Sunday, June 30, 2013


If it weren*t for my girl scout preparedness which adheres to the schedule I thought we had (get that?) I would not have an extra hour to write this.  Selah.

Once again my timing
Is off
And off again.
The plans made last night
For this morning
Were changed
With the power outage
At 1 AM.
No one told me.
It is assumed
I would know
The laundry which had to be done
Before camp
Means we will attend
The 10:30 service
Instead of the 9:00.
Of course we will.
The best laid plans
Before I go to bed
Will always change
Come morning.
Unless of course
They don*t.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

List: Take two

Even as I was making list number one in my head, list number two came to mind.  Perhaps this is because I am positively inclined.  This reflection is about the list of what I have to offer right now.  Of course it may change as things arise.  Things seem to have a way of arising.  

I make another list.
This is the list of things
I can offer
Given who I am
At this time
In my life.
I write the bishop
With two offers.
I offer pastoral care
For anyone
In the world.
I offer alcohol and drug assessment
For those who fall through the cracks
Of the system
Such as it is.
I offer to sit with anyone
To listen for
What God
May be saying.
This is list number two.
List three
has yet
to be determined.
Stay tuned.

List: Take one

I used to be able to do most anything.  OK, not anything.  I will never be a mountain climber, for example.  The list I write about has to do with what I used to be able to do, comfortably.  Now I am forced to pare down the list.  I am 58.  Somehow I had it in my mind that such paring-down came at age 70.  Why 70?  Well, it seemed somehow... older.  I found myself sitting with a client last week who has had to pare things down in his early fifties.  Several health/life things happened to him in the last three years.  Right.

The list
Of what I can no longer do
Has grown longer and faster
In the last three years.
Every item is check-marked
By the life I live,
By those I love.
There are things
I can no longer do,
Paths I can
No longer take.
Items on the list
Are highlighted
In fluorescent yellow
As opportunities
Present themselves
For viewing.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Perhaps prayer


Perhaps prayer
Is the only thing
That makes sense
While we wait.

No predicting

Digging expectations into the soil with the mushroom compost, planting what I can, waiting for the rest.

Sometimes God
Is very quiet.
He waits to speak
She waits to speak
For a very long time.
He waits
She waits
It seems
Until I stop begging
For a word of clarification;
Until I dig all expectation
Into the soil
With the mushroom compost.
Watch the dirt
To see what grows:
Perhaps a seed I have planted
Or a wayward volunteer vine
From the pumpkin
We fed to the squirrels
Last fall.
Sometimes even then
God is mum:
Until,of course
He isn*t,
Of course
She isn*t.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Really, Catharine.  You*re still writing about counting?  Yep.  It never did sit right with me, but I did it nonetheless.  Somehow it seems to be the common language.  Even the Church wanted to know my ASA (average Sunday attendance)... as if how many mattered.  I guess some counting will always be necessary. Obviously I will continue writing about this, because I don*t have it figured out yet... 

I have pretty much stopped
Counting people.
This seems a real exercise
In faith:
In the therapy office.
In church.
On the street.
Everyone simply matters
And alone.
I have pretty much
And hours spent.
Everything simply matters
And alone.
Everything and everyone

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


It seemed time for another go-round for Community Supported Agriculture.  This is the third CSA for the Phillips/Hill household.  I*m not sure there is a CSA without beets on the menu.

On a whim
I ordered weekly vegetables 
I have done this
In the past
But we ended up
With a refrigerator full
Of beets.
This week we are promised
Sugar snap peas
Garlic scapes
An unusual turnip
And yes
Of course
On a whim I ordered a summer
Of weekly vegetables.
This year I aim to get a handle
On the beets
Eat them or give them away
To beet people.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


More weather.  Maybe this year I am paying attention in a different way.  Could be.  Still... it seems that I have seen more ominous weather this summer.  It feels like way more than simple rain, a normal summer thunderstorm.

The rain and winds arrive suddenly,
Then suddenly
I watch the weather
Line up in the west
The clouds like football players
Roiling in patterns
Fancy footwork
Only determined by some coach
This happens every summer
He says
But me
I do not remember a summer
Like this one.
This is not the usual line-up
Of clouds
To the west.
If it happens every summer
Like this
I must have been asleep

Monday, June 24, 2013


I am grateful for June... all the graduations, new beginnings.  June is the month of my husband*s birth, our wedding anniversary (today)(18 this year), my ordination to diaconate.  Not to mention all those graduation times, even the ones that happened in May (I conveniently move them to June in my mind, so they won*t be forgotten, in the welter of May*s endings).  Sometimes I imagine June as a time to re-color what has become pale during the year.  Sometimes occasions even become a different color in time.

