Rambles

Well. Hello there.

I hardly know where to begin. After forty-plus days of retreat, I feel like my soul has had a thorough airing and scrubbing. Like I’ve been at once standing on a high and lonely mountaintop in a bracing wind and tucked securely in the cleft of a rock, shadowed by an Almighty hand. I have been caught between the essential bliss of solitude (wine to my introverted soul) and the supreme discomfort of having to face my own inadequacies. I have both reveled in my ideals and squirmed under my shortcomings. I have tried to be as intentional as possible in these weeks of silence, to ask a thousand questions and be content with the answers—and the lack thereof. I have folded my wings and brooded over a nest of honest contemplation, and it has been seriously one of the sweetest, clearest, sanest seasons of my life. I have had time to think, time to scrutinize what I am doing with my days—and why. Aristotle said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I would argue that the unexamined life is less living than mere survival. For the past couple of years, I’ve felt like I was in survival mode, suffering, as I’ve mentioned before, under the trauma of “too much.” It’s not theatrical for me to say that many of the expectations of modern life are traumatic to my psyche—it’s just an acknowledgement of my limitations, and a candid celebration of the fact that there is a way for me to live that is not antagonistic to the divine tailoring of my personality. Quite the contrary. I have come to see that being kind to my own soul is not only valid—it’s essential to my walk with Christ. Losing my place of peace means losing the place where I hear His voice, plain and simple.

Last of the summer grapes--when I came by next morning, the birds had polished them off.

But if these weeks have been quiet, they have also been crammed with things I love, and for that I feel most blessed. Since we’ve last met, I’ve gone to sailing school and gotten my Basic Keelboat Certification (along with Philip)—a long-held dream. I’ve been scribbling like mad—wrote myself into a lovely case of tendonitis, in fact. And…I’ve finished the typesetting on the next book to be published by Low Door Press! Details will be forthcoming, I promise. But for now I’m just simmering a bit in the happiness of that huge task completed.

I’ve also been gallivanting. Last month my sister and I stole away to a little beach house for a week, revisiting old memories and making new ones in a place that is beloved to us both. It has been years since we’ve gone away together like that—and never, if you’ll believe it, just the two of us. It was painfully sweet to have her all to myself for so many days. The whole thing put me in mind of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s visit from her own sister in the midst of writing Gift from the Sea–gift in itself to her solitude. Liz and I hardly drew breath from the moment we set off together in my little roadster, Happiness Runs—we took the back roads, weaving through all those sleepy South Georgia towns, revisiting scenes Liz hasn’t laid eyes on in over a decade. And then, the sweet island life, of sunsets and dawns, beach picnics and bike rides and sundresses. I’m so grateful that we were able to seize that time (somewhat impulsively!) and make it happen. I think we’ve instituted a yearly tradition…

Liz capturing the dawn in oils--I don't know how she does it.

And I’ve come again to my Island, my golden land that shimmers, marsh-skirted, like a dream on a blue sea. This place is truly my spiritual home if ever there was one: I speak less, but hear God more within these cloistered green shades. I’ve also come to realize the deep significance of warmth to my body and my soul. I can never seem to get enough of it, seeking that kind sun at every turn, drawing myself up to a heat that seems to seep down into my bones. I’m storing it up for winter’s long reign—though it hardly seems possible that there is such a thing as winter in this sunny land. But even here I sense the change stirring: there’s a tender new clarity to the angle of the light, and my blackbirds, which charm the summer air with sweetness, are noticeably absent. There is goldenrod fringing the beach path, and in the woods the beautyberries spark a magenta flame beneath the trees.

The morning commute

I’ve been writing here, too—working much on my novel. And this week, at Philip’s challenge, I wrote a sonnet. It was my first attempt at the form, and I was very intimidated. (I confided to him that I have always had this unspoken conviction that I wouldn’t really know how to write poetry until I tackled sonnets.) But this one has been growing in me for some time—since before my jaunt to the sea with my sister, I think.

I confess, it was hard going, but quietly exhilarating: all that word-wrestling in the peaceful grip of a beloved scene. I sat in the sun (of course) by the sea wall and hardly knew the passage of time. One morning, the pelicans were out in full force, crowding the dock like a gang of hunched old sailors before spilling out over the water in an amazing undulation of grace. There were gulls, too, and a kingfisher, dipping and fluttering over the marsh towards the trees. And I listened and listened, and looked with all my soul, endeavoring to describe in iambic pentameter just that clear sound of wind stirring in the palms overhead. I do so love the discipline of the sonnet form, the essential selectiveness of metaphor and image—no room for superfluity. I can’t help but feel that a healthy dose of sonnet-writing would improve my writing overall…

(I finished it today, in a last dizzy tumble of words. Perhaps I will share it, if I can work up the nerve.)

But, in the meantime, I just want to say that I hope this little ramble finds you all well and glad, and that as we move into this ambered season, may the balance of your year’s harvest grow bright before your eyes.

