Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mercy Seed

If you know the snow seed, plant the fence around the spare note, the pick up note, left behind that grows into a farmhouse in the middle of the white space, five lines grouped on the sheet of paper.  She holds a girl, six, in the single bed her mother bought after she moved out, when she lived in the basement room of an unknown house because she needed to be loved gentle and right.  Her granddaughter falls asleep, and her daughter plants the kiss on the nose that's still growing.

This is not meant to romanticize a life lived for real.  But it is the same kind of thing you find in a shoebox made into a Valentine mailbox.  If you will but slip the note into the box and let it read:  I have been looking for you because I saw you forever.

It's easy when you move into it and speak from within it rather than about it.  


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Our Hands

Lined maps of all that has passed across the outstretched vista.  You see it was not your future written there but the lines of your past traced deep to reveal your work and your love, canyons carved by the waters of life's precipitation and participation.  How you allowed yourself to be moved, to be changed, is recorded there in the fissures.  And all that was held heavy, that cut deep, can be released, so you might hold them out now, holy palimpsests awaiting the arrival of your Beloved's own difficult and beautiful maps, the two finally folded together as you walk the rest of the way Home.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Refresh Me

Morning:  The space is both barn and ark, the ceiling high and made of wood slats stained dark.   Nora sits quiet beside me as the woman in front speaks of advent, the coming, and explains the candles and tree, the banner that will rotate for the next three weeks until it reveals the arrival of Light in the dark world.  Every Wednesday, I join the kindergarten class for chapel.  I'm the tallest one in the group by far.  Later, I join the folks at Concordia for communion.  I leave my coat on because I'm uncomfortable with my body lately, a winter pattern.  I make a note of it, this desire to hibernate in large pieces of fabric, to hide and burrow.  I sit down and close my eyes.  The people around me are singing hymn 349.  I keep my eyes closed and ask to be refreshed.

Afternoon:  The wind blows my earrings around, so I take them out and shove them down into the pocket of my jeans.  The route I take from my office and into the woods is as direct as possible, a slight turn around the art building and a few yards across the track.  I make a note of the way others engage motion:  one man walks in circles with his hood pulled up, the other runs.  I realize I'm not a "track" person.  I keep walking up and over the rise and down a steep hill until I reach the trail.  Supposedly there have been mountain lion sightings, so I stick to the concrete part.  Mountain lions hate concrete.  That's a fact.  I keep my eyes open and ask to be refreshed.

Early Evening:  Nora and I finish her birthday poster, she eats, and then it's straight to the bath.  Hair is washed and braided, fingernails clipped, lotion rubbed into little feet, stories of snow bears and kissing frogs are read, and she is refreshed.

Late Evening:  I stretch and move this body, unwrap the fabric, and after thirty minutes, I can feel oxygen in the blood stream again.  I hear from Tom who has been in NYC for the last few days.  I miss him constantly, running my hands through this time apart, trying to untangle the distance.  I need to be brave enough to feel how much I miss him, and when I hear his voice on the line:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"You are here with me.  You have been here."

This bright kitchen on the evening of Thanksgiving fills with root smells:  turnip.  And the voluptuous butternut squash.  The onion slices quickly tossed in and spread across the glass baking dish.  Olive oil, sea salt.  Mix with bare hands and rub the oil in after you run water across, the skin glossy.  Waterproof.  Nora sleeps safe and happy after cousin play.

Would you believe me if I told you everything is beautiful?  You would?  I knew you would.

Tom is in a studio in Georgia putting songs on tape late in the night.  I put on an REM song that starts with the sound of the cicadas and the trees and the crickets, and even though it's the wrong season, I imagine where he is.  The trees reach high above his head.  He walks between the studio and his safe, white house, and I hear the gravel under his feet as he talks.

These moments happen all the time.  I hold my hands open.  Thank you.

"I think about this world...And I cry a lot.  But I'm in this kitchen.  Everything is beautiful."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

So here I am in a little farmhouse in Nebraska after God put me in a safe and growing place, and I worked through my past as I worked through the garden.  I was scared and I was pretty sure that I'd messed up so badly that I'd never recover, like I'd be singing the Single Mama blues forever working too hard for not much and making ends meet by tying together what came my way from the local second hand store, from what my sister passed down to me, and from I was able to grow from a $1.29 packet of seed picked up at Walmart.  And I prayed the fabric of this life would hold strong, so we could pull it up to our chins at night, Nora and I in the double bed my great aunt had passed down to me after her death and whose Rodale's Garden Problem Solver became my regular reading though I never would have believed it.

And then Pastor J. showed up and we talked a lot of honest stuff across the scarred kitchen table, and Nora was three, and she started preschool, and I met so many beautiful women, and we laughed and we sang and we loved, and we still do even while we're negotiating the changes that come when women are mothers and women and wives and wishers.  Then  I got hired full time at the University after 80 other applicants passed through, and I could not believe it.   I payed bills.  All of them.

And all this time my mom and my stepdad were loving me and holding me strong and encouraging me, and I bought some boots for kicking around the shit that haunted me and the new ideas that also haunted me.  And I wrote to friends and I wrote to the world and I sang on my dad's Martin in the kitchen sitting on the counter with my bare feet propped up, just cover tunes because I was still looking for my own voice, and when it was too hot, I'd drink a beer or some sun tea, and when it was too cold, I'd close the door to my bedroom, turn the heat down and crank up the space heater as Nora and I hunkered down.  The landscape turned from green miles to the white of some alien landscape, the little brick house they built for Ila sitting around us like Fort Farm, and we were under attack not from anything I could address directly like a broken well pump or a dead farm cat in the shed, but from the pain of already sealed choices I'd made for myself and for my daughter, who lives with my decisions as children must.  Back then when I didn't know where I, this real woman who woke each day as herself either closer or farther away from that "I" and what she was made to be, could place myself, and the distance between us was immeasurable though I couldn't, at the time, have known that I should be thinking about the states that separated us.  This man.

