Reading & Writing a Life

Carla Pineda's blog

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Granny’s Prayer Book

I am spending a quiet Saturday afternoon in my writing room.  A beautiful CD of Women’s Sacred Chants is playing.  I have been traveling through a flash drive of writings from the past.  Some of them I remember, others I wonder where they came from.  But this one, “Granny’s Prayer Book” I remember writing in deep recesses of memory.  It moved me to write it and moves me reading it again nearly 6 years later. 

It is worn.  Tattered.  Well used.  Deeply loved. 

My cousin Betsy has my Granny’s prayer book…1928 Book of Common Prayer, worn black leather.  The gold cross on the front is barely visible from years of her hands being  placed there to open and close its pages. 

It is worn.  Tattered.  Well used.  Deeply loved.

Her name is written in it.  Her addresses are listed, one under the other as she moved from place to place.  Moving was a part of her life.  She moved 36 times in her life my cousin said.  Granny said that when one moved one of the first things you did when you got to your new home was find a church home.

Her prayer book falls open to the prayers for the family.  The spine, held together by loose threads is fully exposed at this place.  It was here that she spent much of her time with God.  There are pages missing.  There are pages yellowed by the tape holding them together.

She had many reasons to pray for her family.  Prayer was her survival tool.  She lost her mother when she was a little girl.  She helped raise her younger brother.  She struggled through the alcoholism of family members, times of unemployment and the depression.  She helped raise the daughter of her nephew when she was in her 60’s.  She outlived three of her four children. 

“It should never be this way, she said, “that I survived three of my four children.”  Yet, she never lost her faith.  She always carried on.  She always thought of others.  She always gave of herself.  Her worn, tattered, well used and deeply loved Book of Common Prayer is a living reflection of this truth. 

May my Book of Common Prayer be so worn, tattered, well used and deeply loved.  And may my life be a reflection of the one she modeled for me…and for so many others.

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When I Write

Going along with “Why I Write” to “When I Write”…this is from a writing exercise I did in July 2005.

When I write I feel the scratch of the pen crossing the page and I wonder what I will read when I get to the end of the line.  When I write I sometimes feel challenged, sometimes set free, other times I cringe at the idea of writing, thinking I have to say something profound .  When I write I want to just write, to let loose on the page, not fret over structure, spelling and such.  At least not for now.  When I write my heart wants to soar, to take off singing words to plan on the page.  When I write I scan the surface of things around me for food.  I want to dig deeper, deeper into me to dig up, pull out the voice that is me, who am I when I write?  What does my voice sound like?  What does she have to say?  When I write i see the blank page, clear, white, no lines and I want to freeze.  When I write I see objects around me and I write to deeper, deeper down into life that surrounds and penetrates me, makes me who I am and helps shape who I can become.  When I write I see the possibility of depth, of deeper meanings and stronger connections.  I don’t always see this at the time I am writing, often I see in retrospect, over my shoulder, through the lidded eyes of sleep when my brain is at rest and my heart breaks open.  When I write I see, or am more likely to see with the eyes of my soul.  When I write I discover new connections and re-realize old ones.  When I write I know more than I think I know.  When I write I discover m, over and over again.  When I write I discover we are connected in ways I would have never imagined, you and me, me and them, us and nature, the world we live in.  When I write I discover we do more than just exist.  We are greater than we know.  I discover God in life when I write, God in the tiniest flower or in the glorious rainbow.  When I write I discover the joy of discovery itself.

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Why Write?

I have been away from here for far too long.  No, I haven’t stopped writing.  I just haven’t been here.  The other day I was going through files on one of my flash drives and came across some things I had written about 5 years ago.  This is one of them, written in June of 2005.  It was 5 years ago, but yesterday.  It is old thoughts but not. 

Why write?  Why not?  Someone has to, needs to, to keep some form of communication going, to see what spills out onto the page.  If I write I might surprise myself.  Samantha just called.  She is talking to her dad, her voice carrying over the phone to my end of the couch.  I keep writing, one line at a time to reveal me to me.  Sometimes I think this is such a waste of time, to write for why I don’t know, but I keep coming back to it.  I cannot not do this.

The air conditioner hums in the background, the TV is silent.  Paul, now off the phone is reading.  I am writing.

The couch is scattered with books, a pen, the digital camera, a TV remote, a cell phone.  These are some of the trappings of a modern day existence for me, yet also things of substance and stability.  The written word and tools to write, these I need.  Pens, my journal here in my lap, don’t leave home without it.  One never knows when the writing bug will bite and the need to put pen to paper will take over.

Why, oh why do I write?  Do I want to write?  Need to write?  I write to see into clarity, to understand or to question the hows and whys.  How do things come into being?  Why are we here?  What is to become of us?  Of me?

This all seems like such babble but a baby must babble first to begin the foundation of speech.  Isn’t the same true for the writer?  Don’t we babble ourselves through nonsense into clarity?  Into fuller and deeper written words?

I write to catch moon beams off the crescent sliver in the night sky.  I write to calm the dry dusty desert windstorm blowing through my soul, stopping up my ears, making it hard for me to hear the deep voice of sanity.  I write to calm my mind, to gain direction, to get off the merry go round, or maybe to get on it, to seek adventure, to see where the spinning wheel will stop.  I write for my mother and Minnie, to carry on a familiar yearning, this blood deep need to write.  Some days this feels like a curse, other days, blessing and gift.  Some days I can ignore it, but not for long.

What happens when I don’t write?  My body aches, my soul parches, even reading about writing is some help.  It is a tease but it leads me back to the page or the computer again.  How does this writing, just for the sake of the practice shape me?  Us?  Shape our lives?  Our souls?

Reading and writing a life..We read, we write, we write, we read.  Our thoughts and the thoughts of others, weaving together, insights and aah’s…yes, that fits, no, that’s a discard…keep writing…see where you end up.  There really is no beginning or end…Writing is this ongoing  journey, a spiraling into, going deeper, coming up for air, for insight, with new questions, then going back to the blank page.