Saturday, April 30, 2011

Come on! Rejoice! What did you just say?

- It's mom's birthday and the kitchenaid has coffee cake dough in it and the crabapple tree blossoms are sent home in her arms with a kiss and a "You don't look a day over 56.  Tomorrow, you will though."

- "First Trinity just unanimously voted to extend me a call!"  

- "Don't panic.  The hamster has to be somewhere in your house unless you had some sort of hamster escape hatch installed that I don't know about.  Did you?"

- "Mommy, can we go home and play poker?"


Friday, April 29, 2011

When We Brush Past Each Other

The night of the quiet house.

Luckily Teagan gave me a beautiful book by Stanley Kunitz called The Wild Braid, and this is what I've been feeding myself tonight while purging and dusting and singing and not singing and sitting and sitting again.  "A poet reflects on a century in the garden..."

And I am learning so much, recognizing a lot too, like how a second hand jacket smells like you, fits you perfectly the first time you try it on in the store despite, or maybe because of, the previous life it has lived.

You may think that you plant a new garden each year, but it's really the same garden that He made for us in the beginning, and maybe this is why I love it so much.  Seed after seed after seed, these too have been passed down through flood and drought by some hand that continued to plant them year after year.  There is much of our original home there in the gardens tended each summer, and I have felt that peace there.  Anyway, Kunitz says this,

"There's something very important to me about having a kind of relationship, with plants and animals, that can be transacted wholly without language.  The warmth of one's body is a form of communication.  The stroke of one's hand is a means of communication.  In the garden those forms are heightened.  I have a tendency when I'm walking in the garden to brush the flowers as I go by, anticipating the fragrant eloquence of their response.  I get a sense of reciprocity that is very comforting, consoling."


There is a term in the gardening world called "brushing"--a light movement of the hand over the top of the new seedlings.  It strengthens them, this touch, which should be done at least once per day (and if this flower is a child, you should do it hundreds of times per day).  And one has to wonder if this increase in strength comes from a learned endurance as the fragility of the plant's newness confronts some foreign hand.  Or if it comes from the same place our own joy in opening does--the hand of another speaking without speaking as it recognizes the need we all have for some gentle hand to acknowledge that we are.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

School's Out for Summer

I went in early today, so I could read through the last few poems from the workshops.  I sat there in my cubicle in the basement of Weller.  (Yes, there is a secret passageway to my office, and yes, I roller skate down there--come by for 80's night sometime.  It's awesome.)  And these are the moments you're thinking, "I can do this.  I'll just read these last poems, talk about Willy and Biff Loman one last time with my Lit class, and then I'll get in my car and I'll drive to York to pick Nora up with hamster in tow and..."  But I can't do it that way because of the dark hallway I walk past, the one with the wooden trophy cases that remind me of that movie--"The Dead Poet's Society."  Because when I walk past them, I can't help whispering, "Seize the day, boys.  Seize the day" while nodding to the replica of the cave paintings in Lascaux.  (Don't ask me.  I have no idea what they're doing down there either. They clash with my 80's theme, too.)

So, I get to the last poem, and it's five pages, and I read it and Chapel is in 10 minutes, but I'm crying.  Hard. Dang.  Not in the plan.  Not in the plan.

But I never like my plans anyway.

And while I don't necessarily like going to class looking like I went through a car wash without a car, I'd rather go ahead and just...feel it.

So I cry in the following classes:

1.  Morning poetry workshop because of courage.
2. Intro to Lit because of extended hands.
3.  Afternoon poetry workshop because of double entendres and the last poem on the table and how I wanted to dig through the desk for more of them, but that was it.  The last class.

And someone had written "O, Captain, my Captain" on the board.  And this is when I'm done for and cry all the way to York because, as Linda Loman says, "All of life is a casting off."  But I don't want to yet.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Little is Enough

Little is:

the hamster that replaced the 285 chickens that Nora wanted to keep out back.  At first Nora wanted to call her "Prince Gerbil"--and I actually kind of liked that.  A lot.  Somehow, we settled for Henrietta--Henrietta of the little things lost in a world of giants who is dreaming now of a little hotel for rodents with a spinning wheel and the occasional grape.  And I'm thinking it's kind of funny that I have farm cats whose job it is to get rid of rodents, and I paid about nothing for them, and then I went out and bought a rodent and...anyway, life is funny.

three part harmonies on the living room floor as the baby smiles goodness while tipping over (he's new at sitting) and the mothers are singing about being mothers and these voices are rising and lifting me out of myself into something I could get used to.

the last day of class tomorrow.  How I don't want to say goodbye.  What trust was placed in the center of the room that held our lives in language.  How much was given, one to the other--this community of hearts and voices and seekers.  And I will miss you.  Please write.  For each other.  For love's sake.

the passenger seat and the rain dripping down the window when you can stare for a good hour because your Mom is driving and you are just looking.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

One Wild and Precious Life

1.  To simplify and sit still, so I can hear what He is saying.

2.  To store my treasures in that careful cup he made for each of us, the heart He put inside.

3.  To tip the cup so those treasures pour themselves into some good work that these hands might do-- to speak of lifting gentle, calling strong, making something that resembles His love.

