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Nonsensical Times

Exploring the wonderful world(s) of sense-making

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Nonsense & Cherry Blossoms

I have not posted much in the last year and a bit. In fact, I haven’t posted at all. That is not because I have been at a loss for words. On the contrary, it is because I have been trying to find the right words to acknowledge and address the loss that has taken place.

I have been told, as I am sure you have, that life is comprised of seasons. Seasons of waiting, seasons of change, seasons of growth…the list goes on.

And yet, if I had to choose, I don’t think I would necessarily describe the last few years as a season of loss. While they have certainly contained loss—of loved ones, opportunities, and routines—they have also contained blessings that I cannot ignore. Among these blessings is the opportunity they have afforded me to reflect on what it is that makes life beautiful.

Which brings me to the topic of this post: nonsense and cherry blossoms.

You see, I finally found something that communicates how I feel about this particular season of my life.

I found it while out for a walk with our family dog. While walking, we happened to stop under a lovely cherry tree. He was taking time to sniff a bush, so I took time to inhale the sweet scent of the blossoms above me. After doing so, I quickly inhaled again.

Have you ever smelled something so beautiful that you immediately felt more beautiful by smelling it?

Have you ever looked at something so beautiful that you immediately felt more beautiful by looking at it?

That was how the cherry tree made me feel.

And part of that beauty was rooted in the hope it inspired in my heart.

Something about the scent and sight of those light pink blossoms transported me above the troublesome thoughts that had been parading through my mind. In that moment, all I wanted was to be completely still. I knew I was experiencing something special.

But, as moments do, it had to come to an end. My dog tired of the bush and moved onto the next one, and, while there were many more cherry trees on our walking route, I inevitably started to think how much I would miss them when they were no longer in bloom.

Cherry blossoms, after all, are fragile things. They are beautiful, but delicate. Some harsh winds and even harsher rains can easily send them crashing to the ground. They don’t last forever.

I knew it was only a matter of time before I would no longer be able to admire this floral display. And, before I could stop it, a feeling of melancholy took over me. I started to grieve something I had yet to completely lose. Sure, I had lost cherry blossoms before, but, for some reason, the thought of losing them this year made me extra sad.

Maybe it’s because it’s not until you’re about to lose something that you begin to realize how truly special it is and how much it adds to your life. Maybe it’s because it’s difficult to imagine ever experiencing something more beautiful than a particular moment and the thought of never experiencing that moment again is hard to accept. Maybe.

For some of us, this has been a season of saying goodbye to cherry blossoms—beautiful moments of our existence that we wanted to cling to forever. The loss of these beautiful parts of our lives have left us feeling fragile, vulnerable, and exposed to the unexpected storms of life. We are still here, but our branches are a bit bare in places.

However, as I have already mentioned, there’s something hopeful about cherry blossoms. As I continued my walk the thought struck me that these blossoms are a precursor to fruit. If we never let them go, we will never taste the sweetness of what follows. We will miss out on a different beautiful moment. An experience that, in its own way, may be just as special.

As this thought began to take hold of my mind, I started to think about how the fallen cherry blossoms may be even more beautiful than the ones that remain on their branches. These blossoms, scattered on the sidewalks and roads of our lives, mark out a path of what is to come. This path isn’t dark and ugly. It is beautiful. It is full of promise and the celebration of that promise. As we step into the future of what that means, they are encouraging us to anticipate the fruit of what’s to come.

Cherry trees, you see, know how to say goodbye. They remind us that loss, as hard as it may be, creates opportunities to experience new blessings. The sweetness of their goodbyes is found in the promise of the hellos that follow.

The thing is, when I think about the last few years as a cherry tree season, I no longer feel sad. I feel grateful. I praise God for the goodness that is reflected in His creation. While losing things we love may never make sense, sometimes, it is in the moments when we can’t make sense of things that we actually find it within ourselves to be still.

Wishing you many special cherry blossom and fruit-filled moments as you walk towards what’s next in your life.

