Monthly Archives: November 2019

Writing as a Spiritual Discipline and a Request

Shellseekers Art & Soul IMG_2108

“Shellseeker Pilgrimage” two paintings and various shells, Deborah Stephan (copyright)

I have written as early as – swapping little biographical quote/poetry/comment books with 8-year-old Scottish friends in the school playground.  The poem beginning: Roses are red, violets are blue, was always a favourite as well as the skipping song: On the mountain stands a lady, who she is I do not know…  Composition books at school were full of the required writing and at one point I sat with a friend on a brick wall recording all of the license plate numbers of cars passing by.  The object of the daily writing exercise was to see who could fill her notebook first.  Various ways of writing have formed me over the years.  I now know that writing has been a spiritual discipline in my life.

As I do some research for my Shellseekers Art + Soul Life Writing workshops, I find these quotes helpful:

“[Writing] allows them to reach across the boundaries of geography and time to be in intimate communion with people they will never meet… it also requires that each writing project begin and end with others…”

“The God known by this woman is a God who writes, an author whose chosen parchment is the human heart.”

“The woman writing the letter seems to say that it is in the work of expression, in the struggle to unite human and divine creativity, that understanding begins.”

“We do not do these things because we know exactly what they mean.  We do them to find out what they mean.”

“Writing might be practised as a creative, meditative, intellectual activity that might gradually change our lives.”

Stephanie Paulsell “Writing as a Spiritual Discipline” in “The Scope of our Art”

Another writing project is inspiring my activity right now and I note a further idea from the book: it is not just that we write alone that is important but the work we do together.  I am wondering if you will join me in my “Pilgrimage Project,” the written part for an art exhibition I hope to hold in the spring by sending me a message in the comments section.  I am collecting examples of the main places where people have lived in their lives e.g. for me it has been – N.B, Scotland, Ontario, and B.C.  This is your chance to be part of an art project!

Please comment below with your ‘main places lived,’ so my writing can begin and end with you:

Laundry

Colouring Book Houses - Clotheslines

“Colouring Book Houses: Clotheslines” by Deborah Stephan

 

I love laundry

I’ve said it yes laundry

I like laundry lists

Laundry lines

Laundry racks

Laundry suds

Laundry gyrating

Laundry drying

Undershirts together

Socks together

Wooden clothespins

Pulling the cotton line in

Standing on the stoop

Filling the loop

As it went

Around the wheels

Squealing.

 

Back in the day, I painted a scene of clothes drying on a line as one of a series of primitive landscapes with watercolour and charcoal.  These were from my inner landscape: soul paintings all.  Even my art professor took notice.

Today, as I prep to write, I read in Barbara Brown Taylor’s An Altar in the World: “Sometimes when people ask me about my prayer life, I describe a laundry list.”  For someone not wanting to work on an essay, a blog post becomes a diversion.  Another day, meaning to start a blogpost, I add something to an essay.  Something similar happens in praying.  One thing leads to another word association and even a little diverting word play.  I guess I am parenting myself and have to apply discipline at some point to get the actual task done.  But for now, I digress, and happily so.

Yes, hanging the laundry – I feel the wind, the sun, or who could forget the exact feeling of holding frozen clothes – hands stinging red unfastening the stuck clothespins?  But Mom, I can’t fold these, I offer.  The answer comes from afar, just stack them across the basket.  I am the oldest after all.  Tiny icicles melt on my red fingers.  If I observe, as I am wont to do, I see designs like on frozen windowpanes.

I have never really liked the cold, that is why I moved from Ontario to B.C.  I have done a lot of laundry in my life.  I do like to have things clean.  I am one of those people who watched in wonder as her ex-spouse’s muddy work clothes went round and round in the white suds.  Bubbles were dirty but clothes came out clean.  Even the rhythm of the agitator pleased me.

I wished we could have put our marriage through that kind of process but it had to be hung out to dry and permanently frozen, no matter how many prayers were hung in a row over the years.

Yet the praying remains.  The laundry list continues as does the cleaning – for other loved clothes now.  The clothesline has become a breathing lifeline of hanging requests daily reeled in and out; a spiritual discipline.

 

Workshop Ended Early

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“Coat of Many Colours” 2019 Pilgrimage Blanket DS

A ten-week Spiritual Disciplines course ended early – half way through.  Actually, only one person had registered for the course.  I wrestled with cancelling it due to low registration but she was keen so I offered her one-on-one times each week.  Her appreciation of my work (it took at least twice as long to prepare each week as it did to facilitate the two hours) made it more than worthwhile.  I concluded that it must have been a God thing as I had decided a while ago that I preferred to offer group Spiritual Direction over individual sessions.

Nearing the half-way mark she let me know she had been accepted full time into a study program and would reluctantly have to let the Spiritual Disciplines sessions go.  I had mixed feelings.  I was happy for her.  I had actually enjoyed preparing the agendas for the two hours weekly and could use the practice as I had not given this kind of workshop for a while.  I realized that the blanket I had been knitting for a while now, was meant for her.  On our last time together, it happened to be her birthday.  I gave her the Pilgrimage Blanket and she gave me some kind comments about the workshops and also a gift she had made.

Life is often lived in between what we have planned.  These blankets are often created and prayed over without knowing who the particular one I am working on will go to.  Knitting for me is a Spiritual Discipline.

PILGRIMAGE BLANKETS 2019 

Artist Statement

Each blanket is as unique as each life is.  There are twists and turns and places of mystery.  Colours change like moods.  Beads shine like prayers.  Materials, stitches, techniques come and go at random, un-ironed, uncounted, unplanned.  Appendages hang from here and there.  Yet a pattern emerges in the intuitive journey.  Our lives are cared for from above.  Even in the darkest of times faith moves us to continue our one-of-a-kind lives with strength and peace.  They cover as we study, rest, play, watch Netflix, pray or dream.

DS.