Monday, November 30, 2020

At the Edge of the Unknown

Poet William Blake wrote, “In the universe, there are things that are known and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.”

And those doors are each a threshold so when we stand on a threshold, waiting and wondering, we are in a LIMINAL SPACE. 

The space between then and now. The in between. 

The word LIMINAL comes from the Latin word, “limens”, meaning threshold. Edge. Doorway.

And now, as we near the end of 2020 – a most unsettling, unrelenting, unforgettable year, as we begin the Season of Advent in the Christian church – a time of preparation and anticipation and expectation – we are at the threshold in so many ways. 

This is a time of waiting, and wondering; a time of enduring; a time of just being – standing at the threshold of what was, without knowing what will come when we step through that door. The door to a new year, the door to a new presidency, the door to a vaccine to help us live with the virus that has ravaged so many lives and livelihoods, the door beyond the changes the pandemic forced and cannot be reversed. 

Yet this pandemic is not the first or only liminal space we inhabit as human beings. We experience liminal spaces all the time. 

A change of employment. 
A diagnosis.
Betrayal, with its time between what happened and moving on, waiting to forgive or be forgiven. 

At its very least, liminal space is most often a time of discomfort and an opportunity to take stock of our living. 

The experience of liminal space encourages us to pause, breathe and live in the moment. To recognize that change is always happening, and to give us space to adjust and adapt and move forward – through the door – into what is new and different. 

It is not easy, not when it so often comes because of loss. Whether it is the loss of a job, a dream, a pet, a partner, there is grief, sometimes deep enough to render the light a mere glimmer. The loss of hope is perhaps the hardest loss – for what is our future without hope? 

So as we head into the month of December, into this season of waiting, of preparation and anticipation and expectation, this holiday time of year when it is almost impossible to bear the weight of sorrow and longing and anxiety, 

let us find the holy in our days – the moments of joy, the breaths of gratitude. 

Let us acknowledge the liminal space in which we now live and accept this threshold as part of the house we create with our living and loving and letting go. 
Let us remember there is grace and courage in this space, even if we’re flooding it with tears.
Let us remember to breathe, and wait, and prepare
for the moment when we are invited to step over the threshold 
and through the doorway from that which is known and into the unknown. 

Together. xo 

~ SJ 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Be Kind to Gentle Authors

Tomorrow is the Pugwash Farmers' Market Outdoor CHRISTMAS Market: Sunday, November 15, 11 am to 3 pm.
It was supposed to go today but today is cool and damp; tomorrow won't be wet but it will be cold. I'll be wearing my thermal long underwear to block that north wind gusting through Pugwash from the Northumberland Strait! 
It's funny -- and fortunate -- how farmers' markets have been able to survive and thrive during this time of pandemic lockdown, slowdown, and restrictions. Far too often, we don't take these "homemade" and "handmade" vendors seriously, but they offer good food and good products in a safe environment. 

I'll be there with my cookbook -- and I'm afraid tomorrow is the day I'll sell out. There was a big demand for books yesterday, for some reason, so I have a limited supply for the market. I was so concerned about having too many books left over that I got caught short; I re-ordered last night but that shipment won't come for two weeks. 
I've become a mini-Amazon (without the billions): I'll be taking orders and telling customers "Ships in one to two weeks!" There are worse problems to have! 

A gentleman called yesterday to see if he could drop by the house and buy a copy for his wife's birthday. "We really enjoyed your Field Notes," he told me. I assured him this collection of stories and recipes were simply more of that kind of writing. 

Another woman messaged me on Tuesday night to say she was reading Field Notes for the first time and those stories were exactly what she needs right now, "given our current world". 

And yesterday, Jean Mills, whose latest young adult novel is set in Pugwash, posted on Instagram -- on World Kindness Day -- that "Writing YA fiction means always competing with the bestseller titles of gritty, sassy, edgy teen experience. But I hope readers (and librarians and influencers and book bloggers) know that there's a place for gentler, subtler, kinder stories too." 

We need feel-good stories; we need to read books that make us unclench our jaws, and even smile, books that help us de-hunch our shoulders and breathe in deeply, perhaps even belly laugh, books that we think about while walking and look up to the sky with a sigh of contentment, an exhaled "Yes" that we wish that story hadn't ended. 

