Space to Create

IMG_6742

A few weeks ago I went camping. I hadn’t been camping in years, and it was good to have the opportunity to do it with people who were experienced with the wilderness.

During the day we hiked up to the top of a waterfall and looked out from the side of a cliff across a deep hollow at the tree-covered hills around us. It was beautiful and a little terrifying. One of the most memorable parts of the experience for me was simply the fresh air. It was delicious.

At night we slept under a tarp that was tied with cords to trees. The first night I slept very little, but that was okay. The cold air, the smell of nature, the bright moonlight were all inspiring, and the idea I needed for a story I had thought of writing came to me while I lay awake.

The next day, whenever I had a spare moment, I began to write the story. I had only brought one small notebook, which was actually for ideas rather than stories, but it was what I had, so I began writing in it. I wrote from the back so as not to mix the story with the pages meant for ideas. My friends were a little confused by that, but it was really fun to write on the small pages in the opposite direction of what is standard. The things I saw and did during the day filled in some of the gaps for the story, and I finished it a few days after we returned to civilization. It was just a short story, but it was a delight to develop.

Nature is so good at giving me the space I need to create. Do you ever feel your soul needs space? Details and duties often feel like they crowd my insides so that there is no room to work, but give me a wide open field and nothing to do or a moonlit forest in the middle of the night and there my heart and my brain have the freedom to roam and create.

I listened to a podcast this week. I don’t listen to that many podcasts, but now and then I take in an episode of The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. If you’ve talked to me in person the past several months, it’s quite possible I’ve mentioned this podcast to you. I find it soothing and inspiring and freeing for my soul. This week I went back and listened to the very first episode, titled Become a Soul Minimalist. In it, Emily talks about the constant inputs that our souls are exposed to, and she asks whether we have enough output. She talks about the need for silence. For me, that weekend of camping was like an extended silence for my soul, a silence that became a workshop. It gave me space to do something with the inputs of life, and that’s a beautiful thing.

I haven’t been taking sabbath as seriously in this season as I have in some past seasons, but I think perhaps that this idea I am talking about is part of the purpose of taking a day, or maybe even two days, off every week. It makes me think of that puzzle where the pieces of a picture are mixed up and you have to slide each piece one at a time into the single empty slot to arrange them in their proper places. Maybe our weeks or days need an empty space that allows us to shift all the other pieces around into something meaningful.

I don’t know what that looks like for you. For me it recently meant a camping trip with fresh air and a sleepless night that brought me a new story. I hope you will find your own ways to be silent and to find out what that brings you. Perhaps this season of quarantines and time at home can be just that.

If you’d like to listen to the podcast I referenced, you can find it HERE.

 

One Tidy Bear – A Short Story

One Tidy Bear

by Jennae Noelle – Copyright 2020

Once upon a time there was a big, brown bear who lived in the forest. He was a tidy bear who liked everything to be in order. He had a square cabin made of straight boards and a neatly thatched roof. Inside he had a place for his hat and a place for his tie. He had a place for his bowl and a place for his spoon.

He liked his schedule to be orderly as well. Every morning he made his bed and cooked a pot of porridge. After setting his bowl and spoon on the table, he put on his hat and his tie and went for a walk while his porridge cooled.

One day while he was out on his walk, three little girls happened upon his cabin. They had also gone for a walk before breakfast, only now they were lost.

“Oh, a cabin!” cried Celestia, who was the oldest. “Let’s be careful. Who knows what kind of people live here?”

“Just look at it! It’s so cute! Maybe there’s someone here who can help us!” cried Grendel, her younger sister.

Florence, their young cousin, didn’t say anything. Instead, she ran to the large green door and knocked on it three times much more loudly than you would have thought possible of her small fists. Celestia and Grendel came up behind her. They waited a few moments. Then Florence knocked again, even more loudly. No one came to the door.

“Let’s keep walking,” said Celestia.

“Maybe we should wait here in case someone comes home who can help us,” suggested Grendel.

Florence turned the shiny, gold doorknob. The door swung open, and she went inside. With a look at one another and a shrug, the sisters followed. The first thing they saw once they were inside was a bowl of hot porridge sitting on the table with a large spoon beside it.

“We shouldn’t be in here,” whispered Celestia.

“Surely whoever lives here will soon be back for their breakfast, and then they can help us,” suggested Grendel. “It certainly smells good. I’ve never been so hungry!”

Florence picked up the spoon and started to eat. The porridge covered her face as she put the giant utensil to her small mouth. Her cousins pleaded with her to stop eating, but Florence ignored them, and before the other girls could believe it, the porridge was gone.

“Well, now,” said Celestia, “let’s get out of here!”

