Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pink plaid sneakers

Sometimes the small things, like pink plaid sneakers, bring joy and comfort while I am waiting on the world to change or become more defined.

I put on the pink plaid sneakers
From Target
This morning.
I figured they would help me wait
For the lilacs to come full bloom,
The peonies to unknot,
The purple-and-white-striped clematis
To open on the trellis.
I counted sixteen buds.

The sneakers are not what a professional
Would wear.
When I catch them under the desk
Or my legs suddenly cross,
The pink plaid comes into view.
The wait becomes
I know why they jumped
Out of the closet this morning,
Spooked the cat into cat-fits,
Simply demanded to be worn.

There is new life to be had
To be worn
To be obvious
Under my desk
Crossed legs
Pink plaid with a stripe of turquoise
While I wait.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memoir... of sorts (for Ian)

I read... a lot.  Every once in a while I read something which, even though the story line is different from mine, simply resonates on an almost under-skin level.  Ian Cron*s sort-of memoir carries that resonance for me.  I am not a prose writer, but I realize it*s what I want to do with the reflections I write, and why I started blogging in April.  It*s the preaching voice, I think.  And what better way to preach, than with our lives?

I want to walk down the street
So people see me
And say
You look familiar
Don*t I know you?
Haven*t we met?
Even if we*ve always lived
On opposite sides
Of the country.
Even though we*ve never met before,
I want them to recognize
The particular way
I favor my right foot
Pluck a blade of grass
Notice the wind blowing the pines
And that shimmy
They do.

I want to write so well
That people read it,
See themselves
Common humanity
New possibilities
Grace glimpsed.
Even for them
As much as for me.
That would be writing
Well enough
And then some.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Triple rainbow spinner

The spinner is back.  Who knows where it went.  Who knows what prompted its return.  There was conversation in the family about putting it in the backyard... but really it looks good in front.  And I want everyone to see it.  And enjoy it.

Last summer we bought a triple wind spinner
At a festival,
A rainbow for the front yard.
We delighted in it for a month
Before it went missing.
Two days ago the rainbow returned
We found it taking a nap
 behind the bushes.
We do not know where it spent
The winter.
Nine months later
It looks good as new,
Like it spent the winter
In a warmer climate
Or someone*s garage.
I think we*ll never know.
Summer begins with Memorial Day.
The rainbow spinner
Is ready to take its place
In the front yard

In counterpoint

I stare at the radar map and wonder about the angry red dots, the look of night out the window, the sump pump cycling in the basement, the thunder and rain.  The pick-up choir sang All Things Bright and Beautiful (one of my favorites) this morning.  I ran up the stairs to the choir loft to join them at the Peace when I read it in the bulletin.  I am still humming it as the thunder echoes outside.

It looks like night outside
Green dim night outside
Thunder and rain roll through
The sound echoes
It feels like the end of the world.
It seems they got it wrong
By one weekend.
Hardly anyone was in church
This morning,
Except we sang All Things Bright and Beautiful
In counterpoint
To this.
Maybe we wouldn*t notice
The green dim night,
The build-up of thunder and rain
Maybe we would only hear
That final line:
He has made all things well.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I just finished reading Ian Morgan Cron*s new book: Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me: A memoir... of sorts.  I loved it.  I recommend it.  Highly recommend it.  Read it.  

I looked up Ian*s blog (iancron.com)  Today he invites his readers to come up with a six word memoir.  Since I am a fan of saying as much as possible in as few words as possible... thinking that I will take up less space somehow, yet be heard more (there*s a fallacy here... we are all meant to take up space, and fill it... probably this will be a later reflection... but not today).  But anyway... six words offer an appealing format.  And an interesting way to approach this weekend.  Mine?  
Finding Grace.  
Always a surprise.

The flags have been at half-mast
Since mid-week.
It is Memorial Day weekend,
Promised warm eventually
Unbearably hot by Monday.
The beginning to summer but first
We remember death
More it seems
than the war-dead.
An odd but true way to enter summer,
End school,
Juxtapose commencement speeches
Of famous and not-so-famous people
At college launchings
The pile-up
Words of wisdom
Famous last words.

I am invited to write
A six word memoir on a blog.
It reminds me of haiku.
There is something satisfying
In counting syllables.
Six words to sum up the trajectory
Of a life
At the beginning of summer.
Make it personal.
Make it general.
Make it true.
Count the words.
Raise the flag.
Make it true.

Friday, May 27, 2011

I never know what will bloom tomorrow

I think I have prepared the talks for the retreat ten times over.  No, it is not the perfectionist streak which I know I have.  It is more the delightful surprise of not knowing what comes next, what will bloom tomorrow.  It may well change as I present it.  I realize that while I have always claimed to preach and write short, for this there is a wealth of possibility

I never know what will bloom tomorrow.
The presentation for next weekend
Has changed
Every other day at least.
The spaces I try to keep the same
So I can easily flow with change
Bloom different
Every day.
This afternoon will offer a haircut.
The flowers I picked from the lawn
False Solomon*s Seal,
Something purple on a stalk,
Stray grass pulled
Will mean something different
I never know what will bloom,
What will die,
Where the meaning will surface
Or fade.
I used to wait until the last minute
To prepare
I learn so much more this way
Now that I always prepare.
It is not a model of efficiency.
Now I do not know what will bloom
At all.
Now I wait
For the surprise.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


It is an odd thing, taking steps, then waiting... what seems like waiting forever even though the waiting will be done in two weeks, or only maybe done.  For almost sure I will be able to drive, no matter what the MRI shows.  There is always the question, though, of what has changed since last time.  When I think of it, we always get that question, just sometimes it feels more life and death than others.  And with many more things than repeat MRIs.  I watch the weather change, and wait for the hummingbird to reappear.  They say it*s going to be 90 on Monday.  What*s the song?  Waiting on the world to change?

I understand the pounding is quieter
These days.
When I said I was almost done
With a round of antibiotics
For a sinus infection,
She said she could tell my left sinus
Was thicker,
A rather expensive way to have my sinuses
Of course I wonder what else
She saw and couldn*t say.
I came home with the envelope
Of pictures
To be compared
With the other pictures.
She asked about weekend plans.
I wonder if she talks with knee pictures
Elbow pictures
Breast scans
The same way.

I understand the pounding is quieter
These days.
I am home with my pictures,
Wait for warmer weather
And the hummingbird
To return.


OK it*s green.  But so cold?  At this time of year?  Today is the day I get more pictures taken of my brain.  I was so sure the appointment was for 1:30... they called at 10 and asked where I was.  Oy.  I blame it on the cold.  Or the warm bed.  Or the cat.  Or the birds complaining outside.  Appointment now at 1:00.

What do the flowers think?
Does it feel like spring
As usual?
Is it hurry up and bloom before the next
Cold dip
Barely above freezing?
Are the birds sorry they returned so soon,
Hunched fluffed out like bumblebees
Will they need to lay new eggs
Keep the laid ones warm?
Or forego it
This year?
How do they decide?
Is it on nature automatic?

I am glad for the warm house
The bed that encouraged me to stay
The coffee cup warm and solid in my hands
The husband and cat still sleeping
Under the covers
At 10 in the morning,
Warm and solid 
Under the covers.
Inside I am grateful for warmth.
I listen to the birds

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On the periphery

Now that the rain has stopped for a bit, and it is warmer, the hummingbird returns.  I catch her possibility on the edge of my visual field.  While I wonder about hummingbirds, I also think about how much goes on at just the edge of our vision, what we turn our heads to see full on, what we ignore.  What have we been trained to pay attention to?  What will we train ourselves to pay attention to?  Or ignore?

On the periphery
The hummingbird has returned
To the columbine.
When I turn I see her full on,
Small green almost alien
In her movements.
Why is it bird men
Get all the colors?
Her mate with the flashy
Ruby throat
Is elsewhere.
She is green, only green,
Hums on the edge of green bushes
Mines the columbine
For nectar
Leaves me with so many questions:
Where is he, of the ruby throat?
What do they do in the rain?
How do they keep flying?

