Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Finally the greening

Spring brings new life to places I suspected were lifeless.  A good thing.

Finally the greening
Has arrived,
Sun in tow.
The cat sleeps upside down,
Ears twitch with birdsong,
Tail offers
The occasional thump.
The house is again open
To the world.
We bring the outside in
And inside out.
Spring is leaven.
Spring is yeast.
It brings forth life
In unexpected places.
It makes new trails,
New tracks in places
Which were heretofore

Monday, April 29, 2013

When early enough

Up early to take the daughter and French student to school.  I resist the urge to go back to bed.  I listen to the cardinal.  He matches the kitchen.  Different thoughts arise when I am up with the sun.

Early enough
I can
Climb out of bed
With the sun
And the cardinal
Sings me just awake enough
Before the anxious thoughts
Take hold.
Only then
I write those first thoughts down
I even write them up
Lift them skyward
In homage to the sun
Revere all that is already here
Like now
It is early enough
I am enough awake
The cardinal sings me up
With the sun.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

When they ask

I have probably known this all along.  Taking my own advice?  Now that*s another story.

When they ask what you do
For a living
Tell them
This is what I do.
Then smile enigmatically,
Sweep your arm
In front and behind,
Show them the world
Around you,
The world
Around them;
Smile like the cat
Who swallowed the canary,
Or the Cheshire cat
Whose smile
Was the only thing left.
When they ask
What exactly you do
Tell them it is inexact.
Invite them
For a cup of tea,
A cookie perhaps.
Maybe a walk or stroll
Through the park
Which just bloomed full yellow
With forsythia

Discouragement/Encouragement/Pretty Good

Sometimes it helps to listen to the conversation between the disagreeing factions, figure out they both have good points.  Turns out both Discouragement and Encouragement grew up in Minnesota... cousins who lived next door... in fact.  Pretty good.

This morning
And her cousin
Sit across from one another
At the dining table.
They trade quips.
Both women are eloquent
In their own way.
The table is covered
With a patchwork quilt.
Lilies purchased last week
For the French student*s arrival
Have fully opened,
The dining room perfumed.
Two new clematis:
Nelly Moser,
Comtesse de Bouchard,
Potted on the front porch,
Wait to be planted.
In the dining room
They gesture,
Each with coffee
In her hand.
I listen.
I believe they both
Make good points.
I see how they are related
At the root,
Not just from opposite shores
Of the  gene pool.
Now I hear they share
A particular accent,
Turn of phrase.
Finally they agree
That things
Are really
Pretty good.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Finally forsythia

We have finally had enough consecutive warmish days to encourage the forsythia.  Now the fly is done inspecting the indoor branch and is on to bothering the cat.

Finally forsythia.
I clipped the sprigs I could find
Added them to two green branches
In the cut glass vase
On the front table.
This morning the forsythia ,
Blooms in shadow
Between the front windows,
Provides an exploration branch
For one lone fly.
He (she?) is methodical,
Checks out each blossom
One at a time.
I see the whole
As outside sculpture
Moved inside.
I consider dusting the table

Friday, April 26, 2013

Good news

Counting success where I may.

Good news emerges
From unexpected places.
From the dentist.
Yes I have a cavity
Yes there is some bone loss
Around one tooth.
The root canal I got
Years ago
Is well-settled,
My molar roots
Are 25 percent longer
Than most.
This is apparently
Amazing good news.
I am successful at something
I hadn*t considered
Up until now.
Long roots are good.
I never would have known
If I had not gone
To the dentist.
Long roots are good.
Mine are long.
Good news emerges
From places

Bongo Board

There is so much to learn from everyone I encounter.  It*s all dialogue.  Yesterday I remembered the Bongo Board we stored in the closet off the living room when I was growing up. I remembered I was good at balancing on it.   The board lived in that living room closet.  The closet also stored the dress-up clothes.  One memory unpacks another.  I remember new things I*ve forgotten.

