740. An ordinary day on repeat

740. An Ordinary Day on Repeat.jpg

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.

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[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.]

731. Thoughts on The Florida Project

Thoughts on The Florida Project.jpg

A couple weeks ago my husband and I went to see the new film, The Florida Project. When I first saw the film’s poster in our local theater months ago, I had made a quick mental note to see it. Being as I grew up in coastal Florida, I imagined that because it was a story of Florida, it would no doubt feature the white sand and beauty of the ocean, which I miss. By the time we went to see the film, though, I knew that it was about something else entirely.

The story follows the lives of small children and their mothers or, in one case, a grandmother, who live in motels along Route 192 near Disney World, all caught in poverty, bad decisions, some form of abandonment, and hopelessness. There's not a single beach scene. But the story line also follows that of Bobby, played by Willem DaFoe, the manager of The Magic Castle, the budget motel where the film’s primary child and mother live on a weekly basis. For all the reasons to see the film based on the story line and the outstanding performance of the 7-year-old Floridian, Brooklynn Prince, whom we will no doubt be seeing more of in years to come, it’s the story of Bobby that most captured my attention.

The film’s director, Sean Baker, had been on Charlie Rose in mid-October talking about his film. He described how he had researched for the film by talking with people in the area where it was shot. In particular, he spoke of a motel manager he met:

"We would go and see who was interested in telling their stories or giving us information about the Route 192, which is where this was shot. And this was—this involved us speaking to residents at the motels, the small business owners, some the motel managers, and some the agencies that actually provided social services to people in need in the area. And there was one—there was actually one man in particular, a motel manager, who really opened up his world to us. In a way, he was our passport in. He wanted—he felt that this was a story that should be told, … and he was actually managing one of these budget motels directly across the street from the Magic Castle Motel where we shot. And he was in a very tough position when he was actually working there. It has since closed. But he had compassion for the families and the kids who were there. He understood the struggles they were going through. And, yet, he, you know, had a job. He had to hold onto. And he knew that perhaps any night he might have to evict one of these families and put them out on the street if they couldn't come up with the nightly rate. So, it was a tough position for him. I could see this obvious—this compassion, but I also saw a distance that he would keep from them. And it was like a reluctant parental figure in many ways. I saw it not only with him but a few of the other motel managers we met. And I think it very much inspired our Bobby character."

DaFoe’s character captures an aspect of work that I tried to describe in Finding Livelihood: that of doing one thing, for which you’re paid, but that may be far from what you most want to do or feel “called” to do, while at the same time also doing something far bigger on another plane, maybe all the time and all along or maybe only for a moment, participating in a for-such-a-time-as-this sort of thing. Parallel realities. Bobby kept the books, he kept the rules, he kept the place clean. Job description met! But he also kept his people safe, he guided and cared, he gave hope, he loved. If you missed the movie trailer, hyperlinked in the first sentence, take a look now and you'll get a hint of what I'm talking about.

695. A tool for a spiritual and occupational journey

A tool for a spiritual and occupational journey.jpg

With deep gratitude I have some links and brief excerpts to share from a couple reviews of Finding Livelihood. After years of writing alone at a desk it always feels like rather a miracle to find that those solitary words can go like an arrow into someone else's mind and heart and Voilá, there is human camaraderie on this journey.

The first review is written by Kenneth Garcia in a column in Notre Dame Magazine. I love that he starts out by stating he also has had a struggle to come to terms with "a spiritual calling that both demands attention and 'refuses' to come to fruition." I wish I could get a show of hands for who else can relate to that.

About one of the vocational quandries Finding Livelihood poses, Garcia writes:

"Nordenson admires the theologian Frederick Buechner's poetic phrase about vocation: 'the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.' She also finds the sentiment unconvincing. Why? Well, life happens. The need to make a living in tough times and the responsibilities one has to others exert their own call, and those calls obligate as much or more as one's 'deep gladness' and spiritual desire. 'Who but a very small minority,' she asks, 'can find that exact intersection [of one's deep gladness and the world's deep hunger] and from it feed a family?'"

Maybe you've had these thoughts and questions too. Here's the link and I do hope you click through and read the rest of Garcia's review.

The second review, written by Greg Richardson (aka "Strategic Monk"), is in the Presence Journal, a publication of Spiritual Directors International. Writing to readership of spiritual directors, Richardson calls Finding Livelihood "an insightful, personal tool for our work with people on a spiritual and occupational journey."

He continues:

"Finding Livelihood is not a how-to book filled with checklists and targeted goals. It is deeper and more rewarding than that, reflecting on deep truth. Spiritual guides will find this a useful resource, particularly while accompanying spiritual directees who desire to integrate the daily place where love and labor meet."

The image of this - my little book being used to help others "integrate the daily place where love and labor meet" - is thrilling and humbling. May it be so. Here's the link to read the rest of Richardson's review.

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If you find my writing on this blog or in my book to be something that's good in your life, would you consider sharing one or both of these reviews, perhaps with someone who you think might like to read the book, maybe someone who is on a spiritual and occupational journey? Or would you consider writing your own review on Amazon?  Thank you for considering. I'll be back next week with something noncommercial. :)

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[Photo: taken of a bulletin board at U of Chicago; don't call any of the numbers for job opening you see because it's several years old; does anyone still use "physical" bulletin boards to post jobs anymore?]