On a hot and sunny Saturday last month, I went to an art fair. There was a small town of white pop-up tents with a hundred fifty artists, sharing paintings, glassware, ceramics, jewelry, photography, and more. I went all by my-hermit-self so I could take in every last thing in my own time -- to look look look.
I don’t know about you, but post-pandemic, I feel as though I’m recovering from sensory starvation. I hadn’t realized just how starved my senses had been until, sometime in the middle of the pandemic, months since I’d been inside any public building besides the grocery store, I went to give blood at the Jewish Community Center. Walking along the hallways, I ran into an art display – and gasped. There were etchings, a bronze sculpture of Noah’s Ark, and a multi-media representation of the days of creation:
After months of my senses consuming the sensory equivalent of bread, water, and peanut butter, here was a feast. My eyes swallowed my head.
The art fair this weekend felt like the same way. I didn’t love every artist, but the chance to visually explore such a panoply of the unexpected and unforeseen was pure delight. I bought a few pieces – including a woodcut and a little oil painting (artist link).
The oil painting of the kayaker is the one I can’t stop looking at.
As I walked out of the fair with this painting under my arm, a volunteer at the gate greeted me and said, “Thank you! Thank you for buying something and supporting the artists!”
I found myself saying, “You’re welcome! I’m not even sure why I bought this painting – I don’t even kayak!”
A white man of a certain age was walking nearby and decided to explain my choice to me: “Well, kayaking is a pretty exciting sport that many people seem to be drawn to these days.” Reader, I did not reply.
I did not buy this painting because I have a hidden longing to become a kayaker.
Then why? Well: the chunkiness of light and shade in the water. The orange slice of boat. Those square arms. The paddle, like a crack in the picture.
In it, I see a person in movement, pausing. Stopping the journey to look around for a moment. Ceasing that effort of paddling to notice, take a breath, and remember: “Oh, I am here.” Feeling the boat moving, the water moving, the air moving, the breathe moving, the seconds passing. A moment of both motion and of rest.
I love these pauses in the midst of the movement of life: the seconds where nothing happens in between other things. A single moment can contain a glimpse of the whole universe of existence. A glimpse of the fullness of the living God. A sacred, tiny-but-infinite space.
These are hard times we are living in. But small actions make a difference: a short pause can make a space for the love and mystery of God, the shocking beauty of nature and art, a generous gesture to another person, a deep breath to steady the heart, a donation - no matter how small - to organizations that work for what you care about, and yes: a phone call or email to your Congresspeople about what you care about is logged, noted, and makes a difference. (It really does.)
Small moments fuel us to keep going, to do what needs to be done. An art fair, a moment to breathe, a strawberry, a verse of a Psalm. An action, a donation, an email, a call. Joy, hope, and momentum are not monoliths, they are made up of moments. Thanks be to God.
SOME WORDS I LIKE
"Maybe, when it seems like God is too quiet, it's because God is listening." --A colleague, who gave me permission to share
“Stand still. But not like Lot’s wife.” —Esther de Waal, in a talk on stability (video), St Paul’s, London, May 19, 2013
WHAT I’M READING
The Annotated Mrs. Dalloway, by Merve Emre. Full of notes, stories, history, photos, images, maps, and everything you could ever want to know about how Woolf wrote this book.
Too Many Books — I’m finishing the first draft of the last book of Everyday Connections (Year B, Fall 2023), now gleaning for quotes to include at the end of each week’s reflections (“Further Connections”). So, I’m in and out of dozens of books, looking around for interesting ideas, topics, and words. Want to gawk with me at this ridiculous (but fun) number of books? At the end of this newsletter, if you want, you can browse a list of books I’ve been poking around in, most of which are lying on the floor in two rooms in my house right now. Some are borrowed from the library, some I bought full price, some I bought used, some I have owned for years.
FOODS THAT ARE BRINGING ME JOY
Coconut Chocolate Ice Cream — (Trader Joe’s) Very VERY creamy and chocolatey, and vegan. Still full of fat and sugar, but you can pretend it’s good for you. My new favorite thing.
Garden Tomato Soup in a Jar — (Trader Joe’s) Delicious, easy, healthy little meal – will fill you up with a little cheese on the side, a piece of toast or some tortilla chips.
