Thursday, February 28, 2013

Trading off

When I can sit by myself in early morning, there is something about a cup of warm coffee in my hands, and the vista out back, which invites contemplation.  

We trade off
Taking the young woman
To school.
If I am awake enough
On my mornings,
When I return
I sit with coffee
Warm in my hands,
Watch the day lighten.
I think through
What must be done.
I consider
What really
Isn*t necessary.
The snow palette lies before me:
Shades of white.
The branches on the bushes
Next to the garage
Hold clumps
Of white wet snow
So many cotton bolls.
I consider the silence,
Watch the day grow lighter.
I think through
What must be done,
What might be done
Come spring.          
My hands,
Warm on the coffee cup,
Consider what may be dropped
When the earth goes green

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Meteorological winter

Maybe I wasn*t paying attention in past years, but the term meteorological winter had never appeared on my radar screen.  Of course I knew the winter months (December, January, February), and of course tomorrow is the last day of February, but somehow putting the term meteorological in front of winter makes it sound, well, a bit more scientific, not so folksy.  Here we are, snow full on the ground, waiting for the light to even out.  The snow is perfect for snowballs.

I understand we*re at the end
Of meteorological winter.
It figures the weather folk
Would come up with
Their own reckoning.
Forget the earth*s rotation,
The sun,
The moon,
The stars,
The evenness of dark
And light.
This is the end
Of meteorological winter
Here in Chicago.
Everything is covered in new snow:
A celebration
Of the occasion.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Parts is parts

For Lent I determined to take better care of myself.  No fast food.  Catch-up on such things as a physical.  The physical means three appointments (family practice doctor, OB-Gyne, mammogram).   I am one-third done.  So far I know my heart is beating, my pulse is ok, my blood pressure is in normal range.  Why they take the blood AFTER the physical is beyond me.  I used to be married to a med student, who went on to specialize in head and neck surgery. I remember him practicing tying his knots one-handed at the dining room table.   He*s at NIH now.  I am a generalist in the western suburbs, a priest/counselor/poet who prefers to tie everything together as best she can.  I am one-third of the way through my physical.  

It is still Lent.

They have lopped off
More of me.
They send the parts
To the specialists.
Does someone really go to med school
To listen to lungs,
To check reflexes,
To say:  You have the flu,
Drink water,
Stay home so you won*t infect
Anyone else?
There must be more information
Inside those heads.
There has to be
So much unused information.
My woman parts are divided off
To special woman doctors.
A yearly physical does not mean
One doctor visit
But really three.
My parts have been auctioned off
To the highest bidder.
Today I am one-third done.
I have phone numbers in my pocket
To schedule the rest.

Monday, February 25, 2013


Just when I think I know who is supervising me, I uncover someone new.

My supervisor must know
I am well ahead
On supervision hours.
All my clients showed today
With bells on.
The supervisor,
With apologies,
This meant I could go home
In daylight.
This meant
I could arrive home
Before dinner,
Feed the cat,
Pour fresh water
In his big stainless steel bowl.
I am ahead
On supervision hours.
The cat knew this
Before I even left for the day.
He called me home
Just in time
To pour crunchies
In his bowl.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hospitable (not)

At 8 in the morning I expect to see things the way I left them the night before.  Morning is not my most flexible time.  There are temptations at 8 in the morning, and the scripture Jesus quoted to Satan in the wilderness does not come readily to mind.  It is the Second Sunday in Lent.  I am getting ready to go to church.

I wake up early
To write.
There is an extra body
Asleep on the sofa
In the family room.
I walk down to get my laundry
From last night.
My laundry basket is filled
With my daughter*s clothes.
I am not at my most hospitable
At 8 in the morning,
With thwarted plans.
This house brings its own temptations
At 8 in the morning.
Scripture verses
Do not come readily
To mind.
At least this morning
There is cream
For my coffee.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Plain black coffee

Lent continues...

No milk or cream
In the fridge.
Plain black coffee.
Does this justify a stop
Through Starbucks?
Does Starbucks count as fast food
When the refrigerator
Does not produce the proper
Whitening agent?
Lent complicates things.
I rationalize
With the best of them.
Plain black coffee.
Is this necessary?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Back story redux

Of course there*s more to the story.  There always is.

