Writing is like that. Its presence towered over most of my life with the stillness of a holy temple. Grandiose. Imposing. Until I finally flushed a toilet, heard truth echo through a cavernous sanctuary — with the noise of everyday water.
Writing, it turns out, is a place to inhabit.
Modern culture has discombobulated our sense of place. The hub of the kitchen table no longer holds together the farm and work shed like it once did. Now our most important occupations are prone to the sprawl of square miles, states, even countries. We do our best to knit together these habitations of work, family and faith, using long threads of concrete interstates and digital texts.
on this day in Winnipeg even polar bears watch us from Broadway, and we sit and love on these historic steps leading up to our Hotel Fort Garry, and hold, for a time, icy bottles of cream soda and the condensation and rings drive us mad, with love, and people hit their brakes and honk at us, smiling at your wedding dress, here in the northern sunlight, but then we had to leave it in your parents’ basement, for a
time to cross
a country and then a sea of wild rye and nodding needles and the cold concrete at the border station, with its erect black uniforms, silver sunglasses and latex fingers and, the prairie wind howls, whips at the bare skin of our heart, raised today like a flag between two countries.
Oh, Canada burns like a cardinal against our snow.
and so we roar and stomp and leave one paw-print of red in our snow and then go to bed and wait for the visible light to change to faith, some smoldering, infrared glow.
I met Pastor Gary Miller last week at a nearby coffee shop. Isaiah 30 came up. He said he would be preaching on it next Sunday. That might be why our conversation centered around the battle imagery.
Either way, we gathered around a kind of flagpole, confessing our rebellion and oppression.
We talked about the difficult paths. Those behind us. And those ahead.
Here, Gary turns and leans his back against the brick wall. His white hair is long, tousled over like a prophet’s. He keeps that dark jacket on, but not because he’s anxious to leave. He simply sat down and wore what he came here wearing.
I used to talk to myself a lot during my college years. Maybe I had too much time on my hands. But our conversations were sometimes illuminating.
It was a sunny day, early in the fall semester. I sat beside a window on the library’s top floor. My limbs weighed heavy with pressing questions, the ones about distant destinations. From my oversized chair, I saw how the laurel oaks were shedding their leaves and already covering up paths. Was one of them mine?
I wanted out of that library.
The weight of my books didn’t matter. Back then, I needed only a single leather strap over my shoulder to tote around everything that mattered. My blue Jansport fit like a good home, still mobile enough for me to move.
A blank page is often black and full of clouds. And when the veil of watery voices rolls across the moon like a dark tide, the writer in me struggles toward the light.
But the fog is thick and filmy, and there is no speaking or writing in its haze. A pale glow sinks, or settles, far beyond the margins, drowning out any light with negative self-talk, shadowy and opaque.
Telling me that I’m trapped. Not good enough. Even guilty.