So here’s a funny thing: Last night, when I made my way up the jetway and into the airport here in Lincoln, Nebraska, I could barely contain my enthusiasm. I would have skipped across the threshold, except that I was so weary. I am so weary. Beneath the blue sign with white lettering that read, “Baggage Claim” with an arrow pointing off to the west, sat a security guard. He took his glasses off with one hand and rubbed his eyes with the other, in a way that suggested he may have been sitting at that post for the entire time it took our airplane pilot to transport us from Denver to the place I now call home. I tossed a friendly greeting over to the security guard and he responded in the way that makes visitors to Nebraska remark with incredulity, “Everyone is so nice!”
If you’ve been to Laity Lodge in Texas, you already know there is no place on earth quite like it. With its emerald blue waters and rocking chairs and Laity Lodge cookies and Santa Fe blend of coffee and midnight skies thick with diamonds, Laity Lodge takes your breath away. Then, once each year, add to that mix the incredible community of High Calling writers and editors and readers and cheerleaders and friends and thinkers and artists (all of whom are ordinary people with skin on), and the weekend comes alive with moments that make you wonder if you should simply have left your shoes on the conveyor belt with the TSA agents, rather than bothering to bring them with you to this place where fire lights up nearly every tree.
At Laity Lodge, Tim tells us we can go into the bookstore, take a book off the shelf, read the entire book from cover-to-cover, and then put that book right back on the shelf without purchasing it. So, I wander into the bookstore when no one else is there because bookstores are sanctuaries, too. My index finger finds the spine of “Walking on Water” and I let my finger hook itself over the very top edge of the spine to where the pages stack themselves up beside each other, all snug and friendly. I apply a small amount of pressure and I’m holding the book in my hand and when, on Saturday afternoon, I wake up from a four hour nap, I realize that book is calling my name. I give in to the book and its mystery and blame it on that nap, because naps aren’t in my repertoire.
Rain sounds like it’s falling from buckets suspended over the roof of the room where I sit with the book in my lap, a hot cup of tea on the window ledge beside me. The electricity goes out while I am reading the introduction and, in a place I may never see, a generator breathes itself to life. Filaments in the lightbulb in the floor lamp beside me bend themselves into particles of matter and I can see again. Already, Madeline is in my head. I know I won’t be putting this book back on the shelf. It is mine.
You will tell me you have read this book, and I know I’m late to the party on this one—descending the stairs without touching them, and all that jazz.
On Sunday, it takes me a long time to get home. It is one of those travel days where time folds over itself and tucks space inside like an envelope with a wax seal pressed into the fibers. On my first flight, when my introverted self wants to slide into the seam of the book and slip away through the closet door, my seat mate peeks to see the title of the book I’m reading, “It looked intellectual,” he’d tell me. He has read this book himself and he tells me his story, because what else do any of us really know to tell? He also tells me about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I know the name and can share it with you, only because I’ve written it in the book on my lap, on the very first page, across from the book’s jacket flap. I’ve written the name right beneath the name of Annie Dillard whose name my seat mate also lifts up for my consideration.
But I have been considering Annie for years.
I haven’t read anything Annie Dillard has written. But her name keeps landing in my lap through chance encounters like this one, in the air between San Antonio and Denver. Is there really such a thing as chance encounters? I wasn’t supposed to take this flight. I was scheduled for a much later trip. But, a restlessness that started in the canyon and grew in me while I read those pages as the rain fell down, compelled me to leave the canyon early and to add my name to the standby list. I never would have been on this plane if I hadn’t yielded to the invitation to do my own dance with time.
On the front page of my copy of Walking on Water (I purchased it before I left the canyon) Annie Dillard’s name is written beneath the name of Denise. And by Denise, I mean Denise Levertov, a poet. Ha! Poetry. Also not in my repertoire. But my seat mate has intrigued me with talk about The Annunciation and, after I am home and rested, I search for Denise. And her poem.
We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness…
God waits. And we are free to accept or refuse.
You will tell me you have already fallen in love with poetry and you have turned Denise’s lines over in your head and heart for years. I have fallen for Langston Hughes and for rap music and for songs made up by children as they swing on swings and paint with watercolors. We are members of the same family, you and me.
So, I nearly skipped across the threshold when I found myself at home because the days stretch before me now. God has waited long enough and I’d like to exercise my freedom, here. I accept. I want God to come alive in me, too. I want Christ to grow in my gut. I want the Holy Spirit to fill and electrify this weary soul. I consent.
What restlessness is rising up in you today? If you consent to it, where will it take you?
A note: Madeline L’Engle was a frequent visitor to Laity Lodge. If you have forty minutes some lazy afternoon, click through to listen to her talk titled, Journey Into Writing.
Deidra…. I’m praying continued rest for you and that you can snuggle in with tea and take in this book and let it minister to your soul!
I receive that, Jen. With gratitude.
Brave Girl Stacey
I found myself in the “Yes” of the Canyon this weekend. Praying Peace, Poetry, diamond skies and tutus for you. ( 6 months)
There are no words for how much I enjoyed seeing you in the canyon this weekend. You are a star. Six months, indeed!
Jody Ohlsen Collins
Deidra, I pulled Walking on Water off the shelves a few months ago for my 2nd reading…… And the reading this time is different still because I’m different. Isn’t that the way God works?
