Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Feast Day of the Visitation

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

I'm a good Lutheran girl, so growing up, we never celebrated these feast days. As I've gotten older and explored monasticism, and to be honest, as I've blogged more and needed more to write about, I've been doing all sorts of research into feast days.

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

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

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

I love this story of new life being held in unlikely wombs.  I love this message that biology is not destiny, that our bodies can do all sorts of wondrous things, like heal, generate new life, or learning new ways of being in the world.

There are other aspects of this story that aren't immediately apparent.  I love the intergenerational care that's present in this story.  I am fondly remembering female members of my own extended family and offering thanks for their support. I remember the family stories they told and the ways they included me in family gatherings. I remember the rides to the airport, and memorably, one time that my cousin Barbara (my mom's first cousin) came to Augusta, 60 miles away, at night, to help me out of a jam caused by the breakdown of a car. I remember that she treated it as a grand adventure. No castigating, no lecturing.

This year, I'm thinking about the elements of discernment, call, and retreat.  God calls both Mary and Elizabeth, and both say yes to a radical change of direction to what they might have planned.  And it's a change that will have an impact on the rest of their lives, not just a year or two.  I love the idea of taking some time away to support each other and to prepare.

On this feast day of the Visitation, let's take a few minutes to listen for God's call.  What new life waits to be born?  What new project of God's can only proceed if we say yes?  And how can we nourish ourselves so that we're ready?

Here are the readings for today:

First Reading: 1 Samuel 2:1-10

Psalm: Psalm 113

Second Reading: Romans 12:9-16b

Gospel: Luke 1:39-57

Here's a prayer that I wrote for today:

Creator God, today we offer thanks for Elizabeth and Mary, women who were willing to follow your invitation into adventures that must have seemed impossible.  Open our hearts so that we hear the invitations you offer to us.  Give us the courage to say yes to you.  Plant in us the gifts that the world needs.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Meditating on Memorial Day

I never got Memorial Day off as an adult, until we moved down here to South Florida. In South Carolina, in the 1990's, Memorial Day was often not celebrated because it started out life as a holiday to honor the Union dead.

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

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

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

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

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

Now I live in a place that feels more like a future U.S., where English isn't the dominant language, where there are more recent arrivals than people with ancestors buried in the soil. Most days, I'm cool with this, and invigorated by it.

Today, I'd like to be at a national monument, listening to one of the service bands perform. Or maybe I'd rather be in a contemplative spot, saying a thank you.

So, on this day which has become for so many of us just an excuse to have a barbecue, let us pause to reflect and remember. If we're safe right now, let us say a prayer of gratitude. Let us remember that we've still got lots of military people serving in dangerous places.

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

Here's a prayer I wrote for Memorial Day:

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

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Prime, and the Time Past

What a week it has been:  difficult stories in the news, firming up some plans for moving, time spent with family and friends, and lots and lots of sorting. Let me collect some of the minutae so that I don't forget them.

--A week ago, we'd have been getting ready for the long motorcycle trip back across the state. I spent part of that time thinking about possible poem ideas so let me record one of them here:

this is the lake that holds the water

this is the levy that holds the lake

this is the crack That holds your demise

this is the faith washed away

--Yesterday as I was going to meet a friend for lunch I was astonished at the beauty of the Royal Poinciana trees. They are a bit past their prime, and I felt a bit of sadness, since I won't be here when they are back in their prime.

--I am trying not to think of all the ways I feel I am a bit past my prime.

--I made this Facebook post:

Out on the 6th floor parking deck, watching storms roll in from the Everglades, counting how many Royal Poinciana trees we can see, blazes of red against a darkening sky.

--At first I liked the poetic possibilities, but then I started wondering how much it was influenced by Ezra pound. I woke up this morning thinking that the word blaze is a cliche.  

--And it never did rain.


Saturday, May 28, 2022

Deadlines and a Sense of Grace

 A student wrote to apologize for not getting her work done this week. She said she had been in the hospital after giving birth to a baby but that she would catch up on work this week.  I told her to take all the time she needed.

I know that some teachers would require documentation; I was once one of those teachers. But my experience during spring of 2020 has changed me a bit. In March of 2020, facing enormous disruptions, I wrote to my students and told them I had suspended all deadlines and that all they had to do was to do their best to get their work done by the end of the term. I would keep writing weekly emails as if the deadlines still applied, and in fact I encouraged them to try to meet the deadlines so that they wouldn't have impossible tasks at the end of the term. But I could tell early on that we were going to be facing a variety of challenges, and I didn't need to hear all the details to grant people grace. My goal was to get them to the end of the term as successfully as possible.

That's always my goal of course. I was surprised by how many people stayed on track even though I had given them blanket permission to turn in everything late. It made me wonder if the punitive approach to missing deadlines is the best. We talk about training people to be good workers later, good professionals, people who will get the work done on time. I'm not sure they really learn that by me taking 20 points off if they turn in a paper late.  Perhaps it's more accurate to say that the ones who learn the lesson that way have already learned it by the time they get to my college English classes.

I also thought about different approaches to grades with my own grades that I earned as a student this term in seminary. In one class, I earned an 89.7. On a 100 point scale, would you give me an A or a B for the class? As a teacher I would round up, but I know many teachers who don't.  I'm happy that my seminary professor did round  up, and I got an A minus for my term grade.

When I broke my wrist, I did write to all of my professors just to let them know, and they all wrote back to say that they were willing to do whatever I needed. I decided to push forward and finish my work before the surgery. This morning I looked at the calendar and thought that if it was a month ago, I would be deep in a variety of papers.  I thought that pushing ahead was easier than taking incompletes, and that turned out to be a good decision.

There's this strange emptiness in my days where seminary work once was and where it will be again. It makes sense to take this summer off for a variety of reasons:  wrist surgery recovery, moving across multiple states, and the fact that seminary scheduling didn't quite work for me for this summer. Today I will connect with old friends, one of the joys of having some extra time.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Wrist Surgeon, Unemployment, and All the Platforms that Make Me Anxious

I woke up today sore in strange places--or perhaps it is more accurate to say sore in places that once would have been strange. My wrist hurts my feet hurt both shoulders and upper arms ache. Is it because I went to the wrist doctor yesterday?

The trip to the wrist doctor took much of the morning. There was the drive out there in rush hour traffic, which reminds me of why I grow weary of South Florida. The cast on my wrist needed to be removed so that the stitches could come out, and that removal required a saw, a cracking tool, and scissors. I didn't watch that process, and once the cast was off, I did not look at the site of my stitches.

I also did not watch the hand surgeon take the stitches out of my wrist. My enthusiastic flesh had started to grow back over the stitches, but the removal of them just felt strange and prickly, not painful. We looked at x-rays of my wrist, which is healing nicely. But the bone hasn't grown back entirely, so I'm in a cast until June 22.  I could have had it removed on the 15th except that I'm out of town.

I drove back home and gave myself some time to recover. I'm not sure why my visits to the hand surgeon leave me so wiped out, but they do. There's something about the hand surgeon that makes me more anxious then just going to the hand therapist. But happily, yesterday's visit was positive. While I still do not have full finger movement/mobility, the hand surgeon is happy with the progress that I'm making.

One of the drawbacks of having a cast on my lower arm is that people share their broken wrist stories with me. At first it was comforting do you realize how many people have had this experience. But it's also hard to move through the world knowing how vulnerable we all are.  I've always known that on a theoretical level, but lately it's felt much more visceral.

I could have sorted books yesterday afternoon, but I wanted to go back to the unemployment benefits website. I know that if they request information, I only have two weeks maximum to get that information to them. It took me about a half hour to get to the right screen where I found out that they did need more information, information I had already given them several times before.  But I'll play along--I entered it again.

The unemployment benefits website is built on a platform that uses 1980's technology, so giving more information is clunky and time-consuming--will I ever actually get any money? That remains to be seen.  In the meantime there is sorting to do and packing to do, and it's time to begin the day's work.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

The Solace of Books

It has been a strange two weeks, with not one but three mass shootings:  one at a grocery store in a black neighborhood, one at a church where Taiwanese Christians were worshipping, and one at an elementary school. I know that someday I may look back and wonder why I didn't write more about these mass shootings, but I really have nothing to say.

I would be interested to be able to time travel 200 years ahead to see what researchers have discovered about our time. Will there be answers for why we have had so many mass shootings in the last 30 years? We haven't seemed to have assassinations like we did in the late 60s--is that part of the puzzle that's important? We haven't had bomb blasts like other countries have had--does that provide a clue? Like I say, I don't know but I'd be interested to find out. I doubt we'll have enough distance from all of this in my lifetime for me to know.

I started writing a blog post about sorting my books and then remembered that I had already written a blog post about sorting books. That was back in the first day of sorting books, and now I am reaching the end. I'll leave those paragraphs below, with a concluding paragraph that connects book sortings to larger events. If a blog is like a journal, a mapping of our days, then my days have been deep in marked by going through box after box of books. It makes sense that I would write more than one blog post about it.

Every few years, I try to sort through my books. This year I'm doing it in advance of a move, but some years it's been simple logistics as I run out of room on the bookshelves. I try to forgive myself for all the money that I've spent, all the books I thought I would want to own forever, all the resources that have flowed towards publishers. To be honest, if I'm going to overspend, I'd prefer to overspend on books which supports authors.  Buying a book brings me joy like few other things--as habits go I could have worse ones.

This sorting of the books is a much more extensive sorting than some in the past. For all the books that I think that I want to keep, I am holding them in my hand and asking myself, “Do I really need this book?”  I looked through the books to see what I've underlined, and often I wonder why I have kept a book as long as I have. I am giving away a lot of fiction as I am short of time to read new fiction much less return to old fiction. I am taking a hard look at the nonfiction. For example, once I bought every book written by Julia Cameron, of  The Artist’s Way fame.  I decided to keep The Realms of Gold, which is a book that changed my life, so it deserves to travel with me a bit longer. During the last culling of the books in 2020, I kept four additional Julia Cameron books, which will now be going on to other homes.

I feel like I've been rather ruthless, but we're still going to end up with about 10 boxes of books. That's about half of where we started. I'm trying to give myself credit for being willing to part with so many books. I'm trying not to think about the fact that in later years,  I'm likely to part with some of the ones that I'm keeping. I'd like to get better at buying books and letting them go right after I read them, but that may not happen.

As I've sorted books, I've thought about what's happening, across the nation and the planet. I've thought about the power of words, and I've wondered if any of our words can make a difference. I've thought about these books that have been important enough to me to hang onto for years and decades. I've thought about books as solace and inspiration. I've wished that I could create the kind of works that people will hang onto for decades. And who knows? I still have decades of writing life left he read. Perhaps that will happen.

But even if it doesn't, I am grateful for the solace of words, for the solace of words collected into books.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Leases and Letting Go

This morning I was looking over some of my blog posts from a year ago, and I am just amazed by all the changes that have happened in just the past year. A year ago we were deciding to sell the house and figuring out how to do that. That decision led us to rent a condo that we live in right now. A year ago my spouse thought he never ever wanted to leave South Florida, so when the landlady asked if we would consider a two year lease, even though I had some hesitation, I agreed. I knew it was a good deal, and all the utilities were included in the rent, so it would make budgeting easier.

As summer and fall progressed, the job that I thought I was going to lose transformed into something else, which seemed to be permanent for about two months, and then I was told that the company had a different vision than my vision for the students, although no one would ever doubt that I had the best interests of students at heart. By then it was February of 2022, and my spouse was ready to leave South Florida. We've been turning around all sorts of possibilities in the past several months.

There was just one problem, of course.  We did sign a two year lease, and our landlady could have been very ugly about it. Ugly is the wrong word. She had every right to expect us to be here through July of 2023. Technically we are liable for all of that rent.

However, in the tri county area where I live in South Florida, rents have gone up over 50% in the past year. I had hopes that our landlady might be open to letting us out of the lease since she could get more rent money from someone else. I also know that the condo building has expensive repairs to the swimming pool in the near future, which will probably result in assessments for the owners, so I figured that our landlady might welcome the chance to get some extra money with new renters.

And happily that is what has happened.  About a month ago, my spouse had let our landlady know that I lost my job but that we had some money in savings. A few days ago she wrote to ask if we had any thoughts about ending the lease early, so we decided to take that opportunity to come up with a plan and to get her approval. The month of July will be our last month with this lease. We are happy to be helpful with showing the place to potential renters, so that's a plus for her.  But the biggest plus for her of course is that she can get so much more rent for this condo than we were paying.

I've enjoyed living here in many ways. It's easy to pop over to the grocery store to pick up something we need for dinner. There are times when I like being this close to the Arts Park.  While it is a hassle to park in the parking garage in some ways, it means our vehicles are safer in other ways. Our condo has the most reliable Internet I've had in a residence so far. If I was a woman living alone, a condo like this  would be ideal in terms of security. My spouse has been less happy here--he misses the chance to garden and be outdoors surrounded by trees and sunshine. I will always wonder if he would have been more happy if the pool had been available. The condo has a lovely rooftop pool which has been out of commission since before we moved in.

As with many things, the condo building has amenities that I haven't really taken advantage of. There's a small indoor gym downstairs, which I've used about three times.  It's been a comfort to remember that there is a computer room downstairs, but happily our computers have held together. There are comfortable public spaces where one might read, but I don't really use them.

