I am a prayer.
I put a mindfulness bell application on my smart phone to resound every four hours. I stop, center, listen, breathe.
A poet friend wrote in an interview: I actually love the idea of a mysterious ending that leaves the reader wondering. I suspect that, as this theme continues, at some point [your character] will take over and begin leading you where he wants to go. This is what the impresario Ellen Stewart used to say about the performing artists she invited into La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club! I used to know my Mama Ellen well. Well, at least I knew her.
I am off the rocker I brought with me to hold me on the path of my character Dr. Alice N. Deed, who always performs from a rocker. She pretends it is a fully lit stage with all sorts of props and movements. Perhaps it was once, but she is off her rocker.
Is that dangerous?
To be a prayer. And to be off one’s rocker.
Why bother exit-ing a life to retreat or to vacate for any other reason? Reasons.
Even if it feels like the way is lost?
Even if the ground is no longer under my feet and I panic just like the time when I slipped and fell. At least I thought leaving was what I wanted. Once. If only I knew how long it would take.
Can awakening be scheduled?
If only I knew if it were better to use this time to grow spiritually and miss the opportunity to finish my novel—or to finish my novel and miss the time to grow spiritually.
In other words: “Who am I? What am I doing now? How does it connect to my spirituality? IE: How can I best use my time at Pendle Hill?” (This is a slight variation of my spirituality and art mentor’s questions.)
Today I wrote a lot on this question, trying to practice the “Wisdom Writing” of Tanya Taylor Rubenstein—which is Natalie Goldberg’s free writing plus a question to answer—remembering that at the bottom of all the questions is me, and I am God’s work of art (Ephesians 2:8).
Can I lose my awe of all the activists, healers, artists and scholars who have come through here and all they have said and finally ask “What can I say and do as a continuum of God’s guidance in all of my teaching?”
I am sitting in the old parlor of Main House where I read poetry on a program with Chuck Fager reading amusing documents from his research on Progressive Quakers and Blair Seitz reading from his memoir of being a military photographer during the Vietnam War. I remember that I read my 5-part poem “Portraits of Peace” and it was good. I knew it was good then and now to ask shopkeepers to close down for peace just as they would for war. I know, too, that my writing in “Alice in Wonder” is good. Here is someone teaching another generation, someone who has the skill and the courage to to overcome her introvert nature in STORY because story transforms. She talks to her cat. She talks to her remote friend and grumbles because her friend doesn’t agree with her assessment of their mutual past in theatre and performance. It embarrasses her friend that Alice still performs, that Alice pretends to perform.
In what way is my character Alice a Quaker? Because she is, I know. Or she was. I’m not sure one can be a Quaker in isolation. In what way am I a Quaker?
I have yearned for a place to let go, and—well—this is it! Let go of what? Schedules? Shoulds? Haven’t I come to grips with much of that after three years of retirement? How to best use this time? I need not cook nor shop nor feed cats nor attend meetings. Two layers of busyness are gone! I need not use the internet nor Facebook—despite having brought three electronic devices with me. I need not use them. I can just be here. No “just” about it. I can fully be here: Be present at meals with people and otherwise be present with the world and me.
I need not fill time. I can let time fill me. Or empty me.
What may I best do at Pendle Hill? Everything but the “should.” I can give myself permission to “waste” time, to “spend” time, to walk and wander and “lose track of” time and wear dirty clothes or PJs. And I can sit and listen. To nothing or to sounds and nature and “clouds of unknowing.” I can have my conversations with God deliberately.
I feel tears in my eyes, so that’s a clue that I am on the right track.
I can just sit here or there and listen. I hear the clock ticking behind me. Apropos! Hahaha! O My!
What did you do today? Nothing.
What did you do today? I listened.
What did you do today? I waited. I waited.
For what did you wait? For nothing. For nothingness. Maybe I waited to get bored. Maybe.
In three years of retirement I’ve accomplished very little though I’ve approached the time as if I were still a workaholic. But what if I did nothing? And had no expectations? Who would be more disappointed in me? those who keep expecting great things from me? or me? And one more thing has been worrying me. This writing exemplifies it! This is all I, I, I! Me, Me, Me! When others write brilliant blogs they bring in their own experience only as it illuminates the points they are making about social issues.
And what is Alice’s mission? She rarely speaks of herself, maybe never speaks of herself. Her mission is to assist children in finding their voices, to surprise them by taking them to new places or asking new questions of stories that seem to be set in stone as if the stories say something without people. Is it fun she’s after? Creativity? Is this activism? Or did her civic engagement stop in the 1980s? I should ask that question about myself.
I am hung up on the idea that I must produce something here and that what I produce must be useful to Quakers. But which Quakers? New ones? Old ones? Seeking ones? Those looking for hooks to open themselves up? Me? Did Virginia Woolf think “What does “To the Lighthouse” have to offer?” Was “A Room of One’s Own” an effort to create something useful? Hahaha! They are both about the same thing! And her Mrs. Dalloway needs a room. And so do I. And I have one. And so does Alice.
But then, let me not hesitate to ask why God brought me here with this book at this time in my life. Let’s pray on that. Do I need a conflict? Does my novel? Is there a way to eliminate conflict from our lives? if we “live in the world but are not of it?” My character Alice addresses conflict in story, in little parables (or not). She doesn’t direct anyone to God above, but in her way she heals.
Tanya Taylor Rubenstein says in her Day 6 prompt on completion, “When you abandon your creative projects, you are in essence abandoning yourself.” I don’t want to abandon either. And so I will pray and become the prayer.
I will write more as way opens.