June is a month of celebration,
A warm, often wet, occasion
Of graduations,
And times begging
Lifelong remembrance.
It is second only
To May
Come to think of it.
In June I remember again
Pieces of who I am
Pieces which pale
Over the year
Only to gain color again
In June
Like the fully purpled clematis
If I only
But pay attention.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


This morning we worshiped in our church which has been transformed into an art exhibit (Icons in Transformation).  As a family we arrived late and sat in three separate pews, one in front of the other, in the back of the church, because there was a sculpture filling the middle section of the three pews.  I am 58.  Transformation at 58 has so many more pieces to work with.  I am still not sure how the component parts   will be put together.  I may have to wait a long while for the final gold leaf.  All icons have a wash of gold.

Years ago
Transformers were
The go-to toy.
They only morphed
Into particular set forms.
For a long while
Were the toy of the year.
No longer.
Now it seems transformation
Goes well beyond
Anything we can ask
Or imagine
Even anything that bears resemblance
To a toy
Of any description.
Transformers at age 58
Take every possible component part
Twist and turn it
So it lines up
Yet also forms
A completely different creature
Unimagined until now
Yet still somehow
The same.
Only then
It is touched up
With gold leaf
So it catches the Light
Just so

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Lots and lots

This is not really about forgiveness, unless you need it to be about forgiveness.  Once again, it is about counting... or more specifically, not needing to count.  I had a wonderful meeting yesterday with a therapist colleague who has been a therapist for years.  While he talked about wanting to teach what he can about the therapist craft to new therapists or therapists-to-be, and cited the 10,000 hours of practice principle, I left him remembering how he taught a class I took in grad school, and his openness, and how I could call him for lunch and have conversations like this one.  

Forgiveness takes lots and lots
Of practice.
Jesus said it:
Seventy seven times
Or perhaps
Seventy times seven.
Or any-hoo,
As my father used to say,
Lots and lots,
No matter how
We translate the number
From the Greek:
Lots and lots.
We must forgive
Until we simply lose track
Of the count
And it becomes
As natural
As breathing.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Longest day

I have a weather-brain.  In the most recent issue of Neurology Today there was an article about weather-triggered migraines.  It seems scientific research has shown some migraines in some people are triggered by particular weather.  Doy.  My personal finding is that I need to take better care during barometric shifts.  I do not get migraines.  I only get seizure activity.  Only.  My only three generalized seizures were on the winter solstice, autumnal equinox, and summer solstice.  Today is the one year anniversary of my last seizure.  I plan to enjoy every minute of daylight that I can.

The longest day
Of the year: 
I am determined to enjoy
Every minute of daylight.
Today marks the anniversary
Of seizure number three.
Now I know how to determine
What SPF I need to wear
On which day
And when to simply
Stay indoors.
Today I am determined to notice
Every minute
Of daylight,
Not lay waste
To a single second.
I plan the day
Even now
I realize best laid plans
May change
With the weather.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cicada emergence

Entomologists (bug people) put a fine point on bug relations.  Cicadas are the focus this year.  Much has been written about the seventeen year emergence due, oh, long about now.  I wondered where they were.  It  seems the great Illinois emergence won*t happen until 2024.  The cicadas emerging this year are the East Coast variety.  Who knew?  Not me.  For more info (by IL entomologists), go here:

Entomologists question
Which brood of cicadas
Is related to which.
It seems cicadas emerge
In different parts of the country
At different times.
They wait underground
To emerge
I have been waiting
Here in Illinois
For the seventeen year emergence
Which now it seems
Will occur
In 2024.
On the East Coast
Cicadas climb out of the ground
In clusters,
Acres of cicadas.
We wait
Until the giant emergence
Slated for 2024.
Entomologists question
Who is related to who,
What is related to what,
Which is related to which.
We have always questioned
Such things.
Or not.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Waiting again

I could have written more this morning, but I am off to begin finishing the current task... that isn*t it either.  Of course, it used to be part of it.  Now it isn*t.  Off to get my volunteer paperwork in order.