I might have made a lot of different choices had I known a year ago what I know now--but when isn't that true? Overall it's worked out. And now on to packing and the next phase.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Sea of Tranquility, World of Turmoil

During my April travels, I heard this interview with Emily St. John Mandel on the NPR show 1A. The interviewer and the author discussed the new book Sea of Tranquility, which sounded interesting. I first read Station Eleven and enjoyed it thoroughly, so I was predisposed to like this book.

In fact, I loved this book. I’d go so far as to say it's one of the best I've read in a long time. I started it Friday afternoon and got up early Saturday morning to finish it. I don't want to say too much about it because I don't want to ruin it for those who haven't read it, so let me just say that it was satisfying in so many ways, particularly in ways that pleased me as a writer. I was so impressed with what she managed to pull off.

This interview on the Ezra Klein podcast also inspired me to want to read this book. This morning I went back and listened to both interviews again. Emily St. John Mandel is a wonderful guest with a wide range of knowledge.  I’m glad that she’s younger, that we might have many more books from her to enjoy.

I was sad yesterday when I learned that Rosemary Radford Ruether had died. She, too, had a wide range of knowledge. She was one of the feminist theologians who helped change how we talk about God. She did groundbreaking, revolutionary work on gender issues and God talk. She's not one of the theologians whose work I go back to reread, but her work forms a foundation for many of the works of theology that have sustained me.

I wish I could say that her work was done, that it seems part of an earlier age and no longer relevant.  Sadly, that is not the case. Just last month I was part of an interesting conversation about changing references to God as a father. We talked about translation issues and gender issues and whether or not it was appropriate to have a more expansive language when talking about the creator.

The person who was most opposed to changing God the Father language was not in his 90s. I looked him up later to be sure. He's roughly my age, at the far side of mid life. I thought that most people in more liberal church denominations had accepted the need for careful language when it comes to the creator, a need to move beyond tradition. I was surprised by the ferocity of the conversation.

I held my own, while at the same time thinking of the decades of work that had been done on this issue of the language of God talk. It's also interesting to think of these issues in a week where the Southern Baptist Convention has had revelations of all sorts of horrible abuse. It reminded me of one of my undergraduate friends who went on to seminary in the late 80’s, right at the time at the Southern Baptists decided to stop ordaining women. I felt sad that the church world would lose her gifts.  I feel that sadness still.

We live in a time when the church world is losing the gifts of all sorts of people who turn away for all sorts of reasons. Some people scoff at the idea of language making a difference, but theologians like Ruether knew that change doesn't happen at the larger macro level without change happening at the micro language level. Maybe we need to return to some of those revelations.

This morning I took delight in reading this tribute to Ruether. Come to find out, the academic dean at Wesley Theological Seminary, where I am a student, studied under Ruether, and she directed his MA thesis. I have been so pleased this past year to be at this seminary, and discovering that the seminary has connections back to Ruether makes me even more happy to have made this choice.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Farewell Florida Motorcycle Tour

I did not exactly plan to spend 22 hours on a motorcycle this weekend. My spouse and his brother have thought of an overnight trip since they first got their motorcycles as men in their 50s (as opposed to the motorcycles they had as men in their teens).  My spouse's brother is part of a motorcycle club, and they organized a trip over to Reddington Beach on the Gulf Coast of Florida near St Pete.

My spouse wanted me to come, and I said I would only come if he rented a 3 wheel motorcycle, a trike not a slingshot.  This was back in late March; I had not yet broken my wrist. Much of the trip was planned and nonrefundable, so we asked my hand surgeon if I could go.  He said I could as long as I didn't operate the motorcycle--no chance of that.

So off we went early on Saturday morning. The group of 20 motorcycles made its way north on US 27, stopping for lunch at a great barbecue place that I will never be able to find again. In the afternoon we took a winding tour of Florida mines--I was never able to determine what was being mined aside from “minerals.”  Then we made our way, our long way, west towards Tampa.  After making our way through some traffic, we continued on towards Clearwater and Reddington Beach.

We stayed at a resort (I use that word loosely0 that had once been a motor lodge kind of place. They had done their best to update it--it was comfortable enough for one night, and while I was shocked at the price, it's clearly compatible with other similar places. It had the advantage of a pizza kitchen restaurant in the front of the property, where we got a good meal outside, with fairly cheap beer and wine. 

We left very early the next morning, and in a way that was good. When 20 to 22 people descend on a restaurant, it takes a while to get service, and we stopped for both breakfast and lunch.  On our way back on Sunday, we did a loop that is called the Tail of the Gecko because it winds and twists, although it was less twisty than I was afraid it would be.

As we made our way across the state and back again, I thought about the fact that this is likely my last trip on a motorcycle in Florida.  The heat shimmered up from the pavement and blazed down from the sun in the sky, and I remembered that I don't really like motorcycle trips in the summer, and much of Florida has summer weather year round. For much of the trip I felt a bit heat sick.  Having a broken wrist and a cast made the trip less optimal as well.

It was a great way to say farewell. I will be headed off to DC in August to live at seminary, so the trip felt like one last hurrah. We saw Florida in all its shapes:  urban skylines, vast fields of crops,  all sorts of livestock, undeveloped fields, land literally staked out for development, forests and rivers and beaches.  People hear about Florida and they think orange groves, but Florida has always had a very diverse agriculture industry. Much of the beef you are likely to eat comes from Florida, as does much of the sugar. 

This is not the kind of trip I would want to take a lot:  too many hours on the bike.  But I'm glad we had a chance to do what my spouse and his brother have been dreaming about for almost a decade.  It's not the kind of trip that will make me wish that it was a week ago when I could experience it all again. It's not my dream vacation. But I'm glad I had a chance to do it.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Anxieties and Therapies

Once again, I dreamed that I was realizing that we still owned a house that we thought we had sold.  I first had this type of anxiety dream a few weeks ago--although as I'm thinking about it, it's the kind of dream that pops up periodically. These current dreams have some similarities, like the need to call our realtor to find out what's going on. 

When I woke up from the dream, there was a thunderstorm, and I decided to stay awake. We should be entering the rainy season in South Florida, but it's hard to know.  It's that summery time of year where it seems like we should be getting afternoon and evening thunderstorms after excessively warm days, but so far we haven't been--so the thought of being awake for a very early morning thunderstorm appealed to me. Plus I went to bed early, so it was time to get up.

I probably won't walk this morning. With my hand/wrist/lower arm in a cast, I need to be aware of the weather. Also I'm just feeling worn out.

Yesterday was my second session with the hand physical therapist, so that might account for some of my tiredness. Yesterday session was much like the first one last week:  primarily an extensive hand massage with stretching of the fingers. There was a little pain but nothing too intense.

I did a few additional exercises, like pulling a towel towards me and pushing the folds away.  The physical therapist put a marble on the table and said, “You probably can't pick that up.”  But then I did. She then dumped a handful of marbles on the towel, and I proceeded to pick them up and put them back in the container. It felt like a huge accomplishment.