As I told the Grade 1-2 class I was in the other day, the world needs more puppies, not more zombies!

What's more interesting, however, that I spent two days with a writing friend at her home in Cape Breton, and came away more resolved than ever that my days as a professional writer -- a freelance writer, an author publishing books -- are over. Yet it seems every time I commit to giving up publishing (to focus on teaching, and my death & bereavement studies), someone comes along and tells me they love my writing and that I must keep doing it. 

That's results in a different kind of looking up at the sky and sighing, let me tell you. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

A Blessing From the Road

The Canso Causeway links mainland Nova Scotia with Cape Breton Island

(inspired by my recent one-woman road trip to visit a friend in Cape Breton; by oneself for three hours there and three hours back is plenty of thinking and observing time) 

Remember this, 
when you are clutching the wheel 
and riding the gas pedal and the brake,
not sure whether to gear up or gear down,
or maybe even flip on the hazard lights: 

You can drive when it’s foggy,
when you can only see what is around you
(the present)
but you can’t see in the distance
(the future)
because you know it’s safe
to believe the road will rise to meet you
even if you can’t see it
It will unfurl itself 
even as you are reach it 

Sometimes silence as you drive
is soothing
and surprising
Other times,
you need to turn up the music

As Taylor Swift sings, 
“I’ve been having a hard time adjusting
I had the shiniest wheels
Now they’re rusting” 

Remember this,
behind that hovering fog is the light
burning away those misty droplets
to reveal a glimmer, a gleam,
a beam, a beacon
Of course, it reveals there are mountains to climb,
and the road is never flat,
never straight,
and not always easy

And Taylor Swift sings,
“Hell was the journey but it brought me heaven”

Even if your backseat is full of regrets and what-ifs
and bitter recriminations,
all three wrestling for their own seatbelt,
even if you have to shout 
I’m going to stop this car – 
(although you won’t)
Just roll down the windows
and let them fly out with the dirty napkins
stained with the words you say to yourself 

And Jann Arden sings,
“These are the days
There’s life in your soul
Although your struggling to stay afloat
With nowhere on earth to go”

The signs are everywhere:
Nova Scotia Strong
and you are strong,
a tank full of courage and sorrow,
resilience and longing
Grief is an asphalt ribbon
stretching out ahead for years,
controlled access
and always under construction

And Jann Arden sings, 
“There’s life in you yet
Although you’re lost in the mire and the hate
And the bitterness of losing your faith
There’s light in your eyes
Full of hope and grace”

Because there are signs,
if you keep your eyes open:
Marshy Hope,
and Be Prepared to Stop,
and most wonderfully,
Divided Highway Ends,
and we all heave a sigh of relief
and honk our horns
as our shoulders detach from our ears,
and we can hope again,
even if the ground is wet and spongy. 

And Taylor Swift sings,
“I had a marvelous time ruining everything” 

Yet these are the days
when the holy moments 
are found in the fog
and the cloudless blue sky
in the chitchat at the gas station
and the four-fingered waves on country roads
where everyone thinks they know you
in the six eagles soaring over the causeway
in a slipstream between human and divine
and your white knuckles ease on the wheel
and you yield to the journey
as your spirit merges with the destination 
as a bridge from here to there

~ Sara Jewell 

Monday, November 02, 2020

The Shipping Department


Meet the supervisor of the shipping department! What else could I expect when I turn my dining room table over to the work of wrapping and taping and labelling? Lucky for me, only Leonard is the supervising type; I couldn't get any work done if all three cats felt they had to closely supervise this work. 

The books are selling well, but what I'm most grateful for is the enthusiastic response to the book. I knew there were people out there who like Field Notes, and like my style of writing, but the whole "Yay, another book!" response certainly fills my heart with joy. 

I had to do a second printing already, partly because I wanted those books to arrive before the election in the US tomorrow -- just in case. 
I've declared a moratorium on the news for the next two days. I'll check in on Wednesday morning before I head off to substitute teach but there's no point in becoming anxious about something over which I have no control; I can't say it doesn't affect me because I have family in Georgia, but as we say in the Jewell family, "Don't worry until there's something to worry about." 

Instead of the news, I'll simply watch the cats play in the packing paper. Here's Millie wondering what all the fuss is about. She'd rather have her nap in Nana's quiet room.