Deep Snow

Woah. Once again, this season at home is over and I am leaving behind the familiar to set out into the unknown. I look at Islander and I am sad to let him go. But even though our time together was short, I know it was meant to be. I guess that’s what I’m learning about life: no season lasts. Something in me wants this season to carry on a while longer—this time spent learning to speak Islander’s language, playing boardgames with my brothers, going on dates with Dad and to horse clinics with Mom—but, like the trees and their leaves that fall, I do not control the tides of my destiny.

I’ll be honest, I feel little. I am leaving to live in a place where I know no one, to give my whole self to strangers . . . even as I know I have absolutely nothing to give them. But this is good. Good because in my littleness I must run to He who is big. And Abba has everything to give.

Into deep snow I plunge (literally), but also into a new beginning. Spring is coming.

Beautiful Dust

You are dust and to dust you shall return.

It seems a bizarre and far-off prospect, that day when this body I know so well will be like the dust on which I now walk. And yet I believe those words above go beyond the physical—and when they are interpreted as spiritual, they become an in-the-moment reality.

We are called to return to dust today, for unless a grain of wheat falls to ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.

It is death of self. It may mean simply wiping clean a sticky spot on the floor, or coming when the six-year-old calls. It may be more difficult, like shutting down the computer before you’re pulled into a sinful habit, or placing a hundred dollars into the collection basket. Every moment we choose to die is a moment when a new fruit comes into existence and is fixed into history—not only your personal history, but the universal history too. Souls pulled from darkness by the love discovered in your eyes, your hands, your words. Beautiful things can come from dust. It must be why, way back in Eden, God looked at the dust beneath his feet and thought, Ah, now from this I shall bring into being my greatest creation. And man was born.

Every moment you choose to die—and in doing so bear fruit—you are sharing in God’s creative power. And how great it is indeed.

On to Another Island

Knock and the door will be opened. Few times have I experienced this truth as I did last week.

It has been burning on my heart—the desire to go to Prince Edward Island. Even before I left Nahant, I asked myself what I would do afterward, and like a spark flaring in the dark, this thought came: to Canada’s smallest province I would go. Since then, the desire has only grown.

Last week I finally decided to connect with fellow Catholics on PEI. Little did I know, but the night before I sent my email, a husband and wife prayed that God would send help into their bustling life . . . and that the Holy Spirit would make His will clear.

My email was forwarded by one kind woman to her friends, certain there would be a family among them who would accept my offer to live with them as a “family missionary”. She was right.

I spoke on the phone with the couple soon after I received their reply. Seven kids, homeschooled, living on a wooded acreage outside Charlottetown—and they love to go on spontaneous adventures. I think it’s safe to say this match was made in Heaven.

Wonder of wonders. I realize now that I can trust that burning desire on my heart . . . because it was planted there by God. I cannot tell you how beautiful it is, how awe-inspiring, to be aware that He is unfolding His plan before my eyes. My years at home after high-school taught me to find purpose in doing little things with great love, which prepared me to live with my four Italians on Nahant—which prepared me to live with an even bigger family on PEI. At this rate, it looks like I’ll be running an orphanage next.

Yes, knock and the door will be opened. I’m taking that one much more seriously now. Not long from now, much sooner than spring, I will again find myself soaring through the sky, bound for the unknown.

Building a Bridge

Islander no longer lives alone on his island. Today, I sat on his back.

Funny, I thought he would merely be a fun project that I would sell in the spring . . . but he’s more like a chisel on my character. God may have tricked me into this. I’m glad He did. Painful, but necessary . . . and I love the island. Or rather, I love what it means to have crossed onto a feral animal’s land without being kicked off (literally). I am rising to the challenge offered me—although I almost didn’t. When I used the word feral, I meant it. But it was my mother who urged me to not back down. There’s an anointing on that horse. He is part of your formation. 

And so he is. As I am forming him, he is forming me.

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The Old-Ancient Feeling

I call it the old-ancient feeling.

Old because—at a random sight, sound, smell, or touch—you return to a moment in your childhood . . . and ancient because it simultaneously transports you back to a time long before you were born. Suddenly (maybe this time it is a color that ignites the feeling) you are a baby on a kitchen floor, sunlight falling hazy on your head, pungent thyme wafting from your grandmother’s cupboard . . . even as you are there on the day thyme was first discovered high on a mountain.

It is strange, first to relive a moment that has, for years, been buried inside you—and then to experience that same familiarity with that which you’ve never known. An ancient place. Like Heaven. Yes, I believe the old-ancient feeling is ultimately pointing to Heaven. How can we call home a place we’ve never ventured? Yet we know we belong there, just as I know what it is to be deep in uncharted territory, ripping up herbs.