I am trying not to think of how far I still have to go to get full mobility in my fingers, and then after that in my wrist. Yesterday before the appointment, I felt despair and a bit of self-pity.  The appointment improved my mood, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I felt I was making progress. Maybe because I saw others in worse shape than me. I am trying not to think about the fragility of moving through the world in a human body.

No, let me remember how many miracles surround us as humans in a body. Physical therapy can do remarkable things.  We can learn to adapt. I continue to remind myself that if I have been living 150 years ago, I'd be in much worse shape with this kind of injury.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Snippets and Snapshots

Last night, we went outside to watch the sunset. I was struck by how warm it was at 8:00 PM. We've had a few nights of dining out, sitting in outdoor spaces, but I suspect that won't last much longer. Let me collect a few snippets from the past week, snapshots not substantial enough to be their own blog post, but I want to remember them.

--Last week we went to the rooftop bar of a local high-rise hotel. Once it was a scruffy kind of bar, but it's been transformed into a white tablecloth place. We were dressed for a scruffy bar and planned to leave, but the manager encouraged us to stay and led us to a table with a premium view of the city.  I am aware that the manager may have let us stay because it was a slow night, but it felt like a kindness to be shown to a table after I had said that I thought we were not dressed appropriately and so we would just leave.  The weather was perfect, and the food was delicious. I'm glad we stayed.

--It was the kind of evening that I thought we would have more of when we first moved to this condo. I felt slightly glamorous even in my scruffy clothes. I felt like a character in an interesting movie.

--Today I go for my second round of hand therapy. I still need help straightening my fingers after my wrist surgery. It's not as painful as I was afraid it was going to be, and it does seem to be helping.

--There have been moments during the last several weeks where I feel despair about the amount of money that my injury demands we spend. We are getting close to having spent a semester's worth of tuition money. I am trying to focus on feeling grateful that we have the money, in part because we saved for a rainy day and in part because of the windfall of selling a house in a historic district during a high market time.  I remind myself that my wrist break was an accident, but the fact that it was an accident makes me feel even worse somehow.

--I have been trying to get back into the habit of walking. Having a cast on my lower arm makes my shoulder ache even during a short walk. When I said I needed to introduce more exercises to shape my arms, I should have been more specific.

--But I need to persist in walking and to get back to all kinds of healthier habits like eaing more fruits and veggies.  Let me begin with a glass of V8 juice.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Evocative Lines and a Looser Form

For the past week, I've been experimenting with a new way of writing poems. Before my hand surgery to repair the wrist break of my dominant hand, I would write poems longhand in a purple legal pad. I've written two blog posts (here and here) about my experience writing duplexes for my seminary project. I wanted to see what would happen if I experimented with a looser form.  I do realize that even my looser form has more structure, four line stanzas throughout, than is usual for me.

I also incorporated some evocative phrases from my Twitter feed and a Facebook instant message exchange with a friend. When I was feeling uninspired I went back to my collection of evocative lines and chose one that spoke to me. That line would often beat to the inspiration of a new line or two. I left the document open and returned to it periodically.

Thus morning, I'm calling the rough draft finished. I've posted it below, and then I posted a version with highlights to show which lines come from which source, just in case it's interesting.

Magellan’s Lighthouse

Ice saints and a blackthorn winter,
last grip of a past season.
How wonderful to eat ice cream in a graveyard
surrounded by ancestors and those who will soon join them.

On the day the sea comes to claim you,
I shall be far away in a house near a mountain range,
in a non-tropical rainforest:
brambles and thistles but at least no flooding.

Can a person who is still living haunt a place?
The future speaks to us in widow’s weeds
while I try to balance the accounts.
I am the sea that swallowed the world.

Mangoes rot before they ripen; shorebirds lose their way.
I examine the recipes from my mother’s battered box,
the buttons my grandmother saved.
I keep my powder dry while I knit socks.

I memorize the foot paths to the border
while I sort the seeds and feed the ones who depend on me.
We must test the river for tannins and sample for salt,
Reinforce the cisterns and the alarm systems.

We watched the hungry sea, turned our faces east.
We thought we could control the wind.
Instead, I crafted my own ark, a small, solitary vessel.
Am I the storm, the sea, the sand at the bottom?

In a past time, you’d have been Magellan,
while I would have been the lighthouse tender.
Now I light the lantern on the window sill,
and we pray for all who are far from home.


lines that came from tweets of others

lines from past poetry notebooks that were never used in a finished poem

line from a Facebook message to a friend

Magellan’s Lighthouse

Ice saints and a blackthorn winter,
last grip of a past season.
How wonderful to eat ice cream in a graveyard
surrounded by ancestors and those who will soon join them.

On the day the sea comes to claim you,
I shall be far away in a house near a mountain range,
in a non-tropical rainforest:
brambles and thistles but at least no flooding.

Can a person who is still living haunt a place?
The future speaks to us in widow’s weeds
while I try to balance the accounts.
I am the sea that swallowed the world.

Mangoes rot before they ripen; shorebirds lose their way.
I examine the recipes from my mother’s battered box,
the buttons my grandmother saved.
I keep my powder dry while I knit socks.

I memorize the foot paths to the border
while I sort the seeds and feed the ones who depend on me.
We must test the river for tannins and sample for salt,
Reinforce the cisterns and the alarm systems.

We watched the hungry sea, turned our faces east.

We thought we could control the wind.
Instead, I crafted my own ark, a small, solitary vessel.
Am I the storm, the sea, the sand at the bottom?

In a past time, you’d have been Magellan
while I would have been the lighthouse tender.
Now I light the lantern on the window sill,
and we pray for all who are far from home.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Five Duplexes

Yesterday, I wrote this blog post about my process in writing duplexes. For those of you new to this poetic form, you might think of it as an exploded sonnet. It's a form created by the poet Jericho brown; to see one of his duplexes go here, and to read about how he came to create this form, go here.

For my seminary class, I wrote 5 duplexes, which I have pasted below.  Duplex #1 is the first one that I wrote, #2 is the second and so on, in chronological oreder.  I wanted to see which lines were from my collection of evocative lines that weren't used in poems of mine, lines from the last 10 years of writing. Those lines I have highlighted in green. I got more experimental as I continued writing each duplex. I believe I stayed true to the spirit of the duplex, even when I didn't follow the form specifically. However, I do worry that I'm like someone who says, "I'm writing sonnets only they have 13 lines and nothing rhymes"--my silent response has always been, you may be writing something but it ain't a sonnet.

Let me also stress that this effort is my first attempt at the form, so I'm judging them through that lens.  In no way do I mean to claim that my duplexes are in the same league as Jericho Brown's.

I want to remember that as I wrote these duplexes, I did move lines around, but I don't have those very first drafts to compare with the finished drafts. I am now experimenting with using abandoned lines in a looser framework, and I'll post one of those poems later. 

