Don’t Fight Lions

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“Willpower is not the way of life we are seeking.  Surrender is… By surrendering to powerlessness, I gain the presence of mind to stop wasting my time and energy trying to change and control that which I cannot change and control…We learn to stop fighting lions, simply because we cannot win.”

Melodie Beattie, The Language of Letting Go

I will open that drawer
and you
will fall out.
Pieces of you
will flap
and flutter about.

I will open that drawer
and you will spill
into my lap.
Dribbling,
little beads of you
will descend.

I will open that drawer
and you will lift
a kingly mane,
nostrils flaring
for freedom
and for prey.

I will open that drawer.
I
will breathe.
You
will roar.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2014

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Grace in the Line-Up

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Photo credit: “blip_7” by Michael Crane Some Rights Reserved

In the line-up looking for Grace,
I found her carrying the suitcase full of money
(the check in the mail).

I saw her carrying the small bundle tightly swaddled
(and sleeping peacefully in the nursery).
I spotted her hand-in-hand with the love of my life
(and kissing the bride on my wedding day).

But when I was looking for Grace, God,
somebody pointed to the rain and the flood,
and said I should see her there.
But where, God, where is she?

And then I was searching for her on Google, Lord,
when her name appeared in the obituary.
But God, I’m confused, is she there?

So this made me wonder –
does Grace play in the unwanted rain?
Is she lying quietly in the nursing home bed?
Did I miss her in the back left pew of the church,
where she mumbled under her breath and stunk up the whole place?

In the line-up to identify Grace,
let my eyes be your eyes, God,
that I may see what you see.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2011

Written as part of the final project for the Two Year Academy of Spiritual Formation #30

The Dark is Me, Too

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I don’t know when or where or how or from whom I learned not to look at the dark side of myself.  It’s not like I don’t have a dark side.  I have plenty of dark side.  And I don’t mean that I  learned to pretend that I didn’t have a dark side.  I knew I had a dark side; I simply learned not to look at it.  I didn’t look at my dark side like I managed not to look at someone who had spoken unjustly to me.  I didn’t look at my dark side like I both recognized and avoided the person I was embarrassed or ashamed to talk to.  I didn’t look at my dark side like I haven’t looked at some of the buskers near the subway stairs.  I know they are there; I hear them; I see them.  I just don’t have the time and money to spare, right now.  Nope, not right now.

And my dark side, let me clarify.  I’m not talking about illegal activities or heinous omissions of ethical behavior.  It’s pretending that I am listening when I am really forming a judgment about why you should be listening to me.  It’s believing I am calm and peaceful and forgiving while I am in an all-out brawl with anger and resentment, refusing to acknowledge their presence and throwing them out the back door of the “I’m So Good” Club hoping no one else ever saw them come into the place.  My dark side is the place where I know I could see (if I took a good hard look) the full reality of my brokenness, my humanness,  and my incompleteness.  My dark side is the part of me that is me, the part of me I wish weren’t me, that I was hoping would somehow change, disappear, or mature if only I could put enough distance between us.

And here’s what caught me, the question of attention.  Would it be okay to give my dark side a thorough gaze?  Or would this serve to fuel the darkness residing therein?  If I looked at the darkness, would I be swallowed up within it, rendering me incapable of ever leaning out toward the light again?

“But,” I sang to my Self, “attention need not be laced with shame nor approval.  Attention may be clarifying while gentle, humble yet accountable.”

May the light of my eyes, cast a luminescent glow, one encompassing net, about my dark side.  May the gift of a sacred attention irradiate what I have been unwilling to fully acknowledge.  May I learn to love my darkness, for that is me, too; and may the Light which has never been overcome by darkness be my guide.

***

What have you learned about yourself and God when you turned your attention to your darkness?

© Amy Persons Parkes 2013

A Girl Catching Bees

Like a hair perm gone terribly awry, frizzed, unmanageable, and impossibly unkempt, the wisteria tendrils and shoots amassed around the base of the towering black walnut tree in the side yard of Grannie’s house, that is, until sometime in late February or early March when the unruly mass of vines inconceivably transformed into a living, throbbing, buzzing island of lavender blossoms, green stems, and black-headed and yellow-headed bumble bees.  The wisteria was alive with color and sound, alive with an invisible cloud of perfume luring the bees and me to her tangled mess; the wisteria with her siren song of smell secreted pheromones like a trail of little candies leading her children home.  So summoned, so lured, so enticed, we all presented ourselves before her.  She needed us; we needed her, the bees and me.

wisteria2 2011

The black and yellow-headed bumbled bees penetrated the purple concave openings of each tiny bud sipping her nectar, brushing against her pollen, retrieving the first food of spring flowers draping trees and bushes in our small region of south Alabama.  A week or two more, and she would have been competing with the azaleas on the front side of the house.  I was not bedazzled by the flowers, by the pollen or the nectar; I was drawn by the bees.  As an eight year old, I thought I was playing with the bees; but as an adult I know, I captured and suffocated them.  In hindsight, I came to kill the bees.  I know now that the reason I went to her, following the bees, was because I was bored.  I was also powerful, and the bees were available.

With my bare hands, I caught the yellow-headed bumble bees.  I stalked the blossoms, waiting for the moment of in-between hovering when I could see for certain that the head of bee was stained with a patch of yellow.  (The black-headed bees would sting.  I didn’t catch those.)  When I snatched one in mid-air, I marveled at my ability to contain the bee’s aliveness in my young fist, to feel its beating wings and throbbing thorax in the palm of my hand and on the underside of my fingers.  I felt the power of defying my natural enemy without being stung, of glorying in the impotence of these yellow-headed bees.  I always wanted to catch more of them.  How many could I catch?  With a sharp butcher knife, I stabbed slots into the flat shiny surface of a mason jar lid.  I deposited bee after bee into the quart jar, with a balance upwards of twenty most days.  In the jar, the bees fell silent, no humming buzz, no beating wings, no vibrating body.  Disoriented and drunk for lack of freedom and air, they stumbled and fell upon one another while my marvel wilted alongside the cluster of wisteria blossoms I had picked to keep them company.

I was a little girl enamored with the chaos of a living, throbbing, buzzing island of flora and fauna.  I was a little girl unaware of the living, throbbing, buzzing island of chaos at the base of my little tree of life.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2013

Draw a Line

Have you ever watched black birds in November?

If only my thoughts were as orderly as seventy-eight black birds on a telephone wire in November.  As if traffic were incidental and wind a given, they twitter and preen and flock from this wire to that with effortless intention.  Like charred popcorn, they flutter up, bump, pop, and settle right back down onto a simple line, firm and flexible.

© Amy Persons Parkes 2012