20 Responses to “Rambles”

  1. mary kathryn says:

    Welcome back! It sounds as if your treks have been rejuvenating. The sonnet is such a challenge, and I’ve been too lazy to write one for many years. I find the difficult forms to be more rewarding afterward. The section of your post about nourishing your introverted soul were nearly exactly like another friend’s post today. Perhaps it’s “this ambered season,” as you say, that makes us introverts pensive and sensitive to this need. Blessings to you and yours!

  2. Esther says:

    Do not toy with us. Share your sonnet!! (Pretty please?)

  3. Holly says:

    OH YAY!!! You’re back!!!! I kept checking every few days, then once a week, and finally even more sporadically…wondering if you’d ever post again, thinking that you’d decided to take a 6-12 month sabbatical. So glad you enjoyed your summer and learned new things.

    The journey to self-actualization is difficult, and many (I’m among them) argue we never ever get there – but it’s a lot easier to just face the things you don’t like as you get older, pragmatically. The best thing that works for me is to continually pray for refinement: “Lord, please take away the things You don’t like about me, and enhance the things You do.” Then listen, and rest.

    Anyway, dear Lanier – you were much missed.

  4. Debby says:

    I so enjoy your words. Thanks for coming back to share.

  5. Rachel B says:

    Yes, Lanier, welcome back!!

  6. Caitlin says:

    Welcome back! I stumbled upon your blog when you wrote the sabbatical post, and have since been reading the archives. I fell like I’m catching up with an old friend. Just lovely. So excited to learn about the next book for Low Door Press!
    Would you be so kind as to someday share your favorite books about writing? I am a very amateur writer myself, and I am always interested in finding new books to help me with my writing!

  7. Kristen says:

    I was so happy to see a new post from you. I always savor your writing, and this is beautiful, Lanier! I agree with Esther–I would love to read your sonnet!

  8. Corinne says:

    Welcome back dear one. Were I so attendant of my inner life, perhaps much suffering could have been alleviated. I agree with Esther, please share….pretty please!

  9. Heather says:

    Lanier,
    So very glad to see you in this place and to hear some of the thoughts and moments you experienced while away from this space. But oh how you were missed. I do not use a blog reader on purpose so I kept checking and hoping after Sept. 9th that you would make your way here soon. And I’m delighted to see this post. I scurried through it in an initial read to make sure there weren’t any bombshell announcements. Satisfied, I will now leisurely read and savor your words and photos. Thank you for coming back to us.

  10. Lisa says:

    Thanks for sharing these quiet moments with us. I got a small thrill when I saw your post in my inbox, and you did not disappoint. Lovely words to ponder. Blessings to you.

  11. Suzanne says:

    What a sweet surprise and what a delightful path you blog leads me down! Your words bring pure joy to my soul. I cannot wait until you share your sonnet and I must have your book. ♥

  12. JOY says:

    Welcome back. You’ve received a rare and wonderful blessing.

  13. Pam says:

    Lanier,

    Thank you for this:

    “It’s not theatrical for me to say that many of the expectations of modern life are traumatic to my psyche—it’s just an acknowledgement of my limitations, and a candid celebration of the fact that there is a way for me to live that is not antagonistic to the divine tailoring of my personality. Quite the contrary. I have come to see that being kind to my own soul is not only valid—it’s essential to my walk with Christ.”

    And welcome back.

  14. Merry says:

    This is such a beautiful post from a beautiful, old soul. It was such a joy to read and I hope you will share that sonnet with us.

    -Merry

  15. Sharon says:

    You have poignantly stated that need which so many of us experience–the balance of solitude and retreat with the times when we must interact with family and friends. The space to ponder and pray and simply ‘be’ is vital to the health of certain personalities. It is difficult to explain to those not so constructed that without opportunity to reflect and regroup we are soon stressed and running short of anything meaningful to share. You are blessed to have a husband and family who understand and support your quiet times of withdrawing a bit to be replenished.

  16. Josh says:

    It’s so good to hear from you, Lanier! I simply can’t wait to place my order for the next offering from Low Door Press! :)

  17. Everly says:

    Ah, I am so glad you’re back. Those kind of breaks are essential for some of us. I hope to take one soon myself.

    Love, Everly

  18. BONNIE BUCKINGHAM says:

    Amen to Sister Yearly traditions.
    So good to read your words.
    They bless.

  19. Angela says:

    Do I recognize St Simon’s in those dreamy photos? That is also one of my favorite places. The peace that seeps into my soul as I drive across that bridge onto that island, I have not found in any other place.
    I just found you and your work on the Rabbit Room site this morning and have spent several pleasant minutes immersed and enveloped in your words.
    I’m so glad to make your acquaintance!
    Blessings to you this season, and every season.

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Yes, Angela, you do! :) That one of my sister painting the sunrise is on St. Simons! You have a good eye…such a special place. Thanks so much for your kind words. Very nice to “meet” you. :)

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