Sometimes what I think
Is the next thing, isn*t it.
So I simply wait.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Green miles

This morning I heard that I did not get the volunteer job for which I interviewed last week.  The interview went well, but I figured I wouldn*t get it.  I find myself a little more free.  A little disappointed, sure, but free. I have no idea what August will bring, but it seems to hold more green miles of open space.

The trip
Through the terminal moraine
Was worth
Every green mile.
The conversation
Nee interview
Allowed me to say certain things
Out loud.
I also figured
I would not get an offer.
The trip was worth
Every green mile.
Here I sit
Clematis in full purple bloom
On the front pillar.
August holds
Wonderful open space.
Green miles
Of wonderful
Open space.

Monday, June 17, 2013


This experience was 36 years ago, almost to the month.  I have learned some things in the intervening years.  Some things, however, seem to be a part of a life pattern.  36 years out I wake up and think:  Oh... here I am again!

I began my work life
As a volunteer
In Ohio.
I had a desk in the corner
Of the community room
In a housing project
In South Toledo.
The desk held
A lockable dial phone.
With two days
Of paperwork training
Under my belt,
Age 22,
With a Classics major,
I was told to counsel troubled teenagers
And their parents.
It was a recipe,
It was a set-up,
For failure.
I was not alone.
There were seventeen other 22 year olds
Scattered throughout the city.
When I resigned,
Two months in,
Ten others resigned
Right after me.
Now at least
I am the only volunteer.
When I resign this time
There will not be a queue
Behind me.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bird ID

We are not power birders, my beloved and I.  We know just enough to impress people who know only the robin by sight.  Still, we know enough bird calls to know when something is new, and we know enough to listen to the Cornell Ornithology Lab*s bird recordings to figure things out.  We knew this bird sounded small and sparrow-like, even when we could not see it.  Now that we have identified the chipping sparrow, we won*t have to bother the cat for awhile.

The bird
In the maple tree
Across the street
Calls every morning.
We have never caught him
Out in the open.
Evenings we sat and listened
To the Cornell Ornithology Lab,
Bird call
After bird call,
Every possible sparrow.
The cat became tipsy
On bird calls.
Every possible sparrow.
Two weeks on
We figured it out:
A chipping sparrow.
Now we wait for his appearance.
Now the cat
Can finally relax.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


I told this story at least twice this week, possibly more.  I have always admired the clarity of my son*s response.  That piece of newsprint was taped to the side of the refrigerator for years.  I don*t want to do this anymore.  This week I let go of two or three things, one of them was large.  Or at least it felt large.  Next week I need to clean off my feet, find fresh socks and shoes, and wait for the next thing to come along.  

The preschool exercise
Was to dip feet
In black paint,
Then walk across
A long strip of newsprint.
The teacher wrote
What the child said
In a thought balloon
Next to the footprints.
It*s wet
This is fun
My feet felt squishy
The teacher was faithful
To their words.
My son
Age three
Arrived home
With his long strip of newsprint,
Footprints black and even.
The thought balloon read:
I don*t want to do this anymore.

Hints of rain

Saturday morning.  I arise later than usual but everyone else is still asleep.  I love such times: quiet, unplanned, uncluttered.  I love the fact that after we cleaned out the guest room, the cat has claimed it for his own, head on the pillows, snoring.  I love being able to reflect on the week, in quiet.  Next week will bring what it will.  For now it is quiet inside, with potential for rain outside.

The house is silent.
All are sound asleep.
Even the cat is snoring
On the bed he has claimed
In the guest room.
The weather?
With hints of rain,
Certainly past,
But rain possibly
Yet to come.
I welcome such days
Unfilled with brightness,
For the time being.
Plans will come
Soon enough.
I pull together the pieces
From last week:
The trip to the terminal moraine
And back;
Clearing the house
For the cleaning lady
To come
On Friday.
The house is silent
With clean bathrooms and kitchen
Dusted and vacuumed
Silent and clean
For now.
Hints of rain past
And yet to come.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Terminal moraine

Most often I think I know why I am going somewhere.  If it*s a job interview, the thought is to get the job, paid or unpaid.  Sometimes I am captured by other things, like the fact that the drive to and from the interview is through seemingly endless forest preserve, the site of a terminal moraine, the end of a glacier.  I have no clear idea whether I will get this volunteer position.  The drive was gift in itself.  

