These are the days of holiness and wonder . . .


During our morning coffee Milt mentioned that earlier on the news they had covered “Easter” without a single mention of Jesus Christ.  It was all about bunnies, eggs, chocolate, and sweet-filled baskets—the junk side of Easter, not the heart and spirit of Easter.

I was raised Catholic and, although I no longer practice that religion, I have a lot of memories of Easter season. I remember it as the end of an arduous time of lent, prayers, and of fasting and cleansing. Mom would have us kneel along the length of the couch to pray the rosary. We went to the Stations of the Cross at church, and I can still smell incense and hear the mesmerizing tones as the priest and his attendants sang the difficult journey of Jesus Christ in Latin.

And yes, as a little girl I loved Easter morning, donning a pretty pastel dress, a new Easter bonnet, the pure, pretty white gloves, ribbons in my hair. But even then I understood that these pretty things had somehow been earned by our practices and sacrifices through the long Lenten season.

And yes, we got a small gift, eggs dyed into pale colors and a bit of chocolate and jelly beans in a little basket.  It was a celebration.

On the Saturday before Easter we were not allowed to play vigorously but were encouraged to stay quiet and still to remember the day that Jesus died.

I left that religion behind for many deeply personal reasons, but I kept the holiness and wonder of it when I left. Later, as I sat in an ashram meditating on other saints, smelling the incense burning, and listening to the beautiful chants (also in an unfamiliar language) being sung by people in long robes, I realized that I had not gone so far from where I had begun.  It was, and is, the state of holiness and wonder that hovers in my heart, the inner state of being, that I want.

When I started this post this morning I intended to criticize the crass commercialism of Easter; but as I’m writing along, I see there is much more complexity in the message of Easter. We come to holiness and wonder not by what we are given but by what we must give up. Like Jesus, we come to holiness and wonder through what we suffer in life. We have to give up easy familiar ways of being, we have to be on our knees sometimes asking big questions because life can be harsh. And then, like Jesus, we have to rise and stand up again and go on with eyes wide open.

I have this deep feeling that all of this “fluff and stuff” that the merchants want us to buy is really a way to divert the path. They want me to believe that if I get the right stuff, it will give me holiness and wonder. I can just buy it, right?

Joseph Chilton Pearce in one of his books talked about how our obsessive need to consume and own stuff rises out of a much more embedded and intrinsic need to be connected—in the family, to community, to our own heart, to the spirit. I think he is right. Everything is spinning so fast in our quest to consume that we grow further and further away from our need to connect—and holiness and wonder are lost to us.

We yearn for holiness and wonder. A kind of spiritual starvation sets in when it is missing and no amount of purchased goods, food, drink, etc. can feed that hunger of the soul for what only the spirit can provide.

Can we reverse this out of control spiral of consumerism as a replacement for connection that leads to holiness and wonder?

I think we can, but it will take more than one day a year. And we have to do things differently than we are doing now.

Here is a scenario. Let’s say you spend $300 on Easter junk.  It took you ten or more hours to earn that $300.  What if you bought one Zen tangle coloring book and pretty markers for $15 and then spent ten hours coloring with your children (or your friend, family, partner)? What if you just scribbled and let the trail of conversation go lazily to wherever their heart questions lead them and you just listen? You don’t advise, teach, preach, or condemn and correct. You just listen with every cell of your body to what they have to say.  (And no phones or pads allowed.) Which do you think they would prefer . . . the junk . . . or the time?

Or what if you spend ten hours with your own heart questions? Asking for answers?

The other night I was struggling with this myself. I was in a space of feeling isolated and shut down—no holiness and wonder.  I was awake in the middle of the night with nothing but my own agitated thoughts. The next day when I really talked it out with Milt, the concerns and questions of my heart emerged one by one.  I felt alone. I am sad for my sisters. I’m worried about death and loss. I feel insecure and uncertain. Then as the words flowed out, my heart met his heart and once again, like magic, holiness and wonder rose up in me once again. I had been experiencing “heart failure” and now my heart was restored.

Connection doesn’t just happen. A space has to be cleared for it, the way prepared, the time set aside, the flip tops closed and the screens darkened, the expectations released, the fears allayed, the resentments dispersed, the path swept clear.

And then, without effort and without force, holiness and wonder fill that open space. Again, it is not about what we get—but what we have given up that brings this transformation about.

I hope you have filled your day with holiness and wonder and not junk. I hope you have surrounded yourself with soul mates (yes, there can be more than one) who are unafraid to ask big questions or to just listen as you ask yours.

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Women Write to Keep From Going Crazy

I came across this older post last night and decided to put it up again.  I also included it in the upcoming collection of blog posts and snowman pictures (yes, I know) that will be out this month.  It is called “Snow Girl Ponders Her Place in the Universe.”  Watch for it.

little birdLast night I saw a show about Einstein’s wife on PBS. I’m ashamed to realize that I never gave much thought to the mind behind the great mind.  Her curiosity was as wide as his, perhaps even wider because of the living physics of birthing babies and making milk—and yet she went crazy in the end.

