Friday, May 27, 2011

Lessons in Solitude: The Scone That Fell, the cafe Prophetess.


[9:55 a.m.]

I am tucked away in an outdoor corner of the Wildflour Cafe, goat cheese/sundried tomato scone in front of me, coffee to the right, eavesdropping on the business meeting of two elderly folks seated at the table next to me. For the moment, things are peaceful. I am fed, caffeinated. The post-storm weather this morning is perfect.

The scenario just before this was slightly less calm. I walked into the bakery, met by the hurried, tell-me-what-you-want air that I so often felt as a barista when a customer seemed indecisive. I finally got my scone and sat down in the only empty chair - one with a table covered in supplies. The worker brought me my food, cleared the table and hurried back to her other customers. A few minutes later, a space cleared outdoors, so I quickly gathered my things to begin the migration before some other table vulture stole it. In typical Erin Dalton style, I attempted to grab all my things - scone, coffee, plate, camera, bag, Ollie the travel owl - and move them at once. (When is this EVER a good idea?)

I pushed the door open, took one step outside and flop! My scone slid off of my plate and flopped on the ground. [Perhaps "flop" is a terrible description of the scone. It's certainly not a half dead fish. "Swish." "Splat." "Thunk."] "Thunk." Now that's a better word.

So, "thunk," my scone hit the ground. The elderly couple (er, business people) sitting outside made a small, sweet ordeal about the event, with the woman running inside and requesting (Politely, mind you. This is Charleston.) another scone. The whole point of telling this story lies in her explanation of why we needed another scone:

"Hi, hello. We are going to need another scone for this young lady. You see, she was trying to do too many things at once and her scone fell off of the plate."

I immediately felt compelled to ask this woman how long she had been prophesying - could she be my sacred, spiritual mentor? Would she impart her wisdom on a more regular basis for me? Of course, I spoke none of these things aloud. This woman so well knew (or didn't know, really) what plagues my life above most other things: doing too much all at once. Trying to fill in every possible gap, feeling the rush of time and age, wanting to do it all before the possibility of no longer being able to.

If nothing else during these few days of solitude, I believe I am learning that the world still spins, lungs continue to breathe, life goes on living without my flailing attempts to do ten things at one time. And really, I understand that most things can't really be worked on in excellence, deep-seated thought, patience, diligence - if they are all being worked on in a fleeting manner - with the pressure of time and age growing larger than sitting peacefully and taking one thing at a time.

Madeleine L'Engle so beautifully stated (see quote below) that I do not have to do anything to earn God's love. He loves me exactly the same, whether I am busying myself with multiple projects or sitting quietly on the beach.

The question to myself is this: Do I still love myself whether I am busy or sitting quietly? And, if my professed identity is in Christ and Christ alone, is not this concept one in the same?

Christ loves me - is my identity - therefore, shouldn't I still love me?

I believe that just being - in taking joy that I am loved beyond measure - fruitfulness will follow.

I don't have to try so hard to find things to do, projects to busy my hands and lose sleep over at night.

I am content to know these things will come in their own time and birthed as they should be birthed if I will only seek rest and being with Christ.

This, today, is resurrection life. And I suppose it can start with making sure my scone doesn't fall off of my plate.

"We are loved because we are his children, because we are. The more we feel that we ought to be loved because it is our due or that we deserve it, the less we will truly feel the need of God's love..."

-- Madeleine L'Engle, "Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art" (pg. 72)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cosmo Dogs, Beach Town, USA.


[5:20 p.m.]

Jack's Cosmo Dogs.

Everything you're probably imagining and more. Blimps hanging from the ceiling with the printed logo. Paintings of hot dogs in space cars. Two huge rockets as the pillars for the sign out in front. Screaming children. 90's alt. rock. Overly-friendly grunge boy workers. I just filled my body with a Cosmo Dog, cheese fries and a Draft Root Beer Float.

Yes, folks. Beach Town, U.S.A.

My stomach already hates me.

My stomach can just get over it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Two Prayers in Solitude: Tea Break & A Lonely Room.

How long will we continue to ignore You, my God? Especially I, though outwardly giving an impression of put-togetherness, inwardly and privately do not run to You as I should.

I worry before I trust. I worry far too long before I trust.

