Sunday, May 13, 2007

Holding Open the Door

Thursday May 10:
I’m hosting a writing workshop in my home on Saturday. I prepared the room today, set up chairs in a big circle and end tables here and there to hold drinks and snacks. I chose 16 different coffee cups that people can use throughout the day, located sharpies to write nametags and names on water bottles and cups. I’ve grocery shopped already. I washed apples and grapes, found bowls for carrots, pretzels and trail mix. I vacuumed, cleaned the bathroom, set out Kleenex. My decks are swept, patio furniture washed, spider webs swept off stair-rails and outdoor tables. The writing exercises are prepared and packets are printed. Directions and reminders have been emailed. I’ve tried to attend to every detail.

As a host, I want everything to be accessible and enjoyable for my guests. Is it strange to pay such attention to preparing the space and the day, and to enjoy the process so much? Maybe hospitality is part of writing. Not too long ago I was reading Writing the Sacred Journey: The Art and Practice of Spiritual Memoir by Elizabeth J. Andrew. When she came to the part about revision, she spoke about being a good host in one’s writing, helping the reader feel at home, providing directions so the reader can navigate and feel welcome in the landscape of the written word.

I have learned that creating space in life and on the page for others opens doors for sacred and holy encounters smack in the middle of what appears by all accounts ordinary and mundane. I invite people to write for the better part of day, promise snacks and swimming, and they think, “That sounds fun.”

It seems safe enough, just a pen and paper and few hours writing about one’s past and thoughts in a beautiful setting away from home. But hah! Next thing we know, there are tears and exquisite laughter, and deep feelings, joy and pain, bubbling to the surface after ten or twenty or forty years and read to a room of strangers. There is recognition in the stories of others of the ways our stories, lives, and experiences intersect, our commonality amplified, our differences celebrated.

This is what I like best––in reality the workshops have nothing to do with me. I prepare the room, and writing suggestions, provide some guidelines for sharing, and hold open the door. In that space, while no one’s looking God sneaks in and does the things God will do, like removing the scales from our eyes, so that new light is shed on our lives. Talk about subversive behavior!

It is this devious divine that pulls me out of my introvert shell, shows me again the gifts shared and received in community, tells me that this is my work in the world.

Sunday May 13:
Thank you to all those who shared their presence and their words with me and the writing community we created yesterday. God was at work among us.


Kristin said...

Thank you, Cathy, for holding open the door for me and the others. For me personally, God was present and I feel deeply inspired by the process... with love, Kristin

Linda said...

Cathy, what a gift you have for inspiring others. Once again, your workshop provided a place where my muse felt safe to play. I enjoyed creating from my experiences and hope everyone else enjoyed my sharing. Thank you so much. Linda