26 August 2010

something new

09 August 2010

“The long silences need to be loved, perhaps
more than the words
which arrive
to describe them
in time.” Franz wright (“home remedy”)


To only read what he has written seems like cheating. So I begin in the middle. I do not have the words now, yet at the moment I wonder if digging out from under strange grief and the impossible heaviness of fear could bring me closer to them.
He told me I should be an archeologist. I think I would like this science--it does remind me of counseling, of storytelling. Knowing there are things that tell some kind of tale buried under the years of sediment.

When you go digging, what will you find? Something that changes everything about what we thought of these now landscapes; that reminds us that even when memory fails, there are traces, there are tangible things left behind.

My friend tells me that whale bones and fossilized roots of mandrake trees were found in the Sahara. Buried under layers of dirt and sand, sitting in their long silence and waiting to be discovered, for the words of their story to be found. Maybe this is near where Leah and Rachel were in love with the same man, and used the love tree to conceive children. A legacy of twelve sons, real people, becoming twelve tribes--a whole nation. Carbon imprints don’t tell all that went on in that family.


Night sitting outside on our small patch of lawn behind the apartment building. Closed in by the tall multi-families. Walls of brick on one side, parking lot and the metro line on the other. We take a six foot diameter circle of the freshly mowed grass and live us a summer night. Brownies and cans of PBR.

The story of our time together and conversation, unless I record it here, now, lives only in memory. And I doubt that someone would wonder, when they dig up that landfill and find those few aluminum cans among hundreds of thousands, about our night under the invisible stars reading poetry, and talking about archaeology, and whale bones and mandrake roots that someone found in the middle of the desert.

A place to start: write down some bits and pieces and tell, in between the long silences, a moment of what has been lived.

28 June 2010

Some People
by Wislawa Szymborska
Translated by Joanna Trzeciak

Some people fleeing some other people.
In some country under the sun
and some clouds.

They leave behind some of their everything,
sown fields, some chickens, dogs,
mirrors in which fire now sees itself reflected.

On their backs are pitchers and bundles,
the emptier, the heavier from one day to the next.

Taking place stealthily is somebody's stopping,
and in the commotion, somebody's bread somebody's snatching
and a dead child somebody's shaking.

In front of them some still not the right way,
nor the bridge that should be
over a river strangely rosy.
Around them, some gunfire, at times closer, at times farther off,
and, above, a plane circling somewhat.

Some invisibility would come in handy,
some grayish stoniness,
or even better, non-being
for a little or a long while.

Something else is yet to happen, only where and what?
Someone will head toward them, only when and who,
in how many shapes and with what intentions?
Given a choice,
maybe he will choose not to be the enemy and
leave them with some kind of life.

unexpected: October 29, 2009

Rain for weeks on end, it seems. Month of grays. Long days of work, running late late perpetually late. Trudge up familiar stairs and open the door: glowy dining room, mischievous smiling faces. Joyful greetings for a raining Wednesday night.
The table top holds a clutter of laptops, unsteady stacks of books books, family pictures, mini candy bars, bowls of popcorn, mugs of coffee and star crunches.

Two watch the World Series in the next room, giggling when the commentator says that one of the players "drips with confidence." We laugh at their laughing, start to compose haiku. It doesn't get far. Later, Halloween costumes are being invented and crafted.

Drive home late, it continues to rain. The trees shimmer, there is an eerie fog over the city tonight.

Some things I remember. Some things I forget.

10 June 2010

where have you been all my life?

Mary Oliver

Another morning and I wake with the thirst
for the goodness I do not have. I walk
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,
I was never a quick scholar but sulked
and hunched over my books past the hour
and the bell; grant me, in your
mercy, a little more time. Love for the
earth and love for you are having such a
long conversation in my heart. Who
knows what will finally happen or
where I will be sent, yet already I have
given a great many things away, expecting
to be told to pack nothing, except the
prayers which, with this thirst, I am
slowly learning.

24 October 2009


1. "...wake up this morning.
Purple sky slowly turning golden,
distant elms so orange you'd swear they're burning."
cowboy junkies

2.Mindful-Mary Oliver

Every day
I see or hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for -
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world -
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant -
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these -
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean's shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

3. i have loved you wrong--the swell season

4. dew, by dassler

09 October 2009

hello again.

mostly, just go to the end to read the lyrics & listen to "why it matters"

please forgive my long absence. i've been hanging with a really great guy, and he takes my attention away from the occasional blog post. planning a wedding: march 20. yay! there's a lot to unpack from the last three months or so, but we've got time. even though this post is not sequential to major life changes or the deep things that i can't yet write about this summer and fall...i'll eventually get there, don't you worry.