“Yes, let’s go,” added Grendel.

The two girls walked out the door and quickly down the path. The little cabin was out of sight before they realized Florence was not with them. In alarm, they retraced their steps. They came back around the corner to where they could see the cabin just as the large bear reached his door.

The bear was surprised, on coming home, to find his door open. This bothered his strong sense of order more than it stirred any sense of danger. He stepped inside and closed the door with a motion that seemed to say, “There, that’s how it should be.”

Turning, he saw at once that his porridge had somehow jumped out of his bowl and was laying in small blobs around the table and on the floor. His spoon was covered in porridge and laying on his chair.

“Oh, dear! Oh, dear!” he muttered to himself as he turned to find a rag. He stopped mid-step, however, when he caught sight of his bed.

The blankets were laying haphazardly about it. One of them was even halfway on the floor. In the middle of the chaos lay a tiny little girl. The bear gasped. What was this?

Before he could move, however, his front door was opened from the outside and a shrill voice screamed, “Florence, wake up!”

“Run, Florence, run!” yelled another small voice.

The little girl on the bed sat up and stared at the bear in surprise. There was a moment of stillness, then the little girl left the bed in one swift motion and sailed out the door and through the woods. The two larger girls followed, though they were hard-pressed to keep up.

The bear went to the door and watched the girls fleeing through the forest, wondering who they were and why they were in his cabin. His curiosity lasted only a moment, however, before his longing to right his world drew him back inside, and with a contented sigh, he set about making a new bowl of porridge.

The End

 

 

 

 

 

Unexpected Inspiration: Levi the Poet

Have you ever heard of Levi the poet? I saw him live for the first time several years ago during his Christmas tour. The tour, called Your Friendly Christmas Tour, was a series of shows in people’s homes. Friends of mine were hosting. There were snacks and coffee. Dan Smith and Kris Rochelle sang for us. Levi spoke his poems. Afterward we all sang carols together at the top of our lungs. There was something of community in what happened that night.

Why am I telling you this story? Because to me Levi the Poet is doing something unique and beautiful. I had never before gone to a show to hear a poet perform. Writers don’t usually go on tour, not in the way musicians do. Yet, here was Levi, writing words that were not meant to be read, but to be heard.

His delivery was powerful, more powerful than the words themselves, I think. His content was darker than I generally enjoy, but there was a rawness about it that spoke to me. His poems showed value for humanity, mourning the struggles and heartache that we live through. He welcomed his audience with his stories and his humor. He made us feel that we belonged in the world, that our hurts and problems and quirks were normal and had value.

Thinking back on the evening, there were several things that have stuck with me. Firstly, the fact that spoken words are a beautiful thing, and they don’t have to be set to music to be powerful. Secondly, the desire to play more in my own poetry and to use it for the purpose of capturing and conveying experience. Thirdly, the desire to enjoy poetry and story with others more often. There is something about recitation and reading aloud that brings people together in a beautiful way, rather like a good meal.

The world can use more spoken poems, and more house shows, and more people who welcome you as you are. I’m thankful for the experiences I’ve had with each of these, and I’m thankful for people like Levi the Poet who bring them about.

(Psst! If you’d like to see what Levi the Poet does, his website is levithepoet.net.)

 

 

Bess Streeter Aldrich – A New Find

I discovered a new author recently. I happened to pick up one of her books off the shelf in the library. I’ve been wanting to read short stories, but I haven’t known where to start. People don’t go around saying, “Read this short story! It’s really good!” Or at least no one has said that to me. (If you are reading this and you have a favorite short story or author of short stories, please send me info!)

The book I found was called The Collected Short Works, 1920-1954. Obviously, this book contained short stories, so that caught my attention. The description of the author said she wrote about family life, which is something I enjoy reading about, and the time frame of her writings interested me.

It took me a while to open the book as I was reading other things, but once I did, I was captivated. The first story I read was called The Little House Next Door. The first paragraphs caught my attention with their creative descriptions. As I continued to read, I was struck by how down-to-earth the stories were and yet full of humor and surprise. Aldrich was skilled at developing characters in a short amount of time, and I enjoyed every story I read in that collection.

At the beginning of the book, there was also a short biography about Aldrich. The biography stated that she was able to sell every story she wrote, which is incredible! Some of the stories were never published due to issues in the publishing house, but she was still paid for them. Another thing I thought was interesting is that she was writing during a time of war, but she did not write about war. She believed people wanted to read about something different. Overall, I was very inspired by both her and her stories.

If you’ve never heard of Bess Streeter Aldrich, I recommend taking the time to read some of her work. I look forward to reading more myself.