This writing process has been great for a number of reasons, but primarily because part of the work is done. I have enough distance from these evocative lines that I don't remember what I originally planned to do with most of them, and that's part of the process that seems essential to me.  Having a broken wrist means I can't write by hand on a purple legal pad which has been my process for several decades. I've always wanted to experiment with a different process, and I'm trying to look on this as an opportunity, not a burden.

(Note:  Blogger makes consistent margins almost impossible, and I must move on to other tasks) 

Duplex #1

 This body, a country with no maps,

A patchwork of loose scraps and poor stitches.


                                       I keep the quilts made by a spinster aunt.

                                       At night, they whisper secrets while I sleep.


Quilts keep watch over every yearning.

All our hopes tucked into dense batting.


                                       How do we sense a pale hope obscured?

   Smell of decomposing cedar stumps,


Some days the backyard garden explodes.

I wanted stars or sacraments in my hair.


                                        Instead I'm stuck with scraps of bread dough.

                                       My very bones cry out to make peach cobbler.


Box of recipes and a rolling pin,

Every map routes back to the body.


Duplex #2

 I have a canoe, and you have a gun.

I have memorized the tide charts.


                               I know how to navigate at night.

                               I have a system of hidey-holes.


I can food for the hard times coming.

You dream of harsher firepower.


                                But killing doesn’t need such drama

                               I know which plants heal and which ones poison.


Overlooked nursery, needled forest floor.

I see a path ahead hidden to most.


                               Bread crumbs and bird seeds blaze a true trail.                  

                               Faint thread of tiny tracks and stitches.


I thread the needle between extremes:

Paddle faster, duck and cover.

 Duplex #3

 Does the anchor resent the always tugging ship?

Think of the caretaker yearning to break free.


                                        She sings the ancient lullabies each night.

                                        By day, she hums the whaling songs.


We wail at every indignity.

The prophet rails at the ships frozen in the harbor.


                                        Old men and their gods and endless labor

    She has no time for the ancient lies.


With scarves and lighting, we cast our spells.

Each swirl in the atmosphere spells out our doom.


                                        We move inland, far from the threats of the sea.

                                        We ignore the petulant pleas and curses.


Cartographers of a new climate,

We anchor ourselves to a new ship.

Duplex #4 

House of justice built in hurricane country,

Sturdy enough until the storm hits.


                                        The storm hits with a careful cunning.

                                        It knows how to find the sweetest spots.


The storm reveals the structural weakness.

My joints predict the barometric truth.


    The floor joists will never be the same.

    Society’s feet ache with arthritis.


We stepped carefully around the rot.

Bones ground to dust, beyond recognition.


                                        The house has good bones, such potential,

                                        If only a contractor would call.


We have signed the contract, mortgaged all

To make the repairs to this house we share.


Duplex #5

I sew hole in my heart with birdsong threads

This is not the angel song I strained to hear.


    Other spirits keep company at night.

    The harmony of pain and potential.


Pain beats the battered pot with a wooden spoon.

Potential plucks your grandma’s dulcimer.


                                         I collect the lonely instruments.

                                         I whisper a lonely lullaby.


The lonely have their own time signature.

I no longer recognize my own.


                                         I see the blurry shapes of past loves.

                                         Blurred by time, burnished with threads of dreams.


Threads of dreams, threads of birdsong, stitches sure.

My heart, a monastery, a homeless shelter.




Monday, May 16, 2022

The Process of the Duplex Project

I have been somewhat superstitious about writing a blog post about my seminary project that involved writing duplexes in the style of Jericho Brown. I didn't want to write until I got feedback and until the work was graded--I'm not really sure why. But yesterday, our teacher returned our work, and so I wanted to write this follow up.

I wrote a series of duplexes for my Religion and the Arts class, Speaking of God in a Secular Age. Throughout the semester, we circled back to the work of Jericho Brown, and I remembered various articles I had read about his process in writing the duplex.  I remember reading that he went back through all of his old notebooks and copied out lines that he hadn't been able to use in publishable poems. At the time, I thought that was a marvelous idea. I loved the idea of cutting out the lines and strips of paper that I could then arrange and see how they spoke to each other. I wanted to do something similar.  But life being what it was at the time, I never got around to trying it.

For our final paper in my seminary class, we could do a creative project, so early on I proposed writing duplexes, and happily my professor approved. I spent a few hours going through poetry notebooks from the past 10 years looking for evocative lines of 9 to 13 syllables, which I typed into a Word document.  I had every intention of cutting them into slips and arranging them. My rough draft process for poetry has always been a handwritten process, and that's what I envisioned with this project.

I did not anticipate breaking the wrist of my dominant hand three weeks before the end of the term.  I had papers due for a different seminary class at the time that I had my injury, and I experimented with the voice recognition software that's part of my Word program.  I was able to write those papers more easily than I anticipated, so I chose not to ask for any extensions.

I decided that I needed to try a different way of writing these duplexes. I was not going to be able to cut my lines into strips and hand write other lines around them.  I decided to try writing with a combination of cutting and pasting lines into a Word document and using the dictate function to speak lines that would join them. 

I looked through the document of lines that I had created and chose one that spoke to me.  I started with this line:

This body, a country with no maps,

Then this line came to me:

A patchwork of loose scraps and poor stitches.

I continued to create this way. I would go back to the document of evocative lines when I got stuck. I consulted a few of the duplexes written by Jericho Brown, but it became clear I wasn't following his model exactly. However, I liked the work I was creating, so I continued.

We had to write an essay to go along with our creative project, an essay where we showed how are creative work was informed by the theological work that we did. I decided to make it clear that I knew that I wasn't following the duplex model as precisely:

“As I have been working on writing duplexes of my own, my brain has come back to the difficulties of writing both duplexes and theology. I think that I understand the form, but the longer I work with individual pieces, the less sure I am. I take risks and go in different directions--am I writing a new form of theology/duplex or am I demonstrating my lack of understanding? Each line of my duplex speaks to the previous line, but it's in a different way than the way that Jericho Brown does it. I am following the model, yet I am not following the model. In the end, I am pleased with my poems, and I have stayed true to the idea of a duplex as Jericho Brown has explained it in numerous places.  Similarly, we think we know how to talk about God, but the more we do it, the more we discover all there is to say and what must be left unsaid. We work within a form like the duplex, and we find it both liberating and maddeningly--much like writing theology, much like talking about God in a secular age.”

I am happy to report that I got a good grade on my project. In fact my teacher said, 'While these 5 duplexes may not conform to Jericho’s rules with exactitude, the more impressive achievement here is that you have melded your own unique writerly voice with the haunting-ness of the duplex form. And while each poem stands well on its own, what makes the series particularly impressive is the way you weave them together through common threads, themes, and images.”

