Blank

Life is like a series of blank notebooks. You open one, and the pages are lined nice and straight. It has a pretty print on the cover. You write in it. You go outside the lines a bit, maybe scratch out a word or doodle. You abandon that one after just a few pages. Put it in the bottom of a desk drawer. Maybe you find it again years later. Maybe you tear out those first pages and start new, maybe you leave them and enjoy looking back. In the meantime, you’ve gotten a new sketchbook. This one doesn’t have any lines at all…the pages are a crisp, off-white, blank canvas. The cover is leather-bound, so it feels more special. You struggle to make the first mark. It feels like it needs to be significant. You stick with this one for a few years, only occasionally making progress through the pages. Eventually, you get better about just using it and not trying so hard. You know you’ll keep this one forever, because it taught you a lot, filling it with all those ideas.

After a while, you realize you’ve accumulated quite a few notebooks over your life. The ones from when you were young are scribbled in with abandon. The ones from your adolescence are a bit more careful, but with pages torn out and discarded, and usually only a quarter of the way full. Now, in adulthood, you’ve gotten a lot better about using your sketchbooks. You don’t buy new ones all the time just because they’re pretty or cheap. You make sure you approach them with purpose, but you don’t stress about it anymore, because they’re for working through things, making lists, drawings, rough drafts, doodles, and plans. Some of them get a little beat-up from lots of use. You realized a while ago that you maybe didn’t like the ones with too much structure, and prompts, and lines, and decorative designs. Maybe you like the blank ones, but the dot-grids are a nice middle ground. Some structure is good.

Can you picture this metaphor? Are there “notebooks” in your life that you regretted buying, tore pages out of, look back on fondly, passed along to a friend, actually completed and felt really good about? Replace “notebooks” with projects, experiences, lessons, seasons, etc. Every notebook that comes into your life is a blank canvas, sometimes completely, sometimes with a few guidelines, and it’s up to you to use it the best way you can. I guess this is a good metaphor for the beginning of a new month as well. It’s another new sketchbook to start with 27 more blank pages ahead. Happy May 🙂

Stillness

It’s easy to trick yourself into thinking you’re embracing stillness in life, but if it’s always stillness in front of a screen, it doesn’t really count. In the spirit of Lent (and the weekly theme from @astillsmallpoint ) I’ve been trying to embrace the more refreshing type of stillness by devoting more time to screen-less activities, such as trying to give more care to the living things I share a home with: replanting and propagating house plants, and spending more time with my pet bunny. I think they appreciate the extra attention.

My priest said in his sermon last Sunday that we would all benefit more if we focused on fasting from screens and guarding our hearts as much as we worry about fasting from various foods. He makes a valid point…food isn’t necessarily the biggest distraction from our spiritual lives for most of us in this age. I’m still pretty bad at picking up a real bible or prayer book instead of the ease of an app on my phone, but I’d like to try harder to separate those kind of soulful, important activities from the glow of a screen.

I’m thinking I might try an occasional “instagram blog” like this instead of always just linking away to an article on my blog. I know some people never really read blogs anymore, and prefer a long instagram caption, or maybe don’t even read the long captions, but I’m going to try this here and there anyway. I’ll still post this “mini blog” on my actual blog if you prefer to read it here, it will just originate as an instagram caption instead of the other way around. 🙂 Also, @elsielarson just released a new filter pack for #acolorstory and Moon Stone might be my favorite filter of all time.

(P.S. I haven’t used categories or tags on my blog at all yet…I sort of decided at the beginning to delay until I had posted for a while so that I could see what kind of categorizations would actually be useful and not overly specific, and then apply them retroactively. I think it’s about time I come up with those and get a bit more organized around here…)