4.  In a dream, a hand extended, a finger pointed to my chest, the word spoken:  "Encourager."  And this is still a secret to me.

5.  And Nora moves into her own wild and precious life, the one He makes for her year upon year, and I pray not to define it for her because this is the poem the two of them are writing.

6.  We read from Judges tonight, and she says, "What in the world is going on in there?"  And I say, "They're fighting."  And she says, "But this is not a book about fighting.  This is a book about love."  To be taught by the ones who already know the kingdom--this too.

7.  [                                                                                       ]

8.  To give it back to Him again and again because this isn't my list at all.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Flower that Only Has One Day to Get it All Done

This morning on the kitchen sink window ledge, the plant who hasn't told me its name yet (these things take time) had bloomed.  It only happens once a year.  Here it is*:

And while messing with the dishes tonight, I found this:

And this is what I'm thinking:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
     --Mary Oliver

Tomorrow, I will tell you because tonight I just might dream up some sort of diagram like Nora's soap making machine that looks both wild and singular and treasured because He made it just this way for me, and for you.  Each one of us.  And if you dream up something tonight, tell me.  I love instructions.

* I can't take a good picture to save my life.  Teagan, where are you????

Sunday, April 24, 2011

It's a Perennial Thing

Ila's knees bent.  She, dirt-fingered and hope-strong, placed the bulbs and tubers sixty years ago that produce year after year the shapes and colors and scents of God's heart as the flowers appear from the once blank page of snow and bloom into the greening promise of life forever and ever.  This is my fourth summer on this 1/4 acre of perennial and cleansing work.  I yearn to be this constant, to keep the promises I make as reliably as those named Daffodil, Tulip, Grape Hyacinth.  And I have seen God's heart opening in me: strongfragile here, and I will put the work in my hands of bulb and tuber and hope that in some far away future, some strongfragile woman will leave the front door of this house to find the proof again that life always wins.  Love, too, because this is love.

And when I peek out the bedroom window, I see her son on limping knee, in his 50's now, bend down and plant the tubers in a circle of dirt he dug quickly--as one who is responsible for thousands of acres of the stuff would--quickly, trusting in the sturdiness of the root He designed--and he is like his mother, gentle and hoping and good to know.

And I will know the dirt that accepts the living hands that still need washed and the dirt that envelopes the hands that have completed His work and can now rejoice in their sometimes stumbling commitment to that which He left for her to keep.

All around us, He has risen.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Nora's Soap Making Machine

Nora woke this morning ready to go:  "Well, you know, Mommy, you can make your own soap by hand if you just have a machine to make it.  You just have to have the content and then it will be hand made.  There's a sour cream container with a hole that is not too big but it is big enough for a nest for the soap and then there is a ramp for the soap to go on and it will be mixed up with a hot glue gun and I will have special gloves that won't let my hands get too hot and..."

I'm just coming to now...  Did she just mention using a hot glue gun?  This sounds serious.  I'd better get some coffee.

"...and then the soap will be mixed in the paper and you will know the difference between kitchen soap and baffroom soap and [hic] then you will need to [hic] get me the...excuse me, I need some water because I [hic] have the hiccups..."

I hear her wander into the kitchen still talking to herself:  "I don't know where my stool is, so maybe I can just stand on my head and hold my breff because that will..."

I'm up fixing coffee, heavy metal hair (toothbrush free!), and starting to understand that I will need to be functional in about 10 seconds because she's standing on her head on the couch and her hiccups are gone.

"Okay, Nora, before we do the construction we need a little instruction.  Instruction then construction."  I get a long piece of fax paper and she draws it out for me.  We find a whipped cream container (close enough), small bars of soap, paper tubes, glue gun ( I will be doing the gluing)...and we're off, coffee kicking in...So, this is how it works (Oh, and this is patented, by the way):

1.  This is the hole with the nest for the soap shavings and paper to go down.

2.  The ingredients travel down this tube and land in...

3.  The bowl at the bottom that has a bit of water in it.

4.  Here are the soap shavings and the paper circles that go down the tube.

5.  And after it's all mixed up in the bowl, you get a little piece of paper covered in soap shavings and a little glue from a hot glue gun to hold it all together.