I still couldn't articulate then what I deserved until the rain poured down into your shoes, and we decided not to harden our heart, and there you were: 1000 miles away.

And here it is, and it asks courageously that I walk away with what I found here on the farm, carrying our lives in a bundle of seed packets labeled "Holy Night She Cried Until the Morning Glory" and "Sweet Pea that He Calls Her When She Looks Shy at the Dinner Table with Bread He Baked" and "The Only Explanation is Heirloom Grace Seed" and "Protect the Children in the Fortress Called Home of Our Belonging" beyond the plains, beyond my own small expectations for my life into what I was actually made to receive and made to give.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

1.  The light that travels between us doesn't know how far it's come.  In this instance, inexhaustible torch, lampposts along the route, stars connected dot-to-dot, the holes in fabric stitched together.  Whatever you have, children, that has made you fall in love, marvel at it.  Gift.  GIFT.

2.  And as I take this inventory, the places too dangerous to record surface, the places that make the story "clean" struggle to represent something nicer than I am sometimes--the places that were up late at night reading, thinking like she did:  eat.  pray.  love.  Do it or die.  Do it or die.

3.  Dad calls.  We talk about George Harrison and agree he was always looking for God: from the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak.

Friday, October 12, 2012


1.  I suppose it's like this:  never let me assume I know the whole story:  the cut up parts, the ones that smashed the matching coffee mugs on the kitchen floor or cut up the dress worn to prom, dumped fragmented and stolen in the trash, or the one who took the stack of oil paintings done when she lived above the bar and went to high school and wrote her own excuses and lit them on fire, the paintings and excuses, in the big oil drums outside where her family burned trash, the black smoke rising like a signal above Silt Mesa.  The wedding dress tasted bitter.  Even so, divorced people have empathy.

2.  In the basement, we write poems while Laura smokes the cheap cigarettes outside, and I listen to her black eyes and her son who saw it all, so I start smoking, too.  And what we exhale together makes a prayer in the sky about eyes and ashtrays and voice and voice and voice.  Let it rise.

3.  Just the truth.  The whole truth.  Walk a mile walk a mile walk a mile.  Do this until you see the smoke signals above her, spilled ink in the last glass of water.

Then tell her who she is, if you think you can.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

1.  On campus they have a "no walking on the grass" rule (weird, eh?), which kills me this time of year when the leaves are falling and make a gorgeous sound underneath my boots like opening the wrapping from a birthday present .  I park on campus and Nora and I hold hands while using the crosswalk to get to her school (it's right across the street).  We do her morning work together practicing the muscles that make the letters.  And then I go out and cross, but I don't use the crosswalk when it's just me--and the direction toward my office is east and the sun is breaking the trees apart in red and gold light and the leaves respond under my feet, and I'm surrounded, flaming.  And I'm thankful to start the day on fire because this is what it requires.

2.  Every semester a theme develops in all of my classes.  This semester's theme seems to be this:  You never know exactly who you are.  But don't let that stop you from making important decisions on your own behalf.  Don't stand, deer in headlights style, in front of the difficult maneuvers each day requires and think you'll mess it up if you choose a direction.  Act.  God will work with it.  And this is the process of letting the old self die in order to be born something else.  The leaves open the gift under the path I choose.  I have always loved movement.

3.  I'm so thankful for Prof. R who walks the halls with his coffee pot, too, filled with water from the bathroom.  And he shakes my hand.  Then I run into Pastor J and he makes Rocky style boxing moves when he sees me.  And Farmer Ben reminds me that I'm "the man."  Like the fire in the sky, the people around me lift my hope and this makes it easier, in turn, to choose.

4.  And I choose to open to this movement.  I know you don't get biceps like these staring at the five year old or the rock salt or the dirt or the seeds as light as light.  I'm not bragging.  I'm just saying.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

1.  For girls with blonde hair who live and love and fight strong for themselves.  In chapel today, I notice four young women with gold curls on shoulders and think of Nora and Amelia.  I think of my Grandpa Smith saying that a woman's hair is her glory, and I am loving the girls surrounded by golden crowns.  Help them over the hard spots.

2.  I wish we could all rest more.

3.  Everything is going to be okay.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

1.  Fourteen juniors and seniors dressed to the nines with resumes and portfolios in hand.  Fourteen professionals from the area who spent two hours of their day doing three mock interviews with each student.  We circle around afterward and laugh about the trick questions:  "How would you fit an elephant into a refrigerator?"  "I'm glad you asked that.  May I demonstrate?"  The student who shows up with his fly duct taped together, a last minute fix to an unexpected problem.  The story of the shoe sent after an interview in order to "get a foot into the door."

They are good people, and I'm wishing them well into future where they will continue to Become and Be under the guiding protection of the Gift Giver.

2.  Laughing with old friends about ending up like Stanley Kunitz, growing old and bent over until eventually I'm simply plowing the garden with my forehead.  And "everything is going to work out just fine" and "can we come visit on Sunday?"

