lines, ink and yarn

reflections shared at new creation fellowship church
september 3, 2017

i have this quote fixed at the top of my blog, written by american poet, t.s. eliot.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

it is part of the poem little gidding, the last of a four part series written in the early 1940s. ts eliot suggested that the key to salvation is unifying the past, the present and the future. with pentecostal themes and hints of buddhism, i set his words as my intention. when i first started claiming this returning and knowing a place for the first time, i hadn’t yet set out on an exploration. it’s like the purest center of me knew what was coming.

t.s. eliot writes,

Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.

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about a decade ago, i chose a verse from the book of romans as the scripture for a block on our church’s sidewalk: rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. i remember that being a steel eyed determination: be grateful, roll over and accept pain, chase god’s love.

when i was in high school, i remember the lists i’d make of things i loved. pages of writing, words dancing on blue lines, proof of my gratitude and a denial of suffering being my prayer. i’ve returned to the place of lists of things i love, through unknown and unremembered gate. and i knew it for the first time from a deep joy and honoring my wounds my cautious and authentic prayer.

from a piece i wrote in october 2016:

she has stories untold. like a preschooler who wants to whisper to a teacher, she waits for a moment when the teacher is quiet and makes eye contact. like a preschooler who wants touch despite her fear, she waits for a moment when the teacher is sitting on the ground and she leans against the teacher’s back.

she wants to fall against the chest of herself, her limbs making their home in the squish of a soft belly. she wants to enter the trance of her heartbeat and then whisper one word clues. she wants humming and nodding as the clue is confidently added to the pile.

i’m working to create life and space that she wants to show up in: laughter and touch and sky and hard work and forgiveness and trust and bread and cheese and honey and cleansing tears and warm smiles and comfort and kindness and music and paint and chalk and tidy corners and fire and moons and birds and twinkly lights and meditation and awe and the golden sun and play and stretching and a commitment to dismiss whatever insults my soul.

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tree rings, cut onion, water ripples…yes, could be. this image i’ve drawn for years, my meditative doodle is now forever on my arm. a reminder to always go within, to see what’s under.

written in 2015:

then i remembered the the homes i used to draw: intricate rooms that were hidden inside of each other, only accessible by going through the other rooms. each room was named, each room had a color and the babies lived in the center spaces, with a mini kitchen and bathroom and outdoor courtyard right there.

this is it. this is how i work hard. things and people and feelings and thoughts and tasks and ideas and doctrine and lists get put in a space. and depending on where i am, that space may be forgotten. not because it’s not important, not because i don’t care…because i’m simply not there.

maybe i’m going through another box, slitting the tape with my favorite knife, opening flaps that have barely been creased before and finding more boxes, neat and tidy, intentionally placed waiting for when i had time to open each one.

maybe i’m daring to feel the synthetic cush of the lacy calico covered box, a fake gift with hardened glue yellowed over the years. maybe i’m daring to face the emptiness of it, only a confusing stale sweet smell remaining with a photo or two.

maybe i’m diving into the old beer box, the resourceful and lively collection of things once cast off. things i used to hide and call shame. things that make me smile now like a cat who knows a secret. things i move to my altar and bathe in sun.

maybe i’m in the garden, squatting on the stones, making new creases on my feet, dancing the dirt between mounds and plains. a little square of earth complete in itself. the granddaughters of worms i used to carry in my pockets surface to visit, pooling water their ocean, sun and wind and moon for us all.

maybe i’m standing over the warped timbers, plastic sheathed hoe in my hand, irritable hard dirt splitting beneath my strength, lipstick on a pig obvious, welling compassion to make this new, telling the dirt it’s not her fault that she’s like this now.

and always i’m in the house of myself. the invisible house surrounded by gates and secret booby traps. the house with magic walls that build themselves up in seconds yet take mere attention to lower.

