Saturday, August 31, 2013

Garlic soup

Today was a day with other plans.  Then I woke up to thunder and no electricity.  My computer had five minutes left of power in its battery.  I sneaked a yogurt out of the refrigerator.  The back yard was still.  So was I.  I contemplated garlic soup.  I am still contemplating garlic soup and the power has been on for four hours now.

This week brought
Tomatoes red and yellow,
A stapled brown bag
Of garlic.
I contemplate
Garlic soup.
Today is a day
For contemplation.
Once I assemble
The necessary ingredients
Tomorrow may bring
Meanwhile a Cooper’s hawk
Stations himself
In the crab apple.
A squirrel sits frozen
On the fence.
A rabbit crouches motionless
Under a bush.
Today is a day
To be still.
Tomorrow may be different.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Think about it

As I write this I realize it took me less than 24 hours to come to this.  This is a personal record!  I spent years wrestling with me and the Church, how I might best use who I am, who God has called me to be.  Now the temptation to think about it again has come, and I can hold it in front of me, think about it, and let it go.  I am where I need to be.  I have a counseling office directly under the altar.  The thread which ties together the people I see is one of vocational search. There is nothing (I think) that beats choosing to be where one finds oneself.

Think about it
He says,
Presenting me with data
I gave him
Two days ago.
Think about it,
He offers.
So I think.
Now the offer has come again
Full circle
Through his brain and heart
And back to me.
Think about
What you might do.
So I think.
Overnight I realize
I have already answered
The question.
My answer is here
In this small office
Under the altar.
I write and pray.
I talk with one person
At a time.
Like this week,
In the cycle of things,
Schools fill
Even as they will empty
Next June.
Think about it
He says.
He presents me with something
I wrestled with
For years.
It is new to him.
For me:
I came, I thought, I wrestled
Like Jacob
At the Jabok.
It was truly worth years
Of thought
And wrestling.
Now I think again
And let go.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

It might snow

Rationalization:  we all do it.  Pretty regularly even.  Sometimes it*s only when we hear ourselves say things out loud that we catch it.  Sometimes... not even then.

We all do it.
My favorite excuse
Was the client
Who could not show up today
Because the weatherman said
It might snow
We all do it.
It sounds perfectly reasonable
In our heads.
It*s only when
It comes out of our mouths;
We hear it landing with a thud
In someone else*s ears.
Good reasons
Why these calories today
Won*t matter tomorrow,
Splendid reasons why
Self-serving things
Are really in the best interest
Of the other.
We all do it.
It might snow tomorrow
After all.
It might snow.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


It*s been awhile since I have served as a reference for someone.  Now that I am not in a job search of my own, it seems fitting somehow that I should be called as a reference for someone else.  This is not a small job.  Even as I say this I realize I believe there are no small jobs.  Even as I say this, my job this morning is to answer the phone between 10 and noon and speak the truth as I know it. Then my job will be to pray for all involved.  For All Involved.  

Today I will answer the phone
Between 10 and noon,
Have a conversation
With a man I do not know
About someone I do know.
The conversation
Matters a lot
To both men
and more.
It matters
A lot.
I am simply one person.
There will be many involved
In final conversations
And decisions.
I am simply
One person
Who will answer the phone
Between 10 and noon
I will speak the truth
As I know it.
I will watch and listen and pray
As the conversation ripples out
Beyond me
After noon today.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I sit.  Stopped.  
My beloved went off to work out alone with the trainer.  I woke up on a trajectory to sure difficulty if I continued the way I began.  
I am in the blue chair, drinking coffee.  I consider a new beginning, a new trajectory.  The one important thing today is grocery shopping.  The next is a meeting with my daughter*s teacher this evening.  It is hot and humid outside.  It is even humid indoors.
I sit. Stopped.
I consider a new beginning to the day.

Awake and moving
Far too quickly this morning
I stopped.  Took note.  Stopped.

Monday, August 26, 2013


There is a truism which says:  If you don*t write it... no one will.  Sometimes I think this may be true  Other times, though, it seems as though there is something to Carl Jung*s idea of the collective unconscious, and particular words and phrases and whole sentences, heck, even entire essays feel pulled from The Source (and I*m not talking about James Michener*s novel).  