Is this proof that we are as spiritual as we are corporeal, living beyond these tangible limits? Thyme beyond time. I believe so. But even more a mystery . . . I believe the feeling is not a mere feeling, but in fact He who is called the Church’s living memory: the Holy Spirit Himself.

He reawakens in us that which was destined to be from the Beginning: truth, goodness, and beauty.

Stars in My Skies

The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey. It was as though they had always been waiting for that star. —Pope Benedict XVI

I read that quote and my heart burned within me. I want to live with such abandon. A willingness to chase not empty dreams but those stars that the Lord sets in my skies. Go where He points—but not simply to find personal fulfillment, because I believe that every risk I take in His name is preparing me to be courageous in the times ahead, when every Christian will be called to stand out as brilliant lights in the darkness. If we choose to conceal our light, we will indeed be safe from persecution—but not saved. If we choose to radiate, we will lead others to Christ, just as the star over Bethlehem led the Magi to the Child.

And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; and those who turn many to righteous, like the stars for ever and ever. —Daniel 12:3

Shifting Landscapes

My first morning home, the fields surrounding our acreage were purest white, wheat stalks like upturned icicles. Fog on the horizon blended the cloud-smudged sky into the land, not unlike the Atlantic’s horizon. Burdened by the thickest frost I’ve ever seen, the trees bordering the road were bowed low and would have groaned had they lungs. Saskatchewan may not be Nahant, but it can be a little like Narnia.

Christmas Eve has always been magical to me, but in a deeper way this year. While away from my family, I had dreamt about being together again, drinking tea by the twinkling tree. Thus it was a strange but beautiful thing to find myself living that dream after Midnight Mass. Our only light was provided by strung lights entwined in the tree’s branches and candles arranged on the coffee table. The smells of baked ham and yam from supper lingered still. We prayed together, gazing upon the creche, and then Father picked the chords to O Come Let Us Adore Him on his guitar, and we sang. After night-before-Christmas presents were opened, each child owned a faux fur blanket. Wrapped in these, we shared stories late into the night.

A few days later, there we were again, gathered around the tree, sipping apricot brandy in celebration, because we ten will soon be we eleven: my older sister, the oldest Mallett child, now wears a blue topaz ring on her left hand. How surreal it is to me, even as it is the most precious gift this year—a new son for my parents, a new brother for my siblings and me, and a remarkable husband for Tianna. As young girls, my sisters and I often play-acted a chaste re-telling of Titanic, each with our own Jack. I think it speaks profoundly about the desires burning within a girl’s heart—and how God fulfills them—by the fact that Tianna’s fiancé very much embodies her childhood Jack.

The landscape has shifted and will continue shifting—physically and metaphorically. My sisters and I—we are women now, no longer children in dress-up clothes. We are free to fly where the Lord wills. Where once the possibilities would have overwhelmed me, now I am exhilarated by what may be. And so, as I await my next adventure, I’ve acquired a horse.

A young dun, barely handled by humans. I’ve named him Islander. I may sell him in the spring to pay for a flight to some distant land where the hills are green, or I may keep him. Who knows what lies ahead—except a wedding, when the snow has melted.

In some ways, it feels like I never left this place, like those three months in Massachusetts never happened. I often find myself fingering the sea-glass necklace given me by my host family—proof that I really was there. But even greater proof is that, even in the stillness found on the prairies, an ocean is falling in waves upon my soul.

Sea Glass in My Heart

Don’t tell anyone, but in the pouring rain and darkness before dawn, we drove to the wharf, and there, protected by berthed vessels, I dumped a shattered plate into the sea. Now every time my four beloved Italians find a fragment of royal-blue sea glass, washed up on the shore, they will think of me.

My shoulders heaved in sobs as the light of the wharf lamps flashed off the tinkling glass, waves swallowing my offering in rushy gulps. I lingered a moment to gaze far across the water to Boston, its towers glittering like Christmas ornaments. I remembered the time I asked my hostess why cities glitter by night, but neither she nor I knew the answer. Clutching the empty bag that had held the plate, I returned to the van, not to smell the sea again for a long time. We were gone from the island (my island) before the sun had risen to shed its light and let me see Nahant one last time. But I will not forget its beauty. Yes, that is what I discovered there—beauty. Beauty in the world and in people . . . and in myself.

As I lifted into the sky, bound for Canada, I said goodbye to soil that nourished me, allowing me to blossom. My prayer is that I left a few petals in my wake. By the tears of my beloveds, I believe I did.