Archive for March, 2018

Lent: You are here.

amywink March 18th, 2018

Today, I am celebrating one year of Sundays at First United Methodist Church in Austin. While my actual calendar anniversary (or church-iversary) is tomorrow, today marks the Sunday a year ago that I walked into church because Bach had reminded me how much I loved music and I knew I wanted music in the life I was rebuilding. I found not only music, but also so much more of the self I had slowly lost over the sixteen years I had been taking care of both my parents.

As I sit here and write about this one amazing year, I think about how I had to be ready when joy came back, how I had to know what I needed to follow, though not necessarily what I needed to find, to make it back to the self I’d lost, to return to everything I’d put away and forgotten was true about who I was. And I had forgotten a lot, from a lot longer ago than just sixteen years. More than once someone has reminded me and I have had to think “oh yeah, that’s right. I forgot.”

I sat down with my journal earlier this week, which I had not written in for over a year, but which had started to fill with poetry again in the opening months of 2017. It was poetry I found again when I came to church. Three days after I walked into First, I was writing regularly again and the self I had given up, the life I had so much wanted to have, the person I had so much wanted to be, returned. I could not mistake the message I received that day and so many many many days after, so much so that by September, I had to laugh because it was clear God was simply showing off: Here is who you are. Here are your people. There is no mistake.

By December, I had completed an entire book manuscript that I never expected to be writing. I had come out of the wilderness I’d survived by following what I love and found myself in the completely right place after all. I have never felt that so strongly as I do now, as if the giant map of my life now reads you are here. I have nothing but gratitude for that and the joy that has come back into the life I am now building with it.

Someone asked me recently how I would describe an encounter with the Holy Spirit and I said, peace, deep peace.

And sometimes it can also feel just like the Holy Spirit is dancing.

Lent: Eggs

amywink March 16th, 2018

These beautifully dark-yolked
eggs from pastured chickens
are so much more costly now,
a scandalous price some might say,
and ridiculous just for eggs.

I count the cost, deciding
against this beautiful kindness
and choose instead a cheaper
dozen that still seems kind enough,
though they will not be so richly colored,
like an image of the setting sun,
or make me think of pastured chickens,
bright flocks among the grasses, grazing.

It is not just those eggs I think of
this morning as I wonder
about the price we refuse to
pay for kindness, but a teacher
determined to value her students,
despite advice against
such scandalous costs.

I am thinking instead
of the price we refuse to pay
for those young black lives,
what price instead seems
barely kind enough,
and in that ridiculous choice of bargains,
how little compassion we
decide we can afford.

Lent: Slow Down

amywink March 14th, 2018

Yesterday, I decided I needed to change this Lenten writing practice (yet again) and I took out my fountain pen and long-neglected journal instead of sitting at the computer or using my iPhone to write. This slowed my writing time considerably and since I am in my Spring Break, that was probably appropriate.

I write very swiftly on my iPhone, using the “notes” app to write out poems or ideas as they come to me. My thumbs are quite adept at the small keyboard (some observers have even remarked at my speed) and my fingers also generally fly over the computer keyboard as well–though I do not “type” with any kind of rigorously correct hand position. I have simply learned to type fast in my own way. I love these modern tools and do not plan to eliminate their use because of ascetic rigor. Technology has made writing very swift and some times I need that swiftness. Sometimes the phone is what I have handy to make a note with. It makes it easy to squeeze writing into any moment I may have. Technology has also made making changes simple and I can email my notes to myself and transfer them to the computer very quickly. Who would give that up? I explained to my students how easy some chores of writing have become, particularly the tedious things like creating a bibliography or changing text, since “Back In the Day” when we had to re-type anything in which we’d made even the smallest mistake.

But yesterday, I determined I needed to slow way down. I had lost some of the contemplative aspects of writing with the increased speed of doing it. I had lost the sensual nature of writing, the tangible connection between body and mind, and having sped up my writing, I also had lost an important aspect of creating: time. I knew I was losing this because I found myself covering much of the same territory in what I was writing, just staying with the same idea instead of having new ones. While this can be a kind of fundamental practice–how many ways can I use metaphor to say the same damn thing– it isn’t really creative, so much as process. I was doing the process but not creating something new.

So I went back to slow tools: a fountain pen and paper. This is really all we need to write, pen (or pencil) and paper. It’s a very inexpensive art (though also one denied those who cannot afford paper/pen OR who are expressly kept from writing by being denied literacy). I actually have rather luxurious writing tools because I have learned that treating my writing as worthy of beautiful tools makes me value the act of writing in a way that our culture does not, squeezing it in between more valued pursuits.

I have a Waterman fountain pen, a gift, that makes writing by hand (yes, in cursive) so palpably exquisite, it might be considered a sin to some who think that God never wants us to feel anything but misery. I do not think this way and to paraphrase Eric Lindell (Chariots of Fire), I feel God’s pleasure when I write with that pen.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit is in the pen, the ink, or in the action of writing.

I also have notebooks of lovely Japanese paper whose maker claims proudly has “The Most Advanced Quality” and “Gives Best Writing Features.” I am charmed by those claims and also agree with them entirely.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit is also in the paper.

With my lovely tools, I began to take time and write much more slowly, much more deliberately, and also much more privately, which is also a necessary aspect of writing and perhaps not coincidentally, recommended aspect for prayer. Not everything needs to be public at the moment of its inception, the very beginning of the conversation. It takes time to be create an idea. It takes time to understand what exactly is being shared. It takes time to develop the art.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit is in the time.

Lent: Gardener

amywink March 12th, 2018

The gardener I am
has not fully returned
from this long rest
but in this spring
I know I am still here.

Though I have not yet
risen to the work
and I see what
waits to be done,
I can finally again
imagine what I once
intentionally planted
and know that it
still grows,
even among these
accidental weeds.

Lent: Trailhead

amywink March 11th, 2018

Drawn back into the world,
I am at the edge
of my next life,
looking now
at this ascending
switchback trail
heading somewhere
I had not exactly planned,
though I chose the way to go.

If I remember,
I know
I am enough
of what I need,
so far as I have come,
and by foraging
will likely find
all else I may require
along this green and
unpredicted climb.

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