God sends me people.
They struggle with things,
They dance with things,
I need to weave
Into my life.
When they leave I think
Oh that*s why you came.
When they leave
I think
Until I remembered to say
That one thing
Out loud,
Until you named
That one difficulty,
Until you told me
About that particular
Dance partner,
I forgot.
Yesterday was about balance,
Bongo boards,
And God inhabiting
God sends me people.
They help me remember
New things
I*ve forgotten.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


The Clinic is undergoing a whole lot of change.  Transition is an understatement.  Following the staff support group on Tuesday, we looked at the chairs, arranged in a circle for the group, and thought to put them back the way they had been.  We didn*t.   We put them back in a different way, so people might talk with one another while they wait for services.  I have no idea what happened to the chairs on Wednesday.  I do know there was energy present in the room when we left.  I believe it has something to do with mutual support.

Sometimes support means
To gather the wherewithal
To switch
The seating arrangement.
All that is required
Is to offer a different seat,
Something as simple
As sitting
In a different place.
I have done this before
Now I counsel others
To consider the same thing.
Sometimes the first step
To regain control
Is to determine
Where to sit,
Only then  
May we grant to others
The very same

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Filled with people

I am an introvert.  This will come as no surprise to those who know me.  This week is filled with new people.    We host a French exchange student this week and next.  I have four new clients this week, and a new support group to lead.  It is Wednesday morning with nothing scheduled.  The French student is in Springfield with the group.  My daughter returns home at noon.  I hear the birds outside.  I do not have to do anything with the birds except listen to them.  Just listen.

This week is completely filled
With new people.
French people.
American people.
Some are even written down  
On my calendar
For appointments.
All week
New people.
A potluck with exchange students,
Exchange families.
A high school reception
For National Honor Society,
Everyone takes numerous pictures.
We forgot to bring a camera.
We did find our wedding pictures
When we cleaned the room
For the exchange student.
The house holds extra people
When I return home.
I have the blank space,
The blessedly blank space,
Of a nothing-scheduled
Wednesday morning
Before I meet with two new clients
This afternoon.
I hear the birds outside.
I hear the birds
I am inside,
In blessedly blank space.
For now.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Today I begin to coordinate a support group for staff at the Clinic where I volunteer.  When I volunteered to do this, the group was thought to address one issue.  Last week one of the two clinic sites completely flooded, destroying all the records.  That site will not re-open, and all the staff and patients have been consolidated to one location.  Yesterday was the first day with everyone together.  When people gather this afternoon, we will see what is needed.

Amazing are the things
Which need
A volunteer.
I count hours as a counselor
For free supervision.
Still it seems
Nothing ever really
Comes free.
Unknown strings,
Untied shoelaces
Trip me up,
No matter how much
Volunteer paperwork
I turn in.
There are always more I-s to be dotted,
T-s to be crossed.
The last jot and tittle
Won*t be discovered
Until after everything we know
Has been said and done.
Still amazing
Those things which require
A volunteer,
No tit for tat
Nothing ventured
Nothing gained
Nothing ever quite
What it seems.
There is more than enough
Volunteer work,
Free supervision
Or not.
There is always more than enough.
Every single bit counts.
We will know where it figures into the big picture
When all is said and done,
When the very last piece
Is set in place.

Monday, April 22, 2013

New life (or old)

This is for you, Rick Stevens.  The poem in it.

The microwave came to life
We had pushed every possible button,
Except Power Saver,
It seems.
Pushing the Power Saver button
Everything went blank.
Pushing it again
Brought the microwave
To life.
The power had been saved
Until then.
The clock kept time
It was still exactly right,
Time kept
On some microwave chip
An internal time-keeping piece.
The time?
Exactly right.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


This morning brings
The value in
Not pushing through,
But instead
Relaxing into.
This is not the same thing
Giving up
But instead
Noticing what is indeed
The next right thing,
The thing
That clamors to be next,
Hints at its next-ness,
If I only let it be

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sans microwave

No matter how much we prepare for a guest*s arrival, no matter how much we prepare for everything to be perfect, unplanned things happen.  Actually I am grateful it*s just the microwave so far.  I well remember counseling couples before they got married.  The things that go wrong, I used to say, are where memories are made.  I used to be so wise.  Of course some things are more funny, more memorable, in retrospect.

