Saturday, February 29, 2020

Primary Voting

Today is the South Carolina primary, which might be a make or break primary for some candidates, if we can believe the pundits and commentators.  Or the way forward may continue to seem muddled.  After all, Super Tuesday is just days away, and I heard one newscaster say that 30% of the delegates will be assigned after Super Tuesday.  Fourteen states vote on Super Tuesday.

Even after Super Tuesday, the way forward may continue to seem muddled.  Maybe the way forward is never as clear as we would prefer--that situation has certainly seemed more the norm than the exception to me.

I can see pluses and minuses with each Democratic candidate.  I'm still not sure who I would vote for.  I know that I would vote for one of the two female candidates if I voted in the South Carolina primary today.

South Carolina has open primaries, which means there might be crossover voting.  People might cast votes in hopes of wreaking havoc.  That's not a new thing--when I voted in my first South Carolina primary in 1988, people talked about that idea.

In 1988, I voted for Jesse Jackson.  I didn't think he had a chance of winning the nomination, although he did very well in the primaries that year.  I didn't think I would ever see an African American as a president in my lifetime.  I am so happy to have been wrong about that.

I have a memory of voting for a Native American woman (the Green party candidate maybe?) while I was a voter in South Carolina, but I think that vote was during a regular election day.  I knew that the state's electoral votes would go to the Republican, so I felt free to vote for people who weren't Democrats.  I knew that my vote wouldn't be counted the way I wanted.  Still, it felt thrilling to vote for a woman, even as I knew that she didn't have a chance of winning.

I took my duties as a voter in South Carolina much more seriously as a voter in the primaries, even back when the South Carolina primary came later in the season.  I wanted to help choose the best Democrat to run against the Republican that would win my state's electoral votes.

Today I live in Florida.  Once I thought that my vote was much more important as a Florida voter.  Now I can't even be sure my vote will be counted properly (see the 2000 election).  Of course, now that's the reality in which most of us find ourselves.

Let us hope that all goes well today in South Carolina.  Let us hope that South Carolinians have clarity of mind and that the poll workers don't face any challenges that they can't handle.  Let us see what happens.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Water Fountain Installation Art/History Project

And so, another African American History month comes to an end.  Later today, I'll take down the library display and set up for Women's History month and the same with a big, red display board.

Sadly, I haven't thought of a way to replicate what one of my colleagues did with the water fountain in the hallway:

Later, I added a sign to explain the trash in the one fountain:

We did this display two years ago, but I didn't notice that it had the same impact as this year.  This year, people stopped and read the signs.  I overheard several conversations about the history that's depicted. 

Even better, I overheard people having insights and making connections.  Some of our students pieced together that these events weren't really very long ago.  Some of our students made connections to more recent events.  Some of them thought we were making it all up, while others corrected them and showed them information on their phones to corroborate the display.

It was very interactive and very attention grabbing, in an understated way--just what a teaching moment should be.

I love these reminders that I work in a school, that the work I do supports students and learning--and not just learning skills that will be useful in a future work place.  I love that we've created something that helped people think about history and civics and how we treat each other.

I want to believe that we do that every day, in all of our classes.  But it's great to see the education happening in real time, just outside my office door.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Cheesecake, Corona Virus, and Our Modern Condition

It is overcast and windy, a cold front coming through.  I wish I had the kind of job where I could arrive late, and people wouldn't care because I appeared late with pumpkin bread fresh from the oven.

Let me record some other snippets--snapshots of modern life or a more random collection?

When I think of the last 2 weeks--really the last seven months--I think of that John Travolta character, Chili Palmer, who went through a whole movie saying, "Be cool."  As everything that could go wrong did go wrong, as everyone freaked out, Travolta's character says, "Be cool."

I say this to myself as the morning news tells us about a person in California who has the new corona virus, but has no connection to anyone who has traveled from places that already have the disease.  It is worrying, but worth remembering that we are all in more danger from the regular flu than this new virus.

It may be a more virulent virus than flu, however; the new virus seems to be killing 2-3% of people who contract it, which is higher than flu.

But no need to fear--Vice President Pence is in charge of the U.S. response to the disease.  Almost anyone on my Facebook and Twitter feed would be a better choice to head the U.S. response to the new corona virus. This may say less about the ones in charge and more about how much medical/science knowledge and experience my friends have and/or pastoral and education skills that will also be useful in facing a crisis.

A few other random parts of the week that I want to record:

--Yesterday, as much of the Christian world gave up something for Lent, I had an amazing piece of cheesecake.  A student brought it for our registrar, but she couldn't eat it because it had berries, which she's allergic to.  She thanked the student, and later, she asked me if I'd like it.  It looked amazing, and it tasted even better than it looked.  I am not giving up food for Lent, so I said yes.

--It was the kind of day/week/7 months that made me feel the need for a cheesecake reward.  I told myself that I was having cheesecake for dinner, which was sort of true.

--But more true--life is short, and we shouldn't turn away delicious cheesecake.

--Then I went to church, where I smudged ashes on foreheads and said, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."  It's a very moving experience for me.  And it does remind me that life is short, and we shouldn't turn away delicious cheesecake.

And in a completely random note:  yesterday as I listened to an analyst talking about the Democratic debate in South Carolina, he referred to the New Left.  He was referring to current left-of-center believers, the ones who follow Bernie Sanders.  Back in my Sociology student days of the 1980's, we talked about the New Left as the 60's radicals who were new, compared to the leftists of the earlier years of the 20th century, who tended to be communists or anarchists.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ashes, Carbon, Cactus, and Prophetic Promises

Here we are, the day after Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday, the day that marks a particularly penitent time in the Christian calendar.  It's Ash Wednesday, the day that reminds us of our ultimate destiny:  we are dust and ash, the detritus of stars, but ultimately dust and ash, a bundle of carbon and other elements.

Last year, coming home from Ash Wednesday service, I had these thoughts on the brain, and I was stopped at a train crossing, with a particularly lengthy train.  I grabbed my camera and experimented with taking pictures of myself in a rearview mirror.  A cross of ash, a rearview mirror, a long train--I should think about a poem.

Earlier parts of last year's Ash Wednesday's service were more traditional. 

I had forgotten how many cactus elements were part of the sanctuary last year:

Later, one of these cactus pots would hold the baby Jesus as he waited out the Advent season, waiting for his debut on Christmas Eve:

Throughout the service, I worked on this sketch:

Let us remember the promise of the ancient prophets:  "Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt" (from the 58th chapter of Isaiah).  Let us dream about the best way to rebuild our ruins!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Mardi Gras Musings

Today will be my usual Mardi Gras, which is fairly blah: get up, go to work, come home, go to bed. No festive drinks, no parade, no interesting foods.

