I’m Back Blogging, I think.

It has been too long since I sat down to write. It has been a combination of things, both great and small that has kept me from my writing. For the last few months I have been struggling with a bit of depression that has worn me down. I really have tried to climb out of the valley, to see that bit of sunshine on the horizon, but the darkness is still there. Like a hungry wolf it lingers waiting to pounce when I am at my weakest and once it has sunk its teeth in, I can’t seem to thrust it off. Of course there are several factors and the big one for me is trying to find my way in this strange new world of being retired. I know that some folks can’t wait to retire, the fantasize about laying on some warm beach all day, or being able to play golf or just lay around without any expectations. No more punching the clock, no more having to work in a place that sucks the marrow from one’s soul. It sounds great and I thought I had a plan, then like all good plans, life gets in the way. Maybe it wouldn’t have been such a difficult transition if we stayed up in Massachusetts. There I had my colleagues who would have helped me to find a new way. I had Grub Street, that would have kept me on track with my writing, taking courses that would have greased the mental wheels as I continued to put on paper my thoughts and feelings. In other words, I had stuff, I had the necessary social and intellectual connections, where now, there are none. Moving to Delaware, into a new state, a new diocese has been difficult. I’m not a big extrovert and I don’t get out making friends all that easily, so I have struggled finding my way. As I have watched my former parish continue to move into a new direction from afar, I sometimes feel wistful and sad, wondering what it would have been like had I not retired. Honestly, I miss the liturgy, the weekly celebration and the daily work of being with the people in the ordinariness of life. In this new diocese, I feel like an intruder of sorts, a virus that should be shunned so that nothing changes the lives of those here. Going from Diomass to Delaware, is like going from a corporate size parish to a family parish, there is a different mindset in the smaller diocese. Like a family parish, there are the matriarchs and patriarchs who one must engage with. Not only that but one needs to deal with the bishop and here, in Delaware, the bishop is new and he has his vision, which may or may not work as well as he hopes. It is just another layer in this labyrinthine world of the church and I have not felt, nor have I desired, to be a traveler along these roads. Yet, here I am, stuck in the middle not knowing what to do or where to go. Sure, I’ve done some supply, preached a couple of times, even helped with a book study, but that is like giving a drop of water to a thirsty soul, it doesn’t help. So the big question for me, is what do I do with what I have been given? That’s great because at this point I have no idea. This week I will attend my final writing class at Osher, well let’s be honest, it really isn’t a class in the real sense, it’s just a group of older people who write and hope what they write makes sense. This class has not helped to motivate me at all even though I have tried to get something down. So for the next few weeks, months maybe even year, I will endeavor to sit my butt down and just write. It doesn’t have to be pretty, or even make sense, all I need to do is write. I have plenty of books on writing to read, I have books on poetry, memoir and all of that to help motivate and guide me. Another way to help me out of this funk is getting back to my blog that has laid dormant for the last few months. Just lay it out there for all to see, lay out the struggle and the pain, the deep insecurities as well as the darkness that lingers.

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Reflections on Mary Oliver

Today is a sad day, Mary Oliver has died. I only recently discovered her poetry in the past couple of years, I admired the way she could evoke a feeling in the way she used words. For her poetry was in everything, even in the smallest of creatures she could see a poem. I am not even a blip on the screen of poetry writing compared to Mary Oliver, my poems struggle to break free from the confines of my heart and to see the light of day. I try, I really try, to write something, anything that tells the truth of what I see and feel. Mary’s poetry, did just that, when I read one of her poems I cannot help but get a tear in my eye and a lump in my throat. Maybe because whatever I write cannot hold a candle up to what she has said and done. I know that I shouldn’t compare myself to her, after all, she was a poet long before I even knew what poetry was all about, but when you’ve sat at the feet of greatness and tried with everything you had to learn and absorb, you soon discover that isn’t enough. To write a poem is to enter into the world at a slant, to see in even the smallest grain of sand on a wide beach, a poem. That single blade of grass, that defies the concrete and darkness imposed upon it, breaks forth through even the tiniest crack to stretch itself out to the sun. No matter what happens, no matter how often it is cut back, poisoned, or pulled, it still somehow, defies all of those efforts and breaks through the layers of earth and concrete, as if to say to the world, “Here I am, here I will show the world that life is the final answer, not death”. That is the poets world, their vocation, to show the world that whatever darkness there is that seeks to bury the poetry, it still springs anew in the hearts of those who are broken. Our world, our society, our families, we need the poets, all of the poets, even those of us who struggle with our own poetry. Mary Oliver gave me hope, even in my darkest of days when I couldn’t even find that crack in the pavement, her words were my light and my life. Like her, I don’t simply want to end up just having visited this world, I want to end up having lived and experienced this world. I want to have seen the great oak as it bends in the summer breeze, and watch the flight of geese in perfect order, fly to the horizon, to know that even I, a small grain of sand on a long stretch of beach, am able to find the words to write and the poem to sing

As Fall Ends

Fall leans into winter

a reminder that we

need to lie fallow

to rest and prepare

our hearts and souls

for the coming of a child

who brings peace

into our conflicted world

time of sabbath

embracing the silence

as nature renews

frost coating empty fields

denuded trees stretch limbs

into cold gray skies

a scent of snow

on the breeze

mixes with wood fire

from darkened homes

as people give thanks

resting in that peace

of knowing God’s presence

in the deep silence

that calls us to be still.