And now
Every surface has been cleared
And cleaned;
The cat box emptied,
Filled with new litter;
The room is ready
For occupancy.
The car is cleared
For luggage from the airport.
The snow has melted.
The sun shines.
But now
The microwave is dead,
I tell you,
Under warranty, yes,
But still
The cat sleeps anyway.
I plan dinner for our guest
From Paris.
We will live sans microwave.
People did it for years.
The snow has melted.
The sun shines.
Our guest will arrive
Or not.

Snow shovel

I bet I*m not alone in this.

We have cleaned up
For the arrival from Paris.
The daughter
Put the snow shovel
In the garage.
I am not superstitious
But there is now snow
On the ground.
April 20 with snow
On the ground,
Not much, mind you,
But snow.
I do not believe
It has anything to do
With snow shovels,
Where they live.
It does remind me of umbrellas
And rain.
I wonder how many people it takes
To put away their snow shovels,
To cause it to snow.
I wonder if certain people,
Like my daughter
Have the power
To make it snow.
I wonder if it takes
Only one.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tree blight

As I write this, the tree guys feed branches into wood shredders.  It is incredibly loud.  The ash tree in our backyard has been deemed treatable.  We will see. 
As I write this, Boston and the surrounding area is on lockdown for the Marathon bombers.  The bombers, maybe two, maybe three, are mostly marked with orange Xs.

We live on a street
With ash trees.
They are mostly marked
With orange Xs
Their fate is clear.
The emerald ash borer
Must be stopped
In its tracks.
They came from Asia.
Nothing bad ever begins
In this country
In this county
In this town
On this street
In our yard.
Growing up in Minneapolis
It was Dutch elm.
It is always easier
To blame something bad,
On some thing
On some one
From overseas
Over some border.
Mark them with orange Xs
Stop the blight
Nothing ever seems to start

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sign from God

I often wonder what I*m doing somewhere, even those things which seemed so clear when I signed up for them in the first place.  This was one of them.  I learned a lot but I have no idea how I will put the information to use.  Sometimes it seems we*re mostly somewhere for someone else.

My tablemate
At DUI training
Said I was
A sign from God.
Her grandmother shared my name.
She always called her grandmother
Before a test,
Asked her to pray
Pray me through this, Grammy,
She*d say.
I wondered why I was there.
This must be part of it.
Sometimes we*re someone else*s
Sign from God.
Nothing more,
Nothing less.
I wondered
Why I was there.

Drainage ditch

When is a ditch not a ditch?  When it claims its exotic Amazon roots.  If it flows long and hard enough, it may even reach the ocean.

The drainage ditch rages
Out back,
Splits its edges.
 It holds aspirations
Of exotic proportions.
It claims kinship
With the Amazon
The Nile.
It flows with so many new
River thoughts.
What can it be thinking?
It is a drainage ditch
After all,
Not some river in South America;
Not a tributary
In Africa
Flowing fully
To the ocean.
The sky splits with thunder
In response.
The ditch
No longer a mere ditch

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Making order

Yep, the rumble is thunder.  Day two of DUI training.  Guess I*ll be driving in the rain.

We have been cleaning
For two weeks now.
The cat seeks familiar
He currently sleeps
In the newspaper bin.
It fits him just right,
His cheek balances on the edge.
The newspapers,
Are being recycled
As I write,
A rumble in the distance
might be truck,
train on the tracks
Or sky.
The cat sleeps.
My beloved
We count down to Saturday
When our student flies in
From Paris.
Turns out the rumble
Is sky.
I can always count
On the sky
And the cat.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Anxiety in the rocking chair

This is one of those times I wonder what defines me, what the future holds.  My fear, of course, is that it holds nothing.   In these moments Anxiety sits across from me, stares me in the eye.  I have given her my father*s sweater jacket, the one he used to wear on his farm in Wisconsin, and my blue and white sweater socks.  She and I will go for a massage next week, get our shoulders back into place.  Right now we*re drinking tea.

