Pastor Karen shares a reflection on the writing process for her poetry book entitled “We Garden Under Blue Lights.”
I’ve served as a pastor in DC for over 7 years now, yet much of my formation in understanding God’s love, healing power and justice is rooted in my 18 year experience in pastoring in East Baltimore.
I am both a contemplative and a doer — I consider God in silence and solitude and in communal listening and action.
One of the ways I have connected with God over and over is through the art, practice and dirty work of gardening. Not everyone views gardening as a meaningful act. I remember one neighbor in east Baltimore who complained, “all the pastor is doing is planting sunflowers!”
To me, sunflowers are examples of the abundance of God. One seed can grow a flower head that generates 1000’s of seeds. That’s amazing — and that’s grace.
So over time, I have written poetry from some of own experiences of gardening in East Baltimore. And I have also written poems that reflect on the work of my husband Ed Miller. Ed has gardened as full time work for over 15 years, most of it with Civic Works, after having served for over 25 years as a Lutheran Pastor.
Poems come to me as words and images, and they often begin as a scribble on a scrap of paper. They can unfold slowly or in a rush. Some are long and complicated, others are short. They all help point me to God in a place and in people.
So for the first time, on the occasion of Ed Miller’s retirement, I decided to create a small book using some of my older poems and a few new ones. I am blessed to have teamed up with the artist, Emily C-D.
Emily worked with Ed for a year as a corp member of Civic Works. After that year, Emily continued to collaborate with Ed on multiple gardening projects, bringing a wide variety of art to life in and around the gardens.
Using the poems that I offered into the mix, Emily painted original watercolors paintings. The result is a beautiful small book that reads almost as a prayer book — celebrating, lamenting and pointing to holy hope in places and situations in Baltimore that many people count as un-redeemable.
We had our first reading last night, At Red Emma’s in Baltimore. We were honored to host many artists, neighborhood activists and friends. I will write about soon.
We will be again in Baltimore at Civic Works on Friday, May 20 from 5-7 pm.
Last night, at Red Emma’s, Emily said, Ed always stretched her to do new things in her artwork, and she said I stretched her to illustrate this book and to learn how to do book design (it’s beautiful). Perhaps as we approach Holy Trinity Sunday, we can be mindful that one of the ways that the Trinity manifests is in stretching us and amplifying the creativity that resides within each of us. That’s part of the dance of the Trinity we will sing about on Sunday, May 22 at 10:30 am and 5 pm. I invite you to join in.
We garden under blue lights
affixed to a 30 foot pole
the blue lights flash
our inner city acres.