Lesson of the Orchid

Happy Monday, everyone!  Today I have sort of a Monday-type question for you (in other words, one that you probably won’t really feel like answering because you suspect you will have to admit something unpalatable about yourself if you did).  But don’t worry, we’re all here together, and I promise not to leave you on an uninspired note.  Anyway, here’s the question: do you have something, or a variety of somethings in your life, something about yourself, something you want to stop doing, or need to start doing, but you don’t, and what’s more, the way you are going along is simply making you more and more miserable (or you have the suspicion that it is, when you spend a moment to look at whatever the situation is out of the corner of your eye), and yet you keep doing it anyway?  Well, I do.  I have one big something and a variety of small somethings, and I can’t seem to get any real traction on dealing with them.  Most of the time I feel like I really don’t have what it takes to do what it takes.  But then yesterday afternoon I fell asleep and had this dream…

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The Season of Light: An Invitation to a Poetic Advent

There are some special announcements today at From the Heart, and I’m so excited to share them with you!  The first is that, as some of you may remember, this blog started with a project called Radical Lent: A Poetic Approach to 40 Days in the Wilderness.  I had decided last March that as a Lenten practice, I would read a poem each day and then write about it here.  And I invited some people to read along, and they were gracious enough to say yes, and well, the whole thing sort of took off from there.  So here’s the news I’m excited to share: I’ve decided to do an Advent blog called “The Season of Light: An Invitation to a Poetic Advent.”  This project will follow pretty much the same pattern as the Lenten blog: a poem and a post each day during the Advent Season.  Below are some more details (and a request)! 


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Why Everyone Needs a Superhero

Halloween at Gabe's daycare

In the dark early hours of the morning, I saw a shadowy figure in my bedroom, and my first thought was that it was Jesus.  I’d been reading some Anne Lamott the night before—the part of Travelling Mercies where she describes what she later came to believe was Jesus’ presence in her bedroom as she was struggling alone, drunk, strung out, through the aftermath of an abortion.  Anne writes that she could feel the presence so strongly that she got up and turned on the light to see if someone was there. 
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As Cool as the Air in a Redwood Grove

One of the chapters of Anne Lamott’s Travelling Mercies is an account of a health scare she had with her son Sam.  Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, depending on your perspective (and mental health), we had a similar experience this week with Gabe.  But before I tell you about that, I want to show you this picture by Toni Frissell, a female photographer in the 1940’s and 50’s. 

It’s from an underwater shoot of models all wearing white, fluidy gowns.  To me, it evokes many things: surrender, descent, freedom, and something of the seductive power of depression.  It also reminds me of the scene in “The Piano” where Holly Hunter almost drowns because she lets her leg get tangled up with her piano when it falls overboard.  (Hunter plays a mute woman in the 1850’s who is sent to New Zealand for an arranged marriage.  Her piano is, quite literally, her voice).  She is very calm at first, quietly observing the water around her, gracefully allowing herself to be pulled down, down, down.  Then suddenly it’s like she wakes up and realizes what is happening, and she struggles to free herself and swim to the surface.  The camera shows her discarded boot sinking slowly deeper, while she swims up, towards a life that she is not sure she wants, certainly one she knows nothing about, but one she is not ready to give up. 

Continue reading “As Cool as the Air in a Redwood Grove”

Project Spread Cheer @ Work: Unexpected Kickback & a Useful Reminder

Regular readers know that, inspired by Summer Pierre’s Artist in the Office, I’ve been doing an ongoing project at work called “Being a Secret Messenger for Good.”  This is my third update, and well, let me say, quite an unanticipated development. 

Because I wanted to reach both male and female coworkers with this little project, a male colleague has been helping with the placement of the inspirational quotations (in the men’s bathroom).  The method is this: I put a quotation in a brown inter-office envelope and leave it in his mailbox, and he hangs it up.  Then he returns the previous quote to me. 

But last week, when I opened the brown return envelope, I found the quotation that I asked him to hang up with a  Post-it Note stuck on it.  He was RETURNING it.  

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New Project #1: “This is It!”

There are one or two new projects in the works here at From the Heart and I’m excited to share the first one with you!  Some time ago, a friend shared with me something called “An Eschatological Laundry List: A Partial Register of the 927 (or was it 928?) Eternal Truths.”  This is a list created by author and psychotherapist Sheldon Kopp, and is printed as an epilogue in his book, If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him.  Shortly afterwards, my husband taped a copy of this list, which has 43 items, onto our refrigerator.