Tonight I sit with Anxiety
Across from me
In the rocking chair.
She rocks
Back and forth.
Back and forth.
She wears three mismatched sweaters,
Red and purple,
Moss green knit
Fake fleece inside,
Moth hole chewed into the left sleeve,
Her father used to wear it
On the farm.
Blue and white sweater socks
Hold her feet.
Anxiety*s shoulders
Hunch up around her ears.
I promise to call tomorrow,
Make her an appointment
For a massage
Early next week.
She wonders out loud
If tea would be a good idea.
What a good idea
I say
Let me put the kettle on.

Wearing of the green

Green seems appropriate for the season of spring.  The church wears white or gold for Easter (white even before Memorial Day!).  Actually I favor something leaning toward teal.  Today begins a three day DUI training.  Yes, more training.  I will attend in green.  It is spring, I tell you, spring. Stuck inside a hotel, we will need all the reminders we can get.

I had another church dream
Many nights ago.
I was dressed for the church parade.
Everyone else was in red and white
And gold.
I had unearthed a green stole.
I know
Green is not the color
Yet green
Was all I could find.
I had no part in the play
Except walking in
Walking out
And it seems
Wearing green.
Today I wear four permutations
Of green.
No stole.
No church.
Today I have no part in the play
Except to listen
Take notes
Wear green.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Three things at once

When I am awakened suddenly, before the requisite dream state, I roll out of bed and do one thing at a time.  I have finished the oatmeal.  As I sip coffee, I realize I have not had a Starbucks latte since before Lent. I will post this next, the coffee warm in my hands before I consider the plan for the day, a Monday which will line out on the page, line out in the office, client by client by client.

In early morning
I never know what
Lines out on the page.
The next thing appears
As if by miracle.
Ideas come one by one
By one.
It may be a function
Of waking up
To drive the daughter
To school.
I do not plan the day
As much as move
From one thing
To the next.
I find Starbucks
On the way home.
I think
Might be good.
I determine not
To return to bed
But instead
To write
Eat my oatmeal
Drink the non-fat latte
Another thought that arrived
After the oatmeal.
I determine to do
Three things at once
A miracle in itself,
Three things at once,
So early in the morning.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The room upstairs

In this house we do cleaning sprints.  We host a French exchange student beginning next Saturday. His room upstairs is now ready.  We have made three trips to Goodwill, and piled the curb on trash day last week.  We clean to deadline.  All three of us clean to deadline.  One room down.  More to go.  Lots more to go.

The room upstairs
Is ready to host.
The theme is teal and gray
With white jersey sheets,
A picture on the wall
My grandmother painted:
Flowers with teal leaves.
It is masculine enough.
Over the dresser hangs the line drawing
Of a hippo
With a fork,
A Thanksgiving turkey
Ready to eat.
A whimsical touch.
Do the French
Appreciate whimsy?
We have made baby steps
On the rest of the house.
We have begun the countdown
To ready enough.
The door is shut
To the host-able room,
The cat waits outside
The door,
Ready to make a break
For clean sheets
New pillows
A hiding place
Under the bed.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Morning conversation with Humility and Perspicacity

I am still not sure how to pronounce perspicacity.  She was a surprise breakfast guest this morning.  Humility has a regular chair at the table these days.

I sit with Humility and Perspicacity
This morning.
Humility drinks herbal tea.
Perspicacity likes coffee black.
Black coffee with a generous dollop
Of cream.
Humility and Perspicacity both
Are dressed for breakfast
And beyond.
I made it out of bed
Accomplishment in itself.
I sit in pajamas,
Notice the lawn care people
Already at work
In the neighborhood.
I consider rejuvenating
My high school knowledge of Spanish.
Humility suggests I consider
The room upstairs,
The room that will host
Our exchange student
Next Saturday.
Perspicacity  offers the possibility
Of one step at a time.
She attends AA meetings,
Likes to consider
The next right thing.
I wonder
Do these women always
Live into their names?
When Perspicacity appeared
I had to look up the meaning of her name.
Humility was an easy one.
She shows up regularly.
The next right thing is breakfast.
Humility eats oatmeal.
With Perspicacity
It depends on the day.
I eat a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats
With Almonds,
Pour myself another cup of coffee
With a dollop of cream.
More hot water, another tea bag
For Humility;
For Perspicacity
A warmer of black coffee.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Is it spring yet?