Since this post is already quite long I won't post the 5 duplexes here. Later I'll create a separate blog post around them--something to look forward to!

Saturday, May 14, 2022

The Sorting of the Books

I spent the better part of yesterday sorting books.  It is clear to me that we are moving into a phase of life with more moves and less book shelf space, so it’s time.  I started the day feeling a powerful sense of catharsis as I sorted through books, and I ended the day in tears and exhaustion. It's a strange process the sorting of books. Let me record a few reflections.

--I used to keep books thinking that I would reread them, but it's become clear to me that I usually check out new books from the library rather than read my old books.  I used to think that I would have complete collections of authors’ books, and in my 20s that seemed perfectly reasonable. Now that plan will require a lot of bookshelf space. All of this to say, I've been hanging on to a lot of books that I no longer need to hang on to.  Getting rid of those was the easy part.

--Lots of books have sentimental value for lots of reasons, and I tried to sort out the reasons as I sorted books. I kept a few of them, a representative from each of my major life phases. I was able to get rid of a lot of them.

--I have hung on to lots of books for the teaching career that it is now clear I am not going to have. I am not going to be teaching in an MFA program, so I don't need various works that once seemed cutting edge. I don't really need all of these books of literary criticism to teach literature. I am not going to be reworking my dissertation into an academic book. A lot of those books are headed off to live with someone else.

--I am now comfortable getting rid of books even though I once spent lots of money on all these books. I supported individual artists by buying the books, but it doesn't mean I need to hang on to them forever.

--Along the way there were sadnesses as I looked at inscriptions and thought about the people who once bought me books as presents. I tried to feel gratitude for all the people who have loved me in this way while also letting those books go.

--Every so often I saw the handwriting of people who had borrowed my books, people who had permission to write in them. One of my best friends, who has since died, borrowed my Norton anthologies when she returned to school to finish her BA, and her writing is all over the books. Those are tougher to let go.

--A lot of these books represent hopes and dreams, even though I've moved on to different hopes and dreams. There's a sadness to seeing them, even though I'm fairly satisfied with how my life is turning out. Those books are going away. Perhaps they will help someone else who has those hopes and dreams of my younger self.

--I had a small crying jag meltdown when my spouse held a battered recipe box with recipes that I had copied from my mother's recipe box and said that he didn't know why I wanted to keep either the box or the recipes. In a way he's right--we don't cook those things much. But I thought of my 21 year old self copying those recipes imagining what adult life would look like and the thought of just trashing them made me sad. It's a small box, and I'll likely be keeping it.

 --Part of what makes letting go of books so hard is wondering what will happen to them. I'll take them to the local library where they will probably end up in a friends of the library sale. I want to believe that readers will find them. I wish the library would keep them but I know that they don't really have room for the resources that they have right now, and the move is on to more electronic resources and less paper.

--It’s the largest sadness: realizing that we are not part of a culture that values books very much and an even larger sadness in realizing how little we value ideas, book length ideas.


Friday, May 13, 2022

All Shall Be Well

My post on how to respond to recent political developments is here. But let me also take the long view. Today is the feast day of Julian of Norwich. Every year I am surprised to find her relevant in new ways.  For those of us taking the long view, she's a touchstone.

Julian of Norwich lived during the 14th century, a time as calamitous as our own (Barbara Tuchman may have been the first to have described the 14th century as calamitous in the subtitle to her book, A Distant Mirror). It was the time of the arrival of bubonic plague which would wipe out at least 25% of the population of Europe, a time of the Hundred Years War, a time of climate change, a time of a huge gap between wealthy and poor, a time when human life was less valued, at least as we look through certain lenses.

You wouldn't know that any of these events were happening by reading the writing of Julian of Norwich.  She was a 14th century anchoress, a woman who lived in a small cell attached to a cathedral, in almost complete isolation, spending her time in contemplation. She had a series of visions, which she wrote down, and spent her life elaborating upon. She is likely the first woman to write a book-length work in English.

And what a book it is, what visions she had. She wrote about Christ as a mother--what a bold move! After all, Christ is the only one of the Trinity with a definite gender. She also stressed God is both mother and father. Her visions showed her that God is love and compassion, an important message during the time of the Black Death--and a critical message for our own time..

She is probably most famous for this quote, "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well," which she claimed that God said to her. It certainly sounds like the God that I know too.

Although she was a medieval mystic, her work seems fresh and current, even these many centuries later. How many writers can make such a claim?

Julian of Norwich would be astonished if she came back today and saw the importance that people like me have accorded her. She likely had no idea that her writings would survive. She was certainly not writing and saying, "I will be one of the earliest female writers in English history. I will depict a feminine face of God. I will create a theology that will still be important centuries after I'm dead."

That's the frustration for people like me: we cannot know which work is going to be most important. That e-mail that seems unimportant today . . . will likely be unimportant hundreds of years from now, but who knows. The poem that seems strange and bizarre and something that must be hidden from one's grandmother may turn out to be the poem that touches the most readers. Being kind to those who cluck and fuss and flutter about matters that seem so terribly unimportant is no small accomplishment either.

I think of Julian of Norwich’s most famous quote: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” Would Julian of Norwich be pleased that so many of us derive comfort by repeating those words? Or would she shake her head and be annoyed that we have missed what she considered to be the most important ideas?

I remind myself that she would have such a different outlook than I do. She was a medieval woman who served God; she likely would not even view her ideas as her own, but as visitations from the Divine. If I could adopt more of that kind of attitude, it could serve me well on some of my more stressful days when divesting situations of my ego could be the most helpful thing that I could do.

Today, I shall try.  And tomorrow too.  And by this trying, I will embody the Julian of Norwich quote about all being well.  

Recent Historical Moments

In later years, when I look back on these blog posts, will I wonder why I didn't include some of the more compelling political developments? I'm thinking of the confirmation of the first African American female Supreme Court Justice, the leaked Alito document that seemed to say that Roe will be overturned momentarily, the baby formula shortage, and so on.

In part I didn't comment because I was blogging less because of my broken wrist. In part, especially when it comes to Roe, I am just tired and despairing.  There's a larger issue, an anti-female mood that seems to be percolating under all of society, and I don't know what to do with that.

Well I do know variety of options. One might leave the country. One might rededicate oneself to politics. One might move to a place where the land can support more food options (vegetable gardens, chickens, goats, etc.), where one might hunker down and wait out whatever this is that is upon us. One might think about more extreme options.

I hasten to say I am not thinking about more extreme options, although some might think that going to seminary is an extreme option, especially at my age and my gender. I understand the appeal of violence, but everything that I have seen, read, and understood leads me to believe that nonviolence is the better option, and right now, it is still an option.

Many people are looking back at historical hinge moments to try to explain our own moment. I want to believe that what we are seeing, this backlash against all the various progressive movements of the last 100 years, is a last gasp of desperate people, people who will die off if we just wait long enough.

