Thursday, September 20, 2012

Go West Older Lady!

Go West Young Older Man Lady!

One more day.

That is all that remains before my family embarks on an epic trip to Colorado. 

Today will be full of hustling and bustling, list making and organizing, packing and planning. We will drop our dog off at the kennel that makes her smell stinky and clinical but where she is well-loved.  We will load up the family truckster with all the necessary accoutrements, fill fuel tanks and tires, clean windshields and seat cushions.

And tomorrow, when the sun peeks over the edge of the world, we will be driving away from it, headed West.

You see, we are making this trip with my parents.  

They were supposed to go to Italy, those two.  That was their dream and something that they carefully researched for quite some time. It was going to be beautiful. They were going to cruise the Mediterranean, eat themselves plump and take in the beauty of that boot shaped land. 

But, in the interim, my dad's hip and back and feet decided to betray him and my mom's leukemia got a little riotous and so Italy was put on the back burner.  First, indefinitely. Then, permanently.  

And there was a sadness.

So, for a time, they attended to their health and garnered up their strength. And then, being the amazing people that they are, my parents pitched an alternative.  Why don't we take a trip together instead?

And the dream for this trip was born.

Tomorrow, when we back out of the driveway and turn that loaded van towards the West, there will be a lot riding on those wheels.

There will be two boys who will take their schooling on the road.  The rugged landscape, the strange geological formations, the ancient homes built into the side of cliffs, the hundreds of thousands of acres of unspoiled land filled with elk and bear and mountain goats...all of it will become their classroom.  

There will be me and my husband.  And we will find ourselves in the unique position of traveling as parents and as the parented, navigating decisions with another set of opinions and perspectives, summoning patience for the young and the old, and loving each other through it all.

And there will be my parents, whose generosity of head and heart knows no bounds.  This time around, they will be passengers rather than navigators.  Their job will be to look wide-eyed at the beauty, to soak up the laughter of their grandchildren and to marvel at a length of days that is beyond a gift and is, quite remarkably, a miracle.


For the next ten days I am going offline.  This space will be quiet as I travel with my family and focus on being fully with them and in the moment.  It will feel very strange to not immediately share my experiences with you as I have become quite accustomed to chronicling my days and my heart in this space.  But I believe that this time away will grow something new in me.  I need to unplug and slow down and be present.  It will be good for me to have conversations with the people who are most important to me and wait for their comments, rather than virtual ones.  And it will be soul stretching to be still and quiet and listen for the sounds of the spheres.  Thank you for your patience and understanding.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Golden Thread

It's in the middle of washing that hundredth dish,
fingers pulled tight and wrinkly,
water rushing warm and full
It is then that I catch the joy

It hangs in the air
moist and heavy

You're busy at the stove
swirling riotous color and pattern
upon your chosen canvas
while beads of sweat hug your brow

I watch you at a slant
wanting to catch you unfettered
to see you wholly absorbed
making a life rather than a living

These moments, ripe with rhythm
they hem us in, behind and before
silently threading a golden margin
along our frayed edges

At one point, between tasks
you slide up behind me
and suddenly arms and spoons and curry
they circle me

Your lips find my neck
and you whisper love down my back
You tell me how you are full to bursting
and my face rises in laughter

We are cooking more than dinner
you and I

It will be the stringing of days like this
one upon the other
that will make us round and full
and replete

For this meal
with its swirl of time and place
it warms ones belly
deep and wide

Friday, September 14, 2012


Unscripted.  Unedited.  Real.
Writing for five minutes.
A sort of writing flash mob.

Five Minute Friday

I hear my voice rattling around in my head all tinny and sharp. Impudent. Insolent.
I feel caught in the cramped space between my get-it-together self and my what's-wrong-with-you self.
These voices, they deafen.

I just want to be present.
I want to be here.

But I have become so very scattered and pulled.  

A backlit screen has become my muse rather than the face on the couch bathed in morning sun.

The papers on the table, they fan and crumple and I am so very lost.

There is that epic trip next week, the one that will make memories I will hold onto from now into eternity but

It is the window that I need.
That flat liquid sand miracle.
I need to gaze through it, turn my face aright.
Let it be my lens.

Perhaps, then, everything will come into focus.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On writing

It's always been there, this burning.  Deep in my belly.

I felt it first when I was about five, standing underneath that pine tree in the front yard, its limbs heavy with snow.  That day I realized that falling snow makes a sound and that the world opens up space for that whispering.  There was a burning then and it kept me warm.

I felt it next in fourth grade.  There was a creative writing exercise in which I wrote a fantastical piece on purple snow and how it tasted like grape Kool-Aid. Everyone in my class thought it was amazing but I just scratched my head.  But there was that burning again, like a glowing ember.

