During the time since my last post, I have been struggling. Life with three young boys can have its challenges, most of which revolve around the time and energy homeschooling requires, while also keeping up with pottery commissions, writing submissions, and managing a poetry journal. However, I've also added several other projects that I never expected to come my way: such as researching a pre-Civil War era graveyard, which most likely holds the final resting places of enslaved people, and helping to reclaim it from its abandonment to briars and gravity; assisting with an Empty Bowl soup supper and finishing 50 bowls for the event; and writing a chapter for a Coming To The Table anthology, set for publication later this year. Isn't that how life goes? Often when we're at our busiest, more piles up until the clutter becomes more overwhelming than our emotional comfort will allow.
In January, our family ventured to St. Augustine, Kissimmee, and Tarpon Springs. The driving was tiresome, especially since the trip began and ended with kids getting sick in the car. Preparing and unpacking were arduous chores as I took into account the needs of three children for our travels. Our minivan was so packed, I boggled over how we accumulated so much stuff. And, like any family on a trip, we grabbed more stuff along the way: some were gifts for family and friends or postcards I love to send, others were useful around the house or studio, like wool sponges or a sand dollar nightlight, and yet more would be consumed right away, like orange marmalade or honeybells or fresh strawberries from Plant City. And yet, with all this stuff, still the most remarkable parts of life are those bits you hold in your heart. As Helen Keller reminds us, "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart."
The beach is magical. Honeymoon Island in the Gulf of Mexico, along the Floridian coast where manatees overwinter, on a warm day in January impressed just such an enchantment as Helen Keller mentioned. The frothy waters pushed up shells, broken sand dollars, smoothed stones, grasses, as well as bits of plastic and discarded trash here and there. Such accumulations were sometimes breathtaking, other times heartwrenching. And yet, it was the sound of waves, the prismatic glint of sun across the rippling surface of the water, the feel of soft sand on bare soles, the wind's gentle touch, and the childlike delight that percolates upon exploring someplace new - it was these authentic aspects about the day, not the accumulations, that still brings a smile to my face. Have you had such touches of magic recently? Or has the day's to-dos felt so burdensome that you wonder what it's like to simply sit and be: to savor a sunrise, a well-acted Shakespearean play, to ruminate over the silken stretch of sun and clouds that hang like a patchworked bojagi overhead, to fully engage in a moment with friends - free of your worries - or overarch time through full engagement in an artistic expression.
Life with young children is not all play and it's not always fun. Life is good at not giving us what we want, but what we need, even when it's painful. But, life also gives beauty and hope and joy - gifts we often overlook or downplay for the tumult that usually ensues. What magical moment encourages you when life is lackluster or lamentable?
For Christians, the season of Lent provides a time of scouring ourselves - more specifically, giving up something that draws us away from our focus on God or adding something that draws us closer to God for the purpose of spiritual gain. It's a time to develop habits that can inspire a life more centered on God and his kingdom goals. Regardless of your faith, it's always a good idea to detox from the negative. What will you do? Perhaps you can donate the extra clothes in your closets or create a quilt, volunteer for a soup kitchen or make bagged meals to give to the homeless, recycle or incorporate washable alternatives to things you throw away, choose a more environmentally-friendly mode of transportation that better suits the distances you travel everyday, give up an evening watching cable or Netflix to write a letter to a friend or enjoy conversation, a good book, a fun game, or learning a new language with your loved ones. Maybe it's time to learn an instrument, to fast more and be intentional on eating healthier meals, to dance or hike or find ways to incorporate exercise more frequently, to grow even a small garden - with evening primroses that pop open delightfully or vegetables you can savor, to live the way you want to and not the way society dictates.
"[As\ long as we put ourselves into God's hands, then maybe something good can happen, not because of us, but because he helps" (L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet, 1972:59). Through the journey of the Lenten season, the joy of Easter becomes clearer and more magical. May you find more enchanting moments in your life, too: free of the clutter and overflowing with the calm.
SENK, an artist and writer in the Shenandoah Valley, savors moments contemplating life's intricate beauty.