I ignored it, partly because I did not know what “eschatological” meant, partly because it’s in tiny little print, and partly because one or two Eternal Truths feel like enough for me, let alone 43 of them.  Then I started to see the list in various places on the web.  The items on it are things like, “Love is not enough, but it sure helps,” and “We may have only ourselves, and one another.  That may not be much, but that’s all there is,” and “How strange, that so often, it all seems worth it.”   

But I noticed that no one really talked about the list when they posted it in different places, they just put it out there like, “Hey, isn’t this cool?”  And seeing it stuck on my refrigerator between the Champaign-Danville Overhead Doors magnet and an orange Post-It note warning from Gabe that says, “No bad dinos in the house,” made me wonder, what is one supposed to do with something like this list?  It seems cool and enlightened, but what does it actually mean?  How does it help you live your life better?  Are these Eternal Truths really true?

In my research on Sheldon Kopp and his laundry list, I’ve learned two useful things so far: 1) “eschatological” means “concerned with the ultimate or final things, such as death, the destiny of humanity, the future state, etc.”  2) Sheldon Kopp seems to have had a sense of humor.  Here is how he described the list: “The subject of this particular letter was the foolishness of our professional pontificating….This was to be a zany private spoof, a way of tenderly making fun of myself.  Instead, what emerged was a fragment of a cosmic joke, a visionary list of the truths which, at best, shape my life, provide answers to unasked questions, and give insights too powerfully simple to be grasped finally and forever.”

I love this attitude.  It is very un-list like, in fact, because lists typically do not show you the connections between things; lists contain discrete, potentially unrelated items, and don’t lend themselves to deeper understanding.  I love the playfulness of combining a word like “eschatological,” so weighty and doomsday-sounding, with the words “laundry list,” so mundane, everyday-ish, and non-threatening. 

All this is to say that this has inspired me to take these 43 Eternal Truths one by one and see what they have to tell us.  So our poetic Lenten journey of 40 Days in the Wilderness will continue on with an exploration of these 43 Eternal Truths (incorporating poetry whenever possible, of course!).  The first ET is simply, “This is it!”  On the surface this sounds like a call for presence in the here and now, which is good and important.  But it’s not that simple; from a Christian perspective, for example, “this” is not really “it.”  One’s perspective on how one lives their life now is profoundly shaped by how one understands, relates to, believes in the idea of everlasting life. 

It feels a little scary to me to go down this road, but I’m going to give it a try.  I hope you’ll be here too, and I hope you’ll write in with your thoughts along the way because I know they’ll be fabulous.  So stay tuned because coming up next is: “Is this IT?”

What do you think?

“Afraid Yet Filled With Joy:” The Blessings of Easter

Two amazing things happened to me on Good Friday as I was driving to meet some friends after a crazy 36 hours.  The first was that I passed Jesus on the street.  Actually, he was on the sidewalk.   He was walking east down Windsor Avenue, wearing a white robe, the crown of thorns, and carrying a cross.  A small robed woman wearing head coverings was walking next to him.  On the other side of the street going west was a jogger with no shirt on, and coming up towards Jesus on his side was a guy on a bike.  I felt concerned about the biker because there’s not a lot of room on the sidewalk, and it seemed like it could be awkward trying to bike past Jesus with the small woman and the cross.  Also, if it had been me, there was no way I could just RIDE PAST Jesus, especially not with the cross and the crown of thorns.  Maybe on a normal day, i.e not Good Friday.  But no, not even then.  It would feel too disrespectful. [note: my dad said he didn’t understand this part of the post.  It ACTUALLY happened!  Exactly this way. It’s a TRUE story!]

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And Now For Something Completely the Same

There are three strands of one story trying to weave themselves together in my head today, and if I were a better or less tired writer, I would not have to tell you that upfront—it would be clear from the writing itself.  And since I’ve started off with that unsubtle disclaimer, I’ll follow it by just telling you what the three strands are, even though that feels like handing you the rope and telling you to go braid it yourself, instead of weaving a fine and smooth story, which is what responsible writers are supposed to do.

Continue reading “And Now For Something Completely the Same”

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