Tuesday, May 22, 2012

giving up

You alone know how to sing
the green ferment
my darkness wants.
I am giving up the old
calendar of scatter
and waste. The ardent
nowhere of God is all
the kiss my impatient
beggar's heart
can bear.

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

I took this found poem from Rilke's Book of Hours, the Anita Barrows/Joanna Macy translation.

Monday, May 14, 2012

a shared seeing

I can’t quite see the mountain from where I am. Tall trees obscure its tip. A collar of pink clouds rises up from just above it. I am reminded of last October when I wrote about the shedding of old skin and the emptiness that follows. That skin has continued to fall away, mostly, with patches of reclamation here and there. There is loneliness in it but beauty too. A paradox, as ever. I have a little outdoor altar here, with a fading illustration of an artsy greeting-card rabbit amidst a little silver crucifix and a swathe of bright green flowered fabric. Shells and feathers are settling into the damp fabric after today’s rain. A tall spike of some kind of volunteer bulb spreads out across the glass table towards the forest. I light a tall white glass pillar candle and a glass pillar candle with an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe on it, both brought in with dry wicks from my hearth. A whippoorwhill calls in the woods and I remember that I actually seem to have heard cicadas out at a friend’s horse rescue farm the other night. Seems improbable in May but it sure sounded like cicadas to me.
That night was one of connection, understanding, and conversation offered and shared with tremendous warmth and sincerity. I sat on a log beside a campfire with two people who had heretofore been strangers and talked about my spiritual journey and listened to them talk about theirs. We all believe in paying attention to synchronicity, and we talked about that. We laughed at our own misadventures and at the beautiful incongruities of being human. We talked about sacrifice and how we watch it happen and how some people seem to choose it, to take on the pain of others in a deliberate way, a profoundly unselfish and loving thing that is impossible to explain in words. It sounds trite. Unless you have seen it, it can sound maudlin and empty, platitudinous. But it is not. And I honor it in my heart every day. I know it when I feel it, more than when I see it. It is a palpable energy, a largesse of soul that I do not understand or even envy at this point but which I revere and am grateful for. It felt good to be able to say these things and have them be understood.
And we laughed and ate pizza and they drank a little beer. Finally it began to rain, and as the sweet early-summer smell of grass and hay began to saturate my senses I gathered up my camera and my old serape and the peacock feather one of my new friends had given me and headed home. 

--©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Sunday, May 13, 2012

the work of the daily

Begin to read
the sweet Nothing this
testament teaches.
Accept the pure
work of the daily
with love.
The homeland of God
is seeking the life
you belong to.
Everything includes you
in its secret.

--lks 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012

like a sister

A solemn glisten of awe
declares its music.
If you look at the wind,
you will find
a sustaining expectancy,
familiar in its
wild shining. Go with
that stormy pilgrim.
Your listening soul
will enter its healing mystery
like a sister
speaking with family.

-©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Thursday, May 10, 2012

White Lily

Last week I was looking through old notebooks and ran across a 2008 journal entry written in response to a prompt about a food from my childhood. I had written about these little freezer rolls my Grandma Sorrells made, which were actually rather bland but took on the texture and flavor of whatever you ate them with in a really fine and singular way. I remember how butter and homemade fig preserves turned them into islands of sweetness and flake. I remember how my grandma rarely made biscuits, at least not that I recall. When I found out later in life how dangerously good a big old buttered cathead biscuit could be, I thought about the little rolls and how Grandma used to bake them by the dozen for us and for her best friend, an African-American woman named Claudia with whom she worked at the local primary school cafeteria. I wish I knew how to bake them myself. Possibly my father has the recipe. I will have to ask him.
Thinking about the little rolls got me to thinking too about White Lily flour. It’s the best flour you can bake with, the Southern foodways people I know assert. It’s supposed to yield fluffier cakes, more perfectly textured bread. Lighter biscuits?  Maybe. I’m not sure, though, that biscuits are meant to be light. I think of them as intense and substantive, dense and strong. If they were light, maybe they’d lose some of their heft and power. Maybe I just haven’t had the right biscuits yet. I don’t eat them much anymore. Hardly ever,  really.
At any rate, White Lily flour does have a luster and pearly softness that make it sweet to touch on tabletops, and other places, too. I’m not any sort of expert so I don’t know what makes it like that, what turns it into a sift of loose satin, like something a Vermeer model might choose to bake bread with. My grandma was an expert, though. Her reverence for the gentle softness of flour and the alchemy surrounding it makes me think now about cornmeal and its holiness, about the scatter of it around the dancing katsina spirits at Hopiland several summers ago. I think about the flung goldenness of it on a warm September wind at the Etowah Indian Mounds, and about my dear old friend John, who flung it, and who died last June at the age of 52.  Ceremonially, White Lily has a sacred quality to it that I surmise is borne of its capacity to bring sustenance, to make a meal, to build up blood and bone and brain and vision. It’s the raw stuff of spirit despite its tangible delicate softness. It becomes a tribute, maybe even a conduit, for those who use it to mark sacred time and honor ancestors. It brings things into an awareness of their commonality in a Body. I think about White Lily and wonder how odd it would seem if I headed out to the big old rural cemetery where my grandma is buried, north of Monroe, and dusted a fine skein of flour around the flat metal plate that marks her grave. I don’t think I’ll do that, but not because of the strangeness of the act or of what anyone might think about it. It just doesn’t feel like my grandma is there, beneath that grassy space with its dozens of unperturbable little memorial flags and lopsided flower arrangements made of plastic and cheap cloth. A better spot to put the flour would be around the steps of the old two-room schoolhouse at Sorrells Springs where my grandma went to school and graduated from the eighth grade in 1926. (It was as far as she got with her education; her family was large and far from wealthy and needed her to help work in what she referred to as “the field.”) The silkiness of the flour would hang around beside the concrete steps and the stones holding up the foundation of the old schoolhouse until rain fell or wind dispersed it. I doubt it anyone would notice. Not very many people visit the schoolhouse now. Still, it’s the place where my grandmother, Ruth Williams then, won her school spelling bee and received a bright blue ceramic bell edged with goldleaf as a prize. I don’t know what else she did there. Maybe she played with her dog Jack, shared a secret with a friend, or smiled at my grandfather or another boy. The milkweed and dandelions beside the old schoolhouse feel like a place where soft pale petals of floursilk could settle, a mattress of feast for ants and hornets in summer. A feeding hole of remembrance and acknowledgment bowing to the Body of ancestry that led people in the neighboring church to wash each other’s feet in big bowls or maybe in the running water of the spring. The flour-body would become a blessing, a way of saying with reverence and love, “All my relations!” before settling shyly into the waiting cimarron clay.

©Laura Sorrells 2012
all rights reserved

Sunday, May 6, 2012

more Nothing

A hesitant quiver of wilderness
circles the open window where
an inexorable blue
spends its sky.
Speak the word
your half-wild coyote soul
is unlocking,
in its faltering vein of dream.
More Nothing is loose in you
than you can hope
to follow.

I put together this found poem Friday evening using William Stafford's wonderful collection of poems The Way It Is. 

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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.