This is exactly how she said to do it.  "You know what you are, Nora?  There's a name for people like you."  "Is it Nora?"  "Um...actually I was thinking of the word 'inventor'--you're an inventor."  "Oh, I like being that, too."  And then she made a goose.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

This is where my heart is after reading from the Bible tonight with Nora and holding back tears while Peter denies and His disciples sleep while He weeps, examining the cup in His hands and I am Peter and I am the sleeping disciples asking forgive me for the times I wasn't there for You, when I denied You.  And this pain is tangible and swollen-eyed, and I know He knows I love Him and this is His grace.

From my beautiful friend, Bekah over at

For the broken…. He was broken.
For the hurting… He was hurt.
For the despised… He was despised.
For our wounds… He was wounded.

Because we are dead…  He died.

Because He lives… we too can live.

Oh Jesus, please come soon!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Really Bad Hair Day

A good friend has dared me and her fellow blog readers to post about moments that reflect a "thin place"--times when you felt the barrier between Heaven and earth break down.  In her post, she mentioned crazy morning hair as one of these thin places.  Here is my thin place as it relates to hair:

Yesterday, I stumbled into the bathroom and looked in the mirror expecting the usual groggy-eyed, heavy-metal-haired, mascara monster.  Imagine my surprise when I saw Nora's toothbrush sticking out of my hair.  "What is this doing in here?" I say in a gravelly, caffeine-starved voice.  I try to pull it out and realize that it is anchored in there by a piece of gum.  I'm not even kidding right now.  This is a true story.

So, I had Nora's Snoopy toothbrush and a piece of Wrigley's spearmint in my hair, and we have preschool in less then 45 minutes.  (Sidenote:  Many of you might be thinking, "45 minutes?  That's plenty of time to shower, eat breakfast, check email, update your resume."  But in terms of Mom-time, 45 minutes is actually about 20 minutes, and that's if you located your little one's shoes the night before.)

So, back to the gum.  Like you, I was wondering how in the world this could have happened.   And I'm still not entirely sure how it happened.  Somehow a late night "brush your teeth, drink this water, let me just put my gum here on your water cup before bed and your toothbrush, too, did you go potty, okay, did you pick out your stories" turned into me somehow managing to get my hair into the gum on her water cup that was also attached to her toothbrush while I was sleeping.  I have no idea how the physics of this actually played out, but they did.

The funny thing is, I woke up that morning ready to be disappointed in myself.  I mean, I was prepared to look in the mirror and have all my worst fears reinforced--the slow rise of my head until I make eye-contact with this person I call "me" and we decide how to approach the space of the day looking like one of the members of Guns 'n Roses.   Instead, I found the impossible--it was even worse than I thought--like Slash after a run in with a dental hygienist.  At first I was kind of angry, like when the guys in Biology threw their gum in my hair from the row behind me, and I had to chop it off (my hair, not the row).  For me, gum in your hair is a sign of being made fun of, and I wasn't prepared to deal with that feeling at 7:45 AM at age 37 after I'd already worked through all that crap in journals I'd written when I was 20.  But there it was.  I am laughable.

I am laughable.  I am completely ridiculous.  And suddenly, I'm laughing.  I mean, I'm really laughing.  Not AT myself, but WITH myself.  You know what I mean?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong

: the day starting with a wave between me and the guys out back saying, "Thanks for cleaning up the pile of leaves and branches in the garden" and "Thank you for the chocolate oatmeal cookies."  "Looks like we're going to have some sun today."  "'Bout time.  I was about to wish it was January again."  "Have a good one."  "Same to you."  And then we lowered our hands, not a word having passed our lips.

: a message reminding me to keep on keeping on, so I do because I trust this person.

: "Will you go to Chapel with me today?"  "Sure, Nora.  Thanks for asking me."  And it's a man from CampLuther with a guitar named Dave and he gets the kids singing and me giggling as we clap, make mountains with our hands, put arms around each other and sing while swaying.  This was better than any rock concert I've ever been to: teachers and students do-si-do in the aisles and Ms. B's humor shines as the good Samaritan.

: a text message and a "Yep, I'm at the Spur.  See you soon!"  And she pulls in with her handsome baby J and Smile and Sass H and gives me a necklace she made for Nora with a chick and a yellow bead, and I am already imagining farmgirl parties in the sunshine.

: and as we pull into the drive, I see a Walmart bag leaning against the front door with green shoots peaking above, and it's a Peace Lily and I do what Nora calls "crying the tears of joy."  And I'm not sure who to call because my friends do it in His glory and they don't like to name names.  So, Thank You, God.