In some ways, I'm more of a Shrove Tuesday kind of gal--but I don't celebrate that holiday usually either. One year I did make pancakes all by myself, which led to a good poem, but a lonely meal.

Today is Mardi Gras, and it's also Shrove Tuesday, which may lead some of us to ponder if these holidays have anything in common or how we came to have them. It's the day before Ash Wednesday, the day before Lent begins. The holidays of Shrove Tuesday, Carnival, and Mardi Gras have their roots in the self-denial of the Lenten season. These holidays are rooted in the fasting traditions of Lent and the need to get rid of all the ingredients that you'd be giving up during Lent: alcohol, sugar, eggs, and in some traditions, even dairy foods.

Mardi Gras and Carnival, holidays that come to us out of predominantly Catholic countries, certainly have a more festive air than Shrove Tuesday, which comes to us from some of the more dour traditions of England. The word shrove, which is the past tense of the verb to shrive, which means to seek absolution for sins through confession and penance, is far less festive than the Catholic terms for this day.

In the churches of my childhood, we had pancake suppers on Shrove Tuesday. I wonder if churches still do that in other parts of the country.

I wish I could say that I went to an early morning Shrove Tuesday pancake breakfast.  I did not.  I did not make any sort of festive bread; if you want an easy festive bread recipe, see this blog post--it's even got pictures.

I have a balsamic-brown sugar-shiraz syrup reducing on the stove.  I've gotten a head start on dinner--broccoli cut up, brown rice begun, sweet potatoes baking in the oven.  I will look forward to this food all day because I am a grown up without an Instant Pot or Mardi Gras plans.

I realize this post might seem a bit sad, but I want to remember that I've had a good morning.  I've gotten some work done on some poems, and I've enjoyed getting a head start on dinner, and I had a good spin class.

Happy Mardi Gras, everyone. May you have a nourishing, creative day.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Transforming the Altar for Transfiguration Sunday

Yesterday was Transfiguration Sunday, a festival day where Christians celebrate Jesus going up a mountain with a selection of the disciples. While there, his clothes and face glow, and Moses and Elijah (dead prophets) appear.  We hadn't really talked about doing much to change the sanctuary for this day.

When I got to church, the altar was still set up the way that it has been since we changed it for the baptism of Jesus, back in early January:

I asked my pastor if I could transform the altar for Transfiguration Sunday.  He said, "Sure.  Have fun."  It's one of the things I love about my church--I am allowed to play and experiment.

I hadn't brought anything with me, but we had some elements on the altar, primarily the gold fabric.  I covered the various structural elements (the bowl, the blocks, the pitcher), added some shimmery yellow fabric and silver florists' wide ribbon, and a few more candles.  I'm really pleased with how it came out:

I did worry about some of the fabric parts catching fire, but I kept a close watch.  Here's a longer view:

Later, I created some haiku-like creations and did a sketch around them.  Here, too, I was pleased:

I love mornings like this at church that make me feel that I've had a creative encounter in a spiritual setting.  May we all be transformed and transfigured!

Sunday, February 23, 2020

A Late Appreciation for Lisel Mueller

The poet Lisel Mueller has died.  Every time I came across a poem of hers, I liked it, but I never bought one of her books--in many ways, she reminds me of Mary Oliver, whom I also liked, but until recently, never bought a book of hers.  Both women were much older than I thought that they were--I don't say this to be ageist, but to say how they seemed to be part of the poetry landscape, but with a much fresher approach to poetry that made me think of them as just bursting on the scene. 

Perhaps I am being ageist after all. Or maybe I'm unfairly dismissing the years of work that go into making fresh poems.  In this idea, I find inspiration.

When I heard of her death this morning, I read some of her poems that I found online.  I was delighted by her approach to history:

"A close-up of a five-year-old
living on turnips. Her older sister,
my not-yet-mother, already
wearing my daughter’s eyes,
is reading a letter as we cut
to a young man with thick glasses
who lies in a trench and writes
a study of Ibsen. I recognize him,
he is going to be my father,
and this is his way of keeping alive."

I also love how she infuses elements of religion and mythology into her poems:

"Invent us as we were
before our bodies glittered
and we stopped bleeding:
invent a shepherd who kills a giant,
a girl who grows into a tree,
a woman who refuses to turn
her back on the past and is changed to salt,
a boy who steals his brother’s birthright
and becomes the head of a nation.
Invent real tears, hard love,
slow-spoken, ancient words,
difficult as a child’s
first steps across a room."

But above all, I love how she infuses her work with ideas and images that make me reel (the happy kind of reeling).  Let me finish by including a whole poem, "Love Like Salt"

"It lies in our hands in crystals
too intricate to decipher

It goes into the skillet
without being given a second thought

It spills on the floor so fine
we step all over it

We carry a pinch behind each eyeball

It breaks out on our foreheads

We store it inside our bodies
in secret wineskins

At supper, we pass it around the table
talking of holidays and the sea."

I thought of celebrating her life and work by buying one of her books--but Amazon doesn't carry many.  Maybe there will be a collected works soon.  In the meantime, I'm grateful that there are so many individual poems that I can read, grateful for the positive parts of the Internet.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Bread Dough and Herman Sourdough Starter

I have yeast proofing in my grandmother's yellow Pyrex mixing bowl.  Rain patters against the windows--the weather has turned cool again.  It looks to be a good day for baking, for a fire in the fireplace, for reading or writing or sketching or stitching.

I fell down a bit of an Internet rabbit hole, but I have emerged victorious.  When I think about my history of bread baking, I think of my experiments with sourdough bread.  Back when I started baking bread, as the 70's transitioned into the 80's, it was a different world then, a world devoid of artisan breads. When we travelled as a family to big cities (like D.C.), the bakeries were a revelation (and they were separate, not part of grocery stores).

I loved sourdough bread, so when Southern Living magazine offered a recipe for starter and some bread recipes, I had to try it. The magazine called the starter Herman, and I did too. I kept that starter going until I left for college. I had hopes that my mom would care for it, but the family moved shortly after I started college, and Herman got tossed in the move.