Nonsense & Time

Today I want to talk about time. A lot of it has passed since I last wrote anything for this blog. Slowly and swiftly, it has ticked away the seconds, minutes, hours, days, and weeks. 2021 is now here and the calendar has reset itself for another 12-month race. On your mark, get set, go! Ready or not, time waits for no one.

So then, how do we find it? Do we keep it? Do we waste it? Where does it go?

It’s funny how, in our attempts to make sense of time, we like to talk about it as if it were an actual person, place, or thing.

Maybe that’s because we secretly know that that is what time is all about.

After all, when we reach the end of our lives, we do not measure them by seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. No, we measure them by the people, places, and things that filled them. We measure them by the eternal feelings of love and joy such things inspire. The ticking of the clock, we realize, sounds quite different when heard against the steady rhythm of a human heart.

So, if you, like me, find yourself frequently falling behind the time–if you think you are in need of more of it–be encouraged: the most important things in life are timeless. Hold onto the people, places, and things that give meaning to your existence. Measure your moments by real faces and hands.

If the last year has taught me anything, it is that life is precious. The next time you feel pressured by the racing of the clock, remember, you are already living yours. So why rush to get through it?

The simple truth is, we can all afford to lose time if it means gaining perspective.

Thank you for allowing me to share mine with you today.

Stories

“Stories work with people, for people, and always stories work on people, affecting what people are able to see as real, as possible, and as worth doing or best avoided.”

~ Arthur W. Frank, Letting Stories Breathe: A Socio-Narratology, p. 3

I haven’t written in a while. Part of the reason has to do with the fact that there is so much happening in the outside world and the other part has to do with the fact that there is so much happening inside my personal world.

To be completely honest, I am having a difficult time processing it all.

Amidst the tumultuous effects of COVID-19 and the protests related to the killing of George Floyd, I have had to say goodbye to my grandpa. While his death was not pandemic related, it has still been incredibly difficult. He was one of my best friends and taught me so much about life. One of the most important lessons he ever taught me was about people and stories.

“Every person has a story,” he used to say to me. “Every person is unique.”

My grandpa knew firsthand the rewards of taking the time to listen to people’s stories. He didn’t let negative first impressions dissuade him from getting to know others, even though, at times, it might have been tempting to overlook or judge them. Deep down, he realized that there were reasons why people acted the way that they did. He understood that life has it’s challenges, and sometimes, the narratives we imagine ourselves fulfilling are not the ones we actually live out. 

In short, he knew that life could be hard. His appreciation for other people’s stories stemmed from a genuine place of empathy, respect, and compassion. He chose to let their stories work on his heart, increasing his capacity to love and show kindness. He wasn’t perfect. There were times when he wasn’t as quick to respond from this place of understanding. But he tried and he learned from his mistakes. He wanted his story to be one of grace.

Right now, there are a lot of stories circulating that, as scholar Arthur Frank might say, are working for, with, against, and on people. They are presenting conflicting visions of the future, and, at times, the reports can be more confusing than clarifying. People are often being grouped together, referred to in terms of “us” and “them.” As emotions rise, it is more and more tempting to generalize and simplify situations. It is tempting to judge others and shut our minds to the complex reasons for their actions.

It is tempting, in other words, to forget the fact that we are all human. To forget the fact that, underneath all of the anger, frustration, and hurt, beats the hearts of people who are just trying to survive. There are so many things we don’t know about each other. But, when we take the time to set aside assumptions and listen, we realize that we might have more in common than popular narratives suggest.

We are all living through some very hard times. It is my hope that a story of reconciliation, restoration, and redemption is one that we as a society can see as real, possible, and worth living. It is my prayer that we can work towards it together, showing empathy, respect, and compassion for each other in the process.