I remember fairy tales
Stories of hummingbird eggs
A delicacy some people ate.
Maybe they still do.
I saw a picture once
Of a hummingbird at rest.
Of course they have to rest,
Lay eggs,
Raise little hummingbirds.
How do they teach them to fly,
So I can catch their motion
Out the side of my eye
On the periphery?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Considering sunflowers

This will be a gardening summer.  The yard has needed attention for a long while.  Sure the grass is cut regularly, but this year it*s time to notice what*s already there (lilies of the valley, violets, peonies, the stray columbine which the hummingbird finds even when it*s tucked away behind a bush).  And it*s time to plant.  The heirloom sunflower seeds are in the mail.

I consider the place in the yard
The sun shines
The most,
Prepare the dirt
For sunflowers.

I flew into Fargo once
Late summer
To visit my love.
The plane landed over a field of open sunflowers
Gold and yellow, shining;
The time of day when everything
Looks golden
Late afternoon, early evening light.
Before then I*d seen sunflowers
In ones and twos and threes.
The field began to glow as we came in low
To land.
The sunflowers watched,
Attentive faces.
We could almost pick them out

I consider the yard
The best spot for a sunflower mix
Viewed from the ground,           
A family of sunflowers which will show golden
Late afternoon
Early evening
Even as it*s followed the sun
All day.
They will
Watch us land.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I am fascinated by those who spend a significant portion of their lives figuring out which important person they are related to.  I am reminded that Jesus did not have any children.  This somehow allows each of us to claim him, or at least allows us to be adopted into His family.  It is an interesting thing in this world of who is related to whom that none of us can trace our lineage back to Jesus... except by adoption.  His of us, and us of Him.  Both ways.

She did a health genogram this year,
Much like the one I did two years ago
For school
But without the zig zaggy lines
Which showed
Where the trauma was.

I trace the lines
Up and down and zig-zaggy,
Even doing some background checks
Of the family tree.
I am eligible to be a Daughter of the American Revolution,
A Colonial Dame.
Years ago my blood tested possibly positive
For Jewish ancestry.
I understand the fascination
Of those who spend years
To search records,
Trace straight and zig-zaggy lines
To find out
Who they are.

Today  I search.
I find it fascinating to see the wealth of people
Who walked before me.
For most there is barely any record
At all.
Like my daughter I say
I don*t look like any of you
From time to time I see a picture
and there is
A familiar chin.

I see a bird and know immediately
What it is
How it flies
What it eats
The notes of its song
Up and down the scale.
I remember my great grandfather whose life*s work
Was annotating all the birds
Of Minnesota.


In an odd ways this feels like Easter again.   Holy Week always feels like the scheduled time to consider endings and beginnings and the triumph of new beginnings.  Harold Camping*s prediction caught more people this time around than 1994. I think media saturation has a lot to do with it.  Whatever the cause, there was no rapture this time either.  In an interesting way, the possibility that Jesus was coming again on Saturday at 6 PM, made the conversation about Jesus* Second Coming (a major tenet of the Christian faith) more real. Now we are back to normal.  I think for a few, it may look a little different.

Today we return to normal.
Some people never left
Of course the idea of normal
Has always been
Our creation.
Good, bad, just the way it is
God-given, God-forsaken:
Normal remains
In the eye of the beholder,
The throat
Of the speaker.

Over the weekend:
Floods, tornadoes,
The cleanup in Japan
Continued still,
Continues now.
New tears and cleanup
To the south of us.
New prayers as well.
This is normal
When we think of it
Really think of it
None of us are ever
Left behind,
We are in it
This is normal.

Today I return to survey the garden.
I cannot yet drive to the garden store,
So I assess what God has planted.
I pick four lilies of the valley, fragrant,
Two purple columbine, intricately made.
I declare this normal and wonderful.
I declare this good.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Windows of opportunity

Sometimes it is hard to tell exactly where windows of opportunity come from: whether I am more predisposed, whether it*s someone else, or whether it*s merely something in the air. 

I once worked for someone who would say: We won*t say whose fault this is!  when I knew it was his fault, and he knew it was mine.  It didn*t do a lot for the relationship.  

