Reflections on Lent - Day 4
The storms have found us. Lightning strike, thunder boom. It has been a surprise for me today up on this hill. Was I not looking? Not paying attention to the weather? Apparently, that's a no go. I was working on the new novel when my alarm sounded. It was time for the live Reader Posse Round up at high-noon and I was looking forward to connecting with my readers, giving them a sneak peek of some new words from the page. But instead I kept repeating myself, finally gave in to giving up, hanging up. Calling it done. Later, I sent them an original short story as apology. Thanks for tuning in but today has been called due to weather.
My Lent embarkment has been to remember how to pray silently for a stranger each day. How to keep someone, place someone, on my heart in such a way it matters to me. Where I connect with someone human in a short, small way that reminds me to be human. 40 days. That's all. Surely, after having done this for three years running and then some I can pull off 40 days.
Then the storm. The things that waylay us. Storms in everyday. Storms in life. Things that derail us so easily from the goal we had, the lofty thing, the desire for better than we were before. But today - oh my, what a surprise. As I said, I was writing. Nested in. There had been grey skies and some clouds and so early on I built a fire just for purpose. The kind where you gaze and snuggle down and work sitting on the floor, laptop in - well, lap. Literally. I live up the hill without a basement much to speak of. More crawl space that I would think if I was crawling in the house would cave in upon me. Sometimes there seems to be no safe place. I have that closet I've written of. The one beneath the stairs. Close enough it's what I've got.
Today, I didn't venture out so no strangers met but still some find their way to mind. People used to ask me, "What do you do if you don't leave home that day? Then what? What prayers are lifted up or said?"
"There's always someone," I would reply. "An unknown authors name on the spine of novel laying out. The face in a newspaper, the voice on a radio."
Our worlds are encased with strangers.
Today, as the lightening struck near the house, connecting to the ground singing something out there somewhere, as thunder explodes even now as I write these words in such a way I start and jump, think - Will there be no end to this today? And the weather service sends me yet again an alarm that says Lightning has struck closer than a mile.
I want to tell them, Yes, I know. I'm living here. I was raised in the deep south. Full of storms and summers. This is the stuff that I was made of.
And I think of that first cousin to my stomping grounds, Alabama and her recent heartbreak. My stranger then today is this. Those who lost and are grieving still from storms that shook and killed and wiped away hearts and worlds. For them I bow my head today.
The lightning makes me jump, the thunderclaps are way too bold and truth be told the smallest vein of fear dares to run amok in me. But, I am not afraid to pray. For Peace be still. For kingdom come. Thy will be done. Even when my flesh opposes me.
Tonight, again - Alabama rests heavy on my heart. Because I know the storms have passed but the hurt lingers on. Always will. And the best we can do is to continue loving and try to understand.
Looks like I've made it. I've got the Big Corner Office. A Great view over the city. Steaming Java courtesy of Fido's. Here's the deal. A lot of people who dream of being a writer want the romance of a lifestyle often afforded to the rich and leisurely lifestyles of the rich and famous. But there is so much more behind the page and beyond the view going on. Always.
On this particular day I did cop a corner office with a view for a few hours of writing and research. Poet and Writers mag opened and at the ready to find those hidden places writers can apply for a little time and quiet to get a few good words down. But all of that - the moment of freedom, the financial upturns, the kudos from readers (most important) or from critics (greatly appreciated) isn't the whole picture.
For one thing - when I learned that I was a writer I didn't know squat about a lifestyle. Couldn't tell you if a writers life was different than a farmers or a judge. So it wasn't a lifestyle that called me. It was a calling.
When I was a little girl my mother read Four Little Kittens to me. It was one of the books that I would say - Again - Over and over. Wore it out. Here's the premise - A barn cat has four little kittens who one day ask their mother before they go out into the world to please tell them what kind of cats there are. So she sits up, half closes her green eyes and begins to tell them about the other cats in the family and what they were. Ships cats, Alley cats, Barn cats. But one little kitten tried all those things and none of them felt right until finally he was picked up in a dark alley and taken home to a little girl. Then he discovered he was a cushion and cream cat - in other words - a house cat.
