ten: a decade of keeping close watch
a decade is long. a decade is 10, of course. but in this particular case, a decade is the distance between a little boy who was five, and finding his way through kindergarten, and now, a sophomore in high school, a sophomore wishing he was in a faraway high school. a decade is the distance, too, between a boy of 13, an eighth grader who dared his mama to type her way into the dawn (otherwise known by the hardly poetic verb blogging), and the man he is today, 23, and heading to law school.
a decade, too, is the distance i’ve grown since the dawn of december 12, 2006, when i tiptoed into the dim light of my writing room, once the garage of this old house, and sat down to type.
what i wrote that long-ago morning was this:
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….
everyday grace, surely, is the shimmering something we’ve found, the holiest thing. it’s there when you look, when you pay close attention. but it’s so easily missed. you need to attend to your post in the watchtower of life. need to be on the lookout, ever on the lookout. you’ve no idea where or when it will come, the everyday grace. it doesn’t arrive with trumpet blast, nor even a rat-a-tat drumroll. true grace is not seeking applause. simply the certain knowledge that it’s just brushed by, grazed against the contours of your heart and your soul. and it leaves you, every time, just a little bit wiser, a little more certain that Holy is all around.
and the quiet we set out to find, it’s infused every square inch of this space. in a world torn at the seams by incivility, in a world where, day after day, tenderness is trampled under the hard boot heels of hate and bullying and a toughen-up attitude, we’ve stayed gentle. we’ve traded in tenderness. we’ve held up a radiant grace, a blessedness that stitches hearts into a whole. and we’ve done it right here on the internet, the mad-dash highway that seems to traffic in all the things that this table is not.
when i think across the arc of years since i first faced the blank black screen (for back in the day, the words here were white against a canvas of black, an inside-out contrast that drove at least one dear friend cockeyed and made her dizzy besides), i tick through this litany: two grade-school graduations, one each from high school and college; a move halfway across the country, and a move back home; a whole presidency, and too many tragedies to begin to count. over the decade, i left my newspaper job, wrote two books, grew a garden, simmered a few stews, stirred countless bowls of porridge, dried even more tears. i’ve kissed goodbye two beloved friends, and a father-in-law like no other. we’ve watched a kid learn to read, another learn to row, nursed and buried a very old cat, counted stars, chased after the moon, sent my mama off to surgery twice, but mostly marveled at her devotion for tuesday night dinners, plied week after week for nearly two dozen years.
in all this sacred time here at the table, i’ve made and deepened friendships. i’ve stood back and watched strangers reach out across the way, find shared communion, grow close in friendships all their own. i’ve listened closely, taken notes, as the two boys i love have wound their way through the landscape of their lives. i’ve loved them in double time as i put their words, their stories, to ink. i’ve netted a moment or two worth savoring, worth holding to the light, worth keeping as long as i’m alive — and then some.
i hadn’t much clue where this typing would go, back on the first day i started. i certainly never dreamed that 10 years later, i’d still be typing, finding my way. i hadn’t a clue that here, in the sacred space of our shared creation, i’d find the holy bliss i’d always been after. i suppose i’ve always been a make-believe girl, and here, at the table, i used the one sure thing i know — words typed into inklings, carved into thoughts, emerged as insights — to claim a space i knew was possible: a place where radiance lights the way, and gentle truth is our guidepost.
on the dawn that marked the first full whirl around the sun (a year that had me writing five days a week, every single weekday), i wrote:
we set out — me and my soul and my fingers — to see where we’d get if we were dropped, one distant december, in the snowiest woods. if we stayed there for a year, groped around, poked under leaves, sat by a babbling brook. looked skyward. counted moonbeams and twinkling stars.
some days, i swear, my ol’ boots, the ones i wear when i’m hiking, meandering about in the woods, they felt like 100-pound weights on each foots.
more often, though, i was barefoot and running through meadows. i was catching a glimpse of the butterfly wing. feeling the gentle fingers of God on my shoulder. hearing the sound of my heart thumping, and thumping some more.
i only kept doing the smartest thing i know if what you want is to get from place A to place Somewhere: i put one foot in front of the other. kept my eyes mighty peeled. my heart too.
and look, here, where we are.
we made it through the woods, all right. but the thing is, along the way, i found a something in the woods that fills my lungs, that makes my blood run quick. that gives me something to think mighty hard about.
i’m thinkin’ maybe the woods is a beautiful place, a place that offers me and my soul just what we need.
with all my heart, thank you and bless you for making this a most beautiful space in the holiest decade of my one sweet life. more to come….
love, bam xoxox
what lit your way through the last holy decade?
A decade’s time holds a lot of memories. But I will mention one that has truly lit up my life – I met you, was introduced to your extraordinary way with words and the invitation to pay attention daily to the ways the Holy One brushes up against me. I look forward each week as I pull up a chair and am bathed in beautiful words and love. Thank you, from the depth of my heart and hope there are many more decades to come.
bless your beautiful beautiful heart. the connections made here are so real, in the most sacred way. i always know we are here, and joined by sacred thread. even when we can’t see it, we feel it, we know it……
bless YOU for pulling up a chair…..