3.  Nora's teacher stopping me to say how much Nora is learning, how she's doing well, making progress.  For the last two weeks, there's been a major change in her:  she is thriving, no longer cries when I leave her, gets dressed in the morning without grumbling (much), and can write her alphabet.

4.  (Bonus goodness!)   Hearing him laugh warm and open and real.

Extras:  And surprise text prayers from friends, my mom's unchanging love of me (tyrant that I was and can still be at times), another friend's brave admission of change and growth and the unknown--the tears in her eyes and the smile that says, "I don't know, but I will anyway."

Monday, October 8, 2012


To break into it again, to get back Home, to make a note, to speak it out, to say it and be it and become it, to handle it and hand it over, to take it up, to hoist it, to more than manage, to negotiate the sound of it, to pick it up and believe in it and kiss it better and wish it more than well, to write it:

Three Gifts.

1.  The song found its own notes and whispered to me from the small confine of my heart: you are bigger than this.  And the note spreads into five and the fifth remembers the fingers and the fingers remember the hand and the hand remembers, puts back together, the face it holds.  You are beautiful.  Yes YOU.

2.  I want her to be well.  I send love across the room to her.

3.  How he won't be discouraged, how he hears and shapes and tries and tries again.  How we don't speak long but it doesn't matter.  I hear him everywhere.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Because I haven't written in awhile and I don't know where to begin, let's start with three gifts:

1.  I call out the letters and watch as Nora negotiates the crayon into upper and lower case symbols, and all this time she's been at kindergarten, she's been figuring out the sounds and the curves and lines that make it possible for her to write, as I do across the impossible distance sitting here in fields of Nebraska, the words: I love you.  And he will write back with his heart all exposed like a dynamite bird because he probably went to kindergarten, too.  Yes.

2.  The garden is dismantled but for the chard and the fall planting that may yet yield red sail lettuce, spinach, radish and turnip, sweet peas.  The field mice had made a home in the herb bed.  I found the downy milkweed seed gathered into a soft bedding pulled across the hole they dug.   My yanking and pulling woke them, and they jumped out scampering for cover.  The cats immediately went to work, grabbing one and flinging it high in the air.  I ran after the brute yelling, "Leave it alone.  It's just a little thing!" And then I remember that I caught seven of them in traps last month.  And I wonder about context.  The day I bought the mouse traps, I also bought food for Henrietta, Nora's hamster.  And it just seemed silly and uncomfortable in some ways looking down in the grocery cart and seeing small rodent food next to the snapping mouth of the trap.  What is this strange world with all its strange rules?

3.  We talk and love through talk.  We bake the bread and spend half the day simmering beans because we love the children, love making something healthy and slow in this speeding world.  I knead the dough.  I've lost track of time.  Push it forward in the loose flour.  Right hand folds the top down and a quarter twist.  I don't remember ever having been taught this motion.  The bread must have told me how it dreamed and wanted rendering.  And on the counter:  nine half-pints of bartlett pear and rosemary preserves: lemon zest and honey calling the bitter and the loving halves of us together so we might forget ourselves long enough to just be ourselves, a little bit sour but mostly good and gentle.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


The kitchen counter is covered:  a large basket of apples gathered from the ground below the tree suffering from lack of rain and cedar rust, still making fruit that will be cooked into applesauce for small mouths and bodies.  Three large boxes of tomatoes picked from the vine of a friend whose garden last year succumbed to chemical drift and deer; this year her garden truly was a victory.  The woman beside me who holds her new son, the one she prayed and prayed to have when she wasn't sure she could.  The woman with new boots raising her sons and her songs and the place where she belongs; she never stops moving toward these riches.

And Nora running into the double doors of her school, blessed going in, blessed coming out.  I marvel at the size of her adult teeth, delighting in the "beaver" stage all kids her age go through.  I'm watching her talk.  This is a new person I'm meeting every morning, and some mornings we argue over putting on clothes and getting to school on time, and some days we just sit next to each other on the couch, my head on her shoulder, her hand twisting a piece of my hair.  Just being.  She's growing into her size, into her self.  And I am moving through the letting go, sometimes gracefully, sometimes still clinging to the way things were when she was my little one.

Tom and I planting our fall gardens.  We go to them, give our reports of miraculous growth in such a short amount of time.  Like the two of us, love steps out of time, out of place.  We were brave enough to love again, accepting this grace when we had both planned our futures of solitary and determined acceptance.  Alone.  Instead, with full thanks, our hearts did not harden but cracked open to reveal ourselves in the other, that what was written in the seed of his love was written also in mine.

And I have been meditating hard on the difference between forging ahead and following.  And I am realizing that in order to follow, one must accept both protection and a new, unimagined life.  This is a mystery I'm still trying to understand.  Let go and come to Me.  In return, the gifts of yielding that space will be abundant.  

From one moment to the next, we are being asked to let go even as I watch the summer garden wilt back to the earth and the trees, already dried from lack of rain, release their leaves early so they might move into the death of dormancy to prepare themselves for next season's waters, the limbs already offering their naked entreaty toward the sky.  Let me live again.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Willingness lives somewhere at the edge of the Wilderness, where she wandered to find the light hidden between the limbs (her own?  the trees?), bare feet and branches snapping as she cut her way through to the center of it.  Terrified, she did it anyway.  Like many women, she owned a pair of boots but she hadn't thought to put them on as she was woken from her dream, called out the door, still half asleep, and walking toward what she couldn't name.  God's voice touching in the trees like a mother calming her child, shhhh...shhhhh.  Trust this.


She was not negotiating the days of her life in order to find out more about her life, nor was she truly interested in knowing more about herself through the "work" of self-examination.  The difference would be this:  The seed can not be saved if she digs down into the earth with shaking hands to pull it up, examine it, name its parts while at the same time tearing it lose from the dirt that holds the fragile tail of a shoot inside its mouth, warm and dark and necessary.  Speechless.  A seed pulled this way can't be put back into the earth and expected to recover, to grow.  The vulnerability of such a creature (a life, a person, a child) must not be compromised by our desire to possess it or give it a name smaller than the one it was given in the Beginning.

Instead,  she will leave the seed of herself alone, allow herself to show herself in her own time and in the fruit she produces, what she is, what she dreams possible for herself, what she fears, how she moves, how she is called beyond her fear of the dark wilderness of her past, sustaining herself on the desires of her heart written there for her by God, for what she can know of light and air and love because it is being given to her.   She lifts to receive these blessings.  Let her lift to receive these blessings.

Sometimes I am this brave.  Sometimes I am not.  And this is to be expected.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sometimes Making Stuff is Hard. Oh, well.

If you wait on the arms, if you hold them still at your side, if you walk down the hall in a straight line with them clasped behind you like a tanglefingered bunny tail.  If.  That's the question. 

How loudly are you allowed to play your music on the second floor of your office building?

Answer:  Always.

From the first floor of the farmhouse, she sits above a pile of basement cast-offs:  the interior of a fish tank with its lights and breathing tubes goldfishless, all the crocheted afghans that can't be cast off after so many hours at the fingers that conceived you and the tangled yarn you slept below.

The antenna lights blink red from seven miles east.  The little girl is sleeping and the mice have all been caught.  Not a creature is stirring for miles but for the pigs out back and the farm cats now curled beneath the burnt rose bush.  I expected them to swell earlier with kitten.  Now with Fall in the night, I noticed today the low swing in the calico belly.  I'll tie a box filled with old blankets to the back porch rail for the winter.  The wind has a tendency to blow these houses around.

I huddle over the keyboard expecting a fire, expecting the fingers to conceive just a small piece of light.

And if they ask for whom you write, tell them you write for writing.  Though this won't be true at all.  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

All is gift. Love him. or The Kind of Love I Want for All of You

I've known Tom for over ten years now, and when I sat down to pray about his reemergence in my life across hundreds of miles and who knows how many corn fields, the answer was simple:  All is gift.  Love him.

So I did.  And do.

What greater gift than to be loved as a not fairly normal woman, still the quiet student in black hiding in the bathroom during lunch or in the art room covered under the private soundcave made by her walkman.  Too sensitive, maybe.  Weird.  Bookish.  Depressed.  Annoying.  (He'll love that one.  When I admitted that I felt this way, he just said, "You're right.  You are REALLY annoying."  And suddenly I'm laughing at the ridiculous nature of my claim.  This is the blessing of allowing someone to see your wounds and watch as his love tends to them.)  Or the grown woman, sometimes outrageous and self-absorbed, often stubborn, covered in dirt and self-doubt.  He loves that one, too.

This morning in bed watching the rain almost fall, there is this epiphany:  he loves me the way God made me.  And this is part of the work we are given in our most sacred relationships--to love as we have been loved.  To cherish through another's eyes, what we have perceived until this time of opening to another, the quirks and the conflicts, our painful histories and the broken, ugly places we know within ourselves.  We use the term "unconditional love" to describe this, but I think it's more a matter of loving each other with all our conditions.

I know my Love and my Love knows me.  And when your Love offers you something fragile and unsure, extended in trembling hands, hold it for them, with them.  And give them the same opportunity to hold something broken of yours.   I have a tendency to keep my hands in tight fists (the body doesn't lie--ready for a fight, scared to open up, self conscious about how sweaty they always are or how they break out in eczema).  With Tom, I'm learning to uncurl them.  And, trust me.  There is peace here.

And when he sends me off on the plane with two grilled cheese sandwiches on homemade bread, I understand the gift of being fed all day by a single person.  He sustains so many people through the gifts he was given, the ones he won't keep for himself--his patience and presence as a father, his cooking, his ability to hear and record another's music, his belief in his students.  You should see him leaning over a cookbook, reading glasses hovering, eyebrows raised, lost in the process.

The gifts pass between us.  And I'm so thankful for the gift of him.  Yeah, I'm talking to you, Tom.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Counting Them

1.  As for kindergarten, Nora did great.  I did laundry.  When I walked into the empty house and saw small patches of the living room carpet showing through the second strata of Barbie paraphernalia, I almost turned around to wait in the truck for the next five hours until it was time to pick Nora up.  Everything was so still.  So quiet.  I was terrified.  Instead of facing the suspicious calm around me, I got to work cleaning and doing laundry.  Maybe tomorrow I'll face the silence.  Nope.  Wait.  I've got meetings all day.  Oh, dang.

2.  The garden is a towering jungle right now.  Those pole beans I rigged up on that cattle panel have exceeded anything you might see in a cartoon rendition of Jack and the Beanstock.  Seriously.  I'm still canning and blanching and freezing.  And on Friday nights, I still throw on my boots and get to work weeding and picking and cursing the lawnmower.

