Monday, September 30, 2019

Pet Blessing Service 2019

We are headed into the Pet Blessing Service zone.  Across the nation this week, many churches will have this kind of service as we celebrate the life of St. Francis (the one of Assisi, not the current pope who has yet to be canonized).

Our church did its Pet Blessing service yesterday.  Some years we do an extra service, but this year we moved the service into the fellowship hall and held it as our regular Sunday service.

At first, I thought we wouldn't have many pets, and I wondered why we did this at all.  But as the morning progressed, we had more pets joined.  And then I remembered that we also bless pets from a distance.  People brought pictures of their pets, and there might have been one or two pets attending remotely, by way of smart phone.

Our organist was away, but we had great music with our other musicians.  We had a meditation about the role of pets.  Afterward, we had pizza for a congregational meeting.

I have often wondered if we might have more attendance if we welcomed pets to our service every week.  I don't know what we'd do about the people with allergies or those who are scared of animals.  If you're the kind of person who would object to random noises by pets, children, and other people, you're likely going to another church already, so we wouldn't have to worry about that.

Still, we won't be the bring your pets to worship church anytime soon.  Or maybe we will.  I've been surprised by various turns of events in the past.  We are a church of radical welcome after all.  This year we're welcoming people of all genders/sexual preferences, so perhaps in a future year, we'll extend that to pets.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Hinge Holiday of Michaelmas

If we lived in an earlier culture, we would celebrate Michaelmas today.  It's one of the harvest holidays, one of the quarterly celebrations that kept people rooted to traditions of the seasonal cycles.

If we lived in a high church kind of time, we would celebrate the feast day of St. Michael and all angels. The Divine Hours, written by Phyllis Tickle, explains that this feast is a celebration of the role of angels in the divine plan.

I am more interested in the idea of a hinge holiday, the way we shift from one direction to another.  In Holidays and Holy Nights, Christopher Hill explains, "In summer we celebrate our at-homeness in the world. Michaelmas balances that feeling (for) in autumn we feel our not-at-homeness, the sense of wanting something else, something we can't name. We feel like wayfaring strangers... Summer is static - in Latin, solstice means 'the stationary sun'" Summer is the sacrament of natural harmony with God... while autumn we fall away from the dreaming paradise of summer back into the conflict of light and dark" (pp. 36-37).

I am trying to slow down, even as the world encourages us to zoom, zoom, zoom.  I want to savor the way the afternoon light slides into evening from a different angle now.  I want to enjoy the seasonal decorations that we have now.  Two weeks ago, I started the transformation of the front porch:

Yesterday, I bought an autumnal bouquet.

Last night, we lit the candles in the terracotta candle holder:

I love the shadows made by the flickering lights, which I have not been able to capture on film:

A few weeks from now, I'll add real pumpkins to the mix, once they arrive at my church.  First I'll help offload them from the truck.

Of course, we still don't have much in the way of cooler weather.  But that's the nature of these hinge holidays, at least where I've always lived.  I've always had to provide some additional prompts to keep my attention coming back to the seasonal shifts.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

September Struggles

I sit here sipping a smoothie that I made with my new immersion blender.  I bought the blender with the hope that blending soup into creaminess would be easier.  That first (and only until this morning) experience was not as effortless as the cooking shows make it seem.

This morning, I decided that I needed a nourishing start to the day, and I had already bought frozen blueberries, frozen raspberries, and frozen spinach.  I added some yogurt, and after 2 pulses, I had a smoothie!  Much easier than the blender, and I can make a smaller batch, something I never mastered in the full-size blender.

Sadly, when I look back on this month of September that's slipping away, I don't see lots of high points.  And many of my friends report similar feelings.

As I look back, it's no wonder that I'm tired.  We began this month by keeping a close eye on Hurricane Dorian. I spent every week this month on non-stop accreditation tasks along with the end of the quarter at my full-time job which has ballooned into a time and a half job.  We got the cottage "ready" for my sister-in-law, and she moved in.  We took on our new roles as co-treasurers at church, and I've done more of that than my spouse, the other co-treasurer.

As I drove home last night, after slogging through another week of accreditation work, I was grateful that I had given away my ticket to a food and wine festival.  I have been tired to my very bones.

But I've noticed a bit of a shift, both in the light and the morning temperatures.  When we first moved down here, it felt unremittingly hot for 9 months a year.  When we first moved here, we lived in a triplex, and our landlady lived in one of the units.  I stepped outside one morning, and she said, "The weather is changing.  Do you feel it?"

I expressed my utter disbelief.  She smiled and said, "Just wait until you've lived here awhile."  I waited years and still didn't sense it.  But indeed, a few days ago, it was a bit less hot.  Not cool, not autumnal--in fact, the temps reminded me of the way summer used to be, back when I lived in South Carolina, back when I would get up early to get the baking and the writing done in the cool of the morning.  Back when there was a cool of the morning.

But let me also record some happy moments:  one of my favorite poems that I wrote recently got accepted by Sojourners, which is the perfect home for the poem.  It's been two weeks of having my sister-in-law in the cottage, and so far, so good.  I've had some time with friends, some reunions with people I haven't seen in quite awhile.  I am never writing as much as I wish I could, but I am continuing to find time to write.

However, I am more than ready to see what October has in store for us.

Friday, September 27, 2019

High Holy Days and Low Ordinary Days

In later years, I wonder what I'll look back on and wonder why I didn't write more about that.  I go back to my journals that I kept in college, and I'm always very surprised by what huge national and international events get no mention in those pages.

I feel like I should write more about the impeachment proceedings of this week.  Frankly, I imagine that with the advantage of years between the Trump administration and the future, we will look back and wonder why this incident warranted impeachment, while so many other issues slid right by.

It's been the kind of week where I've been working intensely at work to get ready for a mock accreditation visit by Corporate folks today.  I've had evening meetings and a variety of obligations.  Race, race, hurry, hurry.  I've been more frazzled than usual.

When I come up for air, I check the news to see what new part of our long, national nightmare has been revealed.  Some part of me always wonders if I'm not reading some dark satire.  And then I dive deep into work again.

It's not the kind of work for which one will ever be awarded the MacArthur genius award.  Sigh.

These are the days when a variety of cultures celebrate high, holy days.  It's a hinge time between seasons.  It's a time when I wish I could slow down and savor the shift.

Let me look for ways to do that as I move through the next days.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Genius of Essays

I did not plan to spend the last month reading collections of essays.  In fact, I didn't even realize I was doing so until I updated my Books Read 2019 list.  I began by reading I Like to Watch by Emily Nussbaum, who has spent much of her writing life reviewing TV shows. What a great book—wonderful to read her reviews about TV shows I’ve watched, but even when she talks about unfamiliar shows, it’s a great book.  And it's interesting to think about how much television has changed--now it's an art form that many more of us take seriously than we would have decades ago.

I decided to read the book when I heard Nussbaum interviewed on NPR.  Similarly, I got Jia Tolentino's Trick Mirror after hearing her on several NPR shows.  Often when I've heard people on NPR, I'm bored by the book--it's as if I've already heard the major points, and there's not much reason to read the book.  That has not been the case with either of these books.

However, my favorite book of essays in this month of essays is Margaret Renkl's Late Migrations.  I would likely not have discovered this book without this review on NPR's Fresh Air.  The essays have  a poetic quality, moment after moment where I catch my breath and savor the sentence or the image.  Renkl explores a variety of topics, but she's often weaving back to the natural world and to all sorts of family constellations.

I found my favorite essay online--go here and scroll down to read "The Imperfect-Family Beatitudes."  It enchanted me from the beginning:  "Blessed is the weary mother who rises before daybreak for no project or prayer book, for no reason but the solace of a sleeping house and a tepid cup of instant coffee and a fat dog curled on her lap. Hers is the fleeting kingdom of heaven."

I found her depictions of life with her aging parents particularly poignant.  She notes, "The end of caregiving isn't freedom.  The end of caregiving is grief" (p. 189).  This is true of aging parents, but also of other kinds of caretaking:  the child who goes off to college, the bird that cannot be saved, the flowers taken over by weeds.  About those non-native species of plants she says, "The alien does not know it's an alien" (p. 10).

As I'm looking at my Books Read 2019 list, I'm realizing that I'm not doing a great job of reading more poetry.  I started off the year so strongly in that area, but it's fallen off.  Maybe it's time to finally get around to reading Ocean Vuong's Night Sky with Exit Wounds, which has been on my to-read shelf for longer than I like to realize.

I confess that I thought of this book because of the announcement of this year's MacArthur awards.  I looked over this list and tried not to think about my own age and the age of the winners.  Some years I'm inspired by the list, but not this year.

This year I was already in a despondent place about so much of my life.  Looking at the list makes me even more despairing about all the opportunities that I haven't found.  It's been the kind of September where I haven't written much, and I've sent out nothing.

But I am hopeful that the pace of these weeks will abate.  We will get our materials ready for the accreditation visit and then, hopefully, we can go back to a more sane pace.

In the meantime, at least I have been able to read a bit here and there.  And that's where the essay format is perfect for these times, whether it's the longer, deeper essays of Jia Tolentino or the perfect jewels of the shorter essays of Renkl.

Let me hang onto the elements of my life that I love while working my way back to all that I hold dear.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Next Garden

Once the path seemed so clear:

Once we assumed that every gate would open:

Now we must consider what's on the other side:

Now we fear we're lost in the weeds:

Maybe we're destined for a different garden than the one our younger selves would have chosen:

Let us rest awhile in this place while we discern the next step:

Monday, September 23, 2019

From Raggedy Individual Prayers to a Hoop of Prayers

Yesterday, I preached the sermon.  We've been doing a sermon series on the Lord's Prayer, and I got to preach on "Give us this day our daily bread."  As I thought about what I would say, and as I sorted through old possessions coming from the cottage, I got an idea for my big hoop that I bought but have never used for quilting.

As people came into the church, I asked them to choose a strip of cloth that spoke to them.

In the beginning of the sermon, we thought about what we needed for sustenance as we held the strip of cloth. Then I passed the hoop around and asked everyone to tie their piece of cloth on the hoop.

I talked about our individual wants and needs and the needs of the larger community--and how our solitary prayers feel like raggedy scraps, but when we add our prayers together, we can transform the world.

I did keep trying to loop back to the ideas of daily bread and what sustains us--but also a larger vision of sustenance. I was pleased that everyone took a strip of fabric and that everyone enthusiastically tied their strip to the hoop.  I talked about what we personally need to for sustenance, but also what the larger society needs for sustenance.

I also added another element.  I wanted a cross in the middle, and I thought about using one of the crosses made of palms that are left over from Palm Sunday.  But in the office, I had lots of crosses to choose from, and I chose the one above.

I really like the way what it does for the hoop:

And now we have a different element to take us to All Saints Sunday.  Here's the larger view:

I'm calling Sunday morning a success, even though my sermon went in an entirely different direction.  I want to say it was the Holy Spirit, but some days I worry that it's sloppiness and my inability to stick to my sermon prep.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Language and Expectation and Equinoxes

Today is the last full day of summer--the autumnal equinox arrives tomorrow.  Some of us have already had some autumnal weather.  I feel like I will never feel cool air outside again, although it has been astonishingly windy.

Down here at one of the southernmost points in North America, I mark the change of seasons differently.  One must be alert to realize that the sun is coming at us from a slightly different slant.  I notice that the sun rises about a half hour later now than it did in early July.  We have a person who comes every other week to mow and edge the tiny bit of lawn we have--the lawn used to be very shaggy in between cuttings, and now it's not.

We're not to winter yet--the yard still needs attention once we approach the two week point.  But I'm not worrying about Code Enforcement getting to us before the yard guy does.

Is it disrespectful to use the term "yard guy"?  I mean no disrespect.  I do know his name:  Jose Sanchez. 

This has been a summer where I'm thinking about language and how it shapes us.  That idea is never far away from my brain.  This summer has been the time where I've shifted from saying "slaves" to "enslaved people."  Does it make a difference?  I'm not sure.  The word "slave" has always conveyed horror and terror to me, but I realize not everyone has that enlightenment.

Similarly, I've been thinking about how many of our housing developments use the word "plantation."  This blog post does a great job of explaining why it's problematic; I confess I hadn't really given the word much consideration before reading that blog post.  What's next:  Auschwitz Acres?

I am listening to a fascinating On Being episode about the power of the brain--some stuff I knew, and some I don't.  The guest, Erik Vance, talks about the doctor who prescribes going to church as part of a pain relief regimen:  "And one of the doctors, world-renowned researcher who, I think, is established enough in his position to be honest with me, said, 'Look. I’m lucky if I can help 40 percent of my patients. If I’m a baseball player, I’d be making millions, but as a doctor, that’s not a great number.' And he’s the one who actually says — he recommends to patients, 'If you’re a lapsed Catholic, go back to church. Try it,' because, first of all, he’s looking for anything. But second of all, he wants to create a sense — even if they’re continuing treatment with him — that good things are coming, that there is an order — . . . .  And just going back to church and feeling like they’re getting some sort of sense that this will go away, good things are coming, is the first step "

Today I am in charge at church--my sermon will revolve around daily bread and what sustains us and what we need.  There will be fabric and a hoop involved.  More will be revealed in a later blog post.  Now I must get ready.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

When Data Speaks

Let me say from the outset that I am fictionalizing details that are to come--but there is truth to the larger idea, if not truth in the details.

Yesterday I had a long conversation about institutional effectiveness, about looking at our data with an open mind, about letting the data speak.

It's always lovely to have a theoretical conversation about institutional effectiveness, about collectible data, about numbers, and the importance of measurable outcomes that we can link to specific initiatives.  I am not as much of a believer that the data will speak as many are.

I have looked at data that spoke in a clear, cold tone--for example, when I see that 20 of the 24 students in a program that left the school took a class and failed it, and 15 of them took that class over again and failed it.

But usually the data doesn't speak to me in that way.  Here's what I usually see:

There are 24 students in a specific program who leave the school.  Six of them we can't find, so we don't know why they left.  Ten of them have had trouble passing classes, but they have all failed a different set of classes.  One of them had a mother who died, and three mention childcare issues.  Four of them listed money troubles when they filled out the paperwork.  One of them took a leave of absence to deal with a medical condition, and the condition worsened, so they didn't come back.  One student had psychotic issues, and we're all relieved that the problem solved itself when the student stopped attending, so we didn't try to contact that student.

Some of these categories intersect with each other, and some don't.  If the data is speaking to me, I can't hear it.

I once made a joke that wasn't really a joke.  I said that I could solve the problems with retention.  It's easy really.  But it isn't cheap.  I'd take over the empty places in our building, and I'd create a cafe in one of them and put a day care center in the other.  I'd hire a mechanic to be on duty in the back parking lot for students who needed car repairs.  Our retention rate would go up to 93%.

I said it in a jovial tone, but I suspect that if I could do those things, our retention rate would zoom right up into the 90's.  This morning on my walk, I fleshed out my ideas a bit.

The cafe would offer cheap, nutritious meals, plus to-go options for people who had to get to class.  Students who couldn't afford the food could either work in the cafe or apply for a waiver.  We would have a student success area in the cafe, where tutors would be on duty.  Students could eat and get tutoring at the same time.

We would offer child care during any time we had class, plus for an hour before and after.  We would have facilities for both well children and sniffly children, so that our students with sick children can still come to class.

The mechanic is self-explanatory.  Maybe we should have a clinic too.  And maybe we could convert the back parking lot, the one that is rarely used and often full of graffiti on the back wall, into low cost housing for students, since we have so little affordable housing in Broward county, where the school is located.

I realize I'm describing something similar to the college where I did my undergraduate work--although we didn't have childcare.  This morning I thought about my fellow students.  Most of us graduated or transferred to places where we graduated.  Many of  us went on to get graduate degrees and/or additional training.  And it's not because we were all wealthy or came from backgrounds that prepared us for college.  Once we were there, the school gave us all sorts of support.  And so, most of us made it to graduation.

Of course, that approach takes money.  Most of us in academia are told to do more with less, more with less, more with less.  Most of us are doing as much as we can, and we are given even less resources.  It's discouraging.

It even makes me think about a different data set, and what I might hear, if I had ears to listen.

Friday, September 20, 2019


Last week I got my first mammogram at the age of 54.  Yes, I have friends who have been getting mammograms since they were in their 20's or 30's, and they weren't friends in high risk groups.  I resisted that peer pressure, even when people were shocked, shocked, SHOCKED that I didn't want to get a mammogram.

People thought I was afraid or that I thought it would hurt--no, I just resisted the medical-industrial complex.  In the 90's, the common wisdom was that a woman would have a baseline mammogram when she turned 50.  Why did this change?

The hospital where I had the mammogram was the one where my mother-in-law went when she broke her hip.  She would not survive that injury.  I felt a bit of a shiver as I left the hospital and drove past the emergency entrance where I went at 2:30 a.m. to stay with her while she waited to be admitted.

If I was a character in a novel, I'd probably be punished for my lack of a mammogram.  They'd have discovered a tumor that could have been treated if I had just discovered it 20 years ago.  As I drove home, I thought, what if these are my last carefree days before a diagnosis?

Happily, that is not to be my fate.  Yesterday, I got a letter that says, "We are pleased to let you know that the results of your recent breast imaging exam show no sign of breast cancer."  Hurrah!

Let me also record this publishing accomplishment.  One of my poems was accepted to be part of the Women Artists Datebook.  Yesterday I went to the website page, and when I clicked on the thumbnails, I was thrilled to realize that my poem is one of the 3 poems in the thumbnails.  It's the thumbnail on the second row.

In other good news, I am completely ready for today's Corporate audit.  Yes, I realize I have tempted the fates by saying that.  Still, there have been so many days where I wondered if I could ever get it done.  Our syllabi are printed and ready for the first day of classes.  I didn't dare hope we could have this kind of efficient week.  I am relieved.

I am also a bit exhausted.  This kind of work is not the kind that sparks my intellect.  Lots of forms, lots of filing, lots of copying.  It's good to have it done.

Tonight I will go to a gathering that's part dinner, part quilt group.  It's been a long time since we've been together as a group of women.  It's a fitting way to celebrate my good mammogram news and my happy publishing news.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Ms. Fix It

Another Thursday of scattered thoughts--let me gather them:

--My spouse and I have been going out to dinner each Wednesday.  He's got about 90 minutes to fill between his last class and choir practice, which happens at our church which is literally across the street from campus.  So far, it's been fun--we choose a different place and give it a try.  It's not our home neighborhood, so we've been going to a variety of places.

--Last night was less fun.  We had less time, so we went to a diner.  It's not good for me to be able to see the kitchen folks in action.  I watched my steaming food sit under the warming lamp and watched the food cool in real time as my spouse's meal wasn't ready.  The turkey was cold, the gravy had a skin, and the broccoli had brown patches.  Really?  Really???

--At first I sent it back, but then I looked at the time, and realized I needed to be done so I could get home for my online Mepkin journaling meeting.  So I cancelled the order.  The manager came over.  He was upset that he wouldn't have a chance to make it all right.  My spouse was not thrilled, either with the quality of my food or my cancelling the order.  The waitress was sullen when we came in, and my actions didn't cheer her up.  I felt like I made everyone unhappy, and I was the one who got no dinner.

--Last night, after the diner and the computer glitchiness, I finally joined my online journaling group.  During one of our silent journaling sessions, I wrote, "My life would be so different if I didn't feel this need to fix everything."  I had been reflecting on how I felt bad that I made the manager feel bad and my spouse feel bad and the waitress wasn't any cheerier because of me, and I couldn't fix it, and how should I have responded?  Eaten the bad broccoli?  Eaten the cold food?  Taken it home to warm it up?  Even as we left there was fried chicken cooling under the lamp.  Clearly my experience hadn't led to improvement for other diners.  Am I too picky?

--And here I am, once more, wishing I could have fixed the situation that really shouldn't have existed at all.  It's basic restaurant practice, is it not?  To have the meals at the same table ready within 20 seconds of each other?  My food was under the "warming" lamp for at least 7 minutes.  Let me wrench my focus elsewhere.

--On the work front, we continue to get ready for our accreditation visit and for the Corporate audits before the accreditation visit. As I used white out to prepare a recycled tab for its new label, I had a vision of a PBS show:  Painting with White Out.  I could be the next Bob Ross!  I demonstrated the idea in my most soothing, Bob Ross painting voice: "A dab here. A swirl here. See, there are no mistakes, just something else, waiting to emerge." I think it has potential! My colleagues think I might be a bit "touched," as the elders used to say.

--From white out to other kinds of cover ups . . .

--Another story in the news of an government official in blackface in his youth.  I have never worn blackface--in 5th grade, I put my mother's green eye shadow on my face for my Halloween witch costume, and spent the next week itching.  In college, there's a picture of me with green hair.  I have a vision of a time when I'm in office and those pictures come back to haunt me:  "She was mocking Wiccans!  She was appropriating the language of punks, who are now a protected class!"

--My writing time grows short.  But I have a vision of a poem that will look at the larger ways that so many of us have been clueless about the legacy of slavery.  Maybe I'll play with this line:  We have all worn blackface.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

NPR Nerds in Mourning: RIP Cokie Roberts

When I saw the news and confirmed that Cokie Roberts had died, I cried a bit at my desk.  The great illuminators of our time seem to be leaving us, and I feel each loss keenly.

I know, I know, I didn't really know her.  The tributes from people who did know her personally make me wish that I had known her.

I don't remember a time when she wasn't a media presence.  As I came into my own as an NPR listener, I made sure to be tuned in during her regular time slots--that was back in the pre-Internet days, where if you missed it, you missed it.  What a luxury now to be able to go back and listen to a person as often as we want.

It's also a burden, the knowledge that there's so much of value out there, and increasingly fragmented time.

What I will miss even more than Cokie Roberts' keen intellect is her way of connecting all that knowledge and explaining the relevance in a way that both highly educated people and those with limited education would understand.  So few people have that skill.

She was also inspiring.  I never doubted that she had a vision of how we could all be better--as individuals, as a society, as a larger world.  I never doubted that she had appreciation for all that our ancestors accomplished, even as she called us to continue to expand on what they had built.

I am also profoundly grateful for the doors that she opened to the next generation, my generation, that was following behind.  She showed a variety of ways of achieving our hopes and dreams.  She showed that we could have careers and families and outside interests beyond that too.  We didn't have to live within narrow definitions.  We didn't have to be constrained completely by our gender or our biology or our circumstances.

And as someone who listens to NPR for many hours a day, I am happy for all the ways she shaped that institution.  As someone who misses the way that TV news used to be, I am grateful that I got to see it when people like Cokie Roberts had a hand in the newscast.

I know that there are others who have already taken up the work that she was doing.  Eventually, if I'm still alive when they die, I will miss them too.  But it may not feel like the same kind of loss, since I came to know them later.

Cokie Roberts was always there, a calm voice, an oasis, for as long as I remember.  We need more voices like hers.  Let us rise to fill that call.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Creative Visioning in the Voice of a Future Scholar

September 17 is the feast day of Hildegard of Bingen, mystic, herbalist, musical composer, naturalist, and Abbess. Her life was full of accomplishments, an amazing feat considering she lived in the twelfth century.  For more, see this post on my theology blog.

When the calendar returns to the feast days of amazing medieval women (Hildegard, Brigid, Julian), I fight my feelings of inadequacy.

Long ago, a wise yoga teacher told me, "Don't look at others.  It won't help you hold the pose, and it will probably make it harder."  I think I've embroidered her words, but I've captured the idea.

I would probably be more gentle with myself if I thought of what future scholars might say when they talked about me:  

She was able to keep writing her poetry, along with surprising works of fiction, as she navigated the demands of various types of day jobs:  teacher, administrator, . . .   .  She did volunteer work, often the unglamorous but necessary type, like counting the offering money after church and depositing it in the bank.  She worked with first generation students, thousands of them, offering the support and encouragement they needed to make their way in the world.  She did similar work with other groups who were at the margins of society, during a time when so many people found themselves being pushed to those margins.

Now let me do something similar, as I think about the directions I might go.  How would future scholars talk about that?  Let me do some creative visioning, in the voice of a future scholar:

In her midlife years, when so many people decide to coast, she turned her sights to different vistas.  She pursued new interests, and her work that mixed markers, words, and collage, led her in inspiring directions.  She got several certificates and degrees in theology and the arts, and did pioneering work in online retreats.  Her work in theology brought many people to a new understanding of the Gospels.  Late in midlife, she published her pioneering work that combined poetry, theology, and sketches in her singular style that would become so recognizable.  She took the proceeds from that publishing success and created her monastic community that offered shelter in a dark time and that continues to nourish so many.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Strangely Surreal September So Far

It's been a surreal week-end, a surreal week, and frankly, a surreal month.  Two weeks ago I was keeping a wary eye on Hurricane Dorian, which was chewing up the Bahamas.  Two weeks ago, I was thinking that my sister-in-law was deciding not to move here, so why make the herculean effort to get all of our personal stuff out of the cottage?

Now it's two weeks later.  My sister-in-law has moved in.  We had Bahamian Hurricane Dorian refugees to help us make the herculean effort.  I've made some progress in terms of figuring out where to put the stuff that came out of the cottage, but parts of the house look like we're in the process of a move--which, in a way, we are.

The last time we had a person living full-time in the cottage, I could see the lights of the cottage as I got in the car in the front driveway.  Since then, Hurricane Irma destroyed that fence, and now we have a fence that hides the back yard.

I don't know how long my sister-in-law will stay.  I do know that the U.S. has a problem with affordable housing, and my county has fewer units than much of the rest of the nation.  I know that our cottage is a bit small for her, and we haven't done all the hurricane repairs that are needed.  She plans to help with that effort while she's there.

I know that she might like more privacy than a back yard cottage affords.  I might too.  But for now, it's working out.

September has been surreal too, in terms of the death of musicians.  Suddenly the musicians of my youth--Eddie Money, Ric Ocasek of the Cars--are dying.  In a way, the death of musicians is nothing strange--except now they're dying of old age.

I had a similar disconnect helping my sister-in-law.  I first met her when I was 19, which means she must have been about 12.  In many ways, she still looks very similar.  It's discombobulating to realize how long our lives have been entwined.

And now, here it is, Monday again.  Time to do the bread run.  We are between classes right now, but I've let the campus know that if they've gotten used to bread on Monday, we'll still have it.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Long Page Poetry Morning

There's a story told about Lucille Clifton--it may or may not be literally true, but it points to a truth for many of us.  Someone asked why she wrote short poems when she was younger and longer poems as she got older.  I suspect the questioner was expecting an answer that had something to do with wisdom and skill.

Instead, Lucille Clifton talked about the lives of her children shaping the short poems in terms of the amount of time she had to get thoughts on paper.

I, too, tend to write poems that are shorter.  Part of it's habitual, part of it has to do with how much time I have, and part of it has to do with ideas that run out of steam so the poem is over.  Most of my poems are a little longer than an 8 x 11 sheet of paper with regular lines.

Yesterday I wrote 4 pages.  Will it all be one poem?  I don't know, but it was an amazing experience.

I had been having a good poetry writing morning, after weeks of feeling dry and drained when it comes to writing and life in general.  Yesterday I had already written one poem and some various lines when I decided to freewrite a bit about harvest moons and harvests and elegies and prophets.  The freewriting didn't really go anywhere, but all of a sudden whole stanzas popped into my head.  I wrote and wrote--4 pages worth.  Wow.

And then I kept my legal pad nearby.  I'd do something else, and then another stanza popped into my head.  It was great.

Of course, because I was having a great poetry morning, I didn't do much with my novel or with grading for my online classes or any of the other activities I feel I need to do.  But that's O.K.

The rest of the day was consumed with getting the last of our stuff out of the cottage and helping my sister-in-law move in.  Later in the day, we ate a yummy meal together (grilled salmon, grilled burgers, assorted sides), and then we decompressed.  We took the Bahamian refugee couple home, while my sister-in-law and her friend returned the moving van.  My spouse and I relaxed in the pool and went to bed early.

For a day that at one point had promised stormy weather, it turned out to be a very good day.  And now it's off to church--there will be meetings, but there will also be breakfast and some time to sketch and some time to sit in stillness.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

What Does Active Discernment Mode Mean to You?

Earlier this week, one of my favorite pastors sent me a private message to let me know that this past summer had been her last summer at camp.  She said that she and her spouse had been in a time of "active discernment mode."

I knew that this time was not far away, the time when she announced her retirement.  Still, it was a week of many pangs, many realizations of how many "last" times are coming.

I wrote back to my pastor friend, "You said you and Pastor Tim were in "active discernment mode" this summer. I would love to know what that looked like. I have this vision of a breakfast of beautiful summer fruit, followed by writing in your journals, then a silent hike, and then a sharing of what you heard that morning. I have an idealistic vision of you two doing this all summer. But I know that there are many routes to discernment, and this retreat seems like a theme that fits with teaching people some of the ways to do that."

The next morning, I wrote a poem that explores what active discernment mode would mean to me in the best of circumstances.

Unfortunately, lately my active discernment often comes through frustration followed by weeping and gnashing of teeth and repressing the urge to throw a few things in the car and drive far, far away.  And yes, that has been my discernment message delivery system since I was about fifteen years old.

Clearly it's time for a new method of active discernment.  So, let me try an alternate approach.

When I heard my friend's news, my first thought was to write the camp to ask if they might be interested in hiring a person who would be in charge of adult and online programming.  My heart sang out at the thought of that job. 

That's a much more pleasant method of discernment than the one I usually use!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Week of Disrupted Writing Schedules and the Inspirations Contained in It

It has been a week of irregular blogging, the kind of week that makes me feel anxious that I'm not writing in the one form that I've managed to do on a daily basis.  Let me do one of those kinds of posts where I catch some threads that I don't want to lose.

--I have been writing.  I've written a few blog posts, and I've been working on my apocalyptic novel.  But most of my writing energy has gone to the various forms that we must have ready for our month of audits which will start next week.

--One of my favorite moments from work:  several of us pitched in to create a bulletin board to celebrate Constitution Day.  It turned out to be surprisingly attractive, given how little planning time we had, and how low our budget (0$) was.

--I got an acceptance of a poem that I love--I first came up with the idea in January and wrote about it in this blog post.  Often it takes longer for a poem to find a home.  Sojourners took this one, and it's a perfect fit.

--One of the reasons for my poor blogging attendance this week was my need to get stuff done in the evenings, which led to disrupted mornings.  I had a church meeting Monday night, church treasurer stuff to do Wednesday night, and last night, I did some work to get the cottage ready for my sister-in-law who is scheduled to arrive and move in today.

--I had help last night.  My friend in the neighborhood has opened her cottage to a couple from the Bahamas who fled the island literally with only the clothes they were wearing in the storm and their phones.  For more about that, see this blog post on my theology blog.

--My morning writing time was also disrupted this week because of morning schedule disruptions.  Yesterday I had a 7 a.m. appointment to get a mammogram.  I chose the very first appointment time so that I wouldn't sit in a waiting room for minutes/hours waiting.  But it did disrupt my writing.

--It was my very first mammogram.  I have friends who have been getting mammograms since they were in their 30's, but I'm following the older guidance for those of us in low risk groups:  I decided to wait until I was 50 to have my baseline mammogram.

--Yes, I know I'm 54.  Some people have thought that I was afraid of the mammogram itself.  Countless numbers of people have explained to me how it doesn't really hurt.  I'm not afraid of the squashing nature of the procedure, but I do try to limit my exposure to radiation.  But if we're honest, it's the waiting in waiting rooms, the filling out of forms, and the waiting.

--The squashing wasn't as bad as I expected.  I did find it odd to feel like I had no place to put my face in/against the machine. 

--Last night, I gave the Bahamian woman a pair of Saucony running shoes that I had barely used.  Last summer, I realized that I had loved the Sauconys that I had, so I bought 2 more pairs at a summer sale.  Earlier this year, I gave the oldest pair to a church group collecting shoes for Venezuela.  Last night, I was happy to know that my shoes fit a refugee from another disaster area.  My friend who took them in had written that she was having trouble finding clothes and shoes that were large enough.  I figured that mine would work--I have big, wide feet, as does the Bahamian refugee.  There's something about the idea of these shoes going to refugees that I wanted to preserve--not sure why.

--Last night, after we worked together in tasks to restore the cottage, my spouse and I sat at our patio table with the Bahamian couple.  We shared beverages and chatted about the storm, about home repairs, about what life was like on Abaco before Hurricane Dorian smashed through, and about the hurricane itself.  The moon was full, and we had a great breeze.  There were moments of homesickness, all of us longing for places that no longer exist.

--Let me also remember some of the images from the past few days that might weave into a poem:  a woman in a wheelchair weeping quietly in the library, small children hiking through neighborhoods with backpacks bigger than their backs, unconnected women with interesting hats walking their dogs, the Office Depot copy center that was out of ink but managed to develop work-arounds, the frustration of sending work to Office Depot but needing to spend an hour there overseeing the project (not Office Depot's fault, but the fault of the drop off person who requested spiral binding not comb binding), the strange intimacy of the mammogram process, the fact that I went to get my mammogram at the hospital where my mother-in-law was taken when she broke her hip, the intense memories I have of these places.

--I was sad to hear about the death of Anne Rivers Siddons.  Once I loved her books.  Now they seem like relics of an earlier era: sprawling novels that are so evocative of southern landscapes, with main characters who are discovering/reinventing themselves against the culture(s) of those landscapes.  If those kinds of books are still being written, I don't know about them.

--So many relics of earlier eras--my house is now full of them.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Terrorist and the Sunflowers

I am later to blogging this morning--computer issues kept me from doing all sorts of writing.  But on a day when we remember planes flying into buildings, it's easier to keep computer irritations in perspective.

Today is also the anniversary of the 1973 coup in Chile, the one that ushered in the reign of terror overseen by Pinochet.  I've been thinking about Pinochet's reign of terror, about the events of 2011, about our loved ones who vanish and we're not sure what happened to them. I've been thinking about ash of all sorts. I've been thinking of all those documents incinerated on September 11, 2001. I suspect I've been thinking about those documents so that I can repress the memories of bodies. I keep thinking of the Pentagon, of taking a tour of the Pentagon when I was in grade school, of being told how indestructible that building was constructed to be--but it wasn't.

I come back to things we've learned since--that even large terrorist organizations have an HR department of sorts.  The one nugget that has stuck with me the longest is the one that Lawrence Wright told about Osama bin Laden, who flirted with both terrorism and agriculture, before committing to terrorism. He loved his sunflowers.

I understand how people become disaffected enough to leave their sunflowers behind and turn to dreams of destruction. I'm grateful for my religious heritage that reminds me of the seductive qualities of evil, that warns me not to succumb to that glittery facade.

I've written a poem about the terrorist and the sunflowers.  It's a different approach to today, and I mean no disrespect to those who died on this day, and those who continue to suffer because of that day.

Osama’s Sunflowers

The terrorist sits in his armed
compound and watches videos
of himself. He counts
his weapons and yearns
for a nuclear bomb.

The terrorist dreams of hamburgers
and the joy of a cold beer
on a hot day.
The terrorist remembers the grill
he used to have, a container
of gas used to cook,
not to kill.

The terrorist tamps
down his longing
for the sunflowers he used to grow,
their bright smiles turned
towards blue skies.
He wonders about the different trajectory
had he chosen seeds and soil
instead of flame and ash.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

What Might Be Keeping Me Up at Night

I confess that my just-adopted practice of writing for a half hour on my dystopian novel before doing anything else has impacted my blogging.  Let me collect a few reflections here, while I wait to stop sweating profusely from my morning walk so that I can take a shower and go to work.

--I feel like there's not enough time in a morning to do all I want to do:  blog, write a poem, work on my novel, eat breakfast, and exercise.  I feel like something is always being sacrificed.  And then there's the reading I want to be doing, the art.  And there's the wishing I had more time with friends.

--I wrote this Facebook post this morning:  "Weeks ago, I pre-ordered Margaret Atwood's follow-up to "The Handmaid's Tale." That book has just been shipped to me. Oh dear. Perhaps I shall pull an all-nighter later this week. It will make me feel youthful again--5th grade youthful, when I stayed up past my bedtime reading a book under the covers with a flashlight."

--Should I re-read The Handmaid's Tale before I read The Testaments?  I just reread The Handmaid's Tale just after Trump was elected--it's not completely unfamiliar.

--I truly am tempted to read it in one big gulp when it arrives.  I have waited impatiently all summer.

--I also worry that it might impact my own writing.  I don't want to feel like there's no point in my own writing.

--As I've been writing more, I've been thinking about my novel as an exploration of the ways that women cope with repressive regimes.  It's also a novel that asks, "What is truth?" 

--Can I pull it off?  Am I pulling it off?  A friend asked if I knew how it was going to end.  Unlike with other novels I wrote, I have no idea.  Well, I have lots of ideas, but I have no idea how it will end.  I'm 60 pages in, and it's taken some interesting twists and turns that I didn't anticipate.  It's a wonderful process.

--If it's ever made into a movie, I want Rhiannon Giddens to be in charge of the music.  I am besotted with her latest CD.

And now, it's time to head to work.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Shelter from the Storm

At times, it seems we have no shelter from the storms that hurl their way to us:

We wonder why we strive, when all we love may be flattened.

September storms separate loved ones from each other.

We long to know that our lives inscribe themselves in a timeless way.

We stretch out our hands, hoping to be held in return.

We put our trust in the God who created the laws of chemistry and physics, the one who calms the chaos.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Hurricane Fuzz Brain

I am feeling a bit brain-frazzled.  A week of keeping tabs on a slow moving hurricane will do that to a soul, I guess.  I am also feeling an odd stress hearing all these stories of storm survival (or lack of survival) coming out of the Bahamas.  It's a bit of PTSD, but it's also something different--that shiver that says that we lucked out this time, but at some point, our hurricane survival luck may run out.

I feel like I should claim any PTSD--have I really had trauma?  Not in the ways that Bahamians just did--but yes, we've had lots of destruction through the years, and while it's survivable, it's taken lots of time and energy and phone calls and money.  Does that count as trauma?

So, yes, we've had trauma, but I don't know if our response to it really rises to the level of a disorder. It seems normal to me, and it's not the life-disrupting kind of response to trauma.

I mention all of this because yesterday I discovered that I had completely forgot to go back to the church to make the bank deposit.  Usually we do that on Sundays, but because of the impending hurricane possibility, the overnight deposit box was sealed.  I volunteered to make the deposit when we all returned to work.

By the time we went back to work on Wednesday, it had completely slipped my mind.  I didn't remember until the series of e-mails that I read yesterday morning that wondered what had happened to the deposit.

Happily, it was easily fixed.  I made the deposit, and all is well.  But it haunts me, this failure of memory.  It makes me wonder what else I've forgotten to do.

But let me end on a hopeful note.  This morning, I did work on my novel first thing.  If I can do that most days, I will be happy.  At least my hurricane fuzz brain isn't making it impossible for me to write.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Inspiration from Walter Mosley

This morning, as I was doing some grading for my online class, I listened to this interview with Walter Mosly on the NPR program On Point.

I had heard him interviewed before, so I expected that it would be compelling--but it may have been the most compelling interview with him that I've heard yet.  It was the kind of interview where I wrote some nuggets, and then rewound the interview to make sure that I had captured the words correctly.

Here's the part that grabbed me most:

"All you have to do is take 100 days, and every morning for a hundred days, write for one hour about the same thing, not different things, a story you want to tell."

I've been feeling frustrated with my inability to make progress on my novel that I'm writing.  So, let me think about this possible approach.  What would happen if I committed to a half hour with my novel each and every morning?

I know that I was happier back in that period of November to mid-January when I was doing more sketching which led to more writing and then back to more sketching.  My brain felt like it was popping and connecting and leaping--I felt more alive.  I need to get that feeling back, and writing for the first half hour might be the way.

Here's Mosley on revision: 

"You read the book, you find mistakes, you say, I'm gonna fix them. . . . On the 26th time you read the book, and you realize you don't know how to fix them.  That's how you know the book is finished."

It's an interesting twist on revision--most people will tell you to read and fix until all the problems are fixed.  Mosley admits that there will come a point where there are still problems, but you've done all you can do.  I like that approach.

And here's Mosley on why we should do this writing work:

"If you don't exist in literature, in fictional literature, you don't exist in history in America.  You just don't. And so, the idea of talking about that migration of black people from the western south to southern California and to a bit in central California, to write that story is to make the people who I know and love a part of history."

It's an interesting way to situate fiction--it's not about how we're written into history, official or unofficial, that preserves us, but how we're written into fiction.  Inspiring!

It's more than just giving voice to the underrepresented--it's preserving the voices.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

If Your Poem Could Be a Film

Yesterday I saw this call for submissions for both poets and filmmakers.  Throughout the day, my thoughts returned to my poems.  Which ones would make the best films?

Should I choose one that tells a story?  I'm guessing that filmmakers might be less interested in those--why wouldn't they choose short stories or novels if they want to tell a story?

Should I choose one that has strong images?  And should I make sure those images would be filmable?  For example, if a poem had lots of nuclear explosions, that might not be easy.  Or maybe a filmmaker would like that challenge.

The submission can't be more than 5 pages, but those 5 pages can contain multiple poems.  Would it be better to have several poems or one longer poem?

I thought about how I would film one of those poems, but filmmaking would likely mean learning lots of new skills, at least the kind of film I'd like to make.

I found myself thinking of my neglected sketchbooks and the ideas I had about creating illuminations of some kind for my poems.  Maybe it's time to return to those ideas.

In the meantime, I've been using this down time to get back to writing my apocalyptic novel.  It's going in directions I didn't expect--what fun!

Now for the not-fun part of my day; I'm off to the dentist.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Sheltering at Camp

When I need to feel optimistic about the future of humanity, let me remember how many people posted offers on Facebook to shelter people fleeing from Hurricane Dorian--and the offer was often open to friends of friends.

Some of those offers were made in a post, while others were made in comment threads. Most of the offers were a guest room or space on the couch or floor. One person offered a mountain cottage that wasn't being rented out right now--so it was clean, but not rental ready. I might call that spartan or monastic.

Monday, I noticed this Facebook post from my favorite church camp:

Lutheridge Camp & Conference Center, in Arden, NC, is now open for those who are required or choosing to evacuate in the path of Hurricane Dorian. Housing is free of charge. Availability is limited, on a first come first served basis. Housing is available through Friday, September 13th. Guests are asked to please bring bedding and sheets as circumstances allow. Pets are permitted for those staying in cabin housing. Reservations must be made in advance of your arrival by calling Lutheridge Registration at 828.209.6328.

“It will serve as a pavilion, a shade by day from heat, and a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.” – Isaiah 4:6

Lutheridge has made this offer in past storms. I did a quick search this morning of some other camps in the area, and if they're open to storm refugees, they're not publicizing it in the same way.

What a gift, this sharing of resources. It's one reason why I continue to support camps. I'm not sure that sleep-away camp is a model that will be as important in decades to come. But there are many ways towards spiritual formation.

Being a shelter in the storm is one of them.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Hurricane Watch: Day # I've Lost Track

I am now exhausted.  I've never had an optimal sleep schedule, and this past week, it's been completely wrecked.  I've spent part of the time trying to stay on top of storm tracks, and now, with a monster storm of historic proportions, just to our east, it doesn't seem wise to stop paying attention.  I feel like I should always be checking weather sites, just in case the thing starts moving and in an unexpected way. So I get up to check advisories, and there I am hours later, clicking and refreshing sites, just in case.

And I also feel like I should be doing tasks that will be harder later, should we lose power.  So I've been doing laundry and cooking and getting caught up with grading for my online classes.  I've thought, I can sleep later, when we lose power.

I am grateful not to have lost power.  I am grateful for my house that's dry and as of now, safe.  I know that many others, those in the Bahamas, in particular, are not fortunate that way.  And they are just 90 miles away.

Like many of us, I've been aghast at some of the footage that's come out of the Bahamas. 

I had the same feelings when Katrina swept through New Orleans--you could get your storm supplies in order, only to have them all swept away. It was the first time I really considered that. After Katrina, my spouse always keeps the ax with our various hurricane supplies when we shelter in place. I'm not sure I could really hack my way out of a structure if I had to, particularly not if flood waters are rising. But maybe adrenaline would help.

Here's what frightens me about our world: in the past 4 years, we've had a storm each year that should have been a once in a lifetime storm. Making some alternate plans for the future that don't involve living near the coast seems wise. But when I think inland, I'm not thinking about Orlando--that won't be far enough inland if a monster storm comes ashore.

Of course, I can hardly afford the house I have, so I can't imagine buying a property, just in case I need a place to flee to or a managed retreat from the coast when the time comes to relocate.

I can't imagine having a storm like that parked over me. I thought the same thing when Hurricane Wilma stalled over Mexico before it came our way. At the time, it had one of the lowest barometric pressures ever.  Hurricane Wilma is still one of the strongest recorded storms in terms of barometric pressure.

As of right now, we can be fairly sure that we won't have a direct hit in my county.  I am still expecting to feel some effects, and I'm still worried that the storm will wobble our way before it follows the forecast track north.

I will walk to the beach to see the sun rise and to see what I can see.  And later, maybe a nap.

Monday, September 2, 2019

All of Our Labor in Light of Hurricanes

It has been a different kind of Labor Day week-end here in South Florida.  The last time we had a storm this strong in our neighborhood was the Labor Day hurricane of 1935--yikes.  That one did not end well.  We will say something similar when we've had a chance to assess the damage in the northern Bahamas.

There will be much labor to do to recover from this storm.  Even with lesser storms, there's always much labor to do afterwards.

We are almost certainly not at risk of a direct hit in my county, although it will come uncomfortably close to land.  We are still under a tropical storm watch at my house.  If we needed to, we could grab our laptops, our few portable valuables, and make a run south--but this morning, it's not looking like we will need to do that.

We may have power outages as the wind picks up, so I'll spend some time this morning doing labor of my own.  I have some grading to do for my online classes--may as well get it done.  All of our schools are cancelled tomorrow, but we can't be sure we'll have power. 

It has been an odd week-end.  We have done a lot more physical labor than usual, from moving the butterfly garden on campus indoors to moving some heavy boxes of books to securing the property a bit yesterday. 

Yesterday afternoon I took a nap at 5 p.m., which I almost certainly wouldn't have done if we hadn't had a day off today.  I slept until 9 and then wanted to get up to make sure that our hurricane situation hadn't worsened.  It hadn't.

Later, I wrote this Facebook post:

"I was planning to stay up until the 11 pm hurricane update and go to bed. Now I'm going to stay up until midnight. When is the last time I stayed up until midnight? Not even on New Year's Eve do I stay up until midnight. Some people run marathons to prove they're still young. I'm staying up until midnight!"

I will also spend some time today doing the kinds of ordinary working tasks like cooking and laundry.  I've been doing that work early, while we still have power.  I hope that later we'll still have power, but I'm trying not to take chances.

Today I'm thinking about how fortunate I am, as I sit here eating my breakfast/snack of butterscotch bars and hot coffee.  Having gone without power for weeks at a time in the aftermath of previous hurricanes, I don't take hot coffee for granted anymore.

If the weather holds, I may also do the work of restoring the cottage--the first task of getting much of our stuff out of there.  We made some progress on Saturday but got derailed by a discussion/argument of what makes sense in terms of book storage.  I would live my life surrounded by bookcases--the sight of books brings me joy.  My spouse is not as besotted with books.

I'm also thinking about how fortunate I am in my work life.  Even though many of us will see today as simply a day off, it's a good day to think about work, both the kind we do for pay and the kind we do out of love. And what about the work we feel compelled to do? I'm thinking of that kind of documenting of family history, of cultural history, of all that might be lost without our efforts.

Here's one of my favorite quotes about spiritual life and labor:   In an interview with Bill Moyers, Jane Hirshfield explains, "Teahouse practice means that you don't explicitly talk about Zen. It refers to leading your life as if you were an old woman who has a teahouse by the side of the road. Nobody knows why they like to go there, they just feel good drinking her tea. She's not known as a Buddhist teacher, she doesn't say, "This is the Zen teahouse." All she does is simply serve tea--but still, her decades of attentiveness are part of the way she does it. No one knows about her faithful attention to the practice, it's just there, in the serving of the tea, and the way she cleans the counters and washes the cups" (Fooling with Words: A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft, page 112).

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Tropical Storm Watch

We are now under a tropical storm watch.  Yesterday, for a 12 hour span, we were out of the cone.  I started to think we might not feel much.  I even took some time to read by the pool.  It was a beautiful day, as those days before a big storm are, with lower humidity and beautiful, blue skies.

This morning I walked to the beach.  The ocean is surprisingly calm considering that there's a category 5 hurricane 225 miles to our east.  The sunrise was bland, going from gray skies to beige skies.

We will see what the 11 a.m. advisory tells us, but we're likely to bring some of the more lightweight stuff in.

But first, I will go to church.  It's less about praying, and more about the treasurer's duties that we need to fulfill.  There will be money to count and bills to pay.

It's too close for comfort.  So yes, in addition to the treasurer duties, I will pray.  I will use the words of Holden evening prayer, praying for weather that nourishes all of creation.