A week later, I still have the image of 11 women sitting in a room together writing and sharing their truth as they knew it to be at that particular moment in time.
I am thinking that I am a writer, yes, but also something else, something needed at this time.
I am a table. I am an invitation to pull up a share and I am a welcome and I am here's a warm cup and a blanket and I am open ears. I am not interested in right or wrong, but I am interested in here and now as it is for you and me.
I am drawn to all sorts of tables. I am a rare person who likes a meeting. I don't know why- perhaps it is the folder with my name neatly printed on it or the possibility that people will say what they really think, dream out loud, challenge, invoke, invite, and begin. Often meetings don't generate the excitement I often feel when I think of attending, but twenty years in, I still have the hope. And so I keep going to meetings thinking if nothing else, hope is what I can offer.
I like tables for meals, of course. I like the special meal with a birthday cake and all utensils represented-- knife, fork, AND spoon. It happens six times a year; for each birthday meal, Thanksgiving, and once over the Christmas holiday. I like looking at the faces I love so much. Despite the hours of work required for such festivities, it all feels worth it when the soft glow of candles lights up each of my hearts and I often think only one thing: this.
But I also like the morning rush and the barely-meal, the on-the-fly feedings with books shoved aside to make room for the cereal bowls and jars of peanut butter and the cutting board and knives for apples. It means we have a place. The flotsam and jetsam of a life is visible and for someone whose works is hard to define, this feels important to me. To see that, in fact, I have done something, am doing something and will be doing more....the table doesn't clear itself.
I like tables in restaurants at brunch time with women who can go months without laying eyes on each other despite living in the same town. The proverbial stick is passed so that every woman gets a turn to update us on their life. But sometimes that stick lingers in one hand longer and someone else doesn't get a turn and it's all good because that person who needed the time gets it all and more and we pour as much love as we can into the weary and heartbroken stick holder.
I like tables laden with food at a potluck for strangers and friends. I like the hope represented in each dish. I like that the introvert came anyway, bearing a bag of chips and a jar of salsa because they decided showing up was better than not even if they choose to only linger on the edges. Let me just say this now--I saw you.
I like any table where my my husband sits. I sometimes have a hard time admitting how much I love him. We've been through it all together and we have taken turns lifting each other up. I like that in the morning he stops his work, his reading, or his game just to look at me. Sometimes I sit down to join him at the table. Most times I do not as I have my own morning goals. But there he is at our table and that is all I need.
I like the wonky round tables at the county jail. It's hard to make two round tables fit, but we do it anyway. Each man pulls up a plastic chair. There is no food so there is no "action". There is only silence and our voices and empty space as each of us thinks before we feel brave enough to speak. There is not much to look at in this cinder block room but for a few papers and each other. And that is actually why I like tables. Tables, I think, make people look at each other. It's awkward to be at any table without making some sort of eye contact. It's hard to be at a table in complete silence and so people try to put something, however small, forward. Sometime the offering is simply to show up.
I like putting that table out there for others.
I keep thinking about those women, brave and scared, who came to the farm, a six-acre table. They showed up to be seen, to write, and to be heard. All it took was the invitation. The men in jail show up too. They have other choices in programming, but they choose the Red Boot way programming because on some level, even if they can't articulate it yet, they want to be seen.
I am left wondering all the ways in which we can make this kind of space for people. I am not yet sure of my next move, but I do know it will include two things---an invitation and a table.
Posted by Lisa Gray