empty space.

empty space.

(my kitchen)

Sine proprio. It means “without grasping.” It’s Latin, a phrase used in the vows taken by Franciscan friars—or that’s what I learned from my friar friend, anyway.

Specifically, sine proprio is the phrase used for the vow of Poverty. I would’ve thought they’d use a phrase like “without money” for a vow of poverty. But the point isn’t strictly the not-having. It’s the giving-away. For St. Francis and his early followers, sine proprio meant giving away even the ragged clothes from their own bodies, even their last handfuls of food, if they came upon another person who was hungry or poorly clothed.

Whatever comes into your hands, you choose to hold lightly— and freely release it, if need be, for the sake of love.


Sine proprio has become a reminder for me that nothing is mine to keep forever. Not circumstances; not possessions; not relationships; not seasons of life. Everything is a library book that I have to give back sooner or later.

Even if my fiercest wishes should come to pass, those too shall pass.


*        *        *

This was a full summer.

I rewrote my novel and I love the results. I had four public speaking engagements. I took two small boys on a raucous travelogue’s worth of adventures. Even my desperate and coveted naps felt busy.

(my oldest meditates on the end-of-summer waffle pile)

And now it’s September, and I feel like Times Square at 1:30 am on New Year’s Day, before the cleaning crews come through—abandoned sidewalks, a few drunk revelers still making out, two tons of ticker tape. All the summer’s joyous work was still very much work, and much of it was centered on others. I am spent.

I always know when I’m running on fumes when I start to think, “I WANT TO RUN AWAY WITH THE CIRCUS.” I don’t want to run away with a literal circus. “The circus” is all those wild wishes and unfettered daydreams that roll in and pitch a circus tent when I am feeling spent—the carnival of desires, I suppose you could say.

I won’t give you a tour of my carnival—it’s my own private midway, and that, I suppose, is part of the pleasure, to have one thing that feels like mine alone—but I’m sure you have a carnival of your own:

Stealing two motorcycles, for example,
and heading to Cali with Lana del Rey.

Knocking back some tequila shots and whipping naked
down the street on horseback, Lady Godiva-style.


Or whatever.

(among my favored coping mechanisms)

But there’s a difference between deep desires and noisy, flashy desires. And even those deep, real desires of your heart, the ones that make you want to leap at them and hold tight, often require

opening one’s hands.

holding lightly.

sometimes releasing.

The releasing is so hard sometimes. The releasing of anything. Real things. Daydreamed things. Seasons. Even just the release of busy-ness. Sometimes you have to pry your fingers off it.

I find a lot of 4-leaf clovers. I like to give them away. And into the hands of my oldest son came a Lucky Duck…

And when you finally let go of it—sine proprio—what follows is an empty-handed time. You are tempted to fill it with something. It is no fun to sit in hunger.

But it’s also a useful time: a time to meditate on where you’re at. On the season that’s just passed. On the shape your heart and soul are in after all their travels.

It has been my experience, also, that

opening my hands also allows
something else to be put into them. 

That principle, even as I write it, doesn’t feel real right now. What I want right now is to run away with the circus. But I know my empty hands have been filled before. And so—all right.

I am sitting in my kitchen
letting the empty space be empty for a while.

 Continued in Empty Space: Part 2, in which a confluence of events needles me further.

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