I might have written that
I think.
Almost every day I find something
I might have written,
So I know,
I absolutely know,
I have company out there,
Down the street
Sitting in a blue chair
Like mine,
Watching ducks
And grapevines in crab apple trees
Like mine.
I think
I might have written that.
I know
I have company.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Sometimes I wonder at odd dreams.  Like this one.  So I write them down and figure they may sort out later.  As I write this I think communion wafers are rather like matzoh.  I wonder what it would mean to be the last reminder of Christ in the world, not the first in line. Dream connections are often tricky.  I write them down so I might remember.

I dreamed last night
My surname was changed
To Afikomen.
In my dream it seemed to mean
My last name began
With the letter ‘A’
So I was first
When we lined up
In alphabetical order.
This morning I looked it up
And remembered again
The afikomen is the hidden matzoh
At Passover.
It is always found and eaten
Last night I dreamed the Passover.
I was the afikomen.
Kosher yes
But last in line.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Think again

Thinking this morning of the people who have shown up in times of loss and times of joy.  The expected people, of course, but also the unexpected ones... like my high school friend*s mother who came to Dad*s funeral... for me... even though I hadn*t seen her in years.  I also think of the unexpected people who share my joys and show me the Kingdom spreads out way beyond any boundaries I have ever imagined.  When you think it doesn*t matter... think again.

When you think
It doesn*t matter:
Think again.

When you think
You won*t be missed:
Think again.

Your presence may be,
It may simply be,
That one thing that shows
One person
The whole world
Is aware
Of their loss,
Of their joy.

When you think
It doesn*t matter,
Consider your presence
Just might possibly be
A sign of the Kingdom
In attendance.
Think again.
Think again.

For Bob

For Bob, who entered the Larger Life this morning.

Some struggle
Take step after step
In the mud and muck,
Grab hand after hand
To pull them out
But still continue their slog
Until finally finally
God brings them home
Wherever that is
Whatever that looks like
God brings them home,
Shows them
How to walk again
How to dance.

Friday, August 23, 2013


What is it about cleaning so someone else can clean?  It seems we all work to deadline.  Nothing like the knowledge that someone is coming at 7:30 AM on a Friday morning to motivate the three of us to put away our stuff  on Thursday.

The woman who helps us
Keep the house clean
Has returned from a summer
In Poland.
This is not a small thing.
Her impending presence inspired us
To pick up extraneous things,
Clear counters,
Put away the dishes
In the dish drainer.
What is it about cleaning the house
Before someone arrives
To clean the house?
Our inspiration
Has returned from Poland.
She is downstairs vacuuming.
I am upstairs writing.
I cleaned yesterday
So our inspiration could clean

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gimlet eyes

Whatever works, I say.  For our pets it seems to take a hard penetrating stare.

The cat and turtle
Share gimlet eyes.
It seems
Is what it takes
To get through to us,
Each of us
In our own space.
The cat stands next to chair.
He yowls
Then stares.
He accompanies the stare
With a cat wink
When we look,
Then gimlet eyes
When we ignore him.
He scratches
At the bathroom door
And stares.
He waits for it to open
Then gimlet eyes
Which bore through the door.
The turtle wrestles his food plate
Against the glass
Of the turtle tank.
Then stares
With gimlet eyes
Until someone pays attention.
The noise seems
Never enough.
The boring penetrating stare
The gimlet eyes
Get us
Every time.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

One fact

I grew up privileged.  I live... privileged.  I know this.  Still... I get stuck on trying to convince someone of that One Fact I Know is Right... I do this sometimes.  OK, maybe I do this Too Often. I do this and perhaps I convince someone of something, or perhaps they stop listening, or name me something that cannot be written in this space.  In fact, I did it this morning on a listserve... trying to convince someone of a Very Important Fact... which I shall not name here... because, even though she is not a judge, and I have custody of my children, and I am privileged... there are other things which call for my time.  This is called... letting go.  It seems a lifelong lesson I need to learn.

