Friday, September 30, 2022

Laureate Thursday, Literary Thursday

Last night at the Library of Congress, Ada Limon gave her inaugural reading as the nation's poet laureate. A few weeks ago, when I realized that my canceled Thursday night class was the same night, I applied for a free ticket.  I got one, but in the end, I decided not to go.

I got an e-mail on Wednesday that advised that we would be required to wear masks, and I would have been wearing one anyway, but I did start to think about the wisdom of this kind of indoor event when a pandemic is ongoing.  I did get a booster shot on Friday, but I'm not in a hurry to test that protection.

I don't know why I didn't think about the potential of crowds when I requested a free ticket.  I'm not used to sell out crowds at poetry events, and the Wed. e-mail advised that we would be at full capacity.  The line to get in for the 7:00 p.m. reading would start to assemble at 5:00 p.m., and we'd be let in to get seats, if we were far enough in the front of the line, at 6:30.  There would be overflow seating in a hall where we could watch on a screen.  

I thought about standing in line starting at 5.  I thought about all the people.  I thought about the fact that the reading would be recorded for YouTube broadcast.  I wondered how much I really wanted to go.

When I requested a ticket, I had planned to get downtown early, but so that I could go to a museum, not stand in line.  I was willing to spend the money for a Metro ride there and back, but did I really want to go and spend that time standing in line?  It would have been glorious weather for standing in line, if we were outside.  If we were inside, there was that much more time for disease exposure.

In the end, I decided not to go.  I felt a bit guilty--not because it meant that someone else couldn't go.  I assume that the event planners gave out extra tickets realizing that some of us wouldn't be able to attend.  I told myself that if I had known what the Wednesday e-mail made clear, about crowds and standing in line, I wouldn't have gotten a ticket in the first place, but I still felt a bit guilty.  

When I thought about living in seminary housing, taking advantage of DC cultural events was one of the reasons I wanted to do this.  Ada Limon is a poet I'd like to see read, even if she wasn't the poet laureate.  Hopefully, I'll get another chance.

So, what did I do instead?  I went to the American University library to get my Wesley ID activated to be able to use the AU library.  I came home and made myself a dinner of roasted brussels sprouts and a baked sweet potato, which was much tastier than it sounds.

I was feeling oddly exhausted, so I was even more glad that I didn't go downtown.  I was asleep by 8.  But before that, I tucked myself into bed.  My bed faces west, so I had a great view of a glorious sunset, as I read Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall.  It wasn't the cultural/literary even that I had planned, but it was the one that I needed.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Non-Hurricane Gratitude

I am now taking a break from Hurricane Irma    (interesting slip) Ian monitoring to record some other events that happened this week.

--Yesterday I put my contact lenses in my eyes with my right hand, which is the first time that I've done that since April.  I am still not where I want to be with my right hand/arm/wrist, but let me remember how far I have come.

--It has been interesting setting up a satellite household here.  There are some things that I haven't missed at all, like a TV.  I've been enjoying reading fiction right before bed.  But I have decided that I wanted a vegetable scrubber, and so I ordered one, one that's identical to the one that we ordered for the other house to replace a veggie scrubber that bit the dust after years of faithful use.  I've bought a lot of potatoes, both sweet and white, in the past week, and I want to be sure I can scrub them thoroughly.

--I was about to break down and buy a replacement immersion blender and gallon tea pitcher.  I stashed those in a box on the last morning that we moved, and we haven't been able to find the box.  But hurrah!  My spouse found it.  It was in a box labeled 45's and Odds and Ends.  I think we both saw it and assumed it was all 45s.  I had a strong hunch that we hadn't lost the box in the move, but we had looked in almost every box.  

--I thought I might need a drying rack, but then it occurred to me that I have clothes pins and a shower curtain.  This solution has delighted me this week as I've been seeing how long it takes for my hand-washed socks to dry.

--I thought about how much this image looks like some odd installation art project, which made me think about this arrangement of leaves that I made on a huge tree stump the other morning:

I sent a copy of the picture to my teacher, who had us do this type of art for last Thursday's class.  I think it brought her great joy to know that I continued to experiment.

--I continue to be impressed with the faculty here at Wesley.  I feel so fortunate to be able to learn from them.

--Last Friday I made pumpkin bread, and I have enjoyed having it for breakfast every morning until I finished the last of the 2 loaves yesterday.

--Pumpkin bread was not the only treat I got this week.  Last Friday, when I was out and about trying to get my vaccine booster, I missed the narrow window that I have to pick up packages from the mailroom, so I had to wait until Monday to get my care package from my home church:

Cookies and notes of encouragement!  And I used the quilt that my church got me as my going away present for a back drop.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Strange Survivor's Guilt

I confess that I am still monitoring Hurricane Ian, even though there's not much mystery left.  That radar is mesmerizing--a category 4 storm off the southwest coast of Florida.  I find myself thinking of trips we've taken to that coast; it will be awhile before tourists head back to that area.  I am listening to various weather forecasters.  Right now, I'm listening to Craig Setzer's 5:30ish broadcast where he calls this storm "a generational event."

Last night after class, I checked Facebook to find that many of my friends in Broward county were dealing with tornado warnings and flooding.  I got e-mails from the city of Hollywood advising me to worry about flooding and offering to let me move vehicles to park for free in 2 city garages, but not the ones at the beach, since that barrier island is expected to flood.

Happily, I don't own property in a flood zone anymore.  I think about the motorcycle that sustained severe damage in Hurricane Irma, and we finally got it restored to a shade of its former self--just in time for the post-Christmas flood of 2019, the flood that wasn't forecast, that wasn't tropical, but it took out the motorcycle and the Prius that was parked on the street.

A bit later:

I'm feeling a multitude of feelings, while at the same time not having much focus to write about these feelings, as I toggle back and forth between hurricane coverage and the recorded lecture for my Church History class this week.  Let me see if I can bring this post to a close.

I am feeling an odd sort of survivor's guilt, even though it's not like I had any secret knowledge.  We could see the increasing strength of storms, along with more flooding that was unconnected to storms, and we decided to sell our house.

I spent much of September and October of 2021 when the house was on the market, worried about this kind of hurricane, the kind that would either destroy our house or make everyone remember why they didn't want to buy a house in hurricane country.  Happily, we closed on the sale in January, and I've rarely looked back.

I have this odd guilt this morning, 1000 miles away from that house we sold.  I have a lovely day planned:  going on a walk in the morning once it's warmed up a bit and later in the afternoon or early evening.  I'll do seminary work and have a video chat with my spouse.  I will cook and maybe bake.  I have this spacious 2 bedroom apartment on a day when so many people will be losing everything they own.

I have no idea how to wrap up this post.  It won't wrap up neatly.  There's no way around my guilt, and the people losing everything will need more than I can give them.  I will use my guilt twinges as I enjoy my nice day to remind myself to pray for those in the path of the storm--and there are so many, when we broaden the definition of storm.

Monday, September 26, 2022

A Planet We No Longer Know

I wrote this post to a friend this morning:  "Nothing like an approaching storm to make me remember how much of my heart is in Florida--I know so many people throughout the state."

This morning's forecast track looks like it could be dreadful in a multitude of ways.  One of the worst ways would be that a major storm comes ashore at Tampa.  Others have done deeper analysis than I will do here, but here's a short version:  lots of development on lots of low-lying land, with lots of potential for flooding and other types of destruction.  Are those people insured?  Will insurance companies go broke and not be able to pay?  Will Citizens, the Florida insurer of last resort, have enough reserves?

There's the threat of storm surge.  The only hurricane advantage I had when I lived in South Florida is that the area wasn't prone to storm surge because of the deep drop off of the shelf under the ocean, as the sea meets the shore.  Much of the Florida coast doesn't have that, so a storm like Ian will be even more damaging because of that storm surge.

There's another dreadful scenario--the storm could sit over the peninsula and/or move very slowly and dump a lot of rain.  And even if it "speeds" across the state, it's still a lot of water falling on land that's already saturated.

People in the path of the storm don't have much time to make decisions.  One hopes that people have been paying attention, gathering important paperwork and possessions, and making plans.  I know that many of them have been thinking that the storm would come ashore where the panhandle meets the peninsula.  That could still happen, but if I lived on the west coast of the peninsula, I wouldn't bet on it.  I'd be making plans and finishing preparations as if the storm would pass over my head.  Soon it will be too late.

It's days like these that I'm glad I'm not in emergency management.  Of course, there's never a day when I'd want to be working in an emergency management department, but today will be intense, for many of the same reasons that the day will be intense for many Floridians:  decisions to make with many of the factors remaining uncertain.  And how to evacuate people safely?  That's a level of emergency management that would make me lose sleep.

I think of all the people with electric cars and what a headache those will cause for evacuation.  I am thankful it's not my headache, while at the same time, I feel this anxiety.  Some of it may be some variety of PTSD.  It's not that long ago that we had similar decisions to make about hurricane Irma.  For 24 hours, it looked like we would get a direct hit from a category 4 storm.  On the Wednesday before the storm hit, my spouse and I took a walk around our sunny neighborhood.  I said, "I'm assuming that if we evacuate, we're coming back to nothing."  But it was not to be that bad.

