on prayer | 11

"The habit of prayer, as I see it, would mean a continual anxiety with regard to prayer, a fight, a struggle. It is the perpetual dread of fear, the fear of fear, that shapes the face of a brave man. Your face - you don't mind if I tell you? - looks worn by prayer . . . "

(Georges Bernanos, A Diary of a Country Priest)


we have the given life

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Yesterday was twenty one years and a loganberry festival and Whidbey Island and picking berries and red-stained fingers and five forks digging into one whole pie and red-checkered tablecloths and braiding wheat and sitting on thorny weeds and the windows down in a big suburban and loganberry wine that tasted like drinking strong jam and island music coming from a barn stage and prayer in a field and some of my favorite people and seagulls chasing us on the ferry. It was the type of day that deserves a run-on sentence: so full to the tippy-top with happy things.

"We have the given life, not the planned," says Wendell Berry. This is the given life. I don't know how or why it came to be mine, but I am awfully grateful for all of it, and this season called summer.

[all photos from yesterday : ones including me taken by jayne]


hungry eyes

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"Don't move the way fear makes you move."

Thursdays are the best days around here because it means it is the end of the week and because my long traipse up the hill is always rewarded by a stop at the Queen Anne Farmer's Market (and usually a cherry bar, or a pretzel knot, or the freshest tastiest peach) and because there is usually something to look forward to about the weekend. Today I am washing sheets and towels and vacuuming and preparing for weekend visitors as I listen to Arvo Part and eat toast for dinner.

I have been graced with an abundance of time here in Seattle and that results in a wide variety of thoughts filtering through my head each day. I don't always know how to gather all the pieces together. I find myself wanting to tidy my thoughts, organize them, or at the very least sweep them into a corner. Often writing helps sort my mind, but I am also trying to learn to embrace the clamor. Just as order is important for creativity, I think clamor can lead to creativity too. Sometimes you have to just release it all and then let ideas bounce, crash, and intersect. I kind of think of it as a process of receive-release-receive.

I keep coming back to those words from Rumi. Don't move the way fear makes you move. Fear makes me strive for order, for structure, for anything that will tell me that my life is not meaningless. Perhaps that is alright at times. We are orderly creatures after all, and certainly the world appears intrinsically orderly, and beautifully so. But it can be dangerous when I look for meaning in order. There is a freedom that comes with allowing yourself to play, or to be attracted to a material for no particular reason, or to embrace failure and realize there is yet grace.

Heather mentioned recently how her photography students in Bolivia seem unable to understand the concept of creativity. In their culture, education is merely rote memorization and regurgitation, and open-ended assignments seem foreign to them. Is creativity merely a cultural phenomenon? Maybe so, and maybe people like Julia Cameron have influenced us in North America. Or perhaps those students, like myself, just need that living thing within to be awakened and a space to let their ideas wander.

[baby's breath, or the prettiest of flowers]


inspiring things | 2

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Rembrandt van Rijn, The Three Crosses, 1653.


on prayer | 10

On Prayer

"You ask me how to pray to someone who is not.
All I know is that prayer constructs a velvet bridge
And walking it we are aloft, as on a springboard,
Above landscapes the color of ripe gold
Transformed by a magic stopping of the sun.
That bridge leads to the shore of Reversal
Where everything is just the opposite and the word 'is'
Unveils a meaning we hardly envisioned.
Notice: I say we; there, every one, separately,
Feels compassion for others entangled in the flesh
And knows that if there is no other shore
We will walk that aerial bridge all the same."

(Czeslaw Milosz)


chicago from the pier

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It's funny how buildings seem like characters sometimes. The fat old woman hovering over her daughter and the slender and confident businessman. At least, that's how I think of Chicago, like a skyline story, or a line-up of characters at the end of a play. I miss it, and the evenings spent at dusk on the pier imagining who they might be.


inspiring things | 1

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Today's inspiration: Agnes Martin. Oh gracious. I could stare at these all day. They remind me that sometimes you must create what you think is beautiful, even if it seems to have no purpose. A collection of lines and colors can have more purpose than we think. I think the world needs more abstract expressionists.




Brain release, because sometimes that needs to happen:

There is a difference between sacraments with a promise and sacraments without a promise.

Good words to remember and to use: pariah, culvert, and garrulity.

I think I should start writing to-make lists rather than to-do lists.

This place has had me thinking.

It is solved by walking.

Prayer is just a way of storming the Lord's tenderness. (Georges Bernanos)

I want to be better about keeping records of those things that inspire me. Lately: Christa Blackwood (picture above is hers), Kurt Simonson (love absolutely all of it), Samantha VanDeman, the Salve Regina, Andrew Wyeth (makes me miss Pennsylvania), Gabriel Orozco (especially his working tables), Tadao Ando's Church of Light.

"Faith is not a thing one 'loses,' we merely cease to shape our lives by it . . ." (Georges Bernanos)

"I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible." (East of Eden)

Good surnames: Emmons, Kilderry, and Cairns. (Can you tell I have been addressing a lot of envelopes?)

"God is not found in the soul by adding anything but by subtracting." (Meister Eckhart)

A good-looking book and a good-looking raincoat.