Thursday, December 31, 2015

Silence

Silence has its own way of showing me things that have nothing to do with language, vision, or anything I could directly name. I don’t know how to articulate it. Perhaps it’s one of those things that words simply fall short of being able to describe.
So, with that said, I’ve been thinking about silence a lot today. I went out on my deck and leaned into the space my mother used to call the portal, the space just before the forest begins. Last night after the rain finally ended, the clouds surrounded Sharptop and showed me gradations and spectrums of color I haven’t seen before. The light there is always different. A blessing even in times of grief and fear. But silence and solitude can be so kind here. They can also seem like a desert of sorts, I confess. There’s an emptiness I feel here that is both frightening and beautiful. I don’t think emptiness is the best word for it, but it will have to do. It’s related to silence, I suppose. In the silence here, there are of course forest noises, and occasionally the sound of a car going by on Cove Road up above my property, but there are not the claiming and clamorous voices of students or friends or family. I love those voices most of the time. But here I feel like I’m standing on the edge of something more than just my deck. I think I am still afraid of it. It doesn’t just show up here. It likes to save itself mostly for the woods and swamps. It isn’t trying to disconnect me from community or anyone else in a tangible, literal way. But it does sure enough want something from me. Perhaps by “it” I mean God. I suppose that’s true, since I believe (even when I don’t feel it) that God is in everything, all of us, all the time. I think of Maurice Manning’s beautiful poem from the Bucolics collection, the one where he’s talking to God and says “what I want from you is nothing Boss compared to what you want from me”. That feels very true for me too. It doesn’t feel like a scold, though, even when I haven’t been meditating, praying, reading, or working in the ways I feel like I “should” be. It is much more of a promise. It’s exciting, actually.
I don’t think it will ever be what I think it will be, that “experience” of being claimed and held.

For me silence is as much about seeing as anything else. For me to see in a way that recognizes the ordinary holiness and beauty in absolutely everything, I need silence. I don’t recognize that beauty all of the time, but when I do it seems to permeate everything and everybody. It can be very intense, even tiring. It doesn’t “play favorites” but it isn’t aloof or remote. It holds everyone’s soul to its Heart, this silence. It sees everyone as its favorite. I want to trust it more. I don’t need locutions or dramatic conversations with God, though I hope I would be open to them if God wanted me to be. I want to feel the Heart of silence, which I tend to feel as the Heart of Christ and of Jesus. I am kinder and more patient when I try to put myself in this “space.” Sometimes it comes to me of its own accord, thank God. I am thinking of so many times at the land off of Griffith Road or over by Hidden Pond. Times when I feel a poignancy to the edge of everything, from the sudden appearance of a rabbit at the edge of the path to the sound of a whippoorwhill before it’s gotten dark. There can be a melancholy present, I guess, but I don’t know that I would really name it as such. It’s some sort of alloy. It’s something like what Rilke wrote about in the Tenth Duino Elegy when he wished he could have received and surrendered to his nights of suffering more closely. It’s Lawrence’s three strange angels. It might even be a cousin of Pascal’s FIRE…God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob. It’s what held me in place for unnoticed hours that summer afternoon in Kentucky, overcome with joy and love beside the statue of Jesus and his crimson heart. I think it must be with me all the time. If I can begin---continue?---to be able to recognize it in any given moment, to let it open and share its silent heart with me, I will be---what? Happy? Not that, necessarily….maybe grateful? Actually, “present” is the best word I can find, which is paradoxical because what I’m talking about is really, I think, more about absence than presence---it has often felt that way, anyway. I can sometimes conceive of the absence as a benediction, a presence, even when it feels like emptiness, and that is a huge grace. I can’t think of anything more—or less--I would want to pray for. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

along the way

The early light of this midwinter
weather is finally choosing
its full name.
Poor and transformative,
the humble challenge
of your desert Heart
shares its imagination
with every cloud,
every changing sky,
every hungry traveller
who washes the feet
of Jesus
in the busy city
along the way to becoming
the promised Feast.