However, I know the opposite might be true. I am old enough to remember a time in the 1970's, when women in Iran, in Afghanistan, had careers, when the country seemed to be on a path to modernization. How quickly things can change.

Let me remind myself that things can also change quickly in directions that aren't as scary. I am also old enough to remember a time when Nelson Mandela was in prison, and we all expected he would die there. Instead he was released and went on to be elected president of South Africa, the nation that imprisoned him.

I trust that we will figure out the baby formula shortage in short order. That problem seems much more easily fixed than some of our others. I will train myself to look for progress where I can find it; be confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is one of those markers. I will remind myself that even in the darkest hours, we can see evidence of goodness, if we keep our eyes open.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Post-Op Follow Up

Yesterday, I went back to the hand surgeon for my post-op follow up.  Overall, everything is looking good. The hand surgeon told me that my surgery was more complicated than he was expecting it to be, and he was expecting it to be complicated. He had to use a different kind of a plate to hold everything in place where it should be, but it seems to have worked.

When I saw the X rays, I was surprised by how the plate looked. I was expecting it to look like a rectangle laying horizontally across my wrist. Instead it looked more like an interesting cocktail toothpick, more like an artificial bone, which is probably closer to what it is.

I was surprised by my reaction to the taking off of all of the material that has swaddled my wrist since the surgery of Monday, May 2. There's always some part of me that expects with surgical dressings removed, all of the stuff that's supposed to be inside will fall outside. I felt the same way when my spouse had back surgery--the bandages came off and I was expecting to be able to see his spine, but of course that's not how it works. 

The X ray tech reassured me that I was not going to be able to move my hand and undo all of the surgery. It was a message that I needed to hear. As I moved through the appointment, I compared my experience post surgery with my experience of April 28th when I first went to the office. Even though I still feel some pain, I'm not feeling the same kind of pain when I move my arm.

I now have a different kind of wrist protector. Now I have a cast. The person who does the casting asked me what color I wanted, and I said purple. As she was wrapping my arm, I thought wait it's the wrong liturgical color--I should have chosen green. But I do love purple, so it's fine.

I had hoped that when all of the postsurgery swaddling was removed, my finger mobility would come back. I still have stiff and swollen fingers, and I have trouble straightening them. The good news is that it's fixable. Off I will go to the person who specializes in hand physical therapy which will be different from the wrist physical therapy that I will do later.

I am still disturbed by all of the destruction that happened from a tiny fall. It's not like I went skydiving. I fell the distance of maybe two feet onto grass. I am trying not to feel spooked about it all. At some point I need to get back into my habit of daily walking. At some point I hope my digestive system is recovered enough from the antibiotics that I can do that. I went out yesterday to get some of those special yogurts with extra probiotics, so hopefully I can rebuild my gut biome.

It's getting easier for me to sleep with a cast and easier to go about regular life with a cast. Yesterday my doctor told me I can exercise and drive get back to regular life as long as take care to keep the cast dry. I have found that having a cast on my arm (or a splint, or a bunch of post surgeries stuff swaddling) is an interesting conversation starter. I am amazed by how many people have broken their wrists and how many people have had to have surgery. Again I am trying not to feel spooked about it all.

But I do feel a little spooked by it all.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Home Test Kits and Other Rites of Passage

 My spouse and I took home COVID tests yesterday. I know that some have been taking these rapid tests regularly and routinely now, but it was a first for us. For a long time there were no test kits, so I got the kits from the US government, back in the early part of the year when they were mailed to us for no charge.

But because of that scarcity, I've been hesitant to use them. Lately it seems like the world is one huge exposure to this pandemic. Once we would have taken these tests when there was any chance we had been exposed, but now we are likely to be exposed every time we leave the house.

I thought about testing before and after the retreats that I went on in April, but I had no symptoms, so why waste a test? When you look on the CDC website at the list of symptoms, it seems to cover just about everything. Once I thought that as long as I could still smell the coffee in the morning, I was fine. But now I've heard of plenty of people who have COVID, and they still have their senses of taste and smell.

Yesterday we heard from my mom--what she thought were allergies is a COVID infection. My dad is still testing negative. We don't know for sure when she developed COVID, but we were around them this weekend. We decided it was time to use one of the home tests. I have no symptoms, but my spouse has been stuffy and sneezy.

As I watched the response sticks, I thought about all the other types of testing that people do in their houses, like pregnancy tests. Some of these are a rite of passage. I thought of other types of test results we wait for, the ones done in a lab. Is the biopsy showing cancer? What are the results of the HIV test?

I haven't experienced a lot of these types of tests, and it seems late in the life of a pandemic to be experiencing this test now.  But I was glad to have them; otherwise my spouse’s every sniffle and sneeze would have made me wonder. I realize we should probably test again today or tomorrow, since false negatives aren't uncommon. The tests expire in August, so there's really no point in saving them.

My mom says she feels fine except for her sinuses. She has always had sinus trouble, so this is not an unusual feeling for her. She feels tired but no other symptoms. She is vaccinated and boosted, so hopefully she'll be fine.

My spouse and I are also vaccinated and boosted, so hopefully we'll be fine.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Island Recuperation

A week ago, we would soon be on the road--yes even after wrist surgery the day before. We had planned to join my parents at Hilton Head on Sunday May 1st, but the surgery needed to happen as soon as it could to minimize nerve damage. However the doctor said I could recuperate as easily at Hilton Head is anywhere else, so off we went.

It's strange taking a trip when I can't help with the driving, but I was grateful that we could go. It was a fairly subdued vacation, but our last several trips to Hilton Head with my folks have been somewhat subdued.  We stay in a condo at a Marriott resort, a condo with a full kitchen, so we cook. We all enjoy reading by the pool, so we did a lot of that.  We made a pre-Mother's Day brunch:

Unlike past years, pre-COVID years, we did not go out to eat. But that's OK. since we're all pretty good cooks.  I did not even take many walks on the beach; I had a reaction to the antibiotics that meant I shouldn't get too far away from the bathroom. That, too, was OK.  At least I didn't feel ill or in pain.  And we had planned to have a low key vacation anyway even before knowing I would be recovering from surgery, so at least I didn't feel like I was holding everybody back from having a great time somewhere else.

We were able to go to the bar that is part of the resort, where we could relax and look out across the dunes to the ocean beyond. 

We did that almost every day. I was glad I had gotten my seminary work finished before my operation. While I probably could have worked on those papers, I was glad to be done so that I could just focus on recovering.

There were moments when I felt slightly guilty about having such a nice place where I could recuperate. I could look around the resort and see how much work it takes to keep the resort looking lovely--I do hope those jobs are good ones for the local folks. I live in a hospitality dependent area down in South Florida so I know that sometimes workers are exploited. There is also that guilt of thinking about being on the islands of the Lowcountry of South Carolina, that knowledge of slave labor that built the place, that knowledge of all of the displacement that occurred over the centuries. I took care to thank everyone who works for the resort, while at the same time knowing that my thanks are a meager offering. 