I know someone
Not so very long ago
Who lost custody
Even visitation
Of her daughter
In part
Because she tried to convince a judge
He was wrong.

She was right.
The judge was wrong.

She chose one fact,
Worried it to death
Like a dog
With a bone,
Like our cat
Fixated on the feather toy
He cannot forget,
Even though we put the toy away
In the closet
Months ago.

She chose one fact,
Worried it to death.

Her daughter turned 18
This year.
I imagine the two of them
Together now
Making up for three years
Of lost time.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mountain ash

I don*t really believe in folklore, unless it comes true.  The Farmers* Almanac is a good source for this.  The mountain ash is particularly fruitful this year.  In other parts of the world it is known as a rowan.  Branches are used by farmers to drive herds into the fields first thing in the spring as a protection.  Who*s to say it doesn*t protect them?  I have yet to see a woolly bear caterpillar this year.  I have no idea what they have to say about the coming winter.

The mountain ash
Is filled with orange berries
This year.
Weather journals say
This predicts a hard winter,
Like thicker stripes
On the woolly bear caterpillar.
Who*s to say
What more means here.
Who*s to say
What wider stripes mean
With no caterpillar to compare
From last year?
The mountain ash is filled
With orange berries.
Some say it is a magical tree.
It stands at full height
Next to the patio,
Filled with orange berries,
Ready to feed songbirds
Before their long trip
Some say it is a magical tree.
Who*s to say
It*s not?

Monday, August 19, 2013


This is for missionaries everywhere, whatever their mission.  For Rebecca, Debbie, and Patience, my missionary classmates.  For Kathleen, who made it her mission to help me write that personal ad.  For Scott, who encouraged my beloved to answer my ad.  For my beloved, Jeff, who took the chance.

Today is for reframing
My professional life.
I remember three classmates:
Missionaries to
I think I will be a missionary
To Glen Ellyn.

I remember the personal ad
I ran years ago.
I named myself
A community and family-oriented professional
Who enjoys ethnic food,
Instead of Episcopal priest,
Single mother with young child.
The newspaper made a mistake.
It said I liked ethnic good.
My beloved says if his friend
Hadn*t convinced him
It might be a typing mistake,
We never would have met.
I am grateful
To the friend,
Now a kind of missionary
In Norway.

Today is for reframing
After all
It has been reframed
Many times before.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Empty chair

My beloved and daughter are doing nursery duty this morning.  We all attended the 9 AM service.  I wait for them.  I write sitting in the place my clients sit, consider the scenery from here.  I remember what I learned in school of the gestalt empty chair technique.  This morning I prefer to leave the chair empty, consider what my clients see.  God Himself is with us...they sing upstairs.  I leave the door and window open, watch the latecomers slide in... late.

I sit in the place
My clients sit.
One difference is
My chair is empty.
Still the window is open
To the outside;
The door is open
To the hallway.
I sit
Where my clients sit.
I see different things,
Hear the service begin
Above me.
God Himself is with us
The people sing.
I hear nursery noises
Down the hall,
Watch the latecomers slide in
Through the back door.
I sit
Where my clients sit
Every week.
I consider the view
From here.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

One day longer

Another Saturday morning... just me and crab apple and the grapevine.  And life abundant.

Life is robust in the crab apple
This morning.
Squirrels use the remaining grapevine
As climbing rope.
A downy woodpecker,
Unconcerned by the squirrels,
Mines the trunk
For bugs.
The cardinals have claimed
One particular branch,
Away from the grapevine side.
Today was the day
I planned to finish
The removal of the grapevine.
It is three inches thick
At the base.
Life is robust
In the crab apple.
It calls me
In more ways than one.
One day longer
It says
Watch me
One day longer.
One day won*t hurt.

Friday, August 16, 2013


The word proud is an odd one.  We take pride in things we have had a hand in, a project coming to fruition, accomplishments like graduating from school, landing the perfect job, oh yes... and children.  Still... as soon as children are born, we have a hand in teaching them how to grow up, and make decisions, and find the world around them.  Still, my children have taught me how to be a better human being from the moment they came into the world.  I am proud of them for that.  I am prouder and prouder every moment.  Of course I am proud.  But admiration seems the next step after pride.  Maybe I will write about admiration tomorrow or the next day.

