Kentucky Road and When

Banklick is a quaint, unassuming road I encounter every Friday on my way to the grocery store. It has a creek for a companion, blue-brown and glittering – it winds as quietly as the road. Gravel driveways, dirt roads, and rickety fences framing butter-cup fields, meet Banklick. They saunter comfortably to a twist, nook, or turn and greet the road as an old friend – because they are old friends.

Houses rest on hillsides – simple, homey things. These are the houses whose front porches serve the deepest purpose of community and gathering. These are the houses whose inhabitants are part of them. These are the houses that wake before the sun because there is day to be savored, devoured. These are the houses with creaking floors, uneven ceilings, distinct smelling attics. The houses that belong tucked in a hillside. The houses that are created to be full of life – be it joyous or bitter. Story-houses.

And hugging the road itself are trees. They are very alive trees, drinking daily from the lively creek into which their roots hang lazily. Trees eager to share with the world their beauty, their shade. They stand up taller as we drive past, “look at me and my splendor,” they beam with gentle pride. I smile to give to them well-deserved praise, slighting them not for their vanity for it is well-placed – they truly are glorious things. Fresh with their new swaths of green, radiant in youth and sage. Some in purple vestige – fairie-like and regal.

This is a Kentucky road – the place my heart goes when I call this state my home.

We glide in our cherry-cobbler-red bullet. Around one curve a plowed field lays naked, vulnerable, ready. My toes curl in my shoes, longing to feel that earth, longing to run wild, careless, through it. Soaking in its moist blood-warm offering. Remaining there until I am empty and full – earth in my fingers, on my face, in my hair, the dirt more alive for my being there. Both of us more hopeful for my being there, brimming with anticipation of new life, growth, new things. Leaving it with my scent on its breath – purpose now coursing through its moist, blood-warm offering.

I catch my face in the rear-view mirror. When did I get here? When did I become who I am now? When did my face become so narrow? When did I start speaking deeper? When did my writing, speaking, singing, living, become more than well-chosen words that gloss over the deep, terribly beautiful truth of who I am and what the world is and to whom I belong? When did I begin to live as who I am, really who I am – Beloved? When did it take deep root in my soul, alter my eyes, my ears, my thinking, my speaking? When did my breathing change to the breathing of one who is the object of God’s passionate longing, scandalous love, deep, deep intimacy? When did I taste the delight of the Creator and become ruined for anything less? When did I walk out of those cages? When did my eyes open wide to the chains I’ve placed on myself – to the freedom so close I can feel it? When did my heart know I am absolutely, completely, to the depths of me, always, intimately accepted by God? What morning was it that woke me up different? Was it morning? Is there truly any point I can gesture toward and say, “that’s it! that’s the moment I woke up!”?

A train track weighs down gravel adjacent to the creek – a steady contrast to the merry water. It courses just the same, is determined just the same, and yet, it holds importance and an unmovability. The creek is a joyous, carefree running – the train track a reliable, unchanging march. I’m swept away, now, to far off places – the march of the train setting my heartbeat. Adventure coursing where blood used to be – it is now my life-source. Forward, endless, on. The wail of the whistle resonates as the cry of an orphan. She is waiting to be heard, fed, cared for, loved, known – like all of us. My heart runs there, carried by its train-march-beat, and I stay, I hear, I feed, I care, I love, I know. People are persons to be loved and known. Period. She cries, my heart echoes. He calls, my heart breaks. We are created to be loved and known. Period. I soak in that offering, remain until I am empty and full. I come back panting, deliciously starved for air. When did I get here?

Advertisements

Coffee and Carl Sandburg

I sipped my coffee, felt its burnt adrenaline ease its way into my mind, and once I was thoroughly steeped in what it had to offer, I set the mug down. Coffee takes on a different nature altogether when it is room temperature. And I most often drink it when it has reached room temperature. I cannot actually remember the last time I drank a cup of hot coffee. I have formed the habit, or way of life, really, in which I pour coffee for myself and set it on my desk or the coffee table or kitchen table or floor, and then scurry off and become distracted by at least twenty-six things before I actually return and get to the business of drinking my coffee. And drinking coffee stopped being an actual business long ago. No longer do I sit and savor every single ounce that passes through my lips, over my tongue, down my throat, into my stomach, my bloodstream, my heart. No longer do I revel in every hidden flavor, no longer do I play hide and seek in earnest longing to find something new. Coffee is my almost-constant companion, and I am disappointed to discover that this has moved its identity from that of “religious experience” to “commonplace.” Commonplace is not bad, simply different. It is somewhat like my siblings.  How when they first came into my everyday, they were new, undiscovered. How then I “oooed” and “ahhed” over every part of them, delighting in their cuddly selves, their gurgling mouths, their footy-pajamas. But their newness wore off, and they became a fixture – still wonderful, still complex, still mostly undiscovered, just usual.