3.  In Georgia where Tom lives everything grows everywhere.  The problem in comparison to Nebraska is not how to get things growing--it's how to stop things from growing.  I don't think I've been out there yet when we didn't go for a walk accompanied by the sound of whirring tree trimmers and weed whackers from every direction in the neighborhood.  If you stand still for too long there, you need clippers just to undo your tennis shoes from the ivy that's grown over the top of them.  And, yes, I love that.  There's no place greener.

4.  My classes start in a little over a week.  I've been a gardening, falling in love, mamma recluse all summer.  I've enjoyed the falling away of words to describe a life that is so completely Alive.  But I can also hear them whispering something about telling my story in case it helps someone else along the way.  Maybe you too have gardened or fallen in love or been a mother or father.

5.  Part of the deal is that words can't "capture" your life.  When you write about something that's happened to you, you're not describing it.  You're actually adding another layer of complexity (or simplicity) to what you've lived through.  Language isn't a camera.  It's another appendage, another nerve.  It allows you to move and feel even more "about" your life.  I've never had much luck recreating my experience through language.  But I have had some luck in enlarging my life through language.  I suppose it was worth the three easy payments of $19.99 after all.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Kindergarten or How Nora Got Her Groove Back

For five and a half years, I've lived with this blond-headed, comb-protesting, wild fire of a girl--the one with the elevated vocabulary and the desire to raise chickens and dinosaurs.  She's starting kindergarten tomorrow.  I'm not going to get mushy here.

Because this is far from a mushy moment.  She came with injections twice a day for nine months.  She came not breathing at two months old with a monitor around her chest for six months, and she moved through a divorce and skinned knees and dead birds and a working mom, and she would never say to you, "Life has been hard on me" even when I've moaned about it under my breath at the kitchen sink crying lonely or scraping uneaten dinners into the scrap bucket. Because her laughter happens daily and often.  Because she tells me jokes from the back seat of the truck:  "I'd forget my hair if it wasn't attached to my head!" Because she walks on tip toes like the really fast foals and yells and kicks her way through the "no's" I say to her even when it would be more convenient for me if she'd just say, "Yes, ma'am."

But I was never yes-ma'am, and she isn't either.  Though she is loving and polite and generous.  She is not yes-ma'am.  She is Yes.  So as Grandpa always said, "Don't hold back, kid--there ain't no reason." 

As if I could every stop you.  God bless your journey, Nora.  I love you, kiddo.

That was pretty mushy.  Ah well.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


My feet ache, the heel tender from meeting the linoleum daily in an attempt to preserve the harvest.  And this is just right.

The blackberries release their juices about twelve minutes into the stirring and once the sugar is added, there will be another 20 minutes until it thickens, so I close my eyes and practice leaning forward on my toes, distributing the weight I usually ask my heel to carry forward and across the entire surface of my size 9 1/2, and there is a sudden lift, a lightening, and I feel as though I've lost 20 pounds.  I lean my arm across the cabinet above the oven, rest my forehead against my arm and close my eyes.  I distribute the weight of my vision across an interior landscape.  The silver ladle dipped into the purpleblack berries moves against the clock.  I rewind.

You were a girl with a red second place ribbon once.  How important is winning to you now?

Not at all.  Closed eyes.  I hear Nora in the living room talking her quiet make-believe into the inanimate forest creatures she loves.

Tom is 900 miles away, and I try to bend the distance as one would fold a piece of fabric in half.  My life, now opened, encloses me in these "conditions."  No rain for the flowers, and I finally let the grass die.  The garden bursts green above the dead yellow that surrounds it, watered every night for two hours, my oasis though the heat has kept me out of it for longer than 20 minutes at a time.

I'm afraid that I sound like I'm complaining.  I'm not.  I'm recording:

Moments that surround me like a gift even when they seem to stretch on forever.  

And this is the mystery of the answer:  "I am that I am."

Saturday, July 14, 2012 will be more glorious because of the waiting...

Approach the page.  Lift the words as you would a broom, one that has become a sacred vessel, more necessary for your journey than the expensive, decorative item sitting on your shelf.   I use the broom.  I use the Word.

For me, beauty can only be found in the functional.  I think of Shug talking to Miss Celie in The Color Purple.  It stuck with me when I first heard it as a ten year old, what she said, and I thought about it today driving down 34 to my mom's house to be present to something I needed to make right.  "You know what, Miss Celie?  I think it pisses God off when we walk by the color purple without noticing it."

Now, dear reader, don't be thrown off by the language here.  I think Shug says it this way for a reason.  Sometimes, and I find myself doing this, we turn a fancy phrase or couch something simple in big words in order to poof it up, make it more beautiful.  I don't think Alice Walker wanted to do this to a statement that means so much to her, and I'd like to learn a little more of this courage, too.

Like the other night when Nora walked in and said, "I get all of my wisdom from my heart."  Simple as that.  No explanation needed.  She moved me.  And that's what good language does.  It MOVES us.  As in, it repositions us in such a way that we become more in tune, more attuned to the moment of presence in which we find ourselves.

For example, the color purple.  I don't know about God getting angry when we don't notice the beautiful things being grown out there by that divine Love.  I think it has more to do with saying, "You want life abundant?  Well, take a look around you.  There you go.  Purple.  Stop your belly-aching and get to paying attention.  You have everything you need.  Now what are you going to do with it, and who are you going to give it to in return?"  (Or "to whom are you going to give it."  More fancy talk.  Don't let the technicalities stand in the way of your saying it.)

