looking through me

Tag: writing

line drawing

I’ve been drawing the same doodle for twenty-five years. Classmates in junior high, band members in high school, colleagues in work meetings—they’ve all seen it.

It was an assignment in a fifth grade art class: create a pattern of straight lines drawn in triplicate. And I’m still practicing it on to-do lists and meeting agendas.

Each one is unique. The length and angle of the lines are never identical. The spacing varies. But the differences are a bit like the distinctions between snowflakes. No one is going to notice at a glance. They look remarkably the same.

I start with a blank space and pick a place for the first pen stroke. The rest follow. I don’t plan them. I rotate the paper and draw in the next lines that make sense. I don’t know what the finished product will look like. I draw from, not to.

Like writing.

I start with a blank space, and I pick a point from which to start—a word, a phrase, an image in my mind that I put down in words. The rest follows. The end is a mystery when I begin. I write from, not to.

Sometimes something takes shape. The next line makes sense. Other times I work myself into a corner or run up against a conundrum.

But the beauty of working with simple media—lines and words—is that the possibilities are endless. The combinations, the angles, the connections . . . I can wield my pen forever and never discover them all.

So, don’t mind me, I’m waiting to see where the pen will take me today.


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slow learner

I am a slow learner. A forgetful learner. A partial learner. A re-learner.

I find words I’ve written—pen strokes made with my very own hand—stating a lesson learned . . . but too often it’s one I find I’ve unlearned in the intervening minutes and days and years.

So I learn again. I read the words. I remember the impact of the realization. And I pray I might internalize a fraction more of what seemed impossible to forget the first time. I press into the practice of re-learning.

I’m a good student. Given a concept packaged with a syllabi and homework and tests I will demonstrate mastery. But I’m not a good learner. Slip the lesson into life, and I will make a mental note . . . and minimal application. As oil and water separate, new lessons and old habits kiss and part ways.

I need repetition: the same truth encountered in lesson . . . after lesson . . . after lesson. A constant stirring and blending of known and new.

The rhythm of practice builds my memory. I fielded ground balls over and over during softball drills to make the play routine in the middle of the game. I ran through scales over and over in band to hit the notes in the show. But in life the minutes of the day cannot be parsed into practice and performance. Each moment is learning and re-learning, practicing and executing.

And with the extension of grace to my forgetful self I see fragile growth. Muscle memory develops beyond the physical and spreads to the mental and spiritual. I am learning . . . slowly . . . with hiccups and hesitations and unexpected gains.

I record the lessons in their various iterations—slightly rephrased as new facets flash in the light of re-learning—grateful for each lesson learned that finds its way into the regular routine of the day.


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