There*s more to yesterday*s
Back story.
Of course there is.
There are layers upon layers
Of back story.
Of course there are.
Today reveals
Yet another layer.
Sometimes I need to be reminded
To keep looking,
To continue listening.
Tomorrow I will remember,
Even if I don*t remember
There*s always tomorrow.
I will look up at the stars tonight,
Find the bunny tracks
In the new snow.
I will discover the next layer
Of back story
Already packed down with boot prints
Under the snow
On the sidewalk
When I shovel.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Locked doors

I am in my office listening to the compressor on the drinking fountain.  Everyone has gone home for the day, except me.  It*s the later afternoon window before the evening activities begin... choir practice, Zumba, ESL, and AA.  I have a client tonight.  Actually, I enjoy the quiet.  It allows me to consider what I might do outside these walls.  This has been a week in which nothing has gone as planned.  Still... things have happened... some rather dramatic... if I can only sit still long enough to wrap my mind around them...

Different days I sit
In different places.
I consider service
Outside the church walls
Even as I sit within,
Sit in the office,
Half underground
Half above.
My consciousness slides up and down
With the barometer.
Snow is surely on its way.
I am the only one
In this big church building.
The doors are locked.
Nothing I planned this week
Has emerged the way
I thought it would.
All the doors are locked
For safety*s sake.
I know Jesus passes through
Locked doors
And out again.
I consider service
Outside the church walls.

Back story

I truly figured that I had come up with the perfect convincing reason.  I figure this is where pride comes in.  My perfect convincing reason won her over.  I am so good.   The backstory arrived this morning.  I know I 
am not alone in this.  I figure there is most always a backstory of some sort.

Compliance came easily
I figured my argument
Was really good,
Supremely convincing.
The back story arrived by email
This morning.
I forgot
There is often a back story.
It arrives
After the fact.
It arrives
After easy compliance.
It comes
After the other shoe

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Perfect name

Drat and bother.  The name that came to me on 355, one of my favorite places for inspiration, was perfect.  Except... it seems it is someone else*s perfect too.  And he or she has laid claim to the name.  Actually it*s a he and a she... they have laid claim to the name.  I wonder if they were driving on 355 and got there first.

I found the perfect name
For a private practice.
It arrived on the way
To domestic violence training
On 355.
Some of my best ideas
Have come
On 355
In the automatic toll lane.
There is a story there,
Perhaps a reason
This might be.
When I was safely off the road
I wrote down
All the particulars.
The next day I googled the name.
There is a newer private practice
With the same name
A mile away.
I told you it was good.

I found the perfect name.
It is not mine.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Red scarf

With the Pope retiring for the first time in 600 years, I watch the lady in blue and red across the way, feeding the ducks with corn and bread.  The two events connect in my mind.  The lady and the Pope cast bread to the crowd assembled.

The woman across the way
Wears a blue jacket
With a red scarf,
A dark blue hat.
It is icy cold this morning.
I am glad
For the spot of red.
Now she stands at the top
Of the steps,
Surveys the ducks
Like the Pope
From his balcony
In the Vatican.
My lady in blue
With red accompaniment
Rivals the Pope.
She appeared again
With bread for the ducks.
That seals it.
I never saw the Pope
Cast bread
From his balcony
To the crowd assembled below
On a particularly frigid day.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hat display

If You Give a Mouse a least that*s what this reminds me of...  On the way to do paperwork I was thwarted be a locked drawer, and a new computer system which would not allow me access.  When I found the key, I also found something else which ended up being very good.  I am grateful for locked drawers and new computer systems.

Paperwork was on the docket
This morning.
I arrived to find the drawer locked.
This meant I had to find the key.
In the process of finding the key,
I found the program director
Who only knows me
As the mental health volunteer.
She had no idea
I wear other hats.
I showed her
My hat collection.
She had no idea.
Simply no idea.
Absolutely no idea
I wear so many hats.
Paperwork was on the docket
The entire computer network
Was reconfigured over the weekend.
I.T. guys were stationed everywhere.
The drawer was locked.
In the process of finding the key,
I displayed my hats.
Very little paperwork
Got done.

The woman, now in blue

I watch the woman, now in blue, across the way.  She is kin to me.
Thank you, May, for the invitation to join the KNOW group at church.

The woman
Now in blue
Has massed the ducks.
Her offering of corn
Is stored in the garage.
She moves more slowly
This year.
I was invited to join
The senior women*s group at church
It is a supreme compliment.
Maybe soon
I will mass the ducks
Like the woman
Now in blue
Across the way.
Maybe soon
I will gather up the cardinals,
The squirrels
Like maybe St. Francis did
When he got older,
Beckoned the animals
To come to him.
I*m sure his garage was full of corn
Like the woman
Now in blue.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ducks at night

It is Lent and I am reminded there is more than one way to exhibit faith.  I have the lady in red to inspire me, even at night when the ducks have all gone home, wherever home is.

