Sunday, April 8, 2012

Mennonite/s Writing: HARRISONBURG, VA

Easter Sunday, and more perennials--wild ginger, phlox, daffodils--are happily tucked into our land. Every year, we plant spreading greenery, hoping one day not to have to haul out the clippers and mowers on our San-Fran-like hills. (We're even considering getting a goat to help us with this job.)

Yesterday, we tended to our acres for blissful hours, cancelled social plans, felt the sun remember our faces. Slow down, our lives had been tea-kettle-whistling. Why must we wait until a Holy Day to listen?

Today we ate breakfast--local eggs and donuts, strong coffee--and read aloud from Mary Oliver: "Don't bother me. I've just been born." We ducked into the old cemetery right across the street to remind ourselves of our living. Later, I will listen to a podcast from my home church three hours away, mostly to hear the hymns and to recognize the voices of people I know. (I sang my favorite Easter hymn in the shower this morning-- "Up from the grave he arose!"--but it's just not the same without that jovial bass line.) Soon, we'll go to restorative yoga to remember how the soul is planted in a body--on purpose. The late afternoon sun shines through blue and green bottles in our side windows, and Beef Bourguingnon (OK, the cheater's version of it!) bubbles away at the stove.

There are many kinds of redemption.

Last weekend, I was honored to read from my book and to give a lecture on "creative nonviolence" as pedagogy at the 6th Mennonite/s Writing Conference, held at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA. (Check out my Mennonite World Review post about the conference here.) The conference ended on Palm Sunday, the same day my book of poems officially released.

I'm finding that having a book out there makes you look at your own creative work with a transformative eye. I was that person, I find myself saying to myself. My life has taught me this..., and Look how the Spirit moved. I also find myself wanting to make revisions to these now-published poems--to stretch a line or delete a word. Who knows: when I read them in public, they may show up wearing something a little different--another ending, an alternative line break, a slight twist of adjective. Does the transformation process ever really end?

The poet Gregory Orr offers this line: “Praising all creation, praising the world: / That’s our job—to keep / The sweet machine of it / Running smoothly as it can.” Mr. Orr spoke at the Mennonite's Writing conference about the ethical responsibilities of lyric poetry, which means the "I" can be transformed, move beyond the individual and out into the world. Selah. Alleluia. Whatever slows you down, may it help you step out into the bigger world, renewed.

With poet Gregory Orr


  1. mmm. a lovely end to my Easter day. thanks for the slowdown, Becca.

  2. I love the whole slow movement. I like to hand stitch as my work in this movement. I think it is so important for us to slow down. Thank you for your lovely reminder.

  3. You met Gregory Orr! That is awesome! I feel like our class knew him already through the wisdom of MER. Your Easter sounded lovely! It's nice to be able to envision you in your pastoral backyard.