Ordinary Time – Day Twenty-Five

ordinary time

The first time I ever cursed out loud I was about ten or eleven. I was hurt so badly by a friend, all I could think to do was use a phrase I heard others use—it contained nearly every curse word I knew. On the walk back home I repeated it over and again as a sort of incantation to purge the muck from my friend’s betrayal that almost threatened to choke me. By the time I returned home I felt even worse and I never repeated the phrase again.

The poet Marie Howe describes the force of poetry as like a counter spell to the mean girls’ curses and disparaging discourse. It is a way to use language to speak truth, but in a way that redeems the muck and discouragement that intrudes on our day. And it makes that reality accessible to others because it is human, it is lived experience, and my experience is not unique. Not really. There are millions of other women turning 50 this year. There are still more who struggle with purpose and identity and the exasperation that comes from feeling ineffectual, blundering through the day always feeling like I’m only keeping up. Hello everyone!

Howe routinely refers to Ordinary Time, the weeks that are not between the Holy days of the church. And while we currently reside in the 4th week of Easter, ordinary time teaches us to be present, to notice in the now, and be with it. So today I employ an exercise I’ve led others in, but always need reminding to do. This, with an added instruction from Marie Howe: notice 10 things today and describe them—not with metaphor, rather, see things as they are.

Ten Things On My Trip to the Pharmacy

A wasp dips and skitters back and forth under the eave overhanging my front porch.

A pleasant breeze, slightly warm but with a hint of chill, almost, but not quite comfortable.

Lining the street are trees just turned to leaf, each a faintly different hue—50 shades of green?

A car closes in on my rear, does my speedometer really display under the speed limit?

The branches on the side of a large tree bounce and sway, circular, as the wind swirls amid the bunches.

My eyes blur, a drop or two escape and slip down my cheek. I only just did my makeup. Well, good thing I have no appointments today.

Orange cones cluster around a large truck—in the very center of the intersection through which I must turn.

A car stops further back making space for my wide turn—my coffee sloshes close to the edge of my cup.

The church on the corner displays at the parking lot’s entrance a tall, thin, purple flag with the word “Welcome” in white—it posts next to a poll that last week displayed a sign with the words, “Church parking only. Violators will be towed. Strictly enforced.”

The clouds have made space for the sun’s rays making all the newly green places brighter, almost yellow. My spirit is brighter now, and if it were a color it would be this bright green.

Howe observes, “language is almost all we have left of action in the modern world.” With a majority of our discourse occurring in the stratosphere, noses to a smartphone, what we do is often not as morally substantial as what we say. I find this heartening. It is a powerful reminder the weight or influence my words might carry. Still, when all I really have right now is language, the words that flood my heart and convictions, it reassures me to think they might amend the worldview of another, if even a little.

So, what are ten things you notice today?

Words That Heal – Day Twelve

choose goodness harry potter

The most popular books published in 1967 list included a French children’s book, Frédéric, by Leo Lionni. It won the Caldecott Honor award, and Lionni was awarded the Graphic Arts Gold Medal in 1984. It is about a little mouse who is repeatedly reprimanded for not contributing to the work of gathering food for the winter, but holds his ground with retorts such as, “I gather colors, for winter is grey.” Despite all of their work, the food eventually depletes and in their cold and despair, Frederick paints word pictures – poetry – that ultimately gives them hope. In essence, he gives of his supply, “now I send you the rays of the sun . . . do you feel how their golden glow . . .” and, slowly, they do.

waterfall

The number one bestselling book published in 1997 was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling. It’s about . . . well, I imagine nearly everyone knows what the book is about. For the alien that does not, the book centers on an orphaned boy abused and neglected by his aunt and uncle, and sent to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The seven-book series sees Harry and his friends come of age, discover whom they are, their purpose, and that ultimately to successfully live out this reality, they must do it together.

So far, the most popular book published in 2017 is Leading Together: Mindfulness and the . . . just kidding! That one ranked #145,222 April 1st. . . Rather, the bestseller – and on the Notable Children’s Books 2017 list – Pax, by Sarah Pennypacker is a book about a boy and his fox. A war separates them for a time, but Pax is home for Peter. And while they are each changed during the separation, the sense they must be together remains. I love what one character tells Peter, “I am exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing. That is peace.”

A consistent element in books we love the last (nearly) 50 years is a character that doesn’t belong—is different, misunderstood—and judged. They don’t go-with-the-flow, but stick to (or try) who they are, and in it, (eventually) find peace. The cover image above is a picture I took at the Singapore Botanic Garden’s Bonsai Garden because the featured tree reminded me of a screaming Mandrake from Harry Potter. The quote is good, but I might add: and how (or whether) we choose to use our abilities.

It can feel very lonely when I feel as if no one understands me. I am grateful to authors who employ their imaginations and expert use of words to help me share in worlds in which someone else is much like me—and makes magic by just being herself. The prophet Deborah, Mary Magdalene, Hermione, and Chrisjen Avasarala (from The Expanse, for those who don’t know), encourage and inspire, along with the countless others who choose to make me their home (God bless Howie – who reminds me of Frédéric 🙂 a little bit)

My prayer is that my words, with Albus Dumbledore make the kind of magic that is a remedy:

“Words are our most

Inexhaustible source of magic,

Capable of both inflicting injury

And remedying it.”