Friday, August 15, 2008


Tennesse Lake

Empty. Wordless. Unmotivated. Arrested in my thoughts.

Not the usual fare for when I go away. In fact, I often do my best writing, my most poetic writing when I travel. But my last two trips in the last two weeks, to the "T" states, Texas and Tennessee, yielded nothing.

I didn't write one poem. Didn't do a single journal entry. I only wrote this because I'd made a promise to Jim to do a co-post. It was a real effort, a near-miss.

Perhaps it is not fair to say yielded nothing. Because what I found was a deep sense of connectedness with these places. I found that my eyes were wide open to hummingbirds and mallard ducks, my ears attentive to the unique whispers of creek and lake, canyon and sandbar. And I felt a profound sense of connection to people.

Perri and LL at Laity Lodge

Perri and LL at Laity Lodge-2

At Laity Lodge in Texas, I was particularly touched to meet a new friend named Perri (that's us holding hands above). And at a hospitable home in Tennessee, I was greatly moved by spending a few hours in the company of a group of women who had read Stone Crossings and who wanted to meet me. The circles of hands and feet are Sandy, Christine, Laura, Lue, Joan, Twila, Esther, Lee-Ann, Kathy Y., Mona, Cate, Kathy E., and Mary— sorry if I've misspelled any of your names! (Oh, and on Sunday I met their pastor, Dennis Mullen and we had a great discussion about books.)

Tennessee Club Reaching

Tennessee Club Best Foot Forward

Tonight, I thought I may tell about this meeting in my next book. Because it felt like a turning point for me, in which I was dearly open to embracing and nurturing a group of women. I just might put it in my chapter on submission. We'll see. In any case, these women with their poignant stories of pain, their longings, their loves and humors and questions, truly entered my heart and gave me joy.

I also had occasion to chat with Erin one day while I was in Tennessee. I told her how empty and wordless I was feeling. How I didn't even feel like writing about God anymore. She told me to look at the grass blowing in the breeze, just because it is pretty. There was no grass, but I went out on the deck and gazed at the lake. I watched a grey heron fly out over the water. I marveled at the roundness of tiny pinecones and tiny unidentified birds. Turtles made little plopping sounds and ducks talked softly. I was arrested by the beauty of the place.

And when I came home, I found words.

Lake in Tennessee, Perri and LL, Tennesse Book Club photos. By L.L. Barkat.


Heather's Stone Crossings Video

Ted's book club post: Sugar Face: Forgiveness

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Blogger Christianne said...

Ach. This post made me ache. It's not just the wordlessness, though I have felt that pain before and know it's indeed painful. It's not just your heart opening to that group of women and the turning point it signaled for you, though I love hearing that your heart turned in a new way through that experience and would love to learn more about it. It's not just that you heard -- actually heard -- the lovely Erin's voice and held a real conversation with her, though I envy you that joy. It's not just that she told you to watch the wind blow through the grass just because it's pretty, even though I can totally imagine her saying that in all her Erin-ness, which is why we love her so much. And it's not just the lake and the heron and the plunking of the turtles that you found greeting you when you did just sit and receive, though I can feel the tenderness and the holiness of that moment.

It's all those things, rolled into one. All of it, together, made me ache. I ached for you.

3:13 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

These aches and wordless periods draw me back into thinking of the consummation. In that day when all things are set right, will I need any words? Will I be yearning to express to others the beauty and fullness I find? (Because yearning, to me, implies that something is lacking.)

I wonder if your empty, wordless feeling might be due to the fact that you felt even closer to the consummation with these new friends in TX, even closer to completeness by sitting in Creation with the family that you love in TN. Somehow, there comes a contentment in that place that dissipates the burning need to communicate what you are feeling. The drive to analyze and express simply vanishes. For many people, this likely has the look and feel of sloth, but I dare say it's closer to contentment.

It's like that for me anyway.

You dear soul. What's your phone number? ;)

9:22 AM  
Blogger Dennis said...