: so the girls (Nora, Mom, and I) hit the road, back country farmland with the brown fields clashing with the green median because we are all ready to grow things around here starting with the potatoes and onions that will be setting up shop in my garden this Good Friday come rain or no rain.

: words shine with epiphany and searching from friends who live deeply, love strong, respond and share every minute of it with me.  And, Thank You, God.

: finally, the joy of word play.  Rhyme Time with Nora:  "Cantaloupe."  "Antelope."  "Telescope."  "Santa soap."  That girl wins every time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Things Worth Loving

1.  I love a poem that starts like this:


2.  I love watching Nora line up all the chicken nuggets she didn't want to eat on the concrete slab outside so the cats can eat buffet style.

3.  I love plants.  I had to go to Walmart (I know...I know...) and they have the most amazing Peace Lilies there right now.  How I made it home without one, I don't know.  But, you know what?  I can already tell that I can't stop thinking about it, which means I'll probably have a new Peace Lily in the house by Saturday.

4.  "There's too much riding on that.  There's too much love."

5.  I love when a sister appears out of nowhere at Chapel and sits beside you and starts singing the most amazing harmonies and you could sing with her like that forever.

6.  I love looking for camouflage material for boy's shorts and the realization that I might be contributing to a future ambush involving his big sister.

7.  I love turquoise and silver.

8.  I love.  This is a good sign.

9.  [                                                                    ]

Monday, April 18, 2011

You Can Find a Lot of Things Growing When You Wander around a Farmhouse at Night Looking for Good Subject Material to Write About

Do you remember that plant I rescued from the Pac N' Save?  That's her up there.

I'm just waiting on the Thyme.  Take your _________.  All in good ___________.  One day at a _______.

Okay.  Nora built her own egg incubator.  You can see the egg there, and she put one of my thermometers in with it.  There's water and a little dish for the food.  This is all her doing.  We watched a few youtube videos about incubators, and this is what she learned.  Notice the pink slide to the right.

We made a cardboard chicken coop and this is the pathway from the incubator to the front door.  The chick will simply climb out of the incubator and travel along this path to its new home.   And as I'm looking at all of this, I'm pretty sure that if I don't get a chicken for this girl or make that egg hatch somehow, there will be one broken heart.  And there are enough of those in the world already.

Dreaming of chicks, I'm sure.  I bet they look like this:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Let's Keep 'Em Coming, Folks

1.  Find your grateful and stand on it.  Defend it against anything that stinks of lies, anything that tries to minimize it down to something you don't even notice.  Like today, I could have gulped that hot cup of coffee after mistakenly taking Nora to the park after church (it LOOKED warm).  I could have wrapped my hands around the blue mug my mom made without seeing it as medicine, exactly what I needed to make it today, a moment to still, to receive.  His gift.

2.  And when I tell Nora, "No."  And she answers, "I'm tired of you and your 10 commandments."  Well, I just have to say (after hiding a smile), "Nora, you are not the first person to have said this.  You still have to vacuum up all the popcorn on the couch, and after that we can talk about why there are rules in this world and how they have to do with two things:  safety and love.  So, what's it going to be, kiddo?"  Luckily she didn't answer, "I choose danger and hate!"  Well, on some days, a four year old tantrum on the lawn outside the Seward Courthouse can SOUND like danger and hate, but really it's a little girl trying to figure out the complicated situations surrounding her heart right now.  And, yes, I will be there trying to make eye contact when she's pulling herself out of feelings she can't name with kicking boots and raging tears.

3.  I am holding a shared prayer with a woman many, many miles away.  Her prayers are lit with the Spirit.  They stun and still me, and I know His peace through them.

4.  Here's to gentlemen.  (Anna, your post reminded me that I don't mind having a little help with my coat either.)

5.  For a minute, I felt far away from Him, flailing.  And it wasn't good. I see now that He was calling me to something I didn't know about Him--but I had to reach for it.  He had stepped back for a moment, so He could see if I was brave enough to swim out toward Him, this deeper side, and there He could show me what I would be willing to do to find Him, and He would teach me about the deeper well.  I hope that makes sense.

6.  Grading is a relationship.  Lord, help me as I approach it.

7.  The end of the semester will come to me suddenly, and I will regret not having done more, and I will long to spend more time with those who are leaving, and I will be proud of what we made together, and I will leave it with a kiss, yet again, toward the classroom and a prayer for those who made it bright.

