Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween rescue

It seems that rescue is a way of life.  I had a friend years ago who said, in an evaluation, that I would find the good in any scumbag.  This was good, she said, often.  But sometimes there is no good.  I still disagree with her, over 27 years later.  

We bought a pumpkin on Saturday,
It needed a home.
We call it
A plotz pumpkin,
Of course.
It looks partially
In a pumpkin kind of way.
No way it can stand up straight.
No way to carve it.
We scoured the patch
To find
A pumpkin with character.
This one fit the bill.
We do this every year.

This year we have a plotz pumpkin
With character
And a companion pumpkin
Full of warts.

Thank God we have an artificial Christmas tree.
We cart it up from the basement
Every year.
Years ago we got it on discount.
It was the going model
From two years before.
Who knew they had models?
At least we don*t have needles
All over the carpet;
We are attracted to real trees
With character.
At least with the model from 14 years ago,
There is a place to hang
Years and years worth
Of ornaments.

The cat we got from the animal shelter
Is still going strong.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday afternoon nap

Years and years of Sundays as a member of the clergy take their toll.  Nearly every clergyperson I know with one service, two, or three, looks forward to the Sunday afternoon nap.  Somehow I thought, when I left parish ministry, it would change.  Nope.  I think it*s in the bones, or blood, or sinews.  The Sunday afternoon nap.

I just woke up.
Even though Sundays have a different pattern
These days,
Already I long
For the Sunday afternoon nap
The pumpkins are in the planters,
Ready for Halloween.
The day is chilly.
Church is soon.
Today we celebrate Reformation Sunday.
Our Lutheran is on the roster
To preach.
She preaches well but still I find myself
The Sunday afternoon nap.
It calls out
Its possibility
Even before I finish my morning coffee.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Tracing the routes

I remember more dreams Saturday mornings.  Perhaps it*s because often I can sleep in, and I get more morning sleep.  A luxury.  I traveled a lot last night.  A lot were church dreams and church people (I have been in a lot of different churches and met a lot of different people over the years).  At night they all blend together.  In the morning I figure out where the dreams came from, particularly on Saturday morning, when everyone else sleeps longer than I do.

At night I travel.
Sometimes I only take out road maps,
Trace the routes with my finger.
Sometimes the places are real.
Only a couple details
Are changed.
Most often
A conglomeration of places
Is moved to different states
Or countries.
The people who live there
Are jigsaw puzzles of people
I once knew
With familiar smiles.
That*s the way with dreams.
Any reality at all
Is possible.
Most often an element of truth
Lives there.
I can trace the route back
To where I encountered it.
I can find the towns in Illinois I visited
Growing up
In Minnesota.

Friday, October 28, 2011


I have had a new feeling word added to my vocabulary: existent.  When a person has gotten used to not feeling anything, existent can be a good place to start.  Across the room from existent was exuberant,  Quite the range.

The group began with mindfulness,
Shorthand for closing our eyes
And being quiet for a time.
Then came the feeling word,
A group rule,
A house rule.
Last night they were also asked
For weekend plans.
The second to the last guy said he felt
Everyone knew
What he meant.
So much of chemical use
Is escape from the world
As it really is.
The last guy asked
If everyone knew the word sober really meant:
Son Of a B****, Everything*s Real.
The laughter lasted
A long time.
I never would have thought existent
Was a feeling word.
It is.

Messy bits

There is a reason why people come to particular people.  If they ask for a book that involves the messy bits of life, and you*re not the librarian in the public library, there*s a reason why it*s you.  Sure, they may also be looking for a book, but it is you they are asking.  

When you are asked for something,
Pay particular attention
To the fact
It is you they asked.
There are no books,
For example,
That will resolve the messy bits
Of life
As we know it.
There is no equivalent
What to Expect When You*re Expecting
For divorce
For dying
My husband is an alcoholic and says he will stop drinking
When you are asked for something,
Like a book,
Pay particular attention to the fact
It is you they asked.
Sit down.
I said Sit down.
Offer the chair opposite you.
Put on the tea kettle.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hearts sing

I took four weeks off of internship after the seizure.  Now that I*ve returned, I find a different experience.  Somehow I have more to offer, more to expect, more to experience.  I even have more in common, somehow.  More of me combines with more of them.  Tonight is music night in group.  Tonight I expect harmony of a different sort.  We all have color to add to the group.  I am grateful.

