We ask our contributing authors to consider the role of faith in their work, or in the pieces in our issue. It adds some depth to what is often just of list of accomplishments that lacks any real sense of who wrote a particular poem or essay or story.
Here’s a selection of what our authors had to say:
“Nostalgia” began as an attempt to express what I felt when my mom showed me a photograph of my thirteenth birthday and she had to remind me who was in it and what we were doing. As I was writing the poem, it became to me an exploration of the people I have been and what was important to me in different parts of my life, and finally it became an investigation of my relationships with my mom, faith, memories, and love.
In order to start this essay, I had to believe that skiing had something to do with grieving and that my impulse to write about both was intimately connected to an art process whose parameters I could scarcely discern. That winter demanded a lot from me in terms of faith. Sometimes I skied twice a day. Sometimes I skied at night. This last was especially illuminating. Surrounded by a pale snow-glow, I trusted night vision to guide me safely around obstacles, over tricky patches, and across an immense field of white. The darkness curved above me, often with stars and a moon, occasionally just dense opaque clouds, and it was comforting to make my way through the stillness. I began to capture in image and metaphor some of the things I’d seen while skiing. Before long, this “list” grew charged with underlying emotions. Soon enough a narrative pattern began to emerge. Before I knew it, I had committed to writing an essay. There was no guarantee that I could make something meaningful from it. I was skiing in the dark…
“Jesus is a master of metaphors—the parables, the kingdom of heaven analogies,” wrote Kathryn Smith in her contributor note for Rock & Sling 8.1. “He’s always giving those poor disciples a brain teaser.” Why is that? To be certain, Jesus wasn’t speaking in riddles or attempting obscurity. Rather, the mysteries of faith are complex enough to defy basic comprehension; by employing parables, Jesus appealed to his disciples’ common experience, as well as the lure of storytelling, to illustrate these mysteries.
The short pieces of mine in this issue of Rock & Sling go by the title “Three Little Parables.” It’s my hope they can be taken literally as narratives of navigating the natural world, its beauty and its mystery. Yet as parables, they’re of course open to larger signification. On the most basic level, I was perhaps hoping to illustrate some stages of a spiritual journey. Beyond that, I’m happy to cede control to the reader, who should feel empowered by the parable form to either accept or deny, parse or discard my modest ideas.
Melanie Rae Thon
I believe consciousness is permeable, that we are capable of understanding, perceiving, apprehending, and penetrating experiences that extend far beyond what we may believe we “know.” Extreme circumstances—suffering, pain, loss—sometimes bring the strange gifts of transcendence, the full faith that there is no such thing as “I,” the ecstasy of surrender to the truth that we do, indeed, contain multitudes. In recent years, I have become increasingly committed to exploring this terrain. Orlando Cadena and his brother Xavier are near death, severely dehydrated, starved, lost deep in the Sonoran desert. The sting of a scorpion delivers Orlando to a new pitch of delirium. In his fever, at the psychic and physical limits of human endurance, Orlando knows everything: he moves with the thousands who have died on this journey; he feels the thirst of the Hohokam and Anasazi; he understands at last his mother’s miraculous survival and extravagant grief. Adelina Luna was among the few to survive the Salvadoran Army’s annihilation of El Mozote, La Joya, Cerro Pando, and Los Toriles in 1981. Orlando has heard her stories, but now, through his own suffering, he lives her loss and knows her terror; Orlando hears the cries of girls assaulted by soldiers, their bodies entered again and again before they are murdered; he feels the voice, the song of one particular girl touching him. God is everywhere: in her, in him, in this vast sky streaked rose and coral, in the saguaro with thirteen arms, in the scorpion and the stars, the elf owl and his brother.
My work brings me constantly into the world of child (and family) pain and into daily miracles of growth and kindness. I see children who are abused, parents who suffer, and also am blessed with the smiles of babies and the laughing insights of children. My father told my mother near the end of a long (and sometimes very difficult marriage) that he considered it his mission to get her to laugh every day. My mother told him he’d succeeded. I’ve said, very truly, that poetry has saved my life. I believe all poems contain truth, and perhaps reveal a bit of “that of God” (as Quakers put it) within each of us. Perhaps in laughter, perhaps in pain witnessed, perhaps in a quick jump of connection, of understanding glimpsed. The writing includes a hope of connecting with others, of reaching in to a broader community of care. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share my little glimpses of difficulty and hope.