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.
I did not create the tree, but I did create the moment of beauty sitting beneath it.
You may have noticed that the recent Lenten Beauties are the continuation of one cross. I am at a location with few creative materials. I view it as a work in process, as so much beauty is.
A cross made from leftover candy wrappers #turnyourchocolatehabitintoart
As I talked about in my earlier post, I am creating one thing of beauty each day of this Lenten season. Technically, Sundays aren’t Lent. (For what it’s worth, neither is Holy Week). Yet, I wanted to do my beauty thing today, so here it is. We march on toward Easter. <3
Lent creeps up on us with ashy feet, banishing the revelry and sunshine in favor of introspection and smoky religion. We kneel and stare at the floor, contemplating.
What to do with ourselves? How to spend the 40 days stair-stepping up to Easter and resurrection? Take on, give up. Piety and sacred resolutions. What direction to point in? What brave thing shall I do?
Beauty is the bravest, is it not? The most heartbreaking. To embrace it, call it out, name it as beauty—stopping and squatting, hands on thighs, to observe it—isn’t that the most courageous thing? To admit this is beautiful, and this.
They say that to experience beauty, you must live in the present. But they don’t tell you what to do when that present is gone, and gone again. When the beauty—the sun haloed on the windshield, the tree’s reaching fingers—stabs and moves on. When the brake lights become hanging red lanterns, and yet they still expect you to get to church on time.
Beauty. I have 40 days to practice admiring it, and surviving.
My Lenten practice 2019: to offer one thing of beauty each day to the universe.