It was in eighth grade that Mrs. Hansborough taught us the beauty of the essay.  I didn't understand why everyone struggled so in that class.  Writing the required weekly essays felt like swimming to me.  It was the most natural thing in the world.  The strokes and the laps were work, yes, but the water felt like home and I was buoyed by the dancing waves.

Mrs. Hansborough recommended me for a writing competition that year and so one day, I sat in a room all by myself with "my favorite space" as a writing prompt.  That was easy.  Clearly I would write about the tree tops and how they called to me.  I would write about the ginko that almost touched the sky and how the limbs grew like a ladder to heaven and in the fall, I stared glory in the face as the leaves dripped gold all around.

But then, I felt it distinctly.  There was a tugging, pulled tighter by doubt and questions, and then a surge of cold water rushed in, drowning my head and my heart and leaving me gasping for air.  And I fumbled around trying to find that gleaming but it was gone somehow.  Drenched by the frigidity of forced air.

So, like a mindless, heartless robot, I wrote something about my dog rather than about the treetops and it was terrible and the whole time I felt like I had a gun to my head.  And, of course, I didn't even place in the competition.  The girl that wrote a short story about her dead brother, she won, of course.  I went home that day and climbed my ginko and let the icy wind blow hard on my belly.

In high school, I caught the scent of wood smoke and I was at once comforted and invigorated.  I began scratching out poems ridden with adolescent angst and it was glorious and freeing and ridiculous.
My words became like bellows and I was privately consumed by the flames and I felt like Joan of Arc.

Then came college and, with it, an intense spiritual crisis that would take me years to work through, not to mention the thousands of pages of other people's writing that I was required to read.  There wasn't room for the burning in my belly all of those years.  Even after I met that girl down the hall with the swinging hair and bright lips who was majoring in Creative Writing, I found myself incredulous.  I remember uttering soundlessly to myself, "You can actually do that?!? Major in writing?"

And perhaps that was when the gavel came down hardest, sending coals and embers scattering to the four winds. When I asked myself who I was fooling.  When I determined that I was not wise enough or well-read enough or clever enough to keep up the charade.  That I didn't drink enough or smoke enough or get around enough to write well.  I wasn't grizzly enough or eccentric enough.

This changeling wasn't enough. And that was the end of that.

But that smoldering wick could not be snuffed out.

My life grew and evolved. I walked with intention in the wilderness and the desert. I experienced pain and struggle and exultation. I gave myself away and, in return, I was given a hundredfold blessing in return. I split apart and life was given.  I died and I was reborn.

And all of that became like kindling.


These days I find myself a fire keeper.  And although some days it feels as if that fire will burn me right through, I step closer.

That fire has grown stronger now that I have joined other wayfarers. We gather around burning barrels for warmth, for light, for connection.  Each of us keeps the fire going for each other and sometimes the flames are so bright they singe and crisp. But it is the low, slow burn that everyone knows and keeps alive.  A hobo camp we might be, but we take care of our own.

And it is all clear now.

Where there is fire, there is life.

Monday, September 10, 2012

How hope runs deep

Yesterday I spent the entire afternoon weeding.

I haven't weeded since June.

It just seemed silly to me to pull up things that were already dead. And so, I just left them there. For months.  Scattered around like errant bowls of dry corn flakes, they blended in just fine with the nearly dead perennials.  Everything sat around all summer, wasted and spent.  And brown.

And then the rains came.  First, the angry storm that blew in atop winds from the South.  It burst through our creaky and split threshold like a loud uncle that walks too heavy and has leaves stuck in his hair but everyone forgives him because hides doves in his pockets.  And I rejoiced with sweet hallelujahs on my lips, for truly this was a miracle, this rain.  But secretly, I was still thirsty.

A week later and another rain.  Fast and furious and gushing buckets, this rain baptized the world anew.  Finding every crack and crevice that harbored dry dusty dirt, it flushed it out.  Every stone was turned.  Every limb was tested.

Then Saturday dawned, crisp and supple, and I sighed in spite of myself.  I began to remember that there is a time for everything and there is always this turning, above and below, and it has a cadence and a wisdom that exists apart from me.

I witnessed the miracle of how spirit breath and holy water can bring the dead to life.  All around, green buds burst out of the nothingness and sang.  And for the first time in months, I needed to weed.

It took all afternoon.

I pulled and tossed and wiped my brow and felt the sweet autumn sun on my shoulders.  And I began to see.  When there has been a time of barrenness, a time of burning fire and then dead air, a time of nothingness, the roots of established plants want to let go.  They want to hand themselves over to the siren song of death, give up their ghost and just.let.go.  But they are image bearers and as a result their very marrow hums with creation's song and they unconsciously continue to reach for life.  Deep below the surface, in the dark where no one sees, there is a groping.  Up above, where their fruit should be, they parade as dead.  But underneath, where the shadows reign, they are still hoping.

