straight from the heart
i’m not sure when i realized, but somewhere along the line, i figured out that i breathed not with my lungs, but with my heart. and in turn, with the tips of my fingers. these days, pushing little blocks on a keyboard. once, pushing a pen, or, long long ago, a pencil.
i write to breathe, to untangle my heart. i write with the undying belief that we all are a story, have a story to tell. and if we say what dwells in our hearts, in our breathing places, well, then, maybe we’re not so alone anymore. i am, more than anything, seeking communion. but not in a loud, boisterous, come-to-my-party, sort of a way.
far more quietly. far more full of the truth. far more kitchen-table.
i say, sometimes when i write, shhh. listen in here. this is the truth, the whole truth. this is the shadow and this is the light.
i think sometimes, for some people, it’s probably too much. oh my gosh, she wrote that, they might maybe say. i cannot believe that she said that, said it out loud, spelled it out.
i am not–despite what i wish with all of my heart–emily or toni or one of the annies (there are two i adore), or any one of the writers whose work breathes to me like oxygen itself.
i am just a girl who was born to put words in places all over, to lay them like stones that cross over a brook. they guide me. they give me wings.
i can’t really dance. and i know i can’t sing. but i’ve got the heart and the soul to wish very much i could do either or both.
instead, i write.
i feel like the wind propels me sometimes. i hear something, feel something, see something, and i can’t wholly know it, till i’ve wrapped it in words, till i’ve put it on paper.
for nearly a year now, i’ve risen each morning before all the birds. i’ve crept into a room in the dark with a very big window. i keep watch here. watch the light of the day spill ever so slowly. i listen for birdsong. i listen for footsteps above.
i putter, often, before i sit down to write. i tidy the kitchen, put out seed for the birds. i make the coffee, dump the oatmeal into the pot. sometimes i forget that it’s gurgling away. oops. i’ve cleaned a few bottoms of pots this past year.
but once i come here to the place where the words come, i just sometimes forget. i get lost finding my way here.
some days, it feels like standing naked in front of my window. some days i wince, think, i said too much. but i keep writing anyway.
i have only one editor here, and its name is the truth. that would be, by the way, a capital T. the rare one.
i believe in the truth and the telling of stories because i think for the most part too few are listening through all of the noise. no one is hearing the shadows and soft spots. no one gives voice to the inklings, the thoughts that whisper and scurry like so many clouds on a blustery day.
the point here is to net them. to catch all those thoughts before they float off in the distance. to catch them like great-winged fritillaries, to hold them up to the light, to take in their beauty, decide if maybe they’re thoughts we want to hold onto, or merely let go.
the point here is to say out loud, this matters to me. this way of making a home, or feeding my children. this way of noticing the thumbprint of the most holy divine. this way of peeling open my heart, letting in the cool waters that quench it. if i’ve not said it, then you can’t–or might not–respond. you can’t shake your head, add to the voices, say, oh i think so too. or, i think not.
there are parts of all of us–certainly of me–that i’ve begun to understand as i lay down the words. like bricks in a wall, i build who i am, what i believe, one truth at a time.
this has been, all of it, an exercise in writing straight from the heart. it has been a practice of saying it out loud. sifting through the everyday, seeking the sacred. finding it. holding it up. finding souls who see the same glimmer. who notice its beauty. who come back again.
it is how i’ve been all my life, and will, i’m certain, continue to be. from when i was little, i would sit in my room. make sense through the end of a pencil. i would write very long letters and stuff them under the door. leave them there on the pillow. put them in places where they could not be missed.
it is, all these years later, the only way i know how to breathe. it is, as well, how i pray.
for a very long time now, i’ve sat down to write as if in the cell of a monk. it’s my before-writing habit. most writers have one.
as if clearing the throat, before tapping the fingers, some writers walk. others take showers. some stare out a window. i bow my head, whisper a prayer. i ask to channel a thought, tell a story, straight from the heavens to my head to my heart and on through my fingers.
dear God, i’m here as your pencil.