Most of us spend much of our young lives trying to discover what kind of cats we are. As a little girl I had a cowgirl outfit with fringe. I don't ride horses although I still like fringe. Being a cowgirl wasn't my destiny. I also had a red painters smock and I loved to paint. But I didn't grow up to be a painter. I can skate like the wind but I didn't grow up to become s roller derby queen. I danced like crazy to everything I heard and I still love to dance but I didn't grow up to be a professional dancer.
But I grew up in the lap of story - that is all things southern. Heat lightning, long summers, family stories , a front porch. A wild tribe of cousins. Pick up trucks and back roads. Creeks and crazy. Jesus fans in tiny back woods churches.
By sixth grade I was writing prayers and poems with a slight sophistication so that my teacher requested a conference with my mother to tell her - She's a writer. (many of you know that story so hang in here) That moment was the aha moment of my life. It was my four little kittens moment where one knows what one IS. I didn't know anyone in the family who was a writer. I didn't know anyone in the whole entire world who was a writer. But suddenly I knew I was one. And from that moment on there was nothing in my life that I pursued that wasn't related to that. No matter how many jobs I had to support myself or my children - the inside story was the true was. I was a writer. A Storyteller. It was my destiny. Still Tis. On stage, page, or on air. Same, same.
The first time I went to college it was on a small scholarship for broadcast journalism. I'd been broadcasting in my senior year under the awesome mentoring of teacher Anna Kelly. She recognized something in me that meant business. A desire to discover the truth. To find the story, to tell the story. So my path led that far. To a college station and doing the news. To learning to drop my W's. To enunciate on occasion. To sound much less southern than I am.
Years later I returned to college in Pensacola at the beautiful campus of UWF and fell into a playwriting class while studying broadcasting and journalism. I met Dr. Yolanda Reed and a handful of young writers (God, we were still all so young looking back) It was pretty much perfection. A moment, a Zeitgeist, Kismet, Divine Intervention - the turning point of things to come. It was in this group I found my voice. The tone and timbre of things to come.
Then life. More life. Thousands of words. The publication of one novel, two novels, three novels, four novels, a collection of essays, and a book titled Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit. To a mystery novel completed but not rewritten. To a spiritual memoir under contract and due soon.
Then all hell broke loose. I went through a dark season that seemed to have no end and to a separation that ultimately led to divorce. Which I will not discuss. Period. Let the past bury the past. Let seasons change. Count all good times and good blessings, every answered prayer, every precious Divine moment clasped and kept. As old Frank once sang, Regrets, I've had a few but then - too few to mention.
Point of all being - I stopped writing. What I had written when I returned to the page to rewrite I didn't like. I didn't feel like I was at that place anymore because I wasn't. My life, my experience, my hopes, my dreams had changed. It took me awhile to stop lamenting and look forward.
When a writer loses their words it's a sad day. In the midst of all the good fortune, the company of my children, the delight of my grandchildren, the treasure of my sister, my mother and the laughter of cousin Deb - the prayers of readers, the toasts of good writer friends - there is still the silent emptiness where the words should come but the well feels dry. Painful. And in that silence there is a fear that is unnamable. It is the untouched truth, the silent cry, the disrupted truth.
But time and angels wings heal wounds. Salty tears. And a courage that finally shows up strong enough to face down the angriest winds of regret and remorse. That stands like flint in the sandstorm. Rage on. I will not bend. Not again. God's got this, always did, always has.
And has always known that I'd come back to the words. That I'd sit down and open up a vein and begin again. Sure nuff.
Final rewrites on Confessions of An American Mystic: Stories and Faith and Fiction and - - - (subtitle still in progress) near completion. That rewrite on the mystery novel right behind it. Circling the final
chapters on the Sugar Baby novel and the completion of that new dystopian novel I'm 30,000 words into - soon thereafter. This year I am praying that God will give back the years the locust have eaten. For me. For you. For us. In spite of EVERYTHING.
Time to move forward by moving on and stop pretending to be someone else. Someone quieter, smaller, weaker.
Oh, I do believe I feel a rooftop coming on.
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.