Then I start to think about the "purple" things in my life:

Nora's wisdom late at night.
Tom's willingness to carry me over my own storms.
Mom's honesty when I'm being stubborn and selfish.
My sister's potato salad.
The honest tears in my stepdad's eyes.
The words I write after a couple weeks of contemplation, afraid I couldn't "capture" it.  (Oh, forgive me for my inclination toward ownership of anything these hands are given to make.)
The broom (fill in the blank with anything you used today to move your life along) I use, the sacred vessel, that helps me along on this journey.

I think my prayer is something like this tonight:  Help me recognize those people, the colors, the sounds, the small and everyday objects that assist me on this human voyage.  Help me see beyond the way they assist me alone, so I might remember the Purpose of All Gifts Given by the One with the most Generous Spirit, to return to the world its own lost heart.  Let me be a part of this movement.  Continue to teach me how to be loved and how to love.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow?

When the broken cells in your body, and the long and lonely moments in your life are rearranged, there enters a necessary silence, one that allows the re-membering to take place safely, securely, root deep.

I observe the same cycles this summer as I did last year:  pickling the radish, blanching the beans, weeding the same flower beds, trimming the same stubborn saplings that appear under the hummingbird bush.  I move around the place in the same scuffed boots and the same dirty jeans.  I come in sweating like always and drink from the same jar of sun tea, the one that leaks into the crisper underneath it.  I wash my hands and forearms in the same well water and stand under the same ceiling fan in the kitchen letting the mechanical breath of it cool me.

Even though there is the appearance of sameness on the outside, I am entirely new under the shelter of this love.  I know all of you have felt the same transformation, the one that gives a certain intensity and depth to the creative act of being alive.

Eight pounds of peaches are sitting on the kitchen counter, soon to be spicy, sweet preserves, and there are two loaves of zucchini bread on a wire rack, evidence of a late night of baking.  Together we're finding the delicious things, vibrant things, the things of life that speak and feel and risk and give and love.  The amnesia is wearing off.  Thank you.

I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you...

We are moved toward newness, loved kindly, cultivated through attentiveness, handled gently.  In the same way, wobbling children learn to walk, moving away from what is "safe" in order to touch that which asks us to grow.  (We're all just wobbling children in so many ways.)

And as the earth is reformed into climbing vines of heart-shaped leaves and the flowers find their color in the sun, Nora's cells are rearranging, too.  Her legs are so much longer this summer, though her skin has found the same rich shade as last year, the kind that speaks of hours at the local pool.  She knows new words.  Her heart is still wise.  She still invents brilliant contraptions and speaks with the kind of wisdom I know comes from the way God has been speaking to her from the very beginning, the same way a younger version of myself heard the still, small voice that whispered into my cells as I peered over the edge of the mesa, watching the grass move in waves that made it possible to see the Silent Breath I heard inside me, the kind that rearranges you.

Every morning, I still pull out my stacks of books, the blank page of a notebook and a mechanical pencil, and I study, and sit, and think and pray.  And I am beginning to understand more and more each day that I'm not trying to "get to the bottom of things."  How deadly.  How impossibly small.  I am simply trying to be brave enough to allow my cells, my soul, my life, my self to be rearranged, to be willing enough to release this person into the space of a life with her heart beating strong into the lives of those around her, her hands working good into the hours given to her.  

The garden continues to give itself over to me, and I give myself over to it on my knees in the prayer of labor pulling the dead leaves and greedy weeds away from the living stuff.  And I am doing the same work inside of me.  Or I am allowing this work to be done to me, through me.  Healing is a kind of mystery that occurs when one opens to the moment of being loved even as far as to the seemingly unlovable edges of yourself, near the border spaces where you've been sitting too afraid to call it home.  Perhaps it is the space of the margin where I sit looking in and out, perhaps this place is just as right, too.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

When Five Days Is Fifty Years

I should start with something eye-catching:  The Unfolding Adventures of a Single Mom Living on a Farm in the Middle of Nebraska Who Learned How to Grow Food and Found Herself in the Dirt, Too, and Who Has Suddenly Found Herself Through God's Grace in a Place More Beautiful Than the One She Thought She Belonged.

Too short?

Oh, folks, I just want to talk to you honestly.  You.  Me.  One to one.  

There is a part of me that wants to keep this new thing a secret, held close.  But this is too important not to say:

His name is Tom, and he's beautiful, the kind of beautiful you find in really rare things, and he seems rare to me.  And somehow through the fields, I heard his voice.  Or he heard mine.

So, that's all I'll say for now.  I just wanted all of you to know that I finally found him.  He was just over there this whole time.  And wow.  

Saturday, June 16, 2012

When the Words Won't Come, Just Say Thank You

A daughter who's got you on her mind.  A mother with her daughter on her mind.
Grandma Aanonson's wisdom and humor.
Mom and Mike scaring me at 1 AM at the door and a peace offering the next morning of biscuits and gravy.
A restaurant reservation in Atlanta.
A woman letting go on an airplane dropping all her baggage because she belongs somewhere she feels free.
Wildflowers growing from her hair.
The woman who writes the songs my heart didn't know it was singing.
The laughter and jumping up and down and clapping and pretend punching each other in the arm.
The Author of my life writing a surprise ending better than I imagined.  I continue the Beginning.
Hang on to your hats, kids.  Love isn't done with us yet.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

"I am not done with my changes."  -- Stanley Kunitz 

The garden is a living poem, each terrace a stanza of unlikely unfurling and brave resolve in the wind and hail and damage of life.

