Thursday, April 19, 2012

Border five miles from here

Yesterday morning I awoke at 5:30 a.m. to pull on jeans and sweatshirt and drive the four-and-a-half hours to Portland, where I left my car in long-term parking and took two planes and another four-hour car ride to arrive here. I'm in Grand Rapids, home of Calvin College and its Festival of Faith and Writing, and today I heard: Larry Woiwode, Kathryn Erskine, Jonathan Safroen Foer, Amy Frykholm, Gary D. Schmidt, Bethany Pierce and half a dozen more. I heard from Christian writers and Jewish writers and Muslim writers and people who write about sex and the Sabbath and blind typists and eating disorders and from a panel of four—count them, four—Dutch-Canadians.

The night before I left, I dreamed of giving my grandmother's intricate glazed ceramic tea cups away. I gave them away to careless students who broke them as together we drank tea. Breaking my grandmother's tea cups—my subconscious came up with a better metaphor than I ever could have for squandering her inheritance.

But am I, in fact? No. At the end of the first of three thirteen-hour days I am full, replete, overflowing. “Anything worth saying is unsayable,” said Kevin Moffett, quoted in a lecture today, “that's why we tell stories.” I'm in my communitas, people who believe in the power of words skillfully strung to together, who believe on building word atop stubborn word, who believe that all art carries meaning.

This prayer, from another writer, whose name blew away from me as ephemeral as wind: “God, although You needed no help from us, you named us to be namers.”
That's the calling.

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