Monday, November 30, 2015

The Feast Day of Saint Andrew and the First Day of Climate Talks

Today is the feast day of Saint Andrew, one of the disciples of Jesus.  I think of him as a background disciple--he doesn't get a starring role in many of the stories in the Gospels.  Still, I could argue that this background disciple is more important than some of the more foreground disciples.  What can we learn from the life of this saint?

It’s important to remember that we wouldn’t even know about Simon Peter, one of the most famous disciples, if not for Andrew. Andrew followed John the Baptist, and John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the true Messiah. Andrew believed, and Andrew brought his brother to see what he had seen. Andrew is remembered as the first disciple.

He doesn't stop with his brother--he brings all of his family members into the fold.  It's important to remember that these were the early days of the ministry of Jesus, when Jesus might have seemed like just another wack-a-do preacher--the villages of first century Rome were full of such types.  Yet Andrew believed and helped others to see what he saw.

What 21st century movements need our belief and our energy?

 I also think about the sibling relationships here. What does Andrew think about Simon Peter, who quickly moves into the spotlight? Is Andrew content to stay in the background?

We know from the passage in Matthew that begins with Matthew 20:20, that there is competition to be Christ’s favorite. We see the mother of James and John who argues for her sons’ importance. We see the other disciples who become angry at the actions of this mother. I extrapolate to imagine that there’s much jockeying for position amongst the disciples.

Christ never loses an opportunity to remind us that he’s come to give us a different model of success. Again and again, he dismisses the importance that the world attaches to riches, to status, to a good reputation. Again and again, Jesus instructs us that the last will be first. Jesus tells us that the way to gain prestige with God is to serve.

Most of us live in a world where the idea of serving others is disparaged.  We live in a world that needs more of our service.  We have a lot to learn from Andrew.

By working in the background, by serving, Andrew helps make manifest one of the most famous miracles.  In John’s Gospel, Andrew is the one who tells Jesus about the boy with five barley loaves and two fish, and thus helps make possible the miraculous feeding.  If you ask people about the miracles of Jesus, this stretching of food is one that they are likely to remember.  Very few miracle stories are found in more than one Gospel.  The feeding of the crowd makes it into several.

Andrew was the kind of disciple we could use more of in this world.   Even if we don't believe in the mission of the church, many of us are engaged in activities that need a kind of discipleship:  we teach, we create, we parent, we care for a wide variety of people.

On this day when we celebrate the life of the first disciple, let us consider our own discipleship. Are we focused on the right tasks or are we hoping that our activities bring us glory? How can we help usher in the miracles that our world needs? Who needs to hear the good news as only we can tell it?

As we consider the larger world, we might also think about the efforts of those first disciples.  Today marks the beginning of climate talks in Paris--will any headway be made?  Tomorrow is World AIDS Day and the anniversary of Rosa Parks' refusal to move from her seat on a Montgomery bus in 1955.  Both are good occasions to consider how far we've come--and how far we still have to go.

Our world faces a variety of struggles for freedom, and we may not have much guidance from our leaders.  The life of Andrew and the rest of the disciples shows how much we can do if we have a small but dedicated group of people by our side.  Today is a good day to think about who those people are for each of us and how we can care for those relationships as we care for the larger world.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015: A Brief Retrospective

On Friday, I said, "Everything I brought with me stinks--either like frying bacon or frying onions or a campfire or sweat.  It's gonna be a long car trip tomorrow."

In short, it was a great Thanksgiving.  And yes, the car trip on either side was long, but the chance to spend 3 days with my extended family made it worth it.

And I compose a lot in my head in the car.  I have come home with an idea for a new linked short story collection.  It's tied to the idea I explored in this blog post: "I have a vision of a novel with 3 characters, all female, all who have gone to the same, small liberal arts college and respond in different ways.  In my writing, I have transformed my undergraduate school, Newberry College in Newberry, South Carolina, to Crabapple College in Crabapple, South Carolina."

On Tuesday, as I drove through north, the season speeding up, I thought of expanding this vision to 8 characters, the Crabapple 8, who were student activists in the 80's, who responded to those times in different ways, and who are living very different lives today.  The short story I've been working on is part of that idea.  More on this project as it evolves--if I say too much now, I worry that I won't actually write anything.

Let me reflect on some ways that Thanksgiving 2015 was especially wonderful.  Having an idea for a short story collection would be wonderful enough, but here are some other elements too:

--On our way up, we left very early, at 3:35 a.m.  The moon was almost full, and I loved driving along the almost empty highway watching the moon make its slow progress across the sky.  Yesterday, on the way back, we saw a wonderful sunrise across the mountains of North Carolina.

--Everyone was in a good mood.  Some years, some of us are irritable, and admittedly, there's a lot to make someone irritable:  rambunctious children, meal prep, meal clean up, whiney children, irritable family members, whiney family members, differing political and religious views, and did I mention how rambunctious the children can be?  But this year, our good moods persisted well into Friday.

--Instead of going to a movie, we set up movie night with a projector.  We watched Inside Out, which was as good as I had heard it was.  It was so much fun that we had another movie night on Friday.

--We had a campfire with s'mores.  No one got burned, no one got too sticky, the fire burned brightly but was easy to have die down when we were through.

--We had an active time:  lots of walks/runs, lots of playground time, lots of football games and one soccer game--we didn't have enough people for soccer to work, and one of the kids is a soccer expert, so it was less fun.  But football seemed doable from the smallest 3 year old to the older folks like me.  Even if we didn't understand the rules (me), we could follow directions and have fun.

--I had fun times with my cousin's 6 year old girl--tea parties and crafts of all sorts and trying to teach her to crochet and quilt.  It's still a bit early, but the interest is there--note to self for future!

--We were able to keep the meals simple.  We ate variations of turkey and ham dinners, and we didn't go to great efforts to have different meals, which would have required more prep work and more clean up.  We rent a house at a church camp with an adequate kitchen, but it has no dishwasher and a small oven and a temperamental microwave.  It was nice to agree to being a bit more laid back about food.

--The house hasn't been updated much since about 1968, which makes it perfect for kids and crafts and rambunctiousness.

--This is our fourth Thanksgiving after my grandmother's death.  I had always worried that we might not make the effort to get together when she wasn't there to motivate us.  But we have been more determined than ever.  I have this vision of gathering into our elderly years, with a hope that the grown up little ones will be joining us with their little ones.

--And to sum up:  words that you wouldn't have heard at the Pilgrims' feast centuries ago:  "These are the veggie sticks that I put up my nose."  We all laughed.  No one got chastised.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Poetry Saturday: Let the Holiday Baking Begin!

In my thinking about a saner Advent and holiday season, I never give up on the idea of holiday baking.  I may not do much of it, but it's been an important part of my holidays since I was old enough to mix sugar into butter.

In the spirit of holiday baking, here's an unpublished poem, which I'd give a different title if I revisit it ever:

Advent Calendar

Orion, that winter visitor, reminds us of our frosty
obligations. Now is the time to prepare.
We dig in the cupboards for the cookie cutters,
creatures enough to create a healthy genetic
mix for the holiday planet we will create.

We remember anew the joy of the well-seasoned
skillet, so versatile as we fry the meat
and cook a well-crusted cornbread.
We strive for abundance, to be prepared
for the unexpected visitor, the waylaid
traveler who might arrive without gifts.

We rediscover the joy of bread baked
fresh in the morning. We afford
the extra splurges that festivity demands:
exotic nuts, dense pastes, sweet icings,
breads heavy with butter and spices.

We could not maintain this pace
all year, but for a month, we pretend
we can handle the additional load.
We try to ignore the yearnings from the stomach’s
pit, the one that wonders why every day
can’t be filled with goodies cooling on the hearth,
a household bathed in the fragrance of baking bread,
the comfort of cake.

For a recipe for a great and fairly easy holiday bread, see this blog post.

For my favorite holiday cookie recipe, go here--the cookies can be made thinner, like sugar cookies, or thicker, like a tea cake.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thinking about our Holiday Gifts and the Vision of the Future that They Support

Today is Black Friday, the day that many of us will go shopping.  But before we spend our hard-earned money, or worse, whip out our credit cards, let's take a minute to think about who we support with these gifts.  What vision of the world are we supporting/creating with our holiday gift purchases?

Here are some ideas:

--Why give gifts at all? I understand the appeal of shopping for children, but maybe this year is the one where we should think about why we give gifts to grown-ups, many of whom are perfectly capable of buying those items for themselves.

--Could this be the year that everyone makes their holiday gifts? I know, it's too late for most of us to knit a sweater or to make anything elaborate. But why not write a poem for the ones you love? Why not begin to write the family history? Why not make a sketch or two? Make some cookies: eat some and box some up for presents.

--Have this year be the year of found presents. Give an interesting stone or shell that you found at the beach. Make an arrangement of twigs and dried leaves.

--Or, if you're not surrounded by nature, declare that this will be the year of regifting. Go ahead and be open about it from the beginning. Give the film enthusiast all those DVDs you no longer watch. Sort through all your baking pans and cookie cutters and give a few to your favorite chef. Are you really going to read all your books again? Give them away to people who might enjoy them.

--If you have people on your list who insist on presents that they can open, presents that are brand new and purchased especially for them, see if you can find a way for your gift-giving dollars to support local artisans or local merchants.

 --Don't forget that those gift-giving dollars can support the literary culture that writers want to keep thriving. Give your gift recipient a book, especially one published by a small press, or a subscription to a literary journal.

--And don't forget about the other arts communities that could use our support.  Give tickets to the theatre or the orchestra.

--Or use your gift-giving dollars to support farmers and/or artisans from less-developed nations. The organization SERVV does wonderful work and offers beautiful gift possibilities.  Go here for more information.

----Instead of buying stuff, donate to charities. I'm lucky enough to be able to buy just about everything I need, albeit my needs are fairly simple. I am haunted by all the charities that are underfunded. I am haunted by the gaping needs in the world. I would prefer that people give money to the needy than to buy more stuff for me. Chances are good that lots of people on your gift list feel the same way.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

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:

--At my midlife point of losing friends and not just because they move to a new town, I am grateful for the family and friends who are still here.

--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 the publishing successes of the past year, particularly my chapbook acceptance and my inclusion in this book that celebrates the Annunciation.  But more than that, I am profoundly grateful for my various creative communities.

--I am grateful for my various jobs and volunteer work--how wonderful to be fed in so many ways.

--I am grateful that my spouse has returned to teaching and that he likes it.

Let me not get so lost in my luckiness that I forget those who can't be so grateful.  Let me continue to yearn for and to work for a world where we all have enough to inspire gratitude.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Creativity Prompts for Thanksgiving

Many of us will have some extra time around Thanksgiving.  Some of us will go shopping, while other will do much cooking and cleaning.  Some of us will travel long distances.

Along the way, could we plan some time for creativity?

Here are some prompts to inspire you:

--Do you remember tracing your hand and turning it into a turkey?  You probably haven't done that since elementary school.  Do it again now.

--Write down your memories of Thanksgivings past.  Help your older relatives write their memories too.

Or tape the conversations.  Save them using a variety of mediums.

--Write some gratitude haikus.  I use the word "haiku" loosely.  Write three line poems with syllables of 5, 7, and 5 per line.

--Imagine you could invite your favorite literary characters or historical figures to your Thanksgiving table.  What would they talk about?

Imagine it's a potluck dinner.  What will they bring?

----What will the first Thanksgiving on a distant planet be like?  Write or draw the scene.

 --Create a Thanksgiving scene, the way that Christians create a manger scene for Christmas.  Use the materials you have on hand.

--A question to inspire gratitude:  Should you live to be 102 years old, what will you miss most?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Strategizing for a Calmer Holiday Season

Soon, we will leave Thanksgiving behind.  Before we get too deeply into the coming holidays, let's take some time to plan for how we're going to have a meaningful season, how we're going to resist the consumerist, capitalist madness of a whirlwind that tends to sweep us all along.

Let's strategize. How can we avoid a hectic season? How can we invite more contemplation and quiet into December?

--Make a budget now. Just days from now, the Christmas shopping season begins for those of us brave enough to go into stores, if it hasn't already started. Before you go shopping, make sure you know how much you can spend. It's easy to get caught up in the shrill cycle of good deals and fierce desires. Don't buy so much that you'll still be paying off those credit cards in July. Nothing is worth that.

--Instead of buying stuff, buy experiences. Most of us have too much stuff. Why not give someone a meal out or a movie? Give the gift of your time.

--Instead of buying stuff, donate to charities. I'm lucky enough to be able to buy just about everything I need (and my needs are fairly simple). I am haunted by all the charities that are underfunded. I am haunted by the gaping needs in the world. I would prefer that people give money to the needy than to buy more stuff for me. Chances are good that lots of people on your gift list feel the same way.

--Plan your social calendar now. And keep it simple. Choose only one or two events per week-end. Declare that you won't go out on school nights. You can't do everything, and you'll only feel irritable if you try. What's most important to you and the ones you love?

--Purge the traditions that have ceased to have meaning. This one is tough. For example, I often find myself bored and irritable as I sit through The Nutcracker. I always think I'll love that ballet, probably because I loved it as a child. I don't love it as an adult. Why spend the money and time? Of course, if everyone else in the family adored it and wanted to go, it might be worth it. But now is a good time to have a frank discussion, before we're caught up in the sentimental sweep of December.

--Streamline some of the traditions. Do you really need to bake every kind of cookie that you remember from past holidays? Maybe you and your friends could have a cookie swap. Or get together to bake cookies together. Have a wonderful afternoon of cookie dough and wine and leave with enough cookies to get you through the holiday. For years, I did a cookie bake/swap with friends, which grew into a dinner swap, which we'd still be doing today, if I hadn't moved 700 miles away. Consider other ways to make the holiday meals simpler. Maybe this is the year to simplify the holiday card tradition. Ask yourself which events mean something to you and which you're attending because you always have.

--Take time to help the needy, and bring your children along. Some of my favorite holiday memories involve helping others. My Girl Scout troop used to go caroling at nursing homes. The church of my adolescence assembled gift baskets for homeless women. The words of Isaiah are knitted into every fiber of my being: "learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow" (Isaiah 1: 17). My parents, along with social institutions like church and school, modeled the good behavior of working for social justice. It's stuck with me. This season is a great time to train the next generation in the habits of social justice and charitable work.

--Maybe today, as we begin to prepare for Thanksgiving, we can think about how we'll have some meditative time during the upcoming season of before Christmas.  Will we have an Advent wreath?  Will we start the day with a devotional or meditation time?  Will we listen to calming music during our commute time?

It's important to remember that even with all the best plans, we may find ourselves overscheduled and cranky.  Plan now to forgive yourself for those times.  Plan now for how you'll get back on track.  Plan now to get yourself back to the waiting and watching state that should be our Advent mindset.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Quilting (and Other Creativities) Sunday

Yesterday at church, we quilted for several hours.  People came and went and came back, and we got 2 quilt tops knotted to 2 quilt backs.  We started one and finished it during the morning, and we finished knotting the one that we started back in September.  I also sewed together 2 quilt backs for later quilts.

I tend to forget how much we get done when we do these events.  At the last event in September, we got much of a quilt top finished and about half of a quilt top knotted to a back.
I try not to think about how many quilts we could make if we had more time.  We have the time that we have.

I spent the afternoon finishing up my manuscript materials to get the packet sent to Finishing Line Press.  It's good to have that done. 

Of course, it's not done until I get it in the mail.  I should be able to get that done today.  Then I will truly feel better.

Soon it will be time to think about getting the house into shape for our December guests, but not today.  Today is the time to get ready for Thanksgiving.  The guests of December will be here soon enough.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Established Histories, Alternate Histories, and What We Know for Sure

Since I wrote this post about Philip K. Dick's alternate history, The Man in the High Castle, I've been thinking about alternate histories of our own time or the just-recent past--specifically, the Cold War.  Just 20 years after then end of World War II, Dick wrote his masterpiece about an alternate end to WWII.  Why has no one done the same for the Cold War?

I suppose we could make the argument that the nuclear war movies (Threads, Testament, and The Day After) of the 1980's were a kind of alternate history, although they seem more like warnings than histories.  To watch them now feels like a history lesson:  answering machines as huge as a shoebox!  Decorating decisions of the 1980's!

Why has no one played with this history?  We could go back further, and we still don't see much alternate history:  no novel of the USSR winning the Cuban Missile Crisis.  I wonder why.

As I was Googling, I did come across mention of Resurrection Day, which isn't the USSR winning, but nuclear devastation.  And there's Cold War Hot, which has scenarios of alternate cold war outcomes.  But that's not very many books in the realm of alternate histories.

I have friends who see Putin as a throwback to those times.  Maybe writing alternate histories feels too close, too possible still.

We are in that time period when it feels that we are arguing both current times, histories, and the future of the nation.  Are we a nation that has thrown open its doors to those fleeing terror?  Are we a nation that has turned people away to their ghastly deaths?  How shall we deal with the current crop of refugees?

It's also a time with an even older historical event hanging over us:  ah, Thanksgiving!  What does that time period tell us about the people we would become?

I tend to forget how many of those colonies were utter failures, with most colonists dead within a year of arrival, people planting cash crops instead of food, harsh landscapes with no consolations.  If you want a great overview of this history, perhaps you want to listen to this broadcast of the OnPoint program that explored the world of those Pilgrims and Native Americans.

I am intrigued by the different ways we view history, even well-established history.  The "facts" that I learned as a little girl in 1970's elementary school are very different than what my 9 year old nephew learns today, different and yet the same.  I'm interested in the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves.

At some point, this leads to an interesting crisis--how can we ever be really sure?  And my answer will likely be the same:  we can't.  And thus, I will pack up my threads, my needles, my batting and my cloth--time to go to church to lead the effort in making quilts for refugees.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Random Snapshots from the End of a Week

--Yesterday we had our annual eye exams.  It was the first time that I've been to the eye doctor when my left eye was slightly goopy.  The good news:  it's not an infection, and it's not threatening.  The bad news:  she doesn't have an easy answer for what it is.  The mucous looks like allergies.  But what am I allergic to?  And why don't anti-allergy eye drops clear it up?  Still, I'm relieved that it's not threatening to my eyesight.

--After our eye appointments, we came home, grilled burgers, and waited for the pupil dilation to abate.  We decided not to go to the downtown tree lighting ceremony for a variety of reasons:  dilated eyes, hot and humid air, the threat of rain, and the tiredness of the pas week bearing down on us.

--We discovered yet another new channel on our digital but not cable-connected TV.  It's the Laff channel, and last night it was like reliving the 90's:  Grace Under Fire, The Drew Carey Show, and Spin City.  What great shows.  Scripted TV is so rarely at that kind of level these days.  Of course, I remember in the 90's saying the same thing about older TV and the shows of the 90's.

--I've been up for hours, as is my usual approach to Saturday.  I've gotten a lot done:  rough drafts graded for my online students, grocery shopping, some writing.  Soon I will go to spin class.

--Today the JoAnn's fabric store nearest to me has its grand re-opening.  Ordinarily, I would stay away.  But I need supplies for church tomorrow.  Yes, it's another quilting day at my church, and I am the one who leads it all.  We need supplies:  batting, fabric for backing, embroidery floss for knotting the layers together.

--I have lots of dried fruits from a few week-ends ago when I thought I would make special bread for All Saints Day and didn't.  Maybe I'll make an old-fashioned fruitcake.

--But the main thing I must do today and tomorrow:  get the materials finished for my chapbook publisher.  I'm almost done.  I just have decisions to make about the cover art.  Stay tuned!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Time Travel Machines and Alternate Histories

Last night, as I drove home, I thought about trying to get to the library before it closes.  I have a book  on hold, and it's arrived.  But given the traffic, I decided I probably wouldn't make it. 

I knew I had a book already.  Earlier this week, I read this post of Wendy's, and I pulled Madeleine L'Engle's A Swiftly Tilting Planet off the shelf.

Wendy calls it "a Thanksgiving book appropriate for November."  I only made it through the first chapter before I crashed into sleep (not the book's fault), but it's also like falling through a hole in time, with its talk of nuclear war, a war that will happen suddenly because a Latin American dictator won't pay attention to reason and may push the button.

Ah, yes, the nuclear nightmares of my youth--although I was always more afraid of the Eastern bloc despots.

I read the book on a family car trip, so I must have been in high school.  I remember reading about Meg all grown up and finding great comfort that she had outgrown all the awkward physical traits that she had in adolescence.  I remember reading the book and falling in love with Charles Wallace.

I look forward to reading the rest of it.

I may also watch the first episode of The Man in the High Castle, based on the book by Philip K. Dick--my favorite book by him .  The whole first season is available on Amazon Prime today, but I can't imagine when I'd have time to watch it, even if I was a member of Amazon Prime.

It got a great review on NPR's Fresh Air.  I'd like to see the first episode to observe this part of the review:  "The Man in the High Castle is Dick's alternative history story, based on a chilling hypothetical: What if the Allies had lost World War II? The action takes place on American soil in 1962, almost a generation after the war. Back when the novel was written, that was the present day. Now it's a period piece, but that somehow makes it even more evocative."

An alternate history set in 1962--what strands will be woven together?  Lots of alternative history here--interesting to think of the meaning of that word history.

Interesting to think of my own history, as I return to these classic texts of my adolescence.  I read Philip K. Dick in high school, right along L'Engle.  A few years ago, I reread The Man in the High Castle and A Wrinkle in Time.  They both hold up well, decades after they were written, decades after I read them.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Book for Your Thanksgiving Break: "This Angel on My Chest"

If you're looking for a good book for your Thanksgiving holiday reading, I cannot recommend this book highly enough:

I've admired the work of author Leslie Pietrzyk for many years now.  My sister was the first to know her, as their work circles intersected in Alexandria, Virginia.  I loved her first book Pears on a Willow Tree, but this book is even more amazing, in terms of what she's managed to do in pushing the short story form and the linked short story form--she does all of this, while also creating highly readable stories.

The stories follow the trajectory of a woman whose husband has unexpectedly and suddenly died at a very young age early in the marriage.  It may sound like a morbid premise for a book, but it's not--sad, yes, in spots, but also funny and full of insight.

She adopts a variety of approaches in these stories:  a craft lecture, a list, a very very short story, a quiz, and of course, traditional short stories.  It's both experimental and familiar.

It's made me want to revisit all of my linked short stories.  It might be fun to rewrite some of them in different, experimental forms and see what happens.

For those of us interested in the art of putting together a collection of linked short stories, don't miss this interview with Pietrzyk.  She says, "So the selection of stories was important for me as well as their exact arrangement. I needed to signal early on that there would be some experimentation (so the first story is a list told in the second person) but I also wanted to reassure a nervous reader, which meant that a traditional (though short) story immediately followed. As I put together the collection, I kept asking myself what the role of each story was, what it accomplished in the bigger picture, and once that was my question, it became easier for me to see where I might have been repeating myself…and when it was time to yank something out."

Her writing/revision process was influenced by many different artists, from Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried to Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run, along with visual artists like Mark Rothko and the “'tin foil shrine' housed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, a mysterious and glorious work of visionary art that James Hampton worked on for fourteen years in a garage; it was found after his death."

This kind of interview, with its attention to the craft involved in putting together a collection of linked short stories, makes me wonder if there's a book out there that addresses the subject.  I'd love to see a collection of interviews like this one, interviews which shed light on the process and inspire.

So, read This Angel on My Chest.  You may think that it's the wrong book for Thanksgiving, but it's not.  It may inspire you to remember all the reasons why you love the ones you do--and to tell them, before it's too late.  It will fill you with gratitude for all sorts of things, from the perfect Spaghetti alla Carbonara to the fact that the heart can expand to love again.

And if you need the recipe for the perfect Spaghetti alla Carbonara, go to Leslie's website.  Her website is another inspiration--all writers' websites should aspire to this kind of web presence.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ruth and the Modern Refugee

At our church, we've been exploring the book of Ruth.

Do you remember that Old Testament character?  She's one of the few women who gets a whole book of her own. 

In the book of Ruth, we see a story about the outsider.  Ruth and Naomi are outsiders, strangers in a strange land.  It's hard not to see this story in our current discussion of how to treat refugees.

I have been quite distressed at how quickly the discourse has moved to angry, spewing vitriol in the wake of the Paris bombings.  I am saddened at how little we have already done for people fleeing from horrors we can't even imagine in our safety.  And now, we want to close the borders.

We have enough room for everyone who might want to come here.  There are huge swaths of the U.S. that are empty.  Some are truly uninhabitable, but some were once inhabited.

I understand that these arguments against taking refugees are not based in rationality.  I understand the scarcity consciousness behind some of them.  I understand the fear of those who are different.

But I also understand the richness that we all bring to the pot of stew where we live.  One ingredient does not make for anything interesting.

The U.S. has traditionally done a good job of integrating refugees into our larger culture.  Sure, we could have done better, but our less-stratified society actually makes our country a better candidate for refugee resettlement than much of Europe.  And the U.S. still has a wide variety of social service groups that are dedicated to refugee resettlement--another argument for why it should be this country.

Of course, there are plenty of refugees to go around. 
We are close to Advent and Christmas, a time when many of us will be hearing the words of the ancient prophets who call upon us to bind up the broken.  The season of Christmas will be bring a story about another set of refugees, about an ancient family forced to travel and then forced to flee.  We will hear about ancient governments who bear more than a passing resemblance to governments of the 21st century.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to be in countries that offer us stability--we have a duty to speak up for those who do not.  A variety of religions are very clear on that point of similarity.  For those of us who are non-religious, a variety of philosophical doctrines also point to the value of supporting those who are fleeing from terrors of all sorts.

Let us hope for the courage of those convictions.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Poetry Tuesday: Existentialism and Mid-Life Comforts

My spouse has spent the last 6 months teaching Philosophy classes again for the first time in 20 some odd years.  Some days he comes home, and I can tell what he's been teaching, as he asks, "What does all of this matter?  What is the meaning of our tiny human lives?"

It's interesting to have these existentialist conversations at midlife.  In some ways, it feels like we've fallen through a hole in time--after all, as young students at a liberal arts college, we fell in love while having these kinds of conversations, since he was a Philosophy major, and I was an English major.  That sentence probably tells you all you need to know about the kinds of people we were and the types of humans we have become.

But back then, we were trying to figure out what to do with our adult lives, which seemed to stretch out to infinity.  These days, we feel that time is short, and we need to make sure we're not wasting our lives.  At least, on good days that's the mindset that motivates these questions.  On bad days, it feels like we're battling a huge tidal wave of darkness that will swallow us all up, regardless of our efforts.

These thoughts put me in mind of a poem that I wrote years ago, but I still think it holds up well.

Desert Dreams

We face midlife with Prufrock.
Midlife, that endless wait for Godot,
who might show up early or not at all.
Existentialism succors only the young.

And so, we, too, come to realize
what Eliot knew. At the last,
liturgy offers a consolation,
Compline a kind of comfort,
with its contrast to the sudden violence
of sunset. We remember the verses learned
by rote, repeat them to calm
our quaking, media-addled nerves.

Prophetic whispers surface from the sediment
of our days, a muddy
bit from Isaiah or the Psalms,
instructing us to comfort, comfort ye my people.
A voice crying in the wilderness
of our arid hearts, our desert dreams.  

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Sunday in South Florida: Titles, Teahouses, and Prayers

Yesterday, we went to church, as we do most Sundays.  My pastor wrote on Saturday and asked if I had any red, white, and blue fabric that I could bring.  He wanted to set up a prayer table for France.  I responded that I did, but none were big enough for a table cloth.  I had strips and patches, which I thought made a good symbol too.

I was cleaning up from the middle service, so I missed the best camera shot with all the candles lit.   But the skinny beeswax candles melted and set the tablecloth on fire, so they had to be extinguished.

After church, my spouse took some pictures of me.  I'm thinking that I want a better author photo for my forthcoming chapbook.  Here are my two favorite shots:

I like the slight haziness:

And then, after lunch, we talked about titles for the memoir.  My spouse came up with some good ones, but they had the same problem as the ones I created yesterday--too long and wordy and not compelling except to the 200 readers out there who might say, "Hmm, monastic stuff--sign me up!"  My spouse played with ways to get the word corporate into the title with the thought of the book being shelved in multiple places in a bookstore. 

I brought out the table of contents.  We continued to combine phrases.  I think we may have come up with the title:

Buddhist Teahouses in Wall Street

We had on instead of in.  But the switch is intentional.  We thought about a subtitle--but those make the title so unwieldy.

I'd need to write a concluding essay with that title.  Or would that be explaining too much?  Do I want to let the reader make those connections?

For those of you who want an explanation of Buddhist teahouses but don't want to wait for the memoir's eventual publication, see this blog post

It was a good afternoon, a good day.  I feel lucky to have a spouse who is quietly supportive--it could have been otherwise.  I feel lucky that I have not been cut down before I could finish more of my life's creative work.

I am aware of time's quick passage.  It is time to get moving.

I did have this thought that felt almost heretical, as I watched the candles flicker during church yesterday.  I thought, if I was shot dead as I enjoyed a lovely evening in a Paris cafĂ©--well, there would be worse ways to die.  It would be quick, as opposed to death by cancer.  I might not even realize what was happening.  My last meal would have been delightful.

But happily, I am not dead yet.  There is time to do all that I hope to do.  Let me light my candles, pray for peace, and then translate my prayers into actions.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Weaving a Title for the Memoir

Today I was feeling a bit of despair.  It feels like weeks since I've written anything new.  That's not true of course.  I wrote a poem in early November, and I've continued to blog regularly.  I've also been feeling bad because here it is, mid-November, and I haven't sent out any submissions.

That sentence, too, is not strictly true.  I've sent out some poems here and there.  But compared to past years . . . of course, in past years, I wouldn't have been in an office for 40-55 hours a week, plus teaching online.  Sigh.

So, this morning, I wrote a poem--hurrah.  And I started revising my letter to agents; I need to start working more seriously on getting my memoir published.

And then, my stumbling block.  I need to commit to a title.  But I don't really LOVE any of my titles.  Or I do, but I worry that no one else will.

And yes, I've stumbled on this issue before (see this blog post).  Why is this so hard?

I adjusted the query letter to the next round of possible agents.  For one, I had to create a project overview.  I wrote this:

These essays explore what it means to be an administrator in a for-profit art school, which puts me at odds in some ways with traditional academia, as does much of my writing. But I do the work for which I am paid while also staying true to my Christian values. Those values, which skew towards liberation and feminist theology, often put me at odds with various aspects of church life. Along the way, I’ve found kindred spirits and groups of fellow artists who provide support and encouragement.

 I’ve written these essays about my struggle to stay authentic, to avoid alienating huge swaths of the populations in my life, and to do all the different kinds of work that must be done while staying employed and married. I suspect that I’m not the only one who dances this way throughout the day. My goal is to provide the solace of knowing that we’re not alone.

Then it was back to thinking about the title.  I doodled.  I took out some recycling.  I shaved my legs. 

And then this title floated up:  Monk or Marxist:  Ministries of Interruption in a Corporate Climate. 

It weaves together the various strands, except perhaps for living a creative life.  How about this:

Monk or Marxist:  Creating Ministries of Interruption in a Corporate Climate


Monk or Marxist:  Creation Amidst Ministries of Interruption in a Corporate Climate


Monk or Marxist:  Creation and Other Ministries of Interruption in a Corporate Climate

Too long a subtitle? 

Let me sit with this awhile.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Hope in a Time of Terrorism

After events like those in Paris yesterday, we may wonder how any rays of hope can break through our dark clouds of despair.

How many more candlelight vigils do we need to hold?

How can we beat back the darkness?

Hopefully, we will find ways to prop up our flagging faith in humanity.  We may find support in the most unlikely places.  Let us accept that help.

We should remember that from broken items can come great beauty.  For more on the making of the cross in the image below, see this blog post.

Patches of ragged cloth can be made into a creation of comfort.

And while we wait, we can offer our prayers, our hopes, our wishes, and let them rise to the larger world.

The woman in the picture above is kneeling on a Turkish prayer rug, probably Muslim, in the chapel at Lutheridge, a Christian camp.  I like the ecumenism of the picture, but I did have some qualms.  For more on this image and this rug, see this blog post.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Splash! An Oceanic Fashion Show and Exhibit

Last night I went to the fashion show that my school helped mount.  It was held at an interesting arts space:  part gallery, part high end retail space, part warehouse, part museum.  Once, the space was a musty smelling natural history museum.  Hurricane Wilma brought that era to a close.  I was interested to see how the space had been transformed.

The musty smell was gone, but the concrete floors where countless generations of children had sleepovers with the relics still remained.  The space was still darker than I like, but it worked for the purposes of a gallery and a fashion show.

We spent the first hour wandering the galleries and looking at the displays.  All of them had an ocean kind of theme:

Even the laser light show had a wavy effect as part of its display:

I was most entranced by the largest private collection of Chihuly glass. 

I wish I had taken more pictures of that exhibit.

I had already seen some of the fashion exhibits at school.  I've spent weeks being impressed with what a fashion designer can do with muslin, burlap, and some shells.

Of course, the garments for the runway show were made of more high end materials.  But I liked the muslin and burlap better.

I have the kind of mind that is always making lists of pros and cons, should I stay or should I go?  Last night's event reminded me of one of the many reasons why I like my current workplace.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Armistice Day/Veterans Day/Diwali 2015

--I wish I could say that I did more for our armed forces than thanking them on social media, but yesterday, I did not.  No parades, no care packages, no letters of support, no donations to the USO.

--Of course, it's not too late.  While the fact that organizations like the USO are not likely to go out of business makes me sad, it's easy to donate.  Go here.  My parents, who have travelled with the military, can testify to the good work that they do.

--Yesterday we did more to celebrate Diwali, at least the aspect of Diwali that has people getting their houses clean and organized.  We took advantage of good weather on a day off to spray herbicide on the paver bricks that make up so much of our property, to trim shrubbery, and to spray insecticide where needed.  We sorted shelves of books and stacks of  paper.  We turned carrots, apples, lemons, and oranges into fresh juice--which left lots of material for our new compost tumbler, which my spouse put together yesterday.

--While he assembled the compost tumbler, I did a mock work-up of our taxes so that we could make plans for tax-deductible donations before the end of this tax year.

--And yes, it was Nov. 11, and we took a swim in the pool.

--We ended the day by taking a sunset ride around the neighborhood.  It likely wasn't the festival of lights that Hindus enjoyed, but it felt right.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Collision of Holidays: Diwali, Armistice Day, and Veterans Day

Today is an interesting juxtaposition of holidays.  Most of us realize that it's Veterans Day, and some of us know that this holiday has its roots in Armistice Day.  It's also Diwali, the Hindu holiday of light that celebrates the victory of good over evil (yes, I am oversimplifying). 

Diwali is a holiday that moves, so we won't always have this juxtaposition.  Armistice Day and Veterans Day are always November 11--the armistice that ended World War I was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

At the time, people thought they had ended the war to end all wars.  Sadly, as anyone who knows the history of the 20th century knows, that was not true.  The end of World War I planted the seeds that would blossom into World War II. World War I brought carnage on a level never before seen--but World War II would be even worse.

I like the idea of Diwali landing on this day.  I like a festival that encourages light and color and the hope that good can triumph.  Today as we celebrate our veterans, let us look for ways to also celebrate Diwali.

We can light our candles and lanterns in the hope that peace will prevail and that it will come to countries wracked by war and ruin.

If we haven't always done a good job of shepherding our talents, let's declare today to be Armistice Day.  Let's forgive ourselves for every opportunity we haven't followed.  Let's see if any of those doors are still open to us.  And if not, let's rest easy in the assurance that there will be new doors if only we stay alert for them.

Part of Diwali celebrations involve welcoming the goddess of prosperity.  While I wouldn't reject some financial prosperity, it's a good day to also think about our creative prosperity.  Too many of us work from a scarcity consciousness.  We assume that the awards, the publications, the promotions will always come for someone else.

Today, let us celebrate the successes that we have enjoyed.  Let us also dream of what we would like to see manifest in our lives.  If the goddess of creative prosperity came to our house, what would that look like?

For those of us who interact with younger generations, we might think about how to discuss these holidays with them.  It wouldn't surprise me if most people in most parts of the country do not know any Hindus; I'm a fairly ecumenical person, and I have only met one Hindu family in my life.  Can we celebrate Diwali while avoiding cultural appropriation?  We live in a nation where increasingly few citizens have military service experience--what does Veterans Day mean to them?  World War I seems like an increasingly distant time--what do we want younger generations to remember?

Here are 2 good questions for any day:  what do we want to record, so that generations to come will remember?  How shall we record it?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Celebrating Veteran's Day at Work

Today at my school, we are encouraged to wear red, white, and blue to celebrate Veteran's Day (our school is closed tomorrow, in honor of the holiday).  I wish we were doing something a bit more solid, like collecting money for the groups that do so much to help both service members and veterans.  I wish we could make care kits.  I'd like to write some letters.

There's a huge poster in the lobby where we can write our thank you notes.  I'm not sure what will happen to that poster.  I hope that the veterans who go to our school will feel good.

Perhaps, though, like me, they will feel a bit uneasy.  I'm the daughter of an Air Force colonel.  I know that there's so much more to patriotism than wearing red, white and blue.  I know so many who have paid so much.  Our freedom to say what we want, to go where we want, to worship (or not) as we please, to read whatever is available--those freedoms don't happen by accident.  And recent events show in a variety of ways that those freedoms are always under threat.

My fear is that we are all about to learn that lesson--again--firsthand, as fundamentalist groups move into a more open war against the developed world.  We can ignore a beheading here and there.  When planes explode over the Sanai desert, does it signal something new?

I think of the Yeats poem, "The Second Coming," and all those rough beasts now slouching towards Bethlehem. Perhaps I shall write a poem of my own this Veteran's Day.

I've considered not wearing red, white, and blue, in protest of the cheap patriotism that it inspires.  But in the end, I'll wear my red skirt and blue top.  I will not be that preachy scold who lectures people.

But in my heart, I'll silently offer up fervent prayers for peace.  Even though it's not Memorial Day, I'll remember all the veterans who are no longer with us, including my best friend whom I first met in high school.  I'll say my thanks that I can write such thoughts as I have written here and not be hauled off to jail or worse.  I'll wish that this kind of freedom sails out into the world.

Monday, November 9, 2015

To Quilt a Sunday

--Yesterday my quilting group met, and I made some headway on getting the quilts ready to assemble for our next church quilting for Lutheran World Relief.  We've been working on these quilts since June, when we made the tops as part of a Vacation Bible School project.

--I may go to the only Lutheran church in the U.S. that has no group of little old ladies who quilt.  At a retreat, we heard about a group that has made hundreds of quilts in the past year, which has been a typical year for them.  I remind myself that we're a quilting group made of people with families and jobs and other responsibilities which keep us from quilting.

--I think of a folk music friend I knew years ago.  He had COPD, so he tired easily and couldn't do much.  But he could knit and crochet.  He made dozens of prayer shawls every month--almost more than his small church could use.

--Even though I expect to be able to buy supplies with money from a microgrant that I applied for, I'm still looking at the fabric at my house in different ways.  Last year I bought a piece of fleece for a tablecloth.  I was hoping for a butterscotch color, but it's really more of a bright orange than I want.  I only use it a month or two a year, and it's just not the color that I want.  So, it's on its way to becoming part of a quilt.

--At the end of a productive day, I spent some time floating in the pool.  Yes, on Nov. 8, in my unheated pool--and we were fairly comfortable.  It wasn't August, bathwater warm, but it wasn't the usual cold we'd have by now.

--There are days when I think about my love of quilting in a time of global warming.  But Lutheran World Relief would point out that even if no one needed a quilt to keep them warm, they'd still use them for floor coverings and other ways.

--As with much of the work we do, we send the quilts off and hope for the best.  I hope that they stay stitched together.  I hope they are useful.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Books of the Dead

A week ago was the Feast of All Saints.  I created a photo essay for my theology blog that works as poetry too (I think), and I've posted it below.  It's not as fully realized a poem, in terms of the words, as my poem "Book of the Dead," which you can read here.  One of the short stories that I like best from my past few years of writing short stories also has the same name, and now I've created a photo essay/poem.

At Mepkin Abbey, every November, the monks put out the Book of the Dead, and visitors can leave the names of their dead.  I found it much more moving than I thought it would be to write the names on the page and to think of that book being preserved at the monastery.  I tend to believe in monasteries as protectors and preservers of culture, regardless of what comes at them, and so inscribing the names felt important.  I took a picture of the page, which you'll see below, with the names of my mother-in-law and grandparents.  I can just barely make them out at the bottom right of the photo of the page.

Here's the photo essay:

Books of the Dead

We write their names in the books we keep.

We carve their names on marble, which might last longer.

We trust the monks to keep the Book of the Dead, to remember our loved ones each November.

We keep their ashes close.

We light candles to beat back the darkness.

We scatter rose petals, both because we know the futility of our efforts

and because we commit to beauty.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Photo Quest: a Sunrise Walk on the Beach

My morning is somewhat different from other Saturdays.  Ordinarily I'd be on my way to spin class--but after 2 days of dealing with Boat Show traffic, I've decided not to head north on Highway 1 (my little gym where I go for spin class is in Broward General Hospital, which would put me in the thick of boat show traffic headed there).

My friend asked if I wanted to take a walk to go to watch the sun rise at the beach--it's an activity I do far less often than I'd like.  I said yes.  I decided to take a camera, since I'm on the lookout for shots that might make a good cover for my forthcoming chapbook, Life in the Holocene Extinction.

I don't think I like any of the pictures that I took today as well as the pictures that I took on Tuesday (see this blog post for some of Tuesday's photos).  This photo of the sunrise looks suitably apocalyptic:

Or perhaps this one:

This tree trunk has potential:

I like the mermaid, but the shot lacks something.  I thought that adding the beer can might say something about disposable culture, but it doesn't really.

But for the fun of comparing, here are some of the shots that my friend Pam Ward took in color, and my black and white photos:

The mermaid wall:

And mermaid hair!

It wasn't until I saw the color shot of the mermaid hair that I started thinking of a poem.  I thought of envying the mermaid hair, and I wondered why--my hair color is similar to hers.  But I love the shiny aspect, the uniformity of the mosaic.  I thought of this particular mermaid, who is so much closer to a creature made of shells and crustaceans than a creature made of both human and fish flesh.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Perfect Book for Your Advent and for Holiday Gifts

I always look for ways to inject some spiritual elements into Advent, that season before Christmas that can be hectic and draining.  This year I plan to delve into this book, Annunciation, a collection of poems and illustrations.

I am one of the sixteen poets included, but even if I wasn't, I would still want this book.  I'm interested in how the writing and art respond to the purpose of the book:

"The annunciation story is a complicated foundational story in western culture. Patriarchies have used Mary as a model for ideal female acceptance, faith, and submission to authority, while at the same time millions of people have identified with her courage, suffering, and patience, and accorded her their personal devotion and deep respect.

I suspect that if we look closely, most of us may have been touched by her story in some way
. I want to encourage you to look at the annunciation from a modern point of view, as contemporary poets of different cultural backgrounds. Your work can be religious or secular, traditional or decidedly not, written in  a feminist light, a current-events light, a personal light. I'm not looking for any particular type of thrust or interpretation, but rather a broad range of responses to this story and this person we know as Mary.  I want to encourage you to think deeply and fearlessly, and to write from your hearts."

My purple legal pad where I write poems shows me that I was playing with the Gabriel idea before I saw this post of Beth Adam's art that she posted in January.  I had the idea during Advent, the mingling of the thought of John the Baptist as that homeless guy under the overpass, the idea of God coming where we least expect to find the Divine, and the godlessness of South Florida. 

Then in January, Beth posted this picture:

When I saw her post on a day when I saw other images that spoke to me of Gabriel, I wrote a blog post about the poem I was trying to write.  That blog post led to an electronic conversation with Beth, which has led to my poem being included in the book.

The book is reasonably priced, especially for a book that includes art.  And if you order now, you can get a discount.  Even better, 10% of the proceeds from this book will be donated directly to refugee relief for women.

I'd be interested in this book, even if I wasn't part of a religious tradition that hears her story every December.  It's hard to escape the story, although perhaps it's easier in more secular parts of the country than the southeastern states of the U.S. where I grew up.  I'm interested to see what other poets do with that story.  And I know that I love the art of Beth Adams.

The book also includes some background and some notes on the process of creating the poetry.  I've always been fascinated by artists/writers/creators and the way that creations come to incarnation.

I also like that purchases of this book support old-fashioned book publishing, a small press that has done much to support poetry.  The book is 72 pages, which is a larger book than I was expecting, but not so large as to be a daunting reading for Advent.

In an early e-mail to participants, Beth Adams wrote:    "Religion is never simple, how it affects our own identities is never simple, and neither is the role of women within society, no matter how far we think we've come. I think this story has been a foundational one for western societies, and worth a closer look in our own time."

This book provides a perfect starting point.

If you still have holiday shopping to do, let me suggest this book.  It could be perfect for so many on your list:  the spiritual, the seeker, the artists/writers/creators, those who yearn for social justice.  The purchase of this book supports a local economy, in terms of supporting a specific small publisher, while also alleviating global suffering, with its support of female refugees.  You can get a discount if you buy more than 10 copies--and you don't have to battle the crowds at the malls or the onground stores where you shop.  What could be better than that?

To order, go to the publisher's website:  You will also see all sorts of information to whet your appetite.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Grading as Nineteenth Century Activity

I have reached the point in my academic cycle where I feel like I am never done with grading.  Last night, to get ready for my class this morning, I graded the old-fashioned way:  by writing comments on essays printed on actual papers.  I wrote with a pen.

Why would I do such a thing?  Most of my students had submitted their papers electronically.  I could have graded papers the way that I've been doing it for the past two years, by reading essays on a screen and typing comments--or by cutting and pasting comments from a master document.  I could have created a check off sheet.  I could have had students in for face-to-face conferences.

I printed all the papers because I thought I would spend a morning in a boring meeting that wouldn't have much to do with me and that I could get some work done.  I should have known better.

I felt guilty, though, about printing the essays.  And by evening, I was tired of staring at a computer screen.  And so I graded the way that I did when I first started teaching in 1988.

Last week, Bookgirl posted a Facebook link to this essay by Patricia Moreno, which explores grading.  I love this insight about grading student essays:  "Compared to the pace of other modern activities, it's like being back in the nineteenth century. Success is utterly unpredictable. It takes forever. It is, as we've seen, mentally draining."

I would add that I feel drained when I'm done, but when I was grading last night, I felt like I entered into a strange state of flow, of being present, of being almost meditative.  I realize, too, that my experience has to do with only having 14 papers to grade.  When I've had 5 classes of 25-30 students, the grading quickly becomes exhausting.

Moreno makes these interesting analogies:  "Like caring for children, cooking wholesome and delicious food, and helping the people around you feel like life is worth living, grading is slow, personal, often repetitive, having almost nothing to do with modern fetishes like ruthless efficiency, massive scale projects, and problems you can solve with a quick internet-based rethinking of the status quo."

I wonder if it would be different if I taught in an MFA program.  If I spent time helping students improve their poetry manuscripts, would it be energizing in a way that first year Comp is not?

I suspect it would be the same:  lots of drudgery, but with glimmers of growth that make it all worthwhile.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What to Do with Your Rotting Jack-O-Lantern--Make Art!

Yesterday was one of those great days full of creativity.  I started out by writing--and finishing (but not revising)--a poem.  I also wrote 2 blog posts.

Most Tuesdays, I meet a friend who is also a colleague for a quick lunch between her classes.  Often, she brings lunch for both of us.  Yesterday, I volunteered to bring the lunch.  I'm still loving the eggplant/red pepper/risotto recipe I first wrote about here.  Yesterday I loved the feeling of being in the kitchen making something tasty and nutritious.  I didn't even mind all the chopping and the dirty dishes.

And then I moved to the visual art part of my day.  I have to provide cover art for my chapbook, and I've had some ideas about taking old watches and broken eyeglasses to the beach and seeing what I could set up there.

Yesterday I looked at the jack-o-lantern, which is rotting faster than I thought it would.  My spouse mentioned my poem, "The Hollow Women," which is part of the forthcoming chapbook.  It has this stanza:

We are the hollow women
with faces carved like pumpkins,
shapes that ultimately frighten.

I decided to play with the jack-o-lantern and the broken objects I'd been collecting.

I took some close shots, which intrigue me too.

Can you tell you're looking inside a jack-o-lantern?

At one point, I turned off the flash.  The pictures have a different quality.

Because the pumpkin was in such a place of rot, I took it outside.  My spouse has set up a display of coral, since we no longer have aquariums.  I couldn't resist.

I love how the side of the coral looks like a skull-like face in profile.

The pictures are in black and white, because the chapbook will cost $2 less with black and white cover art.  I also like the shift in perspective that comes with the lack of color.

I'd have loved to have played with photography all day--but I had papers to grade and office work to do.  How nice, though, to have a creative morning to provide a mooring for the day!