The ducks have all
Gone home,
Wherever that is.
It is dusk.
The lady across the way
Just turned on the basement
It caught my eye
Through the bushes.
Sometimes I see her lights on
When I wake up
In the middle of the night.
I have never quite seen
When the ducks arrive,
Wherever it is
They arrive from.
I imagine my neighbor across the way
Flicking her lights on and off
In duck Morse Code.
I know she lives
For the ducks.
Maybe it is something even simpler:
Telepathy perhaps.
She is one with the ducks.
Those ducks are there
Every morning when I wake up,
Better than clockwork even.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Lenten plan

My beloved tells me the cookies don*t count because they*re not fast food.  Technically... no.  Still.

My Lenten plan
Is still in process.
No fast food between meals
Sounded like a no-brainer
Until the car took
Its own route home
From Domestic ViolenceTraining.
I drove by the McDonald*s
With the six piece Chicken McNuggets
In mind.
With confidence and care
I drove on by,
Returned home to
Girl Scout cookies
Just arrived,
One sleeve opened already,
Six cookies remained.
My Lenten plan
Is still in process.
I did not drive by
The Girl Scout cookies.
They leapt on me
From the kitchen counter.
I swear
I was ambushed.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Clipping back

In addition to clipping back the clematis, I am clearing out the closet of clothes someone else may be able to wear.  I have a big box almost filled.  Often things must be cleared out before the new can even be considered.  This applies to a whole range of things, houses and gardens, even lives.  

Today I clip back
The old clematis vine
Next to the front porch.
It will be ready for new growth
When the time comes,
Enough days of warm and light
It will grow green and eventual purple.
Sometimes the old must be clipped
To make way for the new,
Even me (I admit)
If I consider it
From the angle where the sun shines
Just right,
The warm hits the top
Of my head.
I hold the garden clippers.
I consider
Even I
Even I deserve some trimming back
So the new growth
May find its way.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

So many things count as love

For my sweetie, my beloved, Jeff.  

So many things count as love:

The double bunch of tulips
Crammed in the vase;
The invitation to dinner
Tomorrow night
So we can wait home tonight
For our daughter,
Now 16,
Out to dinner;
The endless series
Of cards with small children
Holding hands,
So we can remember our childhood
Even though we met
In our mid-thirties;
Noticing the squirrels in the backyard
As they fluff their tails;
Seeing the way the cat
Matches the new floor tile
In the kitchen.

So many things count as love:

The fist bump
Over the top of the shower stall
When leaving;
The call before coming home
Once again.

So many things
Count as love.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Whiff of spring

It seems fitting that on this, the first day of Lent, spring would be in the air.

I open the front door:
(Of course it is red)
The scent of possible spring
Drifts by.
I watch a sparrow fly,
Take refuge
Under the yew bush
Next to the driveway.
The sun is bright
Already it turns
To new life.
I remember Lent
Means spring.
Of course it does.
As much as the front door
Is red,
There are birds under the bushes,
Even in the cold air
The whiff of spring
Is present.
Lent begins.

Ash Wednesday at the clinic

It is different being in a non-church setting and listening in on the secular/church world.  This is a good thing for me... the priest without a collar... the one who does not see the highlight of Lent as endless Friday fish fries.  I sit at lunch and offer an occasional opinion, ask a question now and then.

On Monday
The women around the lunch table
Discussed fasting,
How they love the fish fries
Put on by the Knights of Columbus:
All you can eat
Every Friday.

On Monday
The women around the lunch table
Talked about Lent
Being only forty days.
They listed
The best places
To get ashes.
Today is the Wednesday meal
At the clinic:
You care to eat.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


I am somehow grateful to have this odd seizure disorder that manifests itself generally every nine months on the equinox (autumnal) and solstice (summer and winter).  We will see what happens this spring.  I have an appointment with someone who will listen to me on March 20, not just mark down the physical symptoms on the medical chart.  Today is the annual appointment with the neurologist.  Yes, I have the referral in hand.  Yes, I have the co-payment ready.

Today I meet with the specialist,
The yearly meeting
With the specialist.
He cares
That I have managed
To stay upright
Since I last saw him.
My generalist cares
To check the right boxes:
Take my temperature,
Blood pressure;
Weigh me like a fish
For sale by the pound,
Ensure that I still have
Yes I am still
My heart still beats
As it will
Until it no longer does.
Today is the specialist.
I will tell him things.
He will nod and smile
And most probably write down
When I last seized.
I will then return to the generalist
For another year.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Weather prediction

Some people have arthritic joints that predict rain.  Me?  I have a brain subject to barometric pressure.  I am beginning to see it as an adventure.  I continue grateful for prisms in my glasses.