8.  Emmylou Harris' album  Cowgirl's Prayer -- a chance find like a warm cup of coffee in a blue mug after church.

9.  I am thinking of you, and I thank God for the gift of your friendship and all that you share and all that you don't share and all that I learn from you and how you are also blue and warm.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dishing the Dirt: Mother/Daughter Book Club

Mom and I are both reading a book called The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball.  (Okay, folks, I know what you're thinking, so just hold that overactive imagination of yours for a moment while I explain.)  In it Kristin, a city slicker from New York, meets Mark, a CSA farmer (community supported agriculture--basically you grow locally in order to feed the locals--something I'd really love to do one day) and they "dig" each other (pardon the pun) and take over a broken down farm in order to start their own CSA farm with the capacity to provide a "whole diet" for their "investors"--people who pay a yearly fee and are supplied with everything people should eat: meat, butter (lots of butter), veggies, milk, grains, cheese... from a single local farm.  Of course, they're having a hard time of it--clay dirt and their milk cow just got attacked by local dogs and they are going to do everything with a team of horses rather than use tractors.  So, here's a quote I read tonight that I love:

"When we would talk about our future in private, I would ask Mark if he really thought we had a chance. Of course we had a chance, he'd say, and anyway, it didn't matter if this venture failed.  In his view, we were already a success because we were doing something hard and it was something that mattered to us.  You don't measure things like that with words like success or failure, he said.  Satisfaction comes from trying hard things and then going on to the next hard thing, regardless of the outcome.  What mattered was whether or not you were moving in a direction you thought was right."

It reminds me of another quote I love, the kind of quote that attaches itself to your life and won't let go:

"Without hope, without despair--write."  I'm pretty sure Kafka said that, but I've thought it so many times that, at this point, I'm fairly certain I can claim it as my own.

I think I like how both of these quotes have to do with redefining why we do things.  I had a conversation with someone this week, the kind of conversation that just springs up unexpectedly and the next thing you know both of your are doing that, "Oh, oh, oh, and there's that other thing and then that other thing..." thing and you feel like God is reminding you that He meant for us to be excited and happy about lots of things and to be there for each other to provide the spark when our lights seem dim and pointless.

So, I'm doing hard things and I'm doing them without hope or despair because it seems a path made up of something righteous and something that matters to me.

(Thanks for reading this stuff, friends.  Your presence is real and sustains me.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Love Poem for A Garden

So soon map of seed and map of root and map of molecule that is irrevocably changed the moment I notice it, record it, steal its breaking and blooming and make it my own.  This is how I had to unlearn "love."

The lesson:  There will be pathways and rows and cages and knees ground into the dirt with hands that pray a good thing and a hopeful thing and a thing that could die.   I struggle to let you be you because you might change under my fingers.  Do I dare disturb...

And the fingers were:  lonely, calloused, versed in intricate patterns of string and soil.

And the woman at the window is pressing her fingers to the glass that looks out to the garden in the same way the woman in the reflection is pressing the tears to the glass of her eyes and holding them there, captive and panting.  She will define her boundaries as the boundaries simultaneously define her.  Cages and row.  Seeds and sow.

And the poems are asking, "How do you do it?"

Today we read them--love poems again and again and again and came to the same conclusions:

To love is good and demolishing.  And the women are strong at receiving and the men are good at giving and the arms are tested for strength and the tears are tested for truth and the hearts are mapped and broken and held aloft in the green tendrils we planted to tie them together when our love had been cracked and tested and the water was pressed from the glass and eyes and the rain came into the house and held us clean under its weight as the root hummed us to sleep saying, Hush, dry heart, as I steal you and teach you how it was in the beginning.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Some Littles

1.  Back at Orscheln's with Nora and we lean over the chick trough, little yellow fluffs huddling under the orange light and we cup our hands under the three-toed babies and they settle right down in her little hands.  According to the people who work there, she is a chick whisperer.  And what does she whisper?  "Do you know all sorts of animals go poo different ways?"  Okay.  Now you know her secret.

2.  Despite our ice cream intake, Nora and I are cavity free.  Cavity, not calorie.  I'm, unfortunately, beginning to see the distinction there.

3.  Even after making a special cheese quesadilla for her, Nora spent most of supper saying, "This is disgusting.  I can't eat anything on my plate..."  "What would you like to eat, Nora?"  "More of those chocolate Easter eggs, please."

4.  Although I don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, I was relieved to see he/she/it had decided that we weren't going to have a freeze on Friday.  Apricot/Rhubarb jam could still be in the picture this year.

5.  I am wishing I could sing harmony with myself right now and that it would remind me of the friends I love who are harmonizing from afar.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A List to Carry Us Over

1.  Nora has been sick the last couple of days though she's just as talkative and animated as usual.  The first thing she told me this morning was that she knows how to make diapers for chickens and this is a good reason that we can just make our house into the chicken house.  She's been thinking hard on these chickens.  And secretly, I want them, too.  The big questions:  Does our landlord want chickens, and does Nora really know how to make a chicken diaper?

