These words are powerful all by themselves. At times when I am feeling overwhelmed or bewildered, I sometimes choose one just one to help me focus or to use in a breath prayer. But I love seeing them gathered like this.
-St. John of the Cross, Love Poems from God (trans. Daniel Ladinsky)
This weather worn garden sign is propped on the fence behind my cucumber vines. When I gathered my small harvest, I thought of these words. The blessing of light, along with soil and moisture produced something good and nourishing. The word Peace reminds me that my words have that potential when I use them to bless and encourage.
Sadly, the opposite can also be true. Words spoken in haste or frustration may damage growth and wither relationship. I can choose to speak light and blessing. I pray to speak Peace.
I keep a small basket of smooth stones, each marked with a word, on the back porch which I use like prayer beads. Somehow, as I lift a stone and place it beside me with a prayer for each thing the word I have written there represents, I am able to focus more sharply and receive these gifts. I keep the same list by the coffee pot in the kitchen and can cover it with the palm of my hand in my petition. Laying the stones down is a random process, so I am drawn to the pattern on this particular day when I look at all of them together. I begin with seeking Light and the progression leads me to the most important request, “Thyself.” I realize that if I could have only one request it must be that, for it is in the presence of God I find the all the rest.
The poetry of John O Donahue helps me imagine he might have had a basket of stones, too.
A writing exercise recently posted in my online writing group was named the Adjective Project. Actually, it should have been called The Missing Adjective Project because the goal was to write a descriptive poem or story using few nor no adjectives. It happened to coincide with another morning at which my kitchen window revealed a bountiful display of moonflowers. Here is the missing adjectives poem. I might have done without the rest of the words, since a picture can be worth a thousand of them…
I greet morning as I see moonflowers blooming at dawn.
On our back porch is a basket of stones. On each, a word is printed with white paint that has worn over time. I use these as prayer reminders, but the children love handling the smooth stones. Sometimes they are warm, sometimes cool, but always good to the touch. This week I noticed my 5-year-old granddaughter, Maddie, moving the stones around, then going out to pick flowers to bring inside. As I started to open the back door, I found one smooth black stone lying at the doorsill. This was the one with Forgiveness dimly written across its surface. I looked back at Maddie, who called “I put that there for you. It is special.” And I thought how right she was, what a needed reminder, what a precious gift. A gift rom a 5-year-old little girl who thought it was pretty, from loved ones to whom I may have failed to encourage and bless, from my heavenly Father, who offers it so freely and loves me unconditionally. Forgiveness is indeed a gift. Now that I consider it, so are the words written on all the other stones.
Light for my darkness
Courage for my fear Hope for my despair Peace for my turmoil Joy for my sorrow. Strength for my weakness. Wisdom for my confusion. Forgiveness for my sins.
Love for my hates
Thy Self for my self.
Taken from At The Opening of the Day
By Howard Thurman
When I am writing, I roll words around in my mind like I am tasting something. Reading a word, speaking a word,hearing a word, or writing a word may be as breathtaking as holding a lovely piece of glass to the light. As a mother, I delighted in a baby’s first word. The first word a child reads for himself brings a sense of accomplishment for him and encouragement from others. Of course, we find meaning as we begin to string words together in thoughts and sentences, and the words used in the craft of story telling are amazing tools, but a single word when considered alone can be a source of amazement.
My husband, Joe, and I had the same English teacher in high school. Mr. Everett loved the word murmur . A musical friend’s favorite word is alleluia. I love the words dappled and candlelight. Author and world traveler Francis Mayes says that two of her favorite words are linked together: “departure” and “time”. Poet Molly Peacock says she first fell in love with the word joy because it had a circle inside!
I think I fell in love with poetry because I love tasting the words and looking at them through the light.
I think Gerard Manley Hopkins may have felt that way, too.
Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spáre, strange;
Whatever is fickle, frecklèd (who knows how?)
With swíft, slów; sweet, sóur; adázzle, dím;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is pást change: