Thursday, May 31, 2018

Support Through the Generations

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Visitation, the day when Mary goes to her cousin Elizabeth. Both are miraculously pregnant. As they approach each other, they recognize each other, as mothers, as miracles--even the babies in their wombs understand what's happening.  Mary will go on to give birth to Jesus, Elizabeth to John the Baptist.

Some feast days leave me shaking my head and wondering what modern folks are to do with them. Some feast days, like today's, make me wish I'd known about them earlier. I think about my younger self who was enraged that so much femaleness seemed to be erased from Christianity. What would my raging feminist self have done with this festival?

I'm not sure she'd have been appeased. I was also in the process of trying to assert that biology isn't destiny, while also acknowledging that I was one of the first generations to be able to assert that idea.

My middle-aged self is willing to admit that biology is often destiny, although not in the womb-centric way that the phrase is often bandied about. I'm seeing too many people at the mercy of bodies that they have increasingly less control over.

 Now that I am at midlife, I love this story of two women from two generations coming together to support each other. I love this story of new life being held in unlikely wombs. I am fondly remembering female members of my own extended family and offering thanks for their support. I remember the family stories they told and the ways they included me in family gatherings. I remember the rides to the airport, and memorably, one time that my cousin Barbara (my mom's first cousin) came to Augusta, 60 miles away, at night, to help me out of a jam caused by the breakdown of a car. I remember that she treated it as a grand adventure. No castigating, no lecturing.

I confess that I tend to identify with Mary in the story.  Lately, I've been taking stock of how few older women friends I have.  Even the female friends I have who are 10-15 years older than me seem to be in a similar life phase, wrestling with similar questions:  are we doing the work we've been put on earth to do?  How much money do we need?  Will we ever be able to retire?

This morning it occurs to me that perhaps I have fewer older friends because I'm in a transition time--now I am the older friend.  But I've always had a wide variety of friends.  Perhaps I should be contemplating how our economic lives have changed.  It's not that I don't have friends who are older, a generation ahead of me.  It's that we're all lingering in this land of midlife markers longer than our mothers would have.

This morning, I'm struck by how few female elders are left on this side of death.  If they were still here, I'd ask the same types of questions I've always asked.  Those questions boil down to this one:  "What advice would you give to your younger self?"  Of course, the age of the younger self that most interests me is whatever age I am now.

So on this day when we remember two women of two generations supporting each other, let's say a special prayer of thanks for all who have nurtured us when the larger society could not or would not.  Let's make a special effort to support those coming after us.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Shadow Valleys

I read Roseanne's Twitter tweets in The Washington Post, and I confess, my first thought, as with reading many tweets of famous people, was, this looks like mental illness to me.  This person has lost all grip on anything that ever seemed like reality and is now deep in some other land.

I often have that thought, as I said.  There are many reasons I don't tweet, mainly related to brevity.  But the last 10 years have given us cautionary tale after cautionary tale of people undone by their Twitter feeds.  I am overly cautious when it comes to bringing new media into my life.

I confess to surprise when ABC cancelled the new Roseanne show so quickly yesterday, but I didn't realize that an African American woman now heads the network.  I would have still been surprised.  The reboot of this show has been one of the more successful shows that ABC has launched recently.  It takes guts to kill that kind of cash cow.

I feel bad not just for the actors, but for all the people who rely on this show for their paychecks.  I also feel bad for the larger network.  I know that blockbuster shows are necessary to keep the smaller shows going.  Part of me says, "Well, you (ABC and all of us really) took on this woman with a troubling past.  Even before she started tweeting, decades ago, she was far from grounded and stable."

But then I felt sadness, because the show, while it troubled me, had such potential.  I've always liked the characters, even when they're problematic, and this reboot was no different.  I would love to see the show come back without Roseanne, but I realize it may not be possible.  Still, a show that explores the death of the matriarch could be interesting.  Or the mental breakdown.  There are many narrative arcs that such a show could take.

I feel like I should say more about the racist nature of her rants, and on the day that Starbucks was doing mandatory training to help people uncover their unconscious biases.  But others have done that better than I could hope to do.  I was one of those people who had hoped that with the election of Obama, the worst of our nation's racist past was behind us and that we were well on our way to a glorious post-racial future.  The past several years have made it impossible for me to believe that anymore.

But I do know that progress rarely comes in a straight line.  We make progress, we go backwards, we resist the pull of our worst natures, we zag forward again.  And with luck, we can avoid being sucked into a horrible void, like the 1930's/WWII--although I could make the argument that the sojourn in the valley of the shadow propelled us into a more egalitarian state than we might have achieved otherwise.

I hope the valley that we find ourselves in now doesn't have much more shadow to show us.  I am not liking these shadow selves that I am seeing.  I want to believe that we are better than this kind of behavior that so many engage in these days.  I want to believe that we can keep resisting and avoid falling off this cliff that looms before us.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Roads to Unfreedom

When I thought of all the ways I might spend my Memorial Day week-end, crawling in and out of bed was not one of them.  I had plans; I had projects.  But I caught a cold from somewhere, and so I took it easy.

I was able to get the grading for my online classes done.  We were able to go to church and get together with friends afterwards.  But for the most part, I just hunkered down and tried not to cough.

Now my body hurts with all the effort:  the coughing and the trying not to cough.  Ugh.

I was also able to get some reading done.  Timothy Snyder's new book, The Road to Unfreedom, is the type of book I renewed the maximum amount of time, and then had to turn it in, check it back out, and start over again.

Here's the take away from the book:  everything you've heard about Russia is true and then some.  It was both fascinating and terrifying to read about how Russia has tried, and for the most part succeeded, to make the world less stable and less democratic.  All the stories you've heard on the major news outlets about how Russia tried to influence the 2016 election?  It was actually much worse and much more widespread.

You may be one of the people who scoffed.  Like me, you may have said, "Surely most folks don't fall for these types of hijinks?!!"

Sadly, they do and they did and they likely will again.  My spouse who has advanced degrees in Philosophy can tell you all the ways his students are no longer schooled in critical thinking, the ways his students have changed since he first started teaching in 1992.  He's not wrong in that.

The book documents the ways that our U.S. president is in deep debt, all sorts of debt, to the country of Russia.  It's terrifying.  I may have disagreed deeply with some of the policies of past administrations, but I never worried that those leaders would sell the U.S. to another country or subvert the best interests of the U.S. to the interests of a different country who does not hold similar values.

I think of my younger years, when we were taught to fear Communists.  Once, those fears seemed baseless, the last bastion of the Cold War.  Now, it seems, we need to go to school again.  Once, many of us might have thought that our own government might work against us, but that we didn't need to fear outside countries.  Now it's clear that we need to defend our freedoms on multiple fronts.

Perhaps I should be grateful that I have a cold.  Otherwise, I might not have been able to sleep at all while reading this book.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day Musings

I've spent more years of my life having to work on Memorial Day than having time off.  Long ago, back in South Carolina, the community colleges had class as usual on that day, in part because it was summer time and there weren't many days we could have off.  But also in part, in South Carolina, Memorial Day was often not celebrated because it started out life as a holiday to honor the Union dead.

I realize that some of you will be saying, "Union dead? The Civil War? That war that happened over 100 years ago?"

Oh, yes. For some folks, that war isn't really over. They celebrate Confederate Memorial Day.

And in terms of state and federal holidays, my community college employers were a bit stingy. We didn't get Presidents' Day off either.

So, it was a joy to move down here and to have the day off. But soon, enough, it felt a bit empty.

I've spent all of my life before moving down here living in places that had a military base in the community--sometimes two or three. Memorial Day has a different flavor in places with a military presence.

Today, I'd like to be at a national monument, listening to one of the service bands perform. Or maybe I'd rather be in a contemplative spot, saying a thank you.  Or maybe something more festive.  I miss the small town parades; I know that my college town of Newberry, South Carolina will be celebrating in ways that remind me of the 1950's.  Now, I no longer know the stories of my neighbors.  I don't know whose great great grandfather/uncle served in which ways.

Now I live in a place that feels more like a future U.S., where English isn't the dominant language, where there are more recent arrivals than people with ancestors buried in the soil. Most days, I'm cool with this, and invigorated by it.  Today, I'm realizing what we're missing.
So, on this day which has become for so many of us just an excuse to have a barbecue, let us pause to reflect and remember.  If we're safe right now, let us say a prayer of gratitude.  Let us remember that we've still got lots of military people serving in dangerous places. 

Let us remember how often the world zooms into war.  Let us pray to be preserved from those horrors.

 Here's a prayer I wrote for Memorial Day:

God of comfort, on this Memorial Day, we remember those souls whom we have lost to war.  We pray for those who mourn.  We pray for military members who have died and been forgotten.  We pray for all those sites where human blood has soaked the soil.  God of Peace, on this Memorial Day, please renew in us the determination to be peacemakers.  On this Memorial Day,we offer a prayer of hope that military people across the world will find themselves with no warmaking jobs to do. We offer our pleading prayers that you would plant in our leaders the seeds that will sprout into saplings of peace.

Sunday, May 27, 2018


My Fitbit must be wondering about me.  Yesterday was a day when I crashed--not in a bad way, exactly, but I slept more than anything else.  I went from an average of 9,939 steps each day to just 1545 steps yesterday. 

Yesterday, I got up at my usual time, around 4 a.m.  I thought I felt O.K.ish--scratchy throat, more of a cough than I'd like, but I took some cold meds and drank some hot coffee and started to feel better.  I did some grading for my online class.  And then, at 6, I felt an overwhelming tiredness and went back to bed for several hours.

The rest of the day was like that:  up for a bit, sleeping for a bit.  I went to bed just before 8 p.m. last night and slept until 6.  I say I slept, but there were some periods of waking up with a hacking cough.  Ugh.

In a way, I'm not surprised.  It's not how I planned to spend part of my Memorial Day week-end, but I'd been running on fumes.

I'm still not back to my energetic self.  I'm more aware of my sinuses than I like being.  I'm sore from all the coughing.  I'm feeling dried out because of the cold meds.  My body is still telling me to take it easy.

I will obey.

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Machinery of a Good Bridge

I am still tired and fighting a cold.  Let me record some items, without the pressure to make one unified post.  Maybe it will be a poem in the end:

--The president cancels a summit, no need to talk, no need for a Nobel Peace Prize, no need to travel to Singapore.

--I dream of labyrinths I've never walked before.

--A tropical disturbance in the Gulf--and so it begins.  Again

--A cold claws at my throat.  I didn't have anything important to say anyway.

--A man who looks like Vladimir Putin with a crew cut takes pictures of the underside of the bridge.  Is he a terrorist or someone who appreciates the machinery of a good bridge?

--I thought I was buying a box of wing nuts for $5.  I bought a $5 wing nut.  It doesn't look significantly better than the cheaper wing nuts.

--We battle an infestation of mosquitoes.  We have moved the bug zappers inside.

--I've invited a robot into our home.  It vacuums until it gets stuck under the cedar chest.

--The hydrangeas are much needier flowers here in the tropics than they are in the gardens of the Carolinas.

--I want fairy cakes and champagne, but I'm a sensible girl.  I eat the sturdy beans that you were saving to plant in the hopes that you would get giant stalks.

--The student thinks I am a vet, but my English Ph.D. will not help her with her questions about x-rays and skeletons.

--There is a volcano of grief and rage bubbling under the surface of our society.  How great the wreckage of these men.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Bucket Lists of Joy

I've been having a low energy week, which is unusual for me.  I'm used to a low energy day here and there, but a whole week?  Of course, it's only Thursday, but I'm willing to call the whole week a low energy week, even if I perk back up again tomorrow.

This morning, I woke up with a scratchy throat, and I thought, hmm, maybe that's why I've been tired--maybe I've been fighting off something.  Or maybe it's that last week required lots of energy, and I'm just depleted.  Or maybe both.

Last night I went to dinner with the church friend that went to the Create in Me retreat with me.  She reached out with the suggestion, and I was so pleased that we could find a time to meet.

We checked in with each other:  how have our creative lives progressed after the retreat?  Several times, my friend has baked the bread that she learned to make at the retreat.  She has just completed a very successful writing month, writing every day, and being surprised and happy at how much inspiration she finds each day.

Until I thought about it this morning, I would have said that I had been struggling.  And I do always feel a sense of not having enough time--I don't expect that to change, unless I lose my job.  But I've been assembling a file of poems for a new collection; it doesn't sound like a project that would take a lot of time, but it has taken several afternoons.  I've typed some poems for that project.  I've written new poems for it.

I've also channeled some of my creative life energy into the Pentecost project that my church did:  we completed 3 different projects, which I wrote about in Tuesday's post on my theology blog.

So let me change the story I've been telling myself.  I've been having a pretty good creative time.  It's no wonder I'm feeling a bit drained this week.

Let me also record something my friend talked about last night that I want to try sooner rather than later.  She talked about creating a bucket list for the year.  But it's a different kind of bucket list.  It's comprised of things that she has always wanted to do, things that would bring her joy.  So, the Create in Me retreat was on the list.  Having a spa day with her sister was on the list.

I asked her how many things were on the list.  She said, "Oh, about 10."

I'm a woman of lists and goals, as readers of this blog know.  But lately, my lists have been sheer drudgery:  scrub the walls of the cottage and see if the mold returns.  Call a variety of contractors who will probably never get back to me. 

My heart leapt up at the idea of a list of activities that will bring me joy.  I also felt a bit of sorrow, since my first thought was one of having nothing to add to the list.  But I know how to defeat that inner voice of doom.  I'll make a huge list of lots of possibilities, I'll write fast, I'll write whatever bubbles up.  And then, I'll choose 10.

My birthday is July 14.  I'll have that list by my birthday.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

When Literary Giants Die

Philip Roth has died; last week Tom Wolfe died.  These men were literary giants, so I feel like I should say something on their passing.

Were they important to me?  Perhaps--most so in the doors that they opened.  Philip Roth created a new kind of protagonist, we could argue.  Tom Wolfe created a new kind of nonfiction.  I'm grateful to have these options for my own writing.

I read their work and enjoyed some of it.  But it didn't mean as much to me as many other works, by many other writers, who are their same age.  When Margaret Atwood dies, I will mourn the books that she won't be writing.  I don't feel the same way about Roth and Wolfe.

Roth and Wolfe had long, long lives.  But it occurs to me, as it does with every famous death, that I have less time ahead of me than I have behind me.  I am 52, and much as I say I will live to be 120 years old, I am not likely to live that long.  I am more haunted by the death of famous writers like Iris Murdoch--that amazing mind, laid low by dementia.  How long will our brains hold out?

I think of all the time wasted in a day:  Internet ramblings, grocery shopping, watching TV, eating and drinking in unhealthy ways.  Could I redirect some of that time towards literary endeavors?  And if not literary endeavors, perhaps a walk or something healthy?

One of the things I love about my Fitbit is that it reminds me to move each hour, if I haven't gotten in my 250 steps.  It's been a revelation to me how stiff I am when I move away from the computer, even on the days when I move more often.  It's good to have the Fitbit remind me to look away from the screen.

Let me think about other ways to use that reminder.  I've been taking the stairs, for example--it's a good way to get extra movement in and to get to the upper floor where I can finish my 250 steps for the hour.  Maybe after I return to desk from my hourly 250 steps, I can take one small step towards my literary life:  jot down a poem idea, address an envelope, type a poem into the computer, read a poem.  Maybe once a day, I should do something major, but not necessarily time consuming:  write a poem, send work to journals/publishers, write a scene for a piece of fiction.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

On the Move

Last night, we met our group of friends at The Field, an Irish restaurant that looks like an Irish cottage that was plunked down by a banyan tree.  Once most of the group worked together, but most of us have gone on to other things.  Now, two of them are moving.  It will take some time, because they're having houses built.  But they are going.

It is sobering to me how many people are moving.  In part, it's because of Hurricane Irma.  But it's also because of overdevelopment, more than anything else.  People don't want to live in places where condo towers are being thrown up without much thought for traffic or parking or preserving the character of what has come before.

Last night's friends told us of a traffic flyover that was being planned not for an Interstate, but on a regular city road.  So one condo building will be at eye level of that flyover--at least the ones on the 4th floor will be.  The ones underneath will have no view, while the higher levels will look down on the traffic.

Our flooded streets on Sunday point to other issues too, issues that aren't as far away as we once thought.  Our friends are moving to one of the highest elevations in Florida, just over 100 feet above sea level.  That will be enough to protect them against the sea level rise that's likely to happen in our lifetimes.

On Sunday morning, as we watched the waters rising, we opened Saturday's mail, including our insurance bills for the coming year.  As of right now, our insurance costs haven't risen significantly from last year--but we are paying almost $13,000 a year to insure the property from all the dangers it faces.  Those costs will surely rise.  And the first time one of us is refused insurance, all of our property values plummet.

Last night's friends who are moving are retired, and thus, they have some options.  We are not at the same stage of life.  Our jobs are here.  And we have hurricane repair left to do.

I don't want to leave too soon--but I'll feel real despair if we wait too long.  In the meantime, let me get back on track with these hurricane repairs.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Flooded Sunday

Yesterday, I was supposed to be the leader at church while our pastor travelled to the Festival of Homiletics.  At 6:30, I waded through calf-deep water to move the car to higher ground from the street.  I thought, hmm, I wonder if I'll be able to get to church to lead the 8:30 service. 

I ended up not being able to get to both the 8:30 and the 9:45 service, but I did make it, just barely, to the 11:00 service.  We had 8 inches of water fall yesterday, and even on a street that has pumps, we faced streets that looked like this:

Here's a picture with cars parked on the street--notice that the water is almost to the underside of the truck:

Happily the water didn't come up to the house, and it did recede completely by 3.  I was able to make it to the 11 am. service.

We had a quiet afternoon.  My spouse wanted to try cooking salmon in the fireplace, so we did that.  It was cozy, sitting by the fire on a gloomy afternoon.  We started watching an adaptation of Wuthering Heights on PBS while snoozing and eventually moved our napping to the bed.

My spouse slept through the night, but I woke up at 8:15 and decided to watch Little Women--what a treat--much better than the very strange Wuthering Heights, where I couldn't tell where we were in the story, which Catherine was which.  I liked this current Little Women production's view of the German professor.  I still haven't seen a version that explains to my satisfaction why Jo chooses the German professor over Laurie.

Little Women always makes me want to stay up and write, but I didn't.  I do feel marvelously well rested now, with my unusually long nap yesterday afternoon.  Today at work we'll set out the leftovers from Saturday's Open House, so it's good to be rested.  That work can feel a bit stressful, although as I was doing it on Saturday, one of the Admissions reps said, "You're really in your element, aren't you?"  Yes, feeding people--I love doing that in all sorts of ways.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Royal Weddings: Love and Hope

I didn't watch the royal wedding in real time.  I knew that yesterday might be a high calorie day, so I wanted to get a walk in before heading over to school for Open House.

Periodically, throughout the day, I went to my office computer to send photos of Open House to our social media person and to keep an eye on Facebook so that I could like the posts that mention Open House.  I noticed how many of my friends were loving the royal wedding, and not just grad school friends, the people I'd have expected to like it.

So, after Open House, as we surfed channels in the afternoon, I urged my spouse to stop on the wedding coverage.  Since there wasn't much else, he agreed.  We tuned in for what I think might have been the opening hymn.

I knew that the sermon would be good, but I didn't anticipate how good it would be, even with the heads up from my Facebook friends.  Even my spouse got teary-eyed.

And the music--oh my goodness, the music.  I knew we'd love the gospel choir, and I suspected we would love the cello--and we did.  I was surprised by the delights to be had from the High-Church Anglican traditions--oh those choirs!

And of course I loved the longer view of the cathedral--what stunning architecture that is so lacking in most U.S. church buildings.

I didn't expect to love the royal couple and the extended family.  I'm not one of those Brit Lit majors who has breathlessly followed every move of the monarchy, either the current one or those in the past.  But I loved the fact that Prince Harry wiped his eyes throughout the service; I love a man who understands the solemnity of the vows he's taking.  And the bride was stunning.

I'm also not a high fashion person, but I love a good hat or fascinator as much as the next person.    I didn't expect to be as approving of the bride's dress--but what a lovely dress!  I liked that it was modest.  I'm tired of form-fitting dresses of all sorts, and my disapproval of the new fashion of plunging--to the navel!--wedding dresses makes me realize that I'm too old for these times.  I loved the tiara and veil.

In the morning as I watched the various posts about the wedding that I wasn't watching, I wrote this Facebook post:  "It is wonderful to see my Facebook feed full of wedding pictures of the hopeful couple and great quotes from the presiding minister at that royal wedding--a nice change from anger and vitriol and heartbreak."

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Royal Wedding vs. Sunrise Sightings

Yes, I'm up early enough to watch the royal wedding, but I'll likely go for a walk instead:  sunrise vs. solitary wedding watching.  Sunrise wins.

I'm thinking of other friends, particularly grad school friends, who are going to watch this wedding at some point.  If we lived in the same town and had a wedding watching party, I'd spend the royal wedding with them.  Of course I would:  we would create a fabulous tea, and we'd likely work on our stitching projects and we'd laugh--tea and wedding and good friend time would be better than the sunrise.

I do have a question:  why is Harry six in line for the throne?  Who comes in between him and his older brother?  Is his older brother next in line after Charles?  I'm realizing that all of my assumptions may be wrong.

And why can't I remember the name of the older brother?  I could Google it, sure, but I'm finding it fascinating that I can't pull it up out of my brain right now.

I remember when Charles and Diana got married.  We were at Myrtle Beach, where my family always rented a ramshackle house which didn't have a TV.  We were only mildly interested in that wedding, so we didn't make any efforts to see it.  I do remember thinking that Diana was just a few older than I was at the time.  I wondered what it would be like to go from relative obscurity to that kind of public life.  I had no desire to follow in those footsteps.

I'm thinking of weddings of all sorts, and the various prices they impose.  I've seen Facebook postings that mention that the average wedding in the U.S. now costs $35,000.  Some have pointed out that an undergraduate degree could be bought for that money.  I would think of a down payment on a house.

If the average is $35,000, that means some people are spending much more.  A friend of mine at the gym was recently a bridesmaid, and I was astonished at the cost involved.

But let me not get lost in the weeds of thinking about the financial choices that people make.  If I don't lace up my shoes, I'll miss the sunrise.  Let me get a walk in, because the day ahead will be long.  We've got Open House at my school, which will likely mean lots of activity--unless it doesn't, because of the tropical rains forecast for today.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Apocalypse and Other Upheavals

Seeing pictures of people playing golf in the foreground, with the plumes of smoke from the erupting Hawaiian volcano in the background, makes me want to scream, "Get out of there!"  Sure, they should be safe.  But there were people in 1980 who went camping near the spewing Mt. St. Helens volcano thinking that they'd be safe.  But they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, as the mountain exploded sideways, which no one anticipated.

I'm also thinking about the first case of urban ebola.  That's a bad, bad sign.  But at least the actions being taken have been swift.

Still, it's the kind of news nugget that makes me wonder if at some point, we'll look back and say, "We were so upset about the latest Trump debacle that we didn't see ____________."  Readers of this blog know that I've spent time preparing/thinking about the wrong apocalypse.  I scanned the horizon for mushroom clouds, not seeing the oceans steadily warming and rising.

Of course, history often works in circles, not straight lines.  Perhaps all that time scanning the horizon for mushroom clouds are still ahead:  I feel fretful about Iran and Israel and North Korea.

In the meantime, I do the work that must be done:  teacher observations, annual reviews, buying food for both school and home, paying bills, making dinner, washing dishes, washing clothes--these tasks too run in circles, making me feel that I'm never done.

My creative work, too, feels circular, not linear.  I return to the same themes, the same ideas, but execute them in different ways.  I've been writing my Jesus in the world poems for over 20 years now.  At first it seemed scary and subversive to imagine Jesus moving in the modern world.  Now I worry that I've worked the theme to death and have nothing new to say--and then a new idea begins to poke at the edges of my brain.

Being around high school students this week took me back to one of my Jesus in the world poems, my series that attempts to answer that old Sunday School question of how the world would react if Jesus returned again and what would Jesus do and how would we recognize him?

I wrote this poem after reading a biography of Kurt Cobain, of Nirvana fame.  Hard to believe how long it's been since Cobain died, so long since that music which seemed to split the world open.  I remember a few details from that book, chief amongst them that Cobain often played a guitar that was out of tune, a guitar that didn't have enough strings.  Did he not know how to tune the guitar?  Did the missing string habit come from his poverty days and he'd gotten used to playing the guitar that way?  The book didn't have the answer.

Chiron Review published it years ago.  I think it still holds up.

New Kid

If Jesus came to your high school,
he'd be that boy with the untuned guitar,
which most days was missing a string.
Could he not afford a packet of guitar strings?
Did he not know how to tune the thing?
Hadn't he heard of an electronic tuner?
Jesus would smile that half smile and keep playing,
but offer no answers.

If Jesus came to your high school,
he'd hang out with the strange and demented.
He'd sneak smokes with the drug addled.
He'd join Chorus, where the otherworldly
quality of his voice wouldn’t quite blend.
He'd play flute in Band.
He'd spend his lunch hour in the library, reading and reshelving.

You would hear his songs echoing
in your head, down the hallways, across the years.
They'd shimmer at you and just when you thought you grasped
their meaning, your analytical processes would collapse.
Instead, you write strange poems
to delight your children who draw mystical
pictures to illustrate your poems inspired
by Jesus, who sang the songs of angels,
that year he came to your high school.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Inspirations from a High School Awards Ceremony

Yesterday was book-ended by awards ceremonies.  We recognized scholarship winners at the Davie-Cooper City Chamber of Commerce at their breakfast meeting, and then, in the evening, we went to Cooper City High School to recognize the winners in that high school's awards night.

I finished our part of the awards ceremony last night by saying, "These students give us hope for the future, and we look forward to seeing what they do with their potential."  As I drove home, listening to the 80's music of my own high school days, I thought about how true it is.

We saw applications from students who have all sorts of plans, many of which involve helping others:  working with special needs children, designing better prosthetics, that sort of thing.  I was also impressed by how many of them have already been working for the good of their communities.

I realize that most of them will not transform the nation.  If we're lucky, they'll continue to work to transform their individual communities.  If we're lucky, we'll get to be part of communities that are being transformed.  If we're extra-lucky, the nation and the world will be full of these communities, full of people, working hard to make their communities better in a variety of ways.

In this time of graduations and bright hope that students evoke in us, let us remember that it's not up to youth alone to do this transformative work.  It's a time when many of us may be feeling despair about political events on the national and international stage, but it's urgent that we not let that despair paralyze us.

In every action, we move our various communities more towards good or more towards evil.  That's true even of actions we might think of as mundane, like how we treat our colleagues, how much we donate to charity, what we choose to eat.  I think of my Fitbit that shows me how my little actions are moving me closer to my health goals or further away.  Let's also think of our daily lives in the same way:  are we moving ourselves and our communities closer to good or closer to evil?

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Administrator Work Week: Film Shoots, Cermonies, and Open Houses

This is a huge week at work, a week that doesn't end until after Open House on Saturday.  On Monday, we had a film shoot at our school.  It sounds glamorous, doesn't it?  But no, we weren't a site for a new movie with traditional movie stars.  A company that makes a software program that we use wanted to use our school for the promotional film they needed to create.

I spent weeks before their arrival figuring out how to move classes so that they'd have space available and looking for volunteers to be in the film.  They needed to film about 30 scenes, so there were many ways that it could have gone wrong. Happily, it was a successful day, and the impact on classes was minimal.

Our Open House is also requiring a lot of advance planning.  We're serving food, and we decided on a Mexican fiesta theme.  Yesterday I went on a scouting mission for food--to make sure that our plans for all-you-can-eat tacos will work.

I am here to report that there's a whole world of prepared food that I only sort of knew existed.  Not only can we get cooked and frozen taco meat, but also canned.  I'm now envisioning a marketing plan that can help Admissions numbers and retention both: free taco Tuesday every week! Or maybe Free Flan Friday!

And I'm only partly joking.

Today is another huge day.  My school is part of the Davie-Cooper City Chamber of Commerce, and the Education Committee gives out scholarships today.  Since I was part of that committee, I'll go to the breakfast awards ceremony at the Chamber and the evening awards ceremony at the high school.

These are all events that I'm happy to be part of, but I do confess to wishing that they weren't all happening in the same week.  But my larger emotion is gratitude:  it's weeks like these that remind me again and again that I'm surrounded by a great group of colleagues and students.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


I feel like we're in a threshold time.  Will we look back on these days as the beginning of the Israel-Iran war?  Will we look at May 2018 as the beginning of a de-nuclearized Korean peninsula?  Will this be the beginning of a new intifada?

I think of all of the poetry of liminal spaces, especially of Yeats' "The Second Coming."  Are we seeing the rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem?

This morning I wrote these lines:

In the afternoon, over cups
of cooling tea, we think of our ancestors,
the ones who could have told
our fortunes with those tea leaves
or a glimpse at our palms.
Embassies move, and the world burns.

And then I wrote up my idea that I thought might be poem or might be short story, the idea of the FEMA interview and what's kept us from full recovery from our Hurricane Irma damages.  It works well as a poem, with each possible multiple choice answer growing more complex.

This post is unfinished, but I'll publish it anyway.  I lost Internet connection as I was writing.  But I like the fragment that is here.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Mother's Day: Memorial Stones in the Butterfly Garden

Most churches have a variety of ministries.  Some require lots of human effort:  a soup kitchen or a food pantry, for example.  In my younger years, I'd have said that those ministries that helped people in distress were most important.  But in my later years, I've come to appreciate those ministries that are every bit as necessary, even if they're not the ones that non-believers think of, when they think of the usefulness of church.

Over the past decade, our church's front grassy area has slowly but surely been transformed into a butterfly garden.  Along the way, it's also become an area for memorial stones.

When my mother-in-law died in 2005, we were members of a different church.  We knew that she wanted to be cremated, but she hadn't specified what to do with her ashes.  She had talked about having a space in a garden in a Memphis funeral home where people could come visit, but that was prohibitively expensive.

Through the years, my spouse has felt that it was increasingly important for her to have a stone in our church's butterfly garden.  And yesterday, on Mother's Day, the stone was blessed and laid in the garden.  It's near the door that my spouse uses when he arrives for church or choir practice.

I know that many people share the sentiment of my spouse:  everyone deserves a stone to say that they were here and important.  I'm glad that our church can offer a beautiful space for those stones.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Are We All Mothers?

Here we are at Mother's Day, that huge festival where we celebrate Mom--with flowers, brunch, and a gift.  But what about the rest of the year?

I am not the first person to note that we can tell a lot about a society, or an organization or a person, by looking at where it spends its money.  In the U.S., we are not a culture that celebrates mothers much at all.  We certainly don't do much where it counts.  If you don't believe me, ask a mother about leave policies at her work place.  Ask about childcare if its needed at odd hours.  Ask about schools and how they're funded.

I'm thinking about nurturing of all kinds, the kinds we get from our families, the kinds we get from our friends, the kinds of nurturing we might get at work and school.

I'm fairly sure we do a good job nurturing each other through life's big crises.  Most of us still know how to help people who have lost a loved one.  We celebrate weddings and births.

But what about what happens in between?

We're never really done trying to balance all these demands of nurture, both the nurture of ourselves, our children, and all the people who cross our paths.  We're not done as a church either, but it's easier to keep ourselves aloof.

On Mother's Day, I'm thinking about some of the mothers I've known best, my own mother and my sister. I'm also thinking of my friends who are mothers--and my friends who have yearned to be mothers, those who were able to have a child by some means, and those who never could.

I'm also thinking of us all, of mothers in a much larger sense.  I'm thinking that so many jobs these days include a fair amount of nurturing.  There's the traditional nurturing jobs:  teaching, nursing, care providing of all sorts.  But there are other jobs where we must nurture:  environmentalists need to nurture the planet, administrators need to nurture staff, on and on I could go.

But let me not dismiss the difficult work of parenting.  The work I do as an administrator, teacher, and a writer are miniscule acts of nurturing compared to a human who is responsible for a human life embodied in a child.  As I said earlier, those nurturers get very little support in our current community.  Under our current administration, I worry it's about to get much harder for the parents among us.

So, on this day that encourages us to spend gobs of money on mothers, let us also remember to spend some time visioning the world we want to inhabit.  Perhaps we could also send some money to groups that help foster that vision.  Perhaps we could write letters. 

Let us strengthen our resolve to support in every way those who parent--and let us carry that resolve through the next 364 days too.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Aging Jesus and Other Inspirations

I've spent several weeks writing poems in my Jesus in today's world series:  menopausal Jesus, Jesus gets a Fitbit, and Jesus getting a dog.  I've been doing a lot of thinking about what it means to worship a God who takes on human form to get to know us better, to show how much we are loved, to show us how to make the most of this human life.

This morning, as I wrote this post on my theology blog, I explored, albeit incompletely, what it might mean to worship a God who ages.  From that pondering, I expect to develop a new poem:  the arthritis in the feet of Jesus--or maybe Jesus who needs to go to the assisted living home.

The week has been full of poetry inspirations.  Last week we walked a labyrinth in our neighborhood, and my South Carolina friend said, "How romantic!"  I thought about that reaction as the basis of a poem, all the layers of perception and reality in that gesture.  We're not on a first date walking the labyrinth, and it's not exactly a spiritual experience either.  I wondered if any of the motorists going by even saw us, and I know the pedestrian and the cyclist saw us--but what did people think?  Do they even know there's a labyrinth and why we might walk it?

I'm not sure I can do much with this other nugget that I learned.  Earlier this week, I heard that the price of vanilla is 4 times the price of silver. 

This morning, we are off to the Yellow Green Market.  I remember when it used to be fairly deserted in the first years of opening, with stalls unrented.  Then a few years later, 15 months ago, it was astounding crowded and had expanded a bit, with eateries.  I'll be interested to see what it's like now.  It's a mix of garage sale, farmer's market, specialty stores, eateries, all in a warehouse type space.

Maybe I'll write a Jesus at the Yellow Green Market poem . . .

Friday, May 11, 2018

Your Next Move

I spent yesterday morning at the Broward Convention Center for the "Your Next Move" event.  High school seniors across the county were bussed in to talk to those of us assembled there--and what a varied assembly we were.

I saw a wide variety of colleges, of course.  But there were also industries that were hiring.  We weren't far from the Broward Sheriff's Department table, which got lots of interest.  Across from us was a construction company and behind us a waste management company.  In short, it was a mix of schools and groups that need to hire young people who were there.

The young people were a varied group too.  I have no idea how they were chosen--it wasn't the whole school coming.  I thought it was high school seniors who had no post-high school plans, but several of them had already been accepted to schools.  An observer who came from a different place might have said we had mostly minority students, but down here, traditional understandings of what constitutes a minority population don't apply.

Many of the females were dressed in professional clothes:  dresses or a skirt and top and moderate heels with a jacket.  Very few were dressed in what I think of as Miami high fashion:  very high heels and skimpy clothes.  About half the males were dressed in interview clothes, while the rest wore jeans and t-shirts.

Because so many of them were polite and respectful, it was striking when we encountered the few who weren't.  Actually, only one was memorable, and he simply stared off when we talked to him.  He seemed capable of talking to his friend, so it was just odd behavior.

Yes, I know it could have been worse.

Most of the students were able to carry on a conversation, even if they weren't sure what they wanted their next move to be.  But they're young, after all.  Why should they know?  The range of options would bewilder many of us.

They came in two groups, and in between, I went out to get in some of my daily quota of steps.  It was strange to be back in the Convention Center.  At my last job, I went there several times a year for graduation.  But I rarely made it to the more beautiful part of the building, the upper ballroom where the multi-story window gives a view of a beautiful fountain and the bridge to the beach and the bright, blue sky.  It made me understand why Ft. Lauderdale is a convention destination, which used to mystify me when I went to my former job and saw packs of conventioneers on the streets heading to restaurants.

I headed back to campus feeling satisfied about a morning well spent--we met lots of students, invited them to our Open House, and stitched our campus into the wider community.  Let me remember that good feeling when I spend today working on the projects that are due today.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Haunted by Hostages Returning Home on the Feast Day of the Ascension

On the Feast Day of the Ascension, North Korea lets 3 prisoners leave.  They arrived at Joint Base Andrews in the earliest hours of this feast day.

I doubt that anyone even realizes that there's a feast day going on today.  After all, many Christians won't even be celebrating.

I'm struck by how little time the news devotes to their release.  Of course, it's early yet.

Still, I remember in the early 90's when some long-held Iranian hostages, most notable Terry Anderson, were released, and I spent hours watching the news, catching glimpses of them, wondering what it must be liked to be held hostage and then suddenly free.

Much of my life has been spent against the backdrop of hostages.  I think of Christmas pictures from childhood where we were all wearing silver POW bracelets.  We were supposed to wear them until our POWs were released.  I don't remember when I stopped wearing mine.

Recently I asked my mom and dad if my childhood memories of going to see POWs returning home really happened.  Indeed they did.  We went several times to Maxwell Air Force Base to cheer their return.

I devoured their stories as I found them.  Later, like the rest of the nation, I followed the Patty Hearst kidnapping.  Where could she be?  Why couldn't the authorities find her and rescue her?

And then, there was the takeover of the embassy in Iran.  I remember the regular programming interrupted for the news of the embassy under assault.  I remember my dad shaking his head and predicting, "This will be bad."

Those hostages haunt me--did they have any sense of what was going to happen?  Did they know they were in danger but stayed in their diplomatic post regardless?  I think of what I keep in my desk; I do keep stocks of items that might be important in an emergency:  dental floss, tampons, a bit of cash, water, oatmeal, pens.  But if I was held for any amount of time at all, I'm sure I'd rue the other items that never made it to my office.

I know that many released hostages have troubles after being released.  I remember at national youth assemblies of my high school years where one or more of the Iranian hostages would come to talk to us--but they often glossed over the troubles with adjusting.

Let me return to my original thoughts of this morning:  hostages released on the feast of the Ascension, the feast day that commemorates Jesus being taken up into Heaven, 40 days after Easter, when Jesus has risen from the dead.

I'm thinking of Jesus as a physical being, defeating death not once but twice.  I'm thinking of those hostages, suddenly free to go.  I'm looking at the moon which has been steadily rising as I look out of my eastward facing window.  I'm thinking of satellites like the moon and satellites like the ones that make our smart phones possible.

I'm feeling a poem taking root.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018


Today I am tired--I stayed at work late last night, and I'm about to head out to spin class and then another full day of work.  But it could be worse--much worse.

This morning, as the coffee brewed, I heard oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee interviewed on the BBC.  He pointed out that he has one patient per week die, and that work changes a person.  These are patients he's come to known in a deep way--and they die.  At least my job doesn't have that feature.

At this point, we're doing good work, and no one dismantles it.  I had that thought yesterday as I listened to Donald Trump while I went out to get the last supplies for last night's lecture series at school.  I wondered how President Obama was feeling as one of his signature achievements was abandoned.  I listened to Donald Trump, and then I listened to analysts deconstruct the speech, and it all made me very sad.

Much about U.S. politics makes me sad these days.  There will be much clean up to do when we emerge from this chapter of history.  Just the thought of it makes me tired--and sad.

We got a letter from our mortgage company inquiring about the state of our post-Irma repairs.  That, too, makes me feel sad and tired.  But I look at the pictures of lava from the erupting volcano in Hawaii, and I regain perspective.  How does one clean that up?

Maybe today I will go over to the school library to visit the display I helped create on Monday.  May is National Meditation Month, and I could use some reminders of how to quiet my mind:

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Hairy Years

I am listening to an episode of NPR's On Point on the 50th anniversary of the musical Hair.  I enjoyed it so much that I'm listening to it again.  As the show ended, they played the closing song, and when the line about a "dying nation" starts to morph into "Let the Sun Shine," I found myself with tears in my eyes.

It's good to remember that we've had many points at which we might think the nation is dying:  1968 and then again in the early 80's when I listened to this soundtrack and memorized it.  And now, too--each day's news makes me shake my head at the astonishing juxtapositions.  Yesterday when I heard about Oliver North becoming in charge of the NRA, my first thought was, he's still alive?  He's not in jail?

And here we are at a strange point, with Iran still in the news (will Donald Trump announce the U.S. is no longer part of the nuclear deal?  stay tuned!) and Central America seems almost as messy as when Oliver North sold arms--wait, my memory is going--why did he sell arms?  And to which groups to fund which groups?  And why do these guys never seem to go to jail?

It's both comforting and maddening to realize that those in power will so often behave so badly.  But back to Hair, which has been a wondrous juxtaposition to the times--both the times in which it was created and in these times. 

As I listen to the music again, I reflect on how much of it made its way to radio stations where I heard it as a kid--and how much of it never would because it was so shocking.  Still today, it's a bit unnerving to hear songs which are essentially lists of drugs or sexual acts.  I never saw the work as a play, and I didn't see the movie until I was in college--and by then I had memorized the soundtrack, and I must admit, I almost preferred the work as I saw it in my head as I listened to the record again and again.

I confess that I've often done this--listen to a record and create a story to go along with it--it's not just with soundtracks to plays and movies.  Hmm.  I wonder if anyone else listens to music the way they read books--or the way I read books:  my brain makes movies to go along with them.

In the early 80's, I was a high school kid in Knoxville, Tennessee, a child with fairly conservative parents in a conservative part of the U.S.  How did I come to have this album?

I ordered many albums because I was part of the BMG record club--I often needed to find something to take advantage of discounts or getting something free.  I was also a drama club kid, so I knew that Hair had been important in theatre history, even if I didn't know exactly why.  I was also a voracious reader, so I had an appreciation of the 60's.

So, here I am, decades later, still able to sing all the lyrics, still with an appreciation of the politics of it all, still frustrated with the various hypocrisies, still hoping for transcendence.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Report on a Great Week-End

We had a great week-end, which in was an unexpected gift for the week-end before grades are due.  We started off on Friday night by driving up to Boynton Beach to meet an old friend from undergraduate school.  It was great to reconnect.

At some point during the day on Friday, I realized that our phone service wasn't working.  Oddly, we still had Internet connection; usually we lose both.  Ordinarily, we'd turn the modem on and off to see if we could restore phone service.  Since we need an Internet connection both to grade and to turn in grades, we decided not to take that approach, for fear of losing the Internet too.

Knowing that we could have problems at any time gave me motivation to get my grades done earlier rather than later--at least the grading of the last batch of essays.  Turning in the grades doesn't take as long--at least when things are going well.

We did other things this week-end:  I went to have a haircut, and we spent some time by the pool on Saturday.  We replaced the empty propane tanks with full ones.  On Saturday afternoon, we had a person pressure wash the pavers in the back yard.  I had no idea how dirty they had gotten.

Of course, much of that gunk washed into the pool, so it's good we planned to grade all afternoon on Sunday, since it wouldn't be a pool day.  After I got my grades turned in, we walked to the beach, and when we saw the empty table at Margaritaville, we decided to have a drink.  It was a great reminder of why it can be wonderful to live here.

I got some creative time too.  On Saturday, I started a new file and put poems for a possible new collection into it.  I find it enjoyable to look at old poems--I'm often amazed at what I've accomplished.  I need to look through my poetry legal pads and make sure there aren't any Jesus-in-the-world poems that need to be typed in.

On Sunday morning, I ordered a small purse from a friend's Etsy site.  She publicized the site on Facebook, and I suggested the wristlet be made with an outside zipper pocket and a longer strap to hang over one's shoulder while grocery shopping.  I loved picking out fabric.  That felt creative too.

And then I went to church to lead a mosaic project; go to this post on my theology blog to see more.  I even got to do a glass block, and I loved it.  I've done mosaic before and loved it--the difference this time is that we don't need to worry about grout, which is the part of mosaics I like least.

It's been a wonderful week-end--let me hope to carry some of its spirit into the week.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Streamers for Pentecost--or any Occasion

For our interactive workship service, we had decided that we needed more hands-on projects after our Lent that we spent with the poems of Mary Oliver.  Less writing, more of other crafts.  I volunteered to lead us.  My plan had been to have a different project every week leading to Pentecost (for the story of Pentecost, see Acts chapter 2 in the Bible), but the banners have taken longer than I anticipated (for more on the banners, see this blog post).

Last week we moved on to a different project.  I have long loved the idea of streamers for Pentecost.  I first saw them at a Synod assembly, and after that, we did a smaller version at our church (for more information, see this blog post).  It's been years since we did that, so I thought it might be time to do it again.

The hardest part of that project was finding the sticks, so I was looking for a way to have streamers without sticks, and at the Create in Me retreat, I found one.  Someone was getting rid of some cardboard that was probably intended to be folded into a small, bowl/pot like shape.  I thought they'd be a perfect base for streamers.

I also picked up lots of items that could be used for streamers, thus avoiding the need to buy lots of ribbon.

And on Sunday, we made a variety of creations. 

I thought it might take all of 5 minutes, with people wandering away bored, but I needn't have worried.  People delighted in all of the ways that with our streamers, we could imitate the Spirit loose in the world.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Book Ends

Yesterday, two events converged to surprise me with how much time has elapsed in my life trajectory:  we met an old college friend for dinner in a Florida beach town halfway between us, and I saw a Facebook post that was planning events for a 35 year high school reunion in the morning.

When I saw the Facebook post, I did a quick count.  Could it be 35 years?  Wasn't it just last year that I realized with a shock that it had been 30 years since I graduated from that school?

Nope it's been 35 years.  And it's been about 30 years since I saw our old college friend.  Once we were close, in the way that you can be close when you live in a single gender dorm that has a curfew when the other gender must leave and everyone gathers in a common area, shares food, and talks about important stuff into the wee, small hours of the morning.

In the last few days, as we've been arranging our dinner details, I've been trying to remember what we talked about in those late night sessions of so long ago.  Once, I could have reconstructed those conversations with some accuracy.  Now I am startled to realize I have no idea what we talked about.

I can guess.  It was probably our yearnings about what futures we wanted for ourselves.  It was probably a dissecting of the past.  We might have discussed things that happened in class, but maybe not--most of us weren't in class together.

Last night, we didn't talk about those long ago conversations.  We talked about what had happened to us in the intervening 30 years.  I was somewhat aghast to realize how much I had either lost track of or ever known.  We're Facebook friends, but last night reminded me that Facebook has some limitations.

Meeting once every 30 years has limitations too.  On the way home, I thought of all the questions I wish I had asked, all the follow up I could have done, the in-depth analysis that our dinner didn't really allow.

I thought of the old Simon and Garfunkle song, "Old Friends."  Last night, we didn't "sit on a park bench like book ends"--but after dinner, we did sit on Adirondack chairs painted in tropical colors to finish our reunion.

I find myself missing those late night conversations in our long ago dorm.  At the time, I both knew and didn't know what a rare opportunity we had.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Retreat Rootings

A month ago, I'd be packing for the Create in Me retreat.  I look back and think about how fretful I was about that trip.  I knew that I would have a good time if it was just me alone.  But since I was taking a friend from church for the first time, I spent a good deal of time worrying that she wouldn't have a good time and reminding myself that it wasn't my responsibility to make sure she'd have a good time.  We'd never taken any kind of car trip together, and I worried a bit about that too.

I needn't have worried.  We were good traveling partners, and she had a great time.  She's come home and several times made the bread she learned to make at the retreat.  She's made more space for writing.  The retreat has rooted in her and rooted her.

I am surprised by how quickly the world rushes back to try to grab all of our time.  Life has been feeling hectic. 

Let me reclaim that retreat feeling by thinking back to that retreat.  Let me remember the walks in the chilly mornings with my friend.  Her Fitbit told her that our hilly hikes equaled 17 flights of stairs.

Let me remember the joy of more worship services inserted into our days.  I do my own Liturgy of the Hours, but usually just once a day.  I read the prayers silently to myself.  It's a different experience to worship in a group.

Let me remember how wonderful it was to stretch our minds with Bible studies. I try to do that with my own reading, but it's a great change to have a leader.

I loved the chance to play with art supplies throughout the day.  The tables were always set up in the Faith Center, and it was easy to seize a spare moment here and there.

I loved being in a different environment--the mountains of North Carolina are nothing like the Florida tropics.  But they both feel like home to me.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Narrow Windows of Writing Time

It's the time of year when I have to hold fiercely to the idea that at some point, I will have time to write again.  I have lots of end-of-term grading and paperwork to do, at the same time that my administrator life presents me with a crowded month of May.  I have whisps of inspirations.  Let me record some of them.

--I've been writing my menopausal Jesus poem.  I used the idea that humans have an idolatrous devotion to the gender binary.  I have spent much of my adult life trying to use gender neutral language for both God and non-specific humans.  So I'll use spouse instead of wife/husband and Creator God instead of Father God.  But when it comes to writing about Jesus in a specifically female way, I'm wrestling with pronoun use.  I feel like I should explore this idea more deeply--and yet, the idea of pronouns tires me, even as I realize that our use of pronouns can be very repressive.

--I've been thinking about this post that I wrote about my phone interview with FEMA.  I've been thinking about a short story I might write, in the shape of an interview, questions that have a few standard multiple choice answers and one answer that gives deeper insight.  Hmmm.  Can I do that for each and every question?  Will it work as a story?  Today I'll spend time proctoring an exam and I'll need some reading material.  I'll take Leslie Pietrzyk's This Angel on My Chest and be inspired by the different approaches she takes to the short story.

--I was inspired by Oliver de la Paz's poem "Autism Screening Questionnaire — Speech and Language Delay" which made me think about writing up my idea as a poem.  I think it might be too lengthy.  It wouldn't hurt to try it both ways--a longer short story which is pared down into a poem.

--Let me remember the short story I started that tells the story of the for-profit art school through the eyes of the cleaning crew.  Maybe I can use this week between online classes to blast that one to the finish line.

It's frustrating to have such narrow windows of writing time--not to mention not having much time for other creative pursuits.  But let me persevere.

Now, out into the windy morning for a walk to watch the sun rise.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Poetry Wednesday: "Marooned"

During the month of April, I got my contributor's copy of Slant, a journal which has published several poems of mine.  As usual, this year's issue did not disappoint.

This year, my poem "Marooned" appears in its pages.  In some ways, the theme is one that I return to over and over:  how different my life is from my ancestors, most of whom lived on farms all their lives.

I read the first person voice, and I recognize a younger me:  the one who ran miles before dawn, instead of limping around the house to get ready for spin class.  But at least I have a low impact exercise that I can do.

And I have never stolen fruit from a city park--but decades ago, on a visit to Florida, my parents did.  I was shocked--SHOCKED--to discover how they procured our grapefruit.  Now that I am older, I cherish my memory of my normally law abiding parents unable to resist the temptation of citrus fruits that just sat there on the trees, waiting for their liberation.

I am now old enough to know that the agricultural dreams of my youth won't work for me now. But that vision will always tug at me, even as I remember my grandmother admonishing me that I didn't know how good I have it, when I can go to Wal-Mart and buy a blanket for $6, instead of quilting one, that I can buy my chickens already slaughtered, plucked and butchered.


We used to dream of returning
to the land
that our grandparents fought
so hard to escape.

Maybe we would harvest
Christmas trees. Maybe offer
goat cheese at trendy gourmet
shops. At the very least,
we would feed
ourselves with our garden and chickens.

Instead we harvest herbs.
We sneak into parks
at night and pluck citrus
from the city trees.

Like my ancestors, I rise
before dawn, the only time
for a run. I hear
the lonely chickens marooned
in city yards, marking
the dawn the way earlier generations did.

My grandparents greeted
daybreak by milking. I pour
cream into my coffee in a commuter’s
cup and instead of a tractor,
I drive to work, where I will plow
through e-mails and documents.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Many Meanings of May Day

So, how will you be celebrating this first day of May?  Will you weave ribbons around a Maypole?  Will you go to a demonstration in favor of worker's rights?  Will you bring a bouquet of flowers into the house?  Will you sing "Solidarity Forever" or "L'Internationale"?

I imagine that most of us will go to our jobs on this fine May Day.  Well, those of us in the U.S. will go to our jobs, if we still have jobs.  May Day is a holiday in many other parts of the industrialized world.

In my elementary school in the 1970's, we had a May Day celebration that focused on flowers and Maypoles, not on workers.  Looking back, I'm amazed that our teachers were able to rig together a Maypole.  We spent weeks practicing the weaving of the ribbons in the Maypole dance.  We had a whole Mayday festival.  Parents came.  There was a Mayday king and queen.

Ah, those good old pagan school days!

I have spent most of my life in climates where Spring came long before the first day of May.  In fact, in most places I've lived, Spring has shifted into Summer by May 1.  But summer flowers can be as beautiful as spring flowers.

My inner Marxist would want me to give up all pagan celebrations of beauty.  My inner Marxist would demand that I transform the workplace.

How I wish I could.  My inner Marxist and my inner 19 year old have amazingly simplistic ideas of how the world works and how much power individuals have.  That's why I both love my inner Marxist and my inner 19 year old and find them frustrating.

And yes, it can get a bit crowded in my head.

But let's think about some ways to celebrate May Day, even if there's no time for a Maypole and even if we think we can't transform the workplace.

--May Day is often a celebration of flowers.  Why not buy some?  Buy a pot of petunias or hydrangeas or whatever brings you joy.  Water them every few days, and you'll have joy for weeks.

--We think we can't transform the office, but maybe we sell ourselves short.  Say thank you more often and see what happens.  Focus on your gratitude for what your job brings you and watch your attitude shift--and maybe the larger attitude of the workplace too.

--Send some money to organizations that work for worker's rights.  I'm impressed with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which works to protect the migrant workers in the fields of Florida, but you certainly have plenty to choose from.

--Can't afford to make a donation?  Write letters on behalf of the unemployed, the underemployed, everyone who needs a better job or better working conditions.  Write to your representatives to advocate for them.  What are you advocating?  A higher minimum wage?  Safer worksites?  Job security?  Work-life balance?

 --Send your creative work out into the world.  As you make your submissions, think about the ways you'd like your creative work to bloom.