Restlessness? I’d almost say it’s a kind of discontent, a reaching for something else, something more and deeper and closer to what Jesus wants for me. (totally vague, I know…but that’s the best I can do.)
It may be vague, but I get it. I do.
Patricia W Hunter
Oh….how I love this. Of all that I’ve read about the weekends at Laity Lodge this post of yours reveals more to me than all the others put together. I always feel like an outsider looking in, but this makes me feel like I was right there with you because there is a weariness in all of us, I think, that longs to consent for more of Him.
It was a gift to meet you there in the canyon, Deidra. And I love the whole spirit of these words you share, because in them I sense the Spirit…the opportunity to choose, the invitation to draw nearer…
Sandra Heska King
Big. Deep. Sigh. I’ve been feeling vague discontent and lots of weary, too. Every visit to that canyon is different and induces some deep stirrings and longings. So grateful for this place where we can touch skin, shed skin, grow new skin. Still hearing Marilyn’s words (well, her friend’s)… “You can afford to let it go.” Love you big, my sister.
Caryn Jenkins Christensen
In that same canyon, God began to stir an excitement within me to tell my story in a new way ~ a way that I’d previously felt overwhelmed, inadequate and wholly afraid to tell it. As I partook of the sacraments, I felt very clearly that the Lord both gave me a peace about His calling and my ‘one word’ for this next year…release. It was a pleasure meeting H (although I would’ve loved to have had the opportunity to engage in conversation) and I look forward to seeing you soon my friend. <3
City Gates Initiative
Now they’ve heard automatic gunfire in ferguson, police checking it out.,many city schools/businesses closed tomorrow seek peace. Sort of ironic, right? You put your finger on some moments in your life that I need in mine. Books that wait to be sipped. Fires that needed to be started in the fireplace. Sitting and reflecting without agenda. Being the leader in the dance with time. Just enjoying. I am restless for those types of things, and it would take doing less to do less. That is where it would take me. Doing less.
Mmmm… just longing with you for those things. I want Him to come utterly alive in me, too. Like rivers. Like fire.
Restless just might be my word for next year. It’s a holy thing, and I want to give it space to gestate and grow. Something is coming, I feel it in my bones. It sounds like you feel it too.
There was some kind of blessing for us just watching you all together – like your peace and companionship -we could catch it through the screens and it was a blessing.
Praying for you to receive a full restful recharge.
Thank you for introducing me to the High Calling and Laity Lodge. Love you.
Oh, D, I can feel the weary but also the deep joy. On my first visit to Laity Lodge, in the fiction workshop I took, I sat beside a lady who described Madeline L’Engle as a “dear, dear friend.” They used to write together at Laity. I was so humbled and thrilled. Isn’t life better for the companions along the journey?
Lynn D. Morrissey
I’m loving reading about what God is birthing in those who have just been to Laity Lodge. It sounds like a little bit of heaven to me . . . as is so much poetry. Who wouldn’t love Langston Hughes and how he has taught us to dream:
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
Living our dreams is another way of giving birth.
And, yes, Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water is a must-read for every artist, and I love her poetry, too, and that of her friend, Christian poet, (and one of the best), Luci Shaw. Ah…. and Denise Levertov!! She became a Christian later in life. Check out her book, The Star and the Sapphire:Selected Poems on Religious Themes, for distinctly Christian poetry, though all her work is lovely. And I LOVE Annunciation! I’m so glad you mentioned it. In the poem, she goes on to say:
Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.
I’m thinking, Deidra, whatever God is birthing in you, instigated in the birth waters of the Frio, that to which you are now consenting, will be a miraculous intervention of His will and enabling. All birth is. We all receive annunciations, as Levertov wisely states, of one kind or another. Will we, like Mary, fully consent to what the Spirit is engendering in us, or will we refuse? Will the gates close, the pathways vanish? God is patient, but not forever, and paths will eventually twist and turn and vanish deep into the wayward woods if we don’t consent. God won’t smite us, but perhaps He will still us, and perhaps we will never be permitted to pass this way again. I am so excited to see what He is birthing in your life!
I LOVE the way that Madeleine puts it here: ” . . . the artist must be obedient to the work, whether it be a symphony, a painting, or a story for a small child. I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius, or something very small, comes to the artist and says, ‘Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.’ And the artist either says, ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord,’ and willingly becomes the bearer of the work,or refuses.”
I love your art-enfleshing obedience, Deidra!
This is beautiful, Dee. Thank you so much.
Restlessness for these days come from the season of unknowing i find myself in. Seems like things becoming more unclear instead of clear….learning to live in this space is challenging, but necessary. Lots of things “recovering” from and someone suggested I probably need an emotional nap. I think she is right, but what I want to do is work hard to see how I can make things happen, fix them, ya know? but know that is not what I am being called to do in this season. Deep breath…. I have a friend who spent retreat time at Laity Lodge. It’s on my list of things I’d like to do someday.
I fully believe the most meaningful authors and poets find us at the precisely right time. A friend posted a few lines of Denise Levertov’s poetry a month or two ago and it was the first I heard of her. I immediately knew I needed more. Glad these writers have ministered to you.
I won’t say anything except you have some good reading material there, and I wish I could’ve hugged you at Laity.