It*s music night
At the halfway house.
The guys will bring in songs
That speak to their recovery.
There is something about the way
Words and music combine.
Hearts sing.
Last night was gratefulness
After dinner.
One of the new guys said
He was grateful
For adding color
To the house.
There are a lot of ways to sing
At the halfway house.
Last music night the group next door
Applauded through the walls.
There is something about the way
Words and music combine.
Hearts sing whether they are in the room
Or not.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Other things

Yes, we helped unload the pumpkins this year... but we have not prepared for the holiday, even though we love to see the children dressed up, and carve pumpkins. The Mr. Mustard costume has not seen the light of day.   This is one of those years when other things have gotten in the way.  They are beginning to settle down.  Maybe it will look normal soon.  Maybe.

It is cold and wet and windy.
Usually we have our pumpkins
By now.
Usually we have thought of what we will wear,
Unearthed the Mr. Mustard costume
Jeff is proud of.
This year we have been distracted
With other things.
The church lawn is full
Of pumpkins.
Mr. Mustard is somewhere
In the house.
Halloween is a few days away.
Soon the time change will give us more light
In the morning.
Other things
Will be not so other,
But part of the normal routine.
We will be able to think again
About pumpkins
And Mr. Mustard.
Maybe it will be in time
For Halloween.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How many fingers?

This is probably not going to seem odd to people who have made the run of medical specialists.  My left eye is still blurry, but it does seem to be improving on its own.  Hurray!  How many fingers has become a family joke.  Jeff and I do imitations of the eye specialists.  There is an Emergency Room version, an ophthalmologist version, a retina specialist version, and the neuro-ophthalmologist version (almost as hard to spell as Episcopalian).  Humor definitely helps.

I have now seen the range
Of eye doctors.
Each of them knows
My blurred vision is not
In their area.
They know
It probably should have been found
By the doctor
Before them.
Each of them sports a different version
Of how many fingers do you see?
Some use one or two fingers.
One guy (I swear)
Used one finger
And a fist.
How many fingers in a fist?
Four and a thumb?
Some do it slow.
Some flash like lightning.
How many fingers?
I wonder if each specialty
Has a version they*re taught.
The eye guys need more ways
To distinguish themselves.
One finger or two?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Women learn to say Why Not

It is a good thing to spend time with other women.  There is a lot of creativity involved, and it*s not just cooking and quilting.  Driving home from Indiana last weekend we talked about careers which involved catching things in mid-air and learning how to say Why not?  I have been catching things for a long time.  Jeff says it*s like being put at third base.  You never know when the ball will come flying into your mitt.

We talked about never knowing
What we would do next.
She said men generally
Have it all planned out.
They follow the path they have figured
From the beginning.
Women have things thrown at them.
They have to figure out
How to catch;
Learn what to do
With the stray pieces.
Women learn to say
Why not?
How does this fit in?
Perhaps I will find a home
Women are adept
At quilting things

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday funnies

I was reminded in church this morning that we are a people who believe in healing.  I believe in healing.  It seems I believe it more for others.  The word came through a person I do not admire.  Of course it did.  And this evening it came through the Sunday funnies.  Of course it did.  It seems I need to learn this in stages.  It seems I need multiple lessons in grace.  It seems I need the whole grace curriculum.

I am in the blue chair again.
I reflect on helping to save the woolly bears yesterday.
Jeff is grading.
Sawyer is homeworking
If that is even a word.
I pick up the Sunday funnies.
I realize I can read them a little better
Than last week*s funnies.
I close my right eye and yes
My left eye is a little better,
Just a little better but still
It seems appropriate somehow
That I would notice
Through the Sunday funnies.
I think about the blind man
Jesus healed in stages.
First he saw trees walking
Then the whole picture emerged.
Of course it would come to me
Through the Sunday funnies:
Color pictures in the comics.
I want to knock on wood.
I want to wear my sunglasses.
I want to hold my breath.
Trees walking.
I want to know if there was something in particular
I was to learn.
I want to know if it will stay
If I have learned it.
I want to know if it will stay
If I haven*t.

Woolly bears

Yesterday Jeff and I walked around the local reservoir.  Lovely weather.  It was also time for the woolly bear migration.  I have always loved the way Jeff saves earthworms from drowning after a hard rain  Yesterday we both rescued woolly bear caterpillars from being squished by shrieking children, run over by cyclists.  The Farmer*s Almanac says that the woolly bear*s red-brown middle stripe signals the kind of winter we are going to have.  Everyone seems to be predicting a hard winter.  The woolly bear promises a mild winter.  This is a much more appealing prospect.  