2.  She, like a lot of women I know, recovers from illness by simply ignoring that she's sick.  Have you ever taken a shower and then had to sit down for a minute to rest between the shampoo and conditioner and then you still went to work?  My sister Julie hasn't been sick since her first child was born in 2001.   That's acting!

3.  I clipped away the weaker seedlings today, cupped them in my hand, and they already smelled of tomato/pepper/eggplant richness.  I sat in the chair out back with a handful of asparagus from the bed I planted two years ago (it takes a couple of years before you can harvest them), found peony rising, strawberry greening, and am praying the snow in Friday's forecast won't put a freeze on the branches of the apricot tree now blooming fragile and trusting in the orchard.

4.  Lord, I am having trouble lately connecting.  Distracted.  In-turned.  Speak-shy.  This needs the medicine of open window hair blowing song screaming driving.

5.  What is told, what is held, what is folded, what is covered, what is loved, what is let go.

What I gave away because I knew it by heart.  Take it and it's still mine.

And the list loosens itself into the possibility of something undone and summer.

Oh, I am hoping hard.  To be moved beyond the small room of myself.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Heart Strings

I could listen to a fiddle (different than a violin) sustaining a single note attached to a heart and a hand feeling the same moan and holler for entire weeks.  I come from fiddle players on both sides, great-grandpas, and I feel it like a lifeline pulling blood that isn't mine through veins I call my own.

To put it simply:  I want to just feel what I'm feeling, to be attached to it for as long as He says it's necessary, the sustain of the single note bowed and bowing.

And I suppose this is enough to think about for one night.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Breath and Bones

I left the doors open till well after midnight last night, and when finally battening the hatches felt the wind blow clean and warm through the screen door and I knelt there for a good long time with my eyes shut, fingers pressed soft against the screen, my hand holding the invisible and the wind running through me like a deep breath and I was made of holes and dry bones and dead wishes and then for a moment I wasn't anything at all--simply breath, His breath taking me up, my dry bones, my deafening worries and lifting them into green things growing at night and I went out on the stoop and sat and called to the cats and to the moon sitting half hid, a bowl that held a few dreams I'd kept precious just in case I happened into a night like this and was breathed green, the marrow suddenly living and I placed the wishes in the bowl He made for me, and this bowl was my life:

Saturday, April 9, 2011


1.  I feel better (understatement) when I can go outside and play in the dirt and move things from one place to another.  Nora's pink cheeks in the sun, dirty hands, digging spoon.  Love.

2.  It's sun tea time, folks.  My liquid intake just went up 60%.

3.  Plants sitting out on the front stoop are friends waving goodbye when we leave and hello when we return.

4.  My starter plants are off and running.  The trees are trimmed.  The peonies are mulched.  (Thank you, Mom and Mike!)  I seriously would have been out there with a steak knife duct taped to a yardstick.

5.  I love how the house becomes a sort of thoroughfare between the front door and the back, the screen doors slamming and the world's breath blowing us along.  Washing dusty forearms and face in the kitchen sink, standing under the kitchen ceiling fan, a domestic helicopter, with arms outspread.

6.  Aprons.  Rolled up jeans.  Bare feet.  Laundry on the line.  Farm cats lounging.  Birds singing for free.  The girl narrating her every imaginative function.

7.  [                                                                                              ]

8.  Playing guitar on the back porch to the fields and hogs and garden and girl.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Poem Called "Marge Drags Jolene to Karaoke Night at the Shark Bar"

"Stop the music.  Norm.  Stop the music."
Jolene is yelling into the karaoke mic
while Norm fumbles for the "Stop" button.

"Okay.  Listen up folks.
I haven't been to a bar in over 4 years.
To be honest, I wasn't planning
on stepping foot in one for at least another 4.
But here I am because Marge said
I needed to get out of the house,
and so I got out of the house.  So here I am.
And rather than sit around here all night
trying to make eye contact
and figure out whether or not
you aren't wearing a ring because you're single
or you just like to act like you are,
I'm going to just make this announcement
to everyone.  First of all,
I'm not interested in a fixer-upper,
so if you need work, find someone with a hammer.
I'm not looking for a good time.
And I'm definitely not looking for a bad time.
But if you fall somewhere in between
those two fence posts and you know how to pick
yourself up and you're  interested in talking
to a fellow sister in Christ, then I'd lend you my ear.
And in time, if your ear is good at listening
and your mouth is good at telling the truth,
then let's see about meeting somewhere
at the end of an aisle that God built
where we can agree to a set of fairly simple terms.
It's then and only then that you'll find out
whether or not this girl hangs her sheets out
on the line to dry and if she can make an omelette.
Okay, Norm.  You can start it again."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

When You Were in Trouble with Grandpa

1.  Pulling up the stool in Grandma's kitchen with cousin Stephi after riding Cherokee bareback and double, so we can pull out the canister with the lemonade mix poured too generously into the metal cups that turn ice cold.  And Grandpa walks in and we're in trouble pretty big this time.  And next time we remember to ask if we "may have a glass of lemonade."

