Labor Day and Letting Go.

Our family has spent every Labor Day for the past ten years at my aunt’s cottage in northern Michigan. It sits at the end of a dirt road and on the edge of Manake Lake, where cell service and internet and television are completely, blissfully unnecessary. Last year I didn’t make it up there, but this time around, I knew I couldn’t miss it. I knew my soul needed it.

I spent four days alternating between laying in the hammock with a good book, swimming, eating, laughing with 20 family members – parents, siblings, spouses, uncles, aunts, cousins, dogs. I’m sunburnt, but for every sting of red skin I smile a little at the memories made, the yard full of tents and RVs, the hugs and talks and jokes and boats and bonfires and meals and tears and the last rays of summer enjoyed before autumn is upon us.

I think in removing myself from the internet and work and obligation, I finally gave myself permission to feel. I even gave myself permission not to write. It would have been lovely to get up before everyone else and sit on the porch swing and let the words pour out of me so that I can have a stockpile of blog posts and articles, but I let myself sleep instead.

It has been a strange, busy, stressful, frustrating season, one that I have been desperate to get past and also desperate to learn from. I don’t think I understand my life any better than I did a week ago, but I did realize that clarity and peace aren’t always achieved in words, even though I am a writer. No, despite my desperation to achieve, succeed, survive, overcome, conquer whatever I face, I am learning to accept that sometimes the hardest thing to do is also the most necessary.

This is the season for letting go.

[Photo of Manake Lake courtesy of my brother.]

The Choice.

Some say follow your heart.

But when your heart is heavy like led, laden with grief and guilt, you can easily become inert, following nothing, going nowhere.

Some say act your way into belief.

This is faith, I know, though it sounds pathetic and untrue, like the mysticism of a rain dance. Do their dances bring rain, or do they dance until it rains, not realizing that it was going to do so anyway, in due time?

Yet I choose to act, not out of proof or fullness of love, nor even Grace. I choose it because I know better than to let myself become stuck.

It is almost September, and this shift in time feels a little like betrayal, like the closing of a door, like the last look before really saying goodbye.

I could do the hard things, the first weeks of silence, the wake of a deeply changed after; it’s the monotony of a long life alone that I just can’t seem to stand. How dare time move without you. I put one step in front of the other, but my energy is waning.

Poem : The Self-Unseeing.

On Sunday, my best friend and I took a day trip to southern Michigan to enjoy the beach, the local vineyards, and one of my favorite restaurants. The Stray Dog is the first exit in, last exit out pit-stop along I-94 of the Michigan/Indiana border, complete with rooftop dining that looks out over Lake Michigan.

So I was utterly heartbroken when Rach and I walked up to a chain-link fence that surrounded my beloved eatery’s charred remains, now a collapsed heap and a bulldozer parked in its stead. It burnt down last month.

“But who will give me my fish tacos and Oberon?!” I cried, to the amusement of the ice cream parlor patrons up the street.

We found someplace else to eat, a little Italian cafe with great pizza and a giant berry tiramisu in a wine goblet for dessert. It more than sufficed, but still, as we walked past the the Stray Dog’s ghostly lot with full bellies, I contemplated how life never waits for us to be ready for change, ready for gratitude, ready for healthy perspective. Even faith in the small things, like where to enjoy a good taco and the sunset, is more fleeting than we realize.

The Self-Unseeing
by Thomas Hardy

Here is the ancient floor,
Footworn and hollowed and thin,
Here was the former door
Where the dead feet walked in.

She sat here in her chair,
Smiling into the fire;
He who played stood there,
Bowing it higher and higher.

Childlike, I danced in a dream;
Blessings emblazoned that day;
Everything glowed with a gleam;
Yet we were looking away!

 

[Photo.]

 

Inspired By.

SO MANY good reads this week, friends. SO many. These have been my saving grace the last few days, for it has been a week of realizations, a week of coming to terms. So many things are changing, or on the verge of change. I can feel it even in the wind, which hints at a cooler season. My instinct is to be afraid of it, to dread the ways that I might not do it right or handle it well. But I’m restless for change, and I know that I need something else. So come what may, I choose today to live in possibility.

For your restless spirit, a few reads to free you : 

Tiny Joys.

I Accidentally Saw A Picture of You.

Maybe this is love too – a love of your own self and body as it reacts to something. It’s like the separating membranes of our bodies are in sensory conflict with the waves within. You can’t call this a sensation of pleasure or pain; it’s a sensation of being.” Her oscillating interiors.

I pull away from the curb and instruct myself not to go down those roads.” Another first date.

And so they ate it. And we’ve been taking bites out of things we don’t deserve ever since.” On Entitlement.

And a few thoughts on grief that really helped me this week :

Writing about it.

Why we will never get over it.

I did not get over the loss of my loved ones; rather, I absorbed the loss into my life, like soil receives decaying matter, until it became a part of who I am.” – It All Comes Down to Choice.

[Photo : where I'm spending my weekend.]

Down Into the Quiet.

I miss my Monchsberg often, paths winding to the full view of Alps laced in snow and pine and a kind of quiet that separates and slows.

Walking along the trails, the dark stairs, the muddy riverbeds and hollow canyons of Mathiessen State Park and Starved Rock, my heart found its way down into that quiet again, briefly.

Are you okay?” he asks tentatively.

Yes,” I smile, and mean it.