that said...wow. i heard two pretty amazing talks recently that reminded me. just reminded me, which is why i'm here writing.

andy crouch, author of culture making, shared with us about "living more musically." how can we live in such a way that we experience beauty, harmony, and healthy rhythms, rather than the fits and starts and anxiety that we tend to carry around? his whole pseudo sermon was done from the piano, and he integrated some beautiful melody and worship througout. something in it i was so hungry for, something in it touched an ache in my soul that i didn't know was there.

he talked some about melody and life in relation to bach's prelude in C. the piece begins with a basic and simple series of notes, really. as the melody progresses, more complexity and dissonance is added, making the melody more interesting as the journey continues on. then comes the most haunting and dark and beautiful part, but it feels like it is part of a story (the melody) even though it is very dissonant. and it continues to build and grow more complex. finally a beautiful resolution, which is, like he said, something that we are all longing for.

it touched something in me because i feel like with starting to counsel and get to hear more stories of things happening in people's lives, the more i see the beauty and sorrow all mashed up together.

the second talk he began with a story and a song. the song is called "why it matters". the story is that sara groves went to her mentor, charlie peacock, and asked him why it matters that she was doing the work that she was in writing music.

he told her this story: vedran smailovic was among many who survived the siege of sarajevo. he wanted to protest the death of 22 innocent people, so instead of going into the bomb shelters during the shelling of the city, he took his cello and went out to play mozart in the rubble of what had once been a fountain in the city square. below is a picture of him, and the song she wrote.

why it matters--sara groves

Sit with me and tell me once again
Of the story that's been told us
Of the power that will hold us
Of the beauty, of the beauty
Why it matters

Speak to me until I understand
Why our thinking and creating
Why our efforts of narrating
About the beauty, of the beauty
And why it matters

Like the statue in the park
Of this war torn town
And it's protest of the darkness
And the chaos all around
With its beauty, how it matters
How it matters

Show me the love that never fails
The compassion and attention
Midst confusion and dissention
Like small ramparts for the soul
How it matters

Like a single cup of water
How it matters

13 June 2009


we sit on the back porch where i have spent a hundred hours, maybe more. the box of wooden matches has spilled out all over the deck...we shuffle them around with our bare feet, talking over the events of the day, the week, a whole life.

a normal week night is anything but normal.

strike on box. we start to play with fire. the smell of matches fills the porch. everyone is tired from the demands of life, but it feels like spring outside on this june night, and we see that it should not be spent on tv or early sleep.

our friend runs down to the car and comes back triumphant, holding up a slim box with a gleeful smile: sparklers. we attempt to light them simultaneously so that all can sparkle at once, but chaos. everything becomes much more raucous for the next minute or two. summer exuberance. pyrotechnics in the smallest scale possible. just enough--my favorite kind. and laughter. the noises of this night are the kind you'd like to remember for the rest of your life.

if you look down over the rail of the deck into the fenced yards below, you see lightening bugs signaling their bright green blinking hellos to each other. somewhere i read that this a communication of danger. i watch them and decide that i'd like to contradict the scientists on this one. i'd like to think of it as their doing the same thing we are--scattered throughout the dark city blocks participating in a contagion of bioluminescent insect friendship.

"someone reaching for me now
through the dark, reaching for me now
you need someone to hear you when you sigh
someone to wipe away those tears you cry
someone to hold you 'neath the darkened sky
and someone to love you more than i..."
alexi murdoch, through the dark.

i hope you are getting a chance to occasionally sit on dimly lit porches, wave some sparklers and talk about life during this fine month. it'd be a real pity to miss it.

alexi murdoch: through the dark
rachel yamagata: meet me by the water
cinematic orchestra: to build a home

and good reads:
soule papa: note to self

20 May 2009

be where you are

i am reminded again that we are all full of terror and fury and shame--having been shattered by the fall. we are all caught in the act. we are all scrambling to cover the foibles, the stains and the broken dishes, the lies and the bad decisions.

(an aside: i think i need a man who wants to make this into a song—a slow, sad, bluesy song with a slide guitar).

but i am also reminded that this isn't where the story ends. hallelujah.

she wrote that details matter. otherwise: drop a bomb on all of us. "say yes to life, all of life" she says. say yes to the real things about who we are.* we carry around the details that say life matters and each person matters; the making of music matters--those pictures and memories we carry around matter. even the mistakes.

i want to get it down: the knowing look and smile between friends--that moment when we realize that even though the sorrow is killing us, we are going to be OK. this matters. write it down, for goodness sake.

it will help us remember in all of our shambles and shitpiles that God is going to help us, like he always does. when we learn to tell the truth and admit our need, we see how Faithfulness works on us without giving up.