But... I do think it*s helpful to pay attention to those moments of possibility.  They come in all sizes and shapes and fragrances.   It*s not necessary to tweak out every nuance, but simply recognize them when they come, and be grateful.

There are moments  
When time ripens,
Opens to possibility.
Almost like when the open window
Draws in spring, nearing summer, air;
It is warm but fresh still.
Opportunity enters with it.
The cat knows your lap
Is open for sleeping;
The teenager
Senses the possibility
You may not be as stupid
As you usually seem.
You are perhaps more open
For conversation.

Opportunity wafts through,
Asks to be enjoyed like spring:
A light, almost pale fragrance,
It changes, depends upon
Whatever is in bloom
Right now.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Hard hard rain

It looks like rain outside.  My husband monitors the seismic activity around the world.  Today I take Sawyer shopping at Woodfield Mall, part of the octave of her birthday.  She*s right, shopping is not my very favorite activity.  But today is special shopping and lunch and more shopping.  I wonder what the mall will be like today.

Memories of the range of churches with which I have been involved come back.  I am a cradle Episcopalian, but come with a variety of church camp experience: Episcopal, Lutheran, Salvation Army, Evangelical.  My husband tells me that Hard Hard Rain is about nuclear fallout... well... maybe it is.  Like a lot of Dylan, it*s in code.  Come to think of it, I have plenty of stories about living through the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Who knew that Bob Dylan
Was hard-wired into my brain?
All the verses to Hard Hard Rain unearthed
From church summer camp days.
I was newer
To playing the guitar.
It was Episcopal Church summer camp.
I only went once.
I preferred the Girl Scout variety.
Dylan was really easy
To play.
I remember the young woman,
Church camp veteran.
Was a favorite.
It never occurred to me
That Hard Hard Rain
Was about Jesus
Coming again.
The End of the World.
Somehow my brain hard-wired it
Into the End of the World section.
A section
Almost empty.
Summer camp,
The Episcopal Church
Was not big on End of the World

After college I got a job
With the Salvation Army,
Went as a leader
To summer camp.
We sang non-Dylan things.
I got more particulars for the end of the world section
In my brain.

Today, however, it is Hard Hard Rain
That comes back.
All the verses.
Early memories.

Friday, May 20, 2011

When it doesn*t happen

I think this is worth considering.

When it doesn*t happen,
How will we sit with those
Who waited,
Full in expectation
Of the end?
Bags packed.
Cars given away.
Bank accounts cleared.

When it doesn*t happen,
How will we join with them,
Not leave them behind?

When it doesn*t happen,
How will we rapture them back
Among the living,
Among the not so certain,
Not so sure,
Those of us who continue to wait,
Will continue to wait?

How will we greet them
When it doesn*t happen

How will we extend our hands?

Maybe sunflowers

Last year I was content to observe what grew in the yard.  I barely had my hands in the dirt, at all.  
Last year I also observed other plans completely change before my eyes.  It occurred to me to ask: Why plan?  Why plan anything at all?  What is that expression:  God laughs when we make plans?  Still, I realize a corner has been turned when I start planning again.  Of course I never stopped, really.  I may not have been driving around town, but I have learned and re-learned things standing and sitting, watching and waiting, even walking the unplowed sidewalks in the weeks after that February snowstorm.  Spring seemed late this year.  Maybe it is not too late to consider heirloom seeds.

It is late to order seeds
From the heirloom catalogue.
Past mid-May,
I look for the possibility
Of fast growth,
To catch up
Where I would have been
If I had planted before now.
It is late to consider seeds.
Seeds that have seen years and years
Of possibility
Flowers and fruit.

There are flats of annuals
At the garden store
Annuals have trends
Like everything else.
The nicotiana which drew the sphinx moth
Years ago
Is no longer in style.
Even perennials
Come and go.

It is late to drool over seeds
From the heirloom catalogue.
I consider them anyway.
Tomatoes are obviously
for next year,
The particular heirloom cucumber,
Seeds collected from pickle makers
In Germany.
The varieties of lettuce hold possibility
This year.
Sunflowers hold a page of their own.
I see sunflowers in a row
along the fence.

It is late but I think
Maybe lettuce,
Maybe sunflowers.