is that grace we give each other when we say, “It’s the thought that counts.” So, I will humbly begin to share my message in a bottle, thrown upon the waves.

The Last First Time

There are so many times in our lives where we do something for the last time and never realize it. If we think about this too much it will break us. The last time we played with our neighborhood friends as children, the last time we kissed that high school boyfriend or girlfriend, the last time we saw our a dear friend before they passed away suddenly, without warning.

Conversely how many firsts do we have without even thinking about it–do you remember the first time you tasted orange juice, or read Winnie the Pooh, or stepped into your first classroom? Firsts may be more memorable because they can alter our sensibilities, but there are still so many that we take for granted.

This year, I was privileged to introduce a class of students to The Lord of the Rings for the first time. Only one of the students had read it before. The journey of magic and delight has been nourishing for my soul. It has commended me to take extra care in presenting it in a way that will inspire them to come back to this incredible work again and again. Will they think about the fact that this was their first time, or their last first time they read The Lord of the Rings?

As I wrote in post, “Down the Rabbit Hole” I recently spent a week gathering with wonderful people who inspired me emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. It was the first annual Close Reads Retreat. The hosts of the Close Reads podcast hosted us live for a week of reading, discussion, and fellowship. We took a deep-dive into Wendell Berry’s novels, essays, and poetry. I was drawn to the retreat because I love Berry already–Jayber Crow is one of my favorite books, but the idea of reading in community–now THAT was something we rarely have the opportunity to do in our cyber-based, McMansion-dwelling society. I was struck several times throughout the week that this was the last first time I would come to this retreat, because I DO have the intention to go again next year. I found myself reminding myself, however, not to have my expectations set on a repeat experience. The highs might not be as high, or if they are they will be different. The mix of people alone will account for different dynamics and new perspectives, both good, but not the same and the group that has embedded itself so deeply into my mind and heart.

One thing of which I had been previously unaware is that Wendell Berry was a Dante scholar, and that the Divine Comedy had deeply informed his writing. My least favorite of the novels that we read, Remembering, quickly rose in my estimation when we discussed that it was modeled up the Divine Comedy and even made allusions to Homer and the Odyssey in places…

But there was this one thing. I’ve never read Dante. I can’t say exactly why, but it just was not something I was deeply aware of with my shallow academic roots that have deepened only as I have educated my own children. There are lots of gaps that I continually discover, and this was one of them.

So today, for the first time, I opened Dante’s Inferno and began. Be jealous if you must–Perhaps you remember your first reading of this masterpiece. If you love it, I know you must be feeling some of that “I wish I could read it again for the first time,” but I envy you your mastery. Even so, I’m diving in!

Down a Rabbit Hole

Last week I spent a week in soul-deep fellowship with 23 of my new best friends. It was the first annual Close Reads Podcast retreat, where people from all over the US, who happen to listen to the same podcast about books, came to discuss, well…books.

For six hours each day we discussed poems, essays, and books by the inestimable Wendell Berry: A Native Hill, The Unsettling of America, The Memory of Old Jack, Remembering, and A World Lost. My appreciation for this author is far deeper than I could have guessed it would be when we first started. I knew he wrote one of my favorite books, Jayber Crow, but I had no idea the depth of his philosophy or literary prowess until we undertook a deep dive into his works. When we were not talking about those books we were talking about other books–books we have read, books we want to read, books others have read that intrigued us, books that challenge us, books that we hope the podcast will cover. Books.

And when we weren’t talking about books we talked about other matters important to the soul such as theology, death, birth, family, dogs, community, singleness, wine, marriage, Truth, Magic, Eastern Orthodox tradition…

Wait, did you say Orthodox tradition?

Yes. I did, and I heard some of the most amazing and thought-provoking ideas about church tradition, theology and death. These are things that have been hidden from us in the American church and perhaps even the Western Protestant church tradition as a whole, and I am stunned at how deeply what some would call “ancient mysticism” resonates with my weary soul.

Have I stepped down the Rabbit Hole? We will see. I need to satisfy this curiosity, and if you know me at all, I am not easily satisfied until I have looked under all the rocks and turned all the leaves.

How Do I Know What I Think Unless I Write?

I write to know what I think. If you happen to read it too, that is fine with me, but ultimately I write for myself. In the past I authored another blog, The Accidental Homeschooler, and for a long time it was the outlet I needed to process what was happening in the educational journey of my family, as well as encourage fellow sojourners in home education. Then the phrase, “Mom, don’t you dare post about that” was heard more and more from my children who were entering adolescence, and I understood that they didn’t necessarily want their lives splashed across the internet. As much as I hated to do it, I discontinued publishing new content on that blog, and entered a desert season as a writer that has endured for several years until now.

But now, both of my children are entering adulthood, and I find myself wondering what I want to do when I am done with this homeschooling life. The truth is, my desire to write has never wavered but I have struggled to find the courage to begin again.

Fear is a dreadful thief of inspiration, and I have somehow allowed it to creep in and deter me from being what I desire most to be. Fear of not having something to say, fear of what others will think, fear of the unknown are just a few of the little foxes spoiling this vine. Courage is action despite the presence of fear, and today I have decided that someday, having to explain why I didn’t do what I was meant to do all along is worse than all the other fears combined. Courage is the only course. I must just start, and if I fall, I fall. If nothing comes of it, then so be it. On the other hand, if I never start, nothing will surely be the result by default. I don’t want to take that risk. A failed effort is one thing, an effort never begun is a failure indeed.

So, welcome to my Writing Life, or my Life in Writing. It is time for the courageous leap into the unknown, to figure out where exactly this path leads. Shall we?