 

References:

Frank, A. W. (2010). Letting stories breathe: A socio-narratology. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press

 

 

 

Unreliable Narrator

Somedays, I just feel like writing a poem. It doesn’t have to be a good poem. In fact, often-times it’s not. But, then again, what is good poetry? I think good poetry is the kind that makes it onto the page despite the insecurities that would keep it blank. Vulnerability and creativity go hand in hand. Unless we dare to explore alternative means of self-expression, we will always be limited by the representations of others. We are the poet laureates of our own lives. During this time of self-isolation and social distancing, I hope that you will have the opportunity to listen to your inner poet and discover new and beautiful things about yourself. Define your own understanding of “good.” With that caveat in mind, here is a poem I wrote the other day.

UNRELIABLE NARRATOR

 By Bonnie Tulloch

I wake up in the middle of a story

Unsure of where I am.

What chapter did I read yesterday?

What chapter did I write?

The story does not stop

And neither does the feeling

That I am not the one to ask.

Me, myself, and I

Cannot seem to agree

Who I am today,

And who tomorrow

I will be.

(I guess we’ll wait and see.)

Nonsense & Joy

It’s been a while since my last post. A lot has happened and is still happening in the world.

It’s a hectic time and one where making sense of the events of life is more challenging than ever.

And yet, in the middle of the chaos–in the middle of the anxiety, sorrow, and frustration–I still see traces of joy.

People are making an effort to remind each other that human life is something worth fighting for. They are making an effort to creatively solve the problems this crisis has raised for themselves and for others.

And it’s beautiful to witness.

People are digging deep within their hearts to spread something that can combat this virus. They are spreading joy.

And joy is powerful.

Unlike happiness, joy is not dependent on circumstances. It is a choice we make to find the good in circumstances that are not good at all. It is the determination not to be defeated by the trials and disappointments of life. To rise up when we’ve been knocked down and to extend a hand to the person beside us on the ground.

It is the ability to have a positive attitude when we have every reason not to be positive.

Joy, in other words, is kind of nonsensical. In many cases, it defies reason. In fact, it may even qualify as a miracle.

Certainly, it has a miraculous effect. It gives life to lifeless seasons of living. It transforms desolate terrain into a landscape of hope, faith, and love. Hope that tomorrow will be better. Faith that our hope is not in vain. And love for each other as we walk through this journey.

Spring is on its way. Daffodils are trumpeting images of new life. As we wait in anticipation for better days, I pray that we continue to find ways to embrace joy and to let the power of hope shine new light into whatever darkness we are experiencing.

Let the miracles continue.

Dear January

Dear January 2020,

Thank you for reminding me that a slow start can still lead to a strong finish. Thank you for giving me opportunities to extend grace to myself when I fail to live up to my own expectations. Thank you for the rainy, grey, cold, and even snowy days that caused me to pause and experience life at a more restful pace. Thank you for the frustrating moments that made me dig deeper and reflect on what is truly important. Thank you for the not-so-good days that made the not-so-bad days seem really great. Thank you for the amazing people you brought into my calendar and the experiences we were able to share. The minutes, hours, days, and weeks I have spent with you have taught me a lot and have helped prepare me for the month ahead. I may not know what the rest of the year will hold, but I am truly grateful for the moments and memories you have given me. You have played an important role in my life and, as easy as it would be to move onto February in a hurry, I don’t want your impact to go unnoticed. I apologize for taking you for granted and wish to acknowledge your significant contribution to my life before we say goodbye.

So, thank you, January 2020. It’s been nice knowing you.

Sincerely,

Bonnie

P.S. I am sorry for all the times I complained about you.

A Christmas Letter

Dear Friends,

As I experience this Christmas season I am more aware than ever that a lot of people are deeply hurting. Life does not always allow us to take holidays from our problems, and, sometimes, the severity of our problems can keep us from finding any joy in the holidays. If this is the case for you, I want you to know that you are not alone. The Christmas story is the story of a world in need of saving. It is a story about seeking and seeing light in the midst of dark and desperate times. Our suffering produces questions and our questions lead us to look for answers.