I have done Internet searches for Herman starter, but they usually returned recipes for the sweet bread that I've always called Amish bread, although there's not much Amish about it--the recipe I used for awhile called for a box of pudding mix, among other things.  This morning, I finally had success, with a posting that includes a picture of the pages from Southern Living--the actual pages!

The post and the site wouldn't let me copy, download or otherwise save, so I copied out the recipes for the starter, the food, and the bread.  Even though I've bookmarked the site, I know from bitter experience that items vanish on the Internet.

I'm not going to start a batch of Herman sourdough starter yet.  I'm about to leave for the AWP conference in San Antonio, and I don't want to leave my spouse with a starter that needs care.  He's got enough to do with his 8 classes that he's teaching as an adjunct.

Because of this Internet rambling, I started a batch of bread dough.  It's not sourdough, but it will hit that same spot.  I foresee some pizza in our grandmothers' cast iron skillets in our Saturday!

Friday, February 21, 2020

Intentional Snarls: Snippets from a Week

Today I am filled with a bit of dread.  Many of today's work tasks are not the ones that nourish me.  Maybe it won't be as bad as I think.

I'm not sure that I have a coherent blog post in me today.  But I do want to record some snippets.  As always, I wonder if I'll see themes or threads or maybe just snarls.

--A few nights ago, I had a bad dream about amassing data and knowing that Russians would be arriving for the data.  Would we give over all of our data?  Had we been interpreting it correctly?  Should I go to the bathroom, in case we were arrested or sent to a concentration camp?

--No wonder I'm tired when I wake up.

--Spin class was cancelled yesterday morning.  Unfortunately, I didn't find out until I arrived.  On my way home, I stopped at a WalMart Neighborhood Market to do some restocking of our bare refrigerator.  I got there right at the moment of opening--so many stockers, filling the shelves.  I wonder if it's the same later in the day.

--I am astonished at how many different kinds of flours that this WalMart Neighborhood Market stocks:  flours made out of every type of nut, coconut flour, traditional white flour, both bleached and unbleached.  But no rye flour.  None of the flours of my breadbaking youth as the 70's moved into the 80's.

--Thinking of those days, I am suddenly suffused with longing for the Mennonite-run eatery that my mom and I went to every so often for lunch during my high school years.  Who knew that so many things could be sprouted?

--I need to start reading the second book for my certificate program in spiritual direction. I will try to make progress on that in the next few days.

--I've gotten feedback on my reading response that I wrote for the first book in the program. As I thought about this program, it didn't occur to me that we'd get this kind of feedback.

--Yesterday, I got the feedback from our group leader. I read it quickly, between work tasks that were leaving me drained and irritable. Reading that response was like having a cup of tea and a delicious scone with a friend who knows me deeply. Wow.

--Part of me just wants to stitch.  I've been thinking about stitching in the shape of a labyrinth.  The stitching would soothe me.  The resulting creation could be used as a finger labyrinth.  I'm posting a picture of stitching that's not in a labyrinth shape, but it's pleased me, snarled tangle of thread and all:

--I say that I have intentional snarls, but they are actually snarls that happen that I decided to let stay.  It's some sort of metaphor for my life, but I'm not sure of all the implications.

--Let me get ready for the day ahead.  I'll put my contacts into my sore and soggy eyes.  I'll go to spin class.  I'll look forward to lunch with old colleague friends.

--Later, a glass of wine with one of my best friends in the neighborhood, while my spouse teaches.  Once I had dreams of long, lingering brunches, but a Friday glass of wine is a delight too.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Enlarging the Platform: Joining Twitter

For years, I resisted having anything to do with Twitter.  It seemed like an extra burden, in these days when we have so many social media distractions.  I wasn't sure that I was even capable of tweeting--posting something when I only have 140 characters?  No way--I'm a long-form blogger.

At least, that's what I told myself for years.  But then I started noticing that most of my Facebook posts aren't really that long.

Still, I resisted, especially as I heard tales of how mean the Twitter world can be.  And I wasn't sure I could keep up with one more platform, even though I understand how important those platforms can be.  Every so often, a thought nudged its way in:  at the very least, I could put the same posts that I put on Facebook over on a Twitter platform.

Yesterday I read this article that advised academics how to begin writing for a more popular audience, and there was a link to this 2016 article about why we should be on Twitter.  This experience has become more and more common during the last few months:  over and over I've been stumbling across articles that talk about how writers really do need to be on Twitter.

Long ago, when Twitter first bust onto the scene, it did seem to be a platform built for people who are always on their phones, and I have a bit of worry about the fact that I don't have a smart phone.  And yet, I'm never very far from other kinds of computers, my laptop at home, and my desk top at work.

Yesterday I went over to Twitter, as I have several times--but this time, I actually started an account.  I decided that a Facebook post from earlier in the week would make a good first post: "In the concrete wasteland of the parking platform, some people watch apocalyptic videos about cryptocurrency or the new corona virus. I quietly water the butterfly garden."

I changed my handle/user name.  At first it was AbbottBerkey, so I tried to change it to Kristin Berkey-Abbott--too long.  I changed it to Berkey-Abbott--no hyphens allowed, which seems like a design flaw to me.  So at first I went with BerkeyAbbott, and then made one more change to KBerkeyAbbott.

I confess that once I successfully navigated all of this, I felt this glow, akin to writing a blog post that makes me happy or creating something out of shreds of something else.

I'm still not sure how often to tweet, and in the end, that decision will probably be made for me.  Most days, I don't have time to tweet throughout the day--and most days, I'm not sure I have enough tweet-worthy material to tweet throughout the day.

Maybe one of the benefits to an additional platform is that my brain will be on the lookout for postable bits.  Maybe it will be like writing a poem a day, that magical time when my brain feels ablaze with inspiration, not the time when my brain feels burdened/exhausted.

For me, the trick is always to manage these social media opportunities.  I have wasted far too much time, scrolling, scrolling, looking for something to read.  I could have read whole books or submitted poetry or put together another book that languishes in the files of my computer--and any of these activities would feed my brain more than scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.

So, we shall see.  If you want to find me on Twitter, I'm using @KBerkeyAbbott as my user name (or is it a handle?).

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Different Approach to the Process Essay

I have often said that the hardest writing to do is the writing of instructions.  Over the years, I've had many approaches to the process essay, a type of essay which often includes the writing of instructions.  One of my favorite approaches to the process essay has involved Legos.

When we moved in 2013, we had to get rid of a lot of stuff, and at that point, I let go of my tub of Legos.  Last year when I taught the process essay, I borrowed some Legos.  I've also thought of buying them.  But this week, I came up with a different idea.

