the measures of our years: 11
we mark time, this species Homo sapiens, to measure. to take measure. and so, in the gauzy moonlight of this cold december morning, i think back to that first dark morning, 11 years ago. when i awoke determined. uncharted, to be sure. the night before, a boy i love, a boy to whom i owe volumes of accumulated wisdoms and the double-size of my heart, that boy had been dilly-dallying, putting off homework, as he was wont to do. rather than attending to some eighth-grade math, he decided he’d build me a “website,” whatever that was, on my brand-new hand-me-up laptop (his old one bequeathed to me). i was only toe-deep into this endeavor until he asked me what its name might be, and as with so many of the fine things in life, the words popped out before i’d really had a moment to measure: “pull up a chair.”
i loved the notion, right away, the idea of wise souls and kindred spirits pulling up mismatched wooden chairs to the old scarred maple slab that is my kitchen table, one that holds the hieroglyphics of childhoods (my own amid a flock of five, and, now, my boys’, a pair), i loved the notion of a steamy kitchen, where the kettle always whistled, and the oven always cranked, and where the door was never locked. i loved the notion of putting out a few simple words each morning, words that served as telescopes and magnifying lenses, as we tried to see and sense and sift for depths and heights otherwise unnoticed in the passing day to day. i particularly loved the notion that this might be a collective, a gathering place for poetry and plainspeak, prayer and commonsense, for wisdom and for joy. a place where heartache always, always found shelter, where shoulders were offered, tears dried, and where we’d hold each other up through whatever darkness came.
i never knew that there might come a day, 11 years down the road, when we’d all sit back on the hind legs of our chairs, tip warmed mugs to our lips, and ponder all that had passed during our close watch. intermittent watch for some, those who’ve come and gone, sometimes come again. at least two — my mother and my mother-in-law — have been — and are — regular as clockwork, sure to stop by, but not too inclined to say a word. sadly, heartbreakingly, some who first gathered at the table are gone now, but their spirits animate each and every day, each and every sentence typed. and in my own small life, two boys have grown — one was five, the other 13, when this all began. so they’ve grown up across these posts. two grade-school graduations, one high school, one college, and if i keep it up for two more years, we’ll rack another high school and law school, too.
the twists and turns and snippets of their lives that i’ve caught here, they’re priceless to me. they’ve been, more often than not, the launch pad for my deepest thoughts, the ones that mattered most to me. they taught me how to love, those two boys did. all of you, the ones who pulled a rickety chair up to the table, who added your hearts, your stories, your poetries and prayers to the mix, you did too. you taught me love. you proved that quiet whispers belong in a world where the shouting never stops.
so here we are, 11 years from the start. a second decade is chugging along. what began as a writing promise — i would write every single weekday for a year, see what sifted by — soon turned into a sacred vessel, an anchor to my heart and soul, a place where i knew i’d find priceless precious company, those tender souls who live and breathe gentle loving care, who might be speechless, or might need to holler out the upstairs window, when the world gets too cockamamie upside-down and twisted. books have been born from this little cranny of my heart. three books, now. (the newest one coming in the spring, just in time for the bursting forth of mama earth after a long winter’s curling deep within.) precious priceless friends have been made here and sealed with love that does not die.
i was scared to trembling the first time i hit the “publish” button, but i did it anyway. life does that. it shakes you to your bones, and then it rises up to scaffold you, to carry you to heights and summits you would not have known, or imagined in quite the depth and texture you now know.
bless each and every one of you for reaching out your hand, your heart, your whole, and whispering in unison: there is a world of tender loving care, a world that looks for poetry and wisdom all along the way. a world that believes in taking time, and paying attention, close attention, exuberant attention. there is a world of everyday devotions. and we are all the richer for the sound of each other’s footsteps marching, together, to the mountaintop.
because i promised to circle back to the book i’m carrying through this advent, and maybe every advent to come, “All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings,” by Gayle Boss, illustrated by David G. Klein, i thought i’d share just one passage from one of this week’s readings (every day’s is a breathtakingly poetic and poignant parable of woodland creatures in winter, all metaphors for the practice of Advent, the mystery of life that springs forth from what looks like death).
chickadee (day 4): “As they swirl and hop at my feeder, they seem a flock of St. Francises. Like the saint wed to Lady Poverty, every day the question of their existence is open: Will there be enough of what they need to take them through the dark night, into tomorrow? Beyond reason, like the saint, they act as if the question is truly an opening, a freedom, a joy.”
may your each and every day of deepening darkness be filled with flickerings of light. thank you for the gift of your presence here, week after week, year after year.
where do you find light in the deepening of december?
Happy anniversary, darling! We are the lucky recipients of your precious gifts of peace, poetry and reflection that brighten the beginnings of each new weekend. Thank you!
beautiful PJT, for love notes shared here at the table, and in all the other ways you find to seed love. thank you for echoing our hearts there in the nation’s capital. sending love, always. xoxox
Dear, dear bam and all of the chair siblings and kin, thank you for setting a table, creating a space not of grandeur and Pinterest images of the “right” way to host a party, but an authentic table and set of chairs where people can be true to all the joys, laments, questions and dreams bursting out of our hearts.
I celebrate that the sum of 365 x 11 ( plus all who have sat in the chairs) is an arithmetic I can’t fully comprehend or explain, but can only say amen and thank you that the sum is greater than all of the day’s combined.
And in these days I find that sitting long enough to catch smoke from a chimney, simple white lights on shrubs or the glimpse of the twinkle in my daughter’s eye as she now has the mix of confidence and reverence to light a purple candle on our advent wreath… slowing down to a pace where I can see and notice these things causes my spirit to flutter and try to fly higher than all that bears down on all that is good in the world
i am SO profoundly grateful for every volume of wisdom and wonder you’ve brought to this table. i remember our beginning so long ago, and your faithful vigilance to coming to this table with your generous offerings, and your faithful vigilance to your dream — now twinkling at you as she kindles the advent wick.
there are not enough words, nor deep enough ones, to capture the whole of my gratitude for the blessing of you. thank you, thank you. xoxoxo
Oh my…11 years! I loved being 11. It was a time of girlhood that was like a bulb that was firmly rooted, but so much promise and wonder to come. Still feeling like that,even though this bulb has wintered over many years.
This loved table and presider have gently nurtured, inspired, and comforted me over the years. I have found friendships that have given me laughter and comfort. Advent was really a perfect time to create, birth this table and chair community with your reflections and beautiful words.
I am hanging with Thomas Merton this season with his Book of Hours. Between the lines of his beautiful poetry and prayers weaves his passion for social justice and a call for compassion. I am resting with him this season rather than social media and finding comfort and hope that is sadly lacking elsewhere…well except for your wonderful table. Thank you and all the others that gather here, especially my “chair sisters”. We wait together in wonder, hope, and faith in darkness for the Light that will come again. We are the small lights that keep the hope alive. Happy Holidays to all.
I am so grateful that this table is the place which brought us together as chair sisters!
another friendship born and deepened at this table and beyond. in the real breath of rooms that have held us both over the years, in poetry and nursing moments shared. in love of monastics and merton, especially. in heartaches entwined. bless you for your divining rod, shared so voluminously with all of us, as you point us toward what’s most essential and most lasting. love you, dear lamcal.
Happy Anniversary, Happy Advent, and thank you for often reminding me of what is important on a Friday morning.
All the best,
thank you, beautiful MDP. thank you for taking time on fridays. xoxox
Bam, I’d like to thank YOU for always being here, for sharing your wisdom, joys, and even your fears with all of us, for showing us the depth of what it means to be human! I have learned so much by consistently reading your wonderful and truthful words, as well as by reading the comments written by those who fill your chairs. The people here are the light in this season of darkness! Many blessings to all!
bless YOU, beautiful jack. i love the words offered to the table by all the brilliant chairs pulled up all around. if this vein of truth and light didn’t course through my life, i know i’d be lost, and without the hope that flickers in me…….
My favorite line: “you proved that quiet whispers belong in a world where the shouting never stops.” 2nd favorite: “…precious priceless friends have been made here and sealed with love that does not die.” Thank you, dear heart, for a place to come to slow down a moment and remember what truly matters. Your words are a solace to so many, and how glad I am that they are also launched in book form (electronic and paper). I have been blundering through December and Advent and need to be “Slowing Time” … thank you for always showing us how. And thanks to all the “chair sisters” (are there chair brothers, too? Sometimes with initials and pseudonyms it’s hard to know). Love to all. xoxoxoxoxoxo
Love you to the moon and beyond…..
My heart has found a sanctuary here with you and the many lovely souls who gather at the chair… Thank you for holding space for each of us. Thank you for sharing your life, and for filling ours with the poetry of your words. I thank my lucky stars for you, beloved friend… Blessings and love to you and to all who mark with you this most beautiful of anniversaries. x o x o x o x
dear dear amy, and as i find this my eyes are drinking in the morning’s falling powder, the cardinals dart for the newly dumped sunflower seed, and i am wrapped in the gentle gift of the first snowy morn. how perfect as backdrop to finding you here, and launching a shooting star of thanks that you’ve found a seat at this table, and in our hearts. your gentleness is unparalleled. amy from illinois, you are a treasure. xoxoxoxoxoxox
Ah! I remember it well! Yes, jitters at first, but you jumped into the deep end! This little gathering place has moved me to tears, made my heart leap and provoked me to be a better person. As I’ve said many times, your writing is like a banquet … luscious and deeply satisfying. You are gifted by The Holy One Himself to craft words into a thing of beauty. Happy #11 and many more, dearest bam. You’re a wonder. xoxoxoxo
dear darling, YOU’re the wonder! and here from the very first chair being pulled toward the table. bless you for staying for all these years, and for the grace and beauty you’ve brought here time and time again. much love, xoxoxox, b
I remember holding hands across the miles to take the leap of faith with you … always knowing that you would soar. Sisters not of blood, but of heart. xox