Sunday, November 17, 2013

a season of smallness

Christmas is coming. I’m not feeling it. It’s been years since a truly childlike joy has pervaded my experience of Christmas, but this year there is an emptiness that frightens me. A few months ago I wrote about the “experience” of emptiness that I had at Arabia Mountain in June. It was really more of an experience of joy at being opened up. This is not like that. This is scary. There isn’t the whisper of silence to comfort me. The breath, the textures of the silence I’ve known of late aren't exactly those I associate with "true" silence but of a defiant,willful, stubborn wall. It feels alive almost at times. Right now when I write poetry, or try to, I struggle immensely with the words. The tenderness I have felt so strongly for God these past two years is reluctant to help me. Indeed it almost isn’t there. Being in the woods, alone with my camera and notebook, is a way of being with that tenderness. It doesn’t mean I feel it. The closest I do come to feeling it right now is when I’m teaching. Last week my students turned in the poems they wrote. Found poems, like the ones on my blog, and metaphor poems. “this mountain, this fire, this pencil, this song.” The poems shout and murmur with beauty. With the unexpected. Their courage takes my breath away. That is the closest I am coming to praying right now. Reading those and feeling gratitude that I helped birth them. I do say “thank you” many times a day, and I mean it. I don’t think I am angry at God. Perhaps I am, but that doesn’t feel like an explanation for this flatness. I know there is so much grief still there in my heart, mostly for my beloved and complicated mother, who died in 2004, but also for the failure of love. For my inability to love a man as I have wanted to. I don’t seem to be cut out for living into that love. I suppose part of what that’s about is that I am too selfish. But it is also beginning to be about thoughts of the frightening but sometimes compelling possibility of some sort of solitude in a protracted, long-term way. Still, I try to live in the moment, to be present to it, and when I can that is a grace. I wrote something years ago about wanting to be with a man who could “endure my solitude,” as the singer Nanci Griffith put it. I have yet to find this person. And I have put some energy into yearning and search. So possibly that is part of the hollowness this winter.

At any rate, what I do with this wall is what seems to be important. I think it is crucial that I do not pound my fists angrily on it. I can even name it. I have at times called my longing for God, for Christ, for Spirit, into it. I did that tonight driving home down the mountain in the rain. I thought about the cinnamon color of the sky around the browning forest’s top and I loved it. I felt a pang of passionate love for God just watching the rain fall on my pickup truck’s windshield. And then it went away and I began to cry. I found myself wanting the cheer and the abundant spirit of Christmas. The celebratory largesse of it. In truth I don’t want that, though. I suppose I think I should want it. But really what I love on Christmas is silence. Simplicity. Last year I went to the monastery for Christmas Eve and spent the night there. I put my bag down in the little room where I slept and loved its smallness. It felt so right. Little, austere, humble. Almost vulnerable somehow. Christmas felt then like a wreath of simple winter branches unadorned, like the receptivity and yearning of my favorite Christmas carol (actually an Advent song): O come O come Emmanuel. O come, thou Day-spring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine Advent here. I loved Christmas in the slowness of those syllables and of their dance with Advent candles in the secret part of the night. I have felt such resistance to the glitter and pomp of Christmas. For me the time is more about smallness, longing, hunger, emptiness, vulnerability, simplicity. Receptivity. Waiting. The love that has yet to be born, or borne. The child. Incapable of celebration in human terms. Naked, probably, or close to it. Just present in the human world, incarnate, hungry, breathing.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

a doorway, vanishing

Bring me the prophetic riddle
you have promised.
Reveal to me
the wheel of union, the
spacious all, the
gentle passion of
our tears. A furnace
of love breathes
through the Body’s
warm return. Everyone
here is a fountain,
a desert, a host.
A compass, a likeness,
a branch. A door-
way vanishing into
your speechless,
infinite heart.
----©Laura Sorrells 2013
all rights reserved

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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 or