I got to the office and cut shapes out of paper.  I made piles of similar shapes.  At first I was thinking that I'd give each student a different variety from the other student, but that's not how it worked out.

The first step was having the student make a picture with the shapes and tape them to the white page.  I cautioned him that it wasn't art class, so not to spend too much time on the picture itself.

The next step was the crucial one:  write instructions so that someone who receives a bag of the same shapes can create the picture, using only the directions that the student had written.

And then it was time to test the instructions.  Our registrar agreed to try out the instructions.

In some ways, the biggest part of the learning process might have come from the student watching the registrar try to follow the instructions.

For the most part, the student wrote fairly good instructions.  It was a fun project which taught essential lessons.  I'm always happy when I can come up with assignments like this one.  And even better:  I didn't need to buy Legos!

I ended the class by sharing my story about the easiest $50 I've ever gotten.  Long ago in grad school, a computer company needed people to test out their instruction manual.  I got to the lab and opened the manual.  The instructions didn't tell me to turn on the computer!  Three minutes later, I was on my way and $50 richer.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Blinded by the Sun Shaped Corona Virus

In these strange times, I wanted to record a bizarre conversation that happened last week.  We were in a meeting, and one person brought up the new corona virus.  He said, "I don't know that we need to make any plans yet, but I wanted us to be aware."

I said, "We're in much more danger of being impacted by the flu than by this new virus."  I had planned to point out that in South Florida, we're not even in danger of the flu in the way that we would be if we lived further north.

I was cut off by this comment:  "That's what they want you to believe."

I was stunned, but I said, "No, that's what's true right now.  It may not always be true--"

"Well, let's move on."

I was ready to move on.  I could arm myself with all sorts of facts and statistics, and I wasn't going to win that argument.  Well, in one sense, I wasn't going to win.  The people arguing the opposite point have convinced themselves that this new virus will kill us all, and even if we're still alive, they will figure that they just haven't won the argument yet.

I have had similar arguments about people who want to argue that the temperatures aren't setting records.  We can certainly disagree about the cause of why we have so many days of record breaking heat, but there are people who would argue that those records aren't true.  Even when I say, "O.K., let's just look back through the years when we've been keeping records that are mostly reliable by modern standards."  Nope--no concessions.

When my spouse and I were working our way through grad school, we knew that we'd be educating ourselves out of certain conversations.  We don't move in social circles that want to deconstruct literature over the Thanksgiving table or to argue about whether or not we can understand a brain outside of a body.  But that's O.K.  I can't understand the vaccine work that my brother-in-law is doing, but I won't argue that it's not important.

I work in the field of education, and I expected that students would be uneducated--it's the nature of being a student.  I didn't expect to find educated people who refuted facts and statistics as if some shadow group of scientists was working to confuse us all.

But that's the situation we're in, across all sorts of fields and disciplines.  It's a disturbing hallmark of modern life.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Portrait of a Week in Facebook Posts

Occasionally, I look back over my Facebook posts and think about how they represent a week.  Here's a look back at the past week:

Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020:

In the concrete wasteland of the parking platform, some people watch apocalyptic videos about cryptocurrency or the new corona virus. I quietly water the butterfly garden.

One of my retreat friends made an astute observation:  "Although some might think this is a poem about butterflies, I think it's a poem about both peace and power."

Wednesday Feb. 12, 2020:

The Animal Anatomy and Physiology class down the hall is doing dissections. They're listening to Bob Marley's "Get Up Stand Up."

(I thought about saying more:  perhaps about how the song came out before most of the students were born or perhaps about the lyrics and wondering if the students thought about them.  But then I decided just to let readers/FB friends make their own connections.)

Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020:

I have eaten all of the tomatoes
out of the salad
left over
from yesterday's luncheon.

And I ate some plantains too,
the crunchy bits, after I gave
the whole office
enough time to take
their fair share.
Forgive me.
The day is so long
and the treats so few
and far between.

(after William Carlos Williams' "This Is Just To Say")


I loved writing the Feb. 13 post.  I was startled to realize, however, that I have been remembering the William Carlos Williams poem wrong--I thought it started off, "Forgive me.  /  I have eaten . . ."  It did make me a bit sad to look around the campus and to realize how few people would appreciate what I had written without a lot of explaining of the original poem.


On Saturday, Feb. 15, I watched some TV:

"I am watching an episode of "Jamestown," but although it's PBS, this is not our parents' colony! There's alchemy and homosexual love and tobacco fields and a chunk of a cinnabar rock and a whiff of transgender sensibility. This is not the settlement that I learned about in history class . . ."

and then the show got stranger, and I posted this:

"O.K., more than a whiff of transgender sensibility. Alchemy that creates a person that's both male and female? I feel I have missed an important plot element. First they're creating gold from base metals and somehow they ended with a character who is both male and female. What's next? Zombies or vampires? I can't tell where this show is headed at all."

But later, I watched a more normal PBS show:

"Order is now restored to my PBS viewing: 'Sense and Sensibility' with the glorious Emma Thompson. I remember seeing this on the big screen when it first came out. Glorious. I'll try not to post too many quotes. But here's one: 'A country parish is more to my taste. I'll raise chickens. Give very short sermons.'"

Much to my surprise, I watched the whole movie, which meant I stayed up past 11:00 p.m.  And I made this final post for the week:

"Emma Thompson is a goddess and a treasure--and here we are, weeping at the end of 'Sense and Sensibility,' both of us, spouse and me, and he hasn't seen the movie before. That scene, where all that is lost is restored--I have yet to watch that scene without being moved to tears (and yes, even when I showed it to my Brit Lit classes, most of us were moved to tears)."

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Returning to Resurrection

We will soon leave the time of epiphany.  We will trade the star and the angel messengers for ashes on our foreheads.

We may not have realized that the time of epiphany stretched on beyond January 6.  We might not have recognized the wise ones and the gifts they would give us.

We may have already been living in the land of ash.  We may feel that our frozen surfaces will never thaw.

We cannot fathom how we will stitch the fabric of society back together again.  Our arthritic fingers throb with pain even before we have started.

 But if we look closely, we can see that the birds have begun their great migration to return to us.

The first flowers push through the hard earth.

The world returns to resurrection.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Speaking Engagements and Other Ways of Making a Living

I began the day by reading this article about trying to make a life as a writer/performer when one has disabilities.  I mention it here because a lot of the ideas are good ones for all of us, regardless of our abilities.  And even for those of us who have no disability of any kind (do such people exist?), we will all age, and we will all face some element of losing ability as we age.

