Monday, March 28, 2011

How it begins...

"A poem begins with a lump in the throat; 
a homesickness or a love-sickness. 
It is a reaching out toward expression, 
an effort to find fulfillment. 
A complete poem is one where 
an emotion has found its thought 
and the thought has found the word." 
- Robert Frost

Monday, March 21, 2011

God bless Archbishop Dolan

Give him a primetime slot like Archbishop Fulton Sheen...
here he is on CBS, explaining some of the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

On Emptiness, c. Summer 2010

My little townhouse-that-could was almost empty, after days of packing and loading and driving and unpacking and square dancing around the boxes in my new house. Even with all of that, I didn't realize what was happening until the sound of my own voice startled me – I was skimming up the stairs to grab one last thing before break time, singing “Girl, put your records on…” when I heard myself reverberating off the stairwell.

I stopped, first to make sure it wasn't an intruder, singing a pretty song to lure me in…and then I sang a little more, just to test. The echo sounded nice, in the way that a wind instrument makes music when air is blown through the hollow body. The clean floors and bare walls were part of the production; the sounds that they shaped were haunting and pretty. Reminded me of the barbershop quartet in the Metro near Pentagon Square, or the daily Mass choir practicing in the Memorial Hall stairwell at Benedictine.
Plain, quiet, bare space is really very pretty, very peaceful. But to create that in my interior life, that's not an easy thing. I have to work to create space for myself to develop and process and reverberate. I just attempted to "blank slate" myself at the beginning of this summer, staying home with for two weeks to “get some rest” - sleeping in, waking with no expectations, making my "schedule" up as I went along. I could do whatever I wanted, and I did what I thought I wanted. But somehow, the empty boxes on my cleared agenda weren't freeing. The days ended up being dry and uninspiring, and my head rattled around in a daze. My life was relatively void of responsibility, and I had expected rest. Instead, I stripped away any rhythm, times, conversations and commitments that brought life, and my recreation re-created nothing. Real serenity wasn't afforded to me when I sought indulgent self-preservation, gutting my mind of thought.

Now, to speak of other emptinesses - ones cleared patiently, and filled with purpose:

Right now, in India, my friend is staring at her hotel ceiling, dealing with typhoid and other such movie star diseases. Far from glamorous, Tina writes this of her experience...

I spoke this week with another dear friend who had given birth to a baby boy. For the good portion of a year, this lady gave all that she had for a silent, little person - unseen, save the bloppy black-and-white sonogram that confirmed Liam was indeed in utero. I quietly cried happy tears into the phone to hear of her joy after waiting for nine months, arranging blankets in an empty crib.
In emptiness, beauty has space to echo. I’ve heard it before – “in the silence of the heart, God speaks.” In  the quiet, babies develop and minds process and sounds echo into something more than they once were.

Now read this.

The rhythm of spring is easier to dance to.

I believe in the enchanting mystery of winter, but I sure enjoy the whole day more easily in the spring.

The battle between the snooze button and subjecting your finally-warmed toes to frigid tile is lessened. Coffee is more of a delicacy and less of a lubricant. My drive to campus is pleasanter, as Nashvillians don't just abhor bad weather, they stand stock-still until it's gone...often in the middle of West End Avenue.

Sunshine gives stained glass the freedom to be all it can be. In every building, the Jr. High Biology Classroom on Video Day-feeling of dimmed lights, cold desktops, and heavy eyelids is banished.

This is when the whole campus is buzzing, and you can safely assume that everyone...even musicians...have experienced some of the day. Welcome, all.

If you can practice carelessness, I do it in the spring. After dinner, I skip outside with no jacket, under no threat of frostbite or walking pneumonia. My idealized hope is that it's not so warm that people take too many clothes go off, but just that you can identify friends from a quarter of a mile away. Or something.

The weather tells me that another day like this is coming, and that it's worth sleeping now to wake up for. Spring is the seasonal version of "the first day of the rest of your life," a phrase which I would have wagered a college textbook that my friend and I coined in our freshman year at Benedictine. It's fine, you can all use it.

Take yesterday, for instance:

I woke early, dropped my dear friend off at work, convinced myself on the way home that the weather warranted a celebration, bought myself a coffee, drank half, and called mission partners to thank them for being as in love with this mission as I am. Consolation Nation.

Walked into the Cathedral to participate in one of the sweetest, most beautiful Masses in my life. It was the Feast of St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, and Angelle was receiving her First Holy Communion. Picture an angelic little girl, bedecked in white, looking as close to Original Innocence as she ever has, stretching her elbows all akimbo so they reach the top of the ornate kneeler, beaming at her mom when Father mentions her name in the homily. I would like to believe that God sees me looking like Angelle. And it is good.

A friend and I take the Eucharist to Catholic patients in the hospital, and the Divine Physician comes to his sick with unparalleled medicine. We prolong the celebration at Fido, toasting with scrambled eggs and salsa.

I head uptown to run errands, and find a moving sale. It's warm enough for people to sell me their picture frames and dishes! A Civil War battlefield monument sign stops me, so I park to take a seven minute look around. Pulling into my driveway, I see a neighbor on her porch. We've never met, so I tiptoe onto her lawn and call out "We've never met, but I live next door and I like your wicker chairs!" She tells me her name, the name of her husband, and that her contractions are ten minutes apart. Their baby girl is coming! I start a short run, and wave as I go, shouting that I hope they are off to the hospital before I'm back to stretch. (Next day update: still no word. They probably are house-hunting for neighborhoods with no shouting.) I catch up on the phone with a good friend, and she is well.

Catholics know how to celebrate. A group of 20 women gather in the Frassati House and load the table with a baked goods extravaganza. We hear about the life of St. Joseph, and share our experiences from praying a thirty day prayer to ask for his intercession in our vocations. Game over. Day's a success. We bring a latte to the hospital for our sweet, on-call roomie, and fall into a deeeep sleep.