The Farm Wife’s God

Shepherdess with Her FlockI will not pass through your “angelic” doors to be made insignificant by your lofted buttresses, shining alters and painted glass. I will not feel small in this world (my world); the place where my mother walked with her mother back to the beginning of time. Keep your sky God … a never wandering…never breathing…never living God who lets his children slip through his fingers into hell flame and fire.

My God rests upon the world, an invisible guest filled with a heady love, riotous in his moments of childlike joy. As one we live a life of love and laughter, blessed by the magic of a stocked pantry and a well-made stove belching out good scents: hot fresh bread, new beef stew, hot apple tart pulled from the flames just as the crust turns golden. This is a Good use of fire, the right use of fire, a fire that feeds and nurtures as fire should. My God is a hearth God, an earth God, a plentiful smiling God, his feet treading the wheat rows at my side from planting to harvest.

During long winters, my prayers are answered with the birth of a child, the well-wishing visit of old friends and neighbors, the scent and flavor of roasted ham and salted lentils. My God is here, his feet under the table. He blesses us when the sun hardly shines and we have only our stories and each other to pass the time with.

So I say to you now, threaten no one with your false doctrines, black clad papist man. For fear has no place among the peaceful. I’ve seen your cathedrals rising high into the clouds, calling the frightened to worship in dread of hell fire and false magic.

My cathedral is my hand-made house. My pulpit, a faded arm chair by the fire.  My doctrine is the doctrine of the farm: rise early, feed good fodder, share your bounty with your neighbors, always close a gate and be kind even in the kill, for kill we must to lay our table. As the fire heats the meat, my God and I give thanks, and are humbled by the beauty and bounty of the day.

I need no sky God’s magic, no promised afterlife, no cathedrals dripping in gold to know that I am loved, heaven made and purpose bent. I need no holy man to guide me to the heaven I already know, not while the hills call, the cattle low and there are sheep to be sheered.

When my time comes, my God will lead me by my work roughened hands that have fed people, birthed people, raised up the sick and buried the dead before the setting of the second sun and he will know that I have always been grateful to be alive. That  being the very best kind of worship there is.

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Slaying the Princess to Feed the Dragon

Weight is a huge issue in America. It consumes us, eats us up and devours us whole. Weight consciousness maintains a mind bending strangle hold on every aspect of our lives.  We count calories, workout harder and diet more than any culture in the history of mankind and yet year after year we just get bigger. Our fixation on the waist line has led us to embrace personal betrayal. We have broken away from our own authenticity and turned our backs on self-respect, all in the hopes that we can blend into society’s idea of perfection.

At the age of seven I wanted to be a princess. I had the face, round with large eyes and rosy cheeks, but I lacked that slender physique which said, dainty, graceful, slim and resplendent. Due to my lack of, “dainty,” I lost sight of the pretty, couldn’t see the rosy cheeks or the large round eyes. At the age of seven I embarked on a 30 year career of yo-yo dieting, self-hatred and illness. With eating disorders in tow, I stocked my fridge with “health food,” took hot yoga, took spin classes, weight trained, aerobicized, ran, skied, biked and dieted my way into a ruined metabolism, adrenal fatigue and depression. In my depression I finally realized that I will never be a size two princess. I will never be “dainty.”

I’m farm stock. It’s that plain and simple. My people have been hauling hundred pound sheep and thousand pound cattle through sleet and blizzard, over hill and dale, for time out of mind. I am in no way related to the blue blooded, pampered princess types capable of feeling a pea through a dozen layers of eiderdown mattress. My people were not made “dainty.” We never have had…not once…a “dainty” sixteen inch waist or long “dainty” fingers. We are farm people, built to work, built to survive, built to procreate in large numbers and eat whatever was dumb enough to wander into our way.

Still, I let the princess take my life from me. For thirty years she lived in my head and told me if I just cut more calories, if I just worked out harder and smarter, I could earn the right to live. She told me that I was worthless, big and stupid. I felt defenseless to fight her. I felt alone and unlovable, degraded and disowned. With help I gained the courage to slay the princess, feed my dragon like hunger and rescue my farm girl self from the nether regions of hell.

Now I eat when I’m hungry and remind myself often that nothing’s worth doing if it’s not enjoyable. After a life of hellish self-abusive workouts and diet regiments, it’s nice to find out what feels fun. Over the past year I’ve learned that I still love to work out, I still love to hike, swim and lift weights. I take care of myself and I look and feel better then ever. I’ve turned my back on “dainty.” I’ve chosen instead to feel powerful, athletic, happy, whole and healthy at every size. I’ve pledged to love myself no matter my weight and you know what? That’s OK!

So with a new respect for myself and women as a whole I have begun my fourth novel, a book about a big beautiful farm girl who’s relationship with God, clarity in being and love of authenticity, is unparalleled. I’m writing Marie-Celest for all my fellow Farm girls. God built some of us bigger and stronger so let’s stop starving away our God given strength.

