something to say

when i was little, the words, three simple ones really, came one of two ways.
it might be the not-so-good way. the way when i was sent to my room, in some sort of trouble, and told not to come down–here comes the thundering voice, the voice like the one that bellowed to moses, or adam, or one of those early biblical fellows–“until you have something to say.”
or, more often, it might have been there at the edge of the dinner table, when i had scootched-in my chair, employed both elbows and sputters of words to try to make room between milk that was spilling, and stories and noise, to grasp at the pause between breaths, so me and my thoughts could maybe squeeze in.
perhaps, maybe, someone might notice, someone at one end of the table, someone might then spill the three little words, not as above, not as the key to unlock the door of the child in trouble, but rather, permission or challenge: do you have something to say?
w-w-why yes, i might stammer. why yes, i do. and then i’d attempt to quickly put sound to the thoughts that scrammed through my head.
w-w-why, yes.
as a matter of fact, i do.
and so early on i found out, you’d better have something to say if you open your mouth. please do not blather. there are plenty of voices here at the table. plenty of noise. you needn’t just open your mouth, show us your tongue, and your wiggly tooth, if there’s nothing but air coming out.
earn your voice, sweetheart.
maybe perhaps that’s the reason i have always had visions of wisdom that, curiously, took the form of an old gentle woman, there at the farmhouse table. i saw generous hands. saw them plopped on the wide planks of pine. pine etched with the markings of years, indents from scribbles of homework, stains from coffee that spilled in the heat of discussion, or unbridled laughter. when arms that were reaching to touch maybe knocked over a mug.
it is the voice there at the table that i heard in my dreams, over and over again. i wanted to grow up and grow old and grow wise.
i wanted that table to often be filled. with one, maybe two, or, heck, a whole gaggle of very good souls. i wanted wisdom to pour there like cream from the pitcher. i wanted it thick, sweet and delicious.
i believe, very much, in that table.
and so, going with a hunch and a wisp in my heart, i made like the iowa farmer in the field of faraway dreams. the one who heard a bellowing voice, plowed his corn field, for crying out loud, laid out a diamond for players of baseball. if you build it, they will come, promised the voice. and, of course, it being a movie and all, they came. a whole screen filled with pickups, by golly.
well, gulp, i didn’t plow any corn field. but i did go with a dream. and i hadn’t a clue how it all would turn out.
that, though, wasn’t the point.
the point was here was a chance to set a place where wisdom belonged.
the point was, the world as i saw it needed a chorus of voices. voices that might gain in volume, that might bellow back. voices that might start with a whisper, or maybe a stammer, but slowly emboldened would rise to a roar. or at least we could sit and talk to ourselves. hear the fine echo of voices who think like each other. or, once in a while, pipe up in fierce disagreement. but with reason. and gentility, please.
i wanted, deeply, for mine not to be the one droning voice. i wanted a table crowded with beautiful sound, the sound of sweet conversation. raucous, but always polite. sharply thought, but gently delivered. i wanted, and i got–oh, boy, did i get–my breath taken away. but that’s getting ahead of the story.
here’s how it started.
it was a year ago tomorrow. it was a tuesday, though, just like today. “a tuesday full of grace,” i wrote on the very first day. seemed fitting.
for the table i set there, the place that i built in the hopes that people would come, it was, from the beginning, a place for grace to make itself known.
i wrote this, last year on that grace-filled tuesday:
“we are looking for everyday grace. i believe that in quietly choosing a way of being, a way of consciously stitching grace and Beauty into the whole cloth of our days, we can sew love where before there was only one moment passing into another.
“making the moment count, that’s what it’s about here. inhaling, and filling your lungs and your soul with possibility. learning to breathe again. learning to listen to the quiet blessed tick and the tock of your heart. filling your soul with great light so that, together, we can shoosh away the darkness that tries always to seep in through the cracks, wherever they might be.
“please, pull up a chair…”
and, oh, as dr. seuss says, the places we’ve gone.
today marks the 261st monday through friday of writing. there were two times when i meandered twice in a day, and one long ago saturday, when i called a town meeting of sorts.
that makes for a total of 264 meanders. and that makes today the last day of a year, a year in which i made a promise, mostly to myself, to write every weekday, to record the coming and going of season, of sunlight, of life.
it was not always easy. though not a once did i write a word i regret. sometimes i was dizzy with joy. sometimes i took a deep breath and, always, i went with the truth. i cried and i laughed as i typed. words poured without even trying. came like a breeze through the trees. or stars up above. just appeared from out of the dark.
sometimes, though, i felt naked, or tired, or achy. i worried over many a word. wondered if maybe i’d said too much. wondered if anyone listened. or cared.
but i kept writing. i thought, maybe perhaps, i had something to say.
i knew, that at least, i was recording a year for my children. i was leaving a trace. i was writing, in the end, a very long love letter.
i left little out.
i wrote of the sound of snow falling. i wrote of a carpenter who took his own life, too short that life, too too short.
i wrote of a most blessed friend making her mother’s last hours filled with the scent of lilac and soft pillowcase threads.
i wrote of a boy who climbs in his bed, armed to fight monsters, and wakes up to a room filled with rainbows. i wrote of the questions a young child asks that cannot be answered.
i wrote of hearing God in the whispers of wind. i wrote of seeing God in the face of a shivering man under a blanket in the bowels of the slush-covered city.
i wrote of hearing my grandmother over my shoulder as i stirred and i patted her shortcakes.
i wrote, often, of my mother.
and, many a time, i wrote of missing my father. always missing the one who called me his sunshine girl.
i wrote of brisket and bumblebees and butterflies whose orange-spotted wings made for a fluttering burial ground on the beach, not far from my prayerful place.
i wrote of the moon and its lace and its shadow, and the snow when it’s white.
i wrote of groping in the dark for my rosary, of lulling myself into sleep when sleep wouldn’t come. i wrote of summer rain. and the need for an emergency blanket, when it’s a day with a sky filled with clouds that demand to be watched, gulped, really, like a spoon of whipped cream.
i wrote of mama bird making her nest, and baby bird’s bumpy first flight.
i wrote of tucking a heart in my little boy’s pocket, sending him off to a school where the butterflies are not the sort a mama can net, and tuck in a jar.
i wrote of the firefly. and the tooth fairy. and saint nick.
i wrote of aching and worry, and falling in love.
i wrote of making a home and a garden, catching the glint of the sacred there in the dust, tilling it in the soil that sprouted the seed.
i wrote of birth, death and resurrection. and much of the mess, and the glory, in between.
i wrote, i believe, of all the things that most matter to me. and maybe to you. i do deeply hope so.
turns out i had something to say. and i said it.

