like that, the rhythm changed in this old house. turn around, they call it in the land of jazz. disambiguation, yet another fancy word for when the two-beat turns to more. or less.
i call it “the day the little blue pot comes out of hiding,” the porridge pot, the one that starts the day with swirls of spoon and percolating simmer. it so happened that the chill winds blew in just as the school bell rang around here for the first time of the year.
and, like that, with arms now slid into woolen sleeves, but bare toes refusing to submit to leather confines, one season has shuffled off, cowering in the wings; another now pirouettes under klieg lights at center stage. ah, but autumn isn’t like that. autumn — the autumn i love anyway — is quietly robust. doesn’t make much noise. no clanging, rattling. just an elegant sashay into our midst. enveloping in amber light and jewel-toned hues: garnet, copper, gold.
autumn at once speeds up the daily whirl, and weaves in quietude. the morning rush — with school bus not dawdling at the curb, and school books and shoes forever escaping in the night, nowhere to be found by dawn — is not insignificant, enough to make your hairs turn pewter, but that’s followed by the between-the-brackets hush. suddenly, the middle of the day is on its tippy toes, daring not disturb. and those are the thinking hours, the deepening hours, when time invites me into its depths and nestled burrows. when i can type whole sentences, turn pages, wipe a bathroom sink and wander back hours later to find it still glistening. no wonder i love the rhythm of the autumn. it draws me in.
the change of light and tempo is just enough to make us all stand up and pay attention. and that, i think, is the big idea behind the twirl of earth against the sun. as we move from full-on-light to dappled shadow, the world around us — the garden, the woods, the starry night — shifts too. gone is the bold, stand-up-straight of summer. the basil withers on its stem, the dill is nearly toppled. but i, for one, feel little pang for the season fading in the rear-view mirror. not if truth be told. sure, i’ll miss those fat tomatoes — sliced and salted simply — but imagine the zaftig squash roasting in the oven, and the treasure chest of spices — cardamom, cumin, nutmeg — soon to offer up their fine and pungent notes.
give me a long day of concentrated work. give me a chill morning to nip my toes, and a sweater in which to wrap my goose-bumped arms. give me autumn’s golden light. and a sky of roiling off-in-the-distance clouds. i’ll make holy work of it. i promise.
i found it hard to write this morning, what with all the news squawking from the little white box tucked in my kitchen cove. once i clicked on the news, which is often my first move, even before the coffee’s on its way, i stood there frozen, wondering if i’d clicked on some sci-fi station, what with reports of massive earthquake (worst in a century), and yet another killer hurricane barreling through island after island, charging toward the mainland. i get scared, truth be told, worried that the whole universe is convulsing, rising up and telling us to mend our ways, pay attention to our brokenness. be gentle, for God’s sake, i hear the heavens telling us, in no uncertain words. be gentle with this blessed orb of Earth. be gentle with each other. be gentle, i suppose, even with our blessed selves.
because i care deeply about leaving you with words that just might add a bit of oomph to your friday morning, i’m adding here the rough draft of words i wrote this week when asked to write the intro to a book of women’s stories, women’s stories of reaching across racial, cultural and religious lines to forge deeper understandings out of plain pure friendship. it was an honor to be asked. here’s what i wrote (i’ll wait to tell a bit more about the book till it’s published). may this bring a little something to the whirl of sci-fi all around us…..
much love, and thanks for reading along…..xoxo bam
Day after day I wake up with my chest feeling hollowed. The space in my heart hurts so much, so immeasurably, I can’t fathom how to contain it. I shuffle down the stairs of my old shingled house, look out the windows into the quiet of dawn, into the leafy arbors, and wonder how in the world can I stitch a single thread into the tatters of this world, this oozing brokenness all around?
I walk in a state of grief unlike any I’ve ever known — and I’ve known quite a few. My grief is for the state of this nation, for the body politic, for the sheer goodness and kindness that I see being battered day after day. I shrink from the modern-day public square — social media in all its iterations — because the vitriol is too much, because the divisiveness tears me apart. I don’t believe in a world of us versus them, and yet, every day those lines are drawn more starkly. I cling to the words of wise souls like Father Jim Martin, the Jesuit thinker and author, who writes in his latest book, “For with Jesus, there is no us and them. There is only us.”
But how, I keep wondering, can my one all-alone voice make a dent in the cacophony? How can a whisper be heard? How can I amplify my deep faith in bridging not burning? Where oh where is there a place for a soul who believes so deeply, yet finds herself flailing with so little a footprint?
And then, the stories of this book landed on my desk. This, I knew right away, was where the answer lies: In ordinary extraordinary stories of women who reach across doorways, and hallways, and kitchen counters, who see beyond burkas and veils and prayer beads and venerations. I see and I read and I wrap myself in the stories of human hearts reaching beyond their own private shelters — walls that, always, can go one of two ways: to open into doorways, or seal themselves off, barricades of hard stubborn coldness, otherness, unwilling-to-bend-ness.
Here, in the pages of this book, is the first best draft of humanity moving forward. Here are the blueprints for the great and eternal commandment: Love as you would be loved.