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What the Rain has Taught Me

Sun shines

and I bolt from the house

like a bird-freed from its cage

capering through my garden.

My thoughts beg the flowers to bud

the leaves to unfurl

the world to open up

blue sky and blinding day.

In light I remember what it was to be a child

bare foot in the grass

golden patterns filtering through branches

casting bright shadows across the lawn.

In blinding hues

I am the girl I was,

the woman I wanted to be

laced into a tight sundress and sandals

with red lacquered toes

too bright to be proper,

too free to care.

With sun comes heat.

Under its pressing warmth

I grow slow and lazy

flopping from lounge to chair

porch to sitting room

a glass

iced cold

pressed against my temple,

the phone or a friend

resting ever at my side.

Light makes me civil,

makes me social,

makes me the chatty companion I never am

when the rains come

and they come as surly as sun-set and death.

Rain comes on fierce wings

blown off tumultuous oceans

to fall with force from fat lazy clouds

or sting my face with fog

too heavy to maintain its ephemeral form.

With the rain comes the other self,

the turtle self;

a shell wearing, head hiding, self-cramming house dweller

too afraid to venture into the cold and clammy world beyond.

What is there to celebrate

when darkness creeps on moistened toes

to drench and smother all small joys?

I die in the rain

wilt and recede in its constant drizzle

my soul braking, shattering, glittering on the pavement

splashed across the surface

like the drops which wound me.

My soul free falls into the depths of black ridged winter

then vainly does my heart cling to artificial light

powerless to replace that blinding golden glow of summer?

The rain has taught me patience,

the value of old sunlit memories,

the necessity of an ever expansive inner world.

From long spells of impenetrable darkness

I know that no matter where I am or what I am reduced to

there is a place inside my mind

for a girl in a sundress

luminous under a full and fearless sun,

a girl who refuses to dream in monochromatic–rain dampened hues.

By EE Orme on surviving Seattle, the place where sometimes it rains longer than 9 months of the year.

What Phillis Wheatley Taught Me

Phillis Wheatley came into my life pressed between the pages of a rather lack luster anthology. I was twenty-one when I first sat down in my American Literature class ready to be thoroughly educated. My professor was young and handsome. He wore a tweed jacket with elbow patches and I knew that we would have great discussions that would change my life. I was right. My interactions with him would change my life.

The only Wheatley poem my anthology contained was the short but controversial,

On being brought from Africa to America

‘TWAS mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither fought now knew,
 Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
“Their colour is a diabolic die.”
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.

I read the poem with understandable concern. My white Gen-X background in no way prepared me for a woman who spoke with gratitude on having been taken from her family at the age of 7, sold into slavery at age 8 and then named after the slave ship which transported her. How she ever survived the long voyage aboard “The Phillis,” no one knows.

I sat in shock listening to my professor discuss the hardships of her life in blasé tones. He furthered the insult by saying that Wheatley’s poem was ironic. My indignation was instant. Nowhere in her words could I detect irony. I heard a fragile voice, as gentle as moonlight, singing out an ideology forced on her through hardship, a new and vengeful God coupled with the tortuous cruelty of slavery. Surely, no one with a heart could read this poem and honestly believe that Wheatley’s poem was ironic. Slowly I raised my hand, stated my case and flatly refused to back down.

My professor believed that his word was the last word on all subjects literary. My refusal to understand that Wheatley’s poem was ironic angered him so much that he began yelling “ironic” at me every time our paths crossed: In the hall, out on the green, in the parking lot. My reply to each and every one of his attacks was to simply say, “sincere.”

At the end of quarter, after turning in every paper, after aceing every quiz and test I received a D-. The girl who sat opposite me never turned in her papers, missed tests and didn’t read the assigned texts but was shocked to receive an A. I approached my professor, I stated that he’d switched the grades and he replied, “How very ironic?” Yes it was ironic that I should fail this simple class with my strong English background. Yes it was ironic that I should fight for a defenseless black poetess, and yes it was ironic that I, a woman, was forced to defend my belief before an empowered white male. I went to the Dean, I filed my complaint and nobody listened.

So this is what Phillis Wheatley taught me. She taught me that even when you’ve been bullied, brainwashed, stomped on and threatened you have to keep on speaking what your heart tells you is right. Since failing American Lit. I have become a lover of Wheatley’s poetry. In her words I find sweetness, beauty, and a refinement not of this world. Her voice is more tangible to me now than any grade. My soul is strengthened by her poem On Virtue. My love of art grows in her poem To S. M. A Young African Painter, On Seeing His Works. My favorite of her poems is simply entitled,

On Imagination.

Imagination! who can sing thy force?
Or who describe the swiftness of thy course?
Soaring through air to find the bright abode,
Th’ empyreal palace of the thund’ring God,
We on thy pinions can surpass the wind,
And leave the rolling universe behind:
From star to star the mental optics rove,
 Measure the skies, and range the realms above.
There in one view we grasp the mighty whole,
Or with new worlds amaze th’ unbounded soul.