Ah…must have been a tug of invisible words connecting and circling this morning. I stopped by Mater in the chapel this morning to start my day with a prayer for peace and gratitude. I often do this, but this particular morning it was nudging thoughts of Mary Ellen that prompted my few minutes. She was a Table Connection made because long ago MB prompted me to Pull Up A Chair to your table. A year ago Mary Ellen and I did not know, but maybe did Know, that we were winding down our moments of connecting, reflecting, and ministrations to one another. Even in her struggles, she managed to find time to ask, listen, care.
Last Christmas she gifted me with a small dish engraved with the word Gratitude. It sits on my kitchen sink alter, containing beach glass collected for me by my “beach boy”, and a small Mater medal. This little dish is also invisibly filled with sorrows, stories, visions, and heart spoken words of thanks. The invisible allows me to keep adding to it so it may overflow into all parts of my home, heart and life.
Thank you for all the days and weeks of calling us to table. Thank you for your courage, compassion, and willingness to share sustenance, even the crumbs and spills (maybe the most important part!). to keep us all going. Looking forward to gathering over and over. xxoo
you are but one of the mystical magical tapestries woven here, a thread came from the unknown misty place, and here it began its work, extending beyond the table into the real, very real, world. i love your little dish. mary ellen sits on my counter in the form of a holy card, her insistent beckoning to see the beauty all around, and whisper thanks for it, beauty upon beauty….
love you lamcal. you have brought SOOOOO much light here. this is a collective weaving if ever there was…..
It’s been a rough decade in more ways than I care to count. More than anything, family and good friends have gotten me through. And the joy of just being able to go out and take a good photograph. That’s my soul work. And the wonderful, delicious delight of finding kindred souls when I click on “pull up a chair” on Friday mornings.Your thoughts and words have been a real balm. I’m hoping to be here to celebrate your 20th.
maybe in the next decade i’ll find my way into photography. it’s a soul art i LOVE. and i love that you’ve found your way here. as we all take each other through the bumps and rough spots and those tight tight passages when we don’t know where the next breath will come from……
Oh, Amen, Amen, and Amen, beloved heart sister. bam, thank you for bringing us to this sacred and safe table. And to all who gather at the table, thank you for keeping it so. xo
when i think of the soul sustenance i find here, i think of you. i was just out watching the sunrise and thinking how it’s that great vast canvas that holds us, harbors us. no wonder we lean into the heavens, to find that which shelters us, unwobbles us. where it’s unmarred by human meddling, it’s pure unfiltered God. thank you for joining me in keeping an eye on the heavens. in drinking in the Sacred we find there…..and for being so deeply gentle here on earth….and more than anywhere, inside my heart….
I remember the day so very well! I remember the first word, first sentence, first post. I remember the courage it took to dip your toes in the water and then, ankle deep, shin deep, knee deep, and soon, fully immersed in the warm water of your wonderful way with words. I remember posts that moved me to tears, made me wonder, made me remember, made me ponder, made me laugh. In the beginning, you wrote nearly every day (which I know was exhausting, especially since you were still typing in the city). Thank you for that.
Thank you, dear Chair Sisters … I had the joy of meeting some of you around the table that day (you know which one) and others that I may never meet in the flesh, but meet here when we pull up our chairs to this table. A place of safety, a place of grace, a place where love surrounds us.
Ten years of thanks is owed to you, dearest bam. You’re a wonder my friend. xox
the most beautiful thing is that, together, we’ve all kept this sacred. it amazes me every time. i have goosebumps that you’ve been here from the very beginning. what a pure wash of blessing for me. love you, pjv. and thank you. xoxox
It’s been a beautiful decade of scrumptious writing … I’ve savored every morsel. I adore you. 💕
Your heart makes my heart sing and soar. You’re my clear blue sky and my sturdy shelter, and I thank the stars above that I found you here… You’re a heaven-sent blessing to all of us here at the chair. Beauty and wisdom times ten: that’s what we’re celebrating today! Here’s to another ten, and another! Congratulations, dear friend. Thank you for all you share. xoxox
it was rather a spine-tingling miracle that somehow we found each other — that the whole table found you — under the stars. it’s been a miraculous winding path, indeed. as i type i am looking out at a snowy montage of winter birds finding their way from white-caked bough to white-caked feeder. it’s all morning’s blue light, and white-on-white and pencil-etched branch against the canvas. sitting here, knowing we’re connected by these uncharted invisible cords, it’s all a prayer answered.
You, Barbara Ann Mahany, have inspired and awed me more than I can measure. Happy birthday and many happy returns to your gracious open invitation to pullupachair. Love.
my beautiful friend, there is something especially beloved about an old dear friend, one i’ve loved since first we met in the newsroom, finding her way here. it’s almost 30 years since we discovered the layers of friendship that would carry us across so so much as our lives twisted and turned, on separate paths that always find intersection. thank you for coming to this sacred place where, perhaps, i’ve found my truest voice. much love, b.
This reads well today…4 days post inauguration
Andrea Lavin Solow Sent from my iPad
so i guess we just keep on keeping watch, sowing and reaping small beauties. doubling down on kindness and justice and truth. being vigilant. finding great good souls on the days we need shouldering. and promising to never ever give up.
love you, als. xoxox