Monday, April 21, 2008

The Tinderbox

I had every intention of getting up at 7 a.m. today. It’s Holy Monday for Orthodox Christians, so I wanted to up the ante a bit during these final days before Pascha (Easter) by working more diligently, talking less, fasting more, and turning my thoughts toward the Cross. High aspirations for this lowly sinner, but important ones. So, I set my alarm clock for 7 (instead of my usual 7:30) but I forgot to turn it on. I had told my husband my plan, so he did bring me my first cup of coffee at 7, but I didn’t touch it until 8. Usually my snooze alarm goes off every 9 minutes (weird, but true) and by the second or third time I’m up. Did I mention I’m not a morning person?

Anyway, what happened between 7 and 8 am explains why I couldn’t get up. I had too much to dream. Then came the dawn. And it was gone, gone gone. I wasn’t ready to face the light. I had too much to dream last night.

If those words sound familiar, you’re old like me. The Electric Prunes sang them in 1967. If you really want to go there, here’s a video. Not of the band, but just a guy dancing his socks off to this song. (Just click on the arrow to play.)

Anyway, I got up and wrote down the dream to email it to my friend who helps me with dream work. And then I went to my icon corner to pray. After reading the life of the saint featured in the 2008 Daily Lives, Miracles and Wisdom of the Saints Calendar, I read the quote for the day. This one's by one of my favorite saints, Isaac the Syrian. It’s about suffering. And the cross.
My husband had placed the palm branch from yesterday's Palm Sunday procession there. It's green, verdent, alive. I looked up on our wall of icons and saw the crosses my children had made from palm branches over the years, and thought about how easily the branches could be bent, and shaped into the little crosses, when they were new. But once they died, they dried out. So now they look like crosses of straw, easily breakable. And so I resolved, again, to let God shape me, bend me, mold me, before it’s too late. Before I’m too brittle, too breakable.

Maybe the words from Bridegroom Orthros last night helped.
Behold the Bridegroom comes at midnight, and blessed are those whom He finds watchful.
Waiting. Ready. Like the five maidens who had oil for their lamps. And the sinful woman in tears who anoints his feet. I want to be ready. But I know I need to be sober. To suffer a little. Like not taking off any edges, but taking my sorrow straight, like Iris Dement sings. All this talk about suffering always scares me. Again with the taking up of the cross and all that. Which is why Saint Isaac’s words helped this morning:

Behold, for years and generations the way of God has been made smooth through the Cross and by death. The way of God is a daily Cross. The Cross is the gate of mysteries.

The gate of mysteries. I want to go there. I’ve known a lot of people who thought the gate of mysteries was marijuana. Or other “mind-enhancing” drugs. But now I’m thinking that God didn’t leave anything out when he made our minds and they work just fine, so long as we don’t numb them. And yes, lot of artists and writers have been drug addicts or alcoholics. But I doubt the alcohol helped their craft. It probably just helped them make it through the pain of creating, if they were wounded, broken people. And of course we all are… but maybe the artists and poets and writers are even more broken. More fragile.

This last week of April is also the last week of National Poetry Month, so here’s another offering … one I’m penning as I write this post, so don’t expect anything very polished.

The Tinderbox

Like the moth, I dance
Too close to the flame,
Loving the heat, like the burn
Of good whiskey.

My tinderbox full
To overflowing with
Brittle memories, dry bones
Waiting for something to quench

The thirst that seems to never end
And can’t be sated with wine
Or even Tequila, as the worm
At the bottom of the bottle knows.

If I water the twigs with my tears
Will they come back to life,
To the Tree, to the Cross
And be free from the fire?

Or do they need more
To replenish the years of the
Drought, of my flight from
The Light to the mirage.

Maybe I need the oil of Unction
If I can but wait until Holy Wednesday—
For the relief of every passion
For the healing of soul and body.

Two more days with only my tears
To stave off the fire, but wait—
What’s that I feel?
The tears of Holy Mary

Mingling with mine until
They fill my cup and saturate
The contents of my


Anonymous said...

Wow, Susan... The Electric Prunes? You are such a funky-cool mix of ecclectic, unexpected references! Who the heck were The Electric Prunes?

Susan Cushman said...

The Electric Prunes were a rock band, only lasted from 1965-1970. Kenny Loggins was in it. You can read more here: But really their one big hit was "Too Much to Dream." Thanks for writing - I just found your blog for the first time and left you a comment.