Of course, in some ways, coming back to nothing might be preferable to coming back to flood and wind damage and spending the next 2 years navigating insurance, contractors, repairs, all the while holding onto a full-time job and a part time job.  I am glad we won't be facing that in the near future.

I am now saying a prayer for those who are facing all of these worst case scenarios, and a prayer for all of us in this time of changing climate, a planet we no longer know.  This will be the 3rd record breaking storm in a week.  There was Fiona that wiped out a chunk of Canada, Noru that set records for rapid intensification (and significant damage for Vietnam and the Phillipines), and now Ian, which I'm willing to bet will set some records too.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Walking Meditations and the Path of a Storm

So far, I've had a good week-end, my first full week-end here in my seminary apartment.  I've had Zoom-like conversation with my spouse and my quilting group, along with instant message type written conversations, so I haven't felt lonely. I've done school work, I've read for pleasure (Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, which I started the week before Mantel died), I've cooked, I've gone on a quest for veggies, I've done a lot of walking.

Yesterday I walked a mile and a half to a farmer's market, but it was organic veggies, so they seemed very pricey to me.  I want to support small farmers, but I don't want to pay $6.00 a pound for sweet potatoes, regardless of how they're grown.  So on my walk back, I took a detour to Wegmans, a grocery store, and bought some cheaper veggies.

Yesterday evening, as the sun was setting, I walked to St. Columba's Episcopal Church.  I had read about DC Art All Night, where various neighborhoods had a variety of arts events.  

St. Columba's offered a walk in the indoor labyrinth (on a canvas) accompanied by music, an arts gallery/shop, and organ concerts.  

I took part in all of those things, and then I walked the two blocks to Tenleytown to see the rest of the events.  It was so crowded that I could barely make my way through the public library.  So, hurrah for the library, but I walked on home.  I felt safe from violence, but a bit worried about trip hazards.  I didn't want to walk in the street for fear of being hit by a car, but the sidewalks were much more dimly lit.  I walked on the sidewalks and took my time.

As I've reflected on last night, I thought about the process of slow walking.  I had to take my time in the labyrinth too, but we expect that.  The music was provided by overtone group Harmonic Introductions.  I confess that I liked the musical parts that had just piano, harp, cello, and singing bowls best.  The overtone singing was distracting.

I've also been keeping an eye on the glob of weather that's slowly becoming Hurricane Ian.  I don't own property in Florida anymore, so you might wonder why I'm paying such close attention.  Most of the reason is force of habit:  I've always paid attention to storms, and I've always kept a wary eye on the weather.  And of course, I still have friends who might be in the path of a storm.

I came across this sentence this morning from this blog post on the Yale Climate Connections site:  "8 p.m. EDT Saturday: As this post was being prepared, Typhoon Noru was in the process of becoming one of the fastest-intensifying cyclones in modern Earth history, strengthening far more than expected while heading toward the Philippines."  This strengthening happened during the same week-end that Canada was slammed by Hurricane Fiona, the strongest storm to hit that coastline ever.

It's made me think of a poem I wrote a long time ago, when I looked up at the pre-dawn sky and thought about how many astronomical objects are cold, hard rocks as far as we can tell.  It led to this poem, which has become a renewed favorite of mine, after the spouse of a dear friend told me how it had stuck with him and made him think about the universe differently.  It was published in my first chapbook Whistling Past the Graveyard.

Geology, the True Life Science

Our planet—warm, gooey corner
of a cold, lifeless cosmos,
a primordial ooze which forms
the perfect building blocks for life,
a miraculous exception to the universal
rule. The official astronomer’s story.

But perhaps God prefers rocks and minerals.
Why else create such a diverse abundance?
Maybe animals and humans are the experiment
gone horribly wrong, an accident of pumping liquids
surrounded by decaying flesh.

Bones calcify, kidneys form stones, arteries harden
with plaque—instead of medical disaster,
perhaps our bodies move towards their ultimate evolutionary
destiny, seeking God’s pleasure.


Saturday, September 24, 2022

Adventures in Vaccinations

I got my 5th COVID shot yesterday, this time, the bivalent version that protects against the Omicron variants.  On the face of it, that's not a remarkable sentence.  But I had a significantly different experience this time than I've had recently, so it seems worthy of a blog post.

My reaction to the vaccine wasn't noticeably different, although this time, I haven't (so far) gotten much in the way of side effects except for a sore arm.  I got my last booster on March 31, and by the time I went as a student to my online class, I was feeling headachy chills.  I could watch my condition changing as I was on Zoom for 3 hours.  I woke up the next morning feeling better.

