741. The joy of making lists

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Marilyn McEntyre has a new book out about the joy of making lists, Make A List: How a Simple Practice Can Change Our Lives and Open Our Hearts. You may have read an earlier book by McEntyre, including the wonderful Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. I’ve been reading her new book, after seeing an ad for it (some books do still get advertisements!) and ordering it. The topic grabbed me from the start. I’ve made plenty of to-do lists and to-buy lists and to-write lists but have seldom made a list that could possibly achieve a higher purpose, such as spiritual practice, as suggested by McEntyre.

There was a list I made in high school as part of an assignment in chemistry class to make 100 observations about a lit candle. There was a list I made as a young woman of things about which I needed to keep reminding myself. There have been lists for prayer. But overall, I have very few lists of substance to show for my life to date.

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McEntyre suggests that we should make lists freely and joyfully, even playfully; that we should add to them with anticipation and excitement about what may be discovered as the list evolves. According to McEntyre, indeed something worthwhile is usually is discovered. She writes,

“In the process of making a list, I generally find that I can, as a therapist used to advise, ‘go to the place in me that knows.’ Line by line, I can take myself there. It’s a place of deep, lively, somewhat amusing, sometimes daunting encounter with the self and, often, encounter with the indwelling Spirit who is more present, available, reliable, and forgiving than we may think.

When you make a list, if you stay with it and take it slowly, take it seriously but playfully, give yourself plenty of permission to put down whatever comes up, you begin to clarify your values, your concerns, the direction your life is taking, your relationship to your inner voice, your humor, your secrets. You discover the larger things that lists can reveal.”

The book is loaded with ideas for things to think about via lists: things to let go of, how to enjoy what I have, what gives me joy, what comfort might look like, and so much more. I’ve got some new lists underway

~~~

[Photo taken of a beautiful scene in Gulfport, Florida.]

740. An ordinary day on repeat

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Over the last couple weeks I read The Turquoise Ledge by poet and Laguna Pueblo writer Leslie Marmon Silko. I may not have finished it had it not been a book group reading. The reason I nearly stopped reading several times in the first 100 or so pages is that while the book is about Silko’s life outside of Tucson, Arizona, it is primarily about her morning walks, during which she often finds pieces of turquoise, and the care of her home and yard, replete with rattlesnakes (so many!) and sometimes scorpions. The book goes on repeat of these daily activities and discoveries. Over and over again. Here’s another piece of turquoise. There’s another rattlesnake. But a curious thing happened at about page 125; I got in the rhythm of her walks and her watering of her plants and her care of her pet parrots and her noticing of rattlers, and my interest in her routine and her observations piqued.

The book reminded me that this is what we do in life: one’s daily stuff, but please oh please do it with eyes open and ready to see the extraordinariness of what is around us. Numerous times Silko describes a walk in which then and there, right in front of her in the center of the path, is a piece of turquoise that wasn’t there when she walked the same path yesterday. Or was it? Had it just unearthed itself or had she missed it the day before?

I wanted to post about this book as an encouragement in getting up each morning and doing whatever it is you do over again tomorrow while keeping your eyes open for what you might see or discover that takes on new shape or meaning when you see it, really see it, for the third or fourth or 340th time. Maybe that’s one of the things I was trying to do in Finding Livelihood, challenging myself and you, dear reader, to see again and again, yet anew, what there is to discover in whatever place each of us calls work.

The book made me think about how it takes attending to something over and over again, closely and with reverence, before hidden beauty emerges, understanding emerges, and appreciation for small things becomes large.

~~~

[Picture: taken during our recent Florida trip of a grand dolphin artfully carved in the sand by an unidentified beach artist; in the top left corner is a pelican.]

739. On the release of Holy Week

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Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter, is typically thought of as a day of silence. I had never thought deeply about what went on on this day in real time, the day in which Jesus was in the grave, before reading Dante’s Inferno, the first volume of The Divine Comedy, about 12 years ago. Dante as Pilgrim finds himself at midlife (“Midway along the journey of our life”), awakening “in a dark wood.” As he tries to find his way out of the wood, his path becomes blocked by a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf. It is in this moment of his fear and lostness that Virgil appears to him, promising to guide him through Hell and Purgatory, after which he will deliver him to another shade who will lead him to Paradise. Mark Musa, the translator of the version I read, points out that from the book’s beginning, the central motif of the trilogy is revealed: with Dante the Pilgrim as “everyman,” it is “the story of man’s pilgrimage to God.”

What most caught my attention in reading Inferno, was the appearance of Jesus in hell. Although I’d recited the words from the Apostle’s Creed an uncountable number of times throughout my life—“he descended into Hades”—what did I really know of that? What can anyone know? Even so, Dante drew a picture with his words, and it’s a picture worth thinking about on this Holy weekend: Jesus loping through certain circles of hell, releasing sinners. A bridge broke as he passed over. It makes me think of an icon I saw once at The Museum of Russian Art here in Minneapolis in which Jesus in hell reached to grab Adam and Eve.

May your weekend be one of reflection and deep joy.

~~~

[Photo: Beautiful sky last week over a Florida beach, where I was grateful to be. Doesn't it look like an abstract dove?]