Here is Ayesha, alone and with newborn babe, falling into the bottomless shadow of post-partum depression, who dared to knock on the door across the hall, and found a friend — and earthly salvation — in the form of an elderly widow named Libby. The Indian Muslim new mother befriending the white Christian widow; both finding the solace they sought — in each other. In the simple act of raising a fist to a flat-planed door, and knocking. Knees knocking all the while. The toeholds of courage start small.
Here is Parwin, who recounts the hair-raising story of her escape, at six months pregnant, from war-ravaged Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan war. With two young children in tow, and determined to keep their escape unnoticed, she and her troupe traveled by truck and by horse and by foot — 150 miles of fear beyond fear. And in the end, when she delivered that baby just across the Pakistan border, when she found her way to America, she devoted her life to justice, compassion, for living the words of the blessed Koran:
…that you may know each other — and not despise each other.
Here is Dolores, who says she was “marinated, battered and deep-fried in religion,” specifically the black Baptist religion of her youth, and who found herself drawn into a host of houses of worship — mosques, synagogues, churches large and loud or not-so-large and not-so-loud. She was drawn, in particular, to the Buddhist practice of silence — a far cry from the joyful noise of her youth. One night, after a long dry spell in the faith department, she dreamed that Jesus introduced her to his best friend Buddha. Ever since, she’s been a practicing Buddhist. And even more so, a living, breathing bridge between two of the world’s great religions.
Story after story, woman after woman, the leitmotif is always: reach beyond what you know. Reach into the unknown, the foreign, the mysterious. Make it yours through words, and gesture, and deep human touch. Defy the divisiveness. Believe in the power of your own still small voice.
I turn to the holy wisdom of Dorothy Day, who learned from Therese of Lisieux: “By little and by little” — by little acts of kindness, by little acts of courage, we can thread the needle that will stitch the tatters back into whole.
We cannot afford to shrink from the task. We cannot afford to think we don’t matter, that we can’t make a difference. Read these stories of oversize courage and unbounded goodness. Read these stories of faith and justice, doled out in everyday measure.
Be the change you believe in. Be the kindness. Be the radiant light.
Go now, and carve out heaven on earth.
dear chair friends who’ve read this far, how will you carve out a little heaven on earth?
I sit on the back porch, the sun cascading in, listening to the trilling birds in the evergreen nearby and am so grateful for your words each Friday. Looking forward to reading that lovely book.
bless you, mary, and thank you. i couldn’t stop thinking this morning about how the geography of the heartland protects us, roots us, shields us. and how that begs of us to be the ones who stand ready to offer balm and aid and hospitality to those whose geography puts them in harm’s way….how can it be so calm out our windows, when miles and miles away, holy terror is raining down….
Thank you for the lovely words.
Since you asked: my little piece of heaven for years now, has been walking around the high school track with my Ugandan, Indian and Chinese girlfriends. We may look different, but oh, the problems we have solved, the children we have raised and the laughter we have had. An elderly Indian couple visiting from Mumbai visited the entire USA and said the track was their favorite place because they saw all these diverse women having fun together..and that represented the country to them. Wish all the world was like this.
your track DOES sound like a slice of heaven. in fact, it sounds like the entire book of 50-some stories could have been gathered and written right at your track. my wish: that all the world were more like YOU! bless you, and bless you. the original bridge builder. xoxoxoxoxoxo
Your rough draft definitely added oomph to my Saturday with soulful words, compelling stories, wonderful women… I’m interested to learn more about this book.
Just past sunset last evening, Jeff and I settled on a favorite bench beside our beloved Mississippi. The western sky glowed in forest fire tones reminiscent of scenes from Bambi — and my heart ached at the thought of the wildfires that rage in the west,,. A stiff east wind gouged the river’s surface and sent dry leaves whirling. I thought of the thousands upon thousands of lives impacted by hurricanes and earthquakes…
I feel utterly helpless and mournful in the face of the overwhelming magnitude of suffering and destruction in our world. Devastated. All I can do is pray. And take the latest news in small portions. And scribble in my journal. Bury my nose in books. And stare out the window as summer fades to fall. And swaddle myself in soft music. I’m too jangled even to sew. Hard times, these. So hard.
That’s why your opening paragraphs were my special favorite. When so little makes sense in the world, it’s centering and calming to think about autumn light and wool sweaters and seasonal food. And dear friends like you. xxoo
Bless you! I sigh as I say once again, the richest beauties brought to this old table are the ones brought by the beautiful brilliant “chairs.” Your writing is sooooo beautiful–wildfire sky, wind gouging the river.
And I almost deleted all those first paragraphs, feeling so insignificant, so trivial, up against such tragedy. I love the shared soulfulness we’ve carved out here. Bless you, sweet Amy. Bless all who stop by here for a moment’s quenching in parched times….
I started a new mom’s group in my community & I have been so pleased by the interest from a diverse group of women. I hope the group turns into a slice of heaven as we all stumble & fumble in raising our 2017 babies. I hope I forge deep & lasting friendships similar to those “on the track” friends referenced by another reader. Your blog always offers safe harbor during the storms that are our current reality. Thanks as always for such reassuring & beautiful posts!
i love that you did that, started a new mom’s group. starting anything takes a big dose of courage and conviction. and reaching out your arms to those at the start of the mama journey, that’s pure beautiful. bless you each and all, at each turn and bend in the road. i’m smiling at the thought of you and your brigade of mamas with bundled babes…..forge on. xoxox