Sunday, December 16, 2018

Reflections at the Midpoint of a Holiday Season

Here we are, just a day and a week from Christmas Eve.  Let me capture some holiday thoughts:

--Last night, we went out for a short drive to look at holiday lights, which really helps me with my early evening Saturday restlessness.  I saw a couple leaving their house with several Christmas gift bage--probably headed to a party.  I thought about how few people in my social circle have those sorts of parties.  My family is far away.  For a brief moment, I felt sad.  But then I remembered some of those parties I have attended, and I felt relief.

--One of my Facebook friends wrote about Christmas cards on the same evening a different Facebook friend wrote about her intention to send more paper mail in 2019.  It made me remember Carolyn See's writing regimen which called for writing two notes each week to any variety of people: a writer one admires, an editor, and not for any purpose than admiration or encouragement; in other words, one isn't asking for a favor. Her book came out before Facebook, but even then, she was adamant about notes handwritten on good paper. I'm thinking about my grandmother, to whom I wrote regularly when she was alive. I bought a variety of cards, often from artists or institutions I wanted to support. The cards probably brought me as much joy as my writing did her. All of this is to say that I'd like to do more old fashioned communicating in the new year.

--This is the time of year when many post/give all sorts advice for making the holidays manageable.  Last night was not the first time I've reflected on the relative emptiness of my holiday calendar.  In part, it's because I've already done the work of keeping what's meaningful and ditching the rest.  In part, it's because I'm fairly good at resisting the capitalist values of my larger culture that would have me go, go, go, spend, spend, spend.

--Usually by now, I'd have baked one batch of cookies or one holiday bread.  Of course, most years I'm not in the middle of a kitchen remodel.

--We hadn't planned to move the stove back to the kitchen.  We planned to cook the turkey soup with dumplings outside on the grill burner.  But it was rainy, and the kind of rain that had settled in for the day.  So, we moved the stove back, which was much easier than I thought it would be.   And happily, unlike the washer/dryer, we plugged the stove in, and it's working just fine.

--So, did I immediately make a batch of cookies or bake some bread?  No.  I'm hoping that this will be one of the few holidays where I've avoided my usual 3 to 10 pound weight gain.

--Here is a picture from our Kitchen Remodel Advent, a different take of the stockings being hung by the chimney with care:

--And here is a poem-like creation sparked by my Friday evening of meditative wet laundry draping:

Twas 2 weeks before Christmas
And all through the house,
The clothes were hung drying,
Still as a mouse.

The dryer stopped heating,
The washer won’t spin,
But at least we have new floors,
They’re installed, all in.

The measurer will come next week,
The cabinets we’ll order,
Maybe our kitchen remodel can continue
In no short order.

Let us focus on what we’ve accomplished,
The floors, a new fence.
Let us not think of the damage,
The social fabric now rent.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Wittgensteinian Wanderings

Two steps forward, and a bit of lurching back:  my spouse moved the washer/dryer unit back to the laundry room and hooked it back up.  He spent the afternoon washing clothes and waiting for the dryer to dry.  By the time I got back from work, it was clear that the dryer wasn't working.

Before we moved it, it had started acting up again.  At the end of summer, it wouldn't go through a full wash cycle without the dryer being on.  We had a repair team who seemed to fix it--for about 6 weeks.  But the dryer had always worked.

So, while my spouse finished grilling burgers, I moved all the wet clothes into baskets.  We ate dinner.  I emptied the lint trap, and my spouse flipped some breakers.  Lo and behold, the dryer gave off heat!  We dried the dress shirts and enjoyed some wine, since we wouldn't have to take loads of wet laundry to a laundromat.

And then--the dryer stopped giving off heat.  Sigh.  So I spent much of my Friday evening draping wet laundry over the drying rack, shower rails, anything that would support wet laundry.  It was oddly peaceful and meditative.

It was an early night after a long week that probably felt more difficult than it was.  As I drove home, anxious about all sorts of things, I heard a variety of news that reminded me that my problems are very manageable:  I'm not being held in a detention camp which is safer than the violence in a Central American home country.

Because it was an early night, I got up in the wee, small hours of the morning.  I've been reading a variety of interesting things, working on a poem that weaves together the cracking of the older Arctic ice and home repairs/grading/writing, putting together a poem submission for the Tampa Review--in other words, the kind of morning I like best.

I loved this piece at the On Being blog.  It's full of wisdom and ideas for writing and heartbreaking observations.  This bit led to some interesting research on both Wittgenstein and Spinoza:  "For a time, I required my students to write a Wittgensteinian essay: Start with one idea. Notice where it goes. Number each idea. Keep them short. Don’t worry if you hop around. Read and play with what emerges. It may take a while to understand what you are trying to say. To yourself."

He also makes lots of spiritual connections:  "I discovered that the Desert Fathers and other ascetics employed this approach. They sought a way to move from contemplative sense to paper. Sometimes they called what they wrote a century: 100 pieces of heart-sourced inklings. Heart to hand to ink. Follow what comes. Only the numbers seem orderly. Like prayer."

I am interested in the composition of these short pieces.  I also stumbled across this site which talks about the writing practice of William Stafford.  He, too, began his writing day by writing a short observation:  "Some prose notes from a recent experience, a few sentences about a recent connection with friends, an account of a dream. This short passage of 'throwaway' writing, it turns out, is very important, as it keeps the pen moving and gets the mind sniffing along through 'ordinary' experience. You are beginning the act of writing without needing to write anything profound. No struggle, no effort, no heroic reach. Just writing."

This morning, I also went outside in hopes of catching a glimpse of a meteor in these waning days of the Geminid meteor shower.  No luck.  I stood on the sidewalk, looking up and looking at the 3 small trees that lit up my front windowsill.

My grades are turned in.  My next round of classes don't start until January 7.  In these three weeks, I will read over my manuscript of linked short stories and begin my revisions.  I will return to my manuscript that is part memoir, part spiritual meditation.  I will continue to write poems and to do my spiritual journaling.  It will be a good break.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Christmas Miracles: The Hurricane (Irma) Recovery Update

I have been outside to see if I could see any meteors--it's the peak of the Geminid meteor shower.  But I see no stars at all, and it's not because it's overcast.  We just have too much light pollution.

This has been a difficult week; it's the week that comes periodically, the week where I think, I cannot stand to keep camping out in this house one more minute.  We have been without a working kitchen since mid-September.  I do miss having a stove and countertop work space, but I miss the sink most of all.  It's harder than you might think to wash dishes in the bathroom.