2.  He drives past our trailer in his gray truck and we're playing on the propane tank and you can near see the fire in his brake lights when he stops, and he comes out and we aren't ever going to pretend the propane tank is a horse again.  

3.  He's left the hose pouring water on the ground, and I pick it up to drink, and he knocks it out of my hand.  "Ditchwater."  

4.  And he wrestles with us on the floor, a softpack in his pocket, and he likes to joke about the mosquitos he heard while he was moving pipe, the ones who were looking for a few young girls to carry back, so they could just feed off of them all summer.  And we believe him for at least two weeks, avoiding the ditches and on the lookout for the ring leader, the big guy, that Grandpa described in detail.

5.  He kept his smokes in the crisper drawer of the fridge and would send one of us kids in to grab a pack for him.  And usually there would be a package of pop rocks in there, too, and those were for the kid who ran in first.

6.  He loved fireworks.  And so did I.

7.  And it was best when Grandma would hand one of the egg beaters covered in chocolate cake batter to Grandpa and the other to you and the two of you would lick them clean and then Grandpa would ask if you were full and you'd say, "Yes" and he'd say, "I think you could eat more."  But you really can't, so you stick out your stomach as far as it will go and say, "See, Grandpa, no room."  And he'd poke your tummy and agree.  His sweet-tooth was never full.

(inspired by poetry class today)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Living With an Animal Lover

1.  The guilt of a mother who accidentally smuggles in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for her daughter to eat at the miniature preschool table because they are late again, and the class is in chapel and your daughter is barefoot and won't eat and won't put on shoes and the only thing you can think is "Man, I really need some coffee and possibly a comb."  And then you are caught with the peanut product in your hand in a No Peanut Zone and you are breaking all the rules this morning by accident.  And you whisper to Cinderella, the class gerbil, "Where's the nearest bed in this joint because I'm going back to it."

2.  And then you get to the Spur and all the biscuits and gravy are gone.  NOOOOOO, you cry.  Why?  Why?  Not today.  Not like this.  So you get some sort of breakfast burrito thing and you are grumpy.  Yeah, you're grumpy, but it's her birthday, the woman at the register and she asks if you want salsa and yes, of course you do, thank you.  And you tell her happy birthday.  And then you sit down and the couple you've made friends with is still there and she has brought a quilt for you to see, and you are starting to feel better because people are good and they are talking to you, and you like talking to them and then you're laughing and the earth is your home again and the coffee here is the best gas station coffee you've ever had.

3.  And you read poems and you stare out the window into the fields and you watch countless Chevy trucks passing.  And it's good, too.  And a call comes from a strong-mother-in-arms and she needs prayers for her daughter and we talk it over between the two of us and between God.

4.  After preschool, it takes you two hours to pick up the toys around the house, pack the bag for Wednesday in York, load the trash and recycling, take out the compost and for a brief moment, you consider the nearest bed, and you make it and walk out the door with some keys in your hand and the wind is whipping you into better shape.

5.  Maybe she'll wear calfgirl boots.  So you go to the Western Edge and she finds pink glitter (cute as can be) boots and she runs around the store with Red, the world's best cowdog, chasing her with an old sock from the community sock basket in his mouth, a tail nub wiggling.  And anytime we go there, he follows her because animals know her.

6.  So you go see the chicks at Orschelyn's and you need a 50 pound bag of birdseed and some flower seeds and a new pair of work gloves.  And you see your girl holding a chick for over 15 minutes telling everyone who passes by to please be quiet because that chick is so good in her hand sleeping and pooping there.  And she asks me to please get out my phone and call Lynn as soon as we can so we can have some chickens.  She cries when you have to go.

7.  And then she warns you as you flip the birdseed bag around so the lady at the register can scan it:  You don't get birds when you buy birdseed, Mom.  You just get birdseed.  What I want is a bird.

This girl knows too much about what a seed can and can't do.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Want You to Meet My Mom

Here she is:

She knows everything about me.  And I mean everything.  (I promise, Mom.  There's nothing else I need to tell you about.  You know it all, and I'm looking forward to not being grounded sometime in 2027.)

She loves me, all of me.  What a relief.