I speak before I bring it to Your feet. I speak far too long before I bring it to Your feet.

I fear before I leap. I take far too many steps in fear before I take bounding leaps of faith.

Even a tiptoe of faith might help, but no. Fear drives me away, holds me shaking - bound to one place rather than into the passionate, unknown of my God, my Mystery, my Love.


Lord, I ask that You quiet my heart in this moment.

Push aside what You will so that I may see You in the ways You reveal Yourself to me.

If I am to go, send me.

If I am to stay, steady my feet.

If I am to speak, give me words.

If I am to be quiet, steady my tongue.

Only You know my heart.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lessons in Solitude: Stay or Leave? (A Two-Part)


Part I.
7:05 a.m.

I woke up at 6:15 today to catch the sunrise over Folly Beach. Beautiful, for sure, but I feel like I need to write prose and poetry of epic vocabulary proportions.


I'm just trying to decide whether or not I want to stay at the hostel another night.

Yesterday, after leaving the beach, I felt very ready to leave. Wait, need for clarification here: I mean, LEAVE leave - pack my car up and head back to Charlotte.

Wandering around a town where no one knows my name (except maybe now that espresso guy from Caviar & Bananas who has to take your name for orders. "Erin? Your kama chai sutra tea is ready.") can be an exciting idea at first. A town where I didn't set out to make new friends, just be in my own company. And yes, I am well aware that the purpose of my being here is to spend time in quiet, mostly silent, retreat.

Retreat from what?

I feel like I spend a great portion of my life chatting away. I teach, I perform and I love a good conversation. And not even good conversation in small doses. I could go on for a good many days before I feel the need for verbal break.

So what's a girl to do when this part of life is cut off? Throw in the towel and drive home? All of this wandering around, with no one knowing my's beginning to wear on me a bit. But I know I can't leave just yet. I'm not so dense or fickle that I do not recognize the need for lessons learned in not speaking.

As I was so gently reminded by a phone conversation last night (and yes - my rules of quiet retreat are upheld until 9 p.m. each evening, so I'm allowed to talk after hours), it is not easy shutting up long enough to feel the Lord's voice inside of oneself - to begin to view the world through a glimpse of His words and vision for me. It takes some serious adjusting.

So, Father. Creator. Speak in me as I fight to remain still today. Teach me what You will. Allow me to rest in You. Reveal Yourself in the quiet today.


Part II.
3:05 p.m.

I can't believe it took me this long to finally swim in the ocean. (And by "this long," I mean on this trip, not my whole life). Silly fears (silly, to me) have kept me back this time, a prime example being that I end up on the news as the most recent shark attack victim. Or what if a rip tide pulls me away and no one notices? So, I waited until a pleasant-looking family with boogie boards took to the water before I finally went in.

I honestly don't feel like writing at this moment. I just wanted to say that being in the water was really the only thing missing from this trip.

I haven't felt like talking much today. If nothing else, I feel God could be reminding me that it's okay to be quiet. It's okay to listen, to observe, to not fill the world in on every detail of my existence.

My God is pure. And true. And good.

I am thankful to be resting in this today.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lessons in Solitude: The Tongue, The Blessing & The Curse


"With it (the tongue) we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing." --James 3.9-10.

This is the most frequent portion of the Bible to enter my mind on a regular basis. I'll give you a hint as to why: I am in my car all the time. Driving. With other drivers. That's right, folks. I mutter (and sometimes not-so-mutter) very unnecessary, very selfish, very (here's the nice way of putting it) mean things directed at other drivers on the road. I know that I am far from alone in this, BUT that certainly does not make it okay. And every time something dreadful falls from my tongue, that good 'ole third chapter of James shows up to put me in my place. Which, in turn, puts me in an even fouler mood than before because now the blame is on me.

Not speaking today (for the most part) proved that I am still capable of driving even when I'm not cursing other drivers. I sighed a few times and made one or two annoyed noises, but, other than that, no verbal nonessentials.

As I was writing earlier on the beauty of so many different shapes and sizes on the beach, these are all stunning reflections of my God. He created each with such detail ~ and each with their own story, gifts, potential to change the world.

And yet I get angry at them because they don't drive fast enough. Real rational.

"My brothers, these things should not be this way." (3.10)

Yes, James, I know.