I know that some people have increasingly more difficult side effects with each booster, so I wanted to have the booster at a time when I could take it easy for a day or two if necessary.  This week-end was perfect, since I have no travel planned, no face to face visits, and a light load of homework/long term work for classes I take and classes I teach.

In South Florida, there's so little demand for the vaccine that one doesn't have to make an appointment.  My spouse had a similar experience earlier this week in North Carolina--the local grocery store pharmacy had no customers, so my spouse inquired and was able to get his COVID booster and a flu shot.  I decided to try to go to a grocery store too.

I could never find the Safeway.  I had looked it up on Google Maps, and it looked fairly straight forward; I did not use my magical phone.  I knew it wouldn't be a suburban grocery store with a huge parking lot, but I hoped to find street parking or a parking garage.  When I couldn't, I kept going in the hopes of a Trader Joe's--not to get a vaccine, but to do some shopping.  I knew that there were 2 locations on Wisconsin, but I couldn't find the one closest to me.  The one further away had no parking anywhere close that I could find.

I got a bit lost as I tried to head home, and I finally pulled over into an elementary school parking lot to get directions.  Feeling gratitude for this technology, I let the phone guide me home.  

I didn't want to give up on getting a vaccine, so I tried making an appointment at various drug stores.  There weren't any appointments available until late next week or October.  I thought about how much driving I had done in the morning.  I widened my search.  Finally I found a same day appointment for a drugstore in Frederick, Maryland.  At the time, I though Frederick was only about 15 miles away, so that seemed doable.

It's a bit further, but it's an easy trip on the Interstate--although there was slow traffic in places I didn't expect. But happily, I was able to find the CVS and get my shots.  With a flu shot in one arm and a booster shot in the other, I headed home and only had a bit of early rush hour slow down.

I don't drive the car very much, so it was good to give it a drive. I probably won't drive it again this week. There's a lack of parking in the city, so I tend to go to nearby grocery stores and buy what I need and can carry. So far, it's working. When I go to visit people like my sister or my parents, I stock up on heavier things like bags of flour or cans. 

Last night I waited for symptoms to start, but they didn't.  This morning, still no side effects aside from the sore arm--hurrah!  I have said before that I would get the COVID vaccine, even if I knew I would have a day or two of significant side effects; I really want to avoid COVID and boosters seem like a powerful tool.  

I have never gotten a flu shot.  Since 1998 we've lived in South Florida where there's not much flu.  But this year, I'm in DC, where there's flu and strangers and soon we'll be spending more time indoors.

I'm becoming the opposite of an anti-vaxxer.  I want all the vaccines, even if there's not much risk of the disease.  I'll start, though, with the diseases that pose the most risk to me.  Next up, I need a tetanus shot; I had my last one  in 2013.

Today after my quilting zoom group, I'll walk to a nearby farmer's market.  I feel lucky that I have so few side effects from my immunization adventures that I can do this.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Autumn Leaves from a Different Angle

Last week in my Creative Process, Spiritual Practice class, our teacher gave us a heads up about yesterday's class:  we'd be outside in the community garden, so we should wear clothes that we didn't mind getting dirty.  All week, I wondered what we would be doing.  Would weeding be a way to be creative and spiritual?

I'm sure that weeding could take on those elements, but we did something different.  Our teacher gave us our assignment:  choose some elements from nature, without destroying the natural element (so no picking flowers off of plants, for example), and make a new creation.  It has to be intentional so that anyone coming across it would know that it was purposefully created.  As an example, our teacher gathered some leaves and laid them out in a pattern.  Then she left us to our own devices for 45 minutes.

At first I thought about going to a different part of campus.  I didn't see any elements I could use:  so many dead leaves, so many shades of brown, ugh.  But then I saw a leaf that was more rust than brown, and then a burgundy leaf, and then some leaves drifted by on the breeze, and I started examining not only color but texture.

I thought about creating some sort of creche with sticks, but it was a breezy day.  As I contemplated that base of a tree which I thought might shelter my unmade creation, and then I looked at the trunk.  I realize it had marvelous possibilities, so I took a leaf and threaded the stem of a leaf into an opening.

The breeze didn't blow it away, so I did it again, and then again.  Soon, I had a trunk full.

Then the breeze took some of them.  As I gathered more leaves, I thought about arranging them in a bouquet of sorts.  So I tried it.

I usually create art with an eye to the message I want it to have.  Yesterday I was doing art for art's sake; the process was the sole focus.  Yet as I took a longer view, I did realize that the tree looked like it was covered with monarchs or mushrooms.

Was there a spiritual element?  In some ways:  I got into a meditative state, of sort, in the end.  The process forced me to look at the leaves in a deeper way, a more appreciative way.  I enjoyed it immensely--I might even do it again.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Autumn Arriving

Today is the autumnal equinox, the day when summer gives way to autumn.  And in DC, we have a cold front coming just in time to give us cooler weather.  This article told me that the highs that have been in the upper 80's are 10 degrees above normal:  "It’s certainly not out of the question that this is as warm as it gets until next spring."

As I've gone on my morning walks, I've seen signs of fall, even as I've been sweating.  There are lovely autumnal wreaths:

There are pumpkins on porches:

Some of the decorations are Halloween holiday specific:

And here and there, I see some leaves changing color:

The true glories of the season are yet to come.  I am so happy to live in a place where I will get some autumn weather in the actual season of autumn!  Maybe this will be the week-end that I bake pumpkin bread.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Walking the Cathedral Grounds

Two months ago, I would be putting the last items in the last box and sealing it.  I would be struggling not to succumb to my anxiety about the moving van coming on time.  A few hours later, the moving van would come, and the rest of the day would flow smoothly.  Two months ago, I would wake up in the rented Hollywood condo for the last time.  I looked across the dark courtyard and saw the opposite concrete condo tower, all dark.  I listened to the incessant churn of everyone's air conditioner that vented onto that courtyard.

This morning I got up early and looked across the dark parking lot; the top floor of the library is visible from my windows, and it's lit up throughout the night, even though it's not open.  Later I went for a walk.  I headed down Massachusetts Avenue to the National Cathedral.  

I liked this juxtaposition:

I'm happy that it's an easy walk.  In October, on Sunday afternoons, the Cathedral offers Evensong, which I plan to attend.

Today will be a stick around the apartment day.  I've got schoolwork to take care of, and tonight I have some Zoom meetings.  But later this afternoon, I'll take another walk, in another direction.  I loved this artsy space I discovered yesterday.

I love that someone would take the time to decorate an alley which is secluded from view:

And at another house, these direction markers to point us on our way:

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Queen's Funeral Day Melancholia

 I felt oddly melancholy yesterday; it was a beautiful end of summer kind of day, and my life perks along nicely.  Why the melancholy?

There was ongoing coverage of Queen Elizabeth's funeral, but that didn't make me feel sad.  I had tasks that felt overly onerous, like calling Wells Fargo bank, again, about the May 31 check fraud perpetrated against my South Florida church, that the bank still hasn't managed to straighten out.  I feel like my church has been a victim of fraud again and again:  once by the people who wrote fraudulent checks, and again and again by the fraud department that cannot seem to return the thousands of dollars that flowed out of the account even after we alerted Wells Fargo that the fraud had happened.

I spent much of the day working on an exegesis assignment for my Foundations of Preaching class.  It's got lots of parts, but it's not too onerous once I got working on it.  I still have a bit to go, but class isn't until 6:30.

I went on two walks, both pleasant.  So why my Monday sadness?

I had gone back to check out some dates to make sure I was remembering events properly.  I did it in the way I often do, by going to old blog postings.  You would think that seeing where I was a year ago, in a school with compromised technology and a lack of transparency about the future, you'd think those posts would make me happy to be somewhere else.  

And indeed, they did, but they also made me sad.  I remembered all the happy times, the times of appreciation from my students, the times when we made festivals--sometimes we had much in the way of resources, and some times we had very little, but every effort helped to form community.  And I felt sad yesterday, remembering what was lost.

I also felt sad for all the people treated so shabbily.  I want to believe we've all gone on to better things, but it's impossible to forget the pain and disruption.

So, yesterday I spent time at the edge of a melancholy vortex that wanted to pull me under.  This morning, I'm feeling better.  I made this Facebook post/tweet:

"Listening to The Smiths' "The Queen is Dead" (the full album) while making apple butter to go with yesterday's homemade bread and sorting photos from my walk to St. Columba's Episcopal church, as one does, the day after the queen's funeral."

And while I'm documenting, here's my favorite queen's death/funeral tweet so far:

Thomas William Ruston
A funeral watched by 5.1billion people owes itself to people trained in disciplines the government thinks is worthless: theology, poetry, music, camerawork and media

Monday, September 19, 2022

Week 4 of Satisfying Seminary Life

This morning, I thought, three weeks ago, I would have been waking up to my first morning in this seminary apartment.  Let me collect some reflections about living here for the first three weeks:

--People ask me if I'm settling in, and the most true answer is that it's complicated.  I've continued to leave each week-end, and there was the Labor Day holiday.  This week will be the most settled in that I've been, with a full week of classes that are starting to require more of me followed by a week-end where I don't leave town.