I love her, too.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Grass is Greener on the Other Side of March

Feeling lifted outside of my life.  This is normal during the changing of the guard--that fragile moment when no one seems to be watching the door and whoever I am slips out so she can try on the summer skin: the gloves that hold the dirt-crusted shape of two hands praying around their quiet work.

In the poem-moment, she resembles nothing I've ever seen.  From the dark wood of the desk, she is daring me to let go of anything I thought was mine, dropping it onto a page she'll burn in her heart because I'm still not that brave, and she's got a pile of ashes and scars and kisses and stars.  Hey girl, take a load off.

And daughters know that all dishes must be done while dancing.  And she adopts a single seed and feeds it all day long, mixing old coffee grounds and potting soil for it.  "I love plants, Mommy, because you love plants and I love you.  And I am a really good mommy for this plant."  And mothers know that children aren't empty, waiting to be filled.  They glow.  Just watch and notice it when it shines.  That's how most people work, not just kids.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ila's Recipe

(A new poem that is still kind of fragile and unformed...)

The sweet and bitter mix that draws
the moths down from the blossom,
a killing secret whispered into the pink idea
of an apple born with worm in fall.

I may be too late.

I am talking to her:  The woman who hung
the windsweapt jug and twine
under the same trees for 60 years,
the twine now part of the branch.
She explains the equal parts
sugar and vinegar, a single banana peel.
And I can't listen, picturing how to hang
the rope and jar beneath the life
of my heart, drawing the moth from the blossom
because one year there might be fruit
cut open and clean
if I am brave enough
to acknowledge the bitter,
the sweet.  That some are moth
and some are bee.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Work I Can Do in the Comfort of Voicelessness

Digging out old roots in the garden this evening, hop on the shovel, mellow ground, and the breeze dances along and I'm swaying with a shovel and the shovel has pretty good rhythm.

Nora's world:
Where she goes and how I call her back from it with my time-chained mother schedule as she mixes water and sand and I crawl into the leafy nest under the blackberry bush looking for the green shoots that prove garlic, suddenly seeing sun inches above the horizon:  "Shouldn't we be eating supper by now, Nora?  Do you know what time it is?  I lost track of time.  Are you even hungry?  I don't think I'm even hungry.  I'm usually always hungry.  Are you hungry?"  Beauty is a fullness.  Tree sounds and bird silhouettes fill the empty space with something raw and good.

Staring into Space:
What do you see when you are looking but not seeing?  What is this thing in your heart when you are looking beyond looking?  And the Nebraska expanse calls you beyond your own sight into the sight of God's imagined spaces, the long, receding line of a life pulled farther into life as it leaves it, a too tight jacket or a pocket watch inside your great, great grandmother's apron pocket as you slip your hand in and pull out the sound of her caterwaul and keening behind the white shed, reading the letter of always goodbye.

A Song Worth Singing:
A song across a million miles and minutes that calls the boys and girls in from their near-death pranks and gives them something fragile to hold, something even more dangerous should it fail because now they are older and they hold each other.

A Song of Yes, Please:
And I could write like this forever if I could live like this forever inside the space of a garden made of all that He said was good.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Grateful For:

1.  Strange bits of fiction writing that seem to be leading me toward something coherent.  Or incoherent.  I don't know.  Without hope, without despair:  write.  (Last night was a little bit of it.  I have no idea what it's about.  That's exciting and strange.)

2.  Grandma's plaque, the one that says, "Slow me down, Lord."

3.  The wheelbarrow I dropped on my foot today while cleaning up all the dead stuff around the place.  I cut back the bushes and roses, pulled dead leaves, raked and picked up fallen branches.  The usual stuff.

I usually pile it all onto a tarp and drag it to the garden, load after load.  And the dead leaf/branch/self pile keeps getting bigger and bigger.  It covers half the garden now.  Lynn and Kirk will come with their pitchforks and gator and haul it off to the burn pile for me.  So, I picked up the wheelbarrow to shake the last clinging branches out and brought it down right on top of my foot, which was obscured by the leaves.  Anyway.  I'm not very graceful.   But I'm thankful for the reminder to pay closer attention, not hurry.  I am also amazed at my sheer strength, like the Hulk or something.  (Ha!)

4.  Working outside until the sun set at 8:00.  Thanking Him for the day and the work and the breeze and the birdsong as He speaks of a time to rest, the sky closing like a book from the east's darkening distance.

5.  And a poem for the day:

 Parallel with the earth, spine
straightened against grass, eye
lids a red curtain, trees breathing,
sun warming something icy
inside.  Warm tear
of thanks and thaw.

6.  Groceries.

7.  The daily habit of His word.

8.  [                                                                 ]