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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Seeing Shapes Moving Around

I carried a question to Hutchmoot. It was aimed at the Square Peg Alliance and The Inklings. The question was fraught with desire and demand. It was heavy with discouragement and fear. I was tired of holding it and wanted to put it down; but I couldn't. It would not go away; it dogged my steps.

My question was, "how." I cannot, even now, punctuate it correctly because it was heavy to lift. It was flat and frustrated.

Most deeply this question had been aimed at God all along.

In the queer silence of living, the question has changed. It has turned into something that is beginning to sing in my hands, to vibrate and speak back. Quietly, I have noticed little thoughts within that seem deeper, truer and wiser than my own thinking. I've begun to pay attention.

These thoughts turn the question. They expand it, adding words like: "What if what the Inklings did in that room at the pub was just hang out and talk about what they love and what they were doing and thinking?", "What if they did not write up a purpose statement crafted from group consensus to make sure they did what they agreed to do when they were there?", (Please, taste the sarcasm here -- revealing what a truly overly productively focused American I am.) "What if your community is already around you; waiting to be recognized?", "What if you already have much of what you're looking for?"

Matt Conner, a presenter at Hutchmoot, named what I think was going on in his recent Rabbit Room article. On one level, I was looking for 'Chia Community.' (Great name, Matt!) I did and I didn't want to be told what to do so that I could make what The Inklings had happen in my life. I say did and didn't because there was an authentic, true desire at the root of my question; it just got muddled and twisted because I feared my eyes were not seeing and my ears were not hearing so my hands might not be receiving.

But, like the blind man gaining new sight from Christ, I think I'm beginning to see shapes moving around.

Last Monday I shared a room at St. John's Abbey with my friend Kirsten. I'd let the women at church know that I was going up once a month to spend the night; so if anyone was looking for a little cheaper monastery retreat; they could join me. Kirsten is an artist who's just beginning to hope there might be art after motherhood.

We spent the day enjoying the beauty of the space. We basked in the glow of traditionally prepared Japanese tea and conversation about art with master potter Richard Bresnahan while sitting around the pottery studio's Irori. (Practically a pint before a pub fire????)

After praying Vespers with the monks, we headed back to our room. Throughout the day, Kirsten and I'd been sharing our desires and struggles around our artistic endeavors with one another. I'd told her about my anxiety that I didn't know how the book I'm writing was supposed to end.

As we entered our room, Kirsten offered me a gift; she asked if I would read what I had written so far to her while she inked some drawings.

This was so great to me on so many levels. I was stuck outside my story because of the interruption of the holidays. I was trying to find my way back in; and hadn't found it yet. I instinctively knew this was the way; I was thankful for the space, time and gracious listener to do it all in one go.

It was also the first time I would be there in person while someone received my story who was not married to me.

It was magical.

I saw, firsthand, the effect my words had on her. I was stunned by the feedback and greatly encouraged. There was something there, living, in my story. She was laughing, enjoying and connecting with it. Certain characters made her think of people she knew. I had moments where I felt an odd objectivity come over me; like I was not the writer, but was reading it for the first time -- and had a reader's opinion of it.

Then the most quietly wonderful thing happened. Nearing the end of what I'd written, I gasped and exclaimed to Kirsten, "I know how it ends!" Just like that. A sweet little surprise twist of an ending arose and presented itself to me; and I knew it for what it was. Kirsten agreed. It was perfectly true to the story. I was so amazed to see tracks laid out before me again. I know my way forward and know when to stop; the end of the line is so much closer than I thought!

So, in the Winter dark of a Minnesota evening, I recognized how a mutually-beneficial, creatively supportive artistic life can be shared; simply by giving and receiving.

If frangrances were songs, that question I've carried so long has become an opening flower in my hands; I can tuck it behind my ear and keep going.


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