Saturday, November 26, 2011

Barbara Crafton and her Almost-Daily eMos

Next Saturday we will be graced with the words and presence of Barbara Crafton, who is an author of several books, workshop leader and much more. She will lead us in an Advent retreat day at St. Paul's.  For those who follow her, you know she sends an email every day or two with a reflection or two. She gets to the heart of things in a gentle way. She puts all of her writing on a website called The Geranium Farm.

Her email missives are called the "Almost-Daily eMo." She sent this the other day explaining how it got its name; those of you who write with regularity may also recognize yourself in this. Please join us with Barbara at St. Paul's on Dec. 3 from 9 am to 3 pm (lunch on your own) and she will be preaching the following day.

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By Barbara Crafton

In the new living room of a new house on a new street, some things are still the same. The dark of early morning outside the window. The crackle of burning logs. The ancient words of Morning Prayer. The steaming cup of tea. And the expectant page, waiting for words.

All day, every day, ideas appear. Ideas, or fragments of ideas. Some matriculate and some do not: I forget all about them and they never become essays. Many matriculate but never graduate -- my files are full of lonely paragraphs who have yet to become essays. But some of my ideas actually do graduate and find meaningful work -- there they are on the page, the fortunate few who realize their birthright promise.

I can write on assignment -- tell me what you need and I can probably pound out something that will suit. Writing the eMos is different: there is no assignment. I have read that yeast floats through the air, and that if you set out a paste of flour and water you can catch enough of it to leaven a loaf of bread. The eMos are like that: images and ideas float through the air, and some of them germinate.

The extent to which the germination of an essay depends on receiving is a little frightening. You can't sweat your germ of an idea into existence: you can only wait for it to appear. But you can become more skilled at recognizing the spores that will form it -- there are millions of them, and you learn to see them as they swirl toward you. Over time, it takes less and less to prime the pump. A single image, a lone word can be enough. You have grown fertile in your receptivity, easily impregnated with words that become sentences that become paragraphs that become pages. You do parent your writing, even if you do not sire it: this or that decision about this or that adjective, this or that fragment, the stretch for the very word you want -- these things you learn by doing, over and over. And by reading. And by listening to the way real people really talk.

In the early morning dark, by the fire -- this is still where it happens best for me. Music used to be part of my writing process, but I now seem unable to read or write to it. And I notice that my writing is slower-- my brain is showing its age. But that's all right. It'll have to be. We work with the instrument we have, not the one we wish we had.

Every once in a while, somebody writes and asks how the Almost-Daily eMo got its name. "Almost-Daily" speaks for itself, I guess: a hedge against the spottiness of my output. And "eMo"? Parishioners over the years have called me "Mother Crafton". I grew accustomed to it long ago. The abbreviation for "Mother" is "Mo." Kids in my parishes, and many who were not kids, took to calling me "Mo." I liked this, and still do. Anything good enough for the Three Stooges is good enough for me.

So an eMo is an electronic visit with Mo. Crafton. That's all.

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