And then that blissful rain falls and quenches the profoundest thirst and now the surface begins to communicate with the deep and there is an understanding.  My flowers, the ones that seemed dead before, they've come back to life, above and below.  Those roots remember their full purpose now and they pulse.

Now there are weeds and I must pull them.  Out.

My hands plunge and scoop and toss and dirt flies and I know.  That we all come from this dirt.  That we are human because god took this humus and pasted it together and breathed life into death.  And although the weeds have found new life, so too, has the beauty.  It was joined with hope all along.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The table

I have this friend who is cloaked in silence.  She rests in the folds of quiet and looks out with eyes saucer-wide.  She is not afraid, exactly. It is not fear that causes her to choose corners over conversations.  Nor is she aloof.  This friend, with the dark ringlets and graceful hands, she is careful.

I have another friend who walks bravely, her courage garnered from years of walking between emotional land mines.  Her gait has the slightest hitch, the only hint that something once bound her.  But what once was broken has been stoutheartedly knitted back together and now, she moves mountains, that girl.

And so I sit with them in a corner booth while the sky rages and rips apart and weeps outside.  There have been times when each one of us was like that sky, broken and split and leaking and, like mother birds, we pulled our coats wide and made shelter in the shadow of our wings. Tonight, the storm remains outside the window, but when we sneak furtive glances we can see our reflections set upon the dark clouds and we remember.

We talk and laugh and reflect and on the table are broken pieces of chips and when we lick our lips we can still taste the goodness.  Our glasses sweat onto the table and with each sip a new circle is embedded on the table.  As the night ticks on, those circles layer one upon the other, and its impossible to know from which glass they came.

This gathering, it is a feast and I want to forever remember the taste of it all.

Something like a miracle is happening in these moments.  My wallflower friend, she pulses and she comes alive.  She emerges from her dark corners and when she steps forward, the light falling in waves upon her face, her whole countenance tilts upwards in response.  There is a blooming and it is beautiful.

And my other friend, she sighs deeply and her armor falls and there is this grand clanking and it is like music.  I look across the table and I see her heart, naked and exposed.  It stands there on the edge of a great precipice, swelling with muted anticipation, until there is an awakening and she realizes that she is safe.

And I know it now, deep and full and rounded--this is what life in the Kingdom looks like.  And it is here.  And it is now.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Unscripted.  Unedited.  Real.
Writing for five minutes.
A sort of writing flash mob.

Five Minute Friday

I always wanted to be graceful.  
I wanted my twirls to look like watercolor paintings.
And I wanted gazelle-like leaps.  All across the backyard.

But that is not the body with which I was born.
Life is funny like that.
We spend so much time dreaming about what could have been.

I need to change that.

Rather than pushing myself to be graceful, when I'm not, I want to start living a life full of grace.

I want to walk the floors of my home, running fingertips along kitchen counters and bookshelves and sinks, leaving trails of acceptance and gratitude.

I want to be generous, in heart and mind and spirit, so that those who expected disfavor or disgust or disconnection are surprised by joy.

And I want my life to sing, like those little notes that stand on the shoulders of the bigger notes, making every song that much more full. 

Full of grace.  That's what I want.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

{Imperfect Prose} The shimmering

It has been a very dry season and I was beginning to stumble around, drunk on dust and the droning of locusts. Living in the middle of a drought causes your very edges to shrink in upon themselves and you become smaller, in spite of yourself. There is a brittleness to your frame that cowers in the presence of deep shadows.  Everything becomes too heavy.

And then one day, someone else's storm birthed my salvation.  The irony was not lost on this soul who craves justice and mercy.  From death comes life.  Always.

The leaden sky swelled with promise and then began to leak through all the holes I had poked in its crackling and leathered veneer...holes made by my pointed prayers and broken hallelujahs.  

And as the rain fell, I saw that it fell on the dying and the living with equal measure because surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

The rain fell, hour upon hour upon hour and we all bowed low from the weight of glory falling all around us.

These bodies had curled in upon themselves, parched and done with the business of living and, in a singular moment, it was as if that was the miracle...that in the giving of our very lives we had become the perfect vessel for receiving this living water.  Cupped corpses had become holy altars.

And in the quiet of the woods, stretched between limbs that reached for one another, were invisible strands.  Spun in the hushed nights and hidden in the folds of darkness.   The silent work that goes unheralded.  

It was the rain that revealed their magic.  

As the heavy sky dripped sloppy on the world, one by one, the fat drops were strung on strings. 

And suddenly the world was wrapped in gowns of gossamer and there was a shimmering.