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Filtering by Tag: Michelle Metcalf

Living in the Hours

Michelle Metcalf

Good Morning. It is 5:45am, still dark. I have been up since 4:15. I woke up cold, restless, a little hungry.  In the past hour and a half I’ve done what I can to satisfy myself: I’m now wrapped in a huge quilt sitting on top of the furnace vent on the floor in my living room; my dog is under the covers on my lap. I have been packing boxes in the kitchen—we’re moving to our first house in under a week and a half. I packed dishes quietly in the kitchen as my husband slept upstairs. I wrapped glasses in newspaper and towels. All of this while bread baked in the oven and too hungry to wait for it, I ate a bowl full of cut watermelon squares.

I wish all days started like today—with purpose and darkness and quiet and productivity. Just today, I feel somewhat akin to the monastic life; I feel connected to all the others awake right now in the world—working in quiet—its not just about waking up early—its about getting to work, about the ritual of living in these divine early hours.

Today, I will pray the hours, connected with the monks and restless morning pilgrims. Today I will not just intend it, I will do it. I will remember. I will stop. I will allow moments to be holy.

Today I will write. I will pray for inspiration. I will ask God for help. Today I will let it come. I will not be in a hurry. I will move through this work as if my life depends on it, and it does. Today I will not be afraid. Today I will believe for myself what I believe for others. Today I will show up and do the work.  Today I will be a professional writer, even if I have to pretend. Today I will turn off my phone, today I will listen to silence. Today I will light candles. I will burn Fir Balsam incense and smell the air. Today I will look at what has been left undone and leave it undone. Today I will not be lost in distraction, in necessity that does not involve words. Today, I will listen to words; I will listen inside of my head. Today I will not use my ears, today I will not use my eyes. Today I will live in my spirit. I will condition my mind. Today I will work until the moon rises. I will pray the hours before I sleep.

An invitation to pray the hours during Lent, and maybe not during Lent too:

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Michelle Metcalf feels inspired today because the sun has finally started to shine in Cincinnati, OH, where she lives with her husband and dog. She lead a writer's group this morning, just like she does every Friday. That's her favorite part of the week.


Michelle Metcalf

1983: In the third grade, my religion teacher, Mrs. Brandstetter, tells me a story during Tuesday night CCD class about a  woman in Mexico whose taco meat, after falling out of her tortilla at lunch, miraculously formed itself into a silhouette of the Virgin Mary. The image my young mind instantly created: small individual crumbly rounds of ground beef mysteriously and reverently moving themselves across a piece of Mexican hand-painted ceramic ware, one grainy chunk of meat at a time coalescing into feet, a robe, veil, nose and eyes. On the side table by the couch in the living room of my childhood, a small, engraved photo album. On the first page, a photograph of oil-stained window panels on an office building in Clearwater , Florida, that looked remarkably like a profile of the Blessed Virgin. A miracle on display wasn’t at all strange to my devoutly Catholic and generally superstitious family—why shouldn’t heaven and earth somewhere converge?

Once a year, we made it a family pilgrimage to gather with hundreds of people at the Holy Spirit Center just off the Norwood lateral about twenty minutes from our house to say the Rosary from lawn chairs on a hill while waiting for Our Lady of Light to make her midnight appearance.

Skeptic’s Dictionary: Apophenia (n): the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data, the "unmotivated seeing of connections" accompanied by a "specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness." May be linked to psychosis or creativity.

2005: Hundreds gather at the Fullerton Avenue underpass on the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago. They’ve come to see the Virgin Mary in the salt run-off. That same year, a pregnant couple sees the face of Jesus during their ultrasound at a hospital in Toledo. A concession clerk sees him in a nacho pan. He also appeared on the tinted windows at a hardware store in Rio Grande Valley, Texas, and, shortly before that, in a pecan tree to a Louisiana man who was barbecuing in his backyard.

We are programmed, Carl Sagan says, born with a propensity to identify the human face. It’s for evolution’s sake, so that we can make out faces from a distance using only minimal details. This is why we can recognize faces before putting in our contacts in the morning.

At the stroke of twelve, church bells rang, cameras flashed, we waited and waited.

But I saw nothing.

Type I Psychological error: (false positive, false alarm, caused by an excess in sensitivity): Often used as an explanation of some paranormal and religious claims, and can also be used to explain the tendency of humans to believe pseudoscience.

I saw nothing but the moon.

I saw nothing but the moon hanging heavy in the sky, so full that it made a glow behind the backs of the pine trees on the horizon.

*          *          *

Michelle Metcalf does believe in miracles, especially moonlight illuminating the trees. She lives in Cincinnati, OH and sometimes still prays Hail Marys out of habit, even though she is no longer a practicing Catholic.