It seems my brain
Registers barometric pressure.
The electrical currents
Are dismantled
Sometimes even
In unexpected ways.
I watch the colors
Of fluorescent light,       
Feel the buzz.
I think we might get snow
Perhaps rain
Maybe there will be dancing
In the puddles
In the streets
Or everything will freeze;
Ice skating will be the option
Of choice.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Exact same red

I look forward to silent meeting this morning.  It has been years since I have attended such a meeting. This is a morning for unprescribed words, and perhaps, contemplating things that are not usually contemplated on a Sunday morning.

The backsplash
Is the exact same red
As the pomegranate seeds
I use as a garnish
On my breakfast cereal
This morning.
Now I will go to silent meeting,
Contemplate the meaning
Of this
And oh so much more.
So much more.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Kindred spirit

I never know where I will find a kindred spirit.  I love surprises.

The woman I met today
Never followed the playbook
In real estate.
Now she sits in the front row
Of domestic violence class,
Collects hours toward her final
Social work license
In ways that sound
Very familiar.
I have never done things
In the usual way
She says.
Who knew I*d be doing this?
The woman I met today
Is 57
Like me.
We share creative ways
To count the hours
With each other.
She sits in the front row.
I sit in the back corner.
We have different styles
She and I.
I recognize a kindred spirit
When I see one.

Friday, February 8, 2013

New behaviors

We are not best friends with our next door neighbors.  I admit it... we barely speak.  There are several reasons.  I will not go into it here.  There*s probably a lot to be said on both sides.  The last snowfall my beloved got going with the snowblower and proceeded to clear not just our own front walk, but also four other front walks down the street.  Like chain saws with undergrowth, it seems once one gets started with a snowblower, one would like to clear the world of snow.  Every action has a ripple effect.  I am inside the house considering the endless possibilities.

As we wait to shovel the walk
The next door neighbor
Goes by,
Clears our walk of snow,
Proceeds down the block
To the next house.
This is new behavior.
It seems he caught it
From the last snowfall,
When my beloved
Got going with the snowblower,
Proceeded five houses
Down the block.         
It is amazing what behaviors
Catch on.
The possibilities
Are endless.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Still Still Still

I thought to visit another church this Sunday.  The one I had chosen has its annual meeting.  No.  Then I considered a church I could walk to from my home.  I started thinking about the conversations we could have, and wanted to make sure I had my business cards.  Again... no.  Then I remembered silent Quaker meeting.  I will go there.  No one may say a word, but at the very least we will all listen together.

This Sunday I will go
To Quaker meeting.
No one will know me there.
We will all listen
For the same thing
Illumined by the same Light.
I know God will be there
In the midst of us.
No matter
If anything is spoken
At all.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

We don*t eat the guests

In my counseling internship at Heartland, a small town/rural agency, I remember one of my first staff discussions involved the pleasures of hunting doves.  Here is a shout-out to Michael, my professor and founder of Heartland and hunter of doves... I am glad to hear you are entertaining grouse as guests in Montana.

The squirrels have worn a path
In the snow
In the backyard.
The path loops toward the back gate.
The ducks waddle
Across the way.
I wait for the cardinals to show
In the hedge.
Far away in Montana
My professor entertains grouse
In his snowy yard.
He calls them guests.
Four years ago I remember
Extensive conversation
Around hunting doves,
The pleasures,
The flavor.
I am glad his yard
Entertains grouse  
As guests.
It is hunting season but still:
Guests are guests.
We don*t eat the guests.
We simply enjoy
Their presence.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


I remember any number of retreats which had me name which animal I was most like.  I was usually at a loss as everyone else got into the activity, claiming their dog-ness, or cat-ness, or bear-ness.  Somehow, standing in our almost finished kitchen, the question made more sense this morning.
I have no difficulty claiming peregrine.  My beloved seems to be leaning toward crow.  Perhaps if we move to the Latin corvus brachyrhynchos it will sound less commonplace, more elite.