You know I won't stop loving, no damage permanent enough to make the seed refuse to speak the message of its constant transformation, rolling under the soil like a restless child with growing pains in the night, kicking the covers loose and the first green shoot suspends itself above the safety of the dark unnaming space below to the exposed moment when we are most fragile and most determined to live.

Then the Gardener appears to coax us on to our names, to our love, to our becoming.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Stanzas from the Farm

Hot crunch radish pulled red and root
from the crumbling dirt.  Red root heart,
begin the day above ground this time.

The daughter testing boundaries of voice
and bark and howl and leaving pen marks
upon the world pushing against her and the world
she wishes to push as she walks here.
If a daughter changes herself, the whole world
will change.  Like this:  Her tiny foot stomps
the ground she will stand, brave and delicate.

The shy and rising swans taken up
before the green unfurl and flower.  Release
the ravaged voice you heard when you were ugly.

The white dazzled water speaks the angels'
presence in Hildegard's wet branches.  Her songs
levitating on the edge of breathing and black out.
The fertile sheet music and the tendril of voices.

The gift of him arriving from so far across the field
southeast of the farmhouse, a thousand miles,
while I dug the soil down with prayers he would
see the garden and see my heart there, too.
He did hear and walked in carrying Provisions and Grace,
and I am restored in the love he shares so freely.
How it is we heard and how it is we answered:

The three A.M. birds name the day.
The heart's clay cracks to greet this Yes.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Count Them

A quart of cherries picked before the birds devour them.  The tree now two years' worth of regrowth after the wind called it down to the ground to rebuild again and again.  You do it.  You can.  It did.  Trust it.

His laughter.  Home.

Nora has been a dog for the last 27 hours.  That's acting!  She barks and quips and there is late night howling that makes my heart grow several sizes larger than I thought possible.  We're just a cave full of lovely wolves.  Howl and prowl.

Perhaps we do not consider enough the power of three ukuleles.  Perhaps we should.  Go long!  Go long!  Lighter fluid.  Lighter fluid.  We'd secretly like to be in The Who, but, you know, with ukes.

Hello, God!

Audre Lorde's book of essays Sister Outsider.  

Dancing the equation to its solution.  Movement is not to be feared.  Grace is not to be feared.  Rhythm is the hand touching the cradle of the child that touches the stars that touch the atom in your fingernail.  Put it all in your pocket and hand it to someone you love.

Cat Stevens and Carli Simon.   A call and "I'm here."

Nine days and nineteen hours.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Three Things

1.  I Have Always Needed Music to Do What I Do

I won't start until the music begins.  All right.  There it is.

2.  She Knows How to Build a Fire in a Wood Burning Stove

We reach the other woman on the path who is also reaching.  If we reach together, we'll grab the same thing at separate times.  The cotton blue woman standing at the iron stove feeding wood through the grates, I'm calling you Great Grandmother.  You sat on his bed because it was the only place to sit in the room.  And that's why I'm here.

He was pulling the horses around while you rubbed your hands together near the potbellied stove radiating not but three feet the warmth only he'd bring round once the horses were also rounded.

You can sit in any room and see your future radiating three feet warm and the edge of it is where you find your fingers again, wordtangled like ten confused tongues.  She had the sense there were already enough words to feed the fire a hundred times in the morning:  eggs, bacon, cedar, biscuit, cotton, a note she'll slip into his hands when she has to leave to tend the life she's planted and that grows up all around her like a gift and a thing missing.

"Are you warm?"
Standing suddenly as the gloves (her work, her cover, her hiding, her distance between the fingerprints and the surface of life) fall to the clean, pine floor:  "Yes."

3.  Companion

For life the barn swallows huddle together over the five most cherishfragile eggs.  In the evening, the two swoopdive between each other, still playful.  And sharp as knives cutting blue and green slices between what is naturally done and what they'll have to choose to do because both are required and both are what they've built the nest from: mud (the dust of ashes to ashes and never lose a momentprecious) and spit (the lake upon which the words sail: are you warmyes?)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why I'm Not Actually a Failure

I'm standing at the kitchen sink scrubbing egg out of the bottom of the frying pan with the lid from a Juicy Juice bottle.  I'm crying.  This is normal.

I'm thinking about something Pastor Jurchen said to me the other evening.  "If you've got demons from the past, you've got to drive them around in the trunk for awhile, and then let them roll around on the floorboard.  And then, when you have that rollover experience, they're going to go flying all over.  You've got to let them."

I drive like an octogenarian, so this imagery was hard for me to follow at first, but standing here in front of the sink trying to scrape off this egg, I'm beginning to understand.

About thirty minutes before this, I had fried up a little ham, scrambled some egg and assembled a breakfast burrito with cheese for Nora.  She said, "I'm not eating that disgusting food."  And I, like most parents, said, "That's what's for dinner tonight."  The situation intensified as I informed her again that I wasn't going to be making a second supper.  Nora yelled.  And I yelled.  So I gave myself a time out.

Another thing Pastor Jurchen said:  "I don't get the feeling that you've done a lot of getting angry in your life.  That you don't yell at people that often."

This must be why I'm standing outside now with my eyes closed and my face turned into the sunset while holding the trash can that I just rinsed clean with the garden hose.  See, Nora dumped her orange Jello onto my dinner plate.

I have to hand it to her, it was a pretty effective move.  She wasn't eating her food, so I sat down to eat mine.  She grabbed some Jello from the fridge, opened it, and dumped it on top of my supper.

