"Everything good requires cultivation." ~ Christie Purifoy
When I scroll through my instagram feed and see the tiny little squares of my life line up in rows, grids, and pages, I recognize it as my own life, but only in a detached way: here is a homey scene, there is a stack of books, a smiling face, a romantic view. How tidy my life looks like this, how happy. There are no photos for the lonely days, the ones where I feel like a failure, when I want to escape from the life I've so carefully made. No photos to represent the faith that has shriveled, or the way it clings tenaciously to the brittle vine. No photos for the thin places of a marriage, when the old arguments have scraped and rubbed until they start to bleed. None for the sticky sludge of recurrent wrongs, for the blackness that settles over the heart on an ordinary day. It is a life in snapshot, carefully cultivated.
This week I've been reading Christie Purifoy's new book, Roots & Sky, in anticipation of its release. I'm part of the launch team - the group of people who read ahead, review and help promote the book so that it gets the publicity it needs to succeed. (This is the reality of modern publishing - we have to help each other or it won't work.) I tell you this, because sometimes when I see this happening online it looks like everyone else is in on a secret I don't know about, or that everyone suddenly has a case of uni-mind, except me. Or worse, as someone told me recently, there's a greasy kind of feeling about reading a post and realizing at the end it was actually an ad for something. I understand that feeling, I've had it myself, too frequently.
This is all a bit long-winded, but it's something that has been on my mind lately, this dance we do online, of showing parts, of making pretense about somethings and not about others. The ways we subtly mislead each other, intentionally or unintentionally. In some measure, it's inevitable. There's no way to show it all, and nothing good would come of it if we did - but I keep hoping we can find ways to interact honestly, transparently.
Everything we touch gets tainted with our humanity, with the mixed motives of our ambition and our vanity tangling with our compassion and our curiosity. This is our world, beautiful and terrible. But I think most of us are trying, choosing to look and see and help and share and be community for each other, and that's what keeps me here. Christie wrote: “Whether we speak of poems or paintings or places, all art acknowledges an absence and dreams of something other, something more. Art is the material form of hope.” Hope that today I can find another beautiful thing on which to focus my mind and eye, hope that we will again bandage the bleeding places and add another year to our commitment, hope that the blackness will lift one more time, hope that my faith will keep clinging to that slender vine. This is cultivation we are all doing together, as we write and read and like and share and respond and understand, however imperfectly.
Next week I'll have a book (maybe two!) to give away. In the meantime, you may find encouragement in this post from Christie. She lost her brother-in-law in the recent Marine helicopter crash, just as this book was getting ready to release. You'll find her hanging on, believing, leaning on that hope she wrote into existence.