Ash Wednesday 2020

I told a friend earlier today that I was giving social media the big swollen middle finger for Lent, that I needed some quiet, and the hope that a clarity will rise. In the spaces where I might check Facebook or Instagram, I’ve chosen a couple of books to read—Kathleen Norris’ Amazing Grace and Pam Houston’s Deep Creek. I’ve long found these two writers fascinating, their view of the world radiant as opposed to clever. Twitter is clever, and I’m so freakin’ tired of clever. Since I consider them both friends, I will call them by their first names. Kathleen names her best work as when she is “writing from the center….when we write about what matters to us most.” I’ve never heard Pam say “writing from the center,” she simply does it.

The weather here yesterday was simply awful. Blowing snow and biting wind, the temperature loitered in the teens all day. I’d made a quick trip to the grocery store in the afternoon and in the bookends to that trip—walking in the store, then walking out—I caught a chill that I’m not sure I ever shook. I went to sleep last night with my socks on. I cannot recall that last time I did that. While I do intend, as far as I have any control, to die with my boots on, I’d rather not sleep with socks on. But while this morning dawned cold, the sun quickly worked its magic bumping our temps up in the high 30s, balmy practically. I ran errands this afternoon in shorts. Life, like the weather, can change in a seeming instant. I had a woman once tell me “things don’t happen suddenly,” and ever since I’ve always thought her nuts.

Lately the marital conversations in our house have revolved around wondering if we’re to stay in Colorado. My wife and I have both had the palpable sense that things are ending here. Sure, I could be misreading the leaves, but that’s not the sense I get (poets must trust their senses). Its not like there’s something wrong, for there’s not. Its more like this season of our lives may be finished, and a new season is kicking against the ribs. Everything that has tethered us to this place has either unraveled or is hanging on by a strand. Maybe something new is struggling to be born. Maybe that’s why this last year has felt like labor.

Kathleen found home on the Great Plains after suddenly inheriting her grandparents’ farm in South Dakota. Pam found home in Creede, Colorado after making a sudden offer on 120 acres and the woman who owned the land “liked the idea of her.” That word—home—is intensely important to me, it matters to me most. In fact, I believe it to be the most vital word in our language. And while I believe we’ve made a home here in Colorado for the last 16 years, I’m not sure we’ve found home. And here’s the deal—I want to find home. I do.

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  1. Rich on February 26, 2020 at 10:21 pm

    Santa Fe, dude!

    • Roslyn Bourgeois on February 27, 2020 at 3:39 pm

      Loved your words. They resonate with what my feelings have been for much too long. . My ache to “ feel at home again”
      has seemingly been out of reach for quite some time. So I continue to wait.

      • Misty Hassell on February 28, 2020 at 6:40 am

        Simply Love all of this ! I hope you find home.

  2. Mike on February 27, 2020 at 4:46 am

    Thanks for that. Blessings and peace to you and yours.

    • nancy marie davis on February 27, 2020 at 6:34 am

      I suppose that one’s body is like a mobile home.

  3. Marcia on February 27, 2020 at 4:53 am

    John, I discovered you via Our Daily Bread and I want you to know that I thoroughly enjoy your writing. Your down-to-earthedness is refreshing. My home–definitely where my heart is–, for the past 20 years, has been the beautiful Pocono Mountains, but I too sense change. Trusting God to lead. Thanks for sharing

  4. Jacky on February 27, 2020 at 5:37 am

    I like the word “home” too. I like the sound of it and the sense of it. But I’m wondering if its more position than place. Or perspective. Any any case, home comes and goes in my experience. Yet I do long for something that “stays with me”. Let us know if you find it, John.

    • Misty Hassell on February 28, 2020 at 6:43 am

      Simply Love all of this ! I hope you find home.

  5. Marilyn on February 27, 2020 at 6:37 am

    Oh, glory! Every single paragraph had a punch to it, not a bad kind of punch, but something powerful.

    I began a journal last week with a one-word sentence, “Homesick.” But I know better than to start with a diagnosis, so I’m going back to pinning down the symptoms and trying to stay open to where it takes me. So yeah, your comments about home……made me feel less alone.

    Thanks for mentioning Pam Houston. I have a book of hers on my shelf with a book mark in it. Started it but didn’t finish.

    And you are right about ‘clever,’ how it’s too much.

  6. Amy Nemecek on February 27, 2020 at 8:36 am

    There really is no place like home, and just when we think we’ve found it and then feel a new season coming on, it can be unsettling. Stay with what unsettles you, cowboy. The Good Shepherd will lead you to the green pasture he’s already staked out.

  7. Sherrey Meyer on February 27, 2020 at 11:54 am

    I love reading your poems, but this blog post had a certain thought pattern in it that gave it power. Like you, I’m tired of the “cleverness” of some things and have recently started reading books with some hint of the author writing from the center. Home is a sweet word to linger over, isn’t it? Our home in Oregon has been ours now for almost 25 years of our 38-year marriage. We’ve reached the age where moving from here isn’t an option, other than go to the “home” as our kids tease us. But we love this home and always have. A comfortable house sitting in the midst of 25 or so old growth Doug firs and despite our woodsiness, we’re near enough to the city to have good medical care and cultural entertainment from time to time. Being homebodies, the latter is not so important. Our church home is close by, which is the most important. I’ve got to stop and go fold laundry…sorry to ramble.

  8. Cherry Odelberg on February 27, 2020 at 6:47 pm

    Home. This resonates.

  9. Caroline Starr Rose on February 28, 2020 at 9:28 am

    I read The Cloister Walk last year (it had been on my shelf a good fifteen). I’m spending my year in the Psalms because of it and am keeping my heart on these lines: “The Benedictines, more than any other people I know, insist that there is time in each day for prayer, for work, for study, for play. Liturgical time is essentially poetic time, oriented toward process rather than productivity, willing to wait attentively in stillness rather than always pushing to ‘get the job done.’”⁠⠀

  10. Carolyn Counterman on February 28, 2020 at 10:13 pm

    Great. I finally get to read through some of the blog posts floating around in my inbox, and what happens? You have to mention home. Finding home. And all of the sudden I hear a quartet singing, “I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.” Thanks, John. I can already tell a that a full-on Stamps/Baxter-style singing coming on. Oh well. Better than a dirge.

    It just now occurs to me that the people who taught me that this world is not my home (song and concept) are the same people who taught me that the only role I should want to fill in this life was HOMEMAKER. So if I ever happen to seem edgy and confused…

  11. judy Burke on February 29, 2020 at 3:21 am

    well I have tried to write twice and maybe was too long but we relatives and I wanted to tell you about how God took us through such turmoil and if you call me collect or give me your number I will call you and you will see God’s hand. Tears are on my face now but I praise God for our MOVE back to Texas. I would love to share with you.

    Praise and love to you and yours!!! judy Tindle Burke

  12. judy burke on February 29, 2020 at 3:31 am

    John, we are relatives – judy tindle burke – Hormer and Charlie were brothers – my number is 940 206 7093 and want to share with you the turmoil we went through and it was all in God’s plan that we could not complete in our mind but HE knew where we needed to be. love to you and yours and David and Anna

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