Ben is curled up on top of the filing cabinet. This is a favorite spot; its location by the window enables him to keep an eye on the traffic outside and still be instantly available should I need any help at the keyboard. Ben helps by supplying me with long strings of the same letter. There's nothing like a good solid line of AAAAAAAAAAAAs to prime the pump when you're stuck for an idea. When he's finished his line of letters, he settles into the narrow space between the keyboard and the monitor and naps, sending me waves of serene intellectual energy while he sleeps. It is really Ben who enables me to continue publishing the eMos.
They began in 2001. In those days, I was rector of St. Clement's Church in Hell's Kitchen, a story unto itself: St. Clement's is the oldest working Off-Broadway space in Manhattan, and the sanctuary is a black-box theater. What a place it was! I would write the eMos on a computer that didn't work half the time and which I didn't understand very well even when it did work, and send them out to my parishioners, as a little something to get their spiritual wheels in gear each day. Well, almost each day.
In those days, the eMos were called "The Almost Daily eMo from St. Clement's-in-the-Hood." They were called eMos because I was Mother Crafton, abbreviated "Mo," and they were an electronic visit from me. They went out only by email. There was no website. Today -- unless you happen to have been an early recipient and saved yours -- you can only read the early ones in a collection put together by Church Publishing, "The Almost-Daily eMos". You can buy that book, and a later volume of eMos, in the Farm's bookstore at www.geraniumfarm.org.
In those early eMos, you find the parish's experience of 9/11 and its aftermath. You find the earlier stages of my illness and my retirement from the parish because of it. You see the transition from the Hood to the Geranium Farm: the eMos needed a new name, now that they would no longer be emanating from an urban setting, and geraniums kept coming to mind: simple, ordinary, tough plants that anyone can grow, plants that don't have a great deal of class but do have lots of staying power, plants with a brisk, earthy pungent scent. I'd like to write like a geranium smells, I thought, and I'd like my work to be as common, as easy to share as a cutting from one of these easy-to-grow plants.
The eMos would be snapshots of God at work in plain old daily human life. People would see immediately that they could have written almost any eMo themselves, that there was little, if anything, in them, that was news to any of us. That we already have what we need to get started on the walk with God, that we're already on the walk and always have been. None of this is rocket science. God is not hiding from us. We are built to be able to discern God's presence, and we are born wanting to see it.
And we are able to help one another see God. We help one another, often, better than we are able to help ourselves in this task: we need each other, in order to become the good and holy people we long to be. Sometimes the eMos help people see God at work in the world. Sometimes they don't; nobody hits a home run every time at bat. And none of us ever know how long we'll be able to stay in the game. The wonderful thing about writing is the same thing that's wonderful about any art: you can still experience it long after it was created. Unlike any of us, art survives death.