--Last night I dreamed I was moving into seminary housing.  It was slightly different, but also on a middle floor.  The former tenant in my dream had pasted sea shells to the wall.

--I do not miss people with the yearning that I expected to feel, but a melancholy loneliness does descend from time to time.

--I am enjoying my walks.  It's a beautiful neighborhood that I'd likely never have had a chance to explore this way without living in seminary housing.  

--It's beginning to look a bit like Halloween.

--Here's a longer view of the house:

--Last night was the first night I wished I had a TV.  I did bring one with me, so I tried to connect it.  The TV and the antenna were not communicating.  After half an hour, I finally just went to bed and read one more chapter of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall.

--I'm enjoying Wolf Hall, but it's not compelling the way I'd like fiction to be.  On the other hand, I can read a chapter and still get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

--Today I have a class at 6:30, but that still leaves plenty of time for bread making and working on some seminary projects.  I will also make some apple butter.  I've got lots of apples that will need to be used up soon.

--And because I will need a jar for my apple butter, I'll have pasta with jarred tomato sauce for my lunch--then I'll clean up the jar for the apple butter.

It's a glamorous life, isn't it?  A morning walk through all sorts of beautiful streets, a video chat with my spouse, some bread baking and seminary work, an afternoon walk, more seminary work, and then class.  So far, even though it isn't glamorous, it's very satisfying.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Portal to Suburbs, Amish Markets, and an Orchard

On Friday, I took a 30 minute trip just across the border to Maryland.  In some ways, it was one of the shortest trips I've taken during this past five months of heavy duty car travelling.  In some ways, I felt like I had fallen through some sort of portal into a far away land.  

On my way to my sister's house, I stopped at the Amish Market.  I say "Amish Market," and you might think of covered wagons or big barns.   But this Amish Market is open Thursday through Sunday in a suburban strip mall in Germantown, MD.  Inside are various places to buy mostly food:  donuts and bakery; pretzels and meats wrapped in soft pretzel bread; meats; veggies; candies; deli items and fried chicken; dairy--and a furniture section.

I bought a variety of items:  food for lunch and dinner, treats, and a few items to take back to my seminary apartment.  Then I went to my sister's house, where we spent the afternoon working on our computers (she was working from home and I was working on teaching and school work) and eating.

My nephew is in high school, but not driving on his own yet.  Maryland has much stricter laws about teen drivers than the ones that were in force when my sister and I were teenagers decades ago, so we drove him to the gym and picked him up, and later, we drove him and his friends to a football game.  It was very interesting to be the adults in a car of male teens listening to them puzzling out this new school year, this new football season, their place in various sports teams, this place in their lives.

We came back home to have a wonderful dinner together, and when my nephew returned, we had a good chat.  Then I headed up to bed while my sister and nephew waited for the delivery of pizza, wings, and fries.  Yesterday morning we went to an orchard, and then I came back to seminary, loaded with fruits and veggies.  We didn't pick our own, but the farm store had plenty for us to buy, including some less than perfect items for a huge savings.

As I look at all that I bought, I do wonder if I need to adjust my food buying.  But I've always bought as if I'm buying for a huge family.  Not much of it goes to waste.  I'm good at keeping an eye on fresh food and transforming it into something I can freeze before it goes bad.

This morning I walked to Wegman's to pick up a few dairy items and a bouquet of autumnal flowers, which were much more affordable than the ones I've found at farmer's markets.  I am set for the week for food, flowers, and treats.  Now I need to get back to the work that's coming due in seminary.  Happily, I'm looking forward to that work.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

An Hour of Sketching Nature

One of the delights of taking a class is getting credit for something I might do even if I wasn't taking a class.  But I also delight in taking a class that forces me to do what I've always wanted to do but was never disciplined enough to make myself do.

Did I learn a foreign language this week?  No.  But I did go outside and spend an hour sketching as part of my Creative Process, Spiritual Practice class.  What a simple activity:  take a pencil, take a sketchbook, try to really see what's in front of you.

We went to the lovely courtyard in the center of the campus buildings and spent a few minutes walking and observing.  We came back as a group for five minutes, and then we went forth with our task:  spend one hour fully observing and sketching, while being careful not to destroy the nature we're observing.

I had been captivated by a small tree, by the colors of the stem and the featheriness of the leaves.  I started sketching these leaves while I was standing close to them:

I tried sketching without looking at the sketch, which was an interesting process, but didn't lead to a very good sketch.  I approached the leaves from various angles.

Then I decided to sit across from the tree; in the above shot, you can see the ledge on top of the small brick wall where I perched.  That's when I noticed the trunk and decided it was time to shift focus.