We walked around the reservoir.
Sure we watched the occasional bird,
But really
We saved woolly bears
From the children who shrieked
Poisonous caterpillars.
We were afraid the woolly bears,
The ones who made their way across the footpath,
Would never make it across
We sped up,
Moved sufficiently ahead
Of the children and their parents.
We saved the furry caterpillars,
The ones who promise mild winter
With their wide red-brown stripe.
We figured they should have a chance
To find shelter from the cold to come.
Woolly bears.
We must have saved twenty of them.
It mattered
to each and every one.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

So many birds

As the sun changes its course to fall, I wonder about the birds still hanging out: the robins, the herons, the red-winged blackbirds.  Why do they stay?  Sure it*s still pretty warm, but don*t they notice the signals that mean winter is coming?

So many birds
Have missed their ticket south.
They have
Lulled themselves into complacency
By occasional warmth;
Slept through
One or two frosts;
The fall change of light
Goes unnoticed.
The birds should have gone
By now.
The herons pretend the water
Will never freeze.
The robins still chirp in the trees,
Look for worms.
The red winged blackbirds
Have missed the season change.
They fill trees
As if they will never
Have to leave.

I would like
To shoo them south.
It*s time
It*s time
The light has changed.
There is potential frost
At night.
All too soon the water
Will freeze solid.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Four on the floor

There are similarities between school and recovery.  Thank God we sit in pews in church.  No way to lean back and go over backwards.  I have been a fan of movable chairs in church.  Maybe this is one of the arguments for pews.

When my son was in second grade
He was placed in the class
With those who needed
Special attention.
A class full of those
Who needed special attention.
As near as I could tell,
He didn*t.
The teacher introduced meditation,
A darkened room,
And sitting on the floor.
At the parent-teacher conference
She said the only thing
She was concerned about,
Was my son leaned back on his chair.
That was it.
That was it.
I told her there were other things
That seemed important to me.

In the halfway house
One of the rules is
Four on the floor.
Thank goodness there are also other things
Keep coming back
Coming back
Coming back again.
It*s like forgiveness
Seventy times seven times seven
Times infinity.
It*s like all the forever things
We know are right and good
And meant to last
More than a lifetime.
Four on the floor
Keep coming back
And coming back
And coming back

How does he do it? The cat?

There*s something about living with a cat (or any animal).  They are who they are.  Beyond the cat flexibility (I*m not sure I*d like to be able to clean between my toes with my tongue, anyway), the ability to sleep in the sun for a quick nap, then move on, would be an asset, I think.

How does he do it?
The cat?
He spreads the toes
On his left back foot,
Cleans between them
With his tongue
Until he is satisfied
They are clean enough.
He finds the particular spot in the sun,
Covers his eyes with his left front paw,
Goes sound asleep
For the morning nap.
How does he do it?
The cat?
He makes everything
Look so easy.

Smooth cup, warm hands

Ah, the pleasure of simple things in the morning.  This morning it*s the smoothness of the ceramic cup I bought years ago, the warmth of the hot coffee.  It is even the two rough spots where the handle broke off when I dropped it on the floor.

It*s not so much the coffee,
Dark or light with cream,
As the warmth of my hands;
The smoothness of the cup;
The handle broken off
A few years ago;
My thumbs which find
The two rough spots
Top and bottom.
It*s not so much the coffee
As the cup,
Smooth cup,
The rough of the two places
The handle broke off
Years ago.
Smooth cup, warm hands.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More lessons

What a blessing to be at the halfway house, to be learning from the staff and the clients there.  My vision is still wonky.  I still have epilepsy, though I hope the increased seizure meds mean that I won*t have another seizure.  I have a lot to learn, as well as a lot to give.  Part of what I continue to learn is the receiving piece, something I could ignore when I was reasonably self-sufficient.  Again, I am blessed to be at the halfway house.  Perhaps all of us are only halfway there.

I continue to learn
To receive.
It*s not so easy
With genetic arrogance
Which says
I can do it all
I can*t.
Of course I can*t.
I was never in control
Now I have to ask for help
Or spend a lot of time
In squint.
Now I wait for the trainer
To lead me to the next place.
I could travel on the train to Union Station
And back out
To Glen Ellyn,
Hours on public transit to go
A short distance.
Or I could ask for help.
I was never in control,
I watch the guys in the halfway house,
Caught by human foible,
I watch them
Learn to ask for feedback.
I think
They are not in control.
Just like me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Office climate

I wonder how my clients do it... coming dressed for the office climate.  It*s a mite chilly today.  I learned from yesterday to wear wool today.  I will bring in blankets tomorrow.  At least now I can open and close the window.  I know I can never really know what will come tomorrow.  Somehow my clients come prepared.