Phillis is one of the reasons why I write about silenced women. Her history is part of why I will always take up a cause my heart recognizes as pure. Phillis could not speak out against slavery when she herself was enslaved but read again On being brought from Africa to America and notice how gently she presses the truth that we all have the right to find grace.

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The Covenant of Relational Intimacy Part 2

So what does the modern covenant look like? How do we swear to one another that we will stand against all peril, keep vigil and give solace when they are needed? The answer to this question changes with each individual experience. Though the word covenant means to cut a thing which is eaten, (break bread, offer sacrifice, feast,) its inherent meaning slices far deeper. Covenant is an act of coming together to prove we are not alone, that our individuality does not ensure loneliness and isolation. Covenant is the promise that someone, be it God, our spouse or our best friend, will always be there no matter what. Covenant is seen as a necessary component to relational intimacy because it is the promise of security, safe passage and safe harbor in a world fraught with storms.

How do you create a sense of safety, home and community in an ever expanding world? We must turn again to the covenant of relational intimacy, the sworn loves, fidelities and friendships that guide us, house us and keep us feeling safe.  Humans are born to enter covenants, to make packs, swear oaths, to love and care for one another, and to protect at the risk of personal sacrifice. Within true covenant friendships are not allowed to slip away.

The covenant of relational intimacy is the single most important thing you will do in life. Now we have the opportunity to do this on a global scale. Create community in every way you can. Educate yourself about the lands, beliefs and lives of others. Take advantage of this momentous time by immersing yourself in the flow of humanity; be it through twitter, spirituality or travel. Make time for conversation, even if you’re in a rush. Stop to ask a person how they are then take the time to really listen to their answer. Each interaction will feed your soul and expand your awareness of your place in the world.

I look forward to knowing you in this fast moving and fascinating time, maybe over coffee, maybe through the web. In the meantime, I’ll write about your loves, your courage and your covenants. I’ll write about the honor and strength it takes to become the person you were put on this planet to be. I’ll write about your losses and joys as our lives continue to weave through this modern age. It is our shared universal covenant that is the greatest epic story in the cosmos.

The Importance of Relational Intimacy

Society is centered on money and prestige. It’s that simple. Even if you were born a happy hippy kid raised on granola and kisses, by now you know that money=prestige=success in western culture. Our cultivated egos value expensive cars, big houses, designer clothes, and exotic destinations. From the moment we mature to the moment we die, the framework of our life is corrupted by the idea that material achievement is a necessary component of happiness.

We are the wealthiest society in the history of creation. This fact alone should ensure our happiness, and yet we are stressed and depressed because we place our values on things that will never love us back. We cultivate riches instead of enriching the relationships that heal us.

Western culture’s definition of mental health coincides with the dominant values of our culture: autonomy, independence and wealth. We are raised in this isolated society to stand alone, be rugged individuals and to be capitalist ground-breakers.  A healthier way of being productive would be to move, work and create within relationships. I am reading the book Silencing the Self, Women and Depression by Dana Crowley Jack and I agree with Dana that it is natural, not needy, to look for intimacy in relationships; to cleave to a lover, friends, family and community for support.

Women are far more injured by our western role models because a woman is raised to seek intimacy in relationship, to communicate her feelings, to trust in and nurture others. A man is raised to strike out on his own, to keep his feelings subdued, and to be strong, decisive and courageous. This male role model does not mesh well with the intimacy seeking communicative female model. The sad truth is that men need intimacy just as much as women do; they just aren’t raised to know it.

All of my manuscripts are based on the importance of relational intimacy. As a writer of woman’s fiction, I am constantly looking for new ways to show the beauty of deep sustaining love; between friends, lovers, brothers-in-arms, or sisters of a common cause. Nothing we do in life is more important than the people whose lives we touch with care. Intimacy unearths pain, supports healing and is more valuable than any amount of gold. You cannot take your riches with you to heaven, but you can take the love and compassion you’ve invested in others.

The Will to Write

When I was a little girl I dreamed of being a writer. The first thing I ever wrote was a water-color illustrated book on sea horses. I was five. What I didn’t know in those early days of creative freedom was that I had a learning disability that would over shadow every part of my education.

Because of my inability to spell, I was told that I would never be a writer. Because of my inability to pass math I was not allowed to take A.P. English classes. Because of my inability to pass Algebra I never graduated from University. You can only flunk basic math so many times before the kick you out.

The truth is that I loved school, I loved history and I loved English and despite all my “in-abilities,” I managed to make it on the dean’s list on several different occasions. I want to write this blog to tell anyone whose struggling that you don’t have to be a brilliant well-rounded “A” student to tell a story. What you do need is the passion and the will to be a writer; the will to take the time to write, the will to slow down and listen to your inner storyteller, and the will to see your story and your characters to their conclusion.