Bandersnatch (A Guest Post)

My friend Erika Morrison is an unconventional soul. But hers isn’t the sort of uniqueness to make the rest of us feel dull.

Rather, she has that special knack for helping everyone around her to wake up and be more themselves.

Her new book Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul is out today. I am so pleased to host Erika in this space as she tells us more about it.


The cardinals make it look so easy. The honeybees make it look so easy. The catfish and the black crow, the dairy cow and the cactus plant, all make being created appear effortless. They arise from the earth, do their beautiful, exclusive thing and die having fulfilled their fate.

None of nature seems to struggle to know who they are or what to do with themselves.

But humanity is the exception to nature’s rule because we’re individualized within our breed. We’re told by our mamas and mentors that–like snowflakes–no two of us are the same and that we each have a special purpose and part to play within the great Body of God.

(If your mama never told you this, consider yourself informed: YOU–your original cells and skin-print, guts and ingenuity–will never ever incarnate again. Do you believe it?)

So we struggle and seek and bald our knees asking variations of discovery-type questions (Who am I? Why am I here?) and if we’re semi-smart and moderately equipped we pay attention just enough to wake up piecemeal over years to the knowledge of our vital, indigenous selves.

And yet . . . even for all our wrestling and wondering, there are certain, abundant factors stacked against our waking up. We feel and fight the low ceiling of manmade definitions, systems and institutions; we fight status quo, culture conformity, herd mentalities and more often than not,

The original shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out of all our other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather. ~Frederick Buechner

So, let me ask you. Do you know something–anything–of your true, original, shimmering self?

I don’t mean: Coffee Drinker, Jesus Lover, Crossfitter, Writer, Wife, Mama. Those are your interests and investments.

I do mean: Who are you undressed and naked of the things that tell you who you are?

Who are you before you became a Jesus lover or mother or husband?

Who are you without your church, your hobbies, your performances and projects?

I’m not talking about your confidence in saying, “I am a child of God,” either.

What I am asking a quarter-dozen different ways is this: within the framework of being a child of God, what part of God do you represent? Do you know where you begin and where you end? Do you know the here-to-here of your uniqueness? Do you know, as John Duns Scotus puts it, your unusual, individual “thisness”?

I can’t resolve this question for you, I can only ask you if you’re interested. (Are you interested?)

I can only tell you that it is a good and right investment to spend the energy and time to learn who you are with nothing barnacled to your body, to learn what it is you bleed.

Because you were enough on the day of your birth when you came to us stripped and slippery and squeezing absolutely nothing but your God-given glow. And who you were on that born-day is also who you are now, but since you’ve been living on this planet long enough to learn how to read this article, then it follows that you’ve also lived here long enough to collect a few layers of horsefeathers and hogwash.

So, yet again, I’m inquiring: What is it that you see before the full-length bathroom mirror after you’ve divested of clothes and masks and hats and accessories and roles and beliefs and missions and persuaders and pressures– until you’re down to just your peeled nature, minus all the add-ons mixed in with your molecules?

Do you see somebody who was made with passion, on purpose, in earnest; fearfully and wonderfully, by a Maker with a brow bent in the center, two careful hands, a stitching kit and divine kiss?

Can you catch between your fingers even the tiniest fragment of self-knowledge, roll it around and put a word to it?

Your identity is a living organism and literally wishes to unfurl and spread from your center and who will care and who will lecture if you wander around a little bit every day to look for the unique shine of your own soul?

One of the central endeavors of the human experience is to consciously discover the intimacies of who we already are. As in: life is not about building an alternate name for ourselves; it’s about discovering the name we already have.

Will you, _______, rise from your own sacred ash?

Because the rest of us cannot afford to lose the length of your limbs or the cadence of your light or the rhythm of your ideas or the harmony of your creative force. The way you sway and smile, the awkward this and that and the other thing you do.

These are the days for opening our two clumsy hands before the wideness of life and the allure of a God who stops and starts our hearts. These are the days for rubbing our two imperfect sticks together so we can kindle another feeble, holy light from the deep within–each of us alone and also for each other.

There is no resolution to this quest; the only destination is the process. But I hope there’s a small spark here that will leave you wanting, that will leave you with a blue-fire lined in your spine, that will inspire a cellular, metamorphic process in you; an odyssey of the soul unique to you and your individual history, organisms, and experiences.

There is maybe a fine line between being lethargic about learning ourselves and not being self-obsessive and with that tension in mind, how do we begin (or continue) the process of unearthing and remembering the truth of our intrinsic selves?

Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul was written because sometimes we all need a little hand-holding and butt-nudging in our process; someone or something to come alongside us while we pick up our threads of soul discovery and travel from one dot and tittle to the next.

We are the Kingdom people and learning your own fingerprint is something of what it means for the Kingdom to come in response to an earth which groans forth it’s rolling desire for the great interlocking circle of contribution to reveal the luminous and loving Body of Christ and slowly, seriously–like it’s our destiny–set the world to rights.

Kingdom come. Which is to say: YOU, [be]come and carve your glorious, powerful, heaven-appointed meaning into the sides of rocks and communities and cities and skies.

Without being formulaic and without offering one-size-fits-all “how-to” steps, Bandersnatch is support material for your soul odyssey; a kind of field guide designed to come alongside the moment of your unfurling.

Come with me? And I will go with you and if you’re interested, you can order wherever books or ebooks are sold.

Or, if you’d like to read the first three chapters and just see if Bandersnatch is something for such a time as the hour you’re in, click HERE.

All my love,

Erika Morrison

These Farmhouse Bookshelves

It has turned suddenly cold and windy. Cold enough that we considered firing up the woodstove in our kitchen this morning.

It has also turned dark. Thanks to a nor’easter, we’ve had rain and clouds for days. The sun rises noticeably later. It sets before any of us are at all ready.

It feels like October. Which is right on schedule, I suppose. Isn’t it comforting when nature’s patterns prove reliable?

Pumpkins at the Farm Market

This week I went to one of our local farm markets and filled my cart with pie pumpkins, butternut squash, acorn squash, and Concord grapes. Now what I really need to do is stock up my nightstand with fresh books for autumn. Dark nights were made for books.

If you’d like to do the same, here are a few I’ve picked up recently.

Earth Works: Selected Essays by Scott Russell Sanders is an excellent collection of thoughtful essays by one of the best writers working in that genre. For the price of one book, these thirty essays could keep you company all winter. Like most of the best things in life, they should be appreciated slowly (however, I’m sure you will be tempted to gulp them down. But don’t! They are too wise, too lovely for that).

Sanders writes about houses and marriages. About the stars and beauty. He writes to discover, and the thing he wants to find, the question he seems most compelled to ask, is some variation on what it means to live well. How can we live in harmony with ourselves, with one another, and with this beautiful, astonishing planet that is our home?

All of us ponder our lives. … Essayists choose to do such reflecting, remembering, and imagining in public, on the page. – Scott Russell Sanders

Here is my new favorite book for little people: A Party for Pepper: A Hazelwood Forest Counting Book by Sarah Hartsig.

I discovered Hartsig, the artist behind the world of Hazelwood Forest, on Instagram, and I love her subject and style. If you enjoy Tasha Tudor and Beatrix Potter, you will love Hazelwood Forest, too.

I think we adults should buy picture books (and support talented artists) for ourselves, but I am fortunate to still have a small book-loving person in my life, so the choice, for me, was easy. I gave A Party for Pepper to Elsa on her third birthday in September, and I can honestly tell you it was one of her favorite gifts. Numbers are her thing right now, so while I enjoyed the depictions of sweet animals taking tea, Elsa counted and counted the gorgeous watercolor numbers.

I am already eager to see what Hartsig creates next.

Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World by Suzanne Woods Fisher was sent to me by a friend who read my recent blog posts on simplicity. She thought I’d like this book, and she was right. I haven’t finished it yet (this, too, is a book best absorbed slowly), but I can already recommend it.

Here are stories from Amish lives and reflections on Amish belief and practice for the rest of us. The tone is respectful but not fawning, and the author, though not Amish herself, has family roots and ongoing relationships within a plain community. In other words, she is not a voyeur, nor does she think we should all be Amish. Rather, she knows these communities well, her own life has been enriched by their wisdom, and she is interested in sharing that wisdom with us.

The book is organized for small group discussions. At first, I skimmed the discussion questions that come at the end of each brief chapter, but it finally dawned on me how much I would love to read this book with a group. I know there are some aspects of my complicated life and world I take entirely for granted or view as entirely fixed.

Reading this with a group, I wonder if we might discover just how much  we are not required to live the lives of overly busy consumers that our world demands?

We non-Amish types might object to having a church choose our house paint. The Ordnung seems confining and restrictive, invasive, even. It’s true that the Amish are not free to do some things. However, they are free from many others. – Suzanne Woods Fisher

On this same theme, I shared a story at the Art of Simple this week about slowing down to the pace of a horse-drawn buggy. It’s a story about slow travel and sacred places. It’s a story about placemaking. It surprised me as I wrote, and I am still pondering the ideas that emerged. I hope you’ll read it and ponder with me.

Happy Saturday, friends.

Life Right Now

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Is green edged with gold.

It is the first official day of autumn, but we have been observing its approach for weeks. The lingering heat and humidity made us doubt our eyes. Now that the air has shifted, now that we have retrieved our jackets from the back of the wardrobe, we cannot tell ourselves that the cherry trees with their yellow leaves are overeager.

The maples are shaded with color now. The pumpkins lined up outside the grocery store no longer seem presumptuous.


September Sugar Maple  Maplehurst


Last weekend, Jonathan and I buried two hundred daffodil bulbs on the slope above the driveway.

Every year when I trip over a just-delivered box of bulbs on the porch near our back door, I feel beleaguered. Who has time for bulbs when the younger two won’t stop poking one another then screeching and the older two are whining about after-school snacks and someone refuses to meet my eye when asked about his school reading log?

But every year when spring finally breaks through, I wish I had planted more. I always wish for more.

I am trying to remember that winter-weariness. Trying to remember what those bulbs will mean come April.

