Feast on the Empty

We’re walking in the woods this Thanksgiving Day, and autumn has starved the whole landscape of color.  

When I look up, I see tree branches stretched toward heaven like coral against a blue sea. 

Tree Branches Like Coral

The branches tangle up in currents of blue and white

Tangled in the Sky

We’re all down here, swimming in a great blue sea.  I’m miniature against an enormous coral reef.  I see it in my mind, and the whole story unfolds in color. 

The emptiness invites the poetry.

When life seems stark, you get to make the beauty yourself.  You feast on the empty. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 


The Books that Shape Your Life

While cleaning my bookshelves, I wonder what I would do if I had to choose a few of the hundreds of dusty books to keep. 

I treasure books–their smells, their textures, their histories, their marginal notes.  I flip through my old favorites and find phrases I underlined and circled when I was a young college girl.  I have fond feelings towards that lost young woman who searched for truth deep within every word. She underlined everything in case it might matter one day.  The books that have hardly survived the decades all fall into one category: 


I cannot part with the Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson, John Keats, A.R. Ammons, or Walt Whitman.  I hungered for truth back then, and the poets, to me, had most of it.  All these poetry books held a spotlight on truth; Elizabeth Bishop, Marianne Moore, and Sylvia Plath all bore witness to. . . something.

I had to find it.  I wanted that thing that every great poem gestures toward.

Back then, I read C.S. Lewis writing about desire and joy.  He writes this:  “. . . For all images and sensations, if idolatrously mistaken for Joy itself, soon honestly confessed themselves inadequate. All said, in the last resort, ‘It is not I. I am only a reminder. Look! Look! What do I remind you of?'”  

Poets isolate moments and make us see them in new ways.  They rearrange experiences and press into them until they tell the truth. The poems cry out, “Look! Look!  What do I remind you of?”

The poets helped my journey towards God.  I needed words like that.  I still do. 

Journal:  Do you have a poem that helped you discover a great truth?


How Emily Dickinson (and a Friend’s Blog) Saved My Morning

I’ll just begin by telling you a certain child in my family vomits seven times last night.  This is the other child (not the one with the entirely different virus). 

I don’t actually wake up this morning because I never actually went to bed. 

Everyone complains.  Everyone feels miserable, and to make matters worse, it’s a holiday!  We’ll miss the bike parade, the hot dogs, the fireworks–everything. 

Then I check my email, and a new friend sends me a link to her blog.  She’s entitled it “Dwell in Possibility.”  I think about the phrase all morning because it resonates deeply.  I’ve heard the phrase before–from some distant place–that recalls a beautiful hoping in me. 

Then I remember.  It’s from Emily Dickinson.  I love Emily Dickinson. 

I dwell in Possibility —
A fairer House than Prose —
More numerous of Windows —
Superior — for Doors —

Of Chambers as the Cedars —
Impregnable of Eye —
And for an Everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky —

Of Visitors — the fairest —
For Occupation — This —
The spreading wide of narrow Hands
To gather Paradise —

I read the poem again and again.  Today, I choose to gather Paradise.

Journal:  What are the possibilities of this day?  Who could even name them all? 


No Ordinary Day

This morning in the shower, I thought of the verb, “exfoliate,” which means to remove a dead layer of skin, to shed the scales.  Exfoliation reveals the smooth new skin underneath.  You shine afterward.

Some days, I move through the hours as if under gauze.  I’m not seeing into the life of things.   There’s a dead layer I need to come out from under. 

It all seems so ordinary, so basic.  No beauty, no wonder.   With eyes glazed over, I move through my life. 

But then I scrub it down, shine what’s in front of me, and seek out the poem in anything from soap scum to a thunderstorm. As my neighbor said to me a few weeks ago, this daily flair project is a daily poem project.  If poems make the ordinary thing extraordinary, then that’s what I’m doing today and everyday.  I want to see deeply and clearly. 

I’m on the hunt for beauty.

I want to train my daughters in the art of finding the beautiful thing, of naming it, and holding it tight.  We need time to think, to sit outside, and experience our lives. 

Seeing the world upside down. 

I tell them we aren’t watching television because we have so much to experience.  I send them outside, and they swing upside down as the sun sets.

The older one takes a rock and crushes acorns to a fine powder. She wants to see inside things. 

Later, I find out acorn powder is a secret ingredient for a recipe she’s making.  I did that as a girl, long before electronics dominated homes.

Crushing acorns

I went outside with nothing to do at all.

I came in, my face shining.