I am, because for once the quiet is deep enough to silence the noise, to pull me away from the trivialities, to bring me down into awe and wonder.

I sit on a rock and stare. I exhale echoes of gratitude.

Where does your heart find its quiet?

Poem : Lost

Lost
David Wagoner

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

A Different Kind of Inspired By Post.

It’s been a good week for remembering why I do this – blogging, that is. I’ve been exhausted of it lately, uninspired, and perhaps not as diligent as I wish I could be. This week I got some really good news (which I will share soon, but not today) and it made me think about how glad I am that I’ve stuck it out, even when I kind of hate it.

I talk about this a lot, that when I started blogging in 2009, I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew I wanted to write daily and have some accountability. Three years later, that is still my goal. I’m glad that I didn’t start out with the expectation that someday I would monetize it and be a mommy blogger with the craft skills of Martha Stewart and children fit for Gerber ads. My original intention is what keeps me from quitting when I see the stats wane or when I have a week where I’m just too caught up in other work to tend it as faithfully as usual.

When I started, I wasn’t even reading other blogs yet, especially writing blogs. Once I started finding bloggers I liked and following their content, I was able to learn from them and grow in my own voice and ideas. We need the encouragement and criticism of a community to help us grow in our work.

But lately? My exhaustion is a direct result of the community I’ve come to love, unfortunately. With a few wonderful exceptions (see my past Inspired By posts for great examples), several circles of the blogging community have drank the vitriol of culture wars and binged on their own drivel, and quite frankly, I’m really freaking sick of it. Sick of it enough that sometimes I want to quit the internet, just to keep myself from getting brainwashed with them. Sick of it enough that I wonder if my voice is clear and strong enough to be heard beyond the din of insults and accusations, and if it’s not, then is this worth doing at all?

I know that many of you, like me, wonder the same things and worry about whether it is worth the time. And I appreciate that because it means you care about being honest. It means you want to be real with your work, and you want to be a part of an authentic community. This is what inspires me. This is the reason I am here.

Today I want to celebrate that. Instead of linking to a bunch of good reads, I want you to do it. And I want you to do it for yourself.

What is the best post you’ve ever written*? Share it in the comments.

Why? Because we need your voice.

 

*If you’re not a blogger, share a link to a good read you came across this week!

Prodigal : Unpacking My Faith.

What’s the hardest question anyone has ever asked you about your beliefs? What is the most challenging conversation you’ve ever had with someone about faith? A lot of things have challenged my belief in God over the course of my life. Today I’m sharing a story over at Prodigal in which a friend asks me the hardest question I’ve ever faced, and how it forced me to ask myself if my faith was real. I would be honored if you would read it and share your own experiences, or even ask the question the questions that challenge your faith (however you believe.) All are welcome to the conversation at Prodigal Mag.

Poem : Be Unto Love…

I finally took time to crack open the enormous collection of e.e. cummings that my husband got me for my birthday (nearly a year ago!) I fell in love with this one; the first line is so convicting, isn’t it?

LXIII by e.e. cummings

be unto love as rain is unto colour; create
me gradually(or as these emerging now
hills invent the air)
breathe simply my each how
my trembling where my still unvisible when. Wait

if i am not heart,because at least i beat
–always think i am gone like a sun which must go
sometimes,to make an earth gladly seem firm for you:
remember(as those pearls more than surround this throat)

i wear your dearest fears beyond their ceaselessness

(nor has a syllable of the heart’s eager dim
enormous language loss or gain from blame or praise)
but many a thought shall die which was not born of dream
while wings welcome the year and trees dance(and i guess

though wish and world go down,one poem yet shall swim

 

[Photo.]

Inspired By.

From the rooftop of her north-side apartment, we could see Lake Michigan moonlit and lapping quietly only two blocks away. How surreal to see its vast expanse emerge past the high-rises and city streets, past the rush of human life and commerce into pure nature.

It is a funny beautiful world we live in.

And because it’s been a long week (long month, long year, long life) and the hot night begged us to, we made a spur-of-the-moment walk down to the shore where we let the waves race to our ankles and we gazed at the blend of blue darkness. The brightest stars overhead were just visible beyond the florescent glow of street lamps, and I, speechless with wonder, expelled a deep sigh of relief.

Sometimes the best way to put our trivialities in their place is to step away from them into the vast expanse of life, the life you cannot control but can enjoy because you are in it and it is a miracle.

What was your favorite moment this week?

A few good reads :

The time that she almost got published.

Dear Morning.

Hello, it’s Mr. Nasty.

We are the real rebels.

Young ones with old hearts.

Just ask Jo : Blogging as a Career.

If you love your reader, you will go first. You have to lead them on this journey.” On Writing with Vulnerability.

What I learned that day is that sometimes the most liberating exercise of freedom is voluntarily laying it down.” The Best Drink I Never Had.

But it’s not about deserving anything. It’s about loving ourselves anyway. Because God loves us… Because we are slums being turned into holy temples.” The Day I Stopped Eating.

I think much of the blogosphere can’t do without [conflict.] We have become the outrage-industrial complex, building a digital empire by speaking in the vitriolic language of us vs. them.” A History of Outrage.

As a blogger, it’s taken me some time to learn, but I realized one day a long while ago that I didn’t want the readers or the blog traffic the professionals had if I had to push people away from each other instead of bring them together.” Great thoughts on careful consumption online.

 

[Photo.]

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