Hey, thanks for the link. It was good to talk to you and share your love of books. The writer whose name I couldn't come up with at the time was Andy Crouch, a favorite of mine from his magazine articles (if he has done a book, I don't know about it). It was Lauren Winner's name that made me think of him (I encounter them in the same journals) and, oddly, I found the two of them pictured side by side on one of your web sites somewhere.

I look forward to reading more of your work.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Laure said...

these found words of yours are prophetic. especially ...

"when i came home, i found words."

2:33 PM  
Blogger NaNcY said...

just LOOK at all those cute shoes!

3:41 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

I have to amend what I said here.

Mowing the lawn today, I found a fallen tree in the furthest back corner of our property. The very first thing I did was call my husband over so we could marvel at the way it fell (it landed nestled in the notch of another tree) and discuss whether the tree fell from disease, high winds, or age.

In that experience of wonder and delight, my first inclination was to communicate with someone else about the neat thing I had found.

So I don't have any idea what I'm saying.

But I still think your wordlessness comes from things coming together inside you rather than things falling apart.

4:48 PM  
Blogger A Musing Mom said...

I like all the thoughts here, especially about wordlessness and whether it is from pain or contentment. I relate, LL, to the stirrings of words while visiting new places. And not to have words for me then would be a sort of emptiness.

I love all the photos, especially the group of women, both hands and feet. They seem to communicate the idea of community so well.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I was so glad to read your ending because I was thinking that perhaps it was a weekend in which you needed to be fed. Or perhaps a time of rest before the next growth spurt.

9:11 PM  
Blogger kirsten said...

mm-hmmm. yes.

thank you for this.

3:15 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Christianne... there is comfort sometimes in having someone ache for me. Thank you so much for expressing it. And beautifully, at that.

Erin... I'm hoping we'll always need words, though not necessarily continually. There is that wonderful place of silence, where we simply connect through our other senses. That is rich, really rich. I can't say I understood what was going on with me. I simply didn't want to produce anything. At all.

Dennis... you're welcome for the link. And I ALWAYS love talking books. They are some of my closest companions. :)

Laure... I love how you pulled that phrase out. Something about coming home is essential. Maybe not a literal coming home, but a figurative one. Yes.

Nancy... aren't they great? You've got to love the South.

Erin... I love that about the fallen tree. Now, as to my condition, I can only say this... sometimes things have to fall apart even as other things come together. That may just be essential to growth.

A Musing... yes, it was very inconvenient to be wordless. :) After all, that's usually partly how I process my experience. But maybe... maybe I wasn't supposed to be processing these experiences. Maybe they were a time just to let things wash over me then drift away.

Ruth... the rhythm of life and growth. I think so.

Kirsten... :)

4:02 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Ah, yes. Rest...connection...thanks.

6:32 PM  
Blogger preacherman said...

I want you to know that you brother are in my thoughts and prayers. I pray that God will bless your life in every aspect. You are making a Kingdom difference. I have added you to my favs. Your blog is one of the best that I have read. I pray all of the richest blessings of God on your life and ministry.
I hope you have a wonderful week!

12:13 AM  
OpenID longislandexpressgirl said...

Aah, so that's it then. I wondered at the lack of commentary about the Texas trip.

Empty and wordless. What does wordlessness feel like? I cannot even imagine. So glad you came home and found words.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Every Square Inch said...

LL - what an honest, humble post.

I'm certain God will meet you at your point of need. Also, wordlessness isn't always bad.

11:57 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Sometimes, when I don't feel inspired I struggle whether to persevere (force it) or switch to something else. I suppose there would be benefits to both courses of action.

That Andy Crouch book Dennis was talking about... could it be Culture Making?

12:15 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Sounds like you had a true get away with God, happen. And some good community in Jesus, to boot.

We need that so much more than we Christians nowadays seem to believe or practice.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Dianne said...

There's something funny about words, the most common tool any of us have. Almost lowly in their commonness and yet, the right word at the right time, words produced out of good listening and being . . . those are so rich and lifegiving. I like to think those times of wordlessness, are in the end and in retrospect (because in the moment can be so frustrating), the best times.

8:52 AM  

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