If you were an animal,
What animal would you like to be?
The question comes
In the middle of the
Almost complete kitchen.
We await the installation
Of the ceramic tile
Cosmic Mars backsplash.
The cat is sound asleep
On the boxes of tile.
Some kind of a hawk
I say.
Not a red-tail,
Says my beloved,
Not a merlin either.
They*re too small.
Perhaps a peregrine?
We settle on peregrine
For me.
For my beloved?
He loves crows.
They are social birds
He says
No one sees crows as special.
You do
I say
Because you do,
I do.
Perhaps raven sounds better?
It does
He says,
But ravens are solitary birds.
Ah this may take awhile.
Still we have narrowed it
To a bird,
A bird.

From here to Peoria and back

Sometimes I think I should always be able to come up with something profound to say.  Nope.  Yesterday nothing came.  Oh sure, there were things spinning through my head.  Still... nothing that wanted to be said out loud.  This morning I remembered that time, eight, maybe nine years ago now, when I knew I was supposed to visit the Bishop of the Diocese of Quincy, but was not given anything to say.  On my drive to see him I kept asking for words.  None ever came.  I found myself meeting with him saying:  I know I am supposed to meet with you, but I have no idea what to say. Awkward?  Indeed.  So we started from scratch.  I took a different route home. I guess I am still taking different routes.

The last time I remember
No words
No matter how hard I tried
To connect with God,
Find a well-tuned speech,
Even a nicely turned phrase,
I drove to Peoria,
Met with the Bishop there.
I told him I knew
We needed to meet
But I had found no words
To speak.
We spoke from scratch.
I drove home another way.
Nine years later
I have found           
The no word place again.
Now that place rests
Closer to home.
I wonder if
In the end
There will be no words
And we will all need to start
From scratch.

Monday, February 4, 2013

No words

No words came this morning, this afternoon, this evening.  There*s always tomorrow.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The snow falls light

Pre-church observations.  Post-church thoughts will come later.

The snow falls light…
Movement across the way:
Ducks waddle up the hill,
A squirrel
Furred and gray
Skirts the mob.
He bounds toward me
An entire slice of frozen bread
In his mouth,
Leaps like a Labrador retriever
Through the snow,
Wrestles his prize
To the top of the fence.
Safe from the ducks.
I thought in the lady in red
Only spread corn.

Saturday, February 2, 2013


What do I write about after a day of Domestic Violence training?  Today we covered Oppression, HIV, and Under-served Populations.  Another day I may explore some of that.  For now, I look at a world turning to night before my very eyes.

The snow in the yard
Is twilight blue.
The backyard lights
Illumine the feeding ground
For ducks
Across the way.
Already my yard turns
To purple and dark,
The trees to black.
Soon they will blend
Into the night sky,
Be gone
Til morning.
This is the way
Of twilight.
It asks for things to disappear
Before they reappear.
With morning
The lady in red
Comes with the light
Spreads corn over the snow.
The ducks will arrive
From wherever they have slept,
Invisible in the night.

Friday, February 1, 2013


It does not matter who this pertains to.  I do not have to wear a fake mustache and glasses.  Today I was given the gift of the knowledge that it*s not me.  I would have to change my gender, bind my chest, wear a codpiece (heaven forbid) to be seen in a different way.  No, thank you. Today I give thanks for knowledge particular and non-specific.  I hadn*t realized I was so worried about this.  In an odd way, finding out it is misogyny, pure and simple, is a relief.  Still wrong, of course, but a relief nonetheless.

Today I am alive
On the edges.
The news that a colleague
Pretty much hates
All women
Comes as
Amazing relief.
It is not just me.
It is not that specific kind
Of dislike
But hatred that
Even well-disguised
With a jolly manner
A smile plastered
Fake nose and glasses
Is still hatred of women
In general.
There is nothing I can do
About that.
There is nothing
I care to do
About that.
I am alive
On the edges.
I do not live in the orbit
My colleague
Circles in.
Fake nose and glasses.
There is enough to do
In other places
Outside the orbit.


Sometimes I wonder about the idea of the collective unconscious.  Today I arrived home from breakfast   to find the New Yorker cover for February 4... a downhill skier making more than tracks, but instead an uncovering of words in his wake.  I had written the following reflection before breakfast but had not had time to post it.  The skier on the cover faces forward (of course).  In his wake, his tracks, are words uncovered, a partial glimpse of what looks to be a New Yorker article.  It seems to me it will take more skiers to uncover more.  But this skier has begun the process.  

I wake this morning
With dreams of tracks
I have yet to make
In front of me.
The final dream of the morning
Showed me a snow-covered road
Into town.
I am the first to drive it.
The road has three inches of new snow
Beautiful white in the morning sun
In the distance comes
An emergency vehicle
Lights flashing
No sound.
It makes tracks
The other way.