Lord, make me an instrument of your truth, is the prayer that i pray. and let me write it, i ask, in the holiest voice that i know, the one that comes straight from the heart.
irony abounds. as i was pounding this out, this snippet of truth, the computer somehow went black. i lost whole passages. zip. zap. vanished. i quivered for a while there, racked my brain. now slightly recovered–only slightly–i see the humor in that unfortunate moment. so much for unedited truth telling…..
some of you, i know, are writers. some of you prefer only to read. but i’m thinking that if you come here at all, you value the telling of truth, straight from the heart. where do you find the wind for your wings? do you dance, do you sing, do you paint, do you sculpt? do you find it out in the woods, or on the walls of museums? do you find it deep in a book, or in the company of a very close friend? where do you make out the whispers of the most holy divine? do you like me find truth in the words you put on a page?
Thank you thank you for being an evangelist for the act of writing from the heart. I believe the word evangelist has many negative connotations in our society, but if we go back to the greek, it means one who tells or bears good news. If that is the case, then your dancing with the pencil is a most holy act.I think I’ve wrote here before that my mother is a watercolor artist. I joke that I am a recovering child of an artist. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom’s artwork, it’s amazing and beautiful and I am so happy that it can be not only her hobby but her career. Somehow though when she gave me my first sets of paint, I just couldn’t make out a tree in the forest or the difference between the lake on the lower half of my page and the blue sky up above. Instead of retreating to my room to draw and paint, I retreated to my bed to read Laura Ingells Wilder and Beverly Cleary and on warm days, I would make a fort with blankets outside and read beneath the maple trees. My other escape was to run around in the woods, turning over rocks, peeling birch bark off of a broken limb. Bam has converted me to these things we call blogs. I don’t write on any other blog, but this one has become special. It has become church in the best sense on weekday mornings. I now hope in the new year to begin my own practice of creating a community of storytellers and seekers of beauty and honest reflection. Now as an adult, I realize that my mother gave me the gift of a creative spirit. I may not discover this spirit with paint and brush, but through keystrokes, pen and paper I am befriending the spirit that calls me to be fully me and honor the fullness of others as well.
I’ve never been a journaler. I’ve tried. Nothing. I think I’m the kind of person that should be a writer – a journaler, but I’m not. Instead I am a person who needs many moments of quiet throughout the day to think, to daydream, to ponder, to pray, to be. I find the divine in those moments. I find me in those moments. I find strength in those moments. Reading your blog on any given day is one of those moments, bam, and I definitely find the divine in your stories and in your pictures.
I am stymied by the photograph. What or who is it of? I think it is a church-going person in a painted porcelain pot or and inner tube. I am sure I will be embarrassed when I find out I am not looking at it correctly.
carol, you made me laugh out loud. the church-going person would be me. the flower pot, or whatever you called it (dang this comment box that won’t let me read the comment to which i’m commenting….) is a mirror. it’s an italian porcelain frame. and that’s me, or the upper-middle third of me, the heart of me, in my pin-tucked cotton nightgown. i was muckin around with the camera and voila. i would have taken a picture of my fingers typing but it’s really hard to hold a camera over your shoulder and type at the same time. you know…..and since this same darn comment box won’t let me read hh or slj while typing either, i will have to close this to re-read their beautiful words and then come back again. oh, the joys of technology……i do remember sighing when i read them. and i find it not surprising at all that slj’s mother paints with watery colors, while her daughter paints vividly, unforgettably, with wisdom and words. hh i love that you recognized quiet as the place that speaks to you. i don’t think there are enough hh’s in the world. God bless your souls. and of course your hearts……
Writing is what gives me breath and joy. Always has. While you were writing long letters in your room as a little girl, bam, I was sitting alone in my room writing reams and reams of secret journals and poetry. My mother silently supplied me with spiral-bound notebooks. I silently filled them up, squirreled them away. Now at 43 some of my written-down thoughts have finally seen the light of day.bam, I can’t thank you enough for carrying out this exercise in discipline and daring, this routinized exposure of all your thoughts and prayers. This creation of a little community. You have been instructive, inspiring, convicting, funny, and provoking. I am so glad you heard a beckoning and responded to it.