Heart, mind, and body captured. This is me, resting in a special chair, looking up from the words in my hand, dancing inside at the thoughts and feelings flashing in my mind’s eye.
Because I have read and written in three specific chairs, I am compelled to write the Captured Blog.
Chair #1: Introduction to Poetry Class, Crandall University
The rustling quiets. Dr. Greg Maillet clears his throat. He motions for us to pick up Frances Mayes’ The Discovery of Poetry: A Field Guide to Reading and Writing Poems.
I hold my breath in my hard gray chair, somehow knowing change is in the air. Dr. Maillet intones that we are to read Billy Collins’ poem in the Introduction.
Tuesday, June 4th,1991
By Billy Collins
By the time I get myself out of bed, my wife has left
the house to take her botany final and the painter
has arrived in his van and is already painting
the columns of the front porch white and the decking gray
It is early June, a breezy and sun-riddled Tuesday
that would quickly be forgotten were it not for my
writing these few things down as I sit here empty-headed
at the typewriter with a cup of coffee, light and sweet.
I feel like the secretary to the morning whose only
responsibility is to take down its bright, airy dictation
until it's time to go to lunch with the other girls,
all of us ordering the cottage cheese with half a pear.
This is what stenographers do in courtrooms, too,
alert at their miniature machines taking down every word.
When there is a silence they sit still as I do, waiting
and listening, fingers resting lightly on the keys.
Under the music I can hear the rush of cars and trucks
on the highway and every so often the new kitten, Felix,
hops into my lap and watches my fingers drumming out
a running record of this particular June Tuesday
as it unrolls before my eyes, a long intricate carpet
that I am walking on slowly with my head bowed
knowing that it is leading me to the quiet shrine
of the afternoon and the melancholy candles of evening.
If I look up, I see out the window the white stars
of clematis climbing a ladder of strings, a woodpile,
a stack of faded bricks, a small green garden of herbs,
things you would expect to find outside a window,
all written down now and placed in the setting
of a stanza as unalterably as they are seated
in their chairs in the ontological rooms of the world.
Yes, this is the kind of job I could succeed in,
an unpaid but contented amanuensis whose hands
are two birds fluttering on the lettered keys,
whose eyes see sunlight splashing through the leaves,
and the bright pink asterisks of honeysuckle
and the piano at the other end of this room with
its small vase of faded flowers and its empty bench.
So convinced am I that I have found my vocation,
tomorrow I will begin my chronicling earlier, at dawn,
a time when hangmen and farmers are up and doing,
when men holding pistols stand in a field back to back.
It is the time the ancients imagined in robes, as Eros
or Aurora, who would leave her sleeping husband in bed,
not to take her botany final, but to pull the sun,
her brother, over the horizon's brilliant rim,
her four-horse chariot aimed at the zenith of the sky.
But tomorrow, dawn will come the way I picture her,
barefoot and disheveled, standing outside my window
in one of the fragile cotton dresses of the poor.
She will look in at me with her thin arms extended,
offering a handful of birdsong and a small cup of light.
I think, “Can writing really be this beautiful, yet this simple? So holy and yet so everyday?”
My eyes flicker open in a new way, attune to the poems all around me and inside me, ready for dictation by eager fingers.
Chair #2: Chair Just Outside My Hospital Room
I try to focus my mind. It is an effort in futility. Today I am leaving after three months in the Psychiatric Wing. I still have to gather my things. My family is waiting down the long hall.
To be leaving feels like springing out of prison--intensely liberating and absolutely frightening. I feel exposed as the supports peel away, and I’m left to either stand or fall. I wonder what the verdict of my life will be. I sit frozen in this wide, white chair.
I take out the letter I wrote myself earlier in my hospital stay:
From: Yesterday’s Laura
To: Tomorrow’s Laura
I look over a letter full of gibberish. These comments make no sense now that I can think straighter. I want to throw the letter away with Yesterday’s Laura. I find a desire to write a new story, one that transfigures all that I’ve gone through here and helps others. But words and images, even punctuation, are too painful now. They terrorize me, with association after association battering into my brain.
I slip the letter in a small cardboard box that has my room number inscribed on it.
I will take Yesterday’s Laura with me.
One day I’ll be strong enough to write again. For now, I will take pictures with my iPhone, capturing like a Polaroid the beauty around me.
I stand up.
Chair #3: My “Whispering Spot” Chair in the Upstairs Book Nook
It’s five years later, and I’m finally restored to health; but the pandemic has shut down the world and we're starving for hope. I have just finished watching a sermon from Jeff Brodie talking about making a “whispering spot,” a chair someplace quiet where God can whisper to you.
I fiddle with the bookmark in my Bible as I sit on the edge of the plush green chair. What if God actually speaks? What if I really have to listen and do something too hard? What if people think I’m crazy again?
I hear the words, closer than my breath and my thoughts, I love you and I am with you.
I read the words from 2 Corinthians 5:11-20:
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.
We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.
If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
And then another whisper: Write to reconcile.
The motto of my blog is "capturing the everyday holy." I believe God can be found in every moment of everywhere, including in the grey chair of my everyday life.
When I look for him everywhere, even in the white chair of my troubles and setbacks, He is ready to be found and shows up in surprising ways.
And then as I rest in my green chair of contemplation in God’s presence, I am compelled to capture those everyday holy moments, in the hope that some would return to their Heavenly Father, including the prodigal soul I find inside.