You must be proud,
They say,
Of your children.
They seem to know
They are part
Of a wider fuller world.
I am
I could not be
The more I say the word
It takes on that narcissistic glow
As if I or my beloved
Were chief agents
Of this event.
Maybe it*s the Minnesota
In me.
I am proud
Of the human beings
They are,
Of the fascinating beings
I have been able to watch
From that knowing look
In their eyes
At birth,
To now,
To Infinity
And Beyond.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


With the Icons in Transformation exhibit at church last month, I have been thinking back to this conversation years ago, held after egg salad sandwiches and iced tea.  I was able to inquire recently about the piece, only to find out it was never completed.  

She unveiled the icon
After lunch,
Asked me what I thought.
Mary and baby Jesus,
Prairie grasses
All around.
Baby Jesus looked
Like the former rector,
The one I had replaced.
What do you think?
She asked.
I told her
I like Mary
I like the prairie setting
Baby Jesus
Baby Jesus looks like…

She said
You*re right.
I think it*s the cheeks.
I*ll have to work
On the face.
This was years ago.
At a recent party she told me
The icon
Was never completed.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

If I never clean up

Just what I need... an excuse for not cleaning up.  Still... watching the squirrels and chipmunks, the robins finding shelter as I drink my morning coffee... I find joy in that tangled mass of grape vine. I even wonder what it would look like covered in snow this winter.

Last weekend I began the task
Of removing the grape vine
From the crab apple.
Now mounds of grape vine
Provide gymnastic equipment
For the squirrels and chipmunks,
Offer a hiding place for robins,
Safe from scanning hawks.
More grape vine remains
Wound into
The top of the tree.
I tell myself I will clean up
When I have finished the job.
The squirrels and chipmunks,
The robins
So enjoy that mass of vine.
If I never finish
Or maybe
If I never clean up
They will continue
To offer their
Their endless joy.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Five at a time

The reality of counseling is that sometimes people don*t show up.  Even five people at once.  Maybe especially five people at once.  Sometimes people call and let me know (I found out twenty minutes before the appointment this time).  Still... next time five people want to see me at once... I am ready!

Yesterday I figured out
How to fit five clients in my office
At once.
I was proud of my accomplishment.
They did not show.
I am still proud.
I may never hear from them
I am proud.
The outcome was not
What I expected.
I am proud of myself
For considering the possibility,
The possible reality
Of sitting with five clients
In my small office
The next time five people
Wish to meet with me
At once.
I am ready.

Monday, August 12, 2013

This is what I have to offer

I could just as easily title this: Good Enough, or maybe No Pretense, or perhaps With Kindness.  There would be some merit in each of these, but they would not be true to the whole.  As a priest and counselor with umpteen years of training and life experience under the bridge or perhaps over the dam, I bring all of it, I draw on all of it.  How do I market myself when one brand name will not fit?  Perhaps this is a question for all of us.  Perhaps.

This is what I have to offer.
It will need
To be good enough.
Anything else
Would be pretense.
I do not thrive
On pretense.
Actually I believe
No one thrives
On pretense.
I offer you this:
Myself, plain and simple,
Simple and plain.
I will tell you what I see,
What I hear,
As much as I can.
I will offer what I know
What I see
What I hear
With kindness shot
Through and through,
Layers upon layers
Of kindness
And still no pretense
That mine is the defining word.
It will need to be
Good enough.
Is what I have to offer.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I meant to call you

I like to learn new things, new perspectives, new translations.  This does not mean that I need to do everything myself.  My beloved tells me it is possible to live some things vicariously.  I remember that I used to be a Vicar in a small parish.  It sounded quaint and rather British.  Now I am without such a title.  I have added more letters after my name since then.  And now, six years out, I consider dropping letters. I am no longer a vicar, but I consider the possibility of living some things vicariously.