Homemade Caesar Dressing — Folks, this makes everything taste amazing and I don’t even like Caesar dressing. The creaminess of the mayo, the brightness of the lemon and Dijon, the bite of a little garlic = heaven on a salad, with cut up raw veggies, drizzled over roasted veggies, or on a slice of pizza. This is from Jenny Rosenstrach’s amazing new cookbook, The Weekday Vegetarians. (New favorites: Three Bean Chili with Chocolate, Glazed Mushrooms and Tomatoes with Polenta, Artichoke Quiche with Mozzarella)
Homemade Caesar Dressing
1 small garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
¼ extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper, to taste
Puree all ingredients except cheese thoroughly in a blender or food processors, then add the cheese with just a few pulses to incorporate. Or, by hand, mix all ingredients – garlic and cheese minced fine – in a jar and shake until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (p. 204)
A SILLY THING THAT MAKES ME HAPPY
The Best Cheap Plastic Sandals — While I hate to fill the world with more plastic junk, as someone who is always looking for comfy, cute shoes toe room, I feel compelled to share these. Ten dollars a pair at Target (mostly on the website). I have three pairs now and wearing them is like walking on the clouds of heaven for me. Some readers may think they are quite ugly, it’s fine: I’m ridiculous and happy to let the world know.
And finally, for those who got this far: (if you have suggestions or favorites on the list, let me know!)
POSSIBLE QUOTE SOURCES FOR EVERYDAY CONNECTIONS ON MY FLOOR
In no particular order:
Womanist Midrash, Wil Gafney
Deep is the Hunger, Howard Thurman
Good Christian Sex, Bromleigh McClenaghan
North America, Anthony Trollope
Enduring Grace: Seven Women Mystics, Carol Flinders
Latina Evangelicas, Loida Martell-Otero, et al
Liturgies from Below, Claudio Carvalhaes
Grateful, Diana Butler Bass
Our Father: Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer, Pope Francis
The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
The Queer Bible Commentary, Deryn Guest, et al
Acts, Willie James Jennings
God is Not a Christian and Other Provocations, Desmond Tutu
This Bridge Called My Back, Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua
Places I’ve Taken My Body, Molly McCully Brown
The Disabled God, Nancy Eiesland
Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision, Randy Woodley
Jesus Freak, Sara Miles
Tattoos on the Heart, Gregory Boyle
Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, Margaret Farley
The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert, Terry Tempest Williams
Holy Spirit, Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon
The Scandalous Message of James, Elsa Tamez
My Body is Not a Prayer Request, Amy Kenny
Systematic Theology, Katherine Sonderegger
Journey by Heart: A Christology of Erotic Power, Rita Nakashima Brock
The Art of Death, Edwidge Danticat
Just a Sister Away, Renita Weems
Heart of the Cross, Wonhee Anne Joh
Struggle to Be the Sun Again, Chuny Hyun Kyung
Praying Our Experiences, Joseph Schmidt
Lose, Love, Live, Dan Moseley
Abuelita Faith, Kat Armas
What Were You Arguing About Along the Way? Pat Bennett
Back to the Well, Frances Taylor Gench
This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Ann Patchett
A Rhythm of Prayer, Sarah Bessey
A Hidden Wholeness, Parker Palmer
All About Love, bell hooks
The Sentence, Louise Erdrich
Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Kate Clifford Larson
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America, Natalie Goldberg
The Defiant Middle, Kaya Oakes
Belonging: A Culture of Place, bell hooks
In the Shelter, Padraig O’Tuama
Reimagining Spirit: Wind, Breath, Vibration, Grace Ji-Sun Kim
Invisible, Grace Ji-Sun Kim
The Wounded Heart of God, Andrew Sung Park
Song in a Weary Throat, Pauli Murray
Beloved, Toni Morrison
Disquiet Time, Jennifer Grant and Cathleen Falsani
Women of the Bible, Tikva Frymer-Kinsky
On Job, Gustavo Gutierrez
Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer
Julian of Norwich: Selections From Revelations of Divine Love, Mary Earle
Mujerista Theology, Ada Maria Asasi-Diaz
Sisters in the Wilderness, Delores Williams
Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas
Music of Eternity: Meditations for Advent with Evelyn Underhill, Robyn Wrigley-Carr
A Little Daily Wisdom: Christian Women Mystics, Carmen Acevedo Butcher
Following Christ: A Lenten Reader to Stretch Your Soul, Carmen Acevedo Butcher
One Minute Wisdom, Anthony de Mello
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
Tell Me A Story, Daniel Taylor
Sandhu Sundar Singh: Essential Writings
The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, Louise Erdrich
Back to the Well, Francis Taylor Gench
Love is the Way, Michael Curry
It looks like a Trader Joe's trip jumped on my to do list. Calling the arms square in the painting is spot on.
What Were You Arguing About Along the Way is wonderful! I've been really impressed with so much of the work coming out of the Spirituality of Conflict project.