Yesterday I spent a lovely afternoon with friends whom I first met when we were colleagues at the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale.  Through the years that we've known each other, we've talked about other ways to make a living:  writing, food truck, selling quilts, teaching, leading retreats/conferences.

Yesterday one of them told me about another colleague who has just spent $7,000 to have her book published.  She's also trying to launch a business where she's got speaking engagements at conferences/gatherings and leading corporate team building events.  I wondered two things:  how long will it take her to make back her $7,000?  And are there enough week-ends in the year to go to conferences to make enough money so that one could quit one's day job?

I'm guessing that if we're not the Elizabeth Gilberts of the world, we might make $5,000 to $7,000 per speaking engagement at most, and maybe we'd have our travel costs and hotel/food costs covered too.  That's a lot of engagements needed to come up with the mortgage payment, the living expenses, and the health insurance that the paycheck from one's day job would cover.

In addition to the money, there's the matter of attention span.  There are very few things that I love doing enough to do for 8 to 10 hours a day.  Fourteen years ago I was making a lot of baby quilts--it was one of those times when it seemed like everyone I knew was having babies.  My cousin's wife told me how much her friends had loved the baby quilt I made and how it wasn't like anything else out there.  She suggested that she had many friends who would buy them and suggested that I start a business.  She even thought she could drum up enough interest that I could leave teaching behind and devote myself to quilting.

I did some calculations of how many quilts I'd need to make to have enough to sell to support myself.  I didn't even need to take the next step to calculate how much fabric I would need to buy.  I knew that I would need to be making quilts for at least 12 hours every day, including Saturdays and Sundays, to make the equivalent of my teacher's salary.  Much as I love fabric arts, I don't want to quilt 12 hours every day.

It will be interesting to see what paths unfold for my colleague--I do wish her well, but I don't envy her.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Valentine's Day 2020

Those of you who have been reading this blog for any amount of time will not be surprised to read that I have no romantic plans for Valentine's Day.  My spouse teaches until late, and even if he was available, we would not be going out.  As with Mother's Day and New Year's Eve, I avoid all restaurants on holidays that are designed around spending lots of money.

I do not want caloric treats or fancy baubles.  I like the occasional display of cut flowers, but no need to make a special trip for Valentine's Day.  Buy a pot of petunias instead.

Every day, ideally, should be Valentine's Day, a day in which we try to remind our loved ones how much we care--and not by buying flowers, dinners out, candy, and jewelry. We show that we love by our actions: our care, our putting our own needs in the backseat, our concern, our gentle touch, our loving remarks.

And sustained by the love that sustains in our homes, we can go out to give this love to the world which so desperately needs it.

Today I will be teaching this morning.  We'll do a fun exercise, a variation on the process essay (more details with photos to come).  Then I leave work early because I'm the manager on duty tomorrow.  I'll head over to my friend's house.  We'll have time together to catch up and reconnect and get ready for more friends to join us later in the afternoon.

It's a variation of my quilting group, although we're not working on quilting anymore.  It will be good to share a meal together, but it will be even better to be together, to reconnect. 

Most of us yearn for some variation of that reconnecting, whether it's on Valentine's Day or an ordinary day.  We want people to take time to be with us.  We want our loved ones to take time out for us.  We want to be known that way.

May it be so with all of us--and may that love inspire us to show love to those who desperately need it.  I have a vision of a world that can move away from current ugliness into a world that's more wholesome.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Valentine's Eve 2020

Here we are, the day before Valentine's Day, a holiday that has always left me queasy. When I was young, in elementary school, in the years before teachers leapt in to make sure that no one felt left out, Valentine's Day was a clear indication of who was in, who was out. I got my fair share of Valentines in the shoe box that I made into a "post office box," but no declarations of undying love.

Now that I am older, I see this day as essentially a manufactured holiday, yet another one, designed to make us feel like we must spend gobs and gobs of money to demonstrate our love.

If you want to show me you love me, don't spend thousands on a bauble. Go ahead and pay down the mortgage. It may not seem romantic on its face, but what could be more romantic than ensuring that I have a roof over my head and a door that locks.

And there's a larger social justice element, even beyond the question of how we spend our money and the best use of that money. This blog post reminds us of how many of our Valentine's Day traditions are built on the backs of abused workers--and not just abused workers, but enslaved workers and children: "70-75% of the world’s chocolate comes from cocoa beans harvested in West Africa, where almost 2 million children work under violent and hazardous conditions. Many of these children are kidnapped or sold (some as young as 7 years old) and forced into such labor." The statistics are similar for our roses, our diamonds, our technology, and our stuffed animals.

I do understand why people want a holiday in the long winter months to celebrate love. But I also understand how this holiday is painful to many: those who have lost the loves of their lives, those who have never experienced the love for which they yearn, those who love in a different way. After all, this holiday doesn't celebrate all love, but one certain kind of love, and the societal hype reinforces ideas that may get in the way of a realistic approach to relationships.

Every day, ideally, should be Valentine's Day, a day in which we try to remind our loved ones how much we care--and not by buying flowers, dinners out, candy, and jewelry. We show that we love by our actions: our care, our putting our own needs in the backseat, our concern, our gentle touch, our loving remarks.

I think that in America we do a bad job of learning how to manage our emotional lives. We think our feelings are real. We forget that the emotion we have today will likely be gone by tomorrow. We forget that our bad feelings are often triggered by all sorts of things that have nothing to do with how we really feel. Low blood sugar has caused many a fight--and probably more divorces and break-ups than we like to think about. Many of us go through daily life fatigued. We think our boredom and sadness are caused by our families or our friends or our jobs--and that might be the case--or we might just need more sleep.

So, as we begin the mad rush to Valentine's Day, let us take a moment to remember the gift of being able to love each other.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

A Pony in the Writing Stable

This morning, as I made coffee, an idea swirled in my head--I've been assuming that to find a job where I'd be using my writing skills, I'd need to be a freelance writer.  I've been assuming that without a surprise best seller, I wouldn't be able to make a living with my writing skills.

But what if that's not true?

I started thinking about the kinds of jobs that might need my writing skills.  I'd like to do more than write accreditation documents, so I've been thinking about jobs outside academia.  I wonder if PR departments (do we call them PR anymore?  they've probably morphed into social media somethings) still hire staff writers.

I remember one of my jobs I had as a student, writing for our college PR department.  That was back in the days when each small town still had a local newspaper, and many of those newspapers were happy to run feature stories about students from the community.  I wrote some of those stories, and I was good at it.  It was a thrill to see my work in print, even as I knew that everyone was benefiting from my work--newspapers got free stories, the college got cheap publicity.  Heck, I was benefiting too--I've rarely been paid so well purely for writing.

Could I find a job at a retreat center or an institute where I'd do a lot of writing about ideas that are important to me?  I'm willing to do other things too--run conferences, go to visit local institutions, create both onground and online retreats.

As I created the meditation on this Sunday's gospel reading that I create every week, I thought about the people who create resources that are used widely.  I don't know if much of that work is done by freelancers.  But someone must be in charge of managing the freelancers.

Well, time for me to get ready for this day.  It will not be the type of day in the office that I like--it will be a day full of meetings and grumblings and a luncheon that is not supposed to generate extra work but probably will.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Writing Affirmation

Yesterday, a colleague from a past workplace told me that he admired my blogging practice.  He said that he had started a blog, but just never really wrote much.

I thought about how my blogging has changed.  I keep two blogs, and once, I wrote a separate blog piece for each one, and I did this almost every day.  When I first started out, I rarely recycled anything I wrote--once I had written a blog piece, I didn't rerun it.

Back then, more of us were reading blogs.  Back then, I had more time, or I felt like I did.  Now I'm more gentle with myself.  Now I've been blogging over 10 years, so some pieces are worth giving everyone a second (or third or fourth) chance to read.

My writing time this morning is limited, but before I close, let me record this interesting nugget.  On Saturday, my mom told me about a church friend of hers who remembered me from 2016 when I was up to help lead their women's retreat.

The church friend was talking to a woman who teaches at William and Mary, and they were talking about poetry.  The William and Mary teacher said she had a book to recommend--and it was one of my chapbooks!  My mom's friend recognized my name.

What are the odds of that?!!!  Who do I know at William and Mary?  How else might my little chapbooks have made their way there?

There are days that I'm amazed at what I've been able to do with my writing.  And there's always the part of me that wonders if I might be in a different place right now if I had done more in terms of building platforms and trying to get my work even further out into the world.

But for today, let me record my delight in the fact that a former colleague remembers me as a blogger and that an unknown person recommended my book to a friend of my mom.

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Onground Intensive: A Look Back with Pictures

This week-end, I spent some time finishing the first book for the spiritual director certificate program, The Practice of Spiritual Direction by William A. Barry and William J. Connolly.  I've written my first response paper and sent it back to our small group leader.  I've also spent time thinking about the time in January, and as I've looked back over my January blog posts, I realized I didn't ever do much with photographs here (perhaps because I made some Facebook posts with photos, and I didn't want to repeat).

So, let me do that now.  It will give me joy to look back on that time.  Just a few weeks ago, I was getting packed and ready to hit the road.  On January 15, I'd get to campus a few hours before check in time, and to my great happiness, I was able to check in early.  For this intensive, I stayed in a historic house:

There were four bedrooms upstairs, and each bedroom had 2 twin beds:

My favorite part of the house was the converted sunroom.  My mind has often returned to this spot where I wrote and sketched:

My favorite part of the campus was the library, which seemed to have every book on Christianity that I could ever want, as well as beautiful spaces to spend time reading:

The above is an upstairs reading nook.  Here's a view of the main floor:

The chapel is a beautiful example of modern design (modern for the 20th century--will it seem modern in 30 years?  I have no idea):

The cross had amazing carvings:

We spent a lot of time in this meeting area in the Voight classroom building:

My small group met here:

One of the seminary buildings, Alumni Hall, had works of art by John August Swanson and He Qi--numbered prints, not just framed posters. 

I was stunned that the building was open, and anyone could wander in.

 I spent some time in contemplation there, thinking about how rare it was to be able to be that close to art of that quality with no guards hovering by.  Below is a picture of the outside of Alumni Hall:

I love being on a campus where we're greeted by this statue of a merry Martin Luther. 

I love a campus that has a chapel on one end and a library on the other end--I love the idea of balance that the architecture implies.

What a treat to spend time away, time focused on something besides the metrics of the modern workplace (cost-benefit ratios, budget to actual spreadsheets, retention rates and completion rates and examination scores).

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Perfect Saturday--with Pizza and a Fire in the Fireplace

Even though no one sleeps in our guest room this week-end, I'm writing in the front room, by the front window, on the table that we moved there so that my spouse had more room for the parts of his teaching life (grading, class prep) that he has to do from home.  He's an adjunct, so he has no real school office.  I love the view of trees from the front windows.  My writing desk in the front bedroom has a view of the neighbor's house, so I've filled the window sill with objects that mean something to me.

I'm writing at the window in the front room this morning because I moved the computer out here yesterday so that I could be with my spouse and still get work done (writing work, teaching work, social media connecting).  Yesterday morning was chilly and damp, so he built a fire in the fireplace, another good reason to be in the front room.  Yesterday morning, this was my view from my computer:

I remember long ago, in grad school, when one of my friends was in a relationship with an older man who had his own house, a small house that had a fireplace.  I was envious in a friendly, "I wish I had this kind of way," not in a "I want to take this from you kind of way"--especially when she told us about writing her papers for grad school courses in front of that fireplace.

Yesterday was one of those perfect days when we didn't leave the house.  We have often had the opposite, the days when we don't leave the house, but we're restless about it or we're irritated at what must be done or we'd like to leave the house, but we don't have a plan.  Yesterday was the perfect mix of getting some chores done, relaxing, getting work for pay done, and having some down time.  We did a task that we've wanted to do for a long time.  My spouse needs to get the shed organized, so since the cottage is empty right now, we moved all of the shed items into the cottage--and we threw stuff out.

We also did some cooking, an activity that's become one of our favorite things to do together.  During the week, I had come across a recipe for pizza cooked in cast iron skillets, which sounded interesting.  I put together some pizza dough, which I approach as bread baking--ah, bread baking!  In the early part of the afternoon, we put the pizza together, and 15 minutes later, we pulled the skillets from the oven:

It was delicous:

As I posted the picture above, I made this Facebook comment:  "Before anyone gets too jealous, I'm also noticing the paperwork in the background, which is insurance paperwork from the drowned car of late Dec. and the stolen credit card of mid-January--and still, I'm grateful, because if one must have problems, I'd rather have those kind of problems than health or death problems."

As I look at these pictures, I'm amazed at what we can put together with some pantry items.  I made the pizza dough with no recipe--just yeast proofed in warm water with some sugar, more warm water and olive oil as I added flour and a bit of salt.  We didn't have much in the way of pizza toppings--no ground beef in the freezer, no mozzarella cheese in the refrigerator.  But we did have a tin of anchovies and a jar of calamata olives.  We did have parmesan and a blend of Italian cheeses.  We had a jar of tomato sauce.

Yesterday a sense of gratitude suffused my day.  I was grateful that I have time to write, time to pursue my interests, time to take a nap.  I was grateful to be moving back to a mental space where I like our house, even though it needs work.  I was grateful that we know how to cook and how to keep a pantry stocked enough so that we can cook.

But most of all, I am grateful that some of my recent bleakness of mood has lifted.  I realize that both bleak moods and happy moods are transitory--and I'm always grateful when the bleak mood lifts.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Painters of Sky, Painters of Walls

One advantage to being awake in the pre-sunrise hours is the view of the moon I often get.  Just now, I looked out my west facing kitchen window to see the full moon, mostly cloaked (but not concealed) by shreds of clouds, which makes the clouds interesting shades of purples, eggplants, lavenders, and grays. It's like a Turner painting, if Turner had included palm trees in the foreground.

Once I wrote that, I had to go remind myself of the details of Turner's life.  The Wikipedia entry includes this interesting nugget:  "He opened his own gallery in 1804 and became professor of perspective at the academy in 1807, where he lectured until 1828, although he was viewed as profoundly inarticulate."

He taught for almost 20 years.  Did everyone view him as "profoundly inarticulate"?  Was he only inarticulate in his speech?  Did his students learn in other ways, non-lecture ways?

I've spent some time this morning with a different painter--the character Lee, on Thirtysomething.  I've fallen down a bit of a rabbit hole, the way one can in internet rambling.  Last night I was trying to stay awake until my spouse got home from his Friday evening class, but how did I decide to watch the episode of Thirtysomething where Gary died?  I cannot remember.

The YouTube capture of the episode that I saw was of varying quality, but that didn't mar the beauty of the episode.  Truth be told, I remember much of that episode as if I just saw it last week.  What a staggering episode.

Then I decided I wanted to see something lighter, so I went searching for the show where Melissa meets the housepainter.  At first, I got to the episode that's become famous for the gay couple in bed.  But I really wanted the earlier episode, which I finally found.  I didn't watch all of it.  I zipped right to the end to make sure I had the episode.  And then I watched other bits and pieces.

This morning, I watched much of that episode again.  And then I discovered an older Thirtysomething podcast--I've listened to the interview with Corey Parker, the actor who played Lee, and then with Melanie Mayron.  Fascinating!

I have always thought of Thirtysomething as one of the earliest shows that demonstrated that television could be more like film than traditional TV had been, but even as I type that, I think of shows from the 70's that did similar things with characters and storylines.  As I've been watching these episodes of Thirtysomething, I'm struck by the cinematography aspects:  the lighting, the camera angles--and I'm seeing those, even as I'm watching the show on less-than-stellar ways (on a Youtube video on my computer); even at that remove, those qualities are amazing.

I think of that show as one of my cultural touchstones.  I remember being influenced by the ideas about being true to one's art at the same time one needs to pay the bills.  Melissa was the one who was living out her artistic ideals, but I remember that Michael had creative cravings too.  And there was the storyline about Nancy who is writing a book.  In my grad school years when I watched the show on network TV, I saw it as full of portents and warnings.  In my later midlife years, I wonder if I would see the same lessons.

This is not the first morning I have spent in internet ramblings exploring Thirtysomething.  A few weeks ago when the reboot was announced, I spent some time reminiscing and clicking.  I'm interested to see where the reboot goes, as well as being a bit afraid.

On a usual Saturday morning, I'd be catching up with the Friday political episodes of NPR shows.  This Thirtysomething meandering has been much more nourishing in many ways.

Friday, February 7, 2020

What I'm Sketching

Yesterday I took some time to sketch.  The night before, I'd been reading the first book for my spiritual direction program, and I had been thinking about the idea of talking to God.  When I've thought of spiritual direction, I've thought about listening for God, but less about talking to God the way I might talk to a friend.

The book has also made me think about how I talk to friends/family/spouse:  what do I share and what do I keep deep inside?  And do I keep things so deeply inside that even I don't know that they are there?

As I was thinking about the reading and about what I wanted to sketch, I created a haiku.  And then the idea of a fountain came to me.  And so, I started to sketch:

I'm pleased with this image.  I like the energy of the water.  In fact, it reminds me of a sketch that I did on Saturday:

Lots of energy in that sketch.  I like the colors, the swirls, but most of all, I like the energy.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

State of the Union

This week seems to be one where I hear a lot of muttering (or perhaps louder sounds) about losing the Republic.  From the Super Bowl halftime show to the State of the Union speech to the acquittal verdict on President Trump's impeachment, there's much to make us feel like we've headed off of whatever rails were there and we're spiraling down into the abyss.

But I'm an educated woman, and I know that the country has seen worse.  It's no guarantee that we won't also see worse, but it's a comfort.

During my onground intensive in January, in small group session, I mentioned my approach to bad news.  I talked about how if we could go back to 1984, we would have trouble convincing citizens of the changes that we've seen:  the end of the Soviet Union, free and fair elections in South Africa that led to Nelson Mandela being elected the president, the legalization of gay marriage--I could go on and on.

I saw many faces lighten with relief, and one person who is much younger than I am said, "Thank you.  I never thought about it that way."

Heck, in 1984, I thought that all of civilization was under imminent threat, not just the U.S.  I was deeply concerned about nuclear weapons.

I still am.  And yet I've lived long enough to know that it's often something else that comes out of left field to be a threat.  If we could go back to 1984 and present statistics about sea level rise, I'd have trouble believing you.  But as I nervously look at the lake that's 2 blocks from me and calculate the path of the moon, I'm a believer.

So, yes, there's lots out there to cause us concern.  I return to the question I've been asking for some time:  is it 1939?

That's a less wordy way of asking, is it time to think about leaving?  Who do I know in which countries that speak English?  How open are those countries to immigrants?  Is it time to offshore some resources?

I'm not likely to take action.  But days like yesterday make me want to go out and create my own Lake District with loved ones and artists in a place far away.

