Sunday, September 30, 2012

It*s time

Maybe the trees were doing this yesterday, and I missed it.  The backyard is still pretty much green.  Today it felt like autumn arrived... suddenly.  It was as if the trees finally heard the birds gathering for migration.

Driving to church today
I saw the trees yesterday
Must have
Heard the birds say
It*s time
It*s time
It*s time
To change your clothes;
To think about the fall wardrobe;
To consider oranges, yellows,
Patches of burgundy;
Time to consider
Eventual trim of snow and ice,
Or mimic the oaks:
They wear their brown
Through the snow
Until the sap rises green

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Fall light

I have always been connected to the seasons.  When one part of the natural order seems off schedule (the trees being green when it is the end of September, for example), I often feel out of order as well.  On Iona I understood this connection again.  Fall has always been a favorite season for its coolness and blue skies and bright leaves.  This year it has a sadness to it.  It feels like a lot more change is afoot.  The trees seem to be pretending it is still summer.

The fall light turns.
I have not planted the mums
I meant to plant
In the outdoor planters.
Soon the planters
Will hold pumpkins.
The fall light has begun
Its turn
To winter.
The trees have not caught up
To the light.
They hold on
To summer green.
I want to tell them
To stop pretending.
The birds
Are not fooled.
They know summer
Is on its way out.
They mass into cawing screeching gaggles
In the green trees.
Maybe the trees will hear
The birds.
I watch the light,
Listen to birds.
It is perhaps too late
For mums.

Old/new chair

I sit in midst of family room chaos.  I see different things from the perspective of my new/old writing chair.  The old blue writing chair is in the living room with kitchen things stacked on it.  The tile guy comes on Monday.  After the tile sets, we will move the stove back into the kitchen while we await the cabinets.  Still, the red chair will be my writing chair for the time being.  Time for another cup of coffee.

I am hunkered down
In the old/new red chair.
This is the third writing chair
I have had in as many years.
This morning it faces
A sleeping turtle,
A sleeping cat,
Both peaceful
In family room chaos.
I poured my coffee
In the upstairs bathroom,
Got cream from the refrigerator
In the living room.
My daughter brought a friend home
To spend the night
Two nights ago.
In the morning,
I found the friend curled up
In this very chair,
My daughter on the sofa.
It seems our house
Is more comfortable
Than the friend*s house.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Places thick and thin

I am trying to see the thin-ness here, in the midst of renovation.  I will have at least six to eight weeks of practice.  I returned from Iona knowing I was not done yet... with Quincy, with Fort Worth, with priesthood, with anything, really.  I realize I was yearning for something new, even when I thought I traveled there with few expectations.  No.  For the time being my new writing chair overlooks the turtle tank.  This morning he is sleeping peacefully.  At least it seems he is sleeping.

The pilgrimage leader offered:
When it is said Iona is a thin place,
It does not mean that other places are
Home here
In the midst of renovation,
I aim to make a chair
In the family room
My writing chair.
I am surrounded by pots and pans,
Plates next to the door,
Next to the sofa.
The cat dishes sit
Under the television.
The turtle tank rests
In its usual place.
He can write,
If he could write
(of course)
V e r y  s l o w l y
From his regular spot.
This place feels particularly thick
To me
Surrounded by everything
At once.
If I squint
I think I see the turtle
He has never had so much company
At once.
It seems this may be
A thin place
For Felix.
Of course
He will never say.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Different as it should be

This is the second full Iona day.  I spent a lot of this day watching and walking the clouded misted brightness.     It turned out the week would provide the wide range of weather opportunities, unlike stories of the week before, when the isle was socked in with grey and wind, and the ferry could not cross for three days.

This is clouded misted brightness,
Different today than yesterday.
I know
Tomorrow will be different still:
Clouded misted brightness
A rainbow perhaps
Maybe some sun and blue
But still
Clouded misted brightness,
Constantly different,
As it should be.


This was written after our first full day on Iona.  Somehow fittingly, it was a Sunday.  For those not in the Episcopal Church family, Fort Worth is a diocese which is working to re-order its life after a sizeable group split off.  I sat at Sunday breakfast with the Chancellor (read: lawyer) of the re-ordered diocese.  She is facing October court battles over who owns what church property.  This was not what I expected to find on a small, isolated island in Scotland.  

Today is a day
I did not do things
On the list.
After church and lunch,
A long nap was in order.
Now I think
A glass of wine before dinner.
The group
Grown to 40,
Hiked to the North End beach.
I slept instead.
Here I see well
Sea?  I hear well too.
This morning*s breakfast
Brought Fort Worth
To the table,
To the flow of things I imagined
I knew it would not be quite
What I expected,
Even when I tried
To expect nothing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The light

Another in the Iona series.  My accessible room provides a view of the back yard.  Companions note that I could go out in back and turn the upside down kitchen chair right side up (at least).  It seems right to leave it as it is.  The light above my bed provides just the right amount of illumination for writing as the outside light grows dim.  Just the right amount of light.

The light is perfect
To write in bed.
I cannot view the sea
From my window.
Instead I see the workers* quarters,
Construction material,
An upside down kitchen chair
In the yard,
Crags in the distance.
Occasionally a dog
Wanders through.
The light above my bed
Is bright enough
But not too bright.
It provides a Goldilocks effect
In my accessible room.

Iona: a beginning

This was written upon arrival in Iona, before dinner.  We had traveled all day by coach and ferry from Inveraray.  

I came here for space and time,
Came to this rocky small outcrop
Of a place
2 planes
2 coaches
2 ferries away.
No wonder the Romans
Never bothered.
There is little hope
I can help much
With the family kitchen renovation
From here.
My room is the accessible sort:
Handbars and grips,
A seat in the shower.
I will be reminded every morning
I am limited.
Not a bad reminder.
Not a bad thing to see.
Not a bad thing
To wake up to.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I met the Duchess in the gift shop, before ordering tea and scones.  It really is another world, one that I was not expecting.  I did not expect interactions with royalty,  Especially in the gift shop.  Now I am home with my Duchess apron, with a demolished kitchen, the refrigerator in the living room, the coffee pot in our bathroom upstairs.  I am waiting to use my apron.

I met the Duchess of Argyle
In the gift shop
Of the Inveraray Castle.
She was wearing a kitchen apron.
It read, simply,
The Duke had gone to fetch the children,
Two boys and a girl,
Lady Charlotte
Age four.
She was a cab driver
Before she married
The Duke.
The Duchess rang up my purchases.
I bought a Duchess apron,
Had her sign it for me.
It appeals to my sense of whimsy.
The whole scene.
I will wear the apron
When the kitchen is complete.
I will pretend
I live in a castle.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lady in purple

I am re-acclimating to Chicago time.  In the process I will post from the last couple weeks.  I met this woman close to the beginning of my journey.  How many women in purple cassocks have you seen recently... in the airport?  I still have her book.  

I have only seen people
In purple cassocks,
Clerical collars,
In precious spaces.
Usually it signifies
The presence of a bishop.
The Newark airport was graced
With a woman in a purple cassock,
A clerical collar,
Ebony cross.
She told me she was
Mother Clare,
Spiritual and Teaching Master,
Co-founder and Priest
Of the mystical Christian Order
Of Christ Sophia.
She was delighted
I was on my way to Iona.
She was on her way
To Stockholm,
All in purple,
Next gate over.
She gave me her book
And brochure.
I didn*t dare leave it
In Newark.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

On Iona: Taking a break from posting

I am on Iona for the next week.  For those I love and cherish, for those I don*t know at all, and for all and everything in between:  Please know I am holding you in prayer.  It is a more than fitting place to pray.  I will return to the blog on September 24.  Continuing blessings.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

No coffee in Newark

What an interesting beginning to a pilgrimage.

There is no coffee anywhere here
in the Newark airport.
The water lines are broken.
We sit in the Juan Valdez coffee shop
Without the coffee we came for,
Sit and watch pilots,
Other official people
Ask for coffee.
There are four people behind the counter
Not selling coffee.
They shrug their shoulders,
Laugh a mite apologetically.
We wonder if our pilot will fly
Without his coffee.
There is no coffee anywhere
In Newark.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Old Things

Today I set off for Iona, with backpack and suitcase and passport.  What new old things will I find today?  It seems everything is both new and old.  One child at a parish I served, reflecting on how we are all part of God*s vine, summed it up with: Even in Antarctica... we*re all connected.  Even in Antarctica, everything is old and new.

Cave paintings were discovered in Lascaux, France, on this date in 1940. Four French teenagers and their dog, Robot, stumbled upon the caves while they were out exploring one day. The main cave is approximately6 feet wide and 16 feet high, and is connected to a number of smaller chambers. Assigning a precise date to the art on the cave walls has been difficult. Scientists used carbon dating to estimate the age of some charcoal found in the caves, and according to that method, the drawings are about 17,000 years old.
There are about 2,000 drawings and engravings, mostly of animals: horses, bison, red deer, stags, cats, and aurochs — large, black cattle-like animals that are now extinct.
Source: The Writer*s Almanac for September 12, 2012

Is anything new
Under the sun?
Today is the anniversary
Of finding the cave paintings
In France.
Four teenagers and their dog, Robot,
Scouted out the caves
On a hike.
The pictures are thousands of years old.
They only found them in 1940.
They show we have been drawing
Is anything new under the sun?
The Russians explore a frozen Antarctic lake.
They drill two miles
For signs of old life
Under the ice.
Even in this world we think we know
There are new things
To find,
New things to conjecture.
New improbable things:
Did the Nazis have
A secret cloning facility
In Antarctica?
Questions I would never think
To ask.
What will be discovered today?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Shorter list

It is always a surprise to me that lists loom larger the longer I put them off.  I remember a client years ago who was avoiding cleaning a white chair in her living room.  She was depressed.  I avoided saying what was going through my mind: Get rid of the white chair!   The chair loomed larger and dirtier the longer she didn*t clean it.  When she finally got it cleaned, she was able to do any number of things.  I often ask people what*s the one thing they*re putting off doing.  Often it*s something small.  We put a lot of energy into avoiding things.  My preparation list is blessedly short right now.  I am grateful.

The list grows shorter.
It had loomed large and larger
As I left it
On the table.
Most everything
Can be done
With the plumber upstairs,
The cat sound asleep
In the shade,
The sun having left
The living room.
Now the laundry is done.
Now the bank and credit card people
Have wished me bon voyage,
Promised no stop payments
While I am gone.
Now the backpack beckons me
To fill it
With airplane essentials.
I have found the exact right book
To journal the adventure.
It was gifted
When I was 25 years
A priest.
There is still a list
But less of one.
The plumber just finished.
The cat has installed himself
Under the new bathroom cabinet.
I consider lunch.


I leave for Iona tomorrow.  I am making my way through the checklist.  More construction decisions to make today.  One client tonight.  The cat is now cleaning between his back toes, having followed the sun to the spot under the rocking chair.

The cat has found
The one long rectangle
Of early autumn-angled sun.
He begins the morning
Today is a list
To be completed:
More construction decisions.
The details of packing
For tomorrow*s trip.
Still more construction decisions.
The cat reminds me
Of everyday things
I might forget:
Drinking water
From a fresh water dish.
Finding a patch
Of warmth and light
In the midst of it all.

Monday, September 10, 2012


The bathroom paint guy seems competent.  Alleluia.  The contractor is off to pick up our chosen kitchen floor tile from the tile place.  I am happy with the kitchen choices for a house we will put on the market in three years.  It is not my dream kitchen.  My dream kitchen would be a vibrant colorful place in which people would feel like dancing as they made heavenly creative meals.

The paint guy is here today.
The promise is a functional bathroom
By Wednesday.
We have learned about building
This is an exercise
In more than construction
Or reconstruction.
The kitchen
Looms on the horizon.
A small functional kitchen.
A kitchen with drawers
For pots and pans.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Small kitchen

Yet one more reflection in the renovation series.  Months ago we went through motions to re-do the kitchen.  One contractor thought we should get rid of a kitchen wall.  This plan shrunk our already small dining area.  Contractor number two had good renovation skills but was zilch in the design department.  Months later we have backed into a kitchen with contractor number three, who works with a free-lance designer.  They describe themselves as the Odd Couple and share a showroom.  We were not planning on doing a kitchen so soon, but I guess we are.  I leave on a pilgrimage to Iona Wednesday morning.  Life will continue on after I am gone, and of course, when I return.  I hope for small things:  a drawer for my pots and pans, clear glass in the sliding doors so I can see the birds.  And yes, a workable, functional, pleasant kitchen.

Today we settled on floor tile
For the kitchen.
We even came to semi-agreement
On the backsplash.
The door person yesterday
Was completely unhelpful,
Apologetically unhelpful.
The combination
Made it worse.
Our kitchen is small
As kitchens go these days.
It will stay small.
No gourmet chef
Will ever worry about tired feet
As they stand for hours
On the tile we chose today
Making tiramisu.
No gourmet chef
Will ever buy our house
In the middle of our particular community.
Ours will be a kitchen
With no warming ovens
Or freezer drawers.
There will be a drawer
For pots and pans.
I hope for sliding doors
With clear glass
To see the birds in back.
We heard blue jays yesterday.
I want to see the birds
Fly through
On their way
South or North,
Or perhaps stay with us awhile,
Outside our new kitchen
With clear glass.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

No workers in sight

Today we can breathe a bit.  The bathroom is almost done.  No workers are scheduled for the weekend.  We will do the kitchen this fall.  It is a project that has grown and shrunk at least weekly.  We had put it off until next year, then the water came through, killed the stove and made the tile squishy.  So later today we have an appointment to look at cabinets.

The cat follows
The strip of sunlight
Through the living room.
There are no workers here today.
He can relax,
Claim his weekend
Like us.
The upstairs bathroom almost done
We consider the kitchen.
It will be simple
As far as kitchens go
These days.
The old bathroom fixtures wait
On the front porch
To be picked up
For recycling.

The weekend:
No workers in sight.
Cat in the sun.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Grout with sand

Today the upstairs bathroom is being grouted with two different kinds of grout.  Who knew there were so many kinds?  I remember my parishioner from years ago who regaled me with stories of all the different kinds of paint and coatings required for bridges.  Why does it surprise me that grout is as varied?  

My love has gone to the tile store.
It seems the tile guy
Needs more grout,
Grout with sand
For the floor.
It seems
There are almost
As many kinds and colors
Of grout
As stars in the sky
Pebbles on the beach,
Whichever metaphor
For abundance
We choose.

Yesterday the acupuncture lady
Told me
She is grout too.
She connects people
In different ways
Than I do.

I am grout.
Perhaps even grout with sand.
I have company

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Sometimes I have the fantasy that I will find the spotlight.  Usually that fantasy doesn*t last very long.  I am called to serve on the edges, to caulk pieces together.  I am grout:  truly a noble calling. Grout does not fit a marketing niche.

The tile guy
Is halfway through the project.
His grout
Is immaculate.

Last night I dreamed myself
At a clergy convention.
I watched everything,
Observed the son of a
Loquacious colleague
Pontificate before the masses
My colleague beamed
A father*s pride.
His brother asked question after question.
When I looked out
On the assembly
People were leaving right and left.
They*re not listening
I said
Look, they*re leaving!
I said.
My colleague continued to beam
A father*s pride.
Last night I dreamed
A picture being taken
Of the whole Diocese
On stage.
I was under the risers
With a colleague I knew
Had to be in the picture.
I raised her up on my shoulders
So she would appear in the picture
In the middle
Of the back row.

When I woke up
I realized
I am grout:
The necessary caulking
Between the tiles,
Or perhaps the leading
on a stained glass window.

I am not immaculate
Like the tile guy*s grout
Or even Mary.
Still: I am grout.
I make necessary commentary.
Sometimes I lift people on my shoulders
So they can be in the picture.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dry wall people... gone

I would rather write reflections on birds or the way light changes in the fall, or even the duck lady out back.  Not surprisingly, the dry wall people grab my attention.  They are not here today... yet still I anticipate their return.  The contractor is still apologizing for the flood.  He has offered to lend us his power washer.  His electrical people are here installing kitchen lights for free.  We are glad we decided to do things from the top... down.  The dry wall people are not here today.   They will probably return tomorrow.

Today the dry wall people
Are gone.
For now.
In their place,
The electrical people
Hammer conduit in position
In the stripped bare
Kitchen ceiling.
For last week*s kitchen flood,
We receive free installation
Of kitchen lighting.
The tile person works upstairs.
He seems
Like he knows
What he is doing.
Today the dry wall people
Are gone.
They will most likely return

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dry wall people

The contractor is also here, along with the dry wall people.  We like the contractor.  I hadn*t quite realized the anxiety that comes along with such a project.  Now we are going to work out.  I do not know what we will find when we return.  

The dry wall people,
The ones who broke our house
Last week,
Have returned.
Perhaps they are extra good
At dry wall,
Certainly not so good
Around water pipes
Or holes in the ceiling.
The dry wall people
Have returned.
They have returned.
Did I say
They have returned?
We leave to work out
In five minutes.
The dry wall people
Are upstairs.
The ones who broke our house
Last week.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day

There are things to be done, but nothing which can be ordered or begun today.  Labor Day does not bring with it an obligation of labor or anything religious, despite being a holiday.  Today is an unplanned day... my favorite kind.

This is an unplanned day:
My favorite kind.
The house is quiet.
The cat washes himself in the sun,
He cleans between his toes.
My husband is asleep upstairs.
To walk with a friend.
Despite its name,
This is an unplanned day,
My favorite.
I cannot drive.
There is no business
That can be done,
No phone calls
Except perhaps the leisure kind.
A holiday declared
With no
Religious obligation.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

They broke our house

Standing in coffee hour after church this morning, we join our chapter to the home remodeling disaster book.  As disasters go, ours is mild in comparison, very mild.  I am reminded of other disasters I have lived through and out the other side.  This is mild in comparison with them as well.  In this I have good company, a wonderful companion, and I still have my colorful stack of potholders, now in the laundry as they were directly under the flood from above.  I*m sure this experience will prove itself to be helpful in the long run.  And probably even funnier.

I remember years ago
I waited for the divorce
To be final,
Walked through it step by step,
Figured years down the road
I might be helpful
To someone else
In similar circumstances.
In those days I made
Stack upon stack
Of colorful potholders,
Each one symbolic
Of an evening alone
With a small child,
Not yet two.
Today I am in a solid marriage,
Shared humor,
The kitchen ceiling
Today we hear more stories
Of construction
Gone wrong
Oh so wrong.
We join our chapter
To the book
Of construction stories.
They broke our house,
My daughter says.
Her friend regales her
With her own story
Of construction gone wrong.
It seems we are not the first people
To get the beginnings
Of a new kitchen
From a bathroom remodel
Perhaps in time
It will be even funnier

Saturday, September 1, 2012


We have never been fond of the white tile which runs from the front door through the kitchen.  It doesn*t stay clean for more than a minute.  Yesterday the men working on the drywall in the upstairs bathroom broke a pipe and the kitchen flooded.  We cleaned up all day.  The kitchen renovation we were planning for next year will likely come sooner.  Now it*s not just a dead dishwasher, but the water means something is wrong with the stove as well.  House of cards?  Jenga?  Pick your metaphor.  

Now there is a squishy spot
Under the white kitchen tile.
We have figured
To replace the white tile
For a long time now.
Now it seems
A fait accompli.
Now the top down
One thing at a time,
Is instead
A house of cards,
A game of Jenga,
Pick your metaphor.
Move one thing
In the pile
Watch everything shift,
Settle to new locations.
Now the lack of kitchen ceiling
Gives us easy access
To the floor above,
The squishy tile
To the basement.
We consider the move
To a future ranch home
On a slab.