Strange what can happen when a woman’s mind is hungry, and Einstein, foolish man, saw only his face in the mirror of fame and acclaim.  It notched him down a level in my eyes.  It put me on the side of his wife, scientist, mother, woman, peacemaker—a woman caught between a mother’s heart and her love of physics.

I tell the women in my writer’s group about Einstein’s wife.  They are all older than me.  When I mention that I will turn fifty soon, they call me “baby” and put age back in perspective for me.

I read aloud an edgy piece about a woman who lives in Tucson.  One day she steps nude and dripping out of a sunken tub only to catch sight of a woman’s body in the mirror.  She sees breasts heavy with life and grief, pubic hairs curling, a vagina–proof to her woman’s place.  In my story, the woman can’t imagine how she missed the fact that she is a woman.

My group reacts, relating, recognizing kinship with my character.  One woman says there must be something about the southwest that makes women crazy.

She says, “I lost my mind in Tucson once, she says  I didn’t want the good doctors to lock me up for being crazy, so I told them I was an alcoholic off the wagon–just a stumble–and could they admit me?”

Ann, another woman, thirty years a teacher, says she lost her mind in Tucson once, too.  She doesn’t go into detail, but I wonder how often women lose their minds in the southwest or elsewhere.  Carol jokes that we should amend the song to “I lost my heart in San Francisco—and my mind in Tucson.”

Our group goes deeper.  Gretta reads a story about a hit man who is after her son-in-law, a memoir.  Ann reads a fuck-you story about a sorority of teachers who bar the doors when she walks by.  Casey reads about Rachel whose boyfriend wants to get in her pants–and about a father who did.  Joline reads of two children asked to dig the bones of Rob Roy under an apple tree in a misty grove in Ireland.  He has been dead and lingering these one hundred years.  Joline’s ghosts scare her, and so she must write about Robbie.

I think women often write from the edge.  We write to sort the envelopes of our lives like laundry, to keep from going crazy, to keep from cutting and burning, to keep from killing.  We’re an optimistic lot, we women, rubbing salve on old scars, brave, enduring, ready to take it on, ready even to travel to Tucson if that is where the story begins—or ends.

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What are You Hiding?

drawing by Jamie Lee

It’s harder than I thought it would be—publishing one book a month for twelve months.  I am not writing these books—they are manuscripts that have been lost in the digital space of my computer.  I have only needed to bring them out, proof them, lay them out and assign a cover, but wow . . .

The first two, One Drum and Silver, are done, but they required that I confront and face parts of myself that I would rather have kept hidden.  For instance:

Self-doubt:  Is anybody really going to read these books?  Are they good enough?  Are they stupid?  Should I dump them?

Laziness:  Do I really have to proof each sentence, each page?  I suck at punctuation—can’t I just send them out as is?  (The answer is yes—you really have to proof them.)

Fear:  Is this cover okay?  Will the pros look at it and say, OMG who does this person think she is?  Couldn’t she have just spent $10,000 to get it designed?  (The answer is no, I can’t spend that money.)

Anger:  Why has mainstream publishing never picked up one of my books?   I’ve had two literary agents but they got nowhere . . . what?

Ego:  These stories are not “MINE” but given to me in sweet gentle packages from the Creator.  I don’t “own” them.

Apathy and lack of belief:  Why bother?  Nothing ever changes and it will not ever change so why bother?

Vulnerability:  What if people hate them and think I am a silly, foolish person for ever having thought I could write.

Sometimes I feel like I am moving through mud, but I am just doing it anyway.

And here is the weird part.  In reading and proofing the first two books, I didn’t change a single word except a few typos.  In fact, both books touched my heart—even made me tear up a couple times.  They have heart energy for sure, and that will just have to be “good enough.”

The day that I got the proof copy from the printer of Silver,  I held that pretty little book in my hand and realized that it was all worth it—worth having to battle a few demons, worth the time it took . . . just plain worth it to finally hold my baby.

I’m realizing that for any of us going to the next level is going to require great courage.  It is going to push us out of our comfort zone and onto some unfamiliar (and often scary) ground.  The alternative is to just stay put—do nothing, change nothing, take no risks—and that doesn’t seem like much of an alternative at all.

Wow.  And I’m just getting started.  Ten books to go.

So, I want to challenge you to join me by challenging yourself.  What are you hiding?  What is that creative expression of yourself that you have been saying you didn’t have time for, was not good enough, or was not worthy?  What is that thing you’ve been reluctant to pursue but not for lack of passion or interest?  What could you do to take a risk and begin now to make something out of nothing?

I’ll give you a little view into both One Drum and Silver.  Both of these books I am making a part of a series called, “Earth Songs” because both engage deeply with the natural world in sometimes supernatural ways.  They ask us to listen deeply to our mother, the earth and to steer a course in her direction.  Yes, they are fiction.  And yes, they are love stories.  And yes, I hope that when I announce that they are for sale you’ll give them both a read.

But be gentle with me.  If you love them, buy copies for your local school or library.  If you dislike them, keep it to yourself—or tell me gently what you didn’t like.  It is never too late for a rewrite.

Onward to the next book . . . do share this with your friends and invite them to subscribe.


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