Well. Hello there.
I hardly know where to begin. After forty-plus days of retreat, I feel like my soul has had a thorough airing and scrubbing. Like I’ve been at once standing on a high and lonely mountaintop in a bracing wind and tucked securely in the cleft of a rock, shadowed by an Almighty hand. I have been caught between the essential bliss of solitude (wine to my introverted soul) and the supreme discomfort of having to face my own inadequacies. I have both reveled in my ideals and squirmed under my shortcomings. I have tried to be as intentional as possible in these weeks of silence, to ask a thousand questions and be content with the answers—and the lack thereof. I have folded my wings and brooded over a nest of honest contemplation, and it has been seriously one of the sweetest, clearest, sanest seasons of my life. I have had time to think, time to scrutinize what I am doing with my days—and why. Aristotle said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I would argue that the unexamined life is less living than mere survival. For the past couple of years, I’ve felt like I was in survival mode, suffering, as I’ve mentioned before, under the trauma of “too much.” It’s not theatrical for me to say that many of the expectations of modern life are traumatic to my psyche—it’s just an acknowledgement of my limitations, and a candid celebration of the fact that there is a way for me to live that is not antagonistic to the divine tailoring of my personality. Quite the contrary. I have come to see that being kind to my own soul is not only valid—it’s essential to my walk with Christ. Losing my place of peace means losing the place where I hear His voice, plain and simple.
But if these weeks have been quiet, they have also been crammed with things I love, and for that I feel most blessed. Since we’ve last met, I’ve gone to sailing school and gotten my Basic Keelboat Certification (along with Philip)—a long-held dream. I’ve been scribbling like mad—wrote myself into a lovely case of tendonitis, in fact. And…I’ve finished the typesetting on the next book to be published by Low Door Press! Details will be forthcoming, I promise. But for now I’m just simmering a bit in the happiness of that huge task completed.
I’ve also been gallivanting. Last month my sister and I stole away to a little beach house for a week, revisiting old memories and making new ones in a place that is beloved to us both. It has been years since we’ve gone away together like that—and never, if you’ll believe it, just the two of us. It was painfully sweet to have her all to myself for so many days. The whole thing put me in mind of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s visit from her own sister in the midst of writing Gift from the Sea–gift in itself to her solitude. Liz and I hardly drew breath from the moment we set off together in my little roadster, Happiness Runs—we took the back roads, weaving through all those sleepy South Georgia towns, revisiting scenes Liz hasn’t laid eyes on in over a decade. And then, the sweet island life, of sunsets and dawns, beach picnics and bike rides and sundresses. I’m so grateful that we were able to seize that time (somewhat impulsively!) and make it happen. I think we’ve instituted a yearly tradition…
And I’ve come again to my Island, my golden land that shimmers, marsh-skirted, like a dream on a blue sea. This place is truly my spiritual home if ever there was one: I speak less, but hear God more within these cloistered green shades. I’ve also come to realize the deep significance of warmth to my body and my soul. I can never seem to get enough of it, seeking that kind sun at every turn, drawing myself up to a heat that seems to seep down into my bones. I’m storing it up for winter’s long reign—though it hardly seems possible that there is such a thing as winter in this sunny land. But even here I sense the change stirring: there’s a tender new clarity to the angle of the light, and my blackbirds, which charm the summer air with sweetness, are noticeably absent. There is goldenrod fringing the beach path, and in the woods the beautyberries spark a magenta flame beneath the trees.
I’ve been writing here, too—working much on my novel. And this week, at Philip’s challenge, I wrote a sonnet. It was my first attempt at the form, and I was very intimidated. (I confided to him that I have always had this unspoken conviction that I wouldn’t really know how to write poetry until I tackled sonnets.) But this one has been growing in me for some time—since before my jaunt to the sea with my sister, I think.
I confess, it was hard going, but quietly exhilarating: all that word-wrestling in the peaceful grip of a beloved scene. I sat in the sun (of course) by the sea wall and hardly knew the passage of time. One morning, the pelicans were out in full force, crowding the dock like a gang of hunched old sailors before spilling out over the water in an amazing undulation of grace. There were gulls, too, and a kingfisher, dipping and fluttering over the marsh towards the trees. And I listened and listened, and looked with all my soul, endeavoring to describe in iambic pentameter just that clear sound of wind stirring in the palms overhead. I do so love the discipline of the sonnet form, the essential selectiveness of metaphor and image—no room for superfluity. I can’t help but feel that a healthy dose of sonnet-writing would improve my writing overall…
(I finished it today, in a last dizzy tumble of words. Perhaps I will share it, if I can work up the nerve.)
But, in the meantime, I just want to say that I hope this little ramble finds you all well and glad, and that as we move into this ambered season, may the balance of your year’s harvest grow bright before your eyes.