We've been without our washer and dryer since early November.  It tells you how many clothes we have that we haven't been too inconvenienced.  I am getting tired of washing my socks and underwear in the bathroom.

We took the washer/dryer unit out of the laundry room to have the repair work done on the laundry room.  For a time, we thought we would paint before moving anything back.  But we've put that off so long that we might move the washer/dryer unit back, and then who knows when we'll get the painting done.  On some level, I do not care.  I just want to wash the mounds of dirty laundry.

Most weeks, I can stay in good spirits because I feel like we're making progress.  With the kitchen remodel, it's been hard to keep my spirits up.  So much waiting for phone calls that were never returned--much like the early part of the home repair process before we finally found a good contractor.

Yesterday, I made this Facebook post:

It's a Christmas miracle! We FINALLY heard back from the company that does the measuring for Home Depot when one wants to buy kitchen cabinets and make sure that they will fit. The final measuring will be done on Monday, 3 weeks after the design app't at Home Depot. And then it will take 4-6 weeks for the cabinets to arrive. And then we'll hope that the contractor will be between jobs so that he can come back to install. And then we'll try to find someone who can supply the color of Corian we've chosen for the countertops, since Home Depot can't.
So, who wants to place bets? Will the Berkey-Abbotts have a functioning kitchen by Easter? Perhaps for the start of the 2019 hurricane season?
Still, let us take our victories where we can, in this long post-Hurricane Irma repair saga.

The post doesn't say that we first had the measurer out in late October.  And in late September, we were playing phone tag with a cabinet person that our contractor recommended. 

In short, it's been a VERY long process.  But at least our floors are done.  I can do without a working kitchen more easily than if the flooring guy had disappeared mid project.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Feast of Santa Lucia in This Year of Our Lord without a Functioning Kitchen

Today is the feast day of Santa Lucia.  For a more traditional approach to this feast day, go to this post on my theology blog.  

This feast day may have been the first one I ever celebrated, although I wouldn't have thought of it as a feast day back in my early teenage years.  My Lutheran church in Charlottesville, Virginia had some sort of evening event, and I was part of the procession.  As an older girl, I got to wear the crown of candles.  Yes, real candles, lit, with wax running down them.

I often look back and am amazed at all the risks we took in my younger years.  After having a friend lose almost everything to a house fire, I am much more leery of open flame.

A recent Facebook exchange gave me much St. Lucia happiness.  One of my grad school friends posted this invitation:  "Come sing the songs of the winter holidays at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia Saturday the 22nd! (I'm personally hoping someone will show up wearing a St. Lucia crown of burning candles!)"

I responded, "OOOOOOOHHHHHHH! If I lived in Columbia, I would so show up in a Lucia crown with fresh, warm, home made bread!"

My friend replied, "Your golden red hair lit with candles -- that would be a glorious sight!"

If I lived in Columbia, I would likely have a functioning kitchen and could actually show up with bread warm from my oven.  Sigh.

I tell myself that it's O.K. that I'm not baking this holiday season--I tell myself this every holiday season, but most seasons, I could bake if I wanted to.  Even now, I could--we do have a functioning oven in the cottage.  I think it's functioning, but I'm now realizing that we haven't tested it since Hurricane Irma.

Maybe that will be my mission this week-end:  to test the oven by baking some holiday bread.  I also want to reset the air conditioning units to the dehumidify option to see if we could move the dehumidifier to the main house for the winter and not leave the cottage vulnerable to mold.

You won't find these kinds of scenes in holiday movies, but maybe we should.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Sketching as Deep Reading

Since Nov. 4, I have been part of an online journaling class.  We're making our way through Joyce Rupp's Open the Door, a book that is organized into a three to five page chapter to read each day.  Each chapter ends with a meditation and a prayer.

We were given a list of markers to buy:  4 specific colors and 3 black markers with tips of varying fineness/breadth.  Our leader created a secret Facebook site, and each week, those of us who can meet in a Zoom session, which is recorded for those of us who can't be there or who want to go back to watch again. 

We post our sketches.  Some of us post daily.  Some of us have rarely posted.  I am posting daily.  The Facebook group helps me want to sketch each day and post; I don't know if everyone reacts the same way.

Lately I've been thinking about how the sketching leads to deeper reading.  I confess that if I picked up the book on my own, I'd have given it a quick read, skimming over a lot of it.  But because I'm looking for entry into a sketch, I often go back.  And I'm lucky in terms of my classmates:  as with the best classes, someone will notice a nugget which will send me back to the text to see what else I might have missed.

I am often a skimmer of texts, not a deep reader.  In some ways, that's a skill I've been proud of, a skill that got me through grad school and other arenas where I needed to get through massive amounts of texts in very little time.  But in terms of personal growth/learning, it can be a detriment.

I have often been a note taker, but this is my first time sketching my responses to a text.  I wonder which one leads to deeper involvement; it probably depends on many things, like the text itself, my mood, my daily life at the time (it's easier to take notes in many settings than to sketch, which involves markers and a sketchbook and the regular book), and others.

It's been interesting to think about these practices in terms of contemplation and meditation.  I've participated in lectio divina, where we hear the text and ponder it and then hear it again.  I've done a variation where we write instead of pondering, but I've never done it where we sketched.  It makes me curious about the ways into our interior, especially about the ways I haven't tried yet.

I am using the term "sketch" loosely.  Some of my sketches have specific elements, which are sometimes recognizable to others:

Some of my sketches have parts that are recognizable, like wings or eyes in a small part of a more abstract expression:

Some sketches are more words than sketches:

Some begin with swirls and go other places; some of that sketching just quiets my mind, but doesn't seem to lead to other insight.

There are other parts of this practice that I haven't done as much with, like experimenting with both sides of the paper.

It will be interesting to see how this practice evolves once the class ends; next week is the last week of class.  I intend to keep sketching often through the week; I will carry my markers and sketchbook with me.  I will also keep working my way through a book in the way that I've done.  I like carrying the sketchbook in the book and keeping it nearby as a reminder of the deeper work that needs to be done.

I will miss my group.  I wonder if I could create something similar in my church group.  I wonder if I will stay Facebook friends with these online group members.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Keeping the Lanterns Lit

Here is my view from my desk this morning:

I love the two lanterns that I got over Thanksgiving.  I do regret not getting more of them--they would make great gifts. 

I thought I would pack away the one with Christmas tree shapes after this season, but I may keep it out.  I'm really enjoying the light they give off. I picked up some "fairy lights" at a seasonal display at Walmart--fairly cheap and they run on AA batteries.  I have some strands that run on watch batteries, but they don't last long.

