little bit of lagniappe

reflecting on everyday grace

Archive for the tag “nature”

The Peace of Wild Things

IMG_1050

This is a portrait of my Gran Edie, a woman with the strength and beauty of wildflowers.

And a poem posted for her (and for new friends found in the Granite State):

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

-Wendell Berry

 

As Terry Tempest Williams says, “I want my life to be a celebration of s l o w n e s s.”

Yes.

And today, may we slow and stop long enough to count the miracles growing from the ground.

Miracle

AdventMoon

Photo captured while on a mid-December “moon walk”…

 

Night falls.

Moon rises.

And beneath this miracle

whose ingredients are

star

and dust,

light

and darkness,

life

and death,

joy

and pain,

we go on

singing —

the low notes,

the high notes —

into the rest

of our days.

 

p.s. Thank You

for the miracle

it is

to see,

to feel,

to wonder,

to write,

to love,

to remember.

Amen.

“I am looking at”…down by the riverside

By the shoreline of the Chattahoochee River, these words tumbled out today during a 10-minute writing practice. While it wasn’t to the tune of “I remember,” as I mentioned earlier this week, it was to another starting place that Natalie Goldberg recommends: “I am looking at.” Often, if not always, we must start right where we are – with what’s right in front of our face, and thankfully I found myself there today.

I am looking at a humming, drifting river, widened by time and man’s manipulation. In spite of her grim, muddy color that does not invite one in for a swim, she does give life to a handful of creatures that must surely love calling her “home.” A slicked-back otter (or maybe a nutria, his far dirtier cousin from Louisiana) glides with grace ‘neath current and wave as a regal mallard stretches his neck high above water so that all may glimpse his emerald authority. Along the distant shore, wild geese assemble and hover, ever faithful in their waiting for the others to catch up. It has been supremely quiet until now, as man-made sounds break the low murmur offered by river – her steady breath and rhythm come to be because of the big-bodied rocks that punctuate her path – the obstacles in her way. It fascinates me that she can still find and use her voice when the way is not easy. She goes on gliding and careening as God made her — and even with a song. I want to be like that.

I look over at mama, the shared silence between us yet not between us, but rather drawing us together in this union of sweet sun, gentle breeze, and the canopy made by regal, stately trees whose limbs loom above us, heavy with sap and wisdom. In this very simple time that needs no introduction, no disclaimer, no explanation, nature invites my mind to empty, my soul to rest, and my eyes to explore the mysterious depths of a river and my own lonely and infinite heart.

Even if you aren’t looking out from muddied river banks at the masterpiece nature offers, wherever you are deserves to be noticed. Be right where you are and look out from where you are. Pay attention. What do you see? Write it down.

As Natalie urges, “let it rip.”

Sabbatical Reading List…

Dear friends,

I write to you as if I’m learning how to ride a bike again; after such a long hiatus from the blogosphere, I’m a bit tentative and shaky in my keyboard strokes. For most of the month of November, thanks be to God and my gracious school community, I had the incredible fortune of taking a sabbatical — a necessary break from the daily routine to make room and seek space to just BE.  My hope was to live simply, unplug, and lean into a time and space for silence, solitude, and being in nature, and to say that it far surpassed my expectations is quite an understatement.

I was grateful to spend nearly three weeks by the Gulf of Mexico along the “Emerald Coast” in Blue Mountain Beach, Florida, and I wish I could offer the words to adequately describe this transforming experience.  My pictures of the wild expanse of sky, sand, and sea do far better justice than my humble words (and I had nothing to do with that either; I just happened to have THE best subjects at which to point and shoot my tireless, 11-year old Canon PowerShot!), but what I can offer now is that it was a time of experiencing and softening to God’s lavish GRACE and LOVE in my life.  To turn off distractions of all types and slow the pace was to open up to revelations and illuminations — both beautiful and incredibly challenging — yet nonetheless meaningful — and begin the process of letting go of so much…among them habits and patterns of thinking, paralyzing fear and shame, illusions of control, and rigid rules I’ve followed blindly for far too long. During this opening space, I was thankful to spend time in a simple state of existence: walking, journaling, wandering, observing, thinking, writing, taking pictures, encountering strangers, praying, singing, listening to music and to silence, playing my guitar, painting, and reading.  Living simply like this, stripped of habits, comfort zones, and familiar, yet distracting technology, I was able to dig deep and become vulnerable to myself.

While I hope to offer a follow-up post to express some of what I learned and continue to learn as I still unpack and process the journey (in a sense, I’m continuing the journey, and yet I’m beginning again), what I want to share today is the list of books I read during this time.  It was beautiful how one book led to the next, as common threads and themes began to emerge:  God’s “Forever Love,” everlasting Grace, how suffering/weakness/vulnerability can become life-giving, and our desperate need to tell our secrets and become our authentic, True selves.