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recently i found a four lined writing from november 2016:

i’m unraveling.

i’ve chosen this rather than cutting.

if things were a ball of tangled yarn, it’s getting unraveled. taking so much time to undo knots.

my god how it’s easier when the strands are different colors. my god how it’s nearly impossible when they are all red.

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a few months later, i taught myself how to crochet. skipping tutorials on beginner square washcloth made of lines, i learned to crochet circles. circle within circle within circle.

then one day, i made a red line. then added an orange, then a gold, then a green. then a darker green and a brilliant blue. then royalty and blood and osage orange. sunshine, algae and the sky. lines upon lines, imperfect order. hope, patience and perseverance to wrap a baby in.

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i walked into her office a month or so ago. she pointed to my right arm and said, tell me about that one.

it’s like the final sorting of things. it’s like the unraveled ball of yarn bits are set out. it’s like the cards on a table. it’s like things are simply there, no stories, just the facts. it’s like they are the present moment.

she nodded and believed me and said, it kind of reminds me of the kids i see who cut themselves.

i hadn’t thought that or felt that. and yet it is now so obvious. so i wear this new tattoo for them. in honor of the lines they spend all their energy hiding.

from a piece written in 2013 called, “the sign.”

maybe it would be a round patch, warm brown background with a golden yellow border. smooth white iron-on material on back although it could also be sewn on with needle and thread. maybe it would have a flame or a cloud, signifying power and beauty and destruction in one. maybe it would have a spiral made of a dashed line, depicting the twisting mind that freezes and stomach twirls interspersed with stomach drops. maybe it would have a single dot, a single mark isolated and fully exposed. maybe it would have a heart, orangey pink with a strong gray border, not letting anything get to the green core. it would be a sign.

and if everyone knew the sign and if people wore them on their sleeves or their jackets or their hats or had black and white versions tattooed on their arms or their legs or the soft spots between their thumbs and fingers…if they did that then i could see them. or maybe even more, they could see me.

so then i fantasize that i could walk into the coffee shop or the party or the circle of friends and see the signs. i could go to the grocery store, see a woman choosing a green pepper and notice the sign on her sleeve. i could walk down main street and pass a man jogging, the sign on his tshirt. i could walk up to the liquor store and watch an old man carry his paper bag, the sign inked with old-school blue on his forearm. i could wait at a stoplight and glance over at the old woman driving her clean tan car, the sign smelling like air freshener cherries swaying from her rear view mirror. but then this also means i could wait in the high school parking lot and see a former preschooler, the sign so small drawn with marker on the inside of her arm. or i could be at the state fair on dollar day and see bus loads of elementary students, the sign on backpacks and wristbands. i could see them, they could see me.

then i imagine meeting up with the offenders…and i wonder if we’d all be wearing the sign.

about a month ago, i took my marked arms and lines of yarn to the county fair. i was returning to the place i knew when i was 13.

i moved to newton from south of chicago, a county fair barren land, the summer of my thirteenth year. i entered some homemade clay jewelry and my jewelry didn’t get anything. not even “participation.” (i know now that some categories don’t offer “participation” ribbons or stickers, it can be trusted that they were seen and judged.)

this summer, a young friend of mine interrupted her own story of telling me that she was going to enter some of her work in the county fair that i should too! you should enter your crochet things!

i remembered my fair experience and i guffawed, starting to tell my story of the jewelry and it being so unworthy it wasn’t even judged and as the words were released, i stood in the place, arrived where i started, and said, you know what? i will. i will enter my crochet things!

i loved them. i didn’t need anyone to love them for me to love them. i knew they were imperfect. i knew they brought me joy and hope, i practiced patience and perseverance. and for one of the first times in my life, it wouldn’t matter if they were cast off by someone else.

so, i returned to that place thirty years later and knew it for the first time. silly, giddy, shy, vulnerable, nervous yet grounded in my core. and a day later, i had a blue ribbon, a white ribbon, one disqualified for entering too many pillows, and three participation stickers (because unlike jewelry, this category gives participation stickers).

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more from t.s. eliot’s little gidding:

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

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