in morogoro, tanzania, in the hills called faulkland, i found myself in the middle of a thousand stories with names and sights and people you could never even dream up if you tried.

there are the giant racing snails hiding in the blades of grass that cover the hills, waiting for wet sidewalks to travel. there is a small girl named selena, whose tattered light blue dress falls off her shoulder as she dances and laughs. there is a semi-circle of grass thatched huts with a fire burning in the middle, and a woman bending to collect wood. there is a church with no roof surrounded by plantings of pink impatients in the brick red, dusty soil, where women come each afternoon to sit on wooden benches and sing together, over and over: "the blessing of God is around us."

i wonder: is it still a story if what came before and what comes next cease to matter? if these memories are enough to take me there, to remind me of my friend saying to me "when you see that place, you can't even cry"?

there is a place where the smiles and gentleness of the people in the stories seeped right down into the cracks in my heart and stole it; i think i fell in love for the first time in a long time.


we each have moments like these, don't we? the ones that sneak in and shake the foundations of our hearts in a way that we know we will never be the same. in a way that we are broken and healed all at the same time.

in a way that tells us yet again that we can't pretend like none of these things matter.

*natalie goldberg writing down the bones

13 May 2009

you may or may not know

you may or may not know
that if you drive along the northern coast of zanzibar--
say at 7:45 p.m. on a wednesday night--
you'd see people out for an evening stroll.

women walking in pairs with bright kangas draped around their shoulders against the slight chill in the air, boys and girls side by side.
a man with one hand clasping his arm behind his back, slightly bent forward,
going right along and listening to his friend
who is walking an old red bicycle and telling a story.

you may or may not know that all along that road
there are people sitting on front stoops,
peering into and out of tiny shops
where dim lightbulbs hang from the ceiling and pulse with generator electricity.

i bet you didn't know that is what you would see. i didn't either.
i didn't expect to see
the way the palm trees swayed against the dark sky.
the way what might have looked like lush wilderness
was mysteriously peopled with these figures
illuminated, captured in motion
in the headlights of a passing truck.

04 May 2009

night prayers

thank you
keeper of these lenghtening days and maker of the blooming trees.
thank you
one who knit together each and every thing we see,
even the ducks that wander in pairs and swim around the fountains in the park.

thank you
one who provides the things each creature needs--
(now more than ever i struggle to pray this--to believe it.
kristin asks: what about the girls in sonagacchi? does he not see them?
and i think, what about the widows in kibakwe who are suffering with AIDS?
i don't know the answer to these.)
in spite of not understanding and not knowing how to see or believe,
can i still say thank you?
and i praise you?

can i see that through all these days when i can't find my way home to you
you find your way to me?

thank you that in the inconsequential and consequential things
you still seek and comfort;
step by step you show the way.

thank you that in you there is no shadow,no shadow of turning.
(we know shadows of turning too well; we ache with them.
but you will not change your mind about us.)

tonight, the prayer is thank you.

25 April 2009

in my new earth.

Sehnsucht (zane-zoocht)—phenomenon of human longing or yearning; a word with strong overtones of seeking and searching.

we would all sit in living rooms
playing music late into the night.
lights down low
and everyone's already beloved faces
would become even more precious
in the safe light.
songs becoming new
as they do each time people play them together.

we would tromp through the fields
and sit by the flowing rivers
as dawn breaks into a brand new
a brand new day.
the birds in the evergreens
far away from any pavement, any highway.
far away from the honking of horns, from
sagging power lines,
from the industrial gunge.

we would sit by a fire
far away, out in the woods.
piling on the logs so high
that our wild spring bonfire
would rain sparks upside down
floating to the edges of a canopy of trees,
up to those other star filled galaxies
that look to us like tiny dots of light
above our gathering.

18 April 2009

pour me a glass of wine.

the thunder is rolling in as we speak. we've been waiting, waiting all day for this storm to show up. turn off that electric noise and listen to the rain finally start to come down. listen to the upstairs neighbors coming home...walkin all around the living room right above you--it's a night to be up and about, you will realize.

listen to the blossoms flying off the trees (you have to listen really, really hard). as the wind blows--a remnant of snowstorms coming from the west--listen.

pour me a glass of wine and just listen.

this rainy spring night i decided that i think deep down we are all just saying: tell me a good story. or maybe it's more like: i hope my life is a good story. what do you think of that?

my story...on this rainy night, reads that there's this song that i can't stop listening to (with the rain right there in the background--just so). and keeping me company--maybe more like making me stop and take stock--are some friendly and beautiful thoughts...excerpts from Linford's recent letter:
When I was younger I would often write myself short job descriptions. I was thinking out loud about what might be worth hanging a life on, a life I was willing to sign my name to:

-Create spaces where good things can happen.

