I’m reading All the Way to Heaven: The Selected Letters of Dorothy Day. Dorothy, founder of the Catholic Worker, was a writer in all senses of the word. She said:
The reason we write is to communicate ideas … We must overflow in writing about all the things we have been talking about and living … Writing is an act of community. It is a letter, it is comforting, consoling, helping, advising on our part, as well as asking it on yours. It is a part of our human association with each other. It is an expression of our love and concern for each other. *
Is that not fantabulous? It encourages me to, again, let my life overflow into my writing.
It’s been a week filled with emotion and anxiousness, but also prayer and blessings. Wednesday was my 12 year anniversary of being diagnosed with cancer.
It’s a beautiful anniversary, because without it, I would no longer be on the planet. But, it’s also a difficult anniversary. It was such an unexpected, glaring indication of my mortality. And, boy oh boy, a cancer diagnosis isn’t just dipping your toes into all of that. You are thrown into the deep end of the pool. The shock of hitting the water takes your breath away. You submerge. But then, face out of the water, you float, and slowly learn to swim.
This year I had a CAT scan scheduled for my anniversary. How’s that for good planning? (laughing) I didn’t choose the date, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have chosen it had I been the scheduler. Still, in many ways it turned out to be the perfect date for the test.
Dorothy quotes Catherine of Sienna, “All the way to Heaven is heaven, because He said ‘I am the Way.’ “ Then she offers her wish — may heaven be in your heart today. *
The CAT scan, on my anniversary, heightened my fear and worry about the unknown. Out of necessity, I worked harder, surrendered more deeply, and prayed with greater fervor for heaven to be in my heart as I went about my day.
I was patient with the receptionist who seemed to be struggling with her own tiredness. I smiled under my mask and chuckled at my goofy comment to her. I chose to be peaceful as I waited — eyes closed, breathing with purpose and prayer. Then Miriam called me and walked with me to the CAT scan room. Miriam is a funny, talented nurse/tech — who knew what my brown scapular was. She laughed, talked, listened, and brought a bit of heaven to me, and boy oh boy am I grateful! Now I wait with hope.
I came home and crawled into bed for a much needed nap. I awoke to snow. I love snow! It’s beautiful and altogether magical. I fell asleep later that night to the delicate pings of the snowy mix against my windows.
The next morning, I bundled up and headed out to shovel. I remain easily fatigued, and not feeling totally well, but, how could I not go out into that cold, bright, beautiful, snow-filled day? Shovel in hand, I considered ignoring my fatigue and overall feelings of malaise. Thankfully my wiser self prevailed. I did slow, steady work, capturing ridiculously tiny amounts of snow in my shovel. And, I rested — a lot.
My work and rest routine turned out to be a great gift! The white of the snow was a perfect foil to the texture, shapes, and color of the grasses, berries, seed pods, branches, and flowers that surrounded me as I rested against the end of shovel. The seed pods and flowers provided pockets and pedestals for the ice to take shape. My stillness in the quiet enabled my ears to the hear the sounds of the bird’s flapping wings and chirping songs.
I gleefully snapped shots during each of my rests — sometimes resting more just to photograph. I purposefully chose brilliantly white snow-filled backgrounds with little extraneous visual noise.
When I finished, I sipped hot cocoa and crafted a poem. Hoping to encourage the feeling of soft peaceful silence, I used only lowercase letters. It was funnily jarring to change the uppercase I to lowercase. But, on my second or third read, I settled into it, appreciating the sense it gave that I am very small in this magnificent expanse of life, and snow.
brilliant white snow
piercingly cold air
beautiful soft silence
by the birds’ wings
and sweet songs
shovel, rest, breathe
my breath deepens
squinting in the light
shovel, rest, breathe, look and listen
i notice a plethora of details
texture and structure
subtle changes in hue and tone
color where I thought there was none
not always perceived
shovel, rest, breathe, look and listen, notice
i am in awe
of the details
and the gifts
of God and nature
shovel, rest, breathe, look and listen, notice, marvel
to capture them
shovel, rest, breathe, look and listen, notice, marvel, photograph
i imagine and feel
sparkles of joy
with each gift
noticed with wonder
captured with gratitude
shovel, rest, breathe, look and listen, notice, marvel, photograph, be grateful
It is incredibly important to fill my days with rest, breath, noticing, wonder, awe, and gratitude.
It is absolutely necessary to acknowledge my awesomeness and strength, as well as my tiredness.
It is essential to be kind and merciful to myself, and others.
As a human, sister, daughter, teacher, learner, writer, creative, artist, coach, and every other thing I am, and way I interact in this world, there is incredible value in silence, brilliant light, kindness, having heaven in my heart, and bringing it closer to others.
I join Dorothy in her wish for the world — May we all have heaven in our heart.
*Both quotes are from All the Way to Heaven: The Selected Letters of Dorothy Day by Robert Ellsberg