I'm also enjoying how they remind me of the time I spent in Black Mountain with my family before we joined our larger family for Thanksgiving.  My mom, sister, and I bought matching lanterns.

I keep thinking about how magical that time seemed--and I knew at the time that we were having a special time.  The airbnb house was perfect, and I loved exploring Black Mountain.  It was just big enough, but not overwhelming.  But more than that, I felt like we were all able to be fully present.  How often does that happen?

So I will keep these lanterns close through 2019.  I want to be reminded to be present.  I want to be reminded that it is possible to live an integrated life--the lanterns will remind me to remember the online journaling class that I was taking during the month of November.  I want to be reminded of the possibility of treasure:

Monday, December 10, 2018

Metaphor Monday

Last night I wiped my eye, and dislodged my contact lens.  I couldn't find it on my face or in my eye.  Finally, I went to bed.  This morning, my eye felt irritated, but I thought it was because I had spent so much time poking at it last night.  Lo and behold, after half an hour, I found the missing contact lens in the corner of my eye.  I've put it in to soak, and I'll wear it today.  Happily I had saved the remaining contact lens, so I'll have a pair.

All night I dreamed of the missing contact lens, finding it and then losing it again.

It seems this should be a metaphor for something, but I'm not sure exactly what.  The vision that is still in my eye?  The prodigal lens that doesn't get very far?  The vision tucked for safekeeping in the corner of my eye?

Here's another metaphor development for your Advent pleasure.  We began our Advent wreath this way at church:

But it became clear that we'd need a helper candle to get the candles lit each week, and so now we have a candle, which can also nicely represent the baby Jesus:

And yesterday, my pastor added the last element, an image that he found on Facebook and got permission to use.  He had it printed on a foam board, and it leans against the marble altar:

I love having an ever-changing sanctuary space that gives us more to think about, that gives us another way of thinking about the metaphors and symbols.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

When You Travel for Hours, but Never Get Far from Home

I had thought I would be writing about seeing artist Judy Chicago in person at the Miami Beach Convention Center yesterday.  I knew it was Art Basel week-end, so we left several hours early, but in my head, I thought we'd get there and get parked and still have time for lunch before her 2:30 talk.

I got my first glimmering of the coming snafu when my friend was late to my house.  Still, it wasn't Art Basel traffic in our county, and I thought we should give it a try--after all, my friend had already spent an hour on this project, and I didn't want to cancel prematurely. 

We went on Highway 1, a more scenic, less stressful route.  My friend, who has lived in South Florida as long as I have, over 20 years, kept marveling, "I have never been here before."  We cut across to Miami Beach and sat in a long line of traffic waiting to go south to Art Basel.

I said, "You know, we could just forget this and head north and find some place interesting for lunch."  She didn't have to take any time to think about it.  She said, "That would be fine with me."  I cut into the northbound lane, and we made our way back north on A1A, a much more beautiful route than any other.

We are both fans of the T.V. show Check Please, where regular people choose their favorite restaurant and the 3 person team goes individually and reviews.  We were able to eat at The Tipsy Boar, which had been reviewed that very week.  And because it was after the regular lunch hour, it wasn't as noisy, and we could sit outside.

It was not the day I thought we would have, but it was a very fine day.  Because we were in the car, we had lots of uninterrupted time to talk--and it had been a very long time since we had that kind of time.  We had a great lunch.  And did I mention how wonderful it was to have time to talk?

When I felt stuck in South Carolina in the 90's, I would dream of where I would rather live.  I wanted culture.  I wanted some place to go every hour of the day if I felt like it.  I knew I wouldn't waste those opportunities.

Maybe in New York I would be able to go, go, go, but here where I have a job that requires much of me and a house that wants to consume every hour left, it's hard to make myself partake.  And so yesterday I felt a bit of guilt at abandoning an opportunity.  But it was a good call.  We wouldn't have been able to find a parking place that was close, and my friend is not able to walk as far as she once was.  Judging by the traffic, we might not have found a parking space at all, and that would have been very annoying to wait in that traffic only not to be able to see Judy Chicago at all.

We didn't get to hear Judy Chicago speak, but we still have several months to see her art; go here for details.  I plan to take some time during the holidays to make my way back to Miami for an art experience.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Saturday Snippets: Fetal Puppies and Other Vagaries

It's been a long week:  long hours at work, plus an uptick in work coming in from my online classes that I teach.  But let me capture some notes before I head to downtown Miami for Art Basel and a talk by Judy Chicago.

--"I have a uterus with puppies in it": you can either file this under comments one usually doesn't hear in the halls of academe as I did this week--or you could use it as a line of a poem--or you could create an interesting short story. And for those of you who are wondering, we have a Vet Tech dep't, and I overheard one of the faculty members discussing visual aids that she has to show students.

--I posted this haiku-esque creation on Facebook, but I want to keep it in a place where it will be easier to find:

Write me from the camps.
Be my Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Teach me how to live.

--I am still enjoying my online journaling class immensely.  It's interesting to see how our sketches are informing all of the future sketches--and also interesting to see how I have begun to recognize each person's individual style.

--Here's one of my favorite quotes from this week of the journaling class.  It didn't come from the book we're reading together, but I might not have noticed the Rumi quote if my classmates hadn't been quoting Rumi.  I found it in Anne Lamott's "Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace": "Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure."

--From the book, Joyce Rupp's Open the Door, here's the quote that I chose to sketch:

--All of my tabletop Christmas trees are on the floors.  It's not as desolate as it sounds.

--I keep thinking about where I'd have been 3 weeks ago:  on my way to Columbia, SC, to spend time with grad school friends before going on to Black Mountain to spend time with my mom, dad, and sister before going on to spend Thanksgiving with my larger family.  I wish it was 3 weeks ago so I could experience it all again.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Thursday Creativity Report: Much Sketching plus a Poem and an Altar

Although yesterday was a very long day, it was a great day in terms of creativity.  I began the day by making a sketch.   I took time to go to the back of the sketch I made when refilling my ink(wish I had thought to take a picture of the reverse page before I started sketching on it--drat!):

The other side of the page had blobs that reminded me of planets or electrons. As I sketched, the lyrics of an old song by the Police came into my head. When finished, I'm also seeing beads on a string.

Then I created my window sill Advent wreath, which I blogged about yesterday.  Before I left for school, I wrote a poem.

School felt hectic:  shopping for our Meet and Greet (a combination Open House, pre-Orientation, student festival event) and then the actual Meet and Greet.  I had to stay late to sub for a faculty member.  In a way, it was easy.  I was proctoring an open book, open note exam.  But in a way, it took forever, since it was clear to me that many of the students hadn't prepared (lots of consulting of the book's index).

I took advantage of the time to make two additional sketches.  The first one was pondering the book we're reading in my online journaling class:

The next one was more a simple artistic expression, although I'm seeing elements that keep emerging in my journaling work.

I've been experimenting with the little black marks that remind me of quilting seams.  I'm fascinated by how they punctuate the image and enhance it.  I love the meditative calm that comes to me when I'm creating the "seams."

I confess that I'm more exhausted than usual this morning.  I didn't leave campus until 9:15 last night, and I need to be at campus for a 9 a.m. class where I'm subbing for a different teacher.  But as I think about my creative day yesterday, my exhaustion turns into that good kind of tired.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Windowsill Advent Wreath

I had planned to make a small Advent wreath when I got home last night.  But my spouse had a pot of chili ready, so we spent time together on the front porch, eating dinner and enjoying the cooler weather as dusk settled into darkness.

We have a larger Advent wreath, but I didn't have it ready for last night.  And given the state of our home repairs, the outside tables are the only places where it's safe to have this kind of wreath with lit candles:

I wanted something I could use indoors, so this morning, I created something different with the small, battery operated candles that I picked up over my Thanksgiving break:

I used some small bits of pine that I cut from my larger outdoor display on the front porch table:

I collected some blue and gold fabric from my stash and added it to my display:

I love how the windows, steamed from our recent cold front, make my display look wintry:

And here's the view as I write (if I sit up straight):

Creating this window display made me so happy.  I love that it's a type of altar space.  I have loved creating mantels and other types of seasonal displays.  Maybe as we move through 2019, I'll look for other ways to have this kind of sacred space above my writing desk.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Ministering with Our Inspirations

My online journaling class meets in a Zoom meeting once a week, and we talk about what we created and the insights of the week.  One of my classmates said something that resonated with me this week.  She talked about how she was finding the daily discipline of not just the class, but the rest of life, overwhelming.  But she said she was being ministered to in powerful ways by the dailiness that everyone else was keeping.  Instead of feeling guilty about her lack of activity, she was feeling like she was part of the group by the work that we posted and the way it spoke to her.

I love this idea that we minister to each other even at these times we may not realize it.  I love the idea that even if we're not feeling inspired or capable right now, that doesn't mean our muse has left us permanently.  We can feed the well by enjoying the work of others.

It's that time of year when I feel like I'm running from pillar to post--what an interesting phrase.  Yesterday I was planning to do the Walmart run for Thursday's Meet and Greet.  But I had to take the  Noel-Levitz tests to the Ft. Lauderdale campus.  Not a big deal, I thought.  I decided I'd pick up the BJ's card and get the cookie tins that we give out as presents to our externship sites.  I thought I might be able to get the stuff I would have gotten at Walmart, but it was not to be.  So, I still have to do that, along with the end of the term stuff, along with accreditation stuff . . .no wonder I'm tired!

But I did stop along the way to pick up more sketchbooks.  I've been successful continuing to sketch/journal each day.

I've had fragments of ideas and inspirations.  Yesterday as I was listening to an interview with Bradley Cooper on Fresh Air as I did my journaling work.  Later, I thought about a character who says, "I'm living the plot of A Star is Born, except I'm not young, and I'm not a rising star, and the music isn't as good."  I'm not sure where that plot would go, but probably nowhere happy.

I also worked on a poem that begins this way (the rhythm is off in the second line):

Be my Dietrich Boenhoeffer,
I'll be your Archbishop Romero

That poem too must end in tears.  But I like the way it's a different kind of love poem.

In my journaling, I've been writing about liminal spaces and thresholds and what comes next.  There's also a bit of mourning at midlife about what's left behind.  On Monday, I created this image:

My instructor said:  "Chrysalis time... That would have been such a lovelier description than "empty nest" for that first year _____ and I no longer had kids at home... especially since I very much felt like I was curling up a lot of the time."

Yesterday, I thought about empty nests as a valid metaphor, even for those of us without children, and this is what emerged:

It will be interesting to see how much of this works its way into later poems.  For now, I'm enjoying this unique kind of journaling.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Angel Gabriel in Miami

It is the time of year where many college English teachers will be able to relate to this aspect of my life:  so much grading to do, so little time.

It's also the time of year when various writers are announcing which works of theirs have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.  I do not have this kind of good news to share.

In fact, I've only had a poem nominated once.  It was for a poem that fits well with this time of the year, in that it's about the Virgin Mary and the angel Gabriel, updated for our time.

So, let me revisit this process.  It gives me happiness to think about how I came to write this poem.

On a Monday in January of 2015, on Facebook, I saw this image of the Annunciation--what a neat woodcut (linoleum cut, I would find out later):

I went to Beth's site for a fascinating post--with more pictures of the process!--of how she came to create this image.  It was a good reminder that even though a creative project may not come together right away, it doesn't mean we're done with it or it with us.

Later in the morning, a different Facebook friend posted this image, to which she credits L Wallnau:

I thought of the angel Gabriel yet again.  I thought of invitations because my friend wrote this:

Some called to dress the bride
Others to prepare her
while a small company sent out with invitations

I thought of Gabriel as an engraved invitation.  I thought of what it would take to get our attention these days.  Angel choirs might get our attention, if we could hear them.  I think of students on Monday who walked right past me while I asked, "Do you have your schedule?  Check in here please"--their ear buds prevented awareness of all sorts.

Would we follow a star?  Would we study the skies long enough to realize that a new star had appeared?

Yes, I've tilled this ground before--and last night, when I tried to write a poem inspired by these images, I wrote a passable poem, but nothing special.  Still, it's a poem.

I wrote it as I waited in the Registrar's office for students to come pick up schedules or hold sheets.  One of my colleagues saw me in yet a different place and asked, "How many hats are you wearing these days?"  Lots of hats.  Would I rather be wearing a beautiful gown?

Ah, but I am a sturdy sort, running up and down the stairs, trying to help solve a wide variety of problems:  sort of like this image, but not really:

I would need a sturdy gown.  Can one have sturdiness along with swirls?

Suddenly this morning, I had an idea for a poem that might be different:  the angel Gabriel roams a college campus.  But it's not a bucolic campus--no it's a commuter school, people cramming in classes after work, or before working the graveyard shift.  The annunciation, but the Mary figure isn't the traditional beauty--no, she's tired beyond belief, and she can't believe that God would choose her.  Why not go to Harvard to choose a better mother candidate?  Go haunt the halls of privilege!

Of course, my favorite Bible stories show us time and time again that God appears in the midst of the poor and powerless, far from the halls of power and privilege.  But will we have ears and eyes to hear?

I would wrestle with that poem again and again.  And finally, it became this poem, which appeared in the book Annunciation, which led to the nomination for the Pushcart Prize.

A Girl More Worthy

The angel Gabriel rolls his eyes
at his latest assignment:
a virgin in Miami?
Can such a creature exist?

He goes to the beaches, the design
districts, the glittering buildings
at every boundary.
Just to cover all bases, he checks
the churches but finds no
vessels for the holy inside.

He thinks he’s found her in the developer’s
office, when she offers him coffee, a kind
smile, and a square of cake. But then she instructs
him in how to trick the regulatory
authorities, how to make his income and assets
seem bigger so that he can qualify
for a huge mortgage that he can never repay.

On his way out of town, he thinks he spies
John the Baptist under the Interstate
flyway that takes tourists
to the shore. But so many mutter
about broods of vipers and lost
generations that it’s hard to tell
the prophet from the grump,
the lunatic from the T.V. commentator.

Finally, at the commuter college,
that cradle of the community,
he finds her. He no longer hails
moderns with the standard angel
greetings. Unlike the ancients,
they are not afraid, or perhaps, their fears
are just so different now.

The angel Gabriel says a silent benediction
and then outlines God’s plan.
Mary wonders why Gabriel didn’t go
to Harvard where he might find
a girl more worthy. What has she done
to find God’s favor?

She has submitted
to many a will greater than her own.
Despite a lifetime’s experience
of closed doors and the word no,
she says yes.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Decorating for the Season

Yesterday was a delightful day.  It was one of the first days where I finally made some progress switching the house decorations from autumn to Christmas.

We began the day, as we do most Sundays, at church.  Yesterday was our Advent wreath decorating opportunity and workshop; for more, see this post on my theology blog.  It's one of my favorite group creative events at our church; I love seeing how each one of us takes the wide variety of materials and creates such a unique wreath.

Our 9:45 worship group needed no direction, but the group after the 11:00 service waited for someone to show them what to do.  That someone was me--one of my church friends said I was the most artistic one at church.

I'm not used to being designated as the most creative.  That probably comes from years of working at an art school where the various disciplines did have a tendency to view each other with suspicion and as competition--and my chosen art forms (poetry, quilts, theology inspired) weren't valued by many of the artists there.

After church, we came home and decorated the front porch.  I hung up our wreath that I made earlier.

I brought some of the extra evergreens home with me, and we experimented with ways to exhibit them.  We tried a canning jar of branches in the arch of our porch, but the wind knocked it over.  In the end, we put the vases of boughs on the table and the other greens on the shelf that the arch forms.

Later in the day, my spouse added pumpkins.  I like the way the green and orange work together.  And those of you who have read my blog regularly know that I delight in mixing holidays.

This is one of my favorite Thanksgiving photos, taken on a Friday, which shows the transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

Here's a larger, less artsy view:

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sketching Towards Advent

Today is the first Sunday in Advent.  In my Christian religious tradition (ELCA Lutheran), Advent is more than a time when we light the candles on the Advent wreath and open windows of our Advent calendar to get a cheap piece of chocolate.

It's a time to watch and wait, a time to light candles and listen for God's call.  Last night, as I waited for it to be time to go meet friends for dinner before my spouse's holiday concert, I made this sketch and haiku like creation:

But a sketch I made on Friday also seems appropriate:

I started with the swirling colors, but then I decided to also write down every vocation to which I've ever felt called--my present position as a dean is there, but so are many others.  Of course, as I look over this sketch, I realize I left out some calls--there were years when I'd have told you how I felt called to be an actress on Broadway.

I do note that I didn't put Composition teacher in the sketch, and I've probably spent more years of my life doing that than any other occupation.  I also didn't put down backpacking counselor at a Girl Scout camp, which I don't feel called to do any more, but that summer of being the backpacking counselor shaped me in many ways.

I so enjoyed that sketch that I made this one Friday night:

I've been journaling in this way every day since the beginning of my online journaling class on Nov. 4.  It's been intriguing to me to see what emerges.  It's also interesting to see what can be done with 7 markers:  4 colors and 3 black markers with varying tips.

I'm also intrigued by how the drawings and comments of others in the online journaling course shapes my sketching.  I posted this sketch:

My instructor said, "What a gift this image will be to your soul's library! A sacred seeing + creative breakthrough = Wow!"

And then this sketch emerged:

It will be interesting to go through this Advent season sketching daily.  I wonder what will emerge.  Perhaps I will write a poem about the sketchbook as our contemporary angel who announces God's plans.

Advent reminds us that God's new creation is both now and not yet.  Our Advent stories remind us that God has a vision that might disrupt our carefully planned lives.  Think of Mary who will have a baby who will be the savior, or Joseph who will be the father to this savior, or Elizabeth who will have a child in her post-menopausal years.

God still chooses unexpected ways to be in touch with us--what will this Advent bring?

Saturday, December 1, 2018

The First President Bush and World AIDS Day

What an interesting juxtaposition, the announcement of the death of George H. W. Bush (the first Bush president), which most of us will hear about today, Dec. 1, World AIDS Day.  Today is the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day.

The first president Bush didn't create World AIDS Day, but he may have been the first president to move AIDS policy to a more helpful position--but full credit should be given to his wife, Barbara.  From what I've read, she was the motivating force behind a more compassionate approach to this disease.

People who weren't alive in the 80's may not realize how afraid of AIDS everyone was when the disease was first discovered, before we had much understanding of how people contracted it.  People who know people with AIDS today may not remember how dreadful the disease was when it burst into our consciousness in the 80's, when healthy men turned into skeletons and died within 6 months.

Barbara Bush made history in a famous photo that showed her holding a baby with AIDS.  She argued fiercely and consistently for a more humane treatment of those with AIDS.  And her husband, George H. W. Bush showed wisdom in following her lead.

I predict that George H. W. Bush will be the last president to come out of a certain kind of public servant tradition.  He was rich, yes.  But he had an idea of service (to family, to country) that few people in politics seem to have these days.  He fought during a fierce war (World War II) and then continued to serve his country by his various political jobs.

I confess that I didn't like George H. W. Bush as a president, but now I would be so thrilled to see someone like him emerge on the political stage:  left, right, center, it would make no difference to me. The first Bush president now seems like an amazing example of steady leadership bolstered by a variety of intelligences.  It makes me sad that we can no longer take intelligence of any kind for granted in our leadership--and even sadder that it doesn't seem to matter for so many of us.

Those of us who work towards social justice and human dignity for all know how long the struggle might be. We are similar to those medieval builders of cathedral: we may not be around to see the magnificent completion of our vision, but it's important to play our part. In the words of that old Gospel song, we keep our eyes on the prize, our hands on the plow, and hold on.

Friday, November 30, 2018

From Blog Post to Sketch to Poem

This morning, I wrote a poem--and with that poem, I've written a poem every day in November.  I'm not sure I've ever been successful at writing a poem a day for a month.  There have been several Aprils that I have tried.

I've also been very active in my online journaling course which started Nov. 4, and in addition to writing a poem a day, I've done at least one sketch a day.  I've been interested in how they feed each other.

The blogging feeds the work too.  Here's an example.

On Sunday, in this post, I wrote, "At the eastern continental divide, the landscape took on a different sort of beauty than I see regularly. The trees were coated with ice and snow, but the roads were only wet with rain. My spouse was driving, so I could marvel in the wintry wonderland mixed with final autumn colors. The sky looked like the clouds had come to down to lend the trees some additional ghostly sparkle. Some of the trees still had their autumn leaves. Some of the trees were frosted, while others had been sheltered from the wintry mix. It was beautiful. Alas, my camera was packed away."

On Wednesday, I made this sketch:

As I was sketching, which took place in two parts of the day as I was subbing for a Speech class, the haiku-esque creation that's on the sketch began to form.  And this morning, I tried to use some of the images in a longer poem.

My online journaling class lasts for 3 more weeks, and I plan to keep sketching once a day.  I also plan to keep writing a poem a day.  It's such a nourishing, refreshing practice.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Preparing the Worship Space for Advent

Last night, I went home to pick  up my spouse after work.  Then we headed to church, where he had choir rehearsal.  I helped decorate the sanctuary for Advent.

I feel fortunate to be part of a church that has no altar guild.  For those of you who grew up in different spiritual settings, your experience with the altar guild may be different--or non-existent.  Some spiritual gathering places don't allow for decorations at all or perhaps they don't change with the seasons.  In other spaces, the decorations are already chosen, perhaps kept for ages across generations.  Those spaces often have altar guilds that take care of all the objects and make sure that the changes happen in an orderly manner. 

Many stereotypes exist around altar guilds.  Many people see them as the way that older women claimed some power and ownership in churches that didn't let them lead in many ways.  Woe to those newcomers who wanted to help out or those who suggested change.  I've had some experience with all sorts of altar guilds, and I always see the members as good-hearted people who are trying to avert catastrophe, even if the catastrophes wouldn't be as dreadful as the fear.

Our church doesn't have an altar guild.  We have a set of paraments that used to hide the gorgeous white marble of the altar, but now we don't use those much.  If we have traditional banners, I'm not sure where they are.

We don't have an altar guild, and we have a pastor who is open to new ideas.  That's a powerful opening of opportunity for folks like me who have visions of a different sort of worship space.  When I was first at Mepkin Abbey in 2004, one of the things that most intrigued me was how the worship space changed on a daily basis, and how much more engaged I felt.

So I wasn't sure what to expect last night.  There might be a crew of people.  There might be just me, noodling around in the space while the pastor worked on a different project.  In the end, it was me and my pastor.  I worked on the tree, while he set up the altar.

We have fake trees for a variety of reasons.  We used to have 2 that flanked the altar.  Last night while I was setting up the second tree, the stand broke leaving us with no way to make the fake tree stand up.  So we thought about other possibilities for the tree, since the asymmetry wasn't working.  Eventually, we moved it to a spot to the side of the steps that lead to the chancel.  The asymmetry is fine, because the piano is on the other side of the steps.

We have two boxes of Chrismons, some of which are in good shape, and some of which should probably be thrown away.  I decorated the tree with blue and silver balls and some of the best of the Chrismons.  I didn't think to take a picture last night. 

My pastor came up with a very cool approach to the Advent wreath.  Here's the Advent wreath we used to use, which is much more traditional:

Our wreath has been on a stand next to the altar:

Last night, my pastor set up the manger scene on the altar and then began to develop something new, which then sparked his idea for this:

At first, the crucifix wasn't part of the scene.  My pastor added the gold ribbon to make clear that the crucifix was intentional.

I like that the crucifix reminds us that the story is much more stark than the Christmas Eve story that we usually hear.  That Christmas Eve story can be sentimental verging into cuteness. 

For me, the worship space gives us all sorts of opportunities to reinforce the message of the lectionary, the theme of the liturgical season.  Most churches have done a great job of using music in this way.  We don't always do as much as we could with the other aspects of the worship service or space.

Of course, most churches have more musicians than other types of artists.  And it takes a certain kind of approach to create a worship space that works for the majority of worshipers.  Something gruesome might make a point, but it may not be the most effective approach for the congregation.

I also try to be aware of the wide-ranging tastes of our congregation.  I know that most of us don't have a memory of Chrismons, for example.  I suspect that the members who made our Chrismons are long gone.  But they serve a purpose, and for some of our congregation, they have a much deeper meaning.

I've heard from at least one member that she finds our approach to the chancel to be too messy.  She would prefer the old paraments.  She thinks the altar should be clear of many of the items we put on it.

But I hear from many more members who like our approach to the chancel space.  And so I continue on, trying to involve more people who are interested in this approach, trying to keep the congregation engaged in new ways.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Return of the Prodigal Earring

My prodigal earring returned yesterday, after I was about to declare it lost forever.  Would I keep the earring that remained?  Repurpose it?  Was it time to say that I had these earrings for 20+ years and throw the remaining earring away?

I returned home from Thanksgiving with it missing, which I thought was odd, since my earrings rarely left the box in which they traveled with the rest of my jewelry for Thanksgiving.  I looked at the jewelry, which might have snagged it.  My spouse thoroughly checked each suitcase.  I even shook out the clothes with which I had worn the earrings.

I am not the type to have earrings fall out of my ears.  I also rarely lose earrings, since I have a system that keeps it safe, meaning that I don't remove earrings and leave them on a surface where a dog later eats them or all the other disasters that could befall earrings out on their own.

So, days after our return from the mountains, I was thinking the earring was gone for good.  I felt sad beyond measure.  Those earrings were favorites of mine, given to me by my mom after one of her interesting travels back in the mid 90's.  They were beaded, purple and black and iridescent beads, subtle, but lovely.  My spouse went through the suitcases because they were favorites of his too.

Then, yesterday, I opened my jewelry travel box after my spin class and shower, and lo and behold, there it was, sitting in the middle of a bracelet. It had gotten nestled in the elasticized strands of freshwater pearls in a bracelet. I didn't see it Sunday night when it was missing or this morning when I put the bracelet in the box.

I was happy beyond proportion to see it again!  It was the kind of day with highs and lows--I got the task of buying tickets for Sunday's Broward Chorale concert and came out to find that someone had seriously dented my fender.  But the high of finding my earring overruled that distress.

Yes, I realize it means that I have put far too much value on my stuff.  The earrings aren't family heirlooms, after all, and they aren't precious, in terms of how much money I could get for them.  There aren't gems or precious metals.

As I mulled over my joy at the earrings, I thought about symbolism of all sorts, the kind that is important to English majors and the kind that is important on a religious/spiritual way.  I thought about the ways we give objects all sorts of meanings, and how it all enriches our lives.

I also thought about rewriting parables to give them a new twist.  Instead of the Prodigal Son who returns to his father and brother, would the parable take on new meaning if it was earrings, or something that only women wear/use?

These are questions to continue to ponder--time for another spin class.  What might I discover in my jewelry box today?  Unless it's a winning lottery ticket, it won't make me happier than yesterday's return of the prodigal earring.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Home Repair Update: the Kitchen Cabinet Edition

Yesterday, we went to Home Depot to order the kitchen cabinets.  It's a much more complicated process than you might imagine.  We went there over a month ago with our list of measurements and the cabinets we had chosen.  But that's not the procedure.

So, in an abundance of caution, we had the measurer come out.  The measurements were sent back to Home Depot, who was then supposed to call us in a week.  No call.  At the end of the second week, I wrote to the kitchen designer, who was supposed to look at measurements and our plan and put together the cabinet order. 

I thought about trying to get the appointment squeezed in before Thanksgiving, but I decided to take more time.  We're not going to have a kitchen for Christmas, so it's better to take our time and not make a mistake.  So, I made the appointment for yesterday.

We sat with the kitchen designer for almost an hour, and because we had done so much advance work, it didn't take as long as it might have.  We knew the cabinet types we wanted, the style, the wood, the color.  We decided on a simple crown moulding to go in the 5 inches between the top of the upper cabinets and the ceiling; if my spouse had gone alone to the appointment, he probably wouldn't have ordered crown moulding, but I was there to remind him that we didn't want to try to dust those cabinet tops.

Now the measurer returns to our house, just to make sure our plan will work.  And then, the cabinet order is placed.

It's exhausting, this process of putting a house back together after a natural disaster.  Yet I know that at some point, I'll look back at this time period of sitting outside as the sun sets, having our dinner fresh off the grill or from the one pot meals we make on the grill's burner, watching the solar-powered, twinkly lights come on in the bushes.  Perhaps I won't remember the despair I felt over the fact that our stuff has been in boxes for so long that I don't exactly remember where it is.

We will have a serious cold front come through in a day or two--I have a few heavier skirts and sweaters that I wear in chillier weather; I do know where they are.  When I packed them away, I didn't expect to still be in this disorganized state this many months later.

And yet, I'm grateful for the steady progress, even if it's slow.  I'm grateful that my energy for this process does return, even when there are days I think I can never keep going.  I'm grateful that we have a way to cook, that I'm sleeping in my own bed, that we've kept the disorder isolated.

We've been without our washer and dryer for almost a month now--that's been tough.  But I'm happy that the laundry room wall replacement/repair is complete.  Now we need to paint the laundry room and move the washer/dryer unit back in.  Some days, it seems impossible.  But then I remind myself that we're very close to being done with that part of the home repair project.

And I remind myself that it could be much worse, no matter how much despair I feel.  Many people are in much worse shape than we are.

Monday, November 26, 2018

In Harmony with the Gifts that Are Already Given

This is the reading that has most spoken to me this far in my online journaling class. 

I LOVE the idea of already having the gifts. I tend to approach from a different direction--I have gifts, but I have to improve upon them, and how can I best improve. And always, my inner guidance counselor voice is telling me in how many ways I'm not living up to my full potential. How peaceful it is, this idea that the gifts are already there ready for me to be in harmony with them.

Yesterday morning, I heard one of my favorite episodes of Krista Tippett's On Being, an interview with Rachel Naomi Remen.  She tells a story of how light came into the world, about an accident with the container that held the world, and the breaking of the container is how the light gets scattered everywhere.

And then she reflects on the meaning for us in the present day: "It's a very old story, comes from the 14th century, and it's a different way of looking at our power. And I suspect it has a key for us in our present situation, a very important key. I'm not a person who is a political person in the usual sense of that word, but I think that we all feel that we're not enough to make a difference, that we need to be more somehow, either wealthier or more educated or somehow or other different than the people we are. And according to this story, we are exactly what's needed. And to just wonder about that a little, what if we were exactly what's needed? What then? How would I live if I was exactly what's needed to heal the world?"

What if God doesn't need me to change? What if God has created me to be exactly what's needed, right here, right now? For me, it's a powerful thought.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

One Last Look Back at Thanksgiving

Yesterday, we waited a bit before leaving the North Carolina mountains.  There had been wintry weather overnight, and we wanted to give the system more time to clear out.  By 9:30, we were on the road, descending from the North Carolina mountains.

At the eastern continental divide, the landscape took on a different sort of beauty than I see regularly.  The trees were coated with ice and snow, but the roads were only wet with rain.  My spouse was driving, so I could marvel in the wintry wonderland mixed with final autumn colors.  The sky looked like the clouds had come to down to lend the trees some additional ghostly sparkle.  Some of the trees still had their autumn leaves.  Some of the trees were frosted, while others had been sheltered from the wintry mix.  It was beautiful.  Alas, my camera was packed away.

We drove and drove and drove.  It was a 12 hour drive, which was long, but fairly easy, by which I mean that the traffic wasn't onerous and kept moving.  We saw an electric sign around Savannah that warned of high tides and flooding near the coast--not the usual warning message that one sees on those Highway Department signs.

We got to see the moon rise somewhere on the spine of Florida.  Like the wintry trees, it, too, was ghostly and lovely.  By evening, we enjoyed a glass of wine while watching that moon through the palm trees in 80 degree temperatures.  What a difference a day of travel can make.  The significance of that process as metaphor is not lost on me.

Today comes the great unpacking.  But first, church.  It's the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and we are needed to count the money.  It's a spiritual gift that most people don't consider.  Today will also mark the sadness of the fact that one of my favorite times is over.  Sigh.

So, before I get too far away from this holiday, let me recount the joys:

--I made time for daily journaling and poetry writing.

--I saw grad school friends along the way.  It's been a strange autumn, in that I've seen them twice in 4 weeks; usually, I only see them once a year or less.  What a treat!  I feel lucky to have friends where we reconnect immediately, like no time has passed at all.

--We had a vacation before the vacation.  A week ago, I made my way to Black Mountain, North Carolina.  My mom, dad, and sister had a time apart before the family celebration started on Tuesday.  We had great food, wonderful shopping, and most important:  deep conversation.

--It's always fun being with my larger family.  On Tuesday, my nuclear family joined my aunt and uncle, my cousin and his wife and three children.  My brother-in-law and nephew arrived on Wednesday, and very late Wednesday, my spouse flew in.

--We met at Lutheridge, a Lutheran camp.  It was my 3rd time at Lutheridge this autumn--a treat of a different kind.

--We rent one of the biggest houses--it's hard to find a house that can hold us all, so I'm grateful to Lutheridge for this house.  We've been gathering at this house so regularly since 1993 that it feels like coming home.  It's a house where we can have a meal around a single table (12+), cook a meal, have space to be away if necessary, be in the bathroom knowing that there are 3 other bathrooms, and relax in a space that's so familiar.

--Unlike past years, we stayed at camp more than venturing out.  Sure, there were the occasional Wal-Mart trips.  But we didn't go to a regional park or to see the gingerbread displays or go to a brewery or do any of the wonderful things we might have done.   We took lots of hikes around camp, which was good, since it was so cold that the less hearty amongst us could have a shorter experience.  We played Ga Ga Ball.  We had a great football game.

--We had lots of fun indoor activities too:  games of all sorts, and drawing, and making slime.  Here are some Facebook posts that I want to record more permanently:

"Give me one of your wheat, and I'll give you 3 sheep . . . I'm getting a settlement"--we're not playing Uno anymore! We're playing Catan, a card based, world building kind of game. Philosopher Carl says, "How are we supposed to get along if our communities aren't allowed to connect?"

And now my family has shifted to a different sort of Thanksgiving game: the Thanksgiving "bowl" is underway! We're playing with an underinflated football--the scandal! I believe that the Kentucky contingent is ahead, but I've never really understood this game called football.

Now the next generation is playing "Ark," a video game that's "educational." The seven year old says, "Yeah, you learn how to tame a dinosaur so you can ride it ." "It's a T-Rex. We're dead. We're definitely dead."

I am happy to report that science experiments are still attractive to our younger crowd. Fun with dry ice, beakers, candles, and a balloon.

--We had great food.  We always do.

--Most important, we were together, with very little discord.  Occasionally, chaos erupted, but it was the good kind, with the occasional incident of slime stuck on the ceiling, or everyone wanting the same toy at once.  That, too, seems an important metaphor for larger life.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Progress Report: The Daily Practice

I am pleased to report that I have continued to be successful in my daily journaling course and my daily poetry writing, even through the traveling and the family gatherings of Thanksgiving week.

Some days, the reading, the sketching, and the poetry writing have converged, as on Tuesday:

I must confess, I like the first sketch I worked on as the haiku was making itself known:

Other days, I've used the journaling to record a passage from Joyce Rupp's Open the Door that I really want to remember.  This was Thursday's sketch:

As I drive back from the mountaintop, let me remember this wisdom. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving Gratitudes

I have always said that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love that there's no gift giving tradition to leave us all in some variation of anxious and/or disappointed. I love that the food can be towards the healthy edge of the spectrum.

But most of all, I love a holiday that revolves around gratitude.

Let me now make a list of all the things for which I am most grateful in the past year:

--One of the things for which I am most grateful is the steady pace of getting the home repaired from Hurricane Irma.  On January 1, 2018, I wrote:  "Right now, the cottage needs a new AC/heat system and flooring, at the minimum. The big house needs to have all the floors replaced, a new wrinkle to our plans. We still need to have a remodeled kitchen, and I'm wondering if it would be wise to rip out the walls in the small laundry room that got soaked from hurricane damage aftereffects. We need a new fence and gates."

Wow--I'm amazed at what needed to be done, and what we've gotten done:  the cottage foundation shored up, the cottage AC/heat replaced, the floors of the big house replaced, new interior walls in the  laundry room with the outer wall repaired too, and new fence and gates.  We are in the process of the kitchen remodel, with steady progress--slow progress, but steady.  We will think about the other issues of the cottage once we get the kitchen remodel done.

--With my old school, the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale, closing this year, I am grateful that I made the move to a different job in 2016.  I continue to like my current job--another source of gratitude.

--I am grateful that my spouse still loves teaching Philosophy; it's wonderful to see him so engaged with a subject that we both still find so important.

--I am grateful that my family continues to enjoy spending time together. I had wondered if we might drift away from each other after the death of my grandmother, but we have not.

--I am grateful for my Fitbit which has helped me lose some weight.  More important, I'm getting more movement into my days.

--I am profoundly grateful that I can still fit creativity into my days.

Let me not get so lost in my gratitude that I forget those who haven't been as lucky this past year. Let me continue to yearn for and to work for a world where we all have enough to inspire gratitude.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Heart as Reluctant Prophet

I've been having quite a wonderful November, in terms of creativity.  I have been taking an online journaling class, which started Nov. 4, and I've also been writing a poem a day.  I didn't plan to make a sketch a day, but I've been doing that too.  The processes have been feeding each other in interesting ways.

As I've already written about, in this blog post, I made a sketch during a brief rest stop on my long drive Saturday:

I thought about the story of Jonah and the whale as I was sketching.  I continued to think about it as I continued my week's travels.

You may remember that Jonah is a reluctant prophet in the short Biblical book of the same name.  God wants Jonah to go to Nineveh, and Jonah doesn't want to.  So he heads out in a different direction, on a ship.  There's a storm, and Jonah feels that if the sailors toss him overboard, the storm will subside.  The sailors do this, and Jonah is swallowed by a giant fish and spends 3 days in the stomach of the giant fish.  He agrees to go to Nineveh, the fish vomits him up, and Nineveh proves to be receptive to his/God's message.  There's a surprise twist at the end:  Jonah gets in a snit of a mood because he's successful.

I spent time thinking about my image and the story.  Is my heart a reluctant prophet?  I've been intrigued with the idea of my heart as a prophet who grows tired of delivering messages from God and flees, only to find time for contemplation in the innards of a giant fish. I would likely never have had that poem idea without this image, which I hope to return to at some point.

Yesterday, I finally had time to write the poem down.  As with the story of Jonah, it went in interesting ways.  It's a poem I likely wouldn't have had without the sketch.  And I wouldn't have had either, probably, without the daily discipline that I've adopted for November.