Phyllis Tickle, author of many books including the Divine Hours series, died several weeks ago. I heard Tickle speak in 2008 at Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Writing conference. She spoke about writing as if you’re crawling into a mysterious knothole to see what you can find inside and beyond (kind of like entering Narnia's wardrobe). You pray earnestly before going into the knothole and enter carrying an empty basket. You emerge later, your basket full, praying earnestly to strip away whatever you gathered that’s not truth. Then you write with what what remains remains. She changed the metaphor at one point to say it’s like cooking with what you find rather than following a pre-written recipe. She warned of the “sin of learning to say very well, nothing.” She urged writing that builds up, rather than tears down, truth. I’ve thought about that talk many times since 2008 and have relistened to it on occasion via an audio recording Calvin made available to attendees. I love the image of going into a hidden empty space to find what can be found and, with prayer and discernment, filling that empty basket.
[Photo: taken of the leaves of one of my geranium plants, soon to be taken down to the basement where it will hibernate for the winter and await spring resurrection.]