I honestly didn't know how to respond.  I stood up silently and dumped my dinner in the trash, missing the trash bag.  At a loss for words, I retreated to my bedroom for another time out secretly hoping there would be a sub sandwich and a parenting guide under my pillow.  No such luck.

After explaining to her that she can never pour Jello on dinner again, I end up making her a grilled cheese sandwich and when I turn to the sink, the words inside my head slip past the guard at my mouth, and I hear:  "I am such a failure."

All right.  Back up.  I understand at this point in the game that I'm not a failure.  I've failed a few times, sure, but that doesn't make me a failure, so why am I talking to myself like that?

Oh, right.  The demons are rolling around on the floorboard.

So, I start to name them.  You.  Yeah, I'm talking to you.  You're the one who said I should never get angry or stand my ground, which meant I lived with a whole boatload of bullhocky for more years than I needed to.  And you, you're the one who tells me I don't how to be a mom.  Well, you're full of it, too.  Remember those nights I didn't sleep while I held Nora in my arms making sure she was breathing?  That's right, buddy.  I would give my life for her, and that alone makes me an astounding mother.

Sure, I yelled.  Big deal.  People yell sometimes.

When I asked Nora if she could think of other ways to let me know that she's angry, she said, "Hmmm....I don't know if I can promise that, Mom.  I think I'm just going through a phase or something."

I love her honesty.  I love how well she knows herself.  I love that she gets angry enough to dump Jello on dinner in order to be heard.  Because that's the girl who will grow up to be a woman who knows herself well enough to speak the truth even if it means arguing.  That's the girl who will grow up to be a woman who has the courage to look at all that useless garbage in the trunk and say, "I'm not eating that disgusting stuff."

I also understand that THIS woman will only be making one dinner per evening, and it won't be scrambled eggs with Jello.

It's astounding to me how much learning I still have to do...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

There is a lot on your plate.

Cooking:  the intentional transformation of life into Life.

Find your appetite.  Find your love.  Find your health.  Find your medicine.  Find your abundance.  Find your beauty.  Find your Joy.

All is gift.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Faith and Glowing

Hope: a feeling that what is wanted will happen; a feeling that events will turn out for the best.

When there is shaking down to the new root:  do not pull the weeds or else you risk pulling the seedling, as well.  Both are seeking a footing there, and both will need to grow if either are to survive.  And the lifting plant that found itself so close to adversity will learn to adapt in ways that it wouldn't have had the Wishing Seed been placed in perfect ground, free of weeds.

That plant will be stronger, more sure of who she is:  thick of stem, broad-leafed, roots sunk down to the very Source like a woman holding her ground, feet apart, hands on her hips, calling it what it is, claiming what she needs:  Courage and Grace and most of all the Love she has found, the gift of this Love that has been found for her.

Because Love is not optional.  Love is the secret message written on the tender place within the hard shell and now it has been reached, and there is no stopping that.

Vibrancy: the light of Love shining through the wounds we have endured;  radiant joy that informs the active momentum of one's life.

In this love  I have found a new kind of mercy and access to a creative life.

She says, "The fire moves into the souls who have gone dim for lack of love for and from."  I warm myself at his hearth, held and healing, and we are reconnected with those place where we were wrongfully exiled from our ability to give and receive love.  And we begin to glow.

Where we are lit, we are ablaze with the fire of heartideas and spontaneous actions of goodness, wrapped within the voice of another's love for us, a miracle of such easy peace.

I feel both gentle and fierce, small and significant.  Saint Juan Diego says when he is greeted by the Mother of Love, "I am a nobody, I am a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf..."

Together, we are the ropes that sound the bell of praise, the ladder upon which the wounded climb, the leaf that trusts the Hand that guides it around all obstacles toward the living water that courses through this small, incredible life.  Thank you.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Love = Bread, Gooseberry Ginger Jam, Corn Bisque, Spinach Salads, and Rhubarb Chutney

In order to grow and thrive, yeast (and people) need a certain comfortable climate in which to flourish.  For yeast, that would be 110 degrees.  This is not the case for people as many of you probably realized today.

Today was the first canning day of the season.  All is gift.  Let me count the ways:

1.  Tom's guidance.  This is my second attempt at a loaf of honey wheat bread.  I am committed to learning this.

2.  Ila's gooseberries picked, topped and tailed and ready for jam.

3.  Simple Ingredients, the kind with only one name:  Six cups of gooseberries grown from a bush someone else planted, picked while on my knees and the thorns bit and it made sense that there would be the occasional sting to the hand and arm that wants to reach into the center, six cups of sugar to sweeten because sweet is a close cousin of kind, and ginger, that woody root reminding us to dig deep, pull up and use what we've found.

4.  Nora giving the bread the old One-Two.  She loved this part.   I love this part.  There is something to this.

5.  The gooseberries soften in the heat, gradually transformed.  You have to wait for this a long time.  There were points when I wanted to stop.  This is completely normal.  Keep going anyway.  This resistance will teach you something.

6.  A boiling hot water bath for the filled jars.

7.  I have a happy daughter.   Blessed.

8.  And then to pick Ila's rhubarb for chutney.

9.  And sweet corn from Kris and Terry's field for corn bisque.

10.  Nora was in charge of making the salads tonight.  Can you guess which is hers and which is mine?  

11.  And after Nora went to bed, the rhubarb chutney began its transformation.  Onion, raisins, sugar, cider vinegar, garlic, ginger, salt, peppercorn, and cloves.

12.  And there is resistance at first...

13.  And then the epiphany of chutney.

Where I am: