What Speaks to the Joy Inside?

At the end of a very long Minnesota winter, I spent four days at a cottage on the North Shore of Lake Superior. I tend to wake early when my soul is near Lake Superior; she is my muse. On the third day of our stay, I rose at 4:45 a.m. with this phrase in my mind:

I do it to speak to the joy inside of me.

While brewing a cup of green jasmine tea, I watched a faint pinkish glow spread across the eastern horizon of the dark frozen lake.

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Settled in with my tea, sitting in the quiet, I turned my rising mantra into a question:

What do I do that speaks to the joy inside of me?

Here are the answers that came to me that morning:

  • I willingly rise at pre-dawn, when I am called awake;
  • I brew my favorite green jasmine tea (repeat often);

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  • I show up to places ripe with the energy of creation, whether it is to a pre-sunrise morning over a lake or showing up to my computer and/or notepad regularly to spin a story from my dreams, from reality, or (ideally) both;

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  • I forgive myself when I fail, over and over to show up to the energy of creation. This business of showing up is simple, but not easy. I must continually forgive myself and begin again;
  • I listen, I pay attention, I notice where the flow is in my life. Even when my entire life seems stagnate and frozen like the lake, flow is always present somewhere, deep down;

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  • I dress in warm clothing at dawn and brave the extreme cold to take photos;
  • Even on an 11-degree day, even when the frozen lake seems silent, seagulls still sing at dawn. So too, I listen for the songs rising in me, the ones on the surface and those residing in my deeper currents;

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  • When taking a photo, I consciously determine what to keep inside the frame of the photo and what to keep out. Thoughts are like this too, thoughts come with choices; if we are paying attention, if we are being mindful, we can direct the flow of our thoughts;
  • When the rising sun becomes too powerful to continue watching across the lake, I turn 90 degrees and watch its light glint off frozen boulders of lake ice or turn 180 degrees and watch its light dancing against the cottage wall. So too in life, I’ve learned to turn, to turn 350 degrees if I need to. By shifting my perspective, I will undoubtedly find beauty even when I can’t walk forward or backward; and,

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  • I allow the dishes to wait when my soul and spirit have things to say; I offer up my mind and full attention to taking my soul’s dictation. Taking time to really notice and observe the creation in front of (and inside) me will provide fuel for my days necessary “to do” list.

*Video from a December visit to the Great Lake, Superior, when she was not yet frozen.

Back home now, I embrace this list, this invocation to joyful living; I embrace this list with the awareness that it is by know means the definitive guide. I will revisit it often. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear about what things and/or actions speak to the joy in you.

 

Historic Women’s Reading Club

Today I had the privilege of speaking to the Woman’s Reading Club in Stillwater, Minnesota. I learned that this group started in 1886. It was an honor to be a small piece of the history of this group of women, who carry on the tradition of monthly gatherings to celebrate community and literature.

I talked to the group about my long road to publishing a book (one that is still ongoing). Initially, I was reluctant to keep this speaking engagement. When I first agreed to speak to the group, I thought I might have a completed book by now. I pondered handing off this invite to a friend of mine who recently published a book.

In the end, I decided to stay on the roster today. At this point, I am close enough to know my book will publish, one way or another, and it is time for me to begin talking about it out in the world.

I am glad to know current members of this group continue to carry on the tradition of gathering together to discuss books and culture in Stillwater, Minnesota (a truly magical and historic destination), almost 133 years after the group began.

 

View of the St. Croix River and its historic lift bridge, from the bluffs of Stillwater, Minnesota.

 

 

 

The Heart of Grace

For Renée

Tall pines fill the frame of my kitchen window.

These dense layers of green seem to infinitely

recede across my back neighbor’s property.

 

Should I ever hear a chainsaw’s caterwaul,

my only standing will be that of witness.

Straight-line winds uprooted the red pines

 

surrounding my brother’s Northern Minnesota

lake home. He was heading west

to visit friends when his cell phone rang. He

returned to downed trees and open sky.

 

Trees quietly sift at the heart of grace.

 

My life formed on the windy plains of North

Dakota—a place of vast horizons—and still

I’ve found the steady companionship of trees

 

more dependable than shifting colors of sky.

My brothers and I left North Dakota, as did

so many others of our generation. An oil boom

 

brought new folks to mine what lies beneath

grasses that once fed bison. I am an outsider

to the economic needs of North Dakotans.

 

I condemn the fracking frackers,

their inevitable “fraccidents.” And yet,

 

as I stand at my kitchen sink, one fragile end post

to one tunnel of green, hot water runs

across my hands and across morning dishes.

 

I am not without need and the weight

of my body bends towards mercy.

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