Dear, dear beloved—
Thank you for “being here.” Thank you for being with me, some of you, for something like five years!
Some changes are coming to Reflections, and I look forward to hearing from you. Not only those of you who have been faithful readers (and responders!) for years, but also from those of you who are new to our community of comrades.
I bring up my deep and abiding gratitude for all of you because it is like fertilizer for the ground of my inspiration to write. Knowing you are there, knowing that some of you have a special folder into which you put Reflections so you can read it when the time is right, that some of you read them if you feel like it, and some of you just enjoy having a little moment—just the title, just the reminder that I am and you are here and in some way we are together. And some of you read every single week (so surprising to me every time!) and begin your Mondays with a bit of conversation with me. Thank you. No matter how you engage with Reflections, thank you.
Your presence is part of what inspires me every week. The suggestions you make. The ways that those of you in The Way of the River Facebook Group bring yourselves, some of you, again, every single week to Beloved Selfies…It’s astonishing to me. Maybe someday it won’t be a surprise, as our comrade Rev. Ruth Rinehart said together, but for some of you who read every single week (truly surprising to me every time!), for now, it is.
What else gets me to the word? What else supports my coming to the page close to every week of every year these last five years?
I will tell you, and I hope to remind not only myself, but also you, so that we may all find (even more of?) our own creative voices.
First, there are the Baseline Things. For me, these are regular food and water, coffee in the morning, and my meds.
Otherwise, the #1 thing I need for creative fruitfulness and abundance is sleep. I hadn’t realized it until recently, when one week it became stunningly obvious: I had one weekend of powerful rest, and then by Sunday night I was full of ideas, finding myself unable to keep from writing page after page in my journal. I wrote thoughts for Reflections, thoughts for upcoming classes, thoughts about my marriage. I couldn’t not write. I was hungry for writing as I get hungry for touch, for sex, for food. I needed writing as surely as I had needed the rest that preceded it.
Deep rest, I’m telling you. And, in my case, naps.
I know not all of us can take naps. I know I don’t have children who need me at inconvenient times. I know I am refreshed after naps, while others become bears when they awake. Nonetheless, I can and need to nap.
I nap every day. I began this practice because it helps my mood and evens out the bumps that anxiety and depression can throw in my way. I’ve kept napping because it supports my ministry, and particularly my ministry of writing.
Not only do I nap every day, but I try to spend some time each weekend deeply resting. I take my daily nap and I read something for an hour or two. And sometimes I take two naps. (Just writing that, I feel as though I’ve told you I ate ice cream for dinner or watched silly tv all afternoon. Deep rest is still a guilty pleasure. So silly, but true.)
There’s plenty of neuroscience that supports the value of sleep. Dr. Roxane Prichard, a scholar of neuroscience, sleep, and intersectional social justice, recently recommended the book Why We Sleep to me, and she said, “If you have any doubts about the necessity and benefits of sleep, read this book.” I haven’t read it yet, so I don’t know more about its contents, but Dr. Prichard’s recommendation was fervent, so I include it here.
So there’s science. But I know very little about that science.
What I do know is that when I have been getting bad sleep or too little sleep, I dread writing Reflections. I think of all of you with guilt and worry. “What will I write?” I wonder. “I have nothing of value to say!” I exclaim internally. “Anything I write will be self-involved and worthless!”
And then I sleep. And almost every time, the doubt melts away without my even noticing. I write in my journal, I come to the Reflections page ready to write, and the words flow out of my fingers.
Sleep is one thing I need to come to the page with joy and anticipation.
Beauty is another.
Anyone who reads Reflections, is in our Facebook Community Group, or knows me in some other context knows that I have recently moved.
I have moved to Rosewood House and I am surrounded by beauty. I am surrounded by old trees I have no hope of encircling with my embrace.
I am surrounded by the small birds popping around the garden, looking for worms, or settling in the branches of the dogwood, or nesting in the tree closest to Julie’s study downstairs.
And most of all, I am surrounded by gardens dug over twenty years ago, tended faithfully ever since, and which offer the Procession of Flowers. Grape hyacinth, heavenly bamboo, primrose, daffydowndilly, hyacinth… And then lilac revealing its classically lavender blooms and the pink dogwood while the peony buds began to swell. The unbelievably royal violet clematis creeping up the trellis against the brick.
And overnight one night, the appearance of those Grinch-head looking blossoms of rosebush after rosebush after rosebush. Flowers of the Mother of God, of Guadalupe, of Mary, mysterious, waiting, burgeoning in the sun.
And now they begin to unfurl, each of them, their five leaves, their pentagram of protection, and show us their colors. Colors that have been a mystery until this week. And colors that will just keep coming, as the bushes with the most sun appear first, and the ones that are more shaded have smaller buds (though still SO many!) and will follow along behind.
PS – I just. Could. Not. Resist. The above is the first blooming rose from the garden outside my window. The first of the roses to turn down its protective leaves and dare to start to unfurl in earnest. Perhaps some helpful metaphors there. Perhaps just beauty and the glory of Earth’s reckless gifts.
As I said last week, sometimes I just sit and gaze out my study window. Neil Gaiman says of his writing routine that he writes many hours a day in his space, and he may do three things besides write: He may use the bathroom, make tea, or stare out the window.
It feels good to be connected to one of my heroes. I spend the time I spend writing with my fingers moving over the keys, or getting coffee, going to the bathroom, or staring out my study window.
Beautysleep? Perhaps that is in fact one way of looking at it. My conscious mind taking in the beauty around me and my subconscious mind swimming in it, organizing it in Mystery, and offering me its gifts when I wake.
There are other things that support my writing, teaching, classes, presence, preaching. But these are two that have been asked to be shared with you today.
Where is beauty in your life? Are you missing it? Reading what I’ve written about Rosewood House, do you find yourself envious or longing?
How can you find or create beauty around you? When I lived on a busy urban street, I brought bouquets into my house (yes, flowers again. I sat on my porch in late spring and summer and watched people walk by. I drove through ancient forests and breathed in the tender gift of their breaths, back and forth. I went to the coast and admired the crash and retreat of waves against the Oregon cliffs.
These were my ways. What are yours? What could be yours? Don’t give up.
Where is rest in your life? Does it feel possible? Is there even one hour in the week you can carve out just to lie in bed? One hour?
If that hour feels like too much, I understand, at least on some level, because I have watched my beloved working parents struggle to find enough rest to manage, much less to be truly nourished.
So if sleep, if rest feels unattainable, then perhaps lean into beauty? Into the runes the sticks by the Metro make. The flocks of geese above coming home again. Even the vicarious delight you can take in seeing someone with a style, a sense of joy in the way they move through the world.
Baseline care. Community. Sleep. Beauty.
I am blessed, my friends, and you do a big chunk of that blessing. Never forget it.
You are beauty.