Yesterday I drove south
To interview.
The sun dappled through leaves,
Acres and acres and acres
Of leaves and trees.
I drove north again
With no clear ideas
Except to think
The glacier ended here,
Dropped its load of rock,
Formed hills and valleys.
Trees upon trees grew,
Provided filters for the sun.
I arrived home
North of the terminal moraine,
Grateful for the drive
The interview
The trees
The dappled sunlight
and home.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


The storm promised big, potentially harmful, things, and, at least here, delivered rain and now, blue skies.  Today I can see and think straight.  Yay!  In a little while I will drive south to interview for a volunteer job which would use the training and gifts I have to offer.  There are more ways to be paid than money.

The storm
Promised big things
And left:
Well-watered ground,
Blue skies,
Cleared thoughts,
A world set
For green and growth.
The storm
Promised big things
And left us
With today.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Other explanations

Does it matter, does it make a difference?  Of course it does.  Then the good head of steam, the righteous indignation, needs to find a hole to climb into, or perhaps a crabapple to sit under.

Does it make a difference,
He asked,
That the person you feel
Ignored you
Suffered a brain injury
A couple months after
You met for lunch
Five years ago?
Could there not be
Other factors
At play?
Of course he did.
Of course there are.
My righteous indignation
To sit under the crabapple
In the back yard.
A suitable place.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Stationary front

Maybe I have a new vocation as a barometer.  I could sell my services to the weather map people.  Still, I*m not sure there*s a lot of call for human barometers when other instruments are so much more scientific.  Yesterday the stationary front kept me at home.  While sitting at home, a job possibility plopped in my lap.  Perhaps it was on the leading/trailing edge of the stationary front.  Today is clear.  Time to pursue new things.

Yesterday the stationary front
Moved back and forth
Back and forth.
The weather could not
Make up its mind:
Cold or warm,
Sun or rain.
The front
Moved back and forth,
Back and forth.
The stationary front
Of my brain
Moved with it:
Back and forth,
Back and forth.
By day*s end
I finally saw the world
Straight on.
The front finally
Moved east.

Monday, June 10, 2013

For now

Thank goodness I don*t see clients until this afternoon.  Paperwork this morning... in the fog.

I almost got out of bed
Six times this morning.
Finally made it up and out
On time seven.
I drink coffee,
Listen to the birds.
Though the sun shines
I feel the fog.
I go down the list
Of morning things.
This is as creative
As it gets
For now.
This counts
As a morning reflection,
As good as it gets
For now.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


It seems the world is in full bud and bloom whether I have paid attention, or not.

The rosebush
I never pay attention to
Has buds this year
To beat the band.
The peony behind the garage
Promised pink
Once I turned the corner.
I forgot
It was there.
I wonder what else lurks
Despite me
In spite of me
Maybe even simply
To delight me
With potential bloom.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The List

I am not singing in the All Y*all Choir.  I am not attending the special convention to reunite with the Diocese of Quincy. I am not attending Ian*s ordination to the transitional Diaconate (I*ll catch him at his priesting)

I have a list
Of what I am not doing
A list In favor of caring for:
Birthday spouse things;
Daughter things;
House things.
The cat is sound asleep,
Slit eyes,
Front legs
Curled under.
Today I practice
I pay attention
To what comes next.
I pray for the things
I am not doing.
They will get along
Just fine
Without me.

Friday, June 7, 2013


Yesterday a friend said: Perhaps part of your call is to be available (thank you, Carolyn).  That statement, coupled with last week*s conversation with Steve about God playing Hide and Seek, culminated in this.  Available.  It feels so... well... inactive.  Exactly.  

I have sought to fill my time
With meaningful  things,
Things meaningful
To me.
All the while it seems
God has sought
My availability.
My availability.
Are you here?
Are you there?
Oh there you are
I knew you*d figure it out

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Sometimes seasons are illusory, mis-named.  So.  Sitting here in the warm pretending it is summer.