There are more signs of spring around.  Unlike last year, with an unseasonably early spring, this one feels unseasonably late.  I complained last year too, sure that the earliness meant unknown repercussions for the rest of the year.  Today there are a few buds.  The rhubarb has poked its head through the soil.  The clematis has not yet dared to consider vining.  I wonder if the lateness will bring unknown repercussions for the rest of the year.

Today the sky
Is still gray
But more leaf buds
Soon enough
Ok maybe not soon enough
It will be full on
This is the way
It always goes
Even when I forget,
Reminders come full force
Every year
Long about this time
Though of course
I would prefer those reminders
Still earlier.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Disappointment for breakfast

This morning I am skipping the Thursday work-out and sitting with disappointment for breakfast.  She may have a thing or two to teach me.  What exactly, I have no idea.  That*s why I need to pay attention.

I vowed to make friends
With Disappointment,
Pour her a cup of coffee
At the breakfast table,
Exchange sections of the morning paper,
Sit and make morning chit-chat,
Watch the back lawn
Grow greener.
Her face looks like a prune.
She needs more than a laugh
Or two.
I wonder
Which comic strip
Appeals to her sense of humor?
Does she even have
A sense of humor?
Is it dark or silly?
Does she see the oddness
In my asking?
Which cereal would she like
Topped with strawberries?
One or two servings of fruit
Is a good way
To start the day.
Even for someone
Named Disappointment.
Does her name
Cause her distress?
What were her parents thinking?
Whatever were they thinking?
She sits across from me
In her mismatched PJs
Uncombed hair.
Let me warm up your cup of coffee
I say.
Let me give you a warmer.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Open doors and windows

Almost three weeks since a wonderful job interview but no news.  So I called to find out.  I had pretty much figured the answer was no.  My interviewer answered the phone... herself.  Even though HR was supposed to contact me... they didn*t.  This is not a new experience.  I could have let the door stay closed.  I have done that before.   I counseled a client this week to open the door of the literal room he needs to paint, so he could see it when he passes by, and not pretend it wasn*t there.  
We all have such closed doors.  Sometimes we have closed windows. 

Never know what you*ll see
When you open those doors
Or windows:
Literal doors and windows
Or even
The figurative ones.
Never know what will
Blow through:
Soft spring breezes
Gale force winds.
It is much neater
To keep them closed.
The furniture stays upright.
Rain doesn*t blow in.
Things stay dry.
It is so much neater
To keep the doors and windows closed.
Never know what you*ll see
With open windows,
Open doors.

Is it me?

I attended a ministry and mental health conference yesterday.  It was wonderful in so many ways.  Most all the materials were available in English and Spanish.  The speaker I was dreading was bright, accessible and funny.  The workshop leader was very good.  I talked with a classmate from Wheaton I have not seen since graduation.  We compared notes and shared experiences.  I suspect both of us have grown leaps and bounds since graduation.  Who knew?  I saw change all around me with a capital C.

I see Change
With a capital C.
All I can say is
The Christian conference
I attended yesterday
Was amazing.
As often happens
I was probably
The lone Episcopalian.
Often I feel like
An anthropologist.
I try to learn the customs
From outside in,
Inside out.
I strive to place my preconceived notions
Of the main speaker,
The particular workshops
On hold.
So I can hear.
So I can see.
So I can perhaps learn
Something different.
I claim not to ride in
On a white or black horse.
No Tonto.
Last year I sat with
The other Episcopalian.
This year I see change
With a capital C.
Beyond anthropology
I see kinfolk.
Is it me or them
Or was there never any real difference
In the first place?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

If not forsythia, what?