The temperature in my office
Is barely regulated.
I now wear wool.
It has gone from too hot
To colder than usual.
It seems I can never tell
From one day to the next.
There is a shelf for blankets,
A window that opens and shuts.
The possibilities are endless.
Clients seem to know
How to dress
For the occasion.
Today is cloudy and wet.
The damp creeps in.
I wear wool.
Tomorrow may bring
Something else.
It always brings
Something else.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Driving dreams

It seems every specialist I see wants to make sure I*m not driving.  I*m not.  It gets irritating being asked.  It is easier not driving the second time around, though.  I even realize there*s a possibility I will never drive again.  Somehow conniving with my daughter helps, even if it is only in my dreams.

Last night I drove my daughter to dance,
In my dreams
Of course.
When we were coming home I remembered
I was not to be driving.
We figured out ways
To get the car in the driveway,
Without anyone noticing,
Giggled all the way home,
Thought maybe we*d park a block away
And walk
So no one
Would ever know.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Me and the cat

I am enjoying the sun from a different place.  Jeff tells me I need to learn the word vicarious.  So I am learning how to vicariously enjoy the sun this morning, watching the cat, sprawled in the morning sun coming in through the window.  

It*s me and the cat.
He has found the morning sun.
Light reflects white whiskers,
Eyes slit in morning doze
Speckled belly like a trout.

I write in the shade,
Watch him
From the blue recliner,
Drink one more cup of coffee.
Me and the cat.
He sleeps for me in the sun.
Trout belly
Paws curled
Completely relaxed
In the morning sun,
Except for the occasional
Flick of his tail.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Attending church in Wawasee

I attended a retreat in Northern Indiana this weekend.  It allowed me to attend the Episcopal church in Wawasee.  It reminded me of all the delightful pieces of liturgy that a small congregation can offer which will never find their way into the Book of Common Prayer, or the Book of Occasional Services, or Enriching Our Worship, or any other official or semi-official Church Book.  

Here the greeter hands us a bulletin,
Then invites us to take a copy
Of the poem he wrote
This week.

Here there is a drawing
for six homebaked cookies,
Blessed by the baker
As they are mixed,
Prayers combined with the flour
For the health and well-being of the person
Whose name is drawn from the shoe box
By the youngest person in church.
It is part of announcements.
This is part of the liturgy
Every Sunday.

Here the same young person skips and twirls
To the altar
To pick up the offering plate.
The greeter who writes poetry,
Skips with her.

Friday, October 14, 2011

We are all in recovery from something

I am back at the halfway house and grateful for it.  As I sit and listen to people talk about feeling like they are walking about with a sign over their head... the feeling is familiar.  My sign says different things at different times.  Nothing like wearing a clerical collar, or even having a seizure (not to equate the two :) ).  Someone last night asked me if the seizure meant I had epilepsy... and I said yes it did, thinking about the sign over my head, not unlike the sign that everyone in the halfway house wears simply by being there.  

They say things as if
No one has ever felt them before,
Said them before.
As if they are the first
To walk the path of recovery.
It winds out into the world,
Circles back home again.
We are all in recovery
From something.
To something.
This seems important
To note
In this halfway place.
Everyone is uniquely made
Just like everyone else.
Where do we come from?
Where will we go?
From this halfway place.
We wind out into the world
Circle back home again.
It is all so familiar.
We are all in recovery
From something.
To something.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Trees walking

I was reminded of the two stage healing of the blind man today (thank you, Steve).  Sometimes insight comes in stages.  Sometimes we stop at stage one and decide it*s not worth it.  I returned to the halfway house yesterday and found two men who made it through the halfway house program, dropped out of the three-quarter house and were back on the streets using and selling.  I was sure they*d make it.  I*m learning.  I*d prefer not to learn this.  Sometimes when we see trees walking we think that*s all there is, and find it easier to return to life pre-healing. something with which we are familiar.

For as many as Jesus healed all the way,
All at once,
What about the man
Who saw trees walking,
Then had to choose healing number two?
What about all the people Jesus did not heal?
The crowds and crowds and crowds,
The men who left the halfway house
Poised on full life,
Who have gone back
To the beginning again?
What about them
Back to drink and heroin
Back to sales on the streets?
What about their mothers
Who weep?
What about those who are back
To square one
Or minus one?
What about the people
Jesus healed half way
Then it was back to square one
Or minus one?
Who tried to make it
Three-quarters and slid
To square one
Or minus one?
What about those who only saw trees walking
And decided to quit?
What about those who have to decide
To start all over again
Or decide they will never make it?
What about all those
Jesus waits for
At square minus two?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Showing up

What is it about human beings that when we don*t see something for ourselves, we believe the worst? This week I am back at it, and glad for it.  I am back at working out with Jeff, back at church, back at internship, back at having lunch with friends.  I am showing up, and showing up, and showing up again.  My head did not fall off.  No, I can*t drive until March (God willing).  Yes, my eye is still blurry.  Yes, my head is still firmly attached to my body.  