Workshop upon workshop,
Training upon training,
The letters string after my name.
I learn good things
From each.
I also learn
What I do not wish to do.
It is possible
He says
To live some things vicariously,
To learn things
From others
Without doing them
At lunch last week
A friend said
I meant to call you
When I heard you were involved
In one more training;
I should have called you
And said
Whatever are you doing?
Ah perhaps she should have called.
I may have listened.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Understanding is for later

My beloved hates it when I say It is what it is.  Last week a colleague told me: It is what it is.  I said My beloved hates it when I say that!  My colleague replied:  Back at ya!

Understanding is for later.
Now the glimmer needs to be
Is for some other time
In the future.
Now the faint hint
Of possibility
Needs to be
Of course
That it is
It is what it is.
For now.
Is for later.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Every spare minute

Every time I tried to subtract something from this day, more was added in.  I*m sure there is a message here, somehow.  Now I am try to figure out how to fit five people (six including me) in my office on Monday.  I*m sure I can find a spare chair to sit in.

Every spare minute,
Was not spare
I attempted to grab
A second here
A second there.
The places I inserted time,
Those places
Were filled
Before I knew it.
It is almost 5:30.
This counts
As my morning poem.
The sun moves
To set.
At least it is still summer.
Daylight hangs around
For another couple hours.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Whole megillah

I was going to title this Chunks,  but it really is about the whole megillah, the whole of everything, every jot and tittle.  One thing shifts and of course everything else needs to shift.

Awareness comes
In chunks
It seems.
One piece shifts
Allows room
For the whole megillah
To shift,
Settle into new order.
Chunks fall into place
Next to the old pieces.
New sense is made
Of the whole
Even as I struggle
To understand
What it all means.
I marvel at
What this chunk looks like
Next to that chunk.
Even as I wonder
At the shift
In the whole megillah.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Now this, this... is the reflection.  What follows is the poem.  I wrote the poem first.  The reflection came after. Of course it partly came before when I thought of writing the poem.  I feel a mite like Archy the cockroach hitting the keys of his typewriter.  But the aim here is not to get lost in metaphor.  It is to reflect on what I have written so anyone who reads this might perhaps understand.  Poetry and/or reflection are important.  Yes.  They do not take the place of the living around the writing.  I*m sure there will be more later.  

Labels are important,
Doncha know.
Is a poem.
The critic voice
In my head
Not a particularly good one
Really not worth
A comment.
I say:
Oh, what do you know?
Out, out, dark spot.
In the morning light
This morning*s light
(Specifics Are Important)
I realize the volumes of reflections
I have saved
In zippered cases
Of plastic covered pages              
Aren*t reflections at all.
They are poems.
Life is done
In reflection
On the poetry.
Or perhaps
The other way ‘round.
Is a poem.
Good or bad or in-between.
All that comes before or after
Is reflection.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Double space

I learned to type with two spaces after every period.  It wasn*t until this week that I learned the one space mode is preferred by those in the know.  Clearly I missed something, somewhere.  Two spaces seems, well, cleaner somehow.  Not so hard to miss when one sentence ends and another begins.  YMMV.

Why use a single space
When a double space
Will do?
I am all
For taking twice the space
No matter how old-fashioned
It is.
Paragraphs are more roomy
That way.
Speeches are better heard
With longer pauses
Especially if the sentences
Are short,
Especially if one does not
Lose one*s way
In a thicket
Of clauses.
Why ever use a single space
When a double one
Will do?
Dress the double space
In crinoline and bloomers.
Make it
More interesting.

Monday, August 5, 2013


Truth be told, signs of God*s presence are everywhere.  Sometimes we pay attention.  Pastor Davis is pastor of the church which shared the church building where I was vicar.  He was also a toll booth attendant on 355.

In my past life
During four years
Of the forty minute commute
Each way
I regularly found signs.
They spoke to me
On the highway.
On local roads.
Some signs even
Had words:
Easy Street:
No Exit.
Sidewalk Ends
In a place it was clear
No pavement continued.
There was a sign
It read:
Pleasant Lane
Dead End.
To make the point
Pleasant Lane
Dead-ended off Route 53
On both sides.
When I took the toll road,
Before the automatic tolltakers
Were installed,
I dutifully tried to give my money
To Pastor Davis
Only to be waved through
With a blessing
Every time.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

May I stand on Daddy*s feet

This is what appeared today when I was reflecting on the man who wanted to build bigger barns to store his treasure.  Soul, said he, Soul.  Let us build bigger barns.  Today is the wedding. The dance floor is already filled.  There is always room for more.  No matter if we know the steps or not.  Pay it no mind.  The floor is filled with dancers and twirlers.  Who will we ask to dance with us?

The wedding reception is today.
Who do I ask to dance with me
When the floor is filled
With dancers and twirlers?
Children stand
On Daddy*s feet,
Learn the steps.
Children perch
On Daddy*s shoulders
Like so many baby birds.
They learn the dance floor moves
From above.
Today is the wedding banquet.
How will I join in?
I made it to the ceremony
Who do I ask to dance
With me
When the music is so inescapably
How do I learn
The steps?
The floor is filled
With dancers and twirlers.
Who will I ask to dance?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Change in rules

I don*t remember when I last slept in so late.  My daughter and her friend have now gone back to the weekend Concert of the Year.  It*s me and the cat (and turtle) again.  And coffee.  I wonder whether the caffeine rule needs to changed to No coffee after 2:00 PM.  I watch the sparrows take a dust bath in the planter out front.  I may go to IKEA later today.  Then again... maybe tomorrow.

There is little
Like a house of women
The cat goes from room to room
All morning
Meows at each door.
There is little
Like a quiet house
On a Saturday
Now after noon.
The other women have left
To take the train
To the City.
I am home in the cool
With the cat.
I break the rule
No caffeine after noon
Because I did not arise
Until 11:45.
The rule today
No coffee after 1:00.
No coffee after 2:00.
It is rare:
A house of women
It begs a change
In rules.

Friday, August 2, 2013

I have my own list

What could I possibly do alone?  This is a question to ask an introvert?  I have my own list.  Trust me, I am not bored.  I miss my beloved, in Florida with his parents.  I miss my daughter, coming and going to the Concert of the Year all weekend.  I miss my son, living in Minnesota.  Yes.  Bored?  No.  I have my own list of possibilities.  I add things to it all the time.

They were worried
I wouldn*t have enough to do
While they were gone.
My family.
I love them.
They left me lists
Of things to do
So I would not
Be bored
While they were gone.
My family.
I love them.
I have my own list.
It comes to me
In the silence
Of the cat
Kneading his paws
On my lap;
The cardinal
Singing the day in
And out.
I will shop for new pajamas
At Target
This evening
When I am not
Cooking dinner.
I will browse IKEA tomorrow,
Find a side table to hold the tissues
In my office.
I will watch people
The whole time.
Even now I sit and hear the train whistles
Blow loud, then softer
Then they disappear
I have my own list.
I add things to it
As I do them.

If only

OK.  I*m a mite petulant this morning.  Because I claim almost thirty years in the priesthood, and because I took a break from parish ministry, got a counseling degree and then some, and because (I know this is a run-on sentence), and because for some reason God has seen fit to place me on the edges of things, because... because... if only... but it*s not.  Whatever it is.  This is NOT good writing, and I am going to leave it anyway.  So there.  

Today I am cleaning the guest bedroom.  I never know who will arrive at the door tomorrow.

The article
In today*s newspaper 
Offered this catchy title:
Why Women Quit.
It spoke of corporations
And middle management.
Because this was a newspaper article,
It offered the problem,
And hope
In less than half a page.
If only
It said
If only.
I know
**If only**
She is a house guest.
She has overstayed
Her welcome.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

This is for Virginia

This might be a poem.  Thank you, Virginia Vagt.

This is for Virginia.

She told me
Over lunch
I write
My autobiography
In poetry
Every day.

This is for Virginia.

She does not believe
I should call these things
That I write
Every morning

She says
They are poems
Pure and simple
Simple and pure
That is what they are:

This is for Virginia.

She dropped this on me
Over lunch.
I am still chewing.

This might be a poem.