We, the most Southern couple on earth, are going to Michigan! Mackinac Island, to be specific, which my grandmother Bigmama talked about all the durn time when I was a kid. I’ll share photos.
We’re having a book launch at Novel Bookstore in Memphis this July for The Hart Women! The Hart Women is a different concept (a limited edition hand-sewn novel). I’m grateful to Novel for viewing “different” as exciting.
My mother is about to have a very significant birthday! Y’all have to join me in my joy without knowing Mother’s exact age—I know better than to blurt that out.
Two very fine agents are reading HARBORING EVIL! (A formerly homeless man uses his street smarts to prove the kind woman who helped him get housed didn’t murder her husband—only to discover she might be involved in a deadly gentrification scheme.) Fingers crossed, y’all.
I planted a mimosa tree! Most nurseries don’t carry mimosas because they consider them “trash trees.” Never smelled the honey scent or seen a mimosa blossom twirling in the sun like a tiny ballerina, I guess.
An incredibly talented artist and I led the world-premier of the Stations of the Resurrection at St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral Sunday! It was fabulous. It was Dean Laura’s idea. The artist and I made it real, totally from scratch, my kind of endeavor.
And this one is without an exclamation point: I sometimes feel like a small craft on a large, unfathomable ocean. The swells lift me high where I feel myself soaring toward the horizon with the white-winged gulls. Then my little raft rides the face of the wave into a trough that frightens me in its bleakness. I share here with you the buoying peaks. Please know that if you are in a trough, your raft will rise again.
My Lenten practice wasn’t random. This year, I chose to create one thing of beauty each day of Lent (Lent is 40 days). I might not have articulated it on day one, but I chose this discipline in contravention of the more traditional view of Lent as a time of deprivation, penitence, and “doing without” as a cleansing process preparing us for the rebirth of Easter. The concept of humanity as sinners needing to be washed clean by the blood atonement of Jesus’s crucifixion is not for me.
I’m not alone in this. Fr. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan, says the substitutionary atonement theory of Christ has never been part of his order’s belief. What a relief. Even as a young girl, I wondered who would admire a parent that would send his son to his death for any reason whatsoever; it offended me that my selfishness was supposed to be so great that I thought this sacrifice was okay because it was for me.
So what is Easter to me? It is the mystic moment when we choose not to hate. Choose not to exact revenge. Choose to love inside a sea of hate. When we choose to look for—and find—God in the most terrible of circumstances. This most unheroic of choices, that is the cross and Easter.
It is a view of Jesus I chose to participate in this Lent when I took on adding one thing of beauty to the world each day. It was an act of support and solidarity, you see. God suffuses this amazing world. This is the way Jesus saw the world, as full of God. I want to see it that way too.
³“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. ⁴Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. ⁵Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. ⁶Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. ⁷Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. ⁸Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. ⁹Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. ¹⁰Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
In my last Lenten Beauty posting of 2019 (Holy Week, which we have now begun, is no longer Lent), I created the beautiful thing of making it to Charlotte, NC to visit my mother, despite a medical emergency on the plane and an aborted landing, represented by this comforting light in her apartment:
I did not write this book. But I did share it with my grandsons this morning. I said, “I am reading the FUNNIEST book.” I told them the premise (“A squirrel gets sucked into a vacuum cleaner and comes out with superpowers.”) We read the comics in it. We opened it randomly and started reading from right where it opened. We laughed. And laughed. And laughed. It was a beautiful moment. And we created it.
A pink VW bug passed. Pink cars everywhere. In the harbor, in my nightmares. The image of Delia pedaling her pink Barbie car round and round our Longmont hedges popped up, and I shut my eyes, corralling my thoughts before they ran away from me. My mind—and eyes—not where they should have been, the toe of my shoe caught, and I tripped. Caught at a branch wrapped with vines. Thorny vines. I snatched my hand away, but a string of thorns the size of brad heads tattooed my skin. I yanked them out one by one, sucking droplets of blood. “Coot, you damn fool.” I gripped my palm as I waited for the throbbing hurt to lessen before I started again—damn Lithium made me clumsy as a drunk. It was a terrible drug. ‘Cept it kept me sane.
(an excerpt I wrote today in my ongoing revision of HARBORING EVIL, a Coot Long mystery)
When I was young, I was hoping for something, I don’t remember what. But it involved a letter arriving in the mail. I was slumping around, despondent, certain the news would be bad. My mother said, “Look at you, you haven’t even read the letter yet!” Then she added something that has stuck with me ever since: “You aren’t even leaving room for the news to be good.”
I thought of this today when I went down by the Mississippi River to gather driftwood for a workshop I’ll be doing in a couple of weeks. My church in Bay St. Louis is hosting a cross-making workshop based on my book Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God. Folks can bring their own cross-making material, but I said I’d bring stuff too. Driftwood is my FAVORITE cross-making material, and one thing I learned during the years I was making crosses: rivers have tons more driftwood than beaches.
When I arrived at the river, I realized it was high. I thought, oh, no! There won’t be any driftwood—the entire shoreline was gone.
As I neared, however, I saw how wrong I’d been. The river had actually been higher. It had crested and retreated. As the water ebbed, waves of driftwood had been left behind. And the city hadn’t arrived yet to scoop up the “debris” into piles. It was the perfect time to collect wood.
I made a real haul.
So that was the universe being forgiving. It had readied an awesome gift for me. I had assumed disappointment. Yet, the gift wasn’t withdrawn. I didn’t follow my mother’s advice and leave room for it to be good, but the universe slid in there anyway.
Lenten beauty is like manna. It can’t be hoarded, or it will rot. The point is to take a moment each day, think of God, and add some beauty to the world. So, today, you get 4 lenten beauties, because they all came from one trip to the grocery store.
These are pages of the novel THE HART WOMEN being folded into signatures with a bone folder. If you squint, you can tell the pages aren’t consecutive. That’s because they will be sewn together. At that point, the pages will become consecutive.
Who’s doing this sewing? Marisa Whitsett Baker. She’s the amazing artist who is producing these one-of-a-kind special edition novels.
I wrote the story of an old house, a decision to be made, and the women in a wealthy but tangled family.
Together, Marisa and I are making a book. The book is presented as the journal an elderly woman wrote as she wandered from room to room in her former home trying to understand how the once-beautiful house came to ruin.
Here’s the summary:
The house at 1011 St. Lawrence Street once rang with joy. Now, the porch sags, the window panes run with cracks. In one generation, the home that nurtured the wealthy Mississippi Hart family sits abandoned. Did tragedy undo the family, or did the family create its own misfortune? The story begins in 1968 Fairview, Mississippi, when Poppa Sam Hart dies…. Told through the eyes of favorite grandchild Emily Hart Fielding, The Hart Women explores the corrupting influences that entangle the human heart. Emily’s discovery of the forgiveness she seeks will stay with the reader long after the book is finished.
Each novel will be different. Here’s a glimpse of my personal copy that Marisa made from old (typo-ridden) drafts of the story.
We will be offering the novels for sale, one by one. You may want one to hold the beautiful journal in your hand. You may want one to lovingly follow Emily Hart Fielding’s story. You may want a collector’s item. But you’re going to want one, I just know it.