I am grateful to my parents who invited us--we would have far fewer vacations than we do without their invitations. I am grateful to my spouse who said yes:  yes to doing all the driving, yes to getting away.  The last few years have taught me to be grateful for time together. Once I thought that only death would complicate our together times but now I know that it could be many possibilities.


Monday, May 9, 2022

Thinking Back to Wrist Surgery a Week Ago

A week ago, I would have been getting ready for my wrist surgery. I was proofreading my papers for seminary one last time to submit them--that was a wise decision. I took a shower, tried to not think about the fact that I wasn't allowed to eat or drink, and sent some emails.

The only surgery I had ever had in the past was having my wisdom teeth removed the summer after my senior year of high school. It was a surgical operation, not just a dental procedure. But unlike many women, I've never had a child, I've never broken a bone, and I've never had trouble with my inner organs. So yes I was a bit anxious, but my general mood was one of wanting to get the whole thing over with.

We gave ourselves getting lost time, so we got to the surgical center early.  That ended up being a good thing, since I was the last surgery of the day, and the surgeon was running early.  I didn't have time to sit around and fret. I was whisked back into a curtained area, where I changed it into a gown, and prep work was done on me.

They did have some trouble finding a good vein for the IV, and in the end they used the vein in my inner elbow.  That was mildly unpleasant, but not as bad as giving blood. Before I knew it, I was emerging from the sedative, with a very nice nurse to help me get ready to go home. This surgery was over.

It lasted longer than expected but was a success; I'll go in on Wednesday to have a follow up and see if everything is progressing as it should. The surgeon told us that the night of the surgery would be the most pain, and he was right. I had opioids for the pain, but they didn't do much except make it easier for me to sleep, and that was no small thing. I would take one, sleep deeply for a few hours, and then take another. But by morning I was feeling pretty good for a woman who had just had her wrist operated on.

As I think back to the surgery, I am amazed at the kindness of everyone connected to the surgical center, and I am surprised at how amazed I am. I have read so many stories about how health care workers are fried to a crisp, so I was a bit fretful about that.  But everyone was extremely compassionate, which made the experience much less gruesome.

I know all the ways that I am lucky. If I was a woman in the 1880s who had fallen and broken her wrist in the way that I did, I would just make do with a less than functional hand for the rest of my life--and I would expect that my life would be shorter because of it. I am a woman with health insurance and access to good medical care, and I do realize that access to good medical care is really a game of chance no matter where we live in the US. I am lucky because I have funds so I could pay my deductible. I am lucky that I have a spouse who is good at this kind of care and patient.

I am also rich in friends. I made a Facebook post or two to keep people up to date, and I was overwhelmed by the support that came in: from childhood friends, high school friends, college friends, family, former colleagues, retreat buddies, and so on. I know all the ways that Facebook can be damaging, but I was heartened to feel support a week ago.

And I have felt heartened to feel continuing support.  It's a long road ahead of me back to full functionality for my right hand and wrist. But today let me focus on feeling grateful for the surgery of a week ago.


Sunday, May 8, 2022

Thinking of Nurturing on Mother's Day

Here we are at Mother's Day, a strange time in the life of our nation to think about mothering and the choice not to birth a child and the ways that society supports parents or does not.  I feel I should say something, even though I'm not a mom.  Perhaps I should talk about how we all nurture.  And yet, some of us do more nurturing than others.

I've thought of posting a picture of my favorite moms.  Here's one of my mom and sister, who is also a great mom; it's one of my mom's favorites too:

I think of all the other moms I know, and how few pictures I have in my files of moms with their daughters.  I'm thinking of the Create in Me retreat and how many of us bring our moms--to me that's a sign of a successful retreat.

I should have written a blog post earlier this month recommending that we buy our moms the gift of a retreat, instead of flowers or brunch.  Ah well--next year.

Of course, what most moms need is not this kind of gift.  Most moms of younger children need better policies so that families can have better work-life balance, so that moms don't have to make such wrenching choices.

Perhaps I should issue a call for us to support more moms, through policy and legislation.  On the congressional level, right now we should save our efforts.  Hopefully the day will come when we have politicians who want to make those kinds of positive changes, but right now, I don't see it.  Sadly, I've felt this way for years.

I think of my political science teachers who would tell us that we'll be more effective working on the local level anyway.  So let's think of our individual lives--how can we make it easier for people to do the nurturing that needs to be done?

Regardless of our gender, I'd urge us all to nurture all of creation. We live in a broken world, a world in desperate need of  care. Some of us are good at caring for children. Some of us are better at caring for animals. Others of us are mourning the larger picture, as we see our planet in perils of every sort.  The world is not short of opportunities to nurture.

So on this mother's day, as we think of all the people who have nurtured us, let us resolve to return that gift, in whatever way best fits our skills, talents, and gifts.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Broken Wrist Dispatches

Still healing nicely. Still not used to using the voice recognition software to make a blog post but I'll get better at that in the weeks to come when my routine normalizes. Here are two dispatches from the past days:

--Thursday post-surgery wrist update: all is still well. No real pain. I am feeling incredibly lucky

--Last night I dreamed I was making a to-do list--I put calling a realtor on that to-do List about getting our last two houses sold. Yes in my dreams I still owned the last two properties, which I thought were on their way to being sold, but I realized we had never actually closed on the deals. What a treat--a grown up anxiety dream--better or worse than dreaming I've been enrolled in a class and forgotten to go to it and now I have to take a final exam?

--A week ago, I was finishing my Theology and the Arts paper and putting the finishing touches on my duplexes* that I wrote for the project. Maybe tomorrow I'll fashion a blog post out of those.


* Because our work in the class kept circling back to Jericho Brown’s poetry and this particular form/format, I proposed writing some duplexes of my own. I learned a lot, both about the duplex and about my abandoned lines. More tomorrow.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Surgery Updates

Long story short, surgery went well--below are some Facebook posts from the past few days. I plan to write a more cohesive blog post soon.

Just after surgery:  "Surgery took longer than expected, but was “a fabulous success.” Home now, resting. Thanks for all the love and support."

Morning after surgery: "Feeling pretty good this morning. Some pain but not too intense. Last round of narcotics was at 2:00 AM, and I'm still feeling pretty good. Fingers crossed that my luck continues."


"I continue to do pretty well in this recovery from surgery. Still no real pain, and the main discomfort is from some swelling and from having a bandaged wrist, a bulkier bandage/supportive structure than before. At least my elbow is free, so I can move my arm.

I know that the real work is ahead of me with physical therapy to regain full function, and I'm prepared for that. I'm underemployed--I have plenty of time. Again thank you for all your love and support--it really does mean a lot."