Tuesday, April 27, 2010

moths and myths

I have two stories in mind as I launch my blog boat today - one is true and one is made up. The true story took place when my son C was a small boy. I had settled him into bed, and as I stood up, I told him that I was leaving, but God would be with him. His eyes grew wide. "Do you mean that God is here in this room?" I smiled and nodded, happy enough to give this glib comfort so I could return to my book. His face took on a look of panic. He pulled his hands out from under the bed cover and slapped them together. "Here", he said, with solemn intensity - "I've got him. Take him away." I cupped my hands around his, separated them off with care, and carried God out to the hall where I flicked 'him' into the dark like a small moth. Done!

The other story was one that I heard recently. It went like this: God was in heaven with the angels. God was badgered day and night by prayers from humans, always asking for this or that. The angels noticed how tired God looked, and said they would find a hiding place so God could have some peace. They took God into the heart of a forest, to find a place to rest in the soft dark undergrowth. But soon the clamour returned. The prayers had found God, and they were as noisy and demanding as ever. Then the angels said: "We'll try another hiding place. We'll take you to a cave. It's high in the mountains; its opening is hard to find. The humans will never find you there." But the same thing happened. No sooner had God arrived, than the prayers and petitions came pouring through the gap in the rockface and into the cave. The angels thought and thought, then one of them spoke up. "I have an idea: we'll hide you in the human heart. Hardly anyone will find you there."

Banished in one, scuttling for cover in the other, god is present in both stories in fascinating roles. Where does god reside? Can we find him/her - catch god even? Do we want to? Over the years my theology, once reasonably sturdy, has fallen away. Now, with a sweet pile of twigs remaining, I am standing in the open, feeling curious and responsive. I hear about, am drawn to the idea of divine encounter, espoused by those who have embraced spiritual exercise such as silence and meditation, and by those who are impelled into creative expression (surely branches of the same tree.) Yesterday I posted a ted talk on youtube where author Elizabeth Gilbert invites us to loosen up and cock our ear/heart to the divine muse - the genie that lives outside of ego. She relates the story of a poet, now in her 90s, whose divine daimon would come at full throttle - an earth shuddering, thundering horse-like creature. My son likens his poetry writing to vomiting; the creative impulse a spasming affair, where the body pitches and the formed poem is expelled - sometimes at astonishing speed. I loved reading vespersparrow's experience as described on her blog - an intensely delicate, heightened sense of encounter, that indicates she is about to write.

As for me - who knows, but I will keep faith. After all, I have carried god between my palms. In the meantime, as Elizabeth Gilbert so beautifully puts it: just keep showing up and get on with the job. Ole.

Monday, April 26, 2010


My daughter has given me a gift. She linked me to a ted talk. I now pass this gift out to you. You may have seen it. If you haven't, prepare yourself for a glorious reminder. Creativity is a relationship ready to happen.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tuesday Poem

Heaven is other people


Heaven is other people.
Hallelujah. See them strewn about the earth,
Their stony cities lit by dim electric light and furtive love.


I am at the doorway of the world,
Pushing poem after poem through the crack.
And I know that they are read,
For whenever I arrive,
The garden path has been dutifully swept,
The unruly roses trimmed,
And footsteps murmur in the dark house as I leave.


If I reach inside you, all the way,
I cannot bridge the gap between us.
I cannot offer final proof.
And when my scouts retreat from the
Terra incognita of your flesh,
They bring me wild reports of wonders perceived,
But scarcely understood.
Hush. This imperfect knowledge
We share in the silence after.


Heaven is other people.
Hallelujah and Hosanna. See them
Cradled by a vastness of raging debris,
Boldly going about the business of
Rewriting the story from scratch.
It makes me want to never leave.
But when leave I must,
I am left with a solitary consolation,
That I must leave it all to you,
To you and to you and to you.

Cameron Morrison Birnie

This poem was written by my son. (Thanks cam for letting me post it.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tuesday Poem


Roam around the skin before starting to ghazal.
Loosen it from the bone. Let it spill.

The lap is hollow and shrouded in dark silk.
It aches for its losses and so it is never empty.

There's one on whom the eye can never rest.
The arms are still and well behaved, but the pulse is racing.

In hot weather blood grows thinner than water.
Magpies beat their wings in your hair to keep you from their young.

I remember the day my palm was plump with love.
I stroked the locks your hair and found them wet with dew.

Pam Morrison

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Heart is where the home is

Some weeks ago Elisabeth blogged on 10 things that make her happy. This invitation that was travelling the blogs got me thinking. I fished for one of my many journals and wrote my list. There were a number of precious happy-making 'things' jostling for position at the top of my list - the only way they settled on the page was to assure each of them they were not being prioritised. And right up there in that unranked uppermost bunch of blessings, was my home.

I've often said this place called me to herself. I used to walk the long straight valley at the base of my hill, and would invariably look up into the no-exit street, densely bushed and seemingly untouched by the taming hand of suburbia. If I could choose, this is the street where I would live, cash-strapped pm would whisper on her way past. I walked to the top on occasion, and remember my breath catching, the first time I peered through the vista of native bush to a small wooden bridge leading to a barely visible ramshackle two-storied house.

Eight years ago through a series of unexpected openings, that house became home. It has been a love affair that continues to this day. The garden is beautiful, never quite tidy; the multiple rooms are happy, the rough corners content to wait the year or three it might take for the flick of the paint brush to finish them off. I am softened by our relationship - made beautiful even. I told a friend I would bleed to death if I had to leave this place. It seemed an appropriate metaphor. An artery had opened up, and lifeblood flowed through it. For the first time ever, I spoke the truth when I said: I am home.

Late last year I did what I had been intending to do for some years. I attended a quaker meeting, an hour long gathering where people meet to be, to settle in the quiet, to open in their own way to worship, largely in silence. I keep returning, and over easter I travelled to the quaker settlement to learn more of the quaker traditions and to enter again that shared experience. In a different way, in a distinct way, once again I sensed myself coming 'home'.

Right now I am on a path that will teach me - please pam, learn well - more about home. By the end of this year, due to circumstances yes, but also a call to simplicity, this physical dearly loved home will be passed across, entrusted to others. It will no longer be my home.

It has taken me years - a lifetime - to begin to learn to receive. Now I am beginning to learn how to leave. I have been given a new metaphor. I see an organ, laden with capillaries, and one by one, with pain-staking and tender care, each tiny capillary is being cut and seared. There are many of them, and it will take the full nine months. Sometimes I wince, and already I find myself weeping easily. Yet even now, I have begun to dream. There is room in me for that little place down the bottom of the hill. I will move on, and I trust my heart will travel with me.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Tuesday Poem

And so my question is
Can you write a poem
When you’re slumped in a chair
And your fingers are soiled
And the brown shirt is
The only one that
Suits you today
And even though
You’re just home
From a retreat where
Deep silence and
Thoughts of light
And mystery
And the stuff
Of meaning
Filled every
Single day
All you know
Right now
Is your nails
Are grubby
And the cat
Wants food
Well can you?

pam m