I drew the curve of the branches and the swirls of the bark.  Then I decided to bend closer, and that's when I noticed a whole branch that I hadn't seen at first.  Eventually, I produced this sketch:

I remembered our teacher's instructions to get close, so I bent over and ducked under the tree too.  When I came back to my sketching perch, I had a dead leaf in my hair, so I decided to sketch that:

I felt a bug on me, but didn't stop to shoo it away.  Eventually, I looked down to see a small grasshopper (some other bug?) making its way into the sketch:

After the hour was up, we reconvened to talk about the process.  Where did we spend our hour?  Would it have been different if our teacher had specified not to erase?  Or if she had required us to stay focused on the first thing we started to sketch?

We briefly talked about the theology/spirituality aspect of the class.  Does God study us as closely?  How do we feel about that?

During numerous points of Thursday's class, I thought, I will do this process again.  I will return to this courtyard and sketch for an hour.  Will I?  Maybe.  But if not, I'm happy I had the chance to have this experience--and to get class credit for it!

Friday, September 16, 2022

Poetry Friday: "Ghost of Girlhood Past"

I am happy to announce a poem publication:  "The Ghost of Girlhood Past" in pacificReview for their "Atlantis and Other Lost Places" issue.  I submitted it in January of 2022, and although I check Submittable regularly, I didn't find out it had been accepted until very late in the process.

Yes, Submittable should send communication to my e-mail, and I've checked the settings to verify that I have it set up that way.  But it's been years since it happened.  Usually it's not a big deal; I'll get to the notice of rejections when I get to them.  

Happily, I discovered the acceptance in time for the publication of the poem to move forward, although it was too late for a contributor's bio.  And last week, when I returned to my mountain home, I picked up a copy of the journal.  It's beautiful, complete with art in color.

I first got the idea for this poem from a Halloween costume I created in 2019, a costume created out of my bridal veil, a childhood doll, and a string of battery operated Christmas lights.  During the festive time at school, I walked the halls saying, "I am the Ghost of Girlhood Past.  Look on me and beware."  It was fun.

Throughout the day, I thought about this character I created and started to jot down specifics.  What would the Ghost of Girlhood Past represent?  What are the lost dreams and plans?  How to capture the regrets?  Are there regrets?  I thought back to Charles Dickens and his Christmas version of this ghost.

Eventually this poem emerged:

Ghost of Girlhood Past

I am the ghost of girlhood past.
I carry your childhood books
about resilient heroines in borderland
spaces. Once you dreamed of migrations,
whether to new prairies or distant planets.
Now you define
yourself as stuck.

I am the ghost of girlhood past
with a wedding veil over my hair.
Would you have dreamed of different
choices had you known?

I am the ghost of girlhood past.
I hold your dolls, loved into permanent grubbiness.
You dreamed of children
of your own. What happened?

I am the ghost of girlhood past
dressed in the clothes of your parents.
What will you construct
Out of these castaways?
I teeter on heels that are too big
for me. When, exactly, do you plan
to fill these shoes?

I am the ghost of girlhood past.
I do not hold financial statements or an affordable
mortgage. I cannot offer work-life
balance. I hold a jar of discarded
dreams, but I cannot tell
you how to retrieve them or even what they are.
You’ve moved on to be haunted
by different ghosts. I return to your hope
chest, my comfortable coffin.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

First Museum Day of my Seminary Years

I have been riding the Metro, the DC subway, since I was a pre-teen, so I wasn't expecting the hardest part of my museum day to be the Metro.  Yesterday morning I walked to the Tenleytown Metro and tried to figure out how to get down to it because the escalator was under repair.  There was an elevator, but I didn't want to ride down in an enclosed space with breathing unmasked strangers if I could avoid it.  Happily, I could walk down one of the non-working escalator.

And then I had to take the longer working escalator down.  It was steep, and there was no place to look into the distance so that I could fight my rising anxiety.  The elevator felt a bit rickety, so I hung on and focused on breathing.

The farecard machine didn't want to take my cash, but happily, I had a credit card which worked beautifully.  Finally I was on my way downtown to make my appointment with the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  I signed up for a timed ticket my first morning in town, and September 14 was the earliest slot available.

I got downtown early, so I walked over to the National Museum of American History, another Smithsonian.  I didn't go into any galleries, but I was able to take this great shot of a Greensboro lunch counter with the reflection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the exhibition screen, and me in the exhibition screen where John Lewis was talking:

Then it was time to head to the main attraction.  

I went to the top floor and worked my way down.  In the end, the first gallery I went to was my favorite, the one with the visual art.  I loved this quilted Harriet Tubman:

I did go down and do the winding history gallery, me and hordes of people.  