-Give the world something beautiful, some gift of gratitude,
no matter how insignificant or small.

-Write love letters to the whole world.

-Build fires outdoors, and lift a glass and tell stories,
and listen, and laugh, laugh, laugh. (Karin says I’m still working
on this one. She thinks I still need to laugh more, especially at
her jokes, puns and witty asides.)

-Flip a breaker and plunge the farm into darkness so that the stars can be properly seen.

-Do not squander afflictions.

-Own the longing, the non-negotiable need to “praise the mutilated world.”

-Find the music.

Music and art and writing: extravagant, essential, the act of spilling something, a cup running over…


Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all-pervasive companion to your desire to make art. And tolerance for uncertainty is the prerequisite to succeeding.

A blessing for the writers among us: May all your dead ends be beautiful.

i wish i had a map to get me through all of this. since i don't (really), i guess the best thing to do is go one step at a time. eyes open, and listening.

13 April 2009

mid april

mid april and i woke up this morning to a bird that sounded like laughter. it's getting mighty green around here--that bright, new green. he makes all things new. all this aliveness and flowering makes you not even mind the rain.

i watched a powerful movie on good friday. it's called "as we forgive" and it's about healing and reconciliation in the last fifteen or so years in rwanda. it is very beautiful.

musics. this just in: listen to that moon song. mmmhmmm.

i love this shot from one of my two favorite photographers. can't wait to see what adventures lie ahead for the new camera.

here's a shot i like from the second:

i've sort of been on a poetry kick lately. a friend that had been blog absent for a good long time made a comeback and shared this. it is so nice, and it says it just right.

dove that ventured outside
rainer maria rilke

dove that ventured outside, flying far from the dovecote:
housed and protected again, one with the day, the night,
knows what serenity is, for she has felt her wings
pass through all distance and fear in the course of her wanderings.

the doves that remained at home, never exposed to loss,
innocent and secure, cannot know tenderness;
only the won-back heart can ever be satisfied: free,
through all it has given up, to rejoice in its mastery.

being arches itself over the vast abyss.
Ah the ball that we dared, that we hurled into infinite space,
doesn't it fill our hands differently with its return:
heavier by the weight of where it has been.

31 March 2009

I love you, gentlest of Ways,
who ripened us as we wrestled with you.

You, the great homesickness we could never shake off,

you, the forest that always surrounded us,
you, the song we sang in every silence,
you dark net threading through us...

rainer maria rilke.
love poems to God.

26 March 2009

ida pearle: season, kites
walking in the park this week i have seen a lot of this.
spring break = scone baking therapy. new book and happykneesock christmas presents. writing. botanical gardens and cherry blossoms. reading mary oliver & billy collins. conversations about manuals for people. catching up on good posts on favorite blogs. and music:
johann johannsson
riceboy sleeps: all the big trees

m. ward: poison cup

21 March 2009

lighten up.

waking up, the world is waking up.
already, and not yet.
spring: break out of the darkness into the longer days; i think we are ready for your surprises.

day of lions. nice.
going to see these guys tonight. thinking about riding my bike. thinking about how sometimes we lose our voices to our thoughts...clearing my throat and warming up to start to sing a new song with all of those birds out there.

enjoying not wearing heavy. winter. coats.

and swaying along to andrew bird...why?

and wanting to see this: weathered.

bradford pear buds from flickr.

06 February 2009

something started in my soul, fever or forgotten wings

poetry arrived.
pablo neruda

And it was at that age...Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no, they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
I felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke free on the open sky.

04 February 2009

when words don't seem to do the trick.

it is a bright, cold, clear winter night, and i find myself nestled in bed amidst piles of reading-for-fun and reading-for-school books. the radiators are hissing occasionally but not warming up the rooms super well. there are creaks and thumps in this old building; it is only early evening, yet it is quite dark and still.

2009 has already been...well...full. i can't seem to find the right things to say in the right ways. when this is the case, i usually resort to music.

there are some albums that i rely on that generally just...work. whether it is a night like tonight or a warm, long-on-the-dusk summer evening out on the back steps, watching the sky turn from blue to black....i find that these three albums by good ol' linford all smushed together in a playlist of gentle awesomeness are just right: unspoken requests, grey ghost stories, i don't think there's no need to bring nothin.

lately i step back and look at my life and see that i am wrestling for a blessing and failing to believe and returning to the altar to kneel. i am surprised and blessed every day by the community i've been given. we're stumbling along together.

and i don't think there's no need to bring nothin.

21 January 2009

stolen again.

ed crim's "a year in forest park." see the project here.

12 January 2009


these are just a few from a friend's record of the l'abri retreat. he got some lovely shots.