life’s a dance of joy

My life of late has been a love-ly combination of glistening snow, coffee and conversations with friends (who had heat when my power went kaput), vibrant church activities and waltzing with my fella, Jeremy.  I thought I’d share this picture from the latter, which brings me an extravagant amount of joy.  I wonder if you can spot us dancing?  (Your Valentine’s Where’s Whitney.)

Image

Wishing you love in whatever form it comes these days, my friends.

first snow by mary oliver

Image

The snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, its white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning; such
an oracular fever! flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle
less than lovely! and only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended.
The silence
is immense,
and the heavens still hold
a million candles, nowhere
the familiar things:
stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
glitter like castles
of ribbons, the broad fields
smolder with light, a passing
creekbed lies
heaped with shining hills;
and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain — not a single
answer has been found –
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.

the holiness of carrots

photo-136

God spoke to me through carrots the other day.  Are you worried?  It is a bit strange, I’ll admit. You see, I believe that the whole notion that some things are inherently “holy” while others are inherently “secular” or “ordinary” just doesn’t jive.

I suppose Annie Dillard best captures this for me:

“What a hideout: Holiness lies spread and borne over the surface of time and stuff like color.”

That Annie.  What a way with words.  She should be a writer or something.

Anyway, if holiness comes like colors, my reminder of God’s holiness the other day is brought to you by the color Orange.  As in, carrot orange.  My good friend Jen was coming into town for a conference and staying with me for a night, and I decided to whip up a Mexican feast.  Roasted shrimp enchiladas with a cilantro-avocado cream and Mexican rice filled with all sorts of veggies.  Mmm hmm.  I began chopping bell peppers, onions, garlic.  And then carrots.  Without even thinking much about it, I halved them lengthwise, then cut each half in thirds lengthwise, then diced them into little uniform squares.

Are you riveted yet?  The details of how to cube up carrots — ooh, this is the stuff of Pulitzer’s, y’all.

Just go with me.  As I chopped up carrots, I thought of the person who taught me to do it that way, as I do every single time I chop carrots in this way.  I was not taught this by a beloved family member or dear friend.  Actually, it was a person who I found it a bit of a struggle to appreciate.  This person (who shall-not-be-named, of course) always spoke to me with an air of superiority and condescension, and made me feel less than I was.

Now, I generally like people.  I like the lady who wants to have a lengthy conversation about avocados in the grocery store.  I like the man who looks after my dog when I’m out of town and always wants to talk a long while.  I even like the lady who cleans my teeth (though I don’t much like that activity).  So, it’s not often I decide not to like a person.

But this particular person, I had decided I flat out didn’t like.  I convinced myself that everyone is entitled to write someone else off as a lost cause.  Everyone gets to dislike at least one person, so long as we are kind and compassionate to most everyone else.  But then came the carrots.

It was not an eventful moment, it just so happens that I found myself one day in the kitchen of this person, fixing dinner.  And in her usually-uppity way, she criticized my carrot chopping skills (which were, to be fair, a projectile confetti situation).  But you know what?  She was right.  She had a better way to chop carrots, and ever since then I do it her way.

Did that evaporate all of my irritable feelings towards her?  Well, no.  But God is a sneaky one.  You see, I don’t remember much of those feelings anymore.  What I do remember, on a fairly regular basis, is how we chopped carrots.  And every time I’m doing just that, I think of her, without even wanting to.  You see, God doesn’t really let hatred or grudges win.  When I think of her, it’s not with bitterness or pity.  I actually sometimes even wonder how she’s doing, and hope she’s happy.

All this is to say that what is holy in this world is most certainly what God brings peace through, which can be something as profound as the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland or as seemingly-ordinary as carrots reminding me of a human connection with one I was so eager to dislike.  God doesn’t abandon us to our pride and prejudices (shout out to my girl Jane A.!).  God says, “Okay, so you’ve decided you’re entitled to dislike them.  Well, I’ve decided that they’re made in my image, too.  So you can try to hate, and you can hold onto frustration, or you can choose the holy path of peacemaking.  You just might find that hating takes much more of your energy than loving.”  And then, just to prove the point, God uses something ridiculously ordinary to remind me of that choice to love…even carrots.