We pursue these answers in different ways. This year, as I grieve the loss of my sister and the losses of those navigating similar sorrows, I look for mine in the unexpected form of a baby, lying in a manger. The gifts I have to bring Him are not really gifts at all. The fear, despair, and sadness I feel are not offerings you would give to a king. No one would ever want them. They are signs of my brokenness. Signs that I am in need of saving. Still, I place these before Him, because I have nothing else to give. And to my ever increasing amazement, He accepts them. He accepts them because He accepts me. That baby in the manger presents me with the ultimate Christmas gift: unconditional love.

As far as present exchanges go, there is no contest. God gives me His perfect life in exchange for my own. He takes all my suffering and I, in turn, receive His gifts of love, joy, and peace. This unequal exchange does not make sense by human standards. Perhaps that it is why it is hard to believe at times. Like the inns in Bethlehem, our minds are too crowded with our own logic to make room for things that we cannot understand. We shut nonsense out of our lives, and, in the process, leave little space for miracles.

This Christmas season, I am confronted with the reality of many things I cannot understand. And yet, the confusion I feel has created more space in my heart to receive the miracle of God’s love. It has created space to fully accept His Heavenly gifts of love, joy, and peace. He knows that the world needs saving. The baby in the manger is His reminder that we have already been saved. Jesus is the answer I seek, and in Him, I find healing for my brokenness.

Wherever you are and whatever you believe, I pray that you will also know love, joy, and peace this holiday season. I pray that you will find the answers you seek in response to your pain and that you experience healing in your lives. May your hearts be comforted by the hope of good news and the promise of a brighter tomorrow. Light has a way of shining in the darkest of places. Just keep looking.

Merry Christmas Friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nature of Things

I have been taking a lot of walks this fall and each time I do I am struck by nature’s ability to communicate some of the most simple, yet profound truths about life.

The world, it tells me, is complicated. It’s messy. It’s beautiful. It’s struggling. It’s thriving. It’s…predictably unpredictable. 

And for some reason, I find it’s message comforting.

It’s as if, on these cold November days, I get the privilege of attending nature’s personal support group. If I take the time, I can even imagine that I hear a silent conversation taking place as I step along the path.

“I’m feeling a little broken today,” confesses a tree.

“I’ve fallen down and can’t get up,” cries its neighbour.

“I’m leafless and cold,” sobs another.

“It’s just the nature of things,” states a stump.

“Well, it feels unnatural to be so exposed,” complains a bush. “I don’t like it.”

“You don’t have to like it,” the stump responds. “Change can be hard.”

“You can say that again,” says a disgruntled fern.

“Once is enough,” replies the stump. “We know what we know.”

“I wish I didn’t know it!” laments a hollow tree. “I wish things were different!”

“How so?” asks the stump.

“I wish things never had to change. I wish my leaves didn’t have to fall off. I wish my roots didn’t have to dry up. I wish the flowers could stay out all year round.”

“But hollow tree,” the stump says, “if things always stayed the same, you would never have grown from a seed into a tree. You would never have sprouted roots. You would never have had any leaves. You would never have seen the flowers.”

The hollow tree ponders the stump’s words. The wind whistles awkwardly as the rest of the forest waits for it to respond.

“I guess you know what you’re talking about,” the tree finally says. “After all, you weren’t born a stump.”

“True,” the stump replies. “I’ve seen the view from the top of the forest and the bottom. Want to know what I’ve discovered?”

“What?” asks the tree.

“What?” echoes the forest.

“Change can be hard,” says the stump.

“You already said that!” shouts the tree.

“But it can also be good.”

“How can it be both?” the tree demands.

“It just can,” says the stump.

“It’s just the nature of things,” agrees the forest.

 

(Story Copyrighted by Bonnie Tulloch)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall

(a poem by Bonnie Tulloch)

I wonder

If leaves ever know 

they’re falling

When they spiral towards

the earth.

Or if they taste the freedom

Of finally letting go.

Of flying in the wind.

 I wonder these things,

as I sit on a park bench.

Gravity has a way of

Pulling us. 

Tugged by its questions,

My thoughts begin to

Fall.

 

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