I pretend
It is summer.
If I sit inside
Crank up the heat,
Gaze at the flowers,
Listen to the cardinal
Through the closed window,
I can almost lull myself
Into summer thoughts,
Picture a hammock
A tall iced drink
When the clouds clear
The sun emerges.
I will not need
To water the new plantings.
The morning rain
Has taken care of that.
I pretend
It is really summer.
I note the calendar,
Make summer plans
In the warm house
Listen to birds
Through the closed window.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Reflections on the day

I write every day... something.  I try to write first thing in the morning.  Of course, sometimes other things take over.  Sometimes I don*t get to write until late evening, right before bed.  Sometimes, I admit, I write to get the writing out of the way.  This is in part why I call these things reflections and not poems.  Poems take work and editing, I think.  Reflections are simply that:  reflections.

Every morning I wake up
First thing I write
The morning reflection.
Most often
If I write it later
Other things take over.
Even when other things
Take over
Before I can write,
Then I write an afternoon
Sometimes I have to wait
Until right before bed,
A different reflection
Than I would write in the morning
I title it
An evening reflection.
Even when the day
Has been taken over completely
I write something
Call it
A little something
Before bed
A bit like a cup of herbal tea
To cap off the day.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Sometimes unseasonable weather can allow for good things (like fixing the furnace before the temperature drops below freezing).

Two days ago
The furnace died.
Come June
We would not have noticed
Until fall.
Now it is fixed and ready
For winter.
Though heat is not quite needed,
We let the furnace run,
Fold the blankets,
Find a few moments
To enjoy the warm.

Monday, June 3, 2013

My people

Dinner at the Bishop*s house last night with the Aurora Deanery.  Lovely.

I often envied those who spoke
My people,
As if I didn*t have any.
I am a mostly Caucasian mutt
Of an unidentified tribe.
We Christians talk of everyone
Being adopted into the family
My people
Meant particular blood
Flowing through veins
Pumped by
Particular hearts.
I often envied those who spoke
Their people
As if I had left home
So long ago
The roads
The footpaths
Were no longer traceable.
Last night I had dinner
My people.
I knew them in their words,
The way they spoke.
Like me,
They are all adopted anyway.
My People.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Parish picnic

A bit colder and more than a sprinkling of rain would have kept us home... warm.  We were grateful to climb back in the car and bake our eyeballs, in memory of Barry.

Today marked the obligatory
Annual church picnic.
The location was changed
Yet again.
We found it
Just before the Gospel
Was read
On this chill gray day.
As near as I could tell
The only ones dressed appropriately
Were the ones who stood next
To the well-heated barbecue grill.
The rest of us
Off and on.
The day was not cold
Or wet enough
To cancel.
Years ago we had a cat
Who would get chilled
Position his head
Over the heat vent,
Bake his eyeballs.
On the way home
We baked our eyeballs
In the car,
Heat full blast.
We remembered Barry.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


So.  There*s this vimeo by Ira Glass about the creative process.  It feels deeply true.  Not just for writers, or artists or the named/unnamed creative folk... you know, the ones who claim creativity as their life*s work.  No.  It seems true for all of us, working and practicing to get it more right, whatever it is.  Here it is:  

I find it simple.  And brilliant.

I sit with people
One by one
By one.
They sit with me
We teach each other
To listen,
Then listen some more.
Really only sometimes,
A door or window
Cracks open
And we can ease it open
A little more,
Until we can see
What*s inside,
A glimmer
Of what*s inside.
Or a perhaps a glimmer
Of what*s outside.

Blues and purples

This started as a piece on how certain blues in flowers almost glow when the sun is barely setting.  Clearly it didn*t go there.  Kinda like the clematis, almost not trainable in its growth.  A few years ago we began collecting metal sculptures for the yard, welded-together pieces of farm implements, painted with weather-durable paint.  The purple dog is now placed next to the rhubarb.

In flowers
I favor
The blues and purples.
They grab my attention
Every time.
Today the blue wild indigo
Thrives in the back yard,
Graces the front table
With blue-purple blossomed curves.
The lobelia
Promises accent
In the front planters.
The clematis of unknown origin
Will show purple
In late June.
This year it is barely trainable
With its vines and tendrils.
This year
The clematis spans two columns.
I have added more garden twine
For its growth.
Even the thistle
Has perfect purple top-knots
If allowed to grow.
There is low purple-flowered growth
Next to the rhubarb,
In the vegetable bed.
The bed no longer harbors vegetables.
Instead it holds the rhubarb,
A leggy elderberry bush,
And our painted purple metal dog sculpture.
The sculpture marks the garden
As a piece of art.