Risen Words

A book was sleeping inside me. It was somewhere deep and warm, somewhere just beneath my heart. At first, the words free-floated lightly, whispering so I could barely hear them. Next they somersaulted nimbly, mesmerizing me. Then they dropkicked, demanding their release.

Days, weeks, and months went by. Still, I did not begin to write the book. A book takes years from your life. Each day you have to stand upon a cliff, take a breath, plunge into the chasm. You have to hit rock to make the words rise. You have to push friends and family to the margins, shirk the world to live in the mind.

What’s more, I’d just finished a memoir, peddled it to more than fifty agents, received rejections from all. And though I’d found a small, independent press willing to take a risk on me, I’d been warned, given our anonymity, the memoir likely wouldn’t sell. How could I justify another book, waste the future after the past? Better to cook dinner for my family or for the homeless downtown.

No, the book was a stupid idea.

But the words kept kicking inside.

I talked to a friend about it. She said sometimes when a project is obsessing us, it’s a sign that God is calling us to task, a signal of our vocation.

[Read more...]

The Truth Told Slant

Every winter I plunge into darkness.

As Seattle days shorten to eight hours with clouds covering most of the sky and the city readies for ten months of showers, my inner world becomes as bleak as the world outside. I burrow through three seasons like a shrew mole through the mud, tunneling deeper to cry, surfacing only to complain.

Born and raised in New York, I’ve not adjusted in twenty-seven years.

I suppose this isn’t surprising. All my grandparents were natives of Sicily, a place where even in winter daylight persists for ten hours with nary a cloud in the sky. The people of Palermo wake to sun 228 days per year.

When my grandparents immigrated to the US, they did well to settle in Manhattan, where the sun shines over Central Park 235 days each year. The Space Needle basks in sun rays only fifty-eight.

My doctor calls my melancholy SAD (seasonal affective disorder), a depression caused by lack of sunlight resulting in low serotonin. Those who experience it suffer desolation, petulance, anxiety, and social strain.

[Read more...]

A Matched Pair of Restraining Orders

Guest Post by Cathy Warner

One Sunday during my first year of parish ministry, I stood in the church narthex waiting to begin the service, when Barney, the neighbor of a twenty-year church member, ran red-faced from the street screaming, “Help me, help me!”

Barney, who’d been coming to church for the summer, was sweating and trembling in his worn polyester suit, and for a few moments I thought his suffering was physical until Shirley (the twenty-year member) charged in after him, also yelling.

They shouted simultaneously: She tried to hit him with her car. He was stalking her.

Shirley towered over me, blonde and vicious, while Barney cowered behind my back screaming his own accusations. I tried to remain calm. [Read more...]

Come Before Winter Part Two

Continued from yesterday.

Paul faced the winter of death, and Timothy faces the winter of lost opportunity. If he doesn’t come before winter, the ships will go to dock to wait out the harsh months. He won’t be able to journey until spring, and by that time Paul believes he will be dead. Now is the time, he tells Timothy. Before winter.

When Joseph Campbell lectured on Dante’s life chart in the Convivio, it was in the context of his own charting of an archetypal life pattern. He developed it from his study of world mythologies. He calls it the hero’s journey. [Read more...]

The Work Awaits, Part Two

Almost exactly two years ago, I made my Good Letters debut with a post titled “The Work Awaits,” in which I wrote about my vocational insecurities and obstacles, and how living out my life as a writer hasn’t felt the way I expected it to.

This sequel is long in coming, and it’s my last post as a regular contributor.

The two years that have marked my tenure here happened to coincide with one of the most difficult periods of my life. I’ve used this space to work through many of the puzzles I found myself facing at midlife.

I’ve written about my father, depression, diabetes, not being a mother, Jazzercise, John Mayer, and Peanut M&Ms. Mostly I’ve wondered: Am I doing what I’m meant to be doing, in the way I’m meant to be doing it?

And also: Is this all there is? [Read more...]


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