I learn once again
The best way to keep rumors
From taking over
Is to show up
And show up
And show up again.
No one believes
You are fine
In absentia.
Jeff tells me about his classmate
In high school.
He dove into the water,
Got a concussion.
While he was in the hospital,
The rumors went from concussion,
To broken neck,
To his head fell off.
It*s not just teenagers.
No one believes
You are fine,
You will be fine,
In absentia.
Not really.
This week I am showing up
And showing up
And showing up
It is the best way
To keep rumors
From taking over.
They grow
In absentia.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Years ago now, I met this woman.  This was the sum total of her answer to How are you? I*m blind (she would say).  She was not born blind, it came on her later in life.  I never learned the story of how she became blind.  I, like many others, did all I could to move her in what I thought was a more positive direction.  It is probably not a surprise that I found myself thinking of her this morning, after exercising at the gym, and losing sight of the trainer.  Exercise causes both eyes to go blurry.  Now I have to tell people that they need to tell me if they*re going across the room, especially in a crowd of people.  I may lose track of them, not because I don*t care, but simply because I don*t see them.  Ah, pride.  I have new appreciation for beginning the conversation with I*m blind.  Of course, I do my best not to stop there.

Whenever anyone asked her
How she was,
She would answer
I*m blind
As if that summed it up.
We used to laugh
About her response.
She was, after all, so much more
Than her blindness.

Now I look through shimmer and blur
With one eye.
I am not blind,
Not even close,
But these are times
I better understand her answer,
So many years later.
There is much that comes
With the shimmer and blur.
Now I see in different ways,
Not better
Not worse
But different.
I see a halo and sparkle
In particular light,
I see the world
As through a drop of water.
The doctors cannot explain it,
But then
I really did not expect them
To explain it.
I*m blind
She said.
I*m blind.
I know a tiny bit
Of what she meant.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Christopher Columbus

Today it struck me that ole CC did not know where he was going, either.  Just set sail for what he thought was probably China and found... the Bahamas.  In the midst of journeys which have their unfamiliar pieces, I am glad for the familiar touchstones, glad for family and autumn and writing something every day, no matter what.

Today is Columbus Day. On October 12th, 1492, Christopher Columbus landed on an island in what is now the Bahamas.

The Bahamas sound appealing
But first
I*d rather not miss anything here.
I squint at the computer screen
Blown up larger than life,
Write in the morning sun.
It slants autumn
Through the front window.
Fall completely arrived
Over the weekend.
In the backyard
Leaves fill the lawn.
The clients I did not have in summer
Called to set up appointments
For the one day
I was never in the office
Christopher Columbus did not know
About the Bahamas
Before he set sail.
I imagine he thought he would end up
Someplace familiar.
Me too.
I planned a different trip.
Now is the familiar
Through shimmery eye, bigger letters,
Another six months of chauffeured
Now I find familiar fall light
The family breathing soft upstairs
And the Bahamas
On the horizon.
Me and Chris.
Chris and me.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What shall I wear?

Today*s gospel from Matthew got me thinking.  I always hate that the guest invited at the last minute was thrown out for not wearing appropriate clothing.  I remember early on in ordained life calling female colleagues before official gatherings and asking if they were wearing their collars (and being called by them asking the same of me.)  Maybe men don*t do that, but it was a version of not wanting to be over or under-dressed.  I have always worn comfortable shoes.  It is a gift from my mother... the importance of comfortable feet.  Now that I have the gift of different vision in my right and left eyes, and realizing I get to live with it for now (even if they could figure out what it was), deciding what to wear seems a question of which eye I choose to see through.  I have entered one more six month non-driving period.  It almost seems like I didn*t pass the first six-month period and there is more to learn. What shall I wear?

What shall I wear?
These days it seems
An eye patch
And comfortable shoes
Are in order.

Of course it all depends
On the occasion,
What I will be doing,
Not to mention
Whether I need to blend in
Or stand out.
What to wear?
Is it a banquet at the king*s house
Or trimming the bushes in back?
Will I stand behind the table
To serve the food
Or kneel with hands outstretched
To receive whatever is offered.
What shall I wear?
I stand by the closet and wonder
Which eye to look through,
Straight on
Or shimmery?
Either way is not clear.
An eye patch and comfortable shoes?
Dark glasses and a collar?
Perhaps the bushes in back
Need a trim.
Perhaps there are hands I need to see
Held out.
What to wear?
Which eye needs the patch?
I think comfortable shoes
Are always in order.