At the beginning of the summer—a.k.a.: the end of my freedom, if I were writing melodramatic prose—I prayed for a metaphor. A metaphor to buoy me through the upcoming months of kids at home, in my space, in all their kid-ness. I didn’t think of this on my own. Please. If I could think of this on my own I wouldn’t have needed to pray for a metaphor in the first place. I would have been happily creating and inserting them into every blessed thing I was still writing despite the kid chaos around me.
You see, about a month before the school year ended, I discovered the seed for a story germinating within. It’s a story I’ve been messing with for some time now; trailing it one way, pushing it another. Finally, for whatever reason, it landed in fertile soil. I became steward of this growing tale.
I had a month. A image-filled, creative-saturated month. Then they came home. And though it seems that logistically I should still be able to write—to steward the story—maybe at the library for a few hours a day, or down in my basement with a “NO KIDS” sign taped to the door, the reality has been very different.
Fortunately, about this time, I was reading Luci Shaw’s book, Breath for the Bones. This is where the idea to pray for a metaphor came from. Why a metaphor? Well, metaphors illuminate, bring dimension, direction, give meaning a fullness. Sometimes—a lot of times—I only understand deeply through metaphor, if the metaphor is a good one, anyway.
I fumbled around for several days searching for an accurate metaphor. I made lists, word maps, and journaled. Depending on the day, I vacillated between “English flower garden,” and “volcano.” Everything felt too extreme—but then again, I felt extreme: extreme anxiety, extreme annoyance, but extreme affection and enjoyment around my children, too.
I left it for a week or so.
Then, on June 11 (according to my journal), the word, ‘summertime’ came to me. Sounds original, doesn’t it (insert eye-rolling emoji here). I began playing with word associations. I word mapped it:
I left it. Then came back another day and underlined all the summertime association words that caught my insides the way a crochet hook catches silk yarn and pulls it through. I made a list of these words:
And then I wrote in my journal:
So, this is my metaphor? Summertime? A time for both rest and discovery; abundance and sometimes drought (hopefully not); vegetable and fruit harvests, and patient waiting. The time when blue finds its deepest hue and green becomes its most saturated self. There is activity but there is reflection, too. There is Sabbath in the same season as transition—the time between graduation from one reality and being inducted into another.
Summertime, then is a time between times. It is a space bar, dashes in an Emily Dickinson poem, travel by carriage in a Dickens novel. It is a waiting time but not like the waiting room in the dentist office or in line at Disney World. That is just plain ‘ole waiting.
Summertime isn’t anything like that. Rather it is a waiting time filled with its own life. It can be a time of rest because the transition and new beginning is already established. It can be explored, discovered, harvested from, feasted upon, and nourished by because it is NOT a bubble enclosed unto itself, but a garden and a shoreline—a meeting place; converging points of life’s essences.
Before this season—my summertime life—I was given a seed. A seed story to begin nurturing; to plant in good soil, to water, add nutrients, give sunlight, and protect from harmful intruders. I have been bent out of shape about the transition to summertime and thinking only of how I won’t be able to nurture the germinated seed. But I am wrong to think this way. Father, you gave me the seed in the right season. As I am faithful to You, the seed story will continue to grow and flourish as I fully participate in the fullness of my summertime metaphor.
I would love to say that is how this entire summer has been. Certainly, looking back at my many weeks of journal entries since then, I have seen evidence of abundant writing; even if it is only in my journal, and will likely never see the light of anyone else’s day but mine. But as summertime has progressed, so has the metaphor into places I’d rather not be.
Drought (it came).
Heavy pregnant clouds that bear down; building each day ’til bursting, unleashing their fury in horrible storms.
These too, are part of my summertime metaphor. And wouldn’t you know, they overwhelm all the abundant stuff that had come before. At least that’s how it seems to me.
I don’t want them–these other parts of the summertime metaphor. Quite frankly, I’m feeling a little bullied by them.
It has been two months since I have worked in earnest on my seed story. We have entered into that hot, muggy time of summer where there is nothing to do but watch the sky and pray for relief. I remember being a child watching my farmer father stand in the middle of our parched dying yard, looking to the sky, then out at his sun-burnt fields. I understand now, the weight of his gaze.
This isn’t like the kind of waiting I wrote about at the beginning of my summer. This waiting is a slog and a drain. It exhausts me, heckles me, keeps thundering in my ears of all the times I’ve failed these past months. I am tempted—so tempted—to cut out. Tear up the metaphor. I am terrified to see it through.
I turn more pages in my journal, back to early June, and I am reminded by artist/author, Makoto Fujimura, in his book, Silence and Beauty:
“It takes time to realize the fulfillment of the seed sown in our creative hearts.”
Then this, by Luci Shaw:
“As artist Christians, we must write the whole cycle into our work–the anguish as well as the celebration.” (from Breath for the Bones)
The whole cycle: seed, sprout, abundance… death, decay, rebirth.
Death, decay…then rebirth.
The metaphor in its fullness.
Silly me. I wanted a summertime metaphor truncated.
I am still terrified to see this summertime metaphor all the way through. But really, I am more terrified if I don’t.
Is there a metaphor being whispered (or thundered) into your life right now? Even after all I’ve shared, I implore you not to ignore it.
Copyright 2016 by Shari Dragovich