Archives for October 2016

Embracing Possibility

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This time of year, when everything turns to gold and purple and grey, my mind turns to Harry Potter. The books were made for the frosted crunch of Autumn, for cold nights and roaring fires, for pumpkins and odd creatures, magic and mystery. I re-read the books every so often, and each time I enter into the world of Hogwarts, I remember what drew me in the first time.

The story captures imagination and possibility.

As a child, I spent most of my time in church or at my conservative Christian school, where much of what we consider childhood classics were dismissed. I missed out on many of the essential stories that explore myth and mystery. I never read fairytales or watched Disney movies or learned about the Greek or Roman gods. Both Cinderella and Antigone were a complete mystery to me. Add Halloween and Santa Claus and card tricks to the list of forbidden delights.

My childhood was rooted in reality. Pure and simple. My imagination was fueled by the everyday stories of family life, of school troubles, and babysitting woes. Secrets were something you wrote in a locked diary and kept from your brother. They didn’t possess gardens or hide behind an enchanted door. Mystery was not the magnetic pull of a single, precious ring, but rather  finding your favorite socks living in someone else’s dresser drawer.

And magic, well, magic was inconceivable. Unimaginable. Impossible.

I felt at home in the physical world–the thump of feet against hardwood floors, the smooth, cool surface of marble, the salt-tinged taste of tears on cheeks–but I knew there was more. I knew it because I heard rumors in the school yard. Unexplored books beckoned from the local library shelves, and when I spent time in the natural world, I felt the mystery pulsing beneath.

I knew there was more, but I didn’t know how to find the hidden door and enter. I have a friend who likes to say she lives in possibility, and I envy her for it. Her imagination and creativity for confronting every perceived barrier in the real world, reminds me that the magic of possibility we discover in stories as a child also exists in our own hearts. The secret chambers of our inner selves, the hidden spaces, echo with opportunity.

Anything can happen.

I can feel at home in both the physical world and in possibility.

This time of year when everything turns to gold and purple and grey, my mind turns to magic. To stories of the impossible, to creative minds spinning opportunity, to the hero’s journey, to a window into the world beyond my everyday.

Healing exists on this side of possibility. Good triumphs over evil. Mystery exists. Redemption is a song we sing. Time bends and stories come true. Hope is birthed.

Making Soul Space

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Our basement is where all good things go to die. Chipped china, seasonal décor, outgrown tee-shirts, empty frames, cushion covers sans cushions. All well used and well loved for a season, all dying a slow death under a cover of dust and disuse.

“I’m going to put this in the basement for now” has become a family euphemism for the demise of something we once deemed essential. The set of dishes I never unpacked, yet insisted on shipping across the ocean three times during our two moves abroad. My son’s canary-yellow stuffed bird bearing scissor gashes lovingly repaired by uneven stitching…

Join me at In Touch Magazine for the rest of the story on the art of release, and making space in our soul (not just our basements) for all of the tired things that accumulate over time.

Naming the Longing

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Adjacent to the parking lot of our condominium building, sat a clump of pine trees with fine, green needles and dripping sap. The landscapers planted the trees in such a way that, once grown, they formed a canopy above a small, oval opening. If one looked hard enough, and squinted against the sunlight, one might see it.

As kids, my neighbor, Michelle and I, discovered this opening and it became my favorite place to retreat from pesky siblings and the heat of summer…

For the rest of the story, follow me on over to the Mudroom where I write more about naming the longing inside each of us.

The Holy Oak: A Story of Rootedness and Community

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Our town was built around a single tree. The Holy Oak stands in the cemetery of the Presbyterian Church in the center of town. It is the oldest white oak in America, and it has presided over this patch of land for almost six hundred years. The Holy Oak has watched centuries of life unfold, from Native Americans hunting in the local woods to Revolutionary soldiers marching to war to a brick and mortar town springing up around it to kids running around the courtyard playing Pokémon Go.

Over the years, the branches have provided shade over the headstones of revolutionary soldiers and the church’s own parishioners. The trunk has absorbed the sound of praise and prayers, and the leaves have swayed to the sound of children, my own among them, plinking away for a crowd of proud parents during piano recital season. The tree’s roots have held this town together from the ground up, as change inevitably swept through.

Once the oak reached its full height, it grew wider and wider rather than tall. This is an admirable goal in life, I think–to grow wider and deeper and increasingly broad. Tall is big, proud, imposing, but width is inclusive and encompassing. Depth is wise. To grow in depth is to establish roots that become smaller and smaller as the fibers bury themselves and fan out. Change occurs in the delicate, most vulnerable places.

The complexity of the tree lies at the tips of its roots and in the fine veins of its leaves. Our own complexities, the small and fragile parts we try to avoid or hide, are the ones that allow us to grow deeper in faith, in relationships, and in understanding. It’s where we absorb the essence of life. Just as the oak’s roots absorb water or sunlight or nutrients, we take in impressions, words, and feelings. These tender, rooted places are where we hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, whispering “Here is the way, walk in it.”

….

This year, when the tree failed to unfurl in all its glory, experts were called in for their professional opinion. Reporters arrived to tell the story. And artists set up charcoal and paper on easels to make sketches.

The Holy Oak is dying.

I found an old photo of my children standing under the massive tree in full bloom, and I felt sad, but also grateful. We stood in the shade of the oldest white oak in America, where George Whitfield preached to a crowd of 3,000 during the Great Awakening. The tree echoes with the sound of him proclaiming the gospel. It echoes with the sound of my daughter playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. It echoes with the footsteps of countless people living ordinary lives across the ages.

While life played out beneath the Holy Oak’s branches, it rooted itself in the dark soil and stretched into the sunlight, growing tall and deep and wide. And we’re all the better for it.

How to Live with Contradictions: Embrace October

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“All things on earth point home in old October; sailors to sea, travellers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken.” ~Thomas Wolfe

It took me forty years to unearth this truth: Everything I hunger for is satisfied by October.

It is a study in contrasts:  warm and cold, wet and dry, blooming with life and sliding towards decay. It is glorious in its turning, changeable by nature, and I can feel the heft of it bearing down on my shoulders. It is weighty.

Each day is unknowable from the beginning and yet satisfying in its end.

October reminds me to set my face towards home. It is a returning to all the disparate, changeable sides of myself, and acknowledging that I can welcome all parts of me to be at home here. Like you, like October, I am a study in contrasts too. I am a homesick wanderer. An artist mother. A dreamy pragmatist. A lazy runner. A skeptical believer. A wise fool.

It has taken many years for me to learn the beauty of complexity and accept that this complexity is ok. It’s ok to hold all of these things within my body. It’s ok to give them a flesh and blood home.

If you find yourself struggling with some of the contradictions in your life, wondering how to feel at home within yourself again, step outside and take a deep breath of October. Take note of the warmth of the sun carried by the sharp bite of the autumn wind. Listen for the crunch of leaves beneath hibernating branches. Recognize it as a wealth of riches, a homecoming, a ripeness.

Find yourself at home within the contradictions, not in spite of them. Welcome home. Welcome October.