Fanciful

From my backyard

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I just stepped inside from my backyard. I was making some new block-prints, on the picnic table, being careful not to get any of the ink on my seersucker skirt.

The ink has a certain deep and distinct smell to it. It has a certain feel, too. I roll this little rubber roller-thing back and forth and back and forth over a Styrofoam tray (the kind that comes with meat on it at the grocery store) until the ink gets tacky and mounds into tiny, miniature mountains all across the tray and the roller and my block print.

And then I position the paper and use my fingers and especially my thumbs to push the ink onto the paper, leaving the design clear and crisp.

The bugs are out, but not biting. It’s too late in the season for biting. Instead they have all started singing, and the sun was setting over my neighbor’s garage, so I couldn’t watch it. But, if I tilted my head correctly, I could see the clouds change colors across the sky.

And I’m wearing a fascinator.

My friend, Kathryn, joined a convent a few days ago. Before she left she gave me some things: a scarf she made me, some art I had given her in the past, some barely-used cleaning supplies. And, also her exquisite fascinator. I remember when she bought it. We were in a wee downtown. We had stopped at a bookstore, and then a few galleries, and one of the shops was full of excellent, excellent fascinators and Kathryn picked this one out. She said, “When would I wear this?” and I said, “Dude. All the time. Invest in your future!” So then she bought it. I remember her wearing it to the dance my family throws every winter, Colleen’s wedding, maybe a party or two.

And then, last week, she left it and her worn teddy bear and her Christmas ornaments and left for the convent. I left the worn teddy bear and the Christmas ornaments, but I took the fascinator.

It is a fabulous piece, really. It’s detailed with twisted, curling sinamay and assorted feathers and a vintage-y bauble or two. The piece sits sideways on the head–jaunty and assured.

I came home from work today ready to clean in a frenzy. I cleaned the guinea pig cages and the bathroom. I washed the shower curtain, coached my mom through a new soup recipe, sorted about ten baskets of laundry with my youngest brother. I decided to try to find a place to store this new fascinator, where it wouldn’t be squished, but was unsuccessful. So, instead, I just wore it outside with me as I went about stamping new stationary. Across the street, my retired neighbor-couple sat on the porch together, as they do in the evenings, doing crossword puzzles and reading magazines. Two houses down, the dad was moving in and out of his van, slamming the door as he worked.

And the sun was setting. And I worked the ink and wore my fascinator.

One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot these days is this one line from chapter ten in the stories of Jesus recounted by His friend, John. Jesus says He comes so that we might know “life and have it to the full.”

A friend of mine once pointed out that abundant, full life is not just abundant, full songs and happiness…but hardships, too; suffering, too; sorrow, too. All of it–abundantly.

I started a new job a few weeks ago. I cross my fingers that I’m in a better, healthier situation, but I don’t know that for certain. All I know is: I get paid better. Does that count?

One of my friends texted me this past week about some hard times he has been going through. But, he is ever-poetic and his hurting-words were haunting, but also beautiful, like the golden late-summer sun on the leaves of the shade-trees. I wish he didn’t know this pain. I want him to be happy and singing. But, is this, too, part of the promise of abundant life?

I told my friends I would be praying a novena, that I would hold their prayers with mine, if they’d like. Prayer requests poured into my inbox–so many sincere needs and loves from so many people. Some people are pouring their life and love into important work, and they asked for strength and more love. Other people just needed a caring word or two. And privileged me was honored to share prayer with them. How good.

My brother helped write a play that I went and saw last weekend. I had heard him write those songs for over two years now. And the young people sang his songs and performed the written-words and it was just an endearing expression of so many things that I love: art and faith and friendship and hope.

Yesterday my mom chided my brothers: “Do you see that hot sauce on the kitchen ceiling? How did it get there?”
And they said: “Mom, we don’t know. Maybe it’s been there for a long time.”
And she said: “No, it’s new, I noticed it this morning.”
Them: “Well, do you really look at the ceiling all that often?”
Her: “Yes. Especially when I need to roll my eyes at you.”

My friend Julia came over to play circus with me. There are lacy flowers growing along the side of the highway. Today I saw a homeless man sprawled on the sidewalk, talking to himself, wearing yellow socks. This morning my sister slept with a singular dreadlock draped over her eyes. Yesterday my mom set up two tents in our backyard to air, and Franklin-the-guinea-pig decided to run under the tent–what fun for him!

Life seems to be a mix of all of these things–good but hard, beautiful but trying. The abundance of it all hits me like a water-wall wave sometimes. And I don’t know that I’m doing the best job standing up to the overflowing experience that includes my close friend joining a convent and things being mad-crazy for Philadelphia and Lord help me, this new job and all, all, all else.

But, until then, I hope to pray a Holy Hour tonight.

And maybe I’ll wear the fascinator.

The fascinator to celebrate this blessed, broken mixture of tears and confusion and art and courage and hope…always hope. Hope and life…abundantly.

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