My head throbbed now, tired of the coffee I was forcing into it at a relentless pace. I tried to apologize with large amounts of water, but the ache would not be so easily dissuaded. Headaches over the likes of coffee are a stubborn lot. I decided to try engaging my head in an activity other than aching in hopes that it would decide the other activity was more worthy of its time. Imaginary conversation. I have them often. I pride myself on being rather good at concocting and carrying them. Naturally, this was my distraction of choice. I whipped up the imaginary setting of a park and set an inquisitive, professional version of myself on one end of a green bench and a musing, mysterious version of myself on the other. The interview began.

“How do you write poetry?”
“As it comes.”
“And it comes?”
“Like the rain.”

That was as far as my cleverness would allow and the interview ended, the scene evaporated.

It’s really no wonder I am somewhat insane, I spend my days locked away in “The Nook with a View.” A cup of once-warm coffee, a glass of water, and music are my permanent co-residents. I imagine sometimes that this is how authors live – though, most of them probably have brandy or some other spirit in place of water. I do school work, here in my Nook with a View.

My current task? American Literature. I must study it. I view studying as diving into something and swimming around and choking on the water until I can emerge with enough knowledge to at least pretend I know about the subject of the pool. That was essentially today – splashing hungrily in American Literature until I could come out dripping and saying things like “did you know Emily Dickinson wrote over 1775 poems?” I’ve read many poems while fiddling in that pool. They’ve filtered into my brain and taken over my own poem-forming skills. My muse has been altered to resemble something not my own.

I sometimes write poems on coffee-stained index cards as the day goes on. This is for two reasons. One – that random flow of creative something keeps me from going completely insane, which would be the case if I kept it pent up. Two – it looks really artsy. Today I wrote two poems and both tasted of Carl Sandburg. I can’t say that I mind Carl Sandburg, it’s just that I’d rather he didn’t take over my poetry. He did, though. At least to some extent.  I changed tense and tone at least twice. Did any of you notice and think me an awful writer for it? I did make effort to include less run-on sentences and that should be counted in my favor. Here are the Carl-Sandburg-tinted poems:

The First –

Fly-away petals
Make spring-time snow.
My coffee-mug’s green,
its contents cold,
the radio plays January
songs, as if they belong.
Radio doesn’t know the weather,
unlike my neighbor,
taking advantage of March-time warm
to clean his car –
water finds its way
through my window,
a curious thing.
Competing with the radio
is a basket ball, and my brother’s friends
singing songs of their own.
They know the weather,
but care not for my cold coffee –
they did maim a flower
and mourned for its loss
by throwing the ball again,
singing their song again,
scuffing, laughing, lively
song.

The Second –

Giggles, squeals, and rain-drop footsteps
herald her sun-yellow hair,
sunrise-pink skirt, rosy-red face.
Behind her is a raspy-voiced boy,
well-dressed and short.
He tries in earnest to catch her,
but her legs are longer, her feet faster.
“This is fun!” she calls,
he wheezes in reply.
Down the hill, round the bend,
Up the hill, gone.

Writing

I am finding repeatedly that there are not words for the things I so desperately want to put into words and I feel as if I am incompetent. I feel as if there are so very many words, surely some can be found… and yet, I return to the ones I use daily and they are not suitable, not broad enough, or narrow enough, high enough, or deep enough – and my heart sighs. I try sometimes to fill the void of words with the language of poetry, because it truly is a beast and tongue all its own. There are times, however, that even poetry will not encompass what needs to be encompassed, though, it may fail with more grace.

I once wrote a small something to a friend of mine in regard to one of their poems: Do you have a translator to cross for us the ground between that languid land of poetry and the usual one of simple English? I’d very much like to meet him. – I have no such translator. And really, most times, I need a translator for my soul – changing that complicated, interwoven language into some understandable, heart-breaking, and beautiful English. I cannot find one. I don’t know that anyone can. God. God I’m sure has such a translator as he lent it to David for the Psalms and King Solomon for his song of love and passion and Andrew Osenga for his songs of loneliness and whisperings and glimpses of the answer, the answer, the answer.