Here's another lunch counter:

I was pleased that most of the history wasn't unfamiliar to me.  I was impressed by the way the material was put together, but I didn't feel the need to read every panel.

After I went through all the galleries, I felt a bit exhausted.  I thought about getting lunch, but the cafeteria in the museum was crammed full, and I didn't want to be around those people.  I thought about going back to my seminary apartment.  I thought about how much I enjoyed the art in the upper gallery.  I decided to go over to the Hirshhorn Museum, which is often one of my favorites.

I had read about the Yayoi Kusama exhibit, so I was happy to see that it was still here, and even better, I could get a timed entry ticket.  Since it wasn't crowded, I didn't have to wait.  The infinity rooms were like not much I've experienced before.

Although it was a bit dizzying, I loved this one with the changing lights.

I also went through the exhibit that was devoted to the work of women and non-binary artists.  What a treat.  My eye went to the more sculptural art, like this collection of Virgin Marys.  

The author did plaster casts of each one and then painted them; here's a close-up:

There were also intriguing 2 dimensional works; this one was created from bits of silk, instead of paint:

And combinations of flat and sphere:

After the Hirshhorn, I was ready to head back.  I popped down into the Smithsonian Metro station and my trip back was fairly easy.  As I walked back from the Tenleytown Metro, I saw a labyrinth being constructed at the local Episcopal church--a promise of art to come!

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

A Potato Palooza of a Day

This morning, I slept until 5:15 a.m., which is sleeping in for me.  I was surprised because at 2 a.m., I thought about giving up on sleep and getting my day started.  Happily, I was able to drift back to sleep.  I went to bed close to 10:00 p.m., and even for me, 4 hours of sleep isn't quite enough.

Yesterday was jam-packed, but in some of the best possible ways.  I went on my early morning walk for the first time in days; I spent much of last week waiting for the locksmith, plus it was rainy, so I didn't get as many walks in as I hope that a normal week will have.

My spouse is in North Carolina, with the little house that needs updates.  It was built in the 1970's as a vacation house, so it needs some basics, like an HVAC system, along with updating.  He's staying there for now to get some of this work done.  He says that he's always wanted to do a rehab project where he doesn't have to work around the people living in the house and where he's not on an impossible deadline.  Now he can have that experience.

We talk once a day, usually by way of a Facebook video call, so we had a chat yesterday.  After we hung up, I got my reading done for my 1:30 class and headed to chapel for a nourishing worship service.  

After the service, Wesley offered us a Potato Palooza.  I was expecting a basic baked potato bar, but it was so much more.  I thought that the school might re-open the kitchen facilities, but they had the food brought in.  We were told to pick a goody box, a baked potato in a separate container, and a cup of chili (with a choice of chicken, beef, or veggie).  Inside the goody box was a veggie salad, a fruit salad, a corn muffin, and a dessert.  We had enough so that everyone could take extras home for a later meal.

Even better than the food (and it was good) was the chance to share a meal together.  I ate with one of my professors from Spring and one of my professors now, both teaching in the Arts and Religion track.  We were joined by the Admissions person who remembered my application and an HR person.  It was delightful.

I did wonder if I should make more of an effort to meet my fellow students, but my inner new kid was doing well to force herself to stay for the meal, so I gave myself a break.  And I also realized that I might have more in common with the people at my table than with a table of students.  It's hard to know.

My spring semester professor turned to me at one point and said, "It's so good to have you here on campus."  Wow--my inner new kid will treasure that comment, well, forever.

After the Potato Palooza, I felt like I'd already had a very full day, but I still had two classes ahead.  Happily, they, too, were very full, in the best possible way, full of valuable information, full of smaller group interactions, full of good feedback.

I have had a few moments in the past weeks and months when I've wondered if I would look back on this time and see it as a terrible mistake, a huge loss of money, a slow motion separation from all whom I've held dear.  I don't know that those moments are based in real information or on fear, but I'm forging ahead.  

I think back to the Ignatian concept of decisions made out of consolation or out of desolation.  To explain it in an overly simple way, if a decision/answer makes one feel inspired and fulfilled, like one is living into one's purpose for life, that one is moving closer to God, it's a decision/answer made in consolation. If it makes one feel otherwise, it's a mark of desolation.

And here's where it gets tricky. One can come to a decision/answer in consolation, but still feel some tinges of desolation as one goes on.  This concept has been one of the more helpful things I learned in my certificate program for spiritual direction.

Yesterday was one of those days that reminded me that my decision to come to seminary and all the subsequent decisions were choices made in a place of consolation.  And it's not just me who thinks that--I have the support of my home church, of family and friends, of my candidacy committee.  I understand how rare it is to have this level of emotional support.