so this is it, the end of a long year of writing. tomorrow we’ll look down the road, see what we’ll change, what we’ll keep. for now though, i want to hear lots and lots from all of you. you who pulled up a chair, once or twice, or maybe, God bless you, each day. i would love to hear why you pulled up a chair, and what you found when you got here. did this year of writing make a difference to you? are there any meanders that you remember without looking back at the archives?

before i go i want to say one more thing: thank you. with all of my heart. you who so loyally stood beside me—jcv, slj, lamcal, hh, carol, wm ulysses, bam2, wise one, susan, jan, emb, pjv, sosser, true, crd, claire. kd in nj, across the way, mbw, jpt, mem, dpm and becc, bdk in his various guises. vpk most of the time sent her comments straight to my email. but she was there, every day. i made friends here, friends who will last forever and ever. i am eternally blessed here at the place where the chairs are. and far and beyond.

this table is yours as much as it’s mine, you who poured out your brilliance day after day. thank you for making me wiser, braver, more true.

the danger of making a list is forgetting someone you love. my list is the ones who wrote back whole heartedly, often. or who simply inspired the heck out of me. and speaking of inspiration, to will and to teddy, my beautiful beautiful boys. will who launched me, who taught me the art of the picture, will who keeps me in stitches. and teddy who stole my heart at his birth and has never ever let go. i adore you. and if you ever wonder why, just pull up a chair. love, your mama