I realize that it's hard to find a place far enough away that we won't be touched by any of these developments.  And so I will stay put, ministering to people in the best way I know how, bearing witness to the better life that we could create together.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

When Your Cold Strikes Back

I had thought I had one of those lesser colds--a mildly annoying thing which makes me more aware of my various sinuses, but not really much of an impact.  I have had a cough that comes and goes.  Some days I've thought that the cold was on the run.

Last night as I drove home at 6:30, after observing a class, I noticed that I was shivering.  I took my temperature which was 99.6.  I thought I might have used the thermometer wrong.  I continued to shiver as I watched a bit of T.V.

I got into bed just before 8 p.m.  I was wearing flannel pajamas, and I was under lots of covers, but still I shivered.  I drifted off to sleep.

At 9:15, I woke up and knew I better get to the bathroom.  I can count on one hand the amount of times I've thrown up during this century (and perhaps during my whole adult life)--last night was one of those times.  At least I didn't make a mess.  I went back to bed.

My spouse came home from teaching, and I told him my cold had taken a turn for the worse.  And then I slept and slept.

I wanted to wake up to be completely recovered, but I have a pounding headache this morning, along with a back ache.  Still, at one point in the night, I was dizzy and had trouble holding my head up.  At least it's not going to be that kind of day (she says with hope in her voice).

I've taken aspirin and Mucinex for the cough.  I'll take a shower and head to work.  Despite a few tough moments through the night, I did sleep over 10 hours, so I don't feel as bad as I might.  If I took a sick day, I don't know that I'd need it to recover--so why waste it?

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Poetry Sunday: "Song for Anna"

Today is Candlemas, where Christians celebrate the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, and pagans long ago celebrated the goddess Brigid (and the feast day of St. Brigid was yesterday), and some Wiccans today will be celebrating at Imbolc, or a variation of any number of pagan holidays. It's also Groundhog's Day. It's one of those times when we can almost perceive the shifting of the seasons. It's not spring yet, but it will be soon.

Candlemas is a feast day that speaks to me. Candlemas celebrates the presentation of Jesus at the temple. It's the last feast holiday that references Christmas. We could see it as the final festival of Christmas, even though most of us have had the decorations packed away since even before Epiphany.  In fact, some traditions tell us that whatever decorations we don't have packed away by the end of Epiphany on Jan. 6 have to stay up until Feb. 2.

Finally!  A reason to be leisurely putting away the trees and twinkly lights!

One year I preached on the topic of the presentation of Jesus at the temple.  I focused on Simeon and Anna, another set of elderly people who begin at the perimeter of our Christmas stories and move to the center.  Most churches focus on the youth--the fiery younger prophets, the Virgin Mary, the young Jesus, the energetic Paul.  Most churches approach the youth as the future of the church and the elders as people who get in the way.

For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, there are Bible texts that tell a different tale.  Last year, I created several poems that centered around Anna, and then I made this sketch a few days later:

Here is one of the poems.  It's in the form of a villanelle, which often feels forced to me.  Nonetheless, one the rare occasions when I finish one, I do feel like I've accomplished something major:

Song for Anna

In this temple of white whiskers, old bones, and setting sun,
I water the plants, feed the cats, and sweep the stone floor.
The work of a prophetess is never done.

The length of tasks can leave one stunned.
For novices, I make a list of every daily chore
in this temple of white whiskers, old bones, and setting sun.

In the afternoon, there is wool to be spun,
and other work that tends to bore.
The work of a prophetess is never done.
For high holy days, the purifying war must be won.
We will find every unclean spore
In this temple of white whiskers, old bones, and setting sun.

We don’t even think of having fun.
If we stop this work, we will be shown the door.
The work of a prophetess is never done.

The background noise makes me want to run.
The children cry, the animals bleat, and the elders roar.
In this temple of white whiskers, old bones, and setting sun
The work of a prophetess is never done.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

The Feast Day of Saint Brigid and This Moment in Time

It is the feast day of Saint Brigid*, and we are fighting off colds.  We are trying to cough quietly because we have people sleeping in the front bedroom.  I think of monastic vows of hospitality, especially when I wish that our guest room was more luxurious.  This morning, our guests are sleeping 4 mattresses high, with boxes piled around them.  But it's a place to sleep, with clean sheets and a relatively clean bathroom.

It is the feast day of Saint Brigid, and we have a moving van parked outside.  My sister-in-law begins moving out of the cottage today with the help of her significant other (sleeping in the front bedroom) and his brother (sleeping in the cottage).  The weather forecast calls for thunderstorms, some of them intense, so I'm not sure how this impacts her plans.  They will likely hit the road later today or tomorrow.  I think of those Celtic Christians who moved through the world in their little boats or on foot.

It is the feast day of Saint Brigid, the day after the Senate effectively finished their impeachment trial.  It is a good day to remember that the nation has survived many challenges, and this one is not the worst.  It is a good day to pray for deliverance from those worse times.

It is the feast day of Saint Brigid, and there is news from abroad that makes me anxious:  the British have finally formally left the European Union, the new corona virus continues its blistering approach, glaciers continue to melt faster than we thought they would.  It's a good day to follow the model of Saint Brigid, to care for those who are closer to our orbits.

It is the feast day of Saint Brigid, in a week where a friend looked into my refrigerator and said, "This looks like the fridge of a single person."  She meant that there was no food and that it was clean.  Because there was no food, I had scrubbed the shelves the day before, the first time I scrubbed the shelves in a long time (years, if we're being honest).  I've wiped them, but I rarely take them out and thoroughly clean them.  Now I have clean fridge shelves and the rest of the house is a bit grubby, a constant state of affairs.  I like to think that saints like Brigid probably had better skills than I do in terms of balancing the daily tasks with the larger work, but I suspect there were times when Brigid looked at the abbey she had founded and wondered why it was so hard to keep clean.

It is the feast day of Saint Brigid, which is also the day before the Super Bowl in Miami tomorrow.  I will leave my house to go to church tomorrow, but other than that, I'm staying put.  I have a vision of time to read; I started Nell Freudenberger's Lost and Wanted last night, and it's amazing.  I have a vision of doing some sketching.  I'm not creating a focused book of illuminations, like Brigid did with her Book of Kildare, but the work feeds me.  I have a vision of doing some cooking, of channeling Brigid's abundance by baking bread or a huge casserole or a sour cream coffee cake.

*To find out more about Saint Brigid, go to this blog post; it also includes a poem of mine.