Random Thoughts

I haven’t been doing much writing lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking but that’s nothing more than just internalizing all of my thoughts and not giving them space to breath. Today, as I was out cycling, I began thinking, once again internalizing, about what it is that is keeping me from actually writing. I think it’s because I have yet to come to terms with being retired. I just don’t feel retired, I don’t yet have any grasp on the intricacies of retirement. I have been actively engaged, either as a student or a worker, for the better part of my life and now here I sit trying to sort out what this all means. So much has happened in the last few months, leaving Trinity, then selling our home in Melrose, moving to Delaware and finding a new home here in Smyrna, which I still haven’t gotten used to, yet. Now, the season of Advent is almost upon us and I have nothing to prepare for, no services, no annual Christmas fair, no visits to be made, no Christmas pageant to prepare, I just sit here while “Church” happens. To be honest, I miss Trinity, I miss the people, the activities the whole community and yet, I needed to leave, it was time. It doesn’t mean I have to like leaving, but it does mean that I now need to refocus my energies. The good news is that in a couple of weeks I will be taking a retreat up at Holy Cross Monastery in upstate New York. This retreat is actually a poets retreat, a time to get away and in the silence and solitude of the monastery to help me to get some perspective, not only my poetry but all of my writing efforts. Stories are everywhere and I do have stories to tell, I have poetry to write and so much stuff rolling around in my head that if I don’t write it will burst out anyway. One thing I need to do is get back into the GrubStreet mode, write everyday, don’t worry about being perfect, just write. That poem lurking back there among other thoughts that litter my mind, go ahead and write that also, stop worrying, no one is perfect. Take that chance, write that story, set down those internal thoughts on paper or in this case, the iPad, and allow it the space to grow in the light instead of festering in the backwash of the mind. Maybe, if I write down these thoughts, it I take some time to explore them as they take shape on the pages, then I might just discover something about myself that has lain in the dark for so long.

Trust (a Reflection)

I haven’t written or posted on my blog in quite awhile but recent events have caused me to reflect on the issue of trust. I heard this morning someone of a news program speaking about the loss of trust between the two major political parties today. This didn’t happen overnight, this broken trust has been slowly gnawing away at the very foundations of our society and now we are reaping what we have sown. Can we ever regain our trust? Can we heal what has been broken? My fervent hope and prayer is, yes, we can but only if each of us are willing to see that we need to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. So, what follows is something I just finished writing, it’s not complete, it’s still a rough draft, but it’s all part of my own process to recognize my own complicity in what we face today. It’s a start on a long journey towards bettering myself, and in turn, bettering my small section of this world.

Trust

Trust, it is something we all seek, to trust. We are born trusting, first in our parents, to take care of us, hold us when we are hurt, feed and clothe us and help as we learn to navigate the world. We trust that our friends will be there for us, when we need help, when we are going through difficult moments in life. We trust our partners, again as we live together, work, play and experience life with all of its ups and downs. Trust is earned and for many giving that trust is difficult, stemming from times when that trust was broken by people whom they thought truly cared for them. Trust is the issues we see today in our political, social and religious systems. People no longer trust our public servants to actually serve the needs of the people, in politics we are witnessing politicians being self serving and only serving the needs of the party. It’s about being in power, being held in thrall to the special interests. They use social media to help propagandize their political objectives and many, like those who followed Jim Jones, have drank the “kool-aid” and are blinded by their own self righteous attitudes. Our religious circles have nothing to brag about as we have seen in the recent revelations within the Roman Catholic denomination, with allegations reaching right up to and including the See of St. Peter. To be honest, in my life not only have I been hurt by those whom I trusted, I have also done my share of hurting those who trusted in me. It’s inevitable, we are after all human beings, at times we get tired, at times we are distracted, at times we are not fully engaged with listening. Our humanity gets in the way, we enter into relationships, many times without counting the costs of that relationship. Right now, it seems that trust is in short supply. This lack of trust in those places that we had placed on pedestals of honor have now become nothing more than tarnished relics of a long gone past, a past that in hindsight looks to be all sunshine and roses until we uncover the truth. There are no answers, there are no quick fixes to this issue of trust. No one, not a President, or Politician, no Priest, Bishop, Cardinal, Archbishop or Pope, have that deep wisdom needed to heal our brokenness. The awful truth for many, is that to heal this brokenness we need to fully examine our own complicity in what we are seeing today. Can we be honest and admit our own moments when we broke trust, when we, through a thoughtless word or a thoughtless moment, have hurt another person? Can we find it within ourselves to seek healing, not in blaming the other, but in reconciling with those whom we have broken trust with, by listening to one another? It’s not easy, we each come with our own hurts, our own darkness, our own deep feelings. Yet, that is exactly what we are called to do, to listen, to be fully present to each person. We are all made in the image of God, “Imago Dei”