----Laura Sorrells
Advent 2015

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

when?

Beside this big old bed is a paper lamp. It is a column of orange light whispering to someone I can’t see as I sit on the edge of the bed and wait for my thoughts to stop. I know something I cannot say, can’t even begin to articulate, and the orange light holds that knowledge in its secret supernatural voice like clear water in a metal bowl. The story of light has been trying to let me know something in my dreams. I have been resistant to it, like everyone else before me. But there is no denying the reality of its narrative, its power, its tricky strength, its trajectory of claiming. Filaments of orange light peer through little holes in the paper lamp’s cylindrical body and I think of a column of fire, a tongue of flame dancing and insistent. Something burning but stable and unchanging. When will I know what to do? When will the silent fire decide to speak my name? I sigh and slide between the cool white cotton of the bedsheets. The lamp’s glass bulb flickers like a candle, goes out for a second, then reappears, tinged with a purple undercurrent that is impossible to identify with my eyes but is somehow undeniably present nonetheless. I sit up and listen for the wind, for the way the branches of the shedding red oaks sound against the glass of the big windows that open onto the forest. A shower of acorns pelts the tin roof and the lamp gutters like a torch and goes out. Breathless but not exactly fearful, I close my eyes to hear what the fire has to say, adding a layer of chosen darkness to the hologram of orange and purple that inhabits the new dark of the air around me. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

an older post where the font went ghostly

Sometimes there’s a hum that hovers across and over this patch of land, like cicadas in August or the wheeze of a strange, busted harmonica a little boy might find chucked in with his toys, a mystery song waiting to happen, caught in holes between tin. But tonight the stillness separates and parses the air, like mist rising over a pond early in the morning. Just beyond the cow pasture the old log cabin has on its new face, its two chimneys stouter now and its windows immaculate and maybe even a little impenetrable. I miss its crumbling edges, the triangle of air at the bottom of the front left-hand window. And I am not sure I want the old stone wall around the little cemetery to be restored. I like the mossy moats that separate its stones. There is even talk of cutting down the cedar tree by the cemetery entrance. Its lopsided coniferous grace is a benediction to me, though, a familiar sentinel over the years, when I’ve come to pay my respects to Laura Sorrells Smith, born 1878, died 1905. Last time I was here I stacked a small cairn of stones from the pinewoods by her marker. History is palpable here, a prayer for continuity and awareness, a blessing into kin. The broken places show it best. Their shabby beauty needs the gentle tending that honors their splits and rifts, that lets their fractured beauty be seen by those who need their stories and their lonesome strength. I’ll miss them if they’re fixed. For now I don’t mind moving tousles of pinestraw away from the shapes of angels and the curves of my family name.



Sunday, June 28, 2015

still

Kudzu does its thing
Green encroachment claiming earth
No one is still home

Friday, June 26, 2015

lightning

fireflies in the woods
flashing points of vivid light
mocking the Smartphone



lks 6/26/15





an acknowledgment

speeding ticket paid
the tyranny of the screen
consumes the silence

----lks 6/26/15

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About Me

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Georgia, United States
I live at the edge of the forest in a little town in the north Georgia mountains. I teach sixth grade Language Arts and am writing a memoir of sorts about family, spirituality, and narrative. I am also exploring a possible writing project having to do with contemporary lay contemplative experience and how it might be informed by the Desert Fathers and Mothers of early Christianity. I am a relatively recent convert to Roman Catholicism and an admirer of Pope Francis, Leonardo Boff, Joan Chittister, and Richard Rohr. I'm a Lay Associate of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia. I am interested in indigenous cultures, narratives, and spirituality, especially how these can inform my spirituality as a lay contemplative. I write, read, take pictures, play around with creating ephemera from paper and cloth and other organic things. I cook, hike, watch wildlife, and collect random bits of interesting oddness, both tangible and abstract. I am a seer of smallness and a caretaker of ridiculous minutiae. If you want, e-mail me at riverrun67@gmail.com or lksorrells@hotmail.com.