I sometimes want to give up – just stop trying to put into words what cannot stand to be contained. Oh, but I long so to capture it! So I keep trying, and I pray for God to lend me his translator – the one he lent to David, to King Solomon, to Andrew Osenga, to my momma, to authors – Ann Voskamp, C.S. Lewis, Donald Miller – to songbirds, to poets.  Sometimes, when I cannot stand the things pent up inside of myself, when I can hardly breathe or think because they have wrapped themselves so around me, I open my mouth and release a mournful, joyful, complicated, interwoven note. It’s rarely followed by another, rarely filled with words, but it’s an utterance of the soul and it feels free and it feels like the translator has come and gone in the seconds that the note lasts and my heart leaps at his brief presence and aches that it was, indeed, brief. That’s how it feels though, I know, when the soul is allowed to speak. Writing for hours on end when words flow like honey and emotions like milk – that’s the soul being allowed to speak. Listening to other people who have managed to contact that translator – that’s the soul fluttering in its space, bursting with things to be released and no way to release them. I can speak only the language of the three-dimensional world I know – and even that to only a certain extent – and so the four, five, six, seven dimension of the soul and its ponderings and longings are lost in translation, even if you do have a translator. So, I write what I can, how I can. Sing what I can, how I can. Become lost in a music as well as I can, however I can. Open the cage, let that fluttering bird fly beautifully and sing its song, even if I cannot see every dip and glide, even if I cannot hear every note.

I realize now that writing is not a struggle to capture what is somehow floating in the air as I often feel. Rather, it is a release of something deep inside of oneself. Writing is an utterance of the soul.

Thoughts on Psalm 19 (ish)

The sun rejoices –
eager –
Like a bridegroom,
Bursting forth.
Day is a joyous thing
If only for the joyous sun.

God’s words revive –
Like cool water –
Spilling over
Cracked, dry, land
Deserts are a joyous thing,
if only for the joyous return
(to life)

The sky is magnificent,
singing –
Song not heard,
But felt,
Deep in our being.
Creation is a joyous thing,
If only for its joyous Creator.

Always be joyful in the Lord! And I’ll say it again, rejoice!

-Philippians 4:4

The Psalms have filled my morning (or late afternoon, or early evening, or whenever I find, or sometimes make, time) with their pleading, human, seeking, worshipful words. One a day…. or, one every third day because I kind of neglect to spend time in God’s Word on far too many occasions. They are true poetry. I’m not really sure how I missed out on their beauty for so long. There is so much imagery, so much depth, so much sorrow, so mush discovery, so much JOY. It is a rare occasion to find a Psalm that does not say something about rejoicing or joy or life. Even when the Psalmist is surrounded by enemies, demanding that God answer his calls, begging for relief, begging for a sign the God is listening, there is a resolve of “rejoice.”

I often try to heap guilt on myself. I often try to force myself to see how unworthy I am. Sometime ago I convinced myself that the best way to see God’s love was to view my own depravity. I try to view God’s love in light of my failure. I try to view God’s love as great because he loves me “in spite of the way I disappoint him.” I try to talk myself into feeling like a miserable being for days and weeks at a time, subservient to love of God that is ever held over my head because I am so unworthy of it. This is not Truth. This is the lie of the enemy. The Truth of God is this:

“Self-rejection contradicts the Sacred voice that calls me the Beloved.”
The rejection of being Beloved is the rejection of how God sees me – it is rejecting who I am.
God cannot be disappointed in me.
I cannot relate to God as the God who loves me unconditionally if I do not see myself as the child who is unconditionally loved.
God’s love for me is what gives me value. Because he love infinitely, I have infinite value. Because I have infinite value, he delights in me.

I am learning to live as the one in whom God delights. I am learning to live as the one on whom God spends his infinite, fiery love and devotion. I am learning to live as Beloved. I am learning the joy of the Psalmists. I am learning that living as who I am bears the fruit that is joy because being loved like that leaves no other option. I am learning to delight in God, to be delighted in by God. I am leaning to feel free in smiling and laughing at little things. I am learning to by fully human, which is to be fully loved by God. I am learning to live into what God speaks to every human being ever in Jesus, which is this: God and humanity in loving relationship. This is why I was created – delightful intimacy with God. This is why you were created – delightful intimacy with God. It cannot be denied – it is written at the very depths of our hearts and souls – it cannot be undone. God does not say to us, “I love you, though you are an utter failure,” God says to us “I created you to love you. You are the desire of my heart. I created you for LIFE and life to the fullest! How I adore you! How I love you! How beautiful you are! Oh come love me too! Come rest in my presence! Come fly with me! Come outside, breathe the air, feel the sun, hear the birds sing, see the blue sky, rejoice! for YOU are greater to me than all of this! You are my Beloved. YOU are my greatest desire!”

Rejoice! How, fellow human, fellow Beloved, could we do anything other than this when we are loved like this? How could we do anything other than live when we are created for such a purpose as this – to be loved deeply, intimately, scandalously, beautifully loved. Breathe. Listen. Allow yourself to be captivated. And rejoice! I’ll say it again! Rejoice!