|The Barn on the Pendle Hill campus|
Earlier, on the morning of my day to arrive at Pendle Hill for an eight-week stay as Writer-in-Residence--my carefully made plans were fraught with obstacles. Everything I needed to do resisted being done: cleaning, packing, lugging boxes and bags downstairs to the car, road work, traffic and ... I could go on, but what stands out for me is that the never-ending prep--three hours instead of one--is a great allegory of the 30 years it took me to take up the leading to spend time at a Quaker study and retreat center. I had the urge and the leading and the advice of Friends to go, but I could never spare the time or money for more than a weekend here and there. My yearning was for the luxury of resting my busy mind/body and opening my heart/spirit to find the depth I can go with God as a Quaker "in the world, but not of it." Would this be comfort? I didn't know. I only knew I had run away from feeling full-throttle spiritual power in my youth, and I know--or suspect--that the power is still there, here, waiting for me to leave my comfort zone and enter the Whole of Life.
This afternoon, my arts and spirituality adviser Jesse took out my Bio for a rewrite. She was quite gentle, but urged me to consider the audience who want to know who I am and what I'm doing. How do my work and spirituality intersect? I had written a rather dull list of facts and paired them with a poem. She looked at the recent interview of me accompanying three of my poems at Poets United, and pointed out language that reveals more of me. She asked me where I'm feeling the HEAT now, regardless of what I said I'd be doing here. And she suggested I spend some time journaling on these question:
- Who am I?
- What do I want to do at Pendle Hill?
- How does this connect to my spirituality?
But what if I put this aside? Who am I, then? A poet, for sure, if not a prose writer. I don't enjoy revising and polishing, something that most writers like to do. I have a lot of starts but no finishes-- except in the short forms of poetry. I actually have two books of poetry. And it's been ages since I performed solo. I am a stage director, really, not an actor, but solo performance is different. It is more an improvisational thing--even the words are never the same twice.
Who am I? Ahhh! I have answered that by saying what I do: teach, write, cook, sew, pray ... But who I am really is part of God who is part of me--just as Jesus shows me is possible. I witness the presence of God in the world.
What do I want to do at Pendle Hill? To Open. At dinner Steve Chase asked me what my hopes were for my time at Pendle Hill, and I said to open all the way and see how deep I can go. I said that without hesitation. I didn't list the novel, poems, performance, blog, letters, etc. I said I expect to be surprised.
How does this connect to my spirituality? Do I know the answer to this? Creativity is demanded of me even as I live the testimonies. It doesn't SEEM spiritual to write about a feminist theatre company and performance and lesbianism, but it is. It's a story that hasn't been told. It doesn't seem spiritual to write poetry that doesn't all sing and zing--but some of it does. If I shift my emphasis to finding God-given power and then, if I succeed, these questions won't be asked anymore. It will be apparent. I don't need to use the buzz words to buzz. The language is a surface veneer, and I want to break it like a mirror that is bad luck when NOT broken. And so I pray to God to take me and break me out of platitude. Then, if the burning bush says write, I will write. What to write I do not know. I am still excited about the novel and the poetry and the potential performance and the blogging (including this post), but there may be less and there may be more in any one of these than I have yet imagined.
I'll write more as way opens.