Here they are in the order in which they “found” me and floated gracefully into my life/heart/mind (while some were precious gifts, others have been patiently waiting on my shelf for the “right” time to be read):

Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer

Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen

The Naked Now by Richard Rohr

Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Immortal Diamond by Richard Rohr

Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor

Telling Secrets by Frederick Buechner

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones  (This was a gift from a dear friend, written/illustrated as a “children’s” book, but no, siree…this was my reading before bed each night, and it’s one of the most beautiful “Bibles” I’ve ever seen/read…illustrating the story of God coming back to rescue us with his Love…to heal what had been broken “in the beginning” and to satisfy the deep yearning within us – that desire to be “whole” again.  It, like the others listed, is magnificent.)

Thank you for reading and “listening,” friends.  I hope one, a few, or all of these books find their way to you at some point, and when and if they do, may they touch, encourage, and open you as they did me.

Finally, in the coming weeks, I hope to write again, but at the same time, I must confess that I did NOT miss the computer screen, nor any screen while I was gone…

So, with that, let’s take one day at a time, and I hope to see you soon (and by that I mean face-to-face)…

With love, gratitude, and hope in this waiting season of Advent…

We Need Nature

Summer reading has begun.  Already one week into summer vacation (thank you, Lord!), I have finished my first book, and it has already set in motion both hopes for the summer and  ideas to tinker with for next school year.  Thanks to our noble Department Chair, as an English Department we are engaging in a summer book club based on a work of our choosing from a selected list.  I chose Last Child in the Woods:  Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv, a book I’ve always wanted to read ever since I shared a conversation about it with Clark, my hall-mate and fellow English colleague a number of years ago.  Finally, the time came to dig in.

While the beginning chapters of this book intrigued and held me more than the later ones, I found myself gripped by the book’s premise: WE NEED NATURE.  It is so apparent that in our fast-paced, plugged-in, overly-scheduled lives, we find little time to remember that we are a part of something much larger than ourselves.  Louv resurrects the freedom, fantasy, privacy, and spirituality found in nature, and lovingly implores that we do something about our reconnection with it – both for us and for our children.

There were numerous ideas, moments, and excerpts that sang to me, and I want to share with you a few of them so that you can in turn read and digest this gem for yourself:

1.  “Unlike television, nature does not steal time; it amplifies it.”  TV is the most “effective thief of time.”  We have this perceived “time poverty” in our lives, but are we in part doing it to ourselves with our choices?

2.  We need UNSTRUCTURED (imaginative, exploratory) PLAY. What a disconcerting irony that the current epidemic of childhood obesity has coincided with a  dramatic increase in children’s organized (over-scheduled? over-organized?) sports. Hmm…

3.  “Nature is imperfectly perfect, filled with loose parts and possibilities, with mud and dust, nettles and sky, transcendent hands-on moments and skinned knees.”

4.  Nature presents us with something so much greater than we are; it offers an environment where we can easily contemplate both infinity and eternity.  No, there’s not “an App for that”; such  thinking requires solitude, quiet, and depth.

5.  Currently, our lives may be more productive (although more productive for what?  What IS success really?), but less inventive.

6.  The narrow idea of “silicon faith” exists – that all things “high tech” are our salvation.  While computers are not the problem, perhaps our over-dependence on them is.

7.  We cannot be owned by fear.  I loved this quote that Louv cited from Karyl T. O’Brien, the associate executive director of the regional Girls Scouts Council in San Diego:  “when I was a kid, you fell down, you got up, so what; you learned to deal with consequences.  I broke this arm twice.”

8.  The word “boredom” did not exist until the 19th century (wow!).  There is a difference between a “constructively bored mind” and a “negatively numbed mind.”

9.  The spiritual necessity of nature involves living life in “radical amazement” — how refreshing!  how invigorating!  how life-giving!  how grace-filled!  how purposeful!

10.  Because school should not be as Louv says, “a polite form of incarceration, but a portal to the wider world,” here are some ideas to implement this summer and next school year:

-TV turn-off challenge for school community, purposefully structuring more unstructured time, keeping a “wonder bowl” – filling pockets with natural wonders found on walks, keeping a nature journal, reading outside more, and integrating what we are reading/writing in the classroom with our magnificent campus.

I encourage you to pick up this book, make notes, and remember why nature matters to our lives — to our souls.  I bet a handful of memories and scenes from childhood alone can justify why.

It seems most appropriate that as I conclude Louv’s work, I prepare to abandon the city and travel to the lush unknown of Valparaiso, Indiana with my mama to visit one of my dearest friends from childhood on her parents’ farm. I have no doubt that there, we will turn off everything, reconnect with our old selves, get dirty, and embrace the “loose parts” of unstructured play.  Nature, here we come…

Post Navigation