Always we wait.  Most often we seem to miss what is already here.

We still wait for forsythia,
The rhubarb barely present
At the end of the garden bed.
Last year it was half grown by now.
This year is nothing
Like last year.
Still we always wait
For something
Just around the corner.
There is always something
To wait for
Even while something
Is always here,
Waiting to be discovered.
If not forsythia

Monday, April 8, 2013

Warmer spring rain

When my daughter wants to go early to school, I drive her there and am enough awake to stay up when I return home.  The house is quiet.  This is my favorite time to write.  Today spring is more than a possibility.  The rain softens things.  It invites new growth.  It amplifies the sound of trains.  It brings out hope in birdsong.      Me too.

Today may well be a day
To bask
In warmer spring rain.
When I drove my girl
To school
It was 45 degrees.
Newly awake
I tried to change the outside temperature
On the car dashboard.
If all goes as promised
The weather will achieve
The 60*s by afternoon.
Quite an accomplishment
I say out loud
To no one in particular,
My beloved and the cat
Sound asleep upstairs.
What do they know now
Except a warm bed?
I listen to the train.
It is always louder
When it runs on wet tracks.
Today is a day
To bask in warm spring rain

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Finally.  Finally.  I have graduated to the pew.  It took a full six years... but here I am.  Finally.  I do not need to do a thing to justify my pew-sitting.  No excuses necessary or called for.  Amazing, really.  Stunning.

I have graduated
To the pew.
It took me long enough.
Today at coffee hour
I straight-pinned green paper wads
As leaves
To brown styrofoam trees
For summer Vacation Bible School.
My beloved and I
Sat in the library
During the third service,
Waved to the people
Who slipped through the side door
We noted the man who filched the cream
From the kitcheonette refrigerator;
Perused the Sunday paper.
I have graduated to the pew,
The library,
To the edges
Of coffee hour.
I am no longer incognito clergy.
I am a regular.
I have graduated
To the pew.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The next right thing

My beloved and I sit at the dining table, name the things which must be tossed or given away.  This weekend we will completely clear the room for our exchange student.  Next weekend is for redecoration.  

I think about the person I sat with years ago who had a dirty white chair in her living room.  It loomed every time she walked in the house.  We made a plan together to get that white chair cleaned by the next time we met..  That one simple act got her unstuck.  It seemed magical to me. AA often talks about doing the next right thing.  I found myself offering the same counsel this week to another client.  Today we sit at the dining table and identify the next right thing for this weekend.

The room which will hold
Our French exchange student
Now the door,
cracked open,
Allows the possibility
Of emptying,
Then cleaning.
The Halloween decorations scream:
Light-up eyeballs,
Shivering ghosts,
The spider we put
In the front hallway
Many years ago.
Mr Green,
The talking miniature Christmas tree:
He cackles.
Endless partial rolls
Of red and green wrapping paper
We never could find every Christmas.
So each year
We added more.
The candle lights
For every window
Are there.
One fell
Burned a hole in my carpet
In Boston.
The room beckons
With holiday trappings,
Its door cracked open.
The deadline looms.
Two weeks from now
France arrives to stay with us
For two weeks.
All three of us
Most always
Work to deadline.

Friday, April 5, 2013


Holy stories are not limited to the ones told in church or between office walls.  There is holiness in the listening and in the telling.  Sometimes it*s hard to tell who should be paying whom.  There is always cost involved, somehow.  Sometimes money changes hands.  

Yesterday brought
Eight countable hours.
Three I was paid for.
Two cost me money:
The trainer
The hairdresser.
Both had deep stories.
The hairdresser even cleaned my glasses
So I could see my new haircut
More clearly.
I re-met a woman from church
On the street corner.
She has learned to pass
With adequate social skills.
This comes
With clear cost
To her.
We shook hands when we met,
Shook hands
When I left.
When I turned around,
She had disappeared
Everything costs something.
Sometimes we pay.
Sometimes we are paid.
Sometimes the exchange
Is simply, purely, free.