Two hundred daffodils are only the beginning. I’ll plant at least as many more when another box shows up some time in October. More daffodils, but also alliums for the new flower garden and tulips for the raised beds in the vegetable garden.

If I plant tulips anywhere else they’ll only be eaten by deer, so I fill a bed or two inside the picket fence. When the tulips are finished in May, I can fill those spots with tomatoes or peppers or beans.


I am reading Terry Tempest Williams’ beautiful book Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place. Early on, she writes, “Peace is the perspective found in patterns.”

When I came across that line, I put down my book and went in search of a pen. Her words describe something I have been living for years now, but only dimly perceived. The poetry of her sentence, with its alliterative P, has made something invisible in my experience visible to me.

The earth is full of patterns and rhythms. Some we merely observe but others invite collaboration. Like the planting of bulbs in autumn and the picking of flowers in spring.

These back-to-school days have been anxious days for me, but feeling again the net bag of bulbs stretched tight against the palm of my hand is like feeling my head surface above deep water.

I can breathe again. The peace of a larger, more meaningful perspective fills my lungs.

Homework may go unfinished, my children may go on poking and screeching, but wasn’t it only yesterday I was digging in bulbs with a baby strapped to my back? And isn’t it only tomorrow when those bulbs will bloom again?

The earth spins so fast. There is so much to remember (not homework but the feel of a baby on my back). There is so much to anticipate.

The present moment is always what matters most. But it matters most when it is rooted in memory even as it reaches toward that which is still to come.


These Farmhouse Bookshelves (+ A Giveaway!)

Alaska is far away.

Maybe you think you know this, but however far away you imagine Alaska to be, double that. Because Alaska is really, really far away.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend a week with other writers on a remote Alaskan island. I wish that each of you could have the chance to be dazzled by the Alaskan sun and scoured by the Alaskan wind. I wish that you could taste King salmon only just pulled from the water.

If a two-day journey isn’t an option for you, what about a book instead?

View from Harvester Island

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Here is a memoir of that same remote island. It is also one of the best memoirs I have ever read.

Surviving the Island of Grace: Life on the Wild Edge of America by Leslie Leyland Fields is the story of a young woman from New Hampshire struggling to make a home and a marriage on a primitive and remote island in the Gulf of Alaska.

This is a memoir of marriage, motherhood, spirituality, and poetry. It is also a memoir of wilderness and the dangerous and exhausting work of commercial salmon fishing.

Even if you can’t imagine enjoying a book about fishing (much less actual fishing!) I highly recommend this book. The writing is stellar, the story captivating, and the whole thing is edged with lyricism.

This is the most particular and most universal of stories. Now, I too, am asking the question at the heart of this book: how do we bear the terrible, beautiful grace that sustains our lives?

This was where we unraveled the rest of our lives, it seemed, even as we sewed up the holes in the nets. There was something about this space, about standing out there on the beach under the open sky – the clouds or sun, mountains on every horizon, though it was ocean all the way to the edge. The walls were gone, how could there be a larger space to stand in, and yet, it became a sort of confessional. – Leslie Leyland Fields

I picked up another Alaska memoir in the bookstore at the Anchorage airport: Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs: A True Story of Bad Breaks and Small Miracles by Heather Lende. This one reads more like a collection of personal essays than a cohesive memoir. The tone is cozy and, at times, a little too cute, but Lende’s work as an obituary writer for her small-town paper lends the book some serious depth.

Lende organizes her chapters around the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, but she incorporates other traditions as well, such as Buddhism or Native American spirituality.

I kept this one tucked in the seatback pocket on the long flight from Anchorage to Seattle. At one point, my seatmate asked if she could read it, and I passed it over. She laughed out loud for the rest of the flight.

It’s a good book.

I wonder if to be human is to know that we can’t ever banish pain and ugliness from the world, only learn from it and create something beautiful and good out of it – like the newest totem pole in Sitka, the one called ‘You Are Going to Get Well.’ If you ever see it, you will believe that’s possible. – Heather Lende

One of the guest writers at the Alaska workshop was the novelist Bret Lott. You can’t go wrong picking up any of his fiction (I adore the strange, hilarious, heartbreaking first story in his collection The Difference Between Women and Men: Stories), and his novel Jewel was once an Oprah Book Club pick.

I especially recommend his latest, a collection of essays called Letters and Life: On Being a Writer, On Being a Christian.

For writers, his essay “On Precision” is outstanding. For everyone, the final long essay on the death of his father is beautifully crafted. I aspire to write personal essays like this one.

As a writer you must always be striving for that which you cannot yet achieve and for that which you cannot yet know. – Bret Lott

I have two bonus recommendations for you today. The first is Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You through Life’s Transitions by Kristen Strong, a pretty and practical book for any woman who struggles with life’s transitions.

The second is the most recent book from Emily P. Freeman: Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World. I don’t think anyone writes Christian formation quite like Emily. Her writing is accessible but also lovely, straightforward but rich and wise.

In my eagerness to read it, I mistakenly ordered two copies. Leave a comment here, and I will enter your name in a drawing to win one of those copies. A winner will be notified by email.

Tell me, friends. Read any good books lately?