albeit, a much distorted image, but nonetheless despite our brokenness, it is there. As an Episcopalian, as a Christian, as a human being, I am challenged daily to respect seek and serve the Christ that each person reflects, no matter how I may feel about them personally. We now face a time of great transition, our society, our world, our very existence as the human race, depends on each of us to take a good, hard look at ourselves and see where we have fallen short of truly listening, loving and caring. It’s way too easy to share social media postings that affirm our agendas, that feed our own needs, it takes courage to recognize that not all of them serve the good or build trust. A wise person once said that each day we awaken is also the first day of the rest of our lives. We don’t know what day or time we will no longer grace the world with our presence but until then, we can all strive to be a little more compassionate and willing to listen to one another. This doesn’t mean that we won’t be challenged, that everything will miraculously change in that moment, but what it does mean is that we will become ourselves a bit better, a bit more caring, a bit more like that image into which we all have been born.

What is the Story?

What is the story that I want to tell, to write about here on the pages of this blog? Do I have the courage to tell that story and all that comes with the telling? So much is locked up in memory, various pictures, feelings, textures, that engages all of the senses making up that story. I have struggled trying to tell my story and not get bogged down in the telling. There is so much that needs to be sifted and examined for truth, not only truth of the story itself but the truth of how that story has made me who I am and continues to remake me each day. There is that deeper story of love and loss, of success and failure, of being a child and passing into the adult life. Memories hang along the rafters, I look above me and I don’t know which one to choose, which one do I dare to open. I write to find myself in these memories, that child waking up from a nightmare, that teen being bullied, a young soldier in a foreign land, a newly minted husband unsure of himself while trying to be strong, a dad now responsible for another human life, a priest seeking to discover where God is leading, now I sit here retired, picking through those various pieces of my life and trying to put it together. It is a great jig-saw puzzle, thousands of pieces all scattered along the table and I am looking at it all utterly daunted by the undertaking. Like with any jig-saw, it is best to start with the borders, get the edge right before moving on into the interior. Yet, even the border is hard to define, the borders of life are not static but dynamic, they’re ebb and flow through the mind, clear one minute and haze the next. Nothing is solid in memory, and so like some explorer crossing a vast ocean I must make my own way, with little or no navigation aids. What is that story? What makes mine worth the telling? Fear robs me of that courage I need to tell what I know and what I feel, yet, I can’t let that fear hold me back. Maybe, just maybe, it is in those moments of fear that I will find who I truly am and that in and by itself might just be the story I need to tell.

The Retirement Journey, So Far.

I sit here reflecting on what retirement has meant so far as the third month slowly passes. I sit and write, I also read but I’m still on a journey, towards what, I’m not sure. These moments in life where we sit between what was and what might be are good times to take stock of what is important and what is not. Usually, when I’ve transitioned from one life event into another, I would allow the darker aspects to take root and depression would be planted. This time, I’m in a different place and although there is uncertainty, I don’t feel any anxiety or urgency just to do something. There is a certain freedom that comes when you don’t feel rushed into making a decision that may or may not be the best for that moment. Strangely, I’m okay living in this in between time. I don’t need certainty what I need is time to pray, write and reflect. Priesthood, mine in particular, had it’s moments of good and not so good which has shaped who I am. Now I have the opportunity to examine this shape, like a sculptor who examines his work once he’s chiseled away a bit of the granite. Carefully the artist takes their time to ensure that not too much is chiseled away too quickly, they also must follow the granites veins, look for what the stone is saying to them. I can examine my own life thus far in the same way, not going at it with a sledge, but carefully chiseling away at it, following the natural flow that presents itself as I work at the larger piece. There is plenty of rock to work with, it’s just knowing where to start and how much to begin working on. Writing, like any art, takes time as well as talent. Well, time I have, it’s talent that is suspect. It’s easy to read books on writing, it’s easy to get lost in the authors words of wisdom, but the real test is comes in actually writing something. Parker Palmer, author of many books filled